Top 6 Reasons Decision Makers Fail to Attend Your Meetings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 @ 21:07 PM

selling to a large groupMy mind doesn't work the same as most people.  I always seem to find a sales analogy buried somewhere.  Frank, who writes the Sales Archaeologist Blog, has that ability too.

Recently, at a picnic with my family, I took note of all the guests and couldn't help but see the similarities between the picnic and selling to a group.

Representing the competition were the ants - ready and willing to take anything away from us that they could.

A bird was flying overhead ready to crap all over us.  This reminded me of the prospect who has a strong relationship with the incumbent vendor.  They sit there and wait for the perfect moment to make you look bad.

The Yellow Jackets couldn't stay away either.  No, like the folks from Purchasing, they don't like it when you have a get-together without them and they'll find a way to sting you if you don't play the game by their rules.

Butterflies were fluttering about and they reminded me of the interested observers who join gatherings like this, but have no influence and attend to justify their existence.

Who wasn't there?  

As with most group sales calls, the real decision-makers weren't there.  These are the executives who task others to gather information, but don't usually appear in the meetings.  Bears didn't appear at our picnic either because they don't work out of the location we visited.  They were up north and completely out of sight. 

So what are the takeaways from this silly analogy?

Prior to a meeting with a group, it is always crucial to learn the roles and responsibilities of each attendee.  If the people you need to have in the meeting haven't chosen to attend, several things could have occurred:

  • You did not uncover a compelling reason for them to buy, so it wasn't important enough for the right people to be there;
  • You didn't differentiate yourself enough for decision-makers to take you seriously;
  • You didn't uncover the timeline and they aren't close to being ready;
  • You didn't have the right people in your first meeting and their job was to protect their boss;
  • They have no intention of doing business with you, so they didn't want to waste the decision-maker's time;
  • They were simply picking your brain, learning about your capabilities, and teasing a proposal out of you so that they could get a better deal from the company they wanted to buy from.
Of course there are more possibilities, but you get the picture.  Many salespeople try to push forward even when the right people aren't scheduled to attend, but it's generally a formula for failure.  Follow the sales process the right way, from the beginning, meeting all of your intended milestones.  If you can't reach the next stage because a milestone could not be met, stop the sales process.  People want what they can't have, but if you give them what they want, despite not meeting the milestones, you won't have any leverage later in the sales process when you really need it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales tips, buyer focused selling, selling to groups

Top 3 Reasons Why Salespeople Fail at Consultative Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 08, 2013 @ 11:07 AM

egoI have been teaching and writing for years that buyer-focused selling (a consultative approach to sales) is the best approach for differentiating, adding and being the value, maintaining and increasing margins and winning a larger percentage of opportunities.  These days, I am just one of many who are spreading this message.  And even if we get through to only one leader at a time, we will eventually get most companies selling in a way that brings consistent results.

One of the challenges with a consultative approach is that while it is easier to close the sale, it is far more difficult to implement than the traditional, transactional approach that today makes it so much harder to get the sale closed.  The question is why?

There are three reasons:

  1. In the previous paragraph, I wrote that the consultative approach is difficult for some salespeople to implement.  I didn't write that it is difficult to learn.  The primary reason that salespeople are able to learn it, yet be unable to implement it, is because of their ego.  Consultative selling requires that salespeople ask a lot of questions - good, tough, timely questions.  They might even know the answers to some of the questions they need to ask.  Some salespeople worry that by asking all of these questions, they will appear dumb.  The reality is that the better they listen, the more questions they ask, and the better the questions are, the smarter they will appear.  In essence, it is dumb of them to worry that they will appear stupid!
  2. In #1 above, I mentioned listening skills.  When salespeople can't wait to talk, present and demo, they don't listen very well.  And when they aren't listening, the next question often won't be so obvious and therefore, isn't ever asked.  If you want your salespeople to ask good, tough, timely questions, they must develop their listening skills even more than their questioning skills!
  3. Unfortunately, more than half (54%) of all salespeople have the hidden weakness of Need for Approval.  They need people to like them and in some cases, love them.  One of the symptoms of Need for Approval is that people with this weakness are unable to ask good, tough, timely questions because they are afraid that if they do, it will upset their prospect and jeopardize their chances of getting the business.  Need for Approval takes quite some time to overcome and, that's only when sales managers know how to recognize it and help their salespeople overcome it.  The only thing more detrimental to sales success than Need for Approval is #1, their ego.
So, now we've come full circle and returned to the ego.  Salespeople will always be able to learn sales processes, sales methodologies, sales strategies and sales tactics.  Getting them to agree, embrace, implement, and master them are a completely different story.  In the end, it requires more than most sales managers are capable of providing.  Getting salespeople to set aside their egos, develop their listening skills, and overcome their Need for Approval, all in the context of an effective sales process and methodology, requires expert guidance.  As they say in the commercials that show extreme sports and sometimes extreme stupidity, "Don't try this at home."
I just completed three very time-consuming projects that have prevented me from accepting personal clients for quite some time.  If you believe your sales force could or should be performing significantly better than they are, and want to chat about that, send me an email.  The first three (who appear to be good fits) will get my attention.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, buyer focused selling, sales assessments, sales expertise, why salespeople fail, top 3 reasons

The Waffle Cone and the Mass Production of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 05:07 AM

waffle coneDo you remember when freshly made waffle cones became popular?  Back then, you could smell the waffle cones from outside of a gourmet ice cream shop and the smell alone would be enough to get you in.  Originally, it was quite novel, with only a few shops making those soft, tasty, and very aromatic cones which could hold SO MUCH MORE ice cream than traditional cones.

And then they screwed it up.  It became too labor intensive, time-consuming and costly for most shops to continue the practice of making fresh waffle cones.  And today, while you find waffle cones at nearly every ice cream shop, they are mass-produced, much smaller, and have the taste and texture of regular sugar cones.  Despite the mass-produced nature of today's waffle cones, the shops still charge anywhere from .75 to $1.50 extra for the waffle cone.  For me, today's waffle cones are a constant disappointment because they always fail to meet my expectations.

What does this have to do with selling?

Think about salespeople as a version of the waffle cone.  In some companies, they are made fresh, and in other companies, especially bigger companies, they are mass-produced.

There are many ways of looking at this:

  • The company that hires kids directly out of college could be producing fresh salespeople, but if they are like a financial services firm, they are mass-producing dozens of them to wind up with a handful that all look, sound and act the same way.  Salespeople in a box. 
  • The company that puts a lot of effort into recruiting special salespeople, that have the talent, expertise and experience could be producing fresh salespeople.  They may not be right out of school, but they put the time and effort into selecting the right salespeople so that they have that special appeal - the equivalent of the smell and texture of the freshly made waffle cone. 
  • The sales manager, who invests time into coaching, mentoring and teaching the business to one salesperson at a time, is investing the time and effort into developing special salespeople. 
  • The sales manager, who hires salespeople and teaches them how to demo a product or do web presentations, creates the effect that these salespeople come right out of a box - they're all exactly the same. 
  • Salespeople with scripts?  From a box. 
  • Salespeople who sell consultatively?  If they're good at it, they are freshly made. 
  • Salespeople who customize their demos based on customer needs and requirements?  Freshly made. 
  • Salespeople who provide the same demo for everyone?  From a box.
Can you add some analogies of your own that compare waffle cones and sales?
Any company can mass-produce a bunch of people who all recite the same things, follow the same script and demo their products the same way.  It's mass-production at its finest and these salespeople fail to differentiate, fail to make an impression and fail to provide value.  In the end, the only way for them to make sales is to compete on price.  As salespeople go, these always fail to meet my expectations.
On the other hand, it really does take time and special handling to develop great salespeople.  And like freshly made waffle cones, the results are worth the effort.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales training, sales tips, buyer focused selling

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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