The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

remember

If you're young enough, some of the questions in the first few paragraphs won't apply because you haven't experienced the world without the innovations mentioned below.  Don't let that prevent you from reading this because after the milestones, we'll get to the good selling stuff.

For those of you who are my age or older, do you remember the first time you saw color TV?  For me it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early 1960's. Or the first time you watched Cable with more than 6 channels and without snow? Wireless remote controls?  OK, that was all in the 1960's.  Let's skip to the 1980's.

Do you remember the first version of Microsoft Windows?  Computers with more than words and numbers - how cool!  Do you remember what came before Windows?  MS/DOS or CP/M and the commands you needed to know to get the computer to do what you wanted?  How about the 5 1/4" floppy disks that stored a whopping 160KB of data?  

Let's skip to the 90's.  Do you remember the first time you connected to the internet?  I connected through a now defunct service called Prodigy.  AOL had its infancy around that time as well.

Do you remember sending and receiving your first emails?  I remember the pushback I got from OMG Partners who, at the time, didn't want to abandon fax machines to send and receive information.  My first email address was salesguru@prodigy.net.  That was almost 30 years ago!  Do you remember earth's biggest bookstore?  How cool was it when you placed your first Amazon.com order, or later on, read your first book on a Kindle?  Your first look at early HD TV?

Now the turn of the century.  Do you remember when LinkedIn got started?  Most of the people I invited to join my network didn't have LinkedIn accounts yet. You can follow me at linkedin.com/in/davekurlan.

Do you remember reading your first Blog article?  I read one by Seth Godin, became an early subscriber, and in 2005, became one of the very first sales experts to Blog.  This article will be somewhere around #1,750 in the series and since that time my Blog has won 27 awards.

Each of these innovations had the cool effect, as in, "cool! Let's do that again!"  Now we can transition to the same kind of coolness, but in sales.

Do you remember the moment you became a Salesperson?  Not a presenter, Not an order taker, but a true consultative sales professional?

Here are some guidelines to identify the moment you turned professional. 

Do you remember the first time you asked that difficult, frightening, risky question that earned you the business on the spot?  It surprised you.  It wasn't a closing question, discovery question or qualifying question, but a question that changed how your prospect thought of you, completely changed the conversation, and differentiated you from everyone else that prospect had spoken with.

Did you ignore it at the time or can you remember having some awareness of what had just happened, how powerful it was, knowing it was a game changer and looking for opportunities to repeat that experience?

When you consciously began asking these types of questions on every first sales call, you became a bonafide professional salesperson.  Anyone can present.  Anyone can quote.  Anyone can take orders.  Anyone can rattle off specs.  Most can maintain relationships. But taking on the difficult task of becoming truly consultative?  Only the top 5% have mastered that and the next 15% work at it pretty effectively.  The rest?  Not yet.

If you are among the top 5% who have mastered this, congratulations!  If you are working on it as you read this, that's terrific too.  But if you aren't there yet, what must you do to become a master at consultative selling?

Here are the top 8 requirements - selling skills and sales DNA - to become the best

  1. Listening Skills - this goes beyond hearing and focusing.  We're talking about active listening, identifying specific words and phrases that if questioned, will take you wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy.
  2. Questioning Skills - this isn't about having 50 prepared questions.  This is about phrasing your follow up questions to go wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy because you listened effectively.
  3. Tonality - Everyone is capable of asking questions, but not everyone can ask them in such a way so as to not offend.  You need to slow down, get softer, add pauses after each key phrase, smile, and most importantly, your inflection must drop down on the last syllable so that it doesn't sound like a question.
  4. Business and Finance - Behind every problem you uncover, there is usually a financial implication.  You must be savvy enough to help your prospect make that calculation, including hard and soft costs, amortized over the full term of the problem, and agreed to.
  5. You Don't Need to be Liked - There is a difference between being likable, getting people to like you and the 58% of all salespeople that NEED to be liked.  The first two are good while the second prevents you from being able to execute #2 above.  When we look only at elite salespeople, only 18% need to be liked and their average score in this competency is 89% compared with 76% for all salespeople.
  6. You control your emotions - when you are in the moment, and not distracted by your own thoughts, you can listen more effectively as mentioned in #1 above.  63% of all salespeople aren't able to do this, while only  31% of Elite salespeople struggle with this.  Elite salespeople score an average of 86% in this competency while all salespeople score 80% and weak salespeople score 76%.
  7. You are Comfortable Talking about Money - Weak salespeople score just 41%, all salespeople score 58% and elite salespeople score 91%.  60% of all salespeople aren't comfortable with the financial discussion making #4 impossible.  Only 8% of Elite salespeople struggle with this discussion, and 85% of weak salespeople are uncomfortable this.
  8. You follow an effective sales process.  Period.  Consultative Selling is much more difficult than relationship selling which takes forever with no guarantees, or transactional selling which takes no time at all and rarely produces results.  It requires a formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process which incomplete methodologies like Challenger and SPIN don't provide.  Baseline Selling is complete consultative sales process and methodology in one.

Statistics courtesy of Objective Management Group, Inc. which has evaluated and assessed more than 1.8 million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders from 27,000 companies, in 200 industries and  in 47 countries.  Interested in seeing the results?  See how salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.  Want to identify new salespeople who can sell like this?  Check out this accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment here.

Comment?  Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, consultative, Baseline Selling, Relationship Selling, transactional sales

How Getting Feedback and Making Adjustments are the Keys to Sales Improvement

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 04, 2018 @ 22:12 PM

feedback

Becoming great at selling - or anything else for that matter - is about making adjustments. In order to make an adjustment you need feedback - something you see, hear or feel that informs your ability to adjust.  Take Baseball for example.  When I watch my son hit he receives instant feedback from every swing of the bat.  He usually crushes the ball and that suggests that no adjustment is needed.  If he tops the ball or pops it up it is probably an issue with timing.  If he peels the ball to the right, he probably opened his front shoulder too early. If he squares the ball up but doesn't drive it he probably failed to use his legs. He also has 5 private coaches who coach him or, in other words, provide feedback. 

That brings us back to selling.  Salespeople need feedback too.

Suppose a salesperson completes a sales call and the prospect says, "Thank you for your time" or "It was nice meeting you" or "We'll let you know."  Those are examples of lack of feedback.

What would it sound like if they did get feedback?  A prospect who is not responding or reacting might be providing tremendous feedback.  While it is surely negative feedback, it is very useful feedback.  It suggests that the salesperson failed to get the prospect engaged and the required adjustment would be to ask more effective questions. 

An engaged prospect is also a form of feedback, suggesting that the questions were effective and the prospect is interested.  A prospect who says, "We're not interested" is providing feedback too.  Again, it's negative feedback but a salesperson can work with that.  The adjustment requires changing the questions that are being asked.  A prospect who is very interested is also providing feedback - that the salesperson got close but isn't quite there yet.  Perhaps some additional questions are required.  A prospect who asks, "What are the next steps?" is providing feedback that they are ready to do business and the salesperson was effective in their call or meeting.

The feedback above is positive.  Compare that with a meeting that you think went well because you had a nice conversation.  If you didn't get specific positive feedback, then there aren't any positives to take away from that meeting.  For example, in the last 3 months my son has been showcasing his baseball talent at colleges.In the first 4 showcases he didn't get any specific feedback.  No feedback is negative feedback. In the 4 most recent events, coaches have taken time to tell him how much they liked his skills and how well he performed.  Positive feedback.  

Another powerful form of feedback happens when salespeople record their phone calls and listen to the recordings.  They'll hear several coaching moments as they identify openings where they could have asked great questions, where they failed to listen, where they jumped ahead with their own agenda,  or where they simply said stuff that sounded stupid.  Salespeople tend to respond more effectively to self-identified coaching moments because they own those moments.

This is an example of a salesperson getting coached (feedback) by me.  It's 26 minutes but it will be 26 minutes of coaching that you will definitely learn from and will be well worth your time.

Only 10% of all sales managers are both consistent and effective with their coaching.  For salespeople who wish to improve and become great, most of them will need to accomplish some or all of that work on their own, either by recording calls, signing up for training or getting a sales coach.

Salespeople will go through several transitions if they pay attention to feedback: 

  • They aren't very good.
  • They are just like everyone else
  • They are a vendor
  • They are adding value
  • They are a resource
  • They are a trusted advisor

What is your feedback on article?  Join the discussion and leave your comment here on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Baseball, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, debriefing sales calls

How I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

crap

Those are strong words and probably quite surprising coming out of my mouth but I'll explain it all.  Earlier this week I was leading another Sales Leadership Intensive and during a break it came to me.  

I was emphasizing how important it is to role-play as part of every coaching conversation and that's when I realized that what I was sharing was a bunch of crap.  I even looked up the quantity required to qualify as "a bunch" and I stick by my use of the word.  Selling is just crap and here is what I mean by a bunch of it.

Consultative approach, strong RelationshipsActive listening, and follow the sales Process. CRAP.

But for it to be a bunch of crap, we need more crap, so:

Keep your prospects Comfortable, lower their Resistance, Ask lots of good questions, and use Positioning statements. CRAP.

Challenge your prospects, help them Reveal their problems, speak with Authority, and be Prepared for anything. CRAP.

Establish Credibility, be Rejection-proof, and don't seek their Approval when asking Probing questions.  CRAP.

Uncover their Compelling reasons to buy, Remain unemotional, be Animated and sell value instead of Price.  CRAP.

Discover Consequences, Relax, and help them Articulate how it impacts them PersonallyCRAP.

Calculate ROI, and Anticipate their Pushback.  CRAP.

A big bunch of CRAP.

Don't worry - I'm not going to write a new book on selling called CRAP Selling.  There are already two well-known sales methodologies that use 4-letter acronyms, like Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling, and Jill Konrath's SNAP selling.  But if you want a popular sales solution that features both sales process and sales methodology rolled into one, then order my best-selling book on modern selling, Baseline Selling. I promise that there isn't a single reference to CRAP and after 13 years, it's still ranked #15 on Amazon.

baselineThis video compares Baseline Selling to SPIN Selling, the Challenger Sale, Solution Selling and Sandler.  If you've heard about Baseline Selling over the past 13 years and haven't read the book, listened to the audio book or attended Baseline Selling training, what the heck are you waiting for?  If you aren't familiar with Baseline Selling, the book is a simple way to start.  And if you're in sales and you like baseball, you have found a match made in heaven.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling

3 Tweaks to Your Sales Approach Are Steps Toward Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 @ 06:03 AM

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Consider how frustrating it is to approach a traffic circle, or as we call them in Massachusetts, a rotary, during rush hour.  You very slowly make your way towards the circle in a long line of traffic, attempt to merge into a congested circle, travel around to the other side of the circle, and finally exit the other end.  Being a bit impatient, I'm usually screaming to myself, "Come on - don't stop! - let's get moving - let's go!"

Hold that thought.

I believe that role-playing is the single most important thing I can do with salespeople to help them to become great.  There are three kinds of role-plays:

  1. I play the salesperson's part and the salesperson plays the prospect. This is my preferred method as it demonstrates exactly what the conversation should sound like.
  2. I play the prospect and the salesperson plays the salesperson.  This approach works best when conducting pre-call strategy and usually serves to show me how ill-equipped the salesperson is to have the desired conversation.
  3. The salesperson plays the salesperson and another salesperson plays the prospect.  This type of role-play occurs later in training when the salesperson has the foundational skills to execute the sales process correctly and to play the sales part with some confidence.

When I finally reach scenario 3 with salespeople playing their own part, it seems a lot like approaching the traffic circle. Let me explain.

When there is a question they need to ask or they need to summarize what they heard, the traffic circle scenario comes to life.  They slowly approach the circle, and when they finally reach the circle, travel around it a couple of times before exiting and finishing their comments.  In other words, they talk in circles, confusing, distracting and boring their prospect.  Take a step toward greatness: Be direct and concise because less is more memorable and powerful while being less confusing and boring.

Consider how a professional baseball or golf coach may break down swing.  Take a practice swing or two, get in your stance, use the proper grip, bend at the knees, open some at the waste and shoulders, eye on the ball, smooth, extend, hold your follow through, etc.  If you want to hit the ball solidly you must do those things in that order, but you can't be saying those things to yourself as you get ready to swing or bad things will surely happen.

Hold that thought.

You may have several talking points.  You may have rehearsed or even memorized those points; what you want to say about them and the order in which you want to say them.  But if you use your talking points and sequence, your prospect will be totally bored by the logic and mind-numbing time it takes for you to go through them.  A step toward greatness: Abandon the formality and sequence and simply have a conversation.  If there is a question or comment that makes it appropriate to introduce one of those talking points, then fine, but keep it conversational and do not become presentational.

Don't you hate it when a good prospect derails your momentum by asking for references?  This is truly a combustion point in selling.  (There is a great Disney book on combustion points called Be our Guest) You don't know if the prospects really want to talk with people or are using the reference requests to get rid of you.  You don't know whether to provide references, which ones to provide, whether they'll follow up with a call, or what your customers will say to them.

Hold that thought.

Today, it's helpful to have video on your smart phone, of several happy customers that can speak to any concerns your prospects might have.  No delays.  No wondering.  On demand references and testimonials.  Take a step toward greatness:  Everyone on the sales team must record a couple of great 1-minute videos from their best and happiest customers. The videos can be shared across the sales team so that everyone has a robust library of customers who can do the selling for you.  Third-party testimonials are much more powerful than the promises of a salesperson any day of the week. 

Speaking of testimonials, many of you have read my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Since writing that book, I have written, shared (complimentary) and given you the opportunity to read more than 1,700 articles on sales and sales leadership right here on my Blog.  I would be most grateful if you would return the favor by writing a review of my book at Amazon.com.  

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, talking points, listening skills, sales conversation, sales presentation

Crucial Selling Take Aways from the 2017 Home Run Derby Lead to Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 @ 09:07 AM

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Did you watch the Home Run Derby on Monday night?  I've never seen anything like it. You could see thunder and lightening through the glass wall in left field as thunderstorms raged while all the home runs were being launched.  Wow, what a show!  Of course, my mind always looks for a correlation to selling and there are some good ones here.  

The sales equivalent to the Home Run Derby wouldn't really work - buyers lining up to place orders with the greatest salespeople on the planet.  That's stupid.  But there's another way to correlate the derby to selling greatness and that is in the area of preparation.  Consider this:

I did some research and found that MLB hitters take as many as 500 swings per day - and they are already among the 750 greatest baseball players in the world.  Resource. What would that look like if we compared it to selling preparation?  Let's consider the following:

  • Each "at bat" (AB) is equal to a sales phone call or sales meeting.
  • Each "dry swing" is equal to a mental review of an upcoming conversation.
  • Each session of batting practice or cage work is equal to a role-play.
  • A swing takes about 3 seconds, so 500 swings is equal to a 25-minute role play.

What if you aren't already one of the greatest salespeople but want to become one?  This article tells the story of a 45-year-old writer with nothing but Little League experience.  He embarked on a quest to become a home run hitter and in doing so it took:

  • 100 swings per day
  • 15 months
  • 28 broken bats
  • a total of 38,400 swings

The key ingredient here is practice and in the area of practice, role playing.   Most salespeople not only hate to practice (read role-playing), but don’t believe it is necessary.  But it's crucial to practice every possible scenario that could come up so that we are completely prepared - for anything. How many salespeople are so thoroughly prepared that it wouldn’t matter what their prospect said, did, or asked and the competition would be irrelevant?

"The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the very things they don't like doing."  

Here is a great movie clip from Hitch that demonstrates how difficult it is to role-play.

 

 

As Aaron Judge became the greatest home run hitter on the planet Monday night, it's important to understand how much practice and preparation was required to get there.  It has taken him his entire short lifetime!

If you want to become a great salesperson - one of the top 7% - then you need to put in the equivalent of your 500 swings every day and practice through role play.  Those who commit to this and make it all consuming will experience financial rewards and personal gratification that will make it all worthwhile.

If you like the baseball/sales analogy, there is none better than the one found in the best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.  

Topics: sales effectiveness, Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, role play, Sales Coaching, aaron Judge, HR Derby

7 Powerful Exercises to Up Your Sales to the Next Level

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 08, 2017 @ 15:05 PM

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Image Copyright efks

Some things take a while to catch on.  In his book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell wrote about the years of work and at minimum, 10,000 hours, required for some, like The Beatles, to become "overnight sensations."

Shortly after I published my best-selling book, Baseline Selling, in 2005, I also published the Baseline Selling Field Guide. The Field Guide had specific exercises to help salespeople apply the concepts in the book to their business.  While the book was an instant success, the Field Guide wasn't until the last couple of years when, for no apparent reason, people began buying it.

Today, I received yet another request asking if I would recommend how to use the exercises in the Baseline Field Guide with the book, Baseline Selling.  In an effort to help everyone, and not just those who choose to write me, my recommendations on some powerful ways to correlate the two appear below.

The first thing to work on is Positioning Statements.  Your positioning statement is the first thing you will share with a brand new prospect in your very first phone conversation.  It is essential that you create the perfect positioning statement that conveys what you do and who you do it for, but in a way that gets your prospect to say, "that's me."  The field guide will help you get those positioning statements right and you can even send your completed statements to me for verification that they are good.  Use Exercise 5 of the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

The next thing to work on is your Cycle Statements.  The cycle statements will get a lot of use with your prospects who say, "We're all set" or "We're not interested" or "We're happy."  These statements, when used correctly, gives you an opportunity to turn these prospects around and get them engaged. Use Exercise 19 in the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

Of all the possible weaknesses, your Self-Limiting Beliefs will cause more trouble for you than anything else.  Use Exercise 23 to reprogram your beliefs so that they begin to support, rather than sabotage your outcomes.

Once you're finally meeting or talking with new prospects, you'll want to make sure that you can Uncover their Compelling Reasons to Buy from you.  Use Exercise 4 along with the section on Getting to 2nd Base to help you improve in this crucial milestone of the sales process.

Exercise 15 will help salespeople become more Comfortable Talking About Money - a crucial milestone in the Qualifying the Opportunity.  Use this exercise along with the section on getting to 3rd base in the book.

I've been writing a lot about Scorecards in the past year, but the origins for Scorecards in the sales process go back to 2005, where Exercise 16 will help you develop an appropriate scorecard for your opportunities.

I've written more than 30 articles about Sales Process and Exercise 2 will help you get yours customized and optimized.  The most important part is the sequence so make sure it's perfect.

Use the remaining 17 exercises to work on the things that represent gaps for you. 

Good luck!

Topics: sales tips, Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling

Is it Your Salespeople or Did You Make a Bad Decision?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 @ 12:10 PM

carbucknjalopy.jpg

Consider buying a car that had an insanely cheap price, with every option you could imagine, as well as options that you never thought you could use.  Nice!  But, you can't drive it until you hire an after market specialist to install instrumentation on the dashboard, a steering wheel, brakes, and gas pedal in the driver's area.  When you finally accept delivery and take it for a spin with your family, everyone hates it, nobody wants to drive with you, and you feel like it wasn't such a great price after all. You can't trade it in, and now you're stuck with it. Sounds impossible, doesn't it?  But for many companies, that is exactly how things are playing out for that purchased this popular application.

Salesforce.com.  

Consider this quote from a client:

"You were right, you know.  Six months ago, when you told us that we wouldn't be happy with the integration of the customized sales process into Salesforce.com, we didn't understand what you meant.  But now we do.  It's clunky, not really part of the interface, the customization cost us tens of thousands of dollars, and it doesn't work the way we need it to.  We are so sorry we didn't listen because that train has left the station."

Companies think they have to buy salesforce.com when, in reality, there are some really great alternatives.  Our favorite is Membrain.  It doesn't cost as much, doesn't require third-party integrators to get it to do what you want, and has perfectly good dashboards out of the box.  There's even a standard configuration for Baseline Selling.  [Speaking of Baseline Selling, I've received so many compliments on the great job of the voice over talent on the new audiobook!  You can order all versions (hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio) of Baseline Selling here.]

Nobody should be stuck in a CRM application that salespeople don't want to use!  They will be inconsistent at best with regard to entering data, when they should actually be living in their CRM application.  Whether they are inconsistent or invisible when it comes time to enter and update opportunities, you won't have real time data on your dashboard and that makes the application useless to management.  At that point it's like owning a car that has a folding chair for a driver's seat and the car does not have a working speedometer, odometer or gasoline gauge. 

CRM is important.  Accurate forecasts are important.  Visibility into each and every opportunity is important.  Integration of the sales process that must be executed and the stage and milestone on which each opportunity sits is important.  Real time visibility is important.  If it's not working for you, cut your losses and move on.  Isn't that what you would do with an under performing salesperson?

Kitedesk featured me in a Sales Expert interview that you can read here.

I was the guest expert on a Rapid Learning Institute Webinar on the sales candidate interviewing mistakes you must avoid.  You can listen to that Webinar here.

I'll be hosting a 30-minute presentation of my own on October 25 at 11 AM Eastern.  I'll be talking about the 6 Hidden Weaknesses that impact sales revenue!  If you would like to listen in, you can register here.

Topics: salesforce.com, sales process, sales CRM, membrain, Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan

Remembering The Most Powerful Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Hold on for a moment and I'll share that lesson with you or, if you can't wait, scroll down to "How I Learned to (Really) Sell.  

If you had to choose a single idea, concept, tip, tactic, developing strength or strategy, which one do you think helps salespeople succeed more than anything else?

It is a difficult question to answer because while we have plenty of science to identify the biggest reasons why salespeople struggle and fail, simply fixing one of those isolated issues won't automatically translate to instant success.

For example, one salesperson might be failing because he needs so much to be liked.  But another salesperson, who doesn't have that issue, might be failing because he can't talk about money.  And yet another might be failing because his Sales DNA doesn't support hunting.  And a fourth might be failing because she lacks Commitment to sales success.  Those might be there single biggest weaknesses, but helping them to overcome their single biggest weaknesses without helping them with all of their other challenges won't lead to success.

So back to my original question, which one thing helps almost every salesperson succeed, even when they have other challenges?

Compared to what I usually write about, the science on this is a bit fuzzier but after more than 30 years of helping companies and their salespeople generate more revenue, I am certain that it all starts with sales process.  A staged, visual, milestone-centric process.  I've written a lot about sales process over the years and my most recent article, for Growth Institute, was one of the best.  

Sales process also causes one to ask, "Which sales process?"  This article answers that question but make sure you watch the video from that article - it brings the concept to life.

Regular readers should be familiar with my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is both a sales process and methodology.  After 10 years, in response to all of the subscribers who have asked for an audio version of the book, the wait is over.  Michael Lenz did the narration and the audio book is now available.  You can order it here but if you are one of the first 5 readers to respond via email I will provide you with a promo code to receive a complimentary copy of the audio book! [Update - Congratulations to Jeff Woolf, Benjamin Barron, Brad Betson, Jeff Anderton and Scott McNeil - winners of the five promo codes.]

Let me share my favorite story from the book.

How I Learned to (Really) Sell

I learned to (really) sell from a career pots-and-pans salesman, Bob Jiguere, one of the top sellers at WearEver™ Aluminum from the 1940s through the 1960s. By the time he got to me in 1974, Bob was in his early sixties, and I had been with the company for just over a year, eleven months longer than most of us who began selling Cutco knives to people in their homes.

I will never forget the first call I went on with him, because it was so surprising in so many ways. First, the call was the complete opposite of the “features and benefits” selling that I had been taught to emphasize. Second…well, I should just tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

We walked up to the third floor of a six-unit apartment building in Lowell, Massachusetts. We were calling on an eighteen-year-old girl who lived in the four-room apartment with her mother. Girls typically bought kitchenware for their hope chests; their mothers usually had well-established kitchen accessories. As we entered the apartment, I noticed that Bob didn’t have his samples with him. But I figured he wouldn’t need them, because this girl could not possibly afford a $250 (1974 prices) set of knives—never mind cookware, flatware, or china. I was sure she and her mother were destitute.

We all sat down at the table, an old gray, plastic-topped table with metal legs. Although Bob did talk with the girl, he spent most of his time talking with her mother. He asked her to make coffee, then cookies, and then complimented her baking.

We had been in there for about 45 minutes, and if it were my sales call, I would have been finished by now. But Bob hadn’t even started! He finally got around to asking the girl some questions—but why in the world was he asking these questions? “Would you ever like to be married?” “Would you ever like to have a family?” “Will you want nice things?” “Have you started putting things away?” “Do you have a hope chest?” “What’s in there?” “Are you helping her, Mom?” “If you found something really special and you really wanted it, could you put aside $10 a month?” I had been taught to present and build value by asking if a prospect was impressed with what I was demonstrating.  I didn’t know where he was going with these questions.

Finally, he sent me to the car for the samples. He opened them but didn’t demonstrate anything, didn’t explain anything, didn’t “build value,” or tell any stories about the knives. He just opened the display and sat there looking at the knives as if they were gold bullion.

Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the girl’s boyfriend, coming over to visit. I figured he was fairly possessive and jealous, because his first question was, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

Well, the girl very nicely replied that “these boys are showing me some nice knives for when we get married.”

“You don’t need that shit,” he said.

I knew where this call was going. We were about 10 seconds from being back in the car and going on our next call.

Bob turned to her mother and said, “These punks are all the same today. All they want to do is get in your daughter’s panties.”

I was going to die, right there and then. I didn’t think it could get any worse, when her mother said, “You’re right! I want you out of my house!”

The punk replied, “Baby, you gonna let her talk to me like that?”

The girl said, “She’s right. Get out!”

Up to this point, I had been 100 percent wrong about everything that had happened. But even as I began to sense that Bob actually knew what he was doing, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. Mom said, “I don’t know how much you sell those knives for, Bob, but I’d like to get a set for my daughter—and another set for me.”

Bob said, “Of course. You are one sharp cookie and a hell of a baker, too. The two sets come to just $500. Do you have that under the mattress?”

The mother said, “Oh, Bob. You know me like a book. Come on into my bedroom and I’ll show you where I keep the money.”

He followed; she lifted the mattress, took out a wad of cash, peeled off $500, pinched his cheek, thanked him for coming, made us finish the cookies, and wished us well.

A dozen or so qualifying questions, no presentation, and he sells two outrageously priced sets of knives to a mother and daughter with no creature comforts or possessions to their name. If you were on that call, would you have sat up and taken notice? I sure did. Selling would never be the same again!

While selling has changed dramatically since then, the lesson has not.  He was ahead of his time and while he would have much to learn about selling today, that approach, integrated into a modern sales process, would fit in very nicely, thank you.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales tips, sales lesson, how to sell

What Sales Managers Do That Make Them So Ineffective

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

YellingCoach.jpg

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

Sales Process - It's All about the Shoes, Silly

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:06 PM

shoes.jpg

I've written dozens of articles on Sales Process an you can read many of them right here.  If you pay attention, you can even see how my thinking has changed over the last 10 years.  While I have never wavered on the importance of sales process, I have modified my thinking on why it's so important, what it must consist of, how it should work, and how it should be integrated into CRM.

When the folks at Gazelles / Growth Institute asked me to write an article for their Blog, they suggested that I write about the Sales Process I introduced in my 2005 best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.  I had already recorded a one-hour seminar for the Growth Institute Scaling it Up Club and they thought it would make sense to write about that.  Instead, I wrote what I believe is my best article to date on the importance of sales process and what executives routinely show me when I ask to see their sales process.  The article should be fun to read so let me know what you think in the comments.  Read Why a Customized Sales Process is Like Buying Shoes.  The funny thing is that I wrote that article for them long before I started the book, Shoe Dog, and wrote this article!  Suddenly, it's all about the shoes!

Topics: sales process, Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, gazelles, growth institute

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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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