What Are Sales Intangibles?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 @ 21:02 PM

intangiblesOnce in while an individual will fall outside the normal range of assessment results.  That usually means either one of two things;

  1. Their performance was significantly better than how they assessed;
  2. Their performance was significantly worse than how they assessed;

Let's focus on the first example where a salesperson does not assess well, but has performed well.  When a client lacks obvious reasons for this scenario then there are times when we might say that this salesperson has intangibles.  Last week I was asked for three examples of intangibles and I thought I would share them here:

Example 1:  A high-end insurance agency – we said that one of the 24 top producers was the weakest of the their top 24.  He was actually #1.  So how could OMG, the most accurate and predictive assessment on the planet, be wrong?  Intangibles.  It turned out that he had a TEAM of people helping him sell.  Someone else made calls, opened doors and scheduled appointments; another individual did the closing, and he got the credit.  Those are intangibles – they can’t be duplicated and you can't expect to generate results like that from anyone else with an assessment that looked like his.

Example 2: In a printing company, the person who assessed the weakest was their #1 salesperson.  How could this be?  It turned out that this individual had been in the industry for so many years and was so well known, and so well liked and so well respected that it completely compensated for his lack of selling skills and incredible set of sales weaknesses.  Think Jack Black, Will Farrell and Kevin James.  They can't act for shit but they're making millions! Those are intangibles – they can’t be duplicated and you can't expect anyone else with an assessment like theirs to be equally successful.

Example 3: In a technology company, the person who assessed the weakest made President's Club.  Management was aghast.  how could this be?  Well it turned out that this person had never made quota until this year.  What was different this year?  One - huge - account.  And he got credit for it even though his manager found, drove and closed the business.  He was weak, unskilled, disruptive and otherwise useless but more successful (last year) than anyone else at his company.  Those are intangibles – they can’t be duplicated and you can't expect anyone else with an assessment like theirs to be equally successful.

Intangibles aren't the norm but they do happen.  They raise important questions about what to practice.  You should practice what works MOST of the time even though some people/companies practice what works only SOME of the time.  Can you think of an example?

How about closing?

Some salespeople chase people who need to think things over (any length sales cycle), believing that they'll eventually buy because somebody else did one time three years ago.  Great salespeople know they get only one chance to close and if they don't close at their one, ideal closing opportunity (any length sales cycle) then it was unlikely they would close that business at all.  That's practicing what works MOST of the time when the opposite practice provides little chance for success.

Do you have any salespeople with intangibles?

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, sales force evaluations, sales assessments

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six 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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