How to Prepare for the Coming Sales Team Super Storm

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 22, 2021 @ 16:09 PM

LittlePawz - Freak summer snowstorm blanketing red maples

What would you do if, in the middle of summer, a big box store said you would really need a snowblower in preparation for the summer snowstorms we were about to get?  Crazy, right?

What if Staples sent out a promo to buy all the printer paper you can in preparation for a printing explosion as we move away from digital?  Wouldn't that be nuts?

What if a professional sports team reached out to your really good 12-year-old and offered them a professional contract?  Is that even possible?

So when a promotion for an upcoming webinar appeared in my Twitter feed last week I was equally astounded by the lack of anticipatory awareness of the sales training firm and online publication promoting it.  It said:

My first reaction was that this must have been something from 2016 - right before the boom that lasted until the pandemic slammed the economy to the ground.  Or, from the 4th quarter of 2020, when we expected the economy to come roaring back.  But it simply can't be something that is remotely relevant to what we are about to experience.  Here's what we know, and how that will impact companies and their sales teams in 2022.  

I'm not an economist, but I can read, seek out trustworthy sources, and have 46 years of business experience. On top of that I am street smart, have good common sense and  can do the math.  

Inflation.  According to Trading Economics, the current inflation rate is running at over 5% compared to 1.2% just a year ago.  That is bound to lead to higher interest rates and a drop in consumer confidence, followed by layoffs, spending freezes and more price increases.

Federal Debt.  According to Statista, the federal debt is over 28 trillion dollars, more than four times what it was 20 years ago.  On top of that, Congress is debating on two bills, which together, would add another 5 trillion dollars to the debt. Regardless of what anyone in the US government says, it can only lead to higher taxes. One of the bills being debated right now has provisions for significant tax hikes.  According to the NY Times, the corporate tax rate could increase by more than 30% and the rate for the wealthiest Americans could double! According to Tax Policy Center, senior fellow, Howard Gleckman, "95% of all federal taxes are paid by households in the top two quintiles — those making about $98,000 or more." 

No matter how you cut it, higher taxes lead to layoffs and spending freezes. The wealthy will have less disposable income to inject into the economy and the businesses they run must layoff staff to compensate for profits being redirected to pay additional corporate income taxes.

Don't get me wrong. If multi-billion dollar companies aren't paying any taxes they should pay their share but this won't affect them.  According to the US Treasury30 million SMEs account for nearly two-thirds of net new private sector jobs. This will affect them and their employees.

Immigration.  You don't have to live in a cave to see what's happening on the southern border and with the Afghanistan immigrants.  Millions of people streaming into the US means millions more low wage workers.  According to George Borjas, professor of Economics at Harvard University, "Immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants—from the employee to the employer." 

As wages go down, disposable income vanishes and that negatively impacts the economy.

Stock Market.  Wall Street has the jitters right now because they don't like what they are seeing.  According to Morgan Stanley's Chief Investment Officer, Mike Wilson, stocks could be in for a 20% correction. 

That's a devaluation of 20%! 

According to BTIG's Juilian Emanuel, the markets are mimicking 1999 and for those of us who were around back then, it's not good news.  As a matter of fact, that's the kind of news that causes companies to stop spending money in a hurry.

If you've been reading anything in the news, you know there's a lot more going on but these four issues directly impact our economy.  And you don't have to live in the US to be affected by the US Economy because according to the NY Times, as the USA goes, so goes the global economy.  

These four issues don't suggest a coming boom, they warn of a serious recession, with high inflation, high interest rates, and high taxes, coming soon to a city near you.  In other words, an economic disaster.  Not as bad as the complete shutdown we saw in 2020, but probably as bad as the economic crisis we faced in 2009.

So how will that impact companies and their sales teams?

When large companies enact spending freezes, it has a trickle down effect.  For B2B, think cancellations, PO's that aren't issued, layoffs, fear and most especially, real challenges to getting products and services sold unless companies can't do without them.  And even then, there will be more competition and a race to the bottom as companies demand lower prices. Salespeople are ill-equipped and will be scared, while the companies they work for will be too risk-averse to rely on order takers to suddenly sell value in hopes of maintaining margins. 

"Selling value will be the key to survival but
selling value does not occur in a vacuum".
 

It requires strong consultative selling skills (listening and questioning) in the context of a sales process that supports a consultative approach.

Selling value assumes that your salespeople actually got themselves a meeting!  While getting meetings aren't that difficult with good lead generation efforts, meeting with a decision maker is.  46% of all salespeople believe they are reaching decision makers while Objective Management Group's (OMG) data shows that only 13% are actually doing that.  And if the economy tanks the way I expect it to, watch what will happen to those lead generation efforts!

From 2017 to the pandemic, most salespeople were successful in spite of themselves because there was more business than capacity to deliver.  Yet 50% of reps still failed to meet quota.  What will happen to the bottom half of your sales team when there will no longer be orders to take and each opportunity will need to be found and properly sold?  It doesn't sound very exciting.

Now is the time to take control of what lurks ahead.

The. Single. Most. Important. Thing. You. Can. Do. Right. Now. is to have your sales team professionally evaluated.  You must:

  • Learn who is part of your future and who was part of your past
  • Whether sales management is up to the task of coaching up your salespeople
  • Who has the ability to become effective taking a consultative rather than transactional approach to sales?
  • Who has the ability to sell value instead of price?
  • Is your sales process ready to support a consultative, value based approach?
  • How effective are your salespeople at reaching actual decision makers?
  • How effective is your team at gettin prospects past nice-to-have and getting them to must-have?
  • How much better can your salespeople become?
  • How long will it take?
  • What is required?

Those are the first ten things that came to mind but there are hundreds of other questions that could be and should be answered as part of a sales force evaluation.  What do you need to know about your sales team to navigate what I expect will be a very difficult 2022?

Learn more about a sales team evaluation here.

Explore OMG's data from more than 2 million salespeople in the 21 Sales Core Competencies we measure.

Request a sample from a sales team evaluation. Check off the following boxes on your sample request:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, sales performance, economic crisis, recession, closing deals, 2022

Which 4 Sales Competencies Best Differentiate Top from Bottom Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 08, 2018 @ 20:10 PM

elite-v-weak

The difference between great salespeople and weak salespeople has been debated for years.  The articles in my Blog typically address these differences with science and data to support to my position. 

For example, In 2018 alone I have written 21 such articles:

Data Shows That Only 14% are Qualified for the Easiest Selling Roles

The Wrong Salespeople are Hired 77% of the Time

Examples of How Salespeople Lose Credibility with Their Prospects

Golden Nuggets from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study

New Data Shows that You Can Double Revenue by Overcoming This One Sales Weakness

Salespeople With This Weakness Score 47% Worse at Reaching Decision Makers

New Data Shows That Elite Salespeople are 700% Less Likely to Do This

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Does Being a Strong Qualifier Correlate to Having a Strong Pipeline?

Elite Salespeople are 200% Better in These 3 Sales Competencies

Latest Data - Strong Salespeople Score 375% Better Than Weak Salespeople

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if they Worked in Accounting

New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

New Data Shows Sales Weaknesses Cause Powerful Chain Reactions in Salespeople

Discovered - Data Reveals the Second Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Discovered - Data Reveals the Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

New Data Reveals Why Veteran Salespeople Are Not Better Than New Salespeople

Data Shows Most Salespeople are Dinosaurs When it Comes to Social Selling

Persistence Over Polish - What the Top 10% of All Salespeople Do Better

What Happens When You Force a Square Sales Peg into a Round Sales Hole?

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Other Blogs, and far too often, the Harvard Business Review and Blog, state these differences using junk science - anecdotal observations.  While those observations can be useful, they do not actually differentiate between good and bad, as much as they are what the authors perceive as personality traits commonly found among good salespeople.

I reviewed data from nearly 511,000 sales evaluations and assessments from among the that Objective Management Group (OMG) has produced to date.  I compared 21 Sales Core Competencies (you can see much of that data here) of the top 5% (elite) with the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  Then I identified the 4 competencies with the biggest gaps and you can see those in the image below.

 544Competency

The 4 competencies with the biggest gaps are all tactical selling competencies and on average, the top 5% have these competencies as strengths 544% more often than the bottom 50%. However, the 544% number isn't really the story.  The big story is that that 64% of the top 5% have the Consultative Selling as a strength compared with only 3% of the bottom 50%.  Nearly as big a story is that 91% of the top 5% are strong at the Qualifying competency compared with only 6% of the bottom 50%.  And a whopping 95% of the top 5% are strong at the Value Selling competency compared with only 10% of the bottom 50%.

So what does this mean?

Elite salespeople are twice as likely to have solid pipelines because nearly every one of them are strong at the Hunting Competency.  Then, because they are so proficient at selling value and qualifying their opportunities, a high percentage of a greater number of opportunities close and not because they are better closers!

Weak salespeople - in this case, more than 255,000 of them - are twice as likely to have a weak pipeline, and because they are selling transactionally and not consultatively, they close a very small percentage of a smaller number of opportunities.  That's why they are so ineffective. 

Could there be a better case for why transactional selling doesn't work?  Please tell me if you have one!

The other story here is that it's value selling and qualifying that almost every elite salesperson executes so effectively while only 2/3 of them have learned to excel at a consultative selling approach.

The gaps are clear and if you manage salespeople, the question is how do you coach your salespeople up and close such a large gap?  You must attend my Sales Leadership Intensive and learn to coach to these 4 competencies and more.  And if 30% of your people can't be coached up, use the most customizable, accurate and predictive sales specific candidate assessment to easily identify the top 25%.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Great salespeople, sales competenices, difference between good and bad salespeople, closing deals, empty pipeline

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 11:08 AM

pitcher

As you know, I'm a baseball guy.  I wrote the best-selling book that merged baseball and selling, my son is a ranked high school catcher and I use baseball analogies in many of my articles.  With apologies to soccer, hockey, football, basketball and golf fans, no sport is more analogous to selling than baseball.

Before we get to sales and the data, let's take a quick dive into the most important skill position in baseball, pitching.  Even that's a sales word!  Pitchers don't have to throw hard if they have great control and effectively and consistently locate their pitches.  Hard throwers don't need to be as precise as long as they have a second and third pitch to keep the hitters off balance.  Pitchers who throw hard, locate their pitches and have a 4-pitch mix are elite.

One group of special pitchers are the closers.  They typically enter games in the 9th inning, throw hard and close out the game.  For example, Craig Kimbrel, the Boston Red Sox closer, has been such a guy.  Entering play on August 14, 2018, he has appeared in 49 games, pitched 49 innings, has amassed an amazing 75 strikeouts and has saved 35 games in 39 chances.  At the other end of the spectrum, less effective pitchers usually fail in the closer role because they don't dominate the hitters.

Pivot to sales.  Elite salespeople don't need to close and weak salespeople suck at closing.  Want proof?  Let's review some data from 1831605 evaluations and assessments of salespeople conducted by Objective Management Group (OMG).  You can see and play with the data here.

closer-competency-1

Only 108,000 out of 1,800,000 salespeople are strong at the closer competency and 63,000 of them are from the elite top 5% and the next group of 20% who are strong.  This proves that salespeople who are strong at the 7 Sales Core Competencies that precede closing don't need to be strong closers.  Those 7 competencies are:

  • Hunter Competency
  • Sales Process Competency
  • Relationship Builder Competency
  • Consultative Seller Competency
  • Value Seller Competency
  • Qualifier Competency
  • Presentation Approach Competency

The data also proves that the remaining 75% of salespeople who are serviceable or weak and also ineffective at most of the 7 Sales Core Competencies that precede closing, can't close even when they try!  Closing is so overrated!

Join the discussion of this data on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, objective management, closing deals, OMG Assessment, delayed closings

Companies Rush to Get This One Thing in Place for their Sales Teams Before January

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

baseball-scorecard.jpg

I've been writing about the importance of having a milestone-centric sales process for a decade and Objective Management Group's (OMG) data is showing that companies - and their salespeople - have finally begun to make some serious progress in this area.  Ten years ago, only 9% of the sales population was following a formal, structured sales process.  Today, that number has crept up to 32%.  

Over the past few years, the majority of calls and emails I have received about sales process have been from companies asking for help buiding a sales process that their salespeople will actually follow and, more importantly, one that will work.  But that's changing too.

Over the past few months, the majority of the calls and emails coming in have been to get help building predictive scorecards.  Yesterday alone I spoke with the CEO's from 3 companies about building and slotting scorecards into their existing sales processes.

Why the sudden rage over scorecards?  

Eariler his year I wrote about scorecards a couple of times.  In February I raved about Membrain's built-in scorecard and in October I wrote about scorecards as the key to a predictive pipeline.

So the question is: Is this hype or is the scorecard a true game changer?

I don't know how many scorecards the experts on my team have built for our clients, but my personal clients tell me that the scorecard I built for them has changed their world.  Their win rates are way up, their sales cycles are shorter, their salespeople are more confident about the opportunities they have decided to pursue, and they have more time and resources to devote to those opportunities.

In short, scorecards are the scientific way to transition from going after every opportunity and hoping to close a small percentage of them, to identifying which opportunities to pursue and closing all of them.

Scorecards are a simple concept but they get tricky in the final stages.  You must be able to accurately:

  • Identify consistently predictive conditions
  • Weight them properly
  • Set the proper cut-off

If you fail to get each of those things just right, you'll have scorecards that won't work the way you hoped.  It's crucial to get all three variables right the first time.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, shorten the sales cycle, closing deals, win rates, scorecard

How Can a Simple Zero Derail a Sale or Deal?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 07, 2015 @ 13:01 PM

derailment

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Today, I was coaching a very talented salesperson, one who is even better at getting deals closed.  Yesterday, he closed a large deal when late in the day, and completely out of nowhere, he got the dreaded "we changed our mind" email.  This is his story.

When I debriefed him, it was apparent, even to him, that there was a moment toward the end of the meeting when he had happy ears.  He gets that.  He knows what he should have asked.  What really bothered him was, "Why did this happen?"   Not why did the deal come undone, but why the happy ears?  What caused his usually reliable and steady emotions to betray him?  And we better figure this out quickly because he was beating himself up so badly that blood would surely be dripping from his head at any moment now.

He accepted my statement about his having an emotional reaction at that moment in the call, but was adamant that it was abnormal.  We discussed the one thing that was different about this opportunity than others like it.  This opportunity was triple the size of his average sale and challenged his money tolerance.  Money Tolerance becomes a Sales DNA weakness when the deal size exceeds the amount at which money becomes "a lot" to the salesperson.  In this case, the deal had an extra zero and far exceeded this salesperson's conceptual $50,000 limit.

Bob's sales call was a veritable chain reaction - a 3-car pile-up.  The prospect said something, an alarm went off in Bob's mind, but instead of addressing it, asking a question, setting expectations, and clarifying that everything was still OK, he ignored it and hoped for the best.  That alarm was the voice in his head that pointed out that this deal was different.  There was a $50,000 commission at stake.  It was bigger than most.  It became more important than most.  That was his Emotional reaction to the Low (in this case) Money Tolerance.  The Tendency to Become Emotional is another Sales DNA weakness.  Those 2 weaknesses caused another Sales DNA weakness to rear its head.  Fear of Rejection would not ordinarily be an issue for Bob, but in this case, it was the truck that smashed into the first two cars that had collided.   Fear of Rejection morphed into the second voice Bob heard in his head.  It said, "You'd better not ask about that because that might cause you to lose the business.  Better just shut up and hope for the best!"

It's funny, but once Bob understood what happened, he calmed right down, called his prospect, and was able to calmly and expertly resurrect the deal.  Like I said, Bob is a very talented salesperson, but even great salespeople can be hindered by emotions, money and fear when the circumstances are right.

The bigger issue is salespeople who aren't elite, and how frequently they are besieged by some or all of the dozens of issues like these that affect salespeople, sales cycles, sales win rates, and revenue.  Would you like to know how, when, where, and how frequently your salespeople are impacted by things like this?  Watch this 4-minute video to learn about our Sales Force Evaluation.

evals

The year's first issue of Top Sales Magazine is now available for download.  In addition to articles by the heavy hitters of sales consulting and training, do take the time to read my article on page 8 - "What You Think Versus What I Think about Consultative Selling".

Topics: sales training, Sales Coaching, closing deals, hidden sales weaknesses, deals that blow up

How to Use Playlists to be More Effective at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 @ 09:02 AM

By now, many people have either an iPad, iPod, iPhone or MP3 Player to create playlists for music.  Your playlists might include favorite songs of a particular genre, such as "Rock" or "Jazz"; for a certain setting, such as "Dinner" or "Poolside"; or simply a collection of your favorite songs.  Of the thousand or so titles on my devices, perhaps only 200 of them are songs that I love and they appear on multiple playlists.  But there are another dozen or so selections that actually move me.  I feel something.  I suppose it's similar to the members of a concert audience who are not only dancing, but moving in such a way that they believe they are actually part of the band - "Hey everybody, look at me - I'm part of this performance!"  You know who you are....

My analysis showed that of my dozen or so "move me" tunes, a couple are "Big Band" performances, a couple are "Jazz", a couple are "Rock", a couple are "Classic Rock", one is "Classical" and two are "Ballads".

It got me thinking about sales -- what doesn't?

I attempted to group my clients from over the years into playlists, for lack of a better term.  Not from the perspective of who was a favorite, but more from the aspect of the sales calls themselves.  From the hundreds I reviewed, I asked myself, "Which were the routine sales calls where nothing out of the ordinary occurred, and which sales calls or cycles moved me?  Which were extraordinary?  When did something powerful occur?"  It might be completely different for you or your salespeople, but I did find some that were meaningful from an "I felt something powerful" happen.

There were the firsts - first "Big One", first "Win Against the 800-Lb. Gorilla", first "Strategic Win", first "Win in an Industry", etc.

But the deals that stood out - the deals that moved me - were those when at first the client wanted to buy something completely different from what we eventually did together.  They wanted to spend a small amount of money on a relatively small service and instead they spent 10 times that amount on a more significant service.  And don't think that I simply upsold them.  That never happens.  Clients get what they truly need.  Clients don't usually know what they really need, but instead often identify what they think they need.  Clients hardly ever know what their problems truly are, but some have identified symptoms.  What always moves me is when I help a client gradually realize that what they need is something different from what they believe they want.  It should.  After all, that is what selling is all about.  Providing people with exactly what they ask for is called order-taking.  Differentiating your company from that of your competition, by quoting lower prices, is called discounting, not selling.  Salespeople who do that are not among the top 26%.

If you ask your sales force to go through the same exercise - separating the deals that moved them from those that were routine - which customers and clients show up on the list?  What put them there?  Was it simply the difference between order-taking and selling?  Was it something else, like having to overcome resistance?  I believe that you and your salespeople will discover that when they actually engage in selling, the deals are special.  When they simply take orders, or discount to buy the business, the deals are routine.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, order taking, true selling, closing deals, playlists

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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 medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine 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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