Top 4 Reasons Salespeople Struggle to Reach Decision Makers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 @ 05:10 AM

Bodyguad with uziThree separate, but related, incidents occurred this week, all having to do with reaching decision makers.

First, I received a cold call that went like this:

"Hi Mr. Kurlan, this is [name withheld] from [huge company name withheld]. We're a company that.....oh no - the script disappeared from my computer. I...I...can't talk to you without following the script.  Bye."

First off, the Mr. Kurlan thing is like fingernails on a chalkboard - I can't stand it and never will.  About the only time it doesn't bother me is when my Korean dry cleaner sees me and says, "Oh, Mista Kuelahn, hah ah you?"  That makes me chuckle.

Second, the Mr. Kurlan thing again.  It tells me before he says another word that he doesn't know me.  If he did he would call me Dave.

Third, the Mr. Kurlan thing yet again.  It tells me that he doesn't think he is at the same level as me, shouldn't really be talking with me and can't speak my language.

I don't even have to provide commentary about what happened with his computer and script. I do know that there isn't a CEO anywhere that would have listened for even 5 seconds if he had started reading from a script!

Okay, so that's the first incident.  The same day, I was asked about a salesperson at a client's company.  The Objective Management Group (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessment said that he would have difficulty calling on Senior Executives and, of course, he was struggling.  When asked what they could tell him, I said this:

  • Intellectually, he needs to know how crucial this is for his success.
  • Conceptually, he needs to know that he can reach senior decision makers.
  • Belief-wise, he needs to know he belongs with senior decision makers.
  • Practically speaking, he needs to learn the strategies and tactics for how to consistently reach senior decision makers.

Incident number three:  Yesterday, I received an email announcing the results of a survey conducted by the cloud-based, business presentation company, Brainshark, Inc.  While the survey included plenty of silly statistics, there were some very important findings in there too.

Much of the survey focused on how, when and where salespeople prepare for and deliver presentations to close.  Most of the sales questions (how they sell) focused on presenting - not conversations, discussions, questions, or anything approaching a consultative approach.  So it shouldn't be at all surprising that the survey reported that salespeople were frustrated by the following presentation challenges:

  • technology not functioning (56%), 
  • key decision-makers absent from the room (50%), 
  • a disengaged or distracted audience (34%),
  • not feeling well-prepared (14%),

and the following post-presentation/closing challenges:

  • unresponsive/difficult-to-reach prospects (55%)
  • not knowing who else is influencing purchasing decisions (49%)
  • having a hard time telling if the prospect is interested (26%)
  • not having appropriate follow-up materials (17%)

So here we are again, with half of the salespeople reporting that they aren't reaching decision makers.  And why would a decision maker want to be reached if the salespeople are focused only on presentations?  And companies wonder why their sales cycles are so long, their closing percentages are so low and their margins are slip sliding away...

Also noteworthy were these findings from the survey results:

  • Prepare:  77% of reps graded themselves a “B” or better for their prep work, while Managers thought that 58% of their reps merited a “B” or above, with 42% grading reps a “C” or below.
  • Present:  Only 14% of reps thought their presentation skills deserved a “C” or lower, while managers rated reps with a “C” or worse  43% of the time.  22% of reps thought they earned an “A” compared to 8% of managers who gave reps that grade.
  • Follow-up:  Reps were twice as likely as managers (21% versus 10%) to think they earned an “A” for post-meeting follow-up.  

When OMG evaluates a sales force, one of the two dozen or so questions we answer is whether the company's salespeople can be more effective at reaching decision makers.  We include several factors to support our answer but I can share that the findings come from:

  • their sales DNA,
  • their Beliefs,
  • their existing set of selling skills, and
  • their comfort level.

When it comes to salespeople believing, reaching, acting appropriately and speaking the language of senior decision makers, it is very ugly out there.  OMG's statistics show that a whopping 68% of salespeople struggle to reach decision makers.

How do your salespeople measure up?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, sales survey, reaching decision makers, sales presentations, sales assessments

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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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