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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why This is Still a Great Selling Sales Book After 10 Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

 

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I continue to be amazed at the staying power of my 2005 book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.  3 publishers have contacted me this year about writing a 10th Anniversary Edition, a revised and updated edition, or a follow-up.  Yesterday, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, wrote a really great article about the 3 sales books that are must-reads for salespeople, why, and Baseline Selling was one of the three.

I was speaking to a group of CEO's in NYC yesterday and when they wanted to know about Sales Process, Solution Selling, Value Selling and The Challenger Sale, the easiest way to explain both was to show the visual of the Baseline Selling sales process and show them how it all fit together.  So it got me thinking.  While other books come and quickly go, why has Baseline Selling continued to sell, resonate, help, fit and make sense, even as selling as a profession continues to experience dramatic changes?

After giving it some thought, I came up with the following things that differentiate Baseline Selling from all other books:

  • It is a complete sales process that can be customized to fit any business, role, vertical, service or product.  It has stages, milestones and steps.
  • It is also a complete methodology.  It has a well-defined approach, a dialog or conversation, that helps salespeople move from stage to stage and milestone to milestone
  • It has plenty of examples, stories and sample dialog.
  • It identifies and explains how to manage and overcome deficiencies in Sales DNA - weaknesses that interfere with successful selling.
  • It is very easy to follow, memorable and easy to apply.
  • It is a fast and fun read.
  • If you like baseball, it's even more fun to read.
  • It stresses fundamentals and as a result does not lend itself to becoming obsolete.
  • It pays tribute to the authors of historically time-tested and effective strategies and tactics and builds on them for the 21st century.
  • It was written based on my experiences with companies from more than 200 industries, has examples from many industries and, as a result, it has a much wider appeal than most books on selling.
  • Most readers found that laying out the sales process over the baseball diamond and using the base paths as stages was quite helpful.
  • Some mentioned that they found the rich bibliography of other sales books very helpful.

The book is rated 5 stars on Amazon and this morning the paperback ranked 8th in Sales.

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And the Kindle edition is ranked 14th in Negotiating (I know - don't ask.)

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And this is after 10 years! You can read the reviews there.  In addition to the reviews on Amazon, 23 experts added their reviews on BaselineSelling.com.  All those people can't be wrong after all these years...

While we're talking books, you can also get a free copy of my eBook, 63 Powerful Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, Closing Sales, top sales books

Earthquakes Hold the Key to Accurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

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I love finding cool new apps for my iPad and I'm always looking for the next great weather app.  I recently downloaded eWeather HD and as I poked around, I found something I had never seen before and it has a huge tie-in to sales management, the pipeline, and accurate forecasts!

Appearing right next to the tab for weather alerts, eWeather HD has a tab labeled Quakes.  What the...?  Yes indeed, it logs earthquakes!  Did you know that today, as I write this at 10:18 AM, there have been 6 earthquakes in the past hour?  There was a quake in Eastern Turkey 31 minutes ago that registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, and in the past hour, there were 5 more:

A 2.8 in San Juan, Argentina, a quake in Eastern Turkey that registered 2.3, a 2.4 in the Ionian Sea, a 3.0 in Oklahoma and a 3.1 in Alaska.  And if we go back just 8 hours, there were 14 others, including a 4.3 in Mexico, a 4.5 in Japan, and a 5.0 in Vanuatu.  I don't know about you, but I had no idea that our planet experienced non-stop quakes.  I thought that the ones we heard about on the news accounted for all of the known earthquake activity.

If you run a company, lead a sales force or manage salespeople, you are probably in the dark about salesquakes in much the same way I was in the dark about earthquakes.  The salesquakes registering 5.0 and up on the Kurlan scale - issues that your salespeople come to you with - you know all about those.  But how many of the issues do you hear about when they register below 5.0?

You hear about the deal that's about to close, but then it falls apart.  That's a 6.0.  You hear about the big customer that doesn't renew because they are moving to a competitor.  That's a 7.0.  But do you hear anything at all about opportunities where a salesperson:

  • doesn't get to the decision maker and is talking with the wrong people?  A 4.0
  • doesn't get a firm budget and proposes something the prospect can't pay for?  A 3.9
  • presents or demos to gain interest instead of having a conversation to uncover compelling reasons to buy?  A 4.2
  • is competing against an incumbent and is told the only thing that matters is price?  A 3.4
  • doesn't identify the competition?  A 3.1
  • doesn't tell you that a good opportunity has stalled in an early stage of the sales process?  A 2.9

There are dozens more, but you get the point.  You should know about these salesquakes!

If you have the right CRM solution, and it was configured properly, it would be alerting you to salesquakes in much the same way that eWeather HD alerts me to earthquakes.   If you are using one of the most popular solutions, you probably couldn't identify these quakes even if you were looking for them.

That's one of the things I like so much about Membrain.  There's a ready-to-use version with my Baseline Selling process, Visual Pipeline and methodology built right in that you can get here, or you can contact Membrain for their loaded version with everything you need to run a sales force.

We may not be able to stop earthquakes or even forecast them, but we can put an end to salesquakes and improve the accuracy of our sales forecasts.

Top Sales World and LiveHive have gotten together and published a terrific ebook on getting a jump start to your 2015.  You can download the book here.

You can download the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales management, sales leadership, sales pipeline, sales forecasts, eweather HD

Achieve More Accurate Forecasts and Sales Results Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 @ 06:11 AM

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Are you old enough so that if you don't write something on your to-do list you won't remember to do it?  That's me.  I don't feel old, I don't look that old, but I'll be 60 next year and have become a slave to Wunderlist.  On Monday, I forgot to push the correct notification button and only some subscribers were notified of Monday's article.  That article was perhaps the most important article I have written in all of 2014 and it introduced my latest White Paper - The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence.  This White Paper has ground-breaking insights and has already been nominated for Top eBook of 2014!  The Monday article clearly shows the differences between companies with shorter sales cycles, higher win rates and greater increases in sales.

Last week, a new client was explaining how he called several of the nearly 300 opportunities that one salesperson had in his pipeline.  My client identified 7 opportunities that had no recent activity, but had been in the pipeline for several months and were supposed to close.  Imagine my client's surprise when:

  • My new client had no difficulty reaching the decision makers,
  • The prospects were happy to speak with my new client,
  • My new client learned that two prospects had gone with an inferior competitor - months ago, and
  • My new client learned that the others had not even heard of his company.

How can this happen?

Did you read Monday's article?  There was one significant difference not included in that article.  In 96% of the companies where new salespeople were outperforming those hired previously using other methods, those companies had integrated their sales process into their CRM or pipeline management application.  Would that have helped here?  That depends on which application was being used.

We use Membrain at both of my companies and we recommend Membrain to all of our clients.  There are many reasons as to why we believe that Membrain is an ideal Pipeline Management tool.  Here are a few that would have helped our client if his company had been using Membrain.

Membrain would have notified him that:

  • These 7 opportunities were stuck when they were in that stage just one day longer than specified,
  • The opportunities had exceeded the ideal time for their sales cycle,
  • There were incomplete next steps, and
  • These opportunities were no longer included in the forecast.

The application would have proactively notified my new client.

One of the biggest and most chronic complaints we hear from clients is that they either can't get their salespeople to use the company's CRM application, or they don't update their CRM in real time, updating it only when asked to do so.  Does that sound familiar?  Companies with that problem - and that's most companies - rarely see an accurate forecast, rarely know the progress their salespeople have made on opportunities, and rarely have the data necessary for their dashboards to display accurate information.

The thing we like best about Membrain is that salespeople like Membrain - a lot!  It's simple to use, has no complicated navigation, requires almost zero data entry and always shows salespeople their pipeline on login by default.  It's opportunity-centric instead of data-centric.

Most of all, it doesn't require an integrator to customize it - to get your sales process built-in and hooked up to the pipeline, dashboard and forecast.  Everyone on my team is able to easily work with the Membrain application and customize it for clients.  It doesn't take long, and the end result is an awesome, robust sales process/opportunity focused application and clients fall in love.

I have always preached that salespeople should live in their CRM.  Membrain makes this possible.

In my 2005 book, Baseline Selling (kindle edition is ranked #53), I introduced the concept of a Visual Pipeline.  Membrain brought this to life.

You can check out Membrain here and take advantage of the special pricing they are offering my readers!  It's ready to rock right out of the gate.

Topics: Baseline Selling, sales pipeline, sales win rates

Leading a Sales Force is Even More Like Baseball

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

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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.

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

How Stealing 2nd Base is Today's Secret to Success in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 07:06 AM

stealingYesterday, I was coaching first base in the game that would determine the Little League championship for our town.  It was late in the game, we were down by 4 runs, and had runners on 1st and 3rd.  The runner on 1st base would need to steal second and perhaps draw a throw that would allow the runner on 3rd base to score.  A double steal!  There was only one problem.  He had been reluctant to steal all season.  When given the sign, when asked, when told, he just didn't want to steal.  After all, one of the 10 Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Steal."  He couldn't defy God for the sake of baseball, could he?

I had a private chat with him at 1st base and told him that this wasn't about him or what he was comfortable with.  This was for the team, we were playing as a team, and would win as a team.  He should want to steal - for the team.  He didn't.  

Another chat, another reminder, another non-attempt.  

A third chat, another request.  No movement.  

The count on the batter was 2-1 and it was time for a desperate fourth chat.  This time, I demanded, with dire consequences (that I won't reveal here), that he steal.  He went.  The catcher threw and he was safe at 2nd and the run scored.  A momentary victory in the game within the game.  A play that will change him, even though it wouldn't change the eventual outcome of the game.

This morning, thinking about that play again, I'm reminded of two selling scenarios that are nearly identical.

First, there are the salespeople who just don't want to pick up the phone and make calls.  How similar are they to the kid who won't steal 2nd base?  We're not asking these adults to steal, but we are asking them to talk to strangers.  Is it possible that when faced with the task of making calls, they revert to their lessons from early childhood?  

Today, kids don't even talk on the phone.  They text.  I can't get our 12-year-old son to make a phone call under any circumstances.  What are the chances that he would make calls if he entered sales as an adult?

The second scenario involves all of the entrepreneurs out there who, according to a December 2013 Forbes article, number around 20 million!  Most entrepreneurs don't give selling a single thought until they have already started their businesses.  It's only then that they realize they might have to sell something in order to eat.

I wrote an article that appears on the #1 site for entrepreneurs, EvanCarmichael.com, that explains the 3 biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face when they must sell and how to overcome them.  The article applies to everyone in sales, not just entrepreneurs.  You should read it!

Back to making those cold calls.  In the old days, if a salesperson didn't pick up the phone or knock on doors, we starved.  There just wasn't any other way around it.  

Today, there's social selling and while some view it as a solution for call reluctance, I think it's a crutch.  I'm all for anything that helps a salesperson to sell, but does social selling really do that?  Does adding someone to your LinkedIn network make a sale?  Is having a connection the same as being connected?  Is being connected equivalent to being able to schedule a meeting with that individual?  Is being active in groups the same as making calls?

While we are surely more visible through the social networks, all of that busy work serves as smoke and mirrors for the salespeople who are reluctant to pick up the phone and make calls.  They have hope (by all accounts a good thing), but it's false hope.  After someone accepts the invitation to join their network, they can't reply with, "Now that we're connected, I want to talk with you about what we do.  Is it OK if I call?"  While they can hide behind the keyboard and type a lame request like that, the lack of an actual conversation will make it even more difficult to schedule a meeting.  And you can't have a conversation over email or LinkedIn.

There's an old saying in baseball that has been around forever and used as an anaology for many things:  "You can't steal 2nd base and keep one foot on 1st."  

The same goes for selling.  You can't schedule a meeting if you don't pick up the phone.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales pipeline, cold calls, scheduling sales appointments, tips on selling

Could it Really be The Death of SPIN Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 09, 2014 @ 20:04 PM

deathI read an article last month that actually had as its title, The Death of SPIN Selling.  Although the author tried, the article did little to convince ME that SPIN was dead.  Say what you will about SPIN, it was the most comprehensive questioning methodology of its day.  In my opinion, the only problem with SPIN was that most salespeople were unable to  execute it!

The author wrote that since most prospects today know what they want, they won't rehash all of the needs and decisions that got them to this point, and as a result, a salesperson won't be able to back them up to an earlier stage of the sales process to implement SPIN or any other questioning strategy.

Well, maybe.

I agree that most prospects are well aware of what they want and why.  But, and it's a BIG but, they WILL answer your questions -- if, and only if -- they are the right questions.  The questions must be good, tough, timely and relevant.  They must be different from any questions that have been asked by others, and must lead to the tough conversation that nobody else has had with them.

For instance, today I was training a great group of salespeople and we worked on that very scenario.  At the point where it would be advantageous for the salesperson to back up to an earlier stage of the sales process, I conducted a role-play to demonstrate.  If you were a fly on the wall, you would have heard the prospect quickly become engaged and emotional, feeling tremendous urgency and commitment to make a change.  Yet, I didn't ask any questions about why they were looking, how they were deciding, what was driving the decision, or how we could win.  Neither did I talk about capabilities, present or propose, or talk pricing other than to get their commitment that they would spend more to do business with me.  

I know.  It was only a role-play and it wasn't real.  But it was very real for them and it would be very real for you too.  And if there is one thing I know about the role-plays that I conduct with salespeople, it's that they will always play the part of an extremely difficult prospect - just to make sure that what I'm demonstrating WON'T WORK!  And they never succeed at that...

It's not that you can't go backward.  It's not that you can't execute the questioning in SPIN. It's not that you can't execute the questioning in Baseline Selling.  It's just that you can't ask the same, stupid, moronic sales questions that everyone has been trained to ask!  Prospects will not tolerate that.

In most cases, when you read in a blog that prospects know what they want and you have to find some value to bring to the table, it's being written by people who understand marketing and buying more than they truly understand selling, sales process, lowering resistance and psychology.  Selling is not dead and not dying.  And the good, modern sales processes and methodologies aren't dying either.  What's dying is the resolve to learn how to adapt the good processes and methodologies for the selling challenges of 2014 and beyond.  Don't give up and don't give in.  Instead, learn how to make these crucial tools work for you and your company.

Image credit: lakhesis / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, SPIN Selling

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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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