Dave Kurlan

Recent Posts

Sales is Like Baseball and Baseball Can Save Capitalism and Liberty

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jul 18, 2020 @ 09:07 AM

capitalism Unless you've been living in a cave, not paying attention to the news, or watching stations that are glorifying what is taking place in major US cities, we are in trouble - again. Cities continue to be overrun by rioters and looters, police have not been able to stop the epidemic of assaults, robberies and murders, some police departments have been defunded and there are plans to dismantle others.  If it becomes unsafe to drive into cities like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, LA, Portland, Seattle, Detroit, and others, the supply chain will be disrupted.  Truckers will choose not to drive into those cities, retailers will close - for good, restaurants will lose even more business, and tourism will continue to suffer as it did during the shutdown months of March, April and May.

There may not be much we can do except to vote responsibly in November, and make sure that socialism and mob rule do not replace law and order, liberty and capitalism. It's not about the candidates themselves as much it's about which side of the issues they are on. Of course there are other issues, and they are important too, but they will have to take a back seat to the three issues that could drastically change our country, kill our economy, ruin our way of life, and devalue our homes and businesses.

I'm sure my opening two paragraphs will ruffle the feathers of those who don't agree with me and I apologize for that.  If you're upset, stop reading my sales and business articles and unsubscribe from notifications.

Pivot.

We're at a baseball tournament outside of Richmond Virginia.  It's a last hoorah for our 18-year-old son, playing in his last major tournament prior to heading to college in early August.  Like my home state of Massachusetts, Virginia is in phase 3 of reopening and there are many restrictions in place.  But unlike central Massachusetts, where everyone wears a mask when going inside a store or public place, mask wearing is not taken nearly as seriously here - even though the rules require it.  The lack of mask-wearing scares me!

With my son continuing his baseball career at college, this month marks the official end to his youth baseball era.  I've been around youth baseball for 11 years, the first 5 as a coach and the last 6 as a dad.  One of the cool things that I observed, and if you've been around baseball at all, you'll probably agree that every team had the same 8 kids:

  • The twin. The 9-year old all-star team I coached a decade ago had 5 sets of twins.  That's 10 twins between them and 4 of the twins were on the roster!
  • The fat kid playing first base.  That kid could pitch or catch but he always played first base.
  • The little kid playing second base.  And most of them had a chip on their shoulders that was far bigger than their physical size.
  • The kid with the hair.  There always seems to be one with what my son would call a nice flow.
  • The Jokester - There is always one kid who is hysterical.
  • The tall left-handed pitcher.  Always.
  • The kid with the annoying voice.  I've never seen a team that didn't have that kid who rooted his team on from the dugout with the loud, annoying, raspy, cheer-leading voice
  • The skinny kid - This is the kid who doesn't get wet when it rains.

Unless something changes - and it could - opening day for Major League Baseball happens this week!  I miss baseball. 

Pivot.

Before you think that this applies only to youth baseball teams, I want to be clear.  Sales teams are like this too.  In the past 35 years I have personally trained hundreds of sales teams and tens of thousands of salespeople and sales teams always have the same 8 salespeople:

  • The know-it-all
  • The crusty veteran
  • The one who is resistant to change
  • The puppy dog - who will do whatever you tell them to do
  • The role player - the one who you have to role play with to demonstrate how it should sound
  • The attention seeking missile - who wants the focus to always be on them
  • The dummy - who just can't seem to get it
  • The early adopter - who leads the way on application and execution

I started this article with the threat to our economy and way of life, transitioned to baseball, and then to sales teams.  Now I have to tie this rambling multi-topic article together with a brilliant summary.  It's not very brilliant.

Rarely are there any surprises, we usually know what we are getting, and the options are usually quite clear.  I usually know what a baseball team will look like, as much as I know what every sales team will look like.  The same premise applies to the actual selling.

You know where you need to end up, you just have to help your prospect admit to the problem you believe they have and help them articulate how it impacts them.  The conversation isn't dramatically different from one prospect to the next, you just have to ask the right questions, get them talking, and get out of the way.  There are usually no more than 8 possible issues to begin with, and not more than 1 or 2 that are critical to any specific prospect. While you can usually predict where you will end up, you have to pay attention, listen well, and respond with great questions.

As I've written dozens of times in the past 15 years, sales is like baseball and baseball can save our country.  Baseball is a sport of traditions that we don't want to part with.  We should feel the same way about law and order, liberty, and capitalism.

Speaking of capitalism, check out this screen shot from Amazon where you can get Baseline Selling for Kindle for as little as $0, or where one reseller is offering my book for $902.81.  You can buy the paperback on Amazon for $17.95.

baseline-1

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Baseball, capitalism, law and order

Why it is so Difficult to Compare Sales Effectiveness from One Salesperson to Another

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 @ 20:07 PM

Tvariables

Today we'll discuss how to measure sales effectiveness of different salespeople despite there being so many variables to confuse the matter.  You can scroll directly to that topic or, if you don't mind, please read my 3 paragraphs of context.

In 1990, I founded Objective Management Group (OMG), and now, thirty years later, we are on the verge of evaluating our two millionth salesperson.  When my leadership team planned for 2020, we predicted that we would reach the two million mark sometime in June. But then the pandemic hit, companies weren't assessing many sales candidates for most of March, April and May, so our celebration will likely be delayed until early August.

Whether we measure our success in units, currency, rows of data, experiences, visibility, or reams of paper used (pre pandemic), achieving two million sales assessments is quite an accomplishment.  On the other hand, if we compare it to where we had hoped to be at this point, (the BHAG we set in 2007 was 14 million) it was a failure of epic proportions.

But there is a more important part to this story than the number of salespeople assessed or whether that number is an achievement or a failure. How can we measure sales success on sales teams, across companies and, most importantly, in sales candidates?

To answer those questions, it's helpful to  know that we built the finest, sales-specific assessment on planet earth.  Our sales force evaluations are amazing and our sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments are incredibly accurate and predictive.  I'm extremely proud of what we built and how we continue to improve it every single day.  That's more important to me than whether or not we hit our BHAG. And that brings us to the question of how to measure sales effectiveness.  It's like the 2 million versus 14 million comparison only different.  

Let's review a few examples:

Compensation varies wildly by industry.  A top industrial salesperson earns close to $100,000 but a mediocre technology salesperson earns $135,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A mediocre regional territory salesperson might inherit a territory generating $15 million per year and watch it contract to $14 million per year while a salesperson building a new local territory might generate $750,000 his first year.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A salesperson makes one huge sale for $1 million while in the same company, one of her colleagues closes 14 sales totaling $650,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable? 

An account manager manages 87 accounts that generate $4 million while in the same company, a sales development rep makes 56 dials a day, books 5 new appointments per week, builds a pipeline worth $2 million and closes 2 new accounts per month.   Who is better?  Who is more valuable?  

We see these contradictions all the time when we evaluate sales forces.  The company judges performance and effectiveness by the amount of revenue next to the salesperson's name but that's only a measure of who is responsible for the most revenue.  It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a measure of who is the better salesperson, who is contributing most to growing the company, or who is having the most impact.

Let's review some differences that become important when you are recruiting salespeople.  Suppose that all of your candidates claimed to have been the #1 salesperson in their prior companies.  Being #1 has different meanings depending on whether they sold:

  • Snacks - to convenience store managers, grocery chain buyers or Walmart
  • Nuts and bolts - to manufacturing engineers, auto repair shops technicians, or Granger
  • Janitorial supplies -  to small retailer owners, property managers, or Microsoft's facilities VP
  • Windows - to homeowners, builders, lumber dealers or Home Depot
  • Furniture - to consumers, furniture store owners or the Marriott
  • Generators - to power an RV, an entire house, a grocery store or Mass General Hospital
  • Engines - to lawn mower manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers or GMC
  • Software - to a doctor's office, a clinic, a hospital or the Federal Government
  • Audit services - to the owner of a small professional firm, the president of a medium size company or the CFO of Apple

I could go on and on with examples like these where even the same product becomes a very different sale depending on who it's being sold to.  

Fortunately, OMG has a Sales Percentile score which is based on the combined weighted scores of 21 Sales Core Competencies before being compared to those two million other salespeople.  It's the single factor that neutralizes the differences between industries, competition, territories, pricing, complex and simple sales cycles, difficult (cold-calling) and easy (account management) roles, and targeted decision makers.  Sales Percentile allows you  to compare and/or rank sales capabilities!

This is useful when you're trying to rank sales candidates who come from varying backgrounds because let's face it - you're just guessing!  Sales Percentile is your answer.  In the sample sales candidate assessment below, this salesperson's sales percentile score of 100 means that this salesperson is better than 100% of the salespeople in the world!  And even with a 100, he still has a weakness!

dashboard

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales cycle, sales effectiveness, #1 salesperson, sales percentile

How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Thoughts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 06, 2020 @ 15:07 PM

baseball flag

During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.

I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles.   The five topics I have written most about are:

    1. The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.  
    2. Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized 
    3. Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach 
    4. Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue 
    5. Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales 

Baseball?  There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one.  My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level.  During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.

My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery.  While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite. 

As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments.  This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.

That brought me to memorable salespeople.  While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses.  After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable?  I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business.  Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling.  There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable.  In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business.  They were indispensable salespeople

Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend.  Baseball is back!  Sort of.  Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound.  They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach.  Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop.  But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy.  The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading.  That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.  

While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales.  How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify.  That.Will.Not.Change.  You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you.  That.Will.Not.Change.  However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed: 

  • Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
  • The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
  • Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
  • Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
  • Video Conferencing like Zoom.
  • File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
  • Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
  • Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
  • Organizational tools like ToDo.
  • Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
  • If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.

These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier.  None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done.  For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign.  This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts.  But you still have to do the selling!

I've been in the sales development space since 1985.  I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales.  From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet.  As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points!  You can see some of that data here.  

Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball.  You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson.  While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson.  Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know.  Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee.  They progress from there.

Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson.  The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, crm, Baseball, membrain, mastery

New Data Reveals Interesting Differences in Salespeople's Ability to Work From Home

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

remote-worker

You wake up, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, you open the door and it's freezing cold outside.  Or there is the opposite of that, when there are thick clouds, it's drizzling, you open the door and it's hot and humid as hell!  Things aren't always what they appear to be.   

In early April, during the earlier stages of the virus-required lockdown, I wrote this article about some of the remote selling challenges that companies were experiencing.  Since then, things have improved, especially around the use of video.

However, things are far from perfect, especially around how suitable salespeople are for working from home.  John Pattison, COO of Objective Management Group (OMG), dug into OMG's remote seller data, and learned that similar to the weather, things aren't always what they appear to be.  The table below shows how this data changes according to sales experience.

Remote-Suitability-by-Years-1

As you can see, those with 20-24 years of experience are 32% more suitable for working from home in a sales role than those with 0-3 years of experience.  There are two possible reasons for this:

  1. Inexperienced salespeople need more direction and guidance and don't get it when they are working at home.
  2. Inexperienced salespeople are millennials and aren't as responsible as older and wiser salespeople.

Of course, the real reason may have nothing to do with experience or age, but more to do with the two most important things we measure for remote sellers:

  1. Ability to self-start
  2. Ability to work independently

However, even that can be called into question when we look at the data by geography.  While the differences aren't significant, there are variations by country.

For example, salespeople in North America are 35% more suitable for selling from home than salespeople in northern Europe (think Sweden, Denmark, Norway), !  How do you explain that?  Coincidence?  Hours of daylight in the summer can't keep them out of their swimming pools and off the golf courses?  

In the end, the score matters little but we absolutely must know the score.  Sales managers are the difference-makers when it comes to selling remotely.  If they are proactive and closely manage salespeople who aren't well-suited for it, those salespeople can still succeed working from home.

You should be hiring salespeople right now.  Job postings are getting 400 applications right now!  To find out whether your candidates can sell remotely and whether they will succeed in the role you are filling, use OMG's highly accurate, customizable and predictive sales-specific candidate assessment to help you select your ideal candidates.

Finally, OMG measures salespeople in 21 Sales Core Competencies.  See the competencies and the data here.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales competenices, sales best practices, sales hiring assessment, remote selling

How Much Has Video Impacted the Way We Sell?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 @ 23:06 PM

video-call

Back in the old days, when you wanted to copy something, you would have said, "I'm going to Xerox this."  And for years when you needed a tissue you would have asked for a Kleenex.  And when you wanted to clean your ears you would have asked for a Q-Tip.  All three of these are examples where the brand and the product were one in the same.  We're getting to that same point with Zoom video, where more than half of all salespeople are now using Zoom!

Video is becoming such an important part of selling, especially during the shutdowns and quarantines, that Objective Management Group (OMG) is creating a new selling competency called Video Proficient.  As part of the development process to identify the attributes for this competency, we test various questions in advance and examine the distribution of answers to make sure that they are within the norms we need to have.  We also ask more questions than we will actually use.  In the past week, nearly 2,000 salespeople answered 10 potential questions and I thought it would be useful to share some of the data we have already collected.

In March, most salespeople were very uncomfortable conducting their business over video. Look at this article I wrote about video as recently as November!  Yet today, just three months later, 49% of salespeople prefer video to a phone call and another 28% don't have a preference.  That's quite a change!

So how do salespeople feel about video?

Video-feelings-1As you can see, 91% of salespeople now have positive feelings about using video for selling!

Are they Zooming? 

Video-platformsActually,  they are, with 56% of salespeople using Zoom.  I was surprised to see 38% still using Skype and 26% still using Facetime.  I predict that before the summer is over, most salespeople will have moved from those two platforms.

How serious are salespeople about their video and what kinds of accessories have they added to make their video more professional?  Nearly 40% are using virtual backgrounds and almost 20% have added external microphones, HD cameras, green screens and/or studio lighting.

How proficient are salespeople becoming with video?  They're doing better than I expected.  More than half consider themselves to be intermediate users, while almost 30% believe they have mastered their video platforms!

Video is here to stay and not just because so many of us will continue to work remotely.  It's here to stay because it's a far more effective tool than the phone and almost as good as being there!   

Image copyright 123RF          

Topics: Dave Kurlan, salespeople, zoom, remote selling, video conferencing

The Real Reason Why So Many Salespeople are So Bad at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 08, 2020 @ 12:06 PM

construction

Would you like to start a business?  Can't figure out what business to start?  I have three ideas for you:

In the past four weeks, I have tried and tried and tried to get a glass company to replace the tabletop for a large outdoor patio table after the glass exploded in an early April storm.  Four weeks laster, we still don't have the glass replaced.

One of our garage door openers needs to be replaced because in every five out of six attempts to lower the door, the opener sends it back up again.  After calling six dealers in four weeks, I have not received a single return call. 

We have a double swinging gate at the bottom of our driveway and the electronics are twenty years old and need to be updated.  After four weeks of calling dealers I have not received a single return call.

In case you're thinking that it must be me, I have had success getting plumbers, stone masons, electricians, carpenters, power washers, and painters to the house but those other three categories are the outliers.  Start one of those three businesses today and you'll make a fortune!

In today's article, I will explain why this problem exists and how it relates to a bigger problem in sales.

The people who don't return calls are usually technical in nature.  The garage door openers, gate electronics, and glass people are all entrepreneurs running small businesses and their expertise is not sales or customer service, it's their technical subject matter expertise.  

By and large, "salespeople" like these make up a large portion of the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  They are passionate about what they do, know their product, can answer technical questions, are experts in their industry but don't have a clue about what it means to sell.  They believe that answering questions, explaining their products and producing a quote or proposal constitutes selling.  They have little concept of sales process, sales posturing, messaging, positioning, listening and asking questions, qualifying, or closing, and even less on how to do any of that effectively.  They don't know what they don't know.

A good example of this can be seen at Objective Management Group's (OMG) Statistics site.  Navigate to the site, click the "tell us what industry you are in" button, and expand Construction (23).  Select 238 or Specialty Contractors and then scroll through the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You'll notice that the industry specific scores are consistently lower than the average scores for all salespeople.  Interestingly, the biggest gap is in the Hunting Competency where you will see that contractor salespeople score 18 points lower than the average for all salespeople.  The reality is that they do little hunting, getting their new business from existing customers and RFQ's.

The good news is that after senior management makes it clear that those in a selling role will be expected to proactively sell, rather than explaining and quoting alone, things do improve.  While some in the role are not well-suited for selling, with exposure to sales process, strategy, tactics and methodology, most will improve, become more comfortable, and more effective.  After an evaluation, introduction to the company's new formal sales process, and appropriate sales training, most of these people become more comfortable, more aware, and as a result, more effective.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales effectiveness

Definitive Playbook to Lead a Sales Force Out of the Current Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 20, 2020 @ 10:05 AM

playbook

You might be aware that I'm leading a one-hour, live broadcast tomorrow (Thursday May 21) on How to Get Your Company's Sales Engine Roaring Again.  

Why This Particular Event? 

There is a ton of misinformation out there.  Much of it is written by people with an agenda, with a piece of technology to solve your problems, with a solution that will remove you from your money but not fix the sales problem.  Much of it is put out there by people with no clue as to what really needs to be done, what the challenges will be going forward, and how to address those challenges head on.  Most of these people have not had to lead sales organizations out of recessions and depressions before.  There is a revenue gap to be filled and your momentum was effectively stopped in the same way your car would be stopped by hitting a brick wall at 30 mph.  You might not be dead, but you aren't in the same condition you were a minute prior to impact!

The challenges aren't solved by technology because they are all people problems:

  • The challenge with the sales organization as a whole - what changes must be made to align with our new normal?
  • The challenge that sales leaders present to CEOs - what should sales leaders be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that sales managers present to sales leaders - what should sales managers be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that salespeople present to sales managers - what should salespeople be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that customers and prospects will present to salespeople - what sort of conversations should salespeople be having right now that will impact revenue?

Why Are We Charging $199 for it?

There are two primary reasons:

  1. A free webinar will make it no different, no better, no more unique than all of the free podcasts, webinars and videos that are circulating and being offered.
  2. This will truly be different.  It's not a teaser for something you need to pay for.  It's not a session with regurgitated information.  It's not a session where you don't get actionable, useful, timely steps.  I will provide the following and it's risk free - if you don't get value we'll give you a refund!

Slide 12

Why Should You Attend?

If you're a salesperson or a sales manager, you probably shouldn't.  But you should make sure that your senior sales leader and CXOs do attend.

If you're a sales leader or a CXO you can't guess what your next steps must be.  I'll provide an actionable playbook that you can put into action tomorrow!

--> Register <--

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, economic crisis, sales playbook, recovery

One Thing Your Company Must Do Right Now to Increase Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 13, 2020 @ 12:05 PM

cherry-picking

Most in the cherry-picking news media are continuing to pound us with bad stuff: record unemployment, 80,000 dead, lockdowns into August, 30 trillion in debt, economy will be slow to recover, you'll be jailed if you open your business too soon, schools to remain closed in September, people will die, etc.  But there is good stuff going on that they aren't talking about because, for the most part, the media doesn't care about sharing the good stuff.  It's bad for ratings.   

For example, since the 30 million who temporarily lost their jobs are receiving unemployment at more than 100% of what they were earning before, they aren't facing the hardship the media would lead you to believe and the money is there for a reboot when it comes.  But the really good news is for companies that are able to hire salespeople.  Consider this!

Do you have cash on hand?  Do you have access to cash?  Money is almost free right now so don't discount traditional borrowing!  If you can invest some money, now is definitely the time to hire salespeople.  Whether you want to expand your geographical coverage, the verticals you call on, the audience you sell to, the products you offer, want more saturation in your existing space, or want to upgrade the quality and performance of your existing sales force, THERE WILL NEVER BE A BETTER TIME TO HIRE SALESPEOPLE.  EVER.

Consider the following statistics from Objective Management Group (OMG), who have assessed 1,972,665 salespeople.HIRING-PANDEMIC

You are looking at historical shifts in statistics!

If you can find a way to spend the money now (cost of tools and 3-months salary), and you use OMG'S predictive sales candidate assessment, you will see some incredible swings:

Your sales candidate pool will increase in size by 600.  Yes.  They are out there!

The number of sales candidates completing their sales candidate assessments will increase by 958% because it is an employer's market.  Just three months ago it was a candidate's market.

The overall assessment recommendation rate will decrease by 45% because there are a lot of crappy salespeople out there right now. Also, you will be able to raise the bar on the minimum requirements for a recommendation because there are a lot of good salespeople out there too.

Because of all the available sales talent right now, you will be able to identify and hire your salespeople 450% more quickly.

While the fixed cost for a sales candidate assessment license remains the same, the relative cost per assessment decreases by 958% and your annual compensation drops by 11% due to supply and demand.

Even if the market you sell to is sluggish right now, that won't be the case by the end of the summer.  Don't wait until then to hire!  Everything will shift again by Labor Day.  Both supply and quality of available sales talent will decrease as demand increases, the time to hire will increase, and the time to onboard your new salespeople will take longer as well.  DO. THIS. NOW.

Your current and new salespeople will face unprecedented challenges in the form of delayed closings, resistance to being sold anything at all, and resistance to spending more money than anyone has to.  This resistance will come in the form of stalls, put-offs, objections, excuses and sob stories.  Your current and new salespeople must have the skills to differentiate, take a consultative approach and sell value if you are to have any chance of maintaining your margins.  If your salespeople move forward armed with only the limited skills they had prior to the pandemic, your win rate and margins will be crushed.  YOU MUST EVALUATE YOUR EXISTING SALES FORCE, DETERMINE HOW BIG THE SKILLS GAPS ARE, AND PROVIDE THIS CRUCIAL SKILLS TRAINING NOW.  If you wait, you will find yourself fighting to survive from the back of the pack.

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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, grow sales, recruiting salespeople, hiring salespeople, sales test, personality test, recovery

10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

Why Reopening the Economy Won't Be Enough To Turn Things Around

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 20, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

quicksand

They will begin reopening the economy in three phases, but with some restrictions.  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  It's sure as heck much better than what we have today, but will it work?  In this article, I'll explain why it won't work like they hope, and what must occur for the economy to thrive again.

When the economic light switch is flipped on, things are supposed to return to normal, but with appropriate social distancing and special protection of the at-risk population.  Money is supposed to start flowing again, but will it.  Trump is at his best when it comes to the economy but is he right this time? Let's take a look at the requirements for making the money flow.

Requirement #1 - Demand: People must start buying stuff from sources other than Amazon.com and the local grocery store.  Can you say retailers, restaurants and service firms?  Are people itching to buy or just itching to leave their homes?  Are people going to rush out and buy new wardrobes as many continue to work from home in their comfy clothes? Is there a pent-up demand for stuff? The biggest thing that people will need after this has ended is a vacation but the travel and tourism industry, as well as the industries that sell to them, are still shut down indefinitely.  I'm concerned that the demand won't be there when the economy begins to reopen.

Requirement #2 - Large business spending:  One of the first signs that the economy is heading for recession is when large companies initiate spending freezes so that they can conserve cash.  If big business doesn't immediately release their spending freezes, all of the companies who sell to those large companies will continue to suffer and we are unlikely to see another PPP get signed to help companies retain employees.  

Requirement #3 - Small business revenue: You've been hearing this for weeks now.  Small business is home to half of all the employees.  If small businesses aren't able to crank up their cash flows because other businesses aren't spending money, or there is a lack of demand from consumers, the economy won't recover for years.

In my opinion, opening the economy is purely a symbolic move. It will make people feel like we are moving forward, beating the virus, and returning to normal and in the short term it will be good for emotional well-being.  But without tremendous spending in the sectors unaffected by the pandemic, the recently robust economy will be the quicksand economy.  Stuck and unable to recover.

The government sent $1200 to qualifying American families to help pay for expenses while things were shut down.  Unemployment benefits were being paid at 100% and most of those who remained employed were still paid their normal wages.  That should have prevented people from going deeply into debt over the past 45 days. 

So what can be done now?

Requirement #4 - Buying Sprees! I think governments in all countries should send everyone a gift card to go on a buying spree.  500 or 1,000 to go out and buy stuff!  That would help retailers, the states (sales tax), distributors, manufacturers and consumers.  We just need to get some flow and in the US alone that would create $40 - $80 Billion worth of instant flow.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: grow sales, revenue, Economy, reopen, stimulus, spending, freeze

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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