Great Quotes for Success Found in the Least Likely Place

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 @ 06:11 AM

Our son was at his baseball practice last weekend and I saw these great messages on the white board.  I couldn't resist snapping some pictures. 

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I didn't expect to see these quotes - meant to inspire teenage boys - but I'm so glad that I did.  Let's explore the applications for these quotes as they apply to sales and selling:

"If you never stop you never have to start over."  Isn't that a great message for salespeople that need to make cold calls, get prospects engaged and convert them to meetings?

"Everyone wants to be a beast until it's time to do what beasts do."  Beasts practice and give second and third efforts when a play is over.  Most salespeople want to be great but give up way to soon and don't practice at all.

"All you can control is EFFORT and ATTITUDE.  Give 100% of both and you will see results."  Most salespeople fail because they won't do the things that they are least comfortable doing.  But if they give 100% effort with a good attitude they won't think about things like comfort.

"The harder you work the harder it is to surrender."  That's a quote about momentum and when the momentum is in your favor you won't want to stop.

We tend to take quotes like these for granted but if we bring them to life, by living the words, great things always happen.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Motivation, Baseball, salespeople, quotes for sales

What Sales Managers Do That Make Them So Ineffective

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 @ 14:07 PM

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Earlier this week I wrote an article on why so many sales managers are so bad.  In today's article, I'll share what makes them so ineffective.  The easiest way to explain this is to start with a baseball analogy.

Our son, who is now 14, is a very talented baseball player.  In addition to me, he has been coached in some capacity by approximately 15 other baseball coaches with varying degrees of effectiveness.  Some were very good, and some were very bad.  Not because they were bad people, but because they simply didn't know what they didn't know.  Here is an example of a bad coach from when our son was 12 years old.  The pitcher (not our son) was not throwing strikes and had walked 3 straight batters.  The coach yelled out, "throw strikes!"  Now if these were high school kids and the pitcher was trying to be too nibble, that instruction, or just, "Pound the zone" might work.  But 12 year-olds are still learning to pitch so asking for an outcome without providing instruction isn't very helpful.  Next the coach yelled, "Fix your mechanics!"  Again, if the pitcher knew which mechanics and/or how to fix them it might be helpful but of course, he didn't.  The next thing the coached yelled was, "Make an adjustment!"  I wasn't coaching this team so there wasn't anything that I could do, but I knew what should have happened.  If the coach actually knew which mechanics needed to be adjusted he would have called time out, walked to the mound, and had a chat.  He could have shared any one of the following examples of adjustments to pitching mechanics:

  • You're rushing - slow down your delivery
  • You're not pushing off the rubber - use your legs!
  • You're throwing across your body - turn your chest toward home plate before your arm comes around
  • You're not finishing your pitches - follow through
  • There is too much movement - pitch from the stretch 
  • You're releasing the ball too early, too late, too high, too low.
  • You're not extending your arm - throw down hill
  • You're over throwing - don't throw it as hard
  • You're holding the ball too tight - loosen your grip a bit
  • You're too anxious - breath!

And if the coach was oblivious to the mechanics, but still insisted on yelling out to his pitcher, he could have simply yelled out some encouragement! In lieu of instruction, at least encouragement will motivate, and not demotivate.  Now let's make the transition from baseball to sales management.

Sales Managers are usually guilty of the exact same thing.  We've all heard sales managers ask salespeople to:

  • Close more sales
  • Qualify them better
  • Make more appointments!
  • Ask better questions
  • Ask for more money
  • Go back and try again!
  • Get it closed before the end of the quarter
  • Give them an incentive!

How many sales managers know how to actually coach their salespeople?  How many of them can debrief in such a way that they can identify exactly where a sales conversation went south?  Identify which key question didn't get asked or followed up?  Role play how the conversation should have gone?  Role play how the next conversation should sound? Identify why a prospect was stuck on price when the goal was to sell value?  Determine why the prospect lacked urgency?  Figure out why the salesperson was unable to reach the decision maker?  Understand what in the salesperson's Sales DNA interfered with executing the sales process?  Learn which skill gap was responsible for the outcome?

Typically, most Sales Managers are not any better at providing coaching on the mechanics of selling than volunteer baseball coaches are at providing coaching on the mechanics of hitting or pitching.  We have a long way to go!

One of the challenges facing some companies is that many old school, veteran salespeople don't understand why they need to change their approach, change expectations or even participate in training and coaching.  With the world around them changing at breakneck speed, they appear to be blind to to it all.  Despite global competition, prospects who don't need a typical salesperson calling on them, and the need to sell value instead of price, these salespeople refuse to admit that anything has changed.  To make matters worse, their sales managers are often afraid to challenge them.  They are concerned that the salesperson's may quit if feathers are ruffled or worse, the sales manager will get terminated if a veteran salesperson complains to the C Suite.  It's an awful situation and it's made worse when weak, unqualified and ineffective sales managers are put into these roles.

We need a revolution!  I don't want to sound like Bernie but that is truly what is needed with the current state of sales management.  Will you be a leader, a follower or a resistor?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, Baseball

Top 5 Conditions For B2B Prospects to Buy Your Services

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 @ 19:03 PM

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There are five specific events, points in time, and conditions when it is appropriate to ask for help.  Before I explain those, let me go to my favorite source for analogies - baseball - to show how this is true.  A quick Google search indicates that I have woven baseball into 435 of my articles - nearly one third of them, so why baseball again?  

When I wrote Baseline Selling in 2005 (as I write this article 10 years later, the book is still ranked #10 on Amazon.com in the sales category!), I identified 53 baseball terms, scenarios, and conditions that were analogous to selling.  And that was well before I began weaving in sales management scenarios!

So first a little baseball and then the sales analogy.  A fastball hit me square in the knee today.

When our son turned 11, he had become a pitcher and since I wasn't a pitcher when I was younger, I knew that I could not teach him the proper mechanics of pitching, so I got him a pitching coach.

I have been coaching him in baseball since he was old enough to stand and when he turned 12, he stopped listening to me.  "I know Dad!"  "Stop Dad!"  "Just pitch it to me, Dad!"  When he stopped listening to me, I got him a hitting coach that he would listen to so that he could continue to develop as a great hitter.

When he turned 13, I could no longer play catcher to his pitcher.  I have bifocals, making it extremely difficult to track a hard-thrown knuckle curve ball from 60 feet away in the dim spring light at the end of a long, hard work day. Today, when that fastball hit me square on my knee, I knew that I needed to find someone that he could pitch to so that he doesn't have to worry about killing me!

This spring, as he nears his 14th birthday, he has been invited to play on the high school varsity baseball team despite only being in the 8th grade.  This will present a whole new challenge for him and require even more repetitions, in even more areas of the sport.  I don't have enough time to work with him as often as he would like.  I got him some more help.

Top 5 Conditions:

  1. Exceeds my capabilities
  2. Not listening to me anymore
  3. Can't do it anymore
  4. Limited bandwidth
  5. And if I lacked having some to call, then Lack of Resources

If you sell an outsourced service, you can replace #2 with "not scalable."

But this message is primarily for the Presidents, CEO's, Sales Leaders and Sales Managers who don't recognize numbers 1-5 above.

There are so many companies whose revenues are not coming close to reaching their potential because their leaders fail to recognize the 4 scenarios above.  In addition, some sales leaders believe that if they have to get help from the outside, it makes them appear weak.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In my experience, when companies bring us in to help and revenues begin to soar, it makes the sales leaders look like the heroes!

Let's look at them again.

Exceeds my capabilities - You need to coach your salespeople up, but you can't coach them to be any better than you were.  The key is to recognize that while you may have been a good salesperson, you may not have been a great salesperson, and may not have had your success selling the way that salespeople must sell in modern times.  Modern selling requires a consultative approach where salespeople are the value.

Not listening to me anymore - It happens in sports where managers and coaches are fired because their players have stopped listening.  Salespeople stop listening too - they tune-out their sales leaders - when they have heard it all before.  It is very difficult to coach someone up when they aren't listening to what you are telling them.

Can't do it anymore - Sales leaders often reach a frustration level where it is no longer possible for them to provide the kind of coaching that their salespeople require.  They sense that it just isn't working, is wasting time, and they stop.

Limited bandwidth - Coaching should consume 50% of a sales leader's time.  At least 20 hours per week of good, quality, impactful coaching.  Yet most sales leaders don't have nearly that much time to coach.  This week, I spoke with a Sales VP who reads this blog and he has 12 direct reports with more on the way.  Even if he could spend 50% of his time coaching, how can he possibly provide thorough coaching to 12 people in 20 hours per week?

Sales teams must perform.  And increasing goals, plans, budgets, expectations and quotas place additional pressure on sales leaders to get the most from their teams.  Can we really expect sales leaders to accomplish that without help?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales consulting, Baseball, outsourcing

Can Salespeople Really Double Their Revenue by Solving This One Challenge?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 @ 23:10 PM

I've written about our son around 30 times over the past 10 years and in those articles where I mentioned sports, the sport was always baseball. For the last three years, his fall sport has been cross-country and in the past two months he has won 6 meets. This year, he transitioned from participating in to winning his events.

While there are several sales analogies I could point to for this turn of events, there is one in particular that is crucial if your company sells more than one product or service.

Over the years, one of the common frustrations that executives have shared with me is that so many of their salespeople - even their good ones - were one dimensional.  They sell only one product or product line out of many. They sell to only one type of account. They thrive in only one vertical. They excel with only one particular level of decision maker. And the rhetoric is always similar too. "If these salespeople could just go from being good at one thing, to being good at two things, then we would double revenue!" So maybe they wouldn't double revenue, but certainly they could achieve a sizable increase.

Why is it so difficult for salespeople to go from master of one discipline to master of multiple disciplines?

They get comfortable.

Here's another analogy. Restaurants. You wouldn't go to an Italian Restaurant to order a burger, any more than you would go to a Chinese Restaurant and order shepherd's pie. And if you have some favorite restaurants, you probably don't vary much from the dish you always order there because it's what you like that they make so well.

We get comfortable.

So what caused our son to suddenly perform so well in cross-country? He loves to win even more than he likes competition. And when he sensed that he could actually succeed, he committed.

How do you accomplish the same thing with salespeople?

There are five things you can do:

  1. Stop complaining about it and make it a requirement for continued employment.
  2. Support the change by helping them get some early wins.
  3. Learn why the alternative sales target is so difficult or scary and coach to overcome the barriers.
  4. Offer them better direction and guidance on their approach, positioning, questioning and tactics.
  5. Raise your own expectations and those of your salespeople.

Over at Top Sales Magazine, there is a brand new look and they have gone to a larger, monthly magazine. I have a feature article about Mastery of Sales on page 16 of the November issue and you can download it here.

And speaking of competition, the SellingPower Blog has a terrific article about how Motivation is not usually the problem when it appears that salespeople aren't motivated! 

Finally, join me today (October 28, 2015) at 11 AM ET for a discussion on the role of Benchmarking and the Perfect Fit Analysis when it comes to effective Sales Selection.  Register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Accountability, how to increase revenue, Baseball, sales increase, cross country

How the Right Questions Can Make up for Lack of Sales Experience

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 @ 07:08 AM

Last week, for the second year in a row, our son played in a 12U baseball tournament in Cooperstown, NY. Last year, he played with boys a year older than him and the tournament inspired this very popular article on the Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make. This year's tournament was special, it was exciting to be there, and a privilege for him to be on such a talented team. However, nothing could ever top last year, the baseball equivalent of showing up at Disney World for the very first time. This year, we knew what to expect.

On the trip back home, I didn't need to play racing legend Mario Andretti to get us where we needed to be on time. I kept it to the speed limit, enjoyed the scenery and for the first time, experienced stress-free driving. Not only that, I wasn't tired like I usually am during and after driving 4 hours.

What does this have to do with selling? A lot. Magic, racing and expectations are major factors in sales. We will discuss the role of each and how salespeople can be more consistent when they better understand those 3 factors and learn to manage them.

Magical - Sometimes, salespeople start an opportunity with all of the wonder and amazement of a first-time Disney visit. This can happen when the company is huge, the opportunity has more zeros than ever before, or the salesperson has an audience with a high-ranking, well-known executive. Unfortunately, wonder, amazement and intimidation are like the young child watching the Main Street Disney parade. They lead to an excited, emotional salesperson who will probably be unable to see the forest through the trees.

Racing Car  - Frequently, salespeople can't wait to reach a sales milestone they are comfortable with. That's usually a presentation, demo, proposal or quote. Consider that as well as prospects who declare that they have only 20 minutes. Either scenario causes salespeople to rush through their calls while they fail to ask meaningful questions, don't carefully listen to responses, and skip the follow-up questions. They are so focused on getting to the end that they don't relax and take in the scenery. They fail to uncover the compelling reasons for their prospects to do business with them.

Know What to Expect - There are some occasions when salespeople don't rely on their experience and instincts. Instead they fail to recognize that they have been in this situation, faced these challenges, or met with these kinds of people before. They need to realize that their prior experience has fully prepared them for this moment. When they know what to expect, the call will likely go according to their expectations.

Have you or your salespeople ever walked into a sales call to find people in the meeting that were not expected? Salespeople should always know, in advance, who will be in the meeting and what their role is. If unexpected people attend the meeting they should ask:

  • What is their role in the company?
  • What is their role in this meeting?
  • What is their role in selecting a partner (vendor, source, solution, company or product)?
  • What do they know about me?
  • What do they know about us?
  • What do they know about what we have already discussed?

Is there anyone who will attend the meeting or who is in the meeting that shouldn't? Is there anyone else that should? Are they in agreement with what has been discussed so far?  

Is there a potential partner that they favor? Why? 

What would you have to do in order for them to consider you?

Most salespeople never even think to ask these questions. Others gloss over them. But these questions are more important than a conversation about your capabilities.

If you ask the right questions, you'll know what to expect even when you haven't been there before!

Knowing what to expect and uncovering compelling reasons to buy are both crucial components of sales coaching. SellingPower posted this video of me talking about the essence of sales coaching. Want more? This is the last call for my top-rated, two-day event on How to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Force. The highlight of the two days is the best darn training you will ever attend on the right way to coach salespeople. If you want to attend, use SLI-DK-UTSF for a great discount.

Finally, the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine was published today and it features a lead article written by me.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, Baseball, shorten the sales process

How to Finally Get Sales Selection Right

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 13:06 PM

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Before I share some crucial sales selection tips, I need to begin with some baseball. My apologies to all of my cricket and soccer obsessed readers.

My team, the Boston Red Sox, just lost their seventh consecutive game. They are in last place and heading for their third last place finish in the past four years. The outlier year was 2013, when they won the World Series. I think there was far less talent on that championship team than on this year's edition, but the 2013 team had a rallying cry (Boston Strong) and everyone overachieved. You can't count on everyone overachieving each year, so in lieu of that, as Jim Collins would say, you must have the right people in the right seats. 

When it comes to sales selection, sales leaders regularly make the same mistake that Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has made for the last 4 years. Ben is the architect of these 3H (helpless, hapless and hopeless) Red Sox teams. Ben continues to select players who have succeeded in the easier National League, who struggle to compete in the more challenging American League. He also promotes minor leaguers before they are ready. Similarly, companies hire salespeople who have succeeded for other companies, in other industries, in other roles, against different competition, with other price points, calling on different decision makers, with longer and shorter sales cycles. They even hire salespeople away from their competitors, believing that their customers will follow. Well, how has that worked out for you?

Here's an example:    Yesterday, I received an email from an OMG Client in the Middle East wondering why a candidate was not recommended. The email said:

I would like you input on this attached folder, this guy has a great file, why he is not selected and was not hirable?  I need to understand what are the criteria of selection for an account manager?  

I wrote back:

The custom role specification for an account manager was used on this candidate and as you can see on page 3, it requires a candidate to meet at least 70% of the criteria for an account manager.  Your candidate met only 65% of the criteria and possesses only 40% of the account manager skill set.  He is much better suited for a hunter role where he has 100% of the hunter competency.

Most Sales leaders believe that if a salesperson has had any success, or good references, or even a good score on OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, they should be chosen. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every role, in every company, calling into every vertical and decision maker, selling against every competitor and at every price point, with varying degrees of resistance, is different.

You wouldn't hire a hunter to manage existing accounts any more than you would hire an account manager to hunt. But that's what sales leaders and HR professionals do - every minute of every day - when they aren't using anything more than a resume and experience as a predictor of future performance.

It reminds me of the time when I was on a boat with Dennis Connelly, a senior sales strategist at my company. I can't remember whether the lights weren't functioning or there just weren't any running lights, but I do remember that darkness had replaced light. He needed to navigate back to the slip in the harbor, but there were hundreds of boats to steer clear of and all he had was a flashlight! At that point, you need an awful lot of luck to succeed.

For the most part, that's what sales leaders rely on each time they select a salesperson. "Let's hope that this one works out!" How many 3M's (mishires, mistakes and mishaps) does it take before a sales leader or an HR professional realizes that the way they hire salespeople just doesn't lead to consistent success?

But it doesn't need to be that way. Not when there is a highly predictive, customizable, sales selection tool that consistently gets it right. Not when it's sales-specific and has science on its side.  Not when it's so affordable that it's a no-brainer to use.

92% of the recommended candidates, who are hired with this tool, rise to the top half of the sales force within one year. 75% of the candidates who are not recommended by this tool, but who somehow get hired anyway, fail within 6 months. The tool is insanely accurate.  

It's all about sales selection. You can learn more about OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments right here.

I stand behind it. 10,000 companies use it. It works! Isn't it time for you to finally get sales selection right?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales candidates, Baseball, sales selection, objective management group, Boston Red Sox

Should a Salesperson be Punished after a Huge Sale?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 04, 2015 @ 11:05 AM

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My wife and I watched with a combination of fascination, sadness and shock as the coach of our son's 12 and under AAU baseball team made them run suicides after the double header they won on Saturday, and again after the double header they won on Sunday.  Why would he punish them after winning four games this weekend?  And how does this apply to sales?  You'll be amazed by what you read.On Saturday, the team had a chance to win both games by the mercy rule (the game ends if one team is ahead by 10 runs or more after 4 innings), but let the other team back into the game both times.  The coach didn't like their effort and execution and taught them a lesson by making them run suicides for 20 minutes after the second game.

On Sunday, the team won the first game, but allowed the other team to tie the second game forcing extra innings.  They eventually had a walk-off win, but once again, he thought they were flat, didn't like their effort, pointed to mental mistakes, and made them run suicides for 30 minutes after the second game.

As his parents, this punishment overshadowed a very impressive ball-crushing performance by our son.  But for the coach, the team's performance comes first.  The coach is paying more attention to behavior, attitude, and effort, than he is to the score.  He believes that by focusing on these three things, he will drive home the lessons he wants them to learn from this.

Shouldn't sales leaders be applying these lessons with their sales organizations?  While the best sales leaders do, in fact, follow this strategy, many sales leaders pay too much attention to sales results - the numbers - while ignoring the significance of metrics and conversion ratios that lead to revenue.

For example, Bob leads the team in sales this quarter with $500,000 in sales and he is praised, recognized, and presented with an award for his outstanding performance.  But it's a sham.  Bob landed one deal the entire quarter instead of the 6 he should have closed.  Although his quota for the quarter was only $300,000 and he killed it, if this deal hadn't come through, he would have been dead last.  Additionally, this deal was forecast for the previous quarter, so he really had nothing going on this quarter.  Had sales management looked more closely, they would have seen that he did not add any new opportunities to the pipeline in the quarter, and had only 6 conversations on just 12 outbound attempts.  Where was his effort?  What's with his attitude?  And where was the behavior?  Should Bob have been the hero or should it have been pointed out that he sucked all quarter and happened to get lucky once?

Clearly, it benefits the entire sales organization to call attention to a big deal and a quota-buster.  We want to make sure that everyone knows that these results can be achieved and should be achieved.  At the same time, if the other salespeople approach Bob and ask how he did it, the opposite effect will occur.  They would learn that it is OK not to make calls, not to have many conversations, and not to convert those conversations to meetings.  Additionally, they would learn that ineffective qualifying and forecasting can pay off, and letting prospects off the hook, not closing the door, and being passive and mentally lazy can work as well.

The scenario with the Bobs of the world is no different than what happened last weekend with the baseball coach.  We can't reward results unless the attitude, effort and execution that led to the results was consistent with those results.  In addition, we shouldn't punish salespeople who put forth the proper effort, attitude, behaviors and execution, only to come up short.  When we identify the most meaningful KPI's, and recognize salespeople for achieving those, the results will come.

[Update - Stick around and read the comments to this article, add one of your own, share it on LInkedIn or Twitter (buttons above the photo) and read this follow-up article.]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales conversation, Baseball, sales behaviors, sales KPI, sales effort, sales forecast, sales execution

What Committed Salespeople Do Differently

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 @ 13:04 PM

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Commitment Continuum is a trademark of the Jansen Sports Leadership Center and the image is from their website.

This week we found ourselves sitting in camp chairs, bundled up in warm coats, wearing winter gloves and covered in blankets, to watch our son play on his Middle School baseball team.  The only thing this team could win is the Bad News Bears Look-Alike Contest.  He also plays on a very talented travel team, so this school game was not only awful to watch, it was doubly awful because of the winter weather.  Yes, there was snow in the air.  We will attend nearly every single 1 of the 100 games he will play for 5 teams this year.  Many people would say that...

  • We aren't required to go (some parents drop-off.)
  • He doesn't ask us to watch (he's very independent.)
  • We don't have to attend as many as we do (half would be more than most parents.)
  • It is rarely convenient (some games are at 3:30 PM.)
  • Games are rarely played in beautiful weather (too hot in July and August, too cold in April, and too wet or humid the rest of the time).
  • There is rarely comfortable seating (thus the not quite as uncomfortable camp chairs).
  • There are other things we need to do.
  • Double Headers on Saturdays and Sundays take up most of the weekend.
  • School games and Little League games on the same day take up most of the afternoon and evening.
  • It's baseball - a slow, boring game for those who don't know the game within the game.

So why do we do this?

Commitment.  We have discussed commitment a LOT in this Blog recently because many people misunderstand the role it plays in successful selling.  Read any of these articles for more on commitment.

So let me help.  We are committed to doing whatever it takes to give our son whatever he needs in order to thrive.  With his talent in this sport, baseball is one of the opportunities we provide him with and doing whatever it takes to watch him play is one of the unconditional commitments we make.  Speaking of baseball, check out these new visual statistics being provided by MLB.  Does it get you thinking about the additional things you could measure in sales?  How about the additional things that we can measure?

In sales, most salespeople, especially the bottom 74%, don't do whatever it takes to succeed.  For example, if the company, quota, expectations and goals were your child, and you had similar values for your son or daughter, would you:

  • Postpone filling your pipeline?
  • Give up when you finally get a decision-maker on the phone because the prospect is too difficult to convert?
  • Not advocate for yourself when faced with tough competition, a tougher prospect, or objections?
  • Not thoroughly qualify an opportunity the way you would qualify the friends your son or daughter hangs out with or a trip they might take?
  • Not challenge a prospect when their thinking or strategy isn't quite what it could or should be?
  • Not talk about money because it's uncomfortable?
  • Not point out, defend and brag about the value the way you would brag about your children?
  • Not do whatever it takes to get a closable opportunity closed?

But that is exactly what the majority of salespeople are doing.  They half-sell.  They aren't thorough, or effective, or efficient, or memorable, or resilient, or tenacious, or assertive, because they aren't comfortable doing those things.  Because they don't equate those things as being the business equivalent of their own children, for whom they would do whatever it takes.  Especially if it's uncomfortable.  Whatever it takes. That's what commitment is.  It's not work ethic-silly.   Anyone can put in long hours.  It's about doing all of the necessary things despite being uncomfortable.  Whatever it takes.  I found the trademarked image at the top of this article from Jansen Sports Leadership Center.

Jonathan Farrington interviewed me for the cover feature in this week's edition of Top Sales Magazine.   The topic is the importance of getting sales selection right.

Coincidentally, the latest edition of Top Sales Academy is also out this week with me presenting, How  to Coach Salespeople Like a Pro and it's free, available on demand, and really useful.  Are you a committed sales leader or sales manager?   One of the things you must do is get better at coaching.  So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales commitment, Baseball, sales success

Leading a Sales Force is Even More Like Baseball

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Nov 06, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

baseball

I miss baseball already.  Although I can't watch it right now, I still think about it.  I look forward to next season when, together with my wife, we'll watch our son strike out other kids, hit lots of home runs, and improve his baseball skills while playing close to 100 games!  I don't look forward to the seats...  

I've written plenty about the similarity betwen baseball and selling, but today I'm writing about the similarity between baseball and sales leadership.  If you're not a baseball person, you might not see the same things that I see, most of which can be applied to leading a sales force.  For example,

there are five levels of professional baseball:  a short season A team, a full-season A team, and then, as the player becomes adjusted and ready for the two higher levels in the minor leagues; AA and AAA.  Then, if and when he's good enough, he'll be promoted to the Majors.  

Most people can see the differences in the caliber of play when comparing a Little League game to a high school game, or a college game to a professional game.  Most people aren't able to recognize the differences between each of the 5 professional levels.  They may be watching a minor league game, but it sure looks like professional baseball to them - without the 35,000 people in the stands rooting for their team.  Pitchers make the pitches, hitters hit the ball, run the bases, and everyone make the plays.  It is professional baseball, but in the minor leagues, pitchers don't command their secondary pitches.  While they already have a major league-ready fast ball, they have not yet mastered the ability to throw their curve ball, change up or slider to the exact spot it needs to go.  Hitters in the minor leagues are able to hit a fastball with authority, but may not be  able to recognize, adjust to, and hammer breaking pitches.

The exact same difference exists between sales experts like me and sales leaders like you.

Most sales leaders can easily differentiate between salespeople who are awful and those who are not awful.  They have difficulty differentiating one awful salesperson from another.  If you're asking yourself why I'm placing this in the context of awful, rather than good, it's because 74% of the sales population is awful!

Based on Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics, a sales force of 10 would typically have:

  • 0 elite salespeople who make up the top 6%,
  • 2 good salespeople who make up the top 26%, and
  • 8 salespeople who are awful, making up the remaining 74%.

A typical sales leader looks at the sales force and can differentiate between the 2 good and 8 bad, but isn't able to explain why.  Sure, they can point to sales numbers and activity, but those aren't reasons, as much as differing results.

It's very difficult to coach someone up when you don't know the cause of their ineffectiveness.

For example, let's take 3 awful salespeople who are each underperforming at a company we recently evaluated:

  • Bob has a full pipeline, but despite all of the opportunities, his win-rate is pathetic.
  • Mary has a nearly empty pipeline, but closes most of the opportunities she does uncover.
  • Bill has a poor pipeline - half way between Bob and Mary - but most opportunities get stuck and don't move through to closure.

You can easily determine that Bob is a successful hunter, but an awful closer.

You can easily determine that Mary is a successful closer, but an awful hunter.

You can easily determine that Bill isn't very good at anything.

Now let's pretend that they are your salespeople.  That shouldn't be a stretch because you probably have 3 salespeople who look like this.  

Do you know why this is happening?  Do you know how to figure out why it is happening?  Do you know that a seminar on prospecting or closing won't change anything?  Do you know what is in their Sales DNA, their Will to Sell, or their Sales Skill Sets that are responsible for these outcomes?  Do you know if they're even trainable?  Do you know if they're really coachable?  Do you know if you're any good at developing salespeople with these mysterious issues?

Of course you don't know.  You're not even supposed to know.  If you did know, they would each have been either fixed (because you knew what to fix and how to fix it) or replaced (because you knew it couldn't be fixed or you weren't capable of fixing it).  Right?

That example is only one of the reasons to evaluate your sales force.  Here are some more.

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales force evaluation, Baseball, sales development

Baseball's Huge Impact on Sales Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

Process Methodology Model

 I wrote this article on the difference between Sales Process and Sales Methodology and this article on how Sales Models are different from Process and Methodology.   

Do you remember algebra?  One such formula may have read like the following: 4 is to 1 as x is to 3.  It would have looked like the following image.

Algebra

Let's use Algebra to get a better handle on sales methodology and where it fits in the grand scheme of things.  Consider the following formula:

sports is to selling

Sports is to Selling as Baseball is to Consultative Selling as Pitching and Defense are to Baseline Selling.   

Sports and Selling are both professional activities.  Baseball and Consultative Selling further define the activities with baseball answering the question as to which sport, and consultative answering the question as to which type of selling.

Pitching and Defense are one of many possible methodologies used in baseball as a strategy to win games.  Baseline Selling is the methodology which I recommend in selling as a strategy to win more sales.

Baseline Selling is also a sales process, meaning it has stages, each with a series of steps, milestones and tasks which, if followed according to its design, provide significantly greater odds of repeatable success.  You can use this free tool to measure the effectiveness of your existing sales process.

One of the milestones of the second stage (2nd Base) of Baseline Selling is what I call SOB Quality or, using a baseball term, Speed on the Bases.  I recorded a very short video which explains SOB Quality and how it differentiates your salespeople from the competition.

Dennis Connelly, who writes the Living Sales Excellence Blog, was recently on the phone with a lumber salesperson named Taylor Tankersley.  If you follow baseball, you would know that Taylor is a former Miami Marlins pitcher.  Dennis explained the sales version of SOB Quality to Taylor and had the following interchange:

Dennis: When you were on the mound and there was a guy with great speed on the bases, what were you thinking?

Taylor: I paid more attention to him than anyone else.

Don't you want your prospects giving all of their attention to your salespeople?  Contact me to learn if they have the ability to develop SOB Quality!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales model, sales methodology, Baseball, taylor tankersly

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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 a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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