The Essence of Improving Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 12, 2008 @ 17:06 PM

Your salespeople want a better, easier, simpler way to succeed. Yet as much as they want it, they very much want to hold on to what they know,  the routine, approach, beliefs, strategies and tactics they've always used.  Their security blanket.

Our job is to get them to let go of what they know and embrace what we need them to do, which will be better.  The problem is that they don't think that the better way will be either easier or simpler because change never is easy or simple.

So is it really our job to get them to utilize the better way?  Or, is it our job to convince them to take the first step?  If we can show them that the very first step is simple and easy we can get them to take the first step.  Then we have a better chance of convincing them that the next step is simple and easy too.  And then, over time, we can get them to embrace a better way which will not only be simple and easy, but more effective.

This is the essence of selling.  Gradually, using baby steps and a lot of good questions, convince someone to change their position.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching

Magazine Rack for the Best Sales Advice on the Web

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 11, 2008 @ 14:06 PM

Guy Kawasaki is at it again. This time he is behind Alltop, a magazine rack that points us to the best reading on the internet.  This week, debuted, pointing us to the best sales blogs on the web.  To make it even more interesting, to get people more engaged and undoubtedly to generate some buzz, they are running a contest

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it may just force me to change the name of my Blog.  You see, the sales blogs at are listed alphabetically and Understanding the Sales Force will always be at or near the bottom of the page.  For the three of you on the planet who start with Z and work backwards, this could be a good thing.  But for the rest... Oh wait!  An email from Guy!  He moved Understanding the Sales Force to the third position.  Guy writes a column for Entrepreneur Magazine called Wise Guy but today, he's Nice Guy!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Obama and McCain - Competing Salespeople Fighting for the Big Sale

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 10, 2008 @ 16:06 PM

This afternoon, Chris Mott and I were discussing Obama and McCain. Since I don't like either candidate, I feel somewhat protected and free to provide my political sales correlation.  I've never dared to venture into a political editorial and I don't mean for this to be one either.  Please read the following thoughts as they would apply to competing salespeople fighting for the same big account.

McCain wasn't exposed too much during the primaries, jumping to an early lead and not facing much competition.  He'll finally go head to head against Obama this summer and fall while millions of people watch, listen and form opinions.  What they'll likely do, regardless of which candidate they initially preferred, is perform a side by side comparison, akin to what many companies do with their vendors.

They'll say that next to Obama, McCain seems really old, sometimes unsure of what he wants to say, supports the war in Iraq, and doesn't speak with nearly as much passion.  They'll also say that he has a lot of experience, both domestically and in foreign affairs, that could serve the country quite well.

They'll say that next to McCain, Obama has energy, charisma, ideas for change, the ability to shine either one-on-one or from the podium, and great leadership qualities.  They'll also cite his affiliation with Reverend Wright, lack of experience and the negative campaign he ran against Hillary.

This is a classic RFP "opportunity".  If you simply look at their response to the RFP's, they are similar humans, available at the same price, both able to step into the role of President and assume the duties. They are commodities.

If we look beyond the RFP's and interview the two candidates, Obama will likely come across as the more likable, memorable, dynamic and even quick on his feet.

If we look beyond the interviews, check their background, history and references, we may find that McCain has a better track record, better references, makes no empty promises and even brings up issues we may not want to address.

So the sales question is, as voters (prospects), do we simply compare their proposals (commodities), factor in the interviews (value added) or check references, background history and track record (trusted partner)? If we only choose to compare their proposals, the decision will be made based on where the candidates stand with regard to the issues (pick).  If we go to the interview stage, the decision may be to go with the candidate who interviews the best (Obama?).  If we go as far as references, background history and track record, we'll get to understand the candidates' character, ability to perform under pressure, reliability and likelihood of success in the job (McCain?).

Now the question for you and your sales force is, do your salespeople provide you and your company the opportunity to get to the third level described above, or are they taking the easy way out, submitting their proposals and allowing their prospects to commoditize you?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 


Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Sales Effectiveness by Borrowing from Best Ball Golf Tournaments

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 09, 2008 @ 18:06 PM

Wouldn't it be cool if your sales force got easy sales the way amateur golfers get easy pars at Charity run best ball golf tournaments?  I know this is a dramatic turn away from my baseball analogies but as the beneficiary of some pars that our team, and not me, earned today, I felt compelled to share.

Everyone would make a prospecting call and then the team would work the opportunity created by the salesperson who had the strongest call (best drive).  Then, the salesperson who is most effective asking questions (fairway wood, hybrid or long iron) would pick up the sales cycle from there, followed by the best qualifier (approach to the green), best presenter (green reader), and finally, the best closer (putter). 

In best ball competition, many teams finish under par and in this version of team selling, more deals would get closed because salespeople would be doing what they do best.  How much better would your sales team perform if they sold this way?


(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: coaching

Another of My Keys to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 06, 2008 @ 00:06 AM

These aren't generally discussed, written about or analyzed, but they are there, getting in the way, sometimes for months at a time.  Most of your salespeople aren't very effective dealing with them.  At the least they interfere with business and at their worst they dominate your salespeople's lives. I'm talking about distractions.

Distractions can take many forms, from the call that takes them off their game, to the illness or death of a loved one that stops their game cold.  Distractions can last a few minutes or they can linger for months.  You can even understand why some, especially the really bad distractions, can interfere for so long.

In the end, it's your salespeople's ability to cope and stay focused in the face of distractions that will determine what kind of year they have.  Everyone, including you and me, has distracting events in their lives.  When one event goes away you can be sure that another will follow.  I know a salesperson who generates a year's worth of business in just 6-9 months, while he is distracted the other 3-6 months - every year! I know another salesperson who was distracted for two years.

You know they'll have distractions so it's your job to know your salespeople well enough to recognize when they are being affected.  Helpd help them cope, focus and work through them in order to get from each as close to 12 months worth of effectiveness as you can.

Don't let this article distract you, go help somebody!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, Motivation

Maximum Smart Supports Maximum Effort for Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 05, 2008 @ 07:06 AM

Following yesterday's post one reader asked, "what about Maximum Smart?"

That's a worthy topic.

Just to be clear though, maximum smart doesn't replace maximum effort. I've seen plenty of salespeople who sell smart without maximum effort and they get mediocre results. I've seen plenty of salespeople who put forth the maximum effort without selling smart and still perform quite well. So the clear advantage goes to the salesperson who puts forth maximum effort supported by maximum smart.

Maximum Effort prospecting will help salespeople book appointments.  Maximum Effort prospecting supported by Maximum Smart will yield more targeted, quality appointments.

Maximum Effort moving through the sales process will keep more opportunities in the pipeline.  Maximum Effort through the sales process supported by Maximum Smart will focus the salesperson's efforts on two groups of opportunities - those with the best chances of closing in a defined, realistic time frame; and those that are great opportunities for the company, which deserve time and resources, even if the likelihood of closing isn't as strong.  Maximum Smart requires that when pursuing the big, but less likely opportunites, that a salesperson doesn't place all of his eggs in that basket but has plenty of other good opportunities to work as well.

Maximum Effort, supported by Maximum Smart. Can you provide some other examples of Maximum Smart supporting Maximum Effort?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching

The Challenge of Developing Sales Engineers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 02, 2008 @ 21:06 PM

A large well-known technology company has a group of sales engineers that were recently evaluated.  When we ran the analysis on the data, it was clear that most of the 60 sales engineers preferred to be on the engineering side and not the sales side.  They lack the desire to be successful salespeople, they don't enjoy selling, they aren't money motivated and they aren't committed.  So before we can even worry about what they have or don't have in the way of selling skills, these findings tell us that they can't be developed, have no incentive to change and shouldn't be in sales.

But there's a problem.  This group is Japanese and some believe that the cultural difference is to blame; but I'm not buying it. The only real cultural difference between Eastern selling and Western selling is that the Eastern cultures are based on respect and personal relationships.

If it's clear that the group I described in the first paragraph shouldn't be in sales, then they shouldn't be in sales regardless of which country they happen to live in.  Enjoying what you do is not culture specific.  How hard would you work to improve at something you don't like to do?  Personally, I think I'm going to invest in some lessons so I can improve at taking out the trash, doing the dishes and bringing in the dry-cleaning, three of my all-time "favorites".  On the other hand, even though I totally suck at golf (compared with how I believe I should be playing), I'll invest time and money to improve because I love it.

Do all of your salespeople love to sell or is it their job?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching

Salespeople Aren't Made of Glass

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jun 01, 2008 @ 22:06 PM

I suspect that most parents with young kids have kitchen tables with wooden tops, not the glass tabletop that we have. Our six-year old son and his friends manage to get more of a mess on the underside of the tabletop than on the top side.  So, if the parents with wooden tabletops don't see the mess, does that mean it isn't there?

Many executives take the same approach with their sales forces.  The  problems that prevent salespeople from achieving the desired results,  are on the underside of the salespeople - under the skin.  Executives may see symptoms, like failing to hit quota, not enough new appointments, or low conversion rates.  They may even see more subtle symptoms, like too much talking and not enough listening and asking questions. But they don't see The Mess, the underside, the reasons for that behavior.  And if they don't see it, it must not exist.

That's where the uncertain economy comes in.  As more companies are affected by the economy and more salespeople struggle to get business closed, executives begin to realize that there is a mess underneath; they just can't see it because their salespeople aren't made of glass. But there are fingerprints under there, the DNA of sales effectiveness, and there will never be a better time to get that mess cleaned up.  Have your sales force evaluated, discover what's underneath, clean up your mess, and watch sales soar, even in an uncertain economy.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, leadership

Week's Best Sales Tips

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, May 31, 2008 @ 09:05 AM

There is a good tip for creating an opening phone statement here on the Inside Sales Blog.

Here's one about the what and the why of goals from The Rainmakermaker.

Sam Manfer posted 7 advanced selling skills.

Topics: coaching

Sales Best Practices - Or Are They?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 29, 2008 @ 22:05 PM

Which salesperson would you rather have?

There's George, who has so few opportunities that he doesn't dare push back, ask tough questions, follow up right now, attempt to move things along, or close when it's closing time. It's not unusual for his opportunities to sit in the pipeline for quite a while before dying on the vine.

And then there's Charlie who, once he has a targeted prospect in his sight, asks every tough question he can, pushes back to create urgency, takes a strong position and differentiates himself and his company. Then, once he knows he has a strong opportunity, he thoroughly qualifies, makes a strong presentation and can't wait to close.  And he will get it closed, sooner rather than later.

Easy one, right? 

Then explain to me why so many companies have so many salespeople like George.  And why do so few companies have so few salespeople like Charlie?  If we know which one possesses true sales best practices, then why aren't we hiring and developing more Charlies?

You see, I posted a survey a couple of days ago and I've had a large number of responses.  Most respondents are identifying the exact same issues as key, like hunting for new business, which is currently the number one issue.  But even though more than 90% of the respondents have identified four issues or more that they are struggling with, when asked if they know why they are struggling and what the difference is between their top and bottom performers, nearly all of them are answering that they know.  Here's what I don't understand; if they know why their salespeople are struggling and they know the difference between their A's and their C's, why haven't they corrected it through effective selection and/or development?

a. they don't really know the reasons
b. they don't know how to fix it
c. they don't know how to develop salespeople
d. they don't know how to select salespeople who will succeed
e. they don't want to make an investment in their sales force
f. the devil the know is better than the devil they don't
g. none of the above
h. all of the above
i.  they believe in magic
j. their salespeople aren't trainable

Click comments and let us know what you think!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: coaching

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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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