Has Buying Changed and Has B2B Selling Adapted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

b2b

My articles begin with analogies so we'll start by asking, has baseball changed?  

Games take longer, there is role specialization, starting pitchers rarely complete games, hitters are stronger, pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90's and there is a trend towards either hitting a home run or striking out.  But it's still baseball.  It is still played the same way.  The changes are superficial.

And in the context of how it affects salespeople, has buying really changed?

If you believe what is so frequently written by digital marketing folks, then buying has changed dramatically.  But just because a digital marketing person wrote it, does that make it true?  

We must discuss buying in the context of buying from salespeople so we will begin by differentiating facts from claims. Let's begin with what we know for absolute certain.

B2B buying can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Point and Click Transactional Purchases (navigate to a website and buy it)
  • Talk and or Meet with an Expert (salespeople)

For transactional purchases, salespeople have been eliminated so to that extent, sales has changed dramatically!

For other B2B purchases, salespeople still have significant involvement - for now.  Prospects search Google, visit websites, learn about products and services, and even get a sense for pricing.  For their part, salespeople who regurgitate the same information that prospects can find online are simply redundant, fail to provide any value, and won't be around for long.  It is imperative that salespeople provide value by actually being the value and from that perspective, one of the salesperson's responsibilities has changed.

It is more difficult for salespeople to reach decision makers of larger organizations as they are better protected than before and tend to rely more on group decision making.

When the onset of the pandemic introduced virtual selling to the masses, more buying options than ever before became available because the business that is 3,000 miles away is suddenly no further away than the one down the street.

The way that buyers find salespeople has changed.  They may use the aforementioned Google search, but are just as likely to find a trusted source from an expert Blog, through LinkedIn, or Facebook.  While marketers will use that as proof that outbound selling is dead, that proclamation is propaganda, not fact.  Inbound marketers generate a lot of interest and leads on which to follow up but the quality of those leads is questionable and inconsistent and there are big problems when handing them off to salespeople.  Salespeople who still do their own prospecting by phone schedule plenty of quality meetings to keep their pipelines full.

So how buyers and sellers find each other has changed, decision makers are more effective insulating themselves, and there are more buying options.  What happens after that?

The digital marketing folks say that the buying journey is 57% complete when a buyer first reaches out to a salesperson.  Most ineffective and underperforming salespeople agree that prospects seem to know what they want and all they have to do is quote prices, prepare proposals and take orders.  Of course that's why they are ineffective and chronically underperform.

Today's buyers are self-educated and salespeople mistake that knowledge for readiness. Salespeople tend to take the path of least resistance and the knowledge they mistake for readiness lulls them into the quote, proposal and order taking mode.  As a result, they don't follow their company's sales process or worse, the company's sales process has been modified to reflect buyers being ready.  If the buyers were truly ready at this point they would actually buy but the additional options prolong instead of shorten the sales process.

The top 20% of all salespeople have not fallen victim to the false sense of security offered by poor quality inbound leads or the myth of the buyer journey being 57% complete.  They leverage new tools and technology to take a more consultative approach, follow their sales process, nicely challenge prospects who seem to be ready, uncover the reasons and consequences that led them to buy, get them to think differently and get prospects to see them as subject matter experts. They qualify more thoroughly than ever, talk with and/or meet decision makers, and close two to three times more business than their underperforming, order-taking colleagues.

Buying has changed to the extent that it's easier to start the process and reach out to potential vendors.  Selling has changed to the extent that most salespeople are less effective and top salespeople are closing a bigger percentage of the business than ever before.

This can all be fixed.  How?  

A Sales Team evaluation identifies the issues.

A Custom Sales Process helps salespeople to meet the correct milestones with the proper people at the optimal time for the right reasons.  Integration of the sales process into a CRM application that is designed for how you sell and who you sell to is crucial.

Sales Leadership Training and Coaching train your sales leaders to coach up their salespeople.

Sales Training that demonstrates a consultative approach, utilizes role-play and models what great selling looks and sounds like. 

An integrated approach to sales development changes everything.  Isn't it time?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, crm, inbound, buyer journey, outbound

My Most Popular Sales Article of the Last Ten Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 13, 2021 @ 07:12 AM

nutcracker2019

This is my annual nutcracker post.  I first wrote the article in 2011 and people loved the analogy between the Nutcracker and a sales call.  I make minor modifications to the article each year as current trends, best practices, and recent data dictate.

Last year, The Boston Ballet cancelled their performance of the Nutcracker but we will be in attendance next week and look forward to continuing the tradition.

Please enjoy the article and share it.  It's not only popular, it's one of my all-time favorites as well!

The Top 3  Lessons  from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"

If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've heard this song in advertisements and movies and television shows during  every Holiday season of your life, can you identify the four primary musical instruments being played at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you hear the glass harmonica (most performances feature the celesta), oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Listen again.  Can you hear them?

As with the familiarity of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions during their sales conversations.  While you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...," your salespeople might not have the ability to distinguish credible comments and questions from noise.

Suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and a timeline."

There are three important lessons that arise from this:

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data of more than 2 million salespeople) - Out of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 quickly begin working on a proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and eventually, they'll do both;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking a lot of additional good, tough, timely questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  Prospects' comments also have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or a VP - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker

Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 @ 16:10 PM

Kiké Hernández's dream postseason continues for Red Sox: 10 things we  learned from ALDS-clinching walk-off win - masslive.com

Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times!

For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify.

How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

If your company is not the brand leader, market leader, or price leader; if you have a complex sale, a story to tell, a new technology, a new brand, a new product, a much higher price or a much tougher sale, then you are an underdog too.

Brand leaders, Market leaders and price leaders have it easy.  There is no true selling involved.  They show up, write proposals, provide quotes, conduct demos and take orders. They get what they get.

Underdogs must not only sell their way in, but they must also sell their value to justify the higher prices, differentiate themselves to prove their value, and use a consultative approach that supports selling value.  On top of that, they must follow a proper milestone-centric sales process that supports a consultative approach for selling value.

Most salespeople simply can't do this.  The data in the table below, from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2 million salespeople, shows the percentage of salespeople who are strong in the three competencies I just mentioned.  

It's not very difficult to grasp the takeaways from this data.  Even some of the best salespeople struggle to take a consultative approach to sales but compensate with their adherence to sales process and their ability to sell value.  The worst salespeople aren't capable of much more than a transactional sale described earlier in the article.  The best salespeople score, on average, 4823% stronger in these three competencies.  There are actually a total of 21 Sales Core Competencies and you can see the data for all of them right here, play with the data a bit, and filter by industry and company!

The top 5% and the bottom 5% represent only the extreme examples of 10% of all salespeople.  The other 90% are represented in the "All Salespeople" column.  We can filter the numbers some more if we break down the other 90%.  Wait until you see these numbers!

As you can see, there is a significant drop off from the top 5% to the next 15% and an even greater drop off to the 30% after that.  The big takeaway is that in these three competencies  the bottom 50% are nearly as weak as the bottom 5%. They all suck.  As a matter of fact, once you get past the top 20%, the picture is bleak.

What can you do about this? 

Use OMG to Evaluate your sales force so you can see what the capabilities are at your company.

Use OMG to Assess your sales candidates so that you can be assured of hiring only those who will succeed in the role.  

Train, train, train, coach, coach, coach, drill, drill, drill, role-play, role-play, role-play.

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright MassLive.com 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales training, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, value selling,

Data: The Top 10% of All Salespeople are 4200% Better at This

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 07, 2021 @ 11:09 AM

dont-care

My wife and I entered the small jewelry shop and were greeted - not with a warm welcome - but with a matter of fact "my name is...and I'm the owner...and I created everything in the store" which was followed by fifteen minutes of non-stop presentation of everything she created.  

You've been in a store like this and you know exactly how you have reacted to that.  It includes thinking all of the following:

  • Stop!
  • Shut Up!
  • I don't care!
  • Go away!
  • Oh wait, I can go away!
  • Please stop so I can leave!
  • Your stuff is not even that good!
  • Has anyone ever listened to this?
  • You've got to be kidding me!
  • There's more?
  • OMG make it stop!!!

When it was over my wife said "thank you" and we walked across the street to a gallery where we were quickly greeted - no greeted is totally the wrong word - instructed to "put on a mask!"  The mask thing again.  About ten minutes later he caught us staring at one particular painting for several minutes and asked, "Are you familiar with her work?"  We said, "No" and he took the opposite approach of the Queen of all Jewelry and walked away!

So in one store we weren't the least bit interested, she didn't notice, didn't care and kept on keepin' on.  In the other store we would have bought that painting and he abandoned us.

I don't usually write about retail selling and today's article is not about retail selling except to make a couple of important points.

If we all know how boring, irrelevant and agonizing it is to be presented to when we aren't interested, then why do salespeople, who have surely been on the receiving end of the scenario described above, insist on presenting before they have a qualified, interested prospect?  It's stupid, irresponsible, and a huge waste of time.  But they persist.

Salespeople aren't great at taking a consultative approach.  According to the data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments on more than two million salespeople around the globe, only 14% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.  Only 42% of the top 10% have it as a strength and as you might guess, 0% of the bottom 10% have it as a strength.  You wouldn't think that anything could be worse than that, right?  But if you look at the bottom 50% - the bottom million salespeople, only 1% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength. The top 10% are 4200% better at taking a consultative approach than the bottom 50%!

The Consultative Seller is one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG and each competency has between six and twelve attributes or an average of around nine.  In addition, there are 10 additional competencies with attributes combining for around 450 data points per salesperson and approximately 945 million data points in total.  You can see some of the data here and compare industries too.

Back to the story.

When salespeople have been trained to listen and ask questions first some still choose to tell their prospects everything they know up front.  Why?

I can think of ten potential reasons and none of them are very good:

  1. They lack experience and all they know is what they learned in orientation training
  2. They need to be liked and fear that if they ask questions their prospects will become angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their sales manager is not holding them accountable for taking the consultative approach
  5. Their sales manager is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced and lack confidence
  9. They think that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Everything on my list is symptomatic of numbers four and five. With reinforcement coaching and accountability, every other reason goes away.  That brings us to the next point/question.  Why aren't sales managers doing numbers four and five?

I can think of ten more potential reasons and none of them are any good either:

  1. They are spending too much of their time on personal sales
  2. They need to be liked and fear that holding their salespeople accountable will make them angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their boss is not holding them accountable for implementing the consultative approach
  5. Their boss is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask their salespeople
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like either and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced role-playing and lack confidence
  9. They agree that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Most of these reasons are essentially the same.

It's a top down problem and the folks at the top just hope the folks at the bottom take care of business and don't really care how. And therein lies the problem.  Ambivalence from the C-Suite basically suggests that they just don't care.

What can we do about that?  Rocky LaGrone had a great answer to that question!

Rocky said:

"You could take a stick and beat the C-suite over the head repeatedly until they cry Uncle and then start to listen.


Their biggest problem however is not their ambivalence. It's the fact they don't even know it's a problem. They rely on the sales leader because most of them (C-suite) don't understand sales. Sales is some fuzzy, hard to grip, intangible thing that is a bother but still necessary. The sales leader tells them, "all is good, numbers are coming, next quarter will be better, we are working on it, we need better pricing, we can't produce the product and deliver on time anyway, if we only had the Glen Gary, Glen Ross leads!" Or some other solid excuse...

Then they (C-Suite) play chase and try to fix everything except the cause. For example: Let's get a new CRM, new compensation plan, new marketing, new website, new brand, or something else that exacerbates and hides the real problem. Real problem - wrong sales people, wrong skills, wrong Sales Manager."
 
Thanks Rocky!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, listening skills, questioning skills

A Key Competency That Differentiates Top Sales Performers From Posers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 @ 16:07 PM

Watch The Goldbergs TV Show - ABC.com

We were watching an episode of the hilarious comedy series The Goldbergs and one of the themes of episode 4 in season 3 was about authenticity.  In this episode, Barry and Erica, the two oldest children, accused each other of being posers.

The bottom 50% of all salespeople are posers too.  In an article last week we discussed how data can help you hire the ideal salespeople.

In that article I shared a top/bottom analysis where the top performers were 100% more effective reaching decision makers than the bottoms.  Below I've shared another top/bottom analysis with different findings. 

 

At every company there are always a combination of between 15 and 30 findings and scores (from among the 250 or so that Objective Management Group [OMG] measures) that differentiate the best top performers from the worst under-performers.   In this analysis, if we had to choose a single differentiating factor, it would be the top performers' ability to sell consultatively (column 10).  If we chose a second factor, it would be their ability to use their skills to reach decision makers (column 17). Column 18 shows that their top performers are also succeeding at uncovering the decision makers' compelling reasons to buy because in addition to their skills, they are also assertive (column 21), allowing them to push back and challenge their prospects.  This causes those decision makers to respect them, view them as trusted advisors instead of vendors, and develop a bias towards them.  

When a salesperson can effectively use a consultative approach and uncover the decision maker's compelling reasons to buy they will stand out, develop a relationship along the way, and usually get the business. 

It doesn't hurt that these top performers also score significantly higher on hunting and maintaining a full pipeline so that the opportunities they find will move through the pipeline and often close while their under performing colleagues find a much smaller number of opportunities which get stuck in the discovery stage of the pipeline and fail to close.

While the reasons for inconsistent sales performance are always different, the answers will always be found in the data.  The 21 Sales Core Competencies will always reveal where the real problems are and that allows companies to focus their training and coaching on the appropriate competencies.  An OMG Sales Force Evaluation provides all of that data and then some.

Request samples here.  (Be sure to check Sales Force Eval.)

See the 21 Sales Core Competencies along with average scores by industry and if you want, even for your own company here.

Hire the right salespeople for each selling role at your company using OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.  A company that began using OMG's sales candidate assessments two years ago reported that their retention had improved from 25% to 70%, diversity had improved from 90% white male to 51%, ramp up time was 40% faster, and 75% of their teams had exceed their annual quota after just six months.

The time for having posers selling for you has passed.  What will the future of your sales team look like?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, reaching prospects, reaching decision makers, improve my sales teams performance, OMG evaluation

Is Your Sales Process Backwards, Upside Down or Stupid?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 07, 2021 @ 07:07 AM

Here Today movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

My wife and I recently watched the new funny but sad movie, Here and Now, written and directed by Billy Crystal, who stars as comedy writer Charlie Burnz.  In one scene, Charlie recalled a happier time when his family used to have what they called "upside down day." On upside down day they started the day by eating dessert, had dinner for lunch, and finally ate breakfast for dinner.  

Speaking of meals, we recently dined in a restaurant which had its rules laminated and affixed to the table. Their very first rule read, "Food must be ordered with alcohol" instead of what it should have said, "Alcohol must be ordered with food."  Words are important and these words were backwards. (100 bonus points if you can guess the restaurant name.) 

In between the meal and the movie, we attempted to shop at a well-known French retailer.  Before entering, they required scanning a QR Code, registering on their website, and waiting to receive a call from an associate before being allowed to shop.  Also frustrating was the problem that most of their products were not on display so you needed to know exactly what you were looking for because browsing in this upscale retail store was not encouraged.  Retail is all about browsing and at this store, they forgot about making it easy to buy and replaced it with making it difficult to get started.  Brand stupidity. (100 bonus points if you can guess the French brand.) 

Last night I was pulled over by a Massachusetts State Police Officer for changing lanes when there are double solid white lines.  I don't think it was the first time I've done that in 50 years of driving, but I'm certain I've never been pulled over for that before. I broke the rules.

Let's take upside down, backwards, rule breaking and stupid and use those four conditions to dissect sales processes.

When we look at the sales processes that most companies have in place, there are usually elements of upside down, backwards and stupid.

Some companies have a dedicated team of BDR's that work the top of the funnel before they hand-off the opportunity to an account executive. The very poor conversation to meeting ratios are an example of a serious combustion point with this scenario. There are many reasons for these unacceptable ratios that companies invariably find ways to justify (see my article about Why We Should Blow up the BDR Role).  While inexperience and ineffectiveness are the two most obvious reasons, another significant reason is the use of BANT which stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing.  (See my article about Why BANT Can Kill Opportunities.) Put another way, BDR's are not only charged with reaching decision makers, engaging them in conversation and scheduling first meetings, but many of them are also supposed to qualify those opportunities so that account executives don't waste their time.  While it's smart to have account executives working qualified opportunities, it's upside down, backwards and stupid!  A decision maker has no incentive to answer qualifying questions this early in the sales process before there is some compelling reason for them to buy what you have.  In other words, while you want to start the sales process with a decision maker with authority, you start with whom you start and go from there.  You can't qualify a prospect's ability to buy or get to the actual decision maker  until there is enough urgency for them to take action!  At that point, they'll ask you what you need from them!  When it's done at the right time in the sales process, it's much easier!

Another problem with most of the sales processes is the sheer number of steps that have nothing to do with selling.  For example, Marketing has worked its way into the sales process and while the lead generation work flow is important, it does not belong in the sales process.  A signed contract is an acceptable final step in the final stage of the sales process but the steps that legal undertakes are part of the legal team's process, not sales. 

Sales processes tend to emphasize three major steps - prospecting, presenting and closing - but seriously lack the actual selling-based stages and milestones. If we wish to sell value and create urgency, a consultative approach is required.  Without it, the conversation will invariably turn to price and your attempts to sell value will go right down the drain.

In this case, the sales process is not upside down or backwards, it is inside out - the inner core is missing!  For a better explanation, watch this ten-minute video that explains the difference between sales process and sales methodology, the milestones a good sales process must include, and the differences between some well-known sales methodologies and processes.


 

Even when we have helped companies optimize their sales process, salespeople are multiple-time-offenders when it comes to following the new sequence of milestones in the sales process.  Salespeople LOVE to skip steps.  They break the rules!

The single best example of upside down, backwards and stupid occurs when considering the limitations of certain CRM applications and/or the limitations of the integrators who customize those applications.  Your sales process must be integrated into your CRM application so some companies, acknowledging the various limitations of their CRM/integrators, include only those simple steps that they can get into their CRM. You can't dumb down your sales process because of limitations in your CRM! 

For the complex sale, we recommend Membrain, a robust CRM that emphasizes opportunity and pipeline which is fairly easy and quick to  customize, add content, create complex playbook scenarios, create stages and milestones and produce the reports you want.  Despite the availability and recommendation of a perfect application like Membrain, some companies cite their accumulated investment and training, and refuse to give up Salesforce, MS Dynamics and others, despite the lack of user compliance, inability to make it user friendly, customization challenges and costs.  Lack of compliance means very little realtime data and inaccurate forecasts and that's the reason you bought CRM in the first place!  Upside down, backwards and stupid!

What are you doing that is Upside down, backwards and stupid? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, qualifying, account executive

New Movie Has 3 Great Lessons for Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

The Trial of the Chicago 7' is as timely as ever - The Stanford Daily

Among all the product shortages we have experienced in the past ten months, there has been no shortage of crappy movies.  It's almost like the movie studios decided to release all the movies filmed in the past several years that weren't ready for prime time and hope that people would stream them at home during the pandemic because we had watched everything else.

One exception to the crappiness of 2020 movies is The Trial of the Chicago 7.  This article is not a review of the movie but it was a terrific film and worth the time to watch it.  As good as this movie is, it comes with a bonus because it also provides three exceptional lessons for salespeople and sales managers.  Let's take a look!

It's Decided

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity when at some point late in the process you finally determined that the decision had already been made and it wasn't you? The prospect invited several competitors to engage, went through the motions, and led them to believe they had a chance. You may have been a better overall fit, had a better solution, more of the needed capabilities, a better warranty, been able to deliver more quickly, had better pricing and terms, better references and more. Despite all that, none of it was going to make a bit of difference because the key decision maker, who they wouldn't let you meet, had a relationship with someone at one of your competitors and for optics, your contact was tasked to involve three other companies.  Another version of this occurs when your contact is the decision maker but engages competitors so that the process has the appearances of being fair and objective to anyone who might be checking in on them.  In either scenario, the decision was made before you got involved and nothing that you said or did was going to change that decision.  In the movie, the judge went through the motions of the months-long trial but it didn't matter how much proof of innocence the defense provided because the judge refused to let any of it be heard.  Someone above him had already decided what the outcome of this trial would be. 

The lesson is that if you are going to fail, you must fail early!  That requires thorough qualifying and inspection as to where you stand versus your competitors, questions and statements that most salespeople fail to ask,  like:

  • In my experience, when a potential customer won't let me meet the decision maker it's usually a pretty good indicator that I won't be getting the business
  • Decision makers for our solutions usually have a strong existing relationship with companies like mine, and Jim (the decision-maker) doesn't have a relationship with us, so who does he have a relationship with?
  • I'm getting the feeling that even if we can prove that we have a superior solution, you won't be working with us

According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and the 2,051,794 salespeople they have assessed, 59% of all salespeople can't ask those questions because their need to be liked prevents them from asking a question that could cause their prospect to no longer like them.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare.

You're a Pawn

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity where your prospect was so interested that they requested a proposal or quote earlier than you expected?  You probably believed that you had a really strong opportunity, thought this would be an easy one and forecast it to close within 30 days.  Unfortunately, your prospect had an incumbent vendor that they planned to retain but needed the extra quotes to either make it appear that they collected three quotes or they were trying to keep the incumbent honest.  Had you quoted the lowest price, the business wouldn't have gone to you; they would have shown the quote to the incumbent and demanded that they match it if they wanted to keep the business.  In this scenario, you were being exploited. In the movie, the first two jurors that were sympathetic to the defense were removed under false pretenses.

The lesson is that when a prospect moves too quickly to a quote or proposal, you need to ask better qualifying questions, like:

  • Who do you usually buy this from? (XYZ)
  • Why didn't you call them?  (We wanted to explore our options)
  • In my experience, companies that are happy with who they are using don't usually take the time to look for options.  (They get defensive)
  • Why did you call us? (You were on the list)

They will probably tell you that yes, they are happy, but if you come in with a better price they would consider moving the business to you.  THAT'S YOUR CUE CARD!  It's not a sign that they're about to buy from you; it's a sign that they're NOT going to buy from you.  You should immediately say, "Based on experience, it sounds like you just need a quote to keep the other guys honest."  If you're face to face I suggest writing a random number on a napkin and handing the napkin to them.  If you are virtual, you can email them the same thing.  The point is, don't take the time to work up a quote, and don't take the time to produce a proposal. Just say, "No thank you." 

According to more of OMG's data, only 30% of salespeople have selling value as a strength.  Additionally, only 36% are able to control their emotions and at this point the sales conversation calls for staying calm and selling value.  Most salespeople lose the business because of the value selling skill gap and weakness controlling emotions.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

For Sales Managers - The Expert Debrief

In one scene of the movie, the defense attorney was cross-examining the assistant to the mayor, a witness who said he was offered $100,000 to issue a permit to protest, and the request was a bribe, not a joke as the attorney suggested.  The attorney asked a bunch of questions that sounded something like this (it's from memory so the words that come after "when you called" might not all be exactly what was said):

  • When you called the US Attorney General what did he say?  (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the FBI what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Attorney General of Illinois what did he say? (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the State Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Chicago Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you told the mayor what did he say? (I didn't tell him)
  • So if you didn't tell anyone then you must have believed the offer to be a joke.

This is absolutely the most powerful way to debrief salespeople.  Assume they did what they were supposed to do by asking, "When you asked what it was about their current vendor that they were unhappy with what did they say?" Continue to ask questions using, "When you asked..." about everything they should have asked until your salesperson says, "I didn't ask that."  Then you can learn whether it's because the salesperson didn't know to ask that question or knew to ask but was uncomfortable asking.  And finally, why was the salesperson uncomfortable.  Then, and only then, does the coaching actually begin and it begins with a role play! 

More of OMG's data says that only 7% of all sales managers can debrief, coach and role play effectively.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

If you want to learn to coach like that - and there are so many examples of how to properly debrief and coach, join me for my annual public (virtual this year) 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive from May 19-21.  Register here. You'll be glad you did!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, asking questions, selling tips, sales lessons, chicago 7

My Dog Has Better Listening Skills Than Most Salespeople and I'll Prove It

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 10, 2020 @ 06:12 AM

listening2

Short article today.  Prospects don't pay a lot of attention so the less you say the better.  It helps them listen and comprehend more of what you share with them when you use fewer words.  But prospects aren't the only ones who don't listen.  Salespeople don't listen very well either.  As a matter of fact, my dog has better listening skills than most salespeople because my dog knows what to listen for. Don't believe me?  I'll prove it in the video below.

For an overwhelming majority of salespeople, I can't even use "listening" and "salespeople" in the same sentence. That's because they either:

  • don't listen because they are so busy talking
  • hear but aren't really listening
  • listen but aren't listening for the right things
  • listen for the right things but don't ask the appropriate follow up questions to leverage what was said

According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on the evaluation and assessment of 2,040,738 salespeople, only 27% of all salespeople listen effectively.  Looking at the top 5% of all salespeople, only 57% of that elite group listens effectively. Only 10% of the bottom half and 0% of the bottom 10% listen effectively.

Listening is the one selling skill that salespeople find most difficult to understand and improve.  If you can't actively listen, then how can you ask the appropriate follow up question?  If you can't ask follow up questions because you don't know which question to ask next, then you'll find yourself explaining, educating, presenting, and wasting time because most prospects simply aren't interested in having salespeople regurgitate what they can find online in a couple of clicks.  And if that's what salespeople end up doing on sales calls, it becomes a transactional, price-driven conversation instead of a value-based, consultative conversation.

Watch how well my dog listens in this enjoyable one-minute video.

In the spring of 2017, we brought Dinger home as a puppy and I wrote this article explaining why he is so much easier to train than most salespeople. 

I don't understand why companies and their salespeople still claim to have competitive pricing.  It's a race to the bottom because no matter what you tell me, in your industry, vertical, territory, area of expertise, and product category, there can be only a single company that will have the lowest price and it's not going to be you!  How do I know?  If you had the lowest price you wouldn't be reading articles on how to become more effective.  Instead, you would be quite content taking orders from the buyers who only buy from the company with the lowest price

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, listening skills, questioning skills, dog

How a Mug of Dunkin Can Help You More Effectively Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 09, 2020 @ 08:12 AM

Amazon.com: In case of accident my blood type is dunkin donuts Cheap  lasunandsport Mug Coffee Mug Gift Coffee Mug 11OZ Coffee Mug: Kitchen &  Dining

I won't suggest that a cup of Dunkin coffee will make you more alert and more effective.  It's much more helpful than that.

This is another Bob story. Bob was on a sales call and the prospect told him that they were looking for the lowest price.  I hope you hate it when that happens.  It's a bad thing because while Bob was supposed to be selling value, a price-based conversation is transactional yet he's supposed to be taking a consultative approach to support the value he provides.  Would you like to guess what Bob did instead?  Yup, he got them his best price.  Ugh!

So what should Bob have done instead to turn this around and not waste everyone's time?

There are four things that Bob should have done and he must do them in the proper sequence:.

  • First, lower resistance - Bob needs to acknowledge that he heard them and say, "I understand."  Then he can leave it alone.  He has lowered their resistance and that was the goal.  He can come back to this topic later.
  • Uncover their compelling reason to buy - Bob can't sell value if he doesn't know their compelling reason to buy, buy now, and buy from him instead of his competitor.  This is the most important thing to focus on because if he doesn't uncover that reason and create urgency, he won't be able to provide and sell value, and neutralize their stated goal to buy at the lowest price.
  • Monetize their compelling reason - problems have consequences, including operational, functional, conceptual, emotional, economic, and perceived consequences.  These consequences must be monetized to include hard costs, cost of time lost, cost of not solving the problem, the gain from solving the problem, etc.  This is where value actually comes from! Bob must take the time to walk his prospect through what the problem really costs.
  • Sell Value - Bob must ask if, in order to solve the (cost that was calculated) problem the right way, they are willing to spend a little more with him.  If yes, he can ignore their lowest price comment because he successfully sold his value.  If not, he must learn whether they always buy this way or just this time.  For example, if they claim to always buy this way, he can find the weak link in that behavior.  Do they ever get coffee at Dunkin' Donuts? Really?  How often?  Why are they paying around $2 for a medium cup of coffee from Dunkin when It costs only 88 cents to make it using a DD K Cup in a Keurig machine, and only 30 cents to make a mug yourself using DD ground coffee that you buy for between $8-$10/pound.  They are paying as much as 650% more for the value of not having to make it themselves.  Now Bob has precedent that they don't always look for the lowest price.  He could also use a car analogy.  Most of the people you are selling to are not driving Kia's or low-end Fords, Chevy's and Chryslers.  They paid more for a better car! Analogies are great for changing perceptions.

Selling value has nothing to do with sharing value propositions, telling people why it's better to do business with you or trying to meet a competitors's price. Those approaches take away from value and make you sound just like everyone else.  Selling value is about being valuable to them!

Dunkin has made it into my Blog a lot, having written about them four previous times:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, sales tips, selling value, dunkin, lowering resistance

Senate Confirmation Hearings Shows Us What Salespeople Do Wrong Every Day

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 @ 18:10 PM

Day 1 on Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearing begin in  Senate

Oh no, another post on the political climate.  Don't worry, I'm not taking sides, I'll be right down the middle, and very critical of both sides.  And stay with me for the pivot to the good stuff - my sales analysis.  Here goes!

It was Columbus Day in the US so I had a chance to catch the first day of the Judiciary Committee's Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  It featured 10-minute opening statements by both Republican and Democrat Senators and finally, by Judge Barrett herself.

In my opinion, there weren't any winners today.  In 10-minute increments, both sides demonstrated everything that goes wrong when salespeople make presentations. Make no mistake, politicians are very much always selling and their performances usually give salespeople a bad name.

The Democrat messaging, although consistent, was extremely negative, with all of the senators regurgitating the same talking points: Covid-19 safety concerns, the process being a sham, and threatening that Americans will lose their health insurance if Judge Barrett is confirmed.  Although we want salespeople to articulate consistent messaging, especially with their value propositions, negative messaging turns people off, and if these presentations had been delivered by salespeople, most prospects would have responded with, "You guys are all the same!"  You don't want to be in a selling situation facing prospects who share that perception!

The Republican messaging was as inconsistent as the Democrats were consistent. Most addressed different topics from each other, but the real issue was that they were on the defensive the entire time as if they were handling objections.  When salespeople are in objection handling mode their prospects' resistance goes up making it very difficult to sell anything.

I understand why both groups chose the strategies they used. 

The Democrats could not risk leveling personal attacks on Judge Barrett the way they did on Justice Kavanagh so they attacked the process, the President, the Republicans, the timing, the rules, and claimed that the impact of having this judge on the supreme court would be catastrophic.

The Republicans were already under fire by Democrats and the media for moving forward to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg prior to the election so they defended themselves by citing precedent, constitutionality, qualifications, religious freedom, history, and unfair attacks.

Both sides were right to have strategies but the strategies were poorly executed. Strategies of attacking and playing defense are both losing strategies.

Salespeople must never go on the attack and must never go on the defensive.  

Instead of attacking the competition, salespeople can ask questions about their prospects' personal experiences, what they want and need, why it's important, how they feel about it, and what would make things better.  You can accomplish the very same things, only better, without ever mentioning the competition or saying anything bad about them.

Instead of getting defensive in response to objections, whether real or perceived, salespeople can - you guessed it - ask questions using the very same approach described above.

Elected officials suck as role models, especially when making self-serving politicized partisan presentations.

Learn from this debacle!  The key to sales success lies in listening and asking questions, not delivering cleverly worded presentations.  It's important to note that listening and asking questions are consultative selling skills and are attributes of both the Consultative Selling Competency and the Value Selling Competency.  Check out the 10 selling competencies in the screen shot below which shows the percentage of all salespeople who have that competency as a strength.  

You've probably heard that 80% of all revenue comes from 20% of all salespeople.  Here is how the top 10% of all salespeople fare in the same ten competencies:

Except for Hunting and Relationship building, the top salespeople are two to three times more likely to have these competencies as strengths.

I'll show you the same ten competencies, but this time for the bottom 50% of all salespeople:

You are reading this correctly.  Only 1% of the bottom half of all salespeople have Consultative Selling and Qualifying as strengths and none having Closing! So that's why more than 50% of all salespeople don't hit their quota each year!  Most salespeople suck at most selling competencies so perhaps they should all become politicians.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, selling value, sales and politics, amy coney barret

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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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