10 Selling Scenarios When You Must Slow Down

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 07, 2017 @ 07:02 AM

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Image Copyright honglouwawa

By now, surely everyone has written their Super Bowl articles, drawing inspiration from the game, the comeback and the records to make their points.  In my business, it's rare when someone isn't an optimist but I'm a realist and the realist in me kept saying how improbable it would be - even for Tom Brady and the Patriots - to come from that far behind and tie it - never mind win it - against a team as powerful as the Falcons.  But the Falcons' defense was not accustomed to staying on the field for such long stretches and after the Patriots finally tired them out, the Patriots were able to repeatedly drive down the field at will and claim the historic victory.

I read many articles and quotes after the game but the one that works best in this Blog is a quote from 2016 Cy Young Award Winner, Rick Porcello.  He said:

[When I find myself behind in baseball] There are two things you can do. You can think about how insurmountable it is to overcome or you can think about what you can control. That’s getting strike one on the next hitter and going from there.

I felt like there was a comparison there. [Brady's] thought process and why he’s so good is that he’s able to slow those situations down and focus on the present and what’s in front of him. That’s really hard to do, especially in a game of that magnitude.

And of course, we can easily translate that into the language of sales.

Rick Porcello's thoughts about the importance of slowing down in certain situations and focusing on the present apply to the following 10 sales and sales leadership scenarios.  Slow down:

  1. When sales calls and meetings aren't going as planned
  2. When an important account is making threats about leaving
  3. When a large opportunity is slipping away from you
  4. When your sales have fallen behind your forecast
  5. When you are conducting a discovery call with a new prospect
  6. When debriefing a salesperson on a recent sales call or meeting
  7. When you just heard what you wanted to hear, but you need to question it
  8. When you are qualifying an opportunity
  9. When you feel that you must blow up an opportunity
  10. When you you feel like it's time to bail out on an opportunity

Noah Goldman, Host of The Enterprise Sales Podcast, interviewed me about all of this today.  Listen here.

Nurturing the ability to slow down on demand is one of the greatest skills you can develop.  It goes hand in hand with patience.  You can't have too much and you can't have too little.  One thing that can help, especially on a discovery call, is to have a large number of questions that you can use if the conversation requires it.  This infographic from Hubspot, that was made with Visme, should help you along!

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales forecasts, super bowl 51

The Second Most Important Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 08, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Earlier this week I posted an article that told the story of the biggest sales lesson of my life.  I received so many emails about that article because it seemed to really resonate with my readers.  Yet, as much as it resonated, there was one question that several of them asked in their emails.  They wanted to know why we were in that tenement building in the first place.  And the answer to that question leads me to the second most important sales lesson of my life.

The year was 1974 and as a very young salesperson I assumed that I should target families that were financially secure.  After all, that cutlery I was selling was very expensive and only the well-to-do could afford it.  We were taught to sell complete sets - $175 or so back in 1974, which equates to around $675 in 2016 dollars.  Pricey knives!  This is what happened.  I called on 100 couples of means - all known to me as family, friends, relatives or acquaintances.  They all purchased from me but not one of them bought the complete set.  Almost every one of them bought a single knife.  My average sale was around $15!  Now, I certainly understand had I not been known to them they might very well have purchased nothing from me, but felt obligated to buy something, and bought the least expensive thing they could.  It's also possible that they were all frugal, believing that a single knife could do the work of 10.  And it's also possible that my sales managers knew what they were talking about when they redirected me to young couples and teenage girls that didn't have any money.  

By that point I had run out of family acquaintances and as long as I had to begin knocking on the doors of strangers, why not broke strangers?

The other big lesson I learned was around judging.

I couldn't use where they lived, the size of their homes, the cars they drove, what they earned, or how they furnished their home as a predictor of what they could or would spend.  And $5 per week for the first nice thing a young person would ever own was much more appealing to someone who had limited income, than additional nice, but seemingly unnecessary thing to someone who had plenty of income.  Targeting is important but making assumptions about who you target will get you into trouble.

Those early lessons apply today, in B2B selling, just as much as in 1974 in B2C selling.  For example, a startup, operating out of a one-room office, may have more urgency to buy a product or service than a mid market company generating $150 million annually.  To the buyers of products and services, there are three categories:

  1. No Interest
  2. Nice to Have
  3. Must Have

When companies do demos to generate interest in their products, scenarios 1 and 2 will be the most common outcomes.  That's the primary reason why sales cycles are so long and win rates are so low.  However, when the same company uses a consultative approach, uncovers their prospect's compelling reason to buy and sells value, they will often create a scenario where their product becomes a must have.  Once your product or service moves into must have territory, your prospects will find the money.

Companies with cash often won't spend it on your products or services because if it fails to be viewed as a must have, they can easily put off the joy of something that is merely nice to have when the pain of installation, training, change, and push back make the purchase undesirable.

In order to cause your prospects to believe that they must have your product or service, you must take a consultative approach.  There is simply no other way to get there.  Most salespeople don't sell that way, relying on demos, product knowledge and price to get prospects to take action.

You can train the salespeople you have and it will take the better part of a year to get them there.  It's not the easiest way to sell.  Or, you can hire salespeople who already know how to sell that way.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales lessons, sales tips

Dissecting the #1 Sales Best Practice

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

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One company is attempting to create a compilation of best sales practices by sending out a weekly survey to sales leaders and asking them to choose from multiple choice questions what they most often do and teach.  The topic changes each week.  This is silly because (1) it just isn't that simple, (2) it's different for each selling role, each vertical, the decision makers they call on, their price points, the length of their sales cycle, and their respective competition, just to name a few.  In addition, when you ask multiple choice questions like this, the answers will be so varied that there won't be even a few, never mind a single best practice.  Here is an example of what they asked this week:

Select the action with which you have the most direct experience or expertise.
(My comment - The question is poorly designed and then the choices that follow include about 10 more than is ideal to arrive at best practices.)
  • Proactively ask customers about the “decision criteria” 
  • Directly ask customers about their buying criteria 
  • Develop a set of questions salespeople can use to uncover customer decision process and time line
  • Conduct after sales reviews with customers to determine the real value
  • Develop a set of questions to ask customers at each step in the sales process
  • Develop account plans 
  • Ensure that your sales process is adaptable 
  • Identify and prioritize your high growth and high potential accounts
  • Gather feedback from customers on a regular basis
  • Train sales representatives in active listening and empathy
  • Ensure salespeople are always asking customers questions about what they want and why 
  • Ensure sales and marketing teams are fully aligned on value proposition / messaging
  • Annual review of accounts 
  • Align compensation with the behavior you want 
  • Develop a list of potential objections at each stage in the sales process and a playbook of specific responses to them

So what should the best practice be relative to context of the question and responses provided?

1. You must have the correct opening questions,
2. You must know what to listen for,
3. When you hear it, you must be able to ask a countless number of follow up questions,
4. You must be able to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have uncovered their compelling reason to buy,
5. You must know the consequences for them if they don't move forward with a solution
6. There must be emotion associated with the consequences
7. You must quantify or monetize the consequences.
8. You must be able to leverage this information through the remainder of the sales process.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is!  This is the consultative approach to selling (follow that link and also follow the links to the two additional articles for more on the consultative approach) and it takes months for salespeople to master.  The question is, do you want them to continue selling the way they sell? That leads to inconsistent and even decreasing sales each year and within two years they may become obsolete.  Or do you want them to be challenged to learn the proper way to sell?  That leads to more predictable results, increasing revenue and a valued, or trusted adviser status with customers and clients.  As always, the choice is yours. 

Three times each year, we offer a comprehensive, live, interactive, 12-week online training program that brings Baseline Selling alive. This training teaches salespeople to utilize the 8 steps I outlined above.  If you are interested for yourself or any of your salespeople, please respond to me directly.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales best practices, active listening

4 Critical Changes to Go from Failure to Success in Sales Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 @ 13:07 PM

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Today I'm in Florida, preparing to speak at a company's national meeting.  Like many companies, they have not only realized that selling has changed dramatically, but that their salespeople may not have adapted, developed new skills, and changed the way they sell.  If you're a regular reader, active on LinkedIn or Social Media, then you have certainly read about the many ways that selling has changed.  But most senior executives haven't put two and two together yet.  They know that win rates are down and sales cycles are longer, they know it's more difficult than ever before, they see that their salespeople are struggling to meet quotas, but they don't realize the extent to which things have changed.  There are four critical requirements which, together are the difference between success and failure.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that we are talking about good salespeople, not bad ones.  There is an elite group of 7% - superstars - a larger group of an additional 16% that are fairly strong, and then the bottom 77% who suck.  We're going to talk about the changes that the top 23% need to make.  While the manner in which the bottom 77% approach selling can significantly change their results, there are issues other than those we will discuss here that limit their success.

1.  Value.  Since there is more competition than ever before and competition puts pressure on margins, it is more important than ever that salespeople have the ability to sell value.  Refer to this article for more on selling value today.  I just analyzed the data from nearly 8,000 OMG (Objective Management Group) sales candidate assessments from earlier this month.  I narrowed it down to 66% who have been in sales for 5 years or more and found that on average, these sales veterans possess only 62% of the attributes of a value seller.

2. Consultative Approach.  It is not possible to sell value unless it is integrated into a consultative approach to selling.  Refer to this article for more on a consultative approach, which helps you to tailor your solution and differentiate you and your company from the competition.  Today, salespeople possess, on average, only 48% of the attributes of Consultative Sellers.

3. Process.  If you can't sell value without a consultative approach, then the same can be said for the approach.  Value and a consultative approach will not work unless they are integrated into a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process.  Read this great article for more on sales process.  In surveys, most companies say they have a sales process in place. However, our sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments reveal that salespeople possess, on average, only 52% of the attributes required for following a Sales Process.

4. Social.  Cold calling isn't dead but it is on life support.  It takes between 10-15 attempts to reach a decision maker and the conversion rates are falling like a piano dropped from the roof of a skyscraper.  Salespeople must be able to leverage their social networks, get introduced, and reach out to prospects via LinkedIn, Twitter and email to supplement the calls that they make.  Salespeople possess, on average, only 38% of the attributes of a Social Seller.  This one is worse than that score.  More than 1/3 of this group scored below 25%!

What Can You Do?  If you want to dramatically change and improve results, there are three things you can do.

  1. Bite the bullet and have a customized, optimized modern, staged, milestone-centric sales process created for you ASAP!
  2. Get your sales force trained and coached on the new process, a consultative approach to selling value, and social selling.
  3. Hire the right salespeople - those who already possess these capabilities!  The best selection tool is OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment.  Check out the free trial!

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, social selling, selling value

Tech Buyer Explains Why He Has No Use for Salespeople - Must Read

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 @ 06:07 AM

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I managed to develop a case of poison ivy that is so bad it is making my blood boil.  Earlier this year I wrote an article explaining why more salespeople suck than ever before.  (You'll need to read that article for the rest of this article to make any sense.)  Last week, a reader provided a comment that made my blood boil and I wrote a response to it. I think you'll get as riled up over his comment as I did and I hope you'll love my response, but first, read that article, return here and read his comment which I have included below, and then continue reading for my reply.  You won't be sorry!

I polished up his response a bit.  I corrected the typos but left his foul language and general attacks the way he wrote them.

"Allow me to give you some insight as a technology buyer why more sales people suck than ever before: Buyers don't need them. This may apply outside of the tech sector as well. There was a time when product information required someone to convey it. We needed specs, compatibility reassurance, negotiated service delivery along with a quote. Now we just want the damn quote. We can do our own homework comparing competitive products thanks to the majority of product details and specs being on-line. All this horsesh*t is just that... talk. Blah, blah...blah...: 1. Creating value and insight during the client conversation 2. Uncovering complete information regarding the decision making process 3. Exploring client issues and challenges This implies the customer is too stupid to know what they need and the esteemed sales person is there to guide them through the decision making process....whatever. We know what we need - freakin' sell it to us without the corporate phsyco sociology drabble. Believe it or not you don't need to know everything about our operations in Europe to sell me a damn network switch in North Carolina. I don't need to know what kind of bike you kid rides or where you are taking your next vacation. You are not my friend. Prepare the f'ing quote. Now, don't re-architect, re-engineer or include a bunch of unnecessary line items per your "best practices". Stop throwing in twelve kitchen sinks to force me to say no. And I will. And you will take it for an answer. When you don't like no for an answer don't circumvent a department by calling all the way up to the CFO for attention. The answer is still no and you've just lit a match on an already burning bridge. Sales people simply have a harder time now because they are not necessary. The pitch is just that... all pitch. We need ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVES. We need those who don't exit the stage when the contact ink is dry turning us over to customer "service". Isn't it a wonderful thing that the US is turning to a service sector economy considering how much we suck at it. Sign 'em up for contractual recurring revenue and bleed 'em dry. That should be the front line in the majority of new sales hire meetings. As buyers we know this. Sales people aren't there to provide service. They are not there to point customers to the right party to handle accounting issues. They aren't there for continuing product and customer support, nor should they be. So what purpose do they serve? Hype? Yawn. If American companies would fire or convert their commission "sales" staff for proper customer service and representation it would have a positive effect on the overall economy. The "sell 'em high, sign 'em up wet ink and off shore them to India" model is what buyers are rejecting. Change this. Replace the sales landscape with real customer service."

Here is my response to Todd.

Todd, thanks for taking the time to offer your opinion.  I could tell you are very passionate about this subject and you are certainly correct about one thing.  When you want to buy a switch you shouldn't have to answer all of those irrelevant questions!  That's a transactional sale and salespeople have been obsolete for years when it come to transactional sales.  You can buy those online - you don't need a salesperson!

Unfortunately, you have met far too many salespeople from the bottom 77% of the sales population, yet none of the elite 7%.  If you had met one of the good ones, you probably would have made that individual an exception to your rant.

You have a job to do - get what you need at the lowest price.  But salespeople have a job to do too.  And that's to change your mind, get you to consider value over price, influence your decision as to which company to do business with, and develop a long-term win-win relationship with you.  But you hate salespeople, which is your right.  I hate to break it to you but salespeople hate you too.  You make their lives even more miserable than you can imagine.  While they don't prevent you from doing your job, you sure make it impossible for them to do theirs.

Whether their companies call them account representatives, customer service representatives or salespeople, it won't change the quality of the rep that is calling on you.  77% of them suck, and the good ones have learned not to call on you!  That's because you sound like an uncooperative, close-minded, price-first buyer who is ineffective at developing a value-based relationship with salespeople.  And if the good ones aren't calling on you, they are probably calling on your CTO, CIO, or CFO.  Good for them!

Dave

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, bad salespeople, elite salespeople, tech buyers

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before (and Why)

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

Saturday evening, I was driving my car and listening to the radio when a song played that I hadn't heard since the 70's.  It occurred to me that long before the advent of rap music, Charlie Daniels must have been the accidental originator of rap with his song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  If you are too young to have heard it, don't remember it, or just want to hear this white country boy do his thing, watch this awesome YouTube clip.

Thinking of rap got me to thinking of salespeople - who always get a bad rap - and that got me to thinking about Bad Company, and their song, Taking Care of Business.  The only problem with my thinking is that Bad Company didn't record that song; Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) did as you can see in this YouTube clip recorded at a prison!  If you're like me, you must be wondering where this post is heading...

Salespeople always seem to get a bad rap and obviously that's bad for business. But it's always been that way and nobody has made a very big deal about it, so what has changed? This article details all of the things that have dramatically changed modern selling in just the past several years.  And this article explains why millions of salespeople will lose their jobs and become obsolete.
 
Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed more than one million salespeople and while selling has changed and evolved, the data shows that one thing hasn't changed at all.  The following graph shows sales capabilities as measured by OMG's Sales Quotient and how that has changed in the past 15 years.
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For years, I've been writing that there is an elite 6%, another 20% that are fairly strong, and then the remaining 74% suck.  Well, those numbers have moved.  As you can see in the graph above, the percentage of elite salespeople has climbed by a whopping 1% to 7%, or an increase of 10,000 salespeople.  Unfortunately, the decrease in strong salespeople, from 20% down to 16%, means that the percentage of sucky salespeople now stands at an unbelievable 77%.
 
So despite the glut of free content in the form of blog articles, podcasts and videos, how do we explain that sales capabilities on the whole are worse than ever before?  Going back to Charlie Daniels and BTO, the devil may be in Georgia, but he is definitely right here in the details where it is obvious that we aren't doing a great job of taking care of business.
 
When a change in the way that people buy is taking place at a faster rate than a change in the way that people sell, we see results like these.  Richardson just published their 2016 Selling Challenges Report.  I typically don't care for surveys - especially those with a small sample size like this one, and those whose respondents are primarily from large companies. But in this case, the findings are correct; especially the top 3 issues that salespeople are struggling with:
  1. Creating value and insight during the client conversation
  2. Uncovering complete information regarding the decision making process
  3. Exploring client issues and challenges

The 3 topics are identical to those I write about most frequently because they correlate to the issues we uncover when we evaluate sales forces.  Why are salespeople struggling so much with these issues?

  • Their sales managers aren't capable of helping them.
  • The majority of companies fail to bring in expert help from the outside.
  • A lot of the training doesn't focus on the cause - only the symptoms.
  • Salespeople tend to not practice and when they do practice, they practice doing it the wrong way.
  • Those 3 issues are the core of Value Selling and a Consultative approach - the 2 most difficult competencies out of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
  • A lot of the training either isn't very good, isn't reinforced, or isn't enforced.  Sales leaders and CEO's are not holding salespeople accountable for change.
  • The starting point for any effective training is a customized, formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process and that is missing from many well-known training programs.  Last week I received a call from an Israeli company that wanted Kurlan & Associates to teach their 200 salespeople to sell based on the video tools they created.  Their products were cutting edge 21st century products, but the selling approach they created on their own was vintage 1970's.  I told them that they would have to either allow us to completely change their sales process and approach, or they would have to find another company to help them.
  • Sales DNA plays a huge part in the difficulties that salespeople have when attempting to sell value or use a consultative approach.  Sales DNA is the combination of strengths that support skills and when the strengths are actually weaknesses, salespeople are uncomfortable and/or unable to execute the process, strategies, tactics and achieve milestones.
Today, if salespeople do not learn to master the consultative approach, a prerequisite for Value Selling, they won't be able to differentiate themselves in the field.  Without differentiation strongly grounded in value, buyers will ultimately make their decisions based on price.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment, charlie daniels, bachman turner overdrive

A Perfect Way to Handle Objections, Challenges and Push Back

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 @ 10:11 AM

We watched the GOP Debate last night (I know the photo is from an earlier debate). I remember saying to my wife, "This isn't a debate - all they're doing is answering the questions being asked."  And then, all of a sudden, a debate broke out, and what did the brilliant moderator do?  He said, "I'm sorry, we need to move to the next topic."  We finally got ourselves a debate and they want to stop it!"  

Consider the majority of salespeople and their single biggest skill gap.  Even when they are aware that today, a consultative approach to selling is necessary, and even if they actually use a consultative approach, all too often, this is what happens:  They ask a great question, the prospect replies with an answer, and then, rather than getting their prospect to expand on the answer (allowing the salesperson to get closer to the prospect's real issues and compelling reason to buy), the salesperson moves to the next question.  Gerard Baker, the British moderator, was widely praised for his performance, but in my opinion, he blew it - just like millions of salespeople blow it every single day.  Don't snorkel, go deep-sea diving!

Speaking of the debate, salespeople can learn something from Dr. Ben Carson, who unlike Donald Trump, handles criticism and attacks in a wonderful way.  Trump fights back with "great" attacks which achieve similar results to salespeople becoming defensive.  It raises, instead of lowers resistance!  

Carson, when asked why we should believe him, said, "You don't have to believe me."  That lowers resistance and it was beautifully delivered.  Then he followed that up with something along the lines of "check the facts" and "treat everyone equally."  Last night he said, "You know what? We should vet all candidates. I have no problem with being vetted.  What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth.  And I don't even mind that so much if they do it with everybody, like people on the other side. When I look at somebody like Hillary Clinton who sits there and tells her daughter and a government official, 'No, this was a terrorist attack,' and then tells everybody else that it was a video – where I come from, they call that a lie."

That is how challenges, objections and push back should be handled. Just perfect.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, handling objections

Price Quotes and the Inability of Salespeople to Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 @ 06:10 AM

Last week, I was training a sales force to sell value - an absolutely revolutionary concept - when the unthinkable happened, not once, but twice in the same training.  As incredible as it was to me, it clearly illustrates why it is so darn hard for companies to get their salespeople to sell value.

We had just spent an hour demonstrating a consultative approach to selling, a prerequisite for selling value.  We then spent another hour on the 4 keys to selling value.  We were in the middle of a role-play when Dick asked, "Why do I need to ask all those questions when all he wants is a price?  Isn't there a scenario where I can just quote him a price?"

Sure there is, Dick!  If you are prepared to be entirely obsolete - right now - then go ahead, skip the questions and the whole conversation, and quote your precious price.  Because we don't actually need you if all you're going to do is quote a price.  Your prospects and customers can get that online - and quicker than you can come up with an answer for them.  Today, prospects and customers have zero use for a salesperson whose value is limited to knowing prices and technical specifications.

It got even better after I was done with Dick.  Bob told me about Tom, a customer who can't buy from him because Tom has to buy from his brother-in-law.  Apparently, Bob's wife will kill him if he doesn't buy from Tom... Anyway, there was a scenario where Tom couldn't get what he needed from his brother-in-law, so he called Bob and asked, "How much?"

Of course, Bob wanted to quote a price, but I suggested that we role-play because there was probably another way to handle the call.  I played Bob's part in the role-play and wanted to take the call in a completely different direction.  Instead of quoting a price, I asked, "Tom, does your wife know you called me?" and "Why can't Tom deliver this for you?" and "You only want to make a one-time purchase?" and "Why should I do that?"

While Bob was thinking transactionally about the small order he might easily get, I was thinking about how we can leverage this turn of events and convert this into Bob doing a favor for Tom instead of Tom doing a favor for Bob.

The one thing that always gets in the way of selling value, is when salespeople want to quote prices!  Stop-quoting-prices!  There will be plenty of time - LATER - to let them know how much they will pay you when they decide to buy from you! 

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, selling value

Why Inbound and Inside Sales Experts Think Sales Process is Dead Too

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 @ 16:08 PM

Sales Process isn't even the only thing that inbound marketers say is dead. They'll have you believing that salespeople are no longer needed, selling is dead, and a consultative approach is dead too. They are basically ready to proclaim that anything selling-related, that they don't really understand or find it necessary to do, is not needed and dead.  

Let's start with my recent Google search for "Sales Process is Dead."  That search turned up these articles on the first page of results:

So who wrote all of these articles?  

One article was written by a sales expert discussing the concept of following the buyer's purchasing process. OK, that's still a sales process and it has some validity if you have weak salespeople that sell to large companies where you can't impact or change anything relative to how they buy.

One article was published in Harvard Business Review and was really about Solution Selling being dead. It isn't dead, but the authors are making a lot of money by saying that and pushing the Challenger Sale!

And the rest were written by marketers who might sell a lot more of their services if they can convince you that sales process is dead. 

The second page of the Google search results was even worse, including proclamations that B2B selling is dead and that field sales is dead. Don't get me wrong. I love and use some of their tools and services and recommend them to clients too. But the key word here is tools. They support and enhance selling. Tools don't replace selling.

There's very little question that everything we know about selling has changed dramatically in the past 5-8 years. I've written about these changes on 5 occasions and even my viewpoint has changed during this time! See:

There is some truth to what inbound marketing experts and inside sales experts are saying relative to the context of who they work with. Certainly, those who work inbound leads only need to follow up and either schedule a call or get the lead to click a button and subscribe. There isn't any complicated selling or sales process to navigate in order for that to work! Many inside salespeople only need to concern themselves with the top of the funnel where scheduling an appointment is their ultimate success.  

The disconnect occurs when salespeople, sales managers, sales leaders, marketing executives and CEOs read the propaganda from the inbound/inside experts and mistakenly believe that it applies to them! There are 10 scenarios where that message does not and will not ever apply to you:

  1. If you don't sell inexpensive subscriptions,
  2. If you aren't the lowest price in your category,
  3. If you don't have a short sales cycle,
  4. If you aren't the brand leader,
  5. If you have a story to tell,
  6. If your product requires design/build or customization,
  7. If what you sell is a lot of money,
  8. If you have a new company, new product or new technology,
  9. If you need to get to the C Suite, and/or
  10. If you are the underdog.

Today, there are a significant number of inside salespeople who are responsible for the entire sales cycle and they carry a quota too. Don't even suggest that they don't need a sales process and don't need to sell. Today, if you want even a chance of selling value, differentiating your company and winning business, you must take a consultative approach and use a milestone-centric sales process. You can include buyer-side milestones in that process if you like, but if you include only buyer-side milestones and don't focus on sales-side milestones too, you will get beat by competitors who have a true sales process.

This is important.  

Selling has become more difficult than ever before. Consistent success requires a consultative approach that most salespeople have difficulty executing. They haven't been properly trained or coached in its application, don't practice, and aren't confident enough to use it. It's much easier to give in to the marketers, abandon the sales process, abandon the consultative approach, abandon value selling, and abandon best practices despite how relevant and effective they still are. You'll have a longer sales process and a lower win-rate, but failing could never be easier!

Or, you can take the path less traveled, use the more difficult consultative approach in a more challenging milestone-centric sales process. It will be harder, but your sales cycle will be shorter and you'll have a higher win rate.

Easy gets you lousy results. Difficult helps you achieve consistent success.

I've seen this first-hand with golf and tennis. Accept the difficult job of learning to play either game the right way, learn the correct way to stroke the ball, learn the right strategies, practice your butt off and you'll win a lot more than you'll lose and feel much better about yourself too. Or, continue to play like a hack and you'll lose a lot more than you'll win and constantly have a feeling of frustration and discouragement.

In the end, it's always up to you. There are plenty of us who are always more than willing to help if you want to take the journey to mastery.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Inbound Marketing, sales process, solution selling, sales funnel, cold calling, inside sales, SPIN Selling, selling is dead

The Science of Sales Selection vs. the Marketing of Modern Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 @ 07:08 AM

Today I received this email from an OMG (Objective Management Group) Partner after he asked me to run an analysis on a company's top and bottom performers.

He wrote, "After all these years, this is still amazing to me. Thanks Dave, my conversation is Monday and we are getting next steps in place.  Appreciate the help."

So why is that such a big deal?

This is someone who has been an OMG Partner for nearly two decades, is one of OMG's most successful partners, and knows our accuracy and sales-specific findings inside and out.  And he was still surprised at just how accurate the analysis was.  Check out the detailed and revealing graphic below!

 

I started with more than 100 sales-specific findings and narrowed them down to the 18 findings and scores that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms.  A mistake made by behavioral scientists and sellers of personality and behavioral styles assessments is that they only look at top performers and identify common traits.   They fail to realize that the bottom performers have the same personality traits and behavioral styles as the top performers and none of those traits or styles are predictive of sales performance.

In this company, the bottom performers scored just as well as the top performers on some sales-specific findings.  To accurately identify salespeople that are totally perfect for a role, we must understand the differences between both groups, not the commonalities within one group.

The salespeople in the top 7 rows are their top performers and the salespeople in the bottom 9 rows are their bottom performers.  After I identified the findings, scores and cutoffs that we would use, I color-coded them so that you could clearly see the differences - a sea of green on top and a sea of red on the bottom.

Next, in the last column on the right, I calculated the percentage criteria that each salesperson met and set the cutoff to 67%.  

Using these criteria, we would have recommended 6 of their 7 top performers and only 1 of their 9 bottom performers.  We would have been correct on 14 out of 16, or 88% which comes within a few percentage points of our usual predictive accuracy of 92%.

This is scientific sales selection.  It's a necessary part of an overall scientific approach to sales and the sales force.

What drives me crazy are the marketing people who are writing about sales despite their complete lack of understanding about B2B sales.  They spin their messages to get business executives to think that the only thing that matters today is social selling, email, inbound marketing, and content. They hope that if they make inbound marketing sound easy enough by providing their tools and applications then businesses will buy their services and hire them.  For instance, today I read that we no longer need sales process (untrue), a consultative approach to selling is dead (untrue), and all sales forces need to be completely restructured (generally untrue).  That's just today!  And in the past 2 months, I have read that salespeople are now obsolete (untrue), prospects have completed 57% of their buying process before they meet with salespeople (the number is inaccurate) and people are no longer buying value (untrue).

There is no science backing up these claims, just a group of inbound marketers and an inside sales industry trying to convince you that sales today is is only about inbound and inside.  It is true that low-price, low-cost, high-demand commodities that everyone wants - think B2C and subscriptions - are being sold almost exclusively via online marketing. But even some of those companies, like Hubspot, the King of Inbound, have large inside sales forces following a structured sales process and taking a consultative approach.

I've said this before, but it should be repeated.  If you are not the price leader, market leader, or brand leader;  if you have a new product, new technology, or a story to tell; if you have a long sales cycle, provide custom products, or have a design cycle; or if you are the underdog; you need salespeople, you need a custom, formal, structured, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process, a consultative approach and skills that salespeople who came 10 years before you didn't have.  It's a fact.  And you can't let Inbound Marketers, Social Sellers or Inside Sales gurus tell you otherwise.  Don't get me wrong.  There is a place for inbound, social selling and inside sales in all of these companies.  They are complimentary pieces, not replacements.  After all, you wouldn't replace a Quarterback with a Kicker - the Kicker is an important complimentary piece to a football team.  

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales candidates, inside sales, inbound, sales hiring test, social selling, objective management group

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About Dave

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

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