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

New: The 21 Sales Core Competencies for 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 27, 2020 @ 16:09 PM

Had an update lately?

I get an Office 365 update on Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote at least every week.  Yawn.  It seems half of them are to fix something that broke in the previous release.

Apple updates the operating systems of their various devices on a fairly regular basis.  The software for my Apple watch was updated twice in the past month.  IOS, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad was just updated as was the software for AppleTV.  OS x, the operating system for the Mac, was recently updated.  Most of these updates occur automatically and without fanfare but when an update advances to the next number - from 13.62 to 14.0 - it's a big deal and means significant updates to features, stability, security and usability are included.

Such is the case with Objective Management Group.  Like Apple, OMG updates its assessments on a non-stop basis but rolls out significant updates a couple of times per year.  Last week OMG introduced the latest revision to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There are thirty competencies in all, each with between six and twelve attributes but some are more important than others and OMG measures twenty-one of them in the following three categories:

  1. Will to Sell includes 5 sales competencies that differentiate between whether a salesperson CAN sell, versus whether they WILL sell. 
  2. Sales DNA includes 6 competencies which, when appearing as strengths, support a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.  However, when these competencies appear as weakness, they sabotage a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.
  3. Tactical Selling has 10 sales competencies that show the degree to which a salesperson has developed the required skills to effectively sell in today's ever-changing world of selling.

OMG's latest release includes several changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There is a new competency called Sales Technology which wraps three sales competencies into one:

  1. Video Proficient is a brand new competency that looks at a salesperson's use of video platforms, how well they have learned those platforms, and to what degree they have embraced video for virtual selling.
  2. CRM Savvy was previously included in the 21 sales competencies before being rolled into Sales Technology.
  3. Mastery of Social Selling was also included in the 21 sales competencies prior to being rolled into Sales Technology.

Sales Technology is a great example of how quickly OMG moves to not only remain current as selling evolves, but to lead the way and standardize the competencies which experts in the sales development space view as core to success.

OMG has had a finding called Reaches Decision Makers since 1990 and in recent years it became a full-blown competency that included eight attributes.  In the latest update, OMG moves Reaches Decision Makers into the primary group of 21 because our research shows that salespeople are 900% less likely to move the opportunity to closable if they are not talking directly with the actual decision maker. 

There is a very good reason that OMG has been named the Top Sales Assessment Tool in the World for nine consecutive years.  It is not only extremely accurate, it is also incredibly predictive and insightful. In the screen shot below, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as some of the other competencies OMG measures and reports on, as shown on the coaching dashboard of a sales evaluation.

Personality assessments (like Caliper) and behavioral styles assessments (like DiSC) ask their questions in a social context, measure personality traits and behavioral styles and then ADAPT (GUESS) those findings for sales.  This is crucial for understanding the differences!  OMG asks all of its questions in the context of sales, measures actual sales knowledge and capabilities in the context of the sales competencies above, and ACCURATELY REPORTS on those sales competency scores.

You can view and filter by industry some of OMG's data in 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your salespeople compare by clicking here.  You can check out OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Personality Tests, caliper, sales test, selling value, DISC

Most Companies Can Boost Sales From 30-100% in Just One to Two Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2020 @ 18:09 PM

maserati

Your teenage daughter, growing 4-6 inches per year, asks for two new pairs of sneakers.  She's already outgrowing 3 pairs each year and these two, which are completely unnecessary, would keep her in fashionable footwear for only a few months.  It would make total sense for you to say, "Let's wait a few months until you've stopped growing so fast."

An employee asks for a new car, believing that an SUV crossover (not the Maserati in the picture!) would be more practical than a mid-size sedan.  There are 8 months left on the lease so it would be completely reasonable for you to say, "Sounds good.  Let's make that change when the lease comes to an end in 8 months."

In both 2012 and 2016, companies everywhere were telling salespeople, "We're going to wait until after the election."  There was tremendous uncertainty surrounding those two elections and companies didn't want to commit to anything until they were sure who the next President of the USA would be.

Surprisingly, in the year of the pandemic, salespeople are not hearing the dreaded, "We're going to wait until after the election."   Despite the polling, pandemic, and incredible divisiveness, companies are not pushing the pause button.  But why?

It's not because salespeople have become so strong that they have obliterated that put-off!  89% of all salespeople accept stalls and put-offs and that's changed by only a quarter of a percent since before the start of the pandemic.  That's right.  There has barely been a change in salespeople's ability to overcome stalls and put-offs since before the pandemic.  Ugh.

Biden has promised to raise both the corporate income tax and the capital gains tax if he gets elected so it can't be fear of that.  

It's not because there's a vaccine on the way which will help stop the spread of the virus because when it comes to Covid-19, nothing is certain.

So what is it?

Many companies already experienced at least 3 to 6 months of uncertainty and they can not withstand even 2 more months of that.   As a result, companies are investing, streamlining, expanding, hiring and going all in to save their 2020s, and position their companies for historical growth in 2021.

As I review what our clients are hearing, what OMG's partners are sharing, and adding my own anecdotal experience, there has never been a better time to sell!

But seller beware. Favorable conditions do not equate to easy selling.  There is tremendous pressure on margins, competition is fierce, and the selling challenges are more difficult than ever before.

Current conditions require resistance proof sellers however only 54% of all salespeople fit that description and that's improved by only 1% since the start of the Pandemic.  Current conditions require salespeople to take a much more consultative approach and sell value.  Unfortunately, only 12% of all salespeople have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength and only 30% have the Value Seller competency as a strength.  Among the weakest of all salespeople - that's half the sales population - the percentages drop to 2% and 7% respectively.  As we begin to purge the virus, how can companies surge when half of their salespeople suck at selling?

Companies don't really look as I just described them.  We don't see many companies where half the people in the sales organization suck.  In many of the companies whose sales organizations we evaluate, most of the salespeople suck!

You don't think that applies to your company but you aren't really sure whether a quarter, a third, half, or all of your sales force sucks because some of your people sell more than others.  Don't be misled by distribution of revenue.  Keep in mind that distribution of revenue usually has more to do with quality of the territory, number of established accounts, size of the established accounts, length of time in the industry, repeat business and call-in business than sales capabilities.  There are only two ways to compare the relative sales capabilities of your salespeople:

  1. Have every salesperson look for new customers under the exact same conditions (calling on the same size accounts in the same vertical against the same competition in the same territory)
  2. Have us evaluate your sales force and from the more than 180 findings and 21 Sales Core Competencies, compare Sales Percentile scores.

The ability to compare the sales percentile scores of your salespeople is not the ideal reason to evaluate your sales force.  But identifying where your challenges lie and learning what it will take to significantly increase sales is. Large and small companies alike that evaluate their sales teams learn that with targeted training and coaching in the areas identified, sales increases of between 30-50% within one to two years are very achievable. Some companies are able to double sales in the same period of time.

This is not the time to purposefully do nothing, wait and see, or worse, hope for the best.  Improving sales effectiveness has a greater impact on your top and bottom lines than any other thing you can do, including cost-cutting, operational efficiencies and lay-offs.

When it comes to sales transformation, you don't say, "let's wait until things get better" because sales transformation is the very thing that makes things better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, objections, sales statistics, election, selling value

FDR and Sir Isaac Newton on Why Salespeople Fail

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 25, 2020 @ 07:08 AM

fire

There we were, in the dark, in the middle of a hotel parking lot, at 3:45 AM.  Why?  The hotel fire alarm went off and we didn't want to ignore the warning that was so loud my wife and I couldn't hear each other speak.  Why was every other guest in the hotel parking lot with us?  Well, what if the hotel was on fire?  What if our lives were truly in danger?  

Unlike the made up fears that prevent salespeople from asking tough questions, qualifying more thoroughly, or picking up the phone and making a cold call, the fear of burning alive in a hotel fire seemed like a pretty justifiable one.

What are salespeople so fearful of?  Rejection?  Not being liked?  Not getting a meeting?  Not closing a sale?  Oh yes, incredibly scary.  If I had those fears I might not want to leave the house.  Oh wait, most salespeople aren't leaving their houses.  Is it because they're afraid of the virus?  No.  It's more likely that they're home because their companies have asked them to work remotely.  But make no mistake.  Even if they won't admit to it they are afraid of the things I wrote a few sentences back. And today, more than ever, they are loving their convenient excuses for hiding behind their laptop screens, churning out emails instead of making phone calls, and hoping that as Ray Kinsella's daughter, from Field of Dreams said, "People will come."

Why are these imagined fears so debilitating? 

Because we allow them to be.

I'm guilty of having debilitating, imagined fears.  When my son got his driver's license, my wife and I worried endlessly. Where is he? Do you think he's OK? Could he have gotten in an accident? Do you think he is paying attention? I hope he's not playing his music too loud. Could his friends be distracting him? Why isn't he home yet?  Did I ask, "Where is he?"

Turning back to salespeople, suppose the things they worry about were to actually happen?  Who would care?  How would life change?  The only ramification would be their inadequate pipelines.  The only ripple effect would be in the size of their commission checks. Their inaction is the only thing that can hurt them.  Remaining in their comfort zone hurts them.  Failing to change hurts them. 

In his 1933 inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." 

Sir Isaac Newton's third law of Physics states that for every action there is an opposite reaction.  What would the opposite reaction be to the action of not taking action? 

NOT taking action, and that includes not asking the tough question, IS an action against your pipeline, your income and your success. 

NOT taking action due to fear IS an action against your self-worth. 

NOT taking action, whether due to laziness or complacency, IS an action against what your company and your customer expect and deserve from you.

I'm sounding the alarm.  This is why salespeople fail.

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, closing, prospecting, sales fears, fear of rejection

15 Things Salespeople Must Do to Make up for a Lackluster 2nd Quarter

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

risk

Last week we moved our son into his dorm to begin his freshman year of college. The college President's opening remarks were virtual, so we joined the Zoom stream from our hotel room and listened in.  He had some really useful things to share with the new freshmen and while his thoughts were targeted to the students, they apply quite equally to salespeople.

Among the points he made, these seemed to be just as applicable to salespeople:

  • Show up
  • Do the Work
  • Try approaches that you haven't previously attempted
  • You will be uncomfortable but do it anyway
  • Ask for help
  • Ask lots of questions
  • The effort is even more important than the results
  • You will be pushed
  • Push yourself
  • Take responsibility
  • Show tolerance of people whose beliefs and opinions are different than yours
  • Wear your mask and socially distance

Translating his hopes and expectations to sales, here are 15 things salespeople could do that they may not have been doing, comfortable with or effective:

  • Proactively prospect - push yourself - 34% of salespeople do not prospect consistently
  • Live in CRM - be considerate of those in management who need to see what's in there in real time - 90% of salespeople do not live in their CRM applications
  • Fill the pipeline - the more that's in there the more will close - only 35% of salespeople maintain a full pipeline
  • Follow the sales process - it's there for a reason - only 30% of salespeople have and follow a sales process
  • Be more consultative, listen more and ask more good, tough, timely, effective questions - this is how you differentiate - - only 27% of salespeople listen and only 25% ask enough questions
  • Thoroughly qualify - stop wasting your time - only 30% of all salespeople do this
  • Work harder to build solid relationships - get past rapport and be authentic - Only 52% of salespeople succeed at this
  • Learn your video platform inside and out - stop being so ignorant - only 30% have done this
  • Attempt to schedule all of your sales calls virtually over video - what are you waiting for?  Only 49% prefer video to phones
  • Have a more tidy and professional background or use a non-distracting virtual background for virtual selling - get with the program - 40% are using virtual backgrounds
  • Take an interest and show that you care - don't be so transactional 
  • Be a problem solver - not a presenter
  • Stop focusing on price and sell value - it's time - Only 40% are strong at selling value
  • Stop giving yourself a pass because you aren't comfortable - suck it up.

Baseball, basketball and hockey recently restarted  - with changes.  The changes affect the players, coaches and fans but that's the way it is right now.

We must adapt! 

You might feel that there is risk associated with doing something you haven't done before.  None of these things will get you killed or even hurt, so unless you believe there is risk in having better quality sales conversations with your prospects, there isn't any risk.

There should be a greater urgency to get our products and services sold to make up for the lackluster second quarter that many companies experienced.  There should be even more urgency to make up for the personal dip in commissions from the same time period.  And if you took your foot off the gas during March through May because you were uncomfortable asking people to buy and pay then you have only 4 months to make up for your self-inflicted second quarter disaster.

Take responsibility.  

Show the world what you are capable of, stretch, do the one thing you've never done before in sales, and start right now!

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, Relationship Selling, selling value

How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Thoughts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 06, 2020 @ 15:07 PM

baseball flag

During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.

I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles.   The five topics I have written most about are:

    1. The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.  
    2. Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized 
    3. Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach 
    4. Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue 
    5. Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales 

Baseball?  There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one.  My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level.  During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.

My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery.  While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite. 

As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments.  This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.

That brought me to memorable salespeople.  While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses.  After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable?  I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business.  Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling.  There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable.  In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business.  They were indispensable salespeople

Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend.  Baseball is back!  Sort of.  Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound.  They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach.  Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop.  But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy.  The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading.  That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.  

While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales.  How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify.  That.Will.Not.Change.  You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you.  That.Will.Not.Change.  However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed: 

  • Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
  • The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
  • Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
  • Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
  • Video Conferencing like Zoom.
  • File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
  • Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
  • Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
  • Organizational tools like ToDo.
  • Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
  • If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.

These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier.  None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done.  For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign.  This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts.  But you still have to do the selling!

I've been in the sales development space since 1985.  I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales.  From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet.  As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points!  You can see some of that data here.  

Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball.  You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson.  While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson.  Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know.  Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee.  They progress from there.

Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson.  The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, crm, Baseball, membrain, mastery

10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 @ 12:04 PM

past or present

It's April 17 and nearly every salesperson is selling from home.  It's just temporary, right?

Maybe.  But what if it's not? According to the President, Vice-President, Scientists and some Governors, the economy will begin reopening in stages, perhaps as soon as May 1.  So it's back to the office and your territories, right?  Wrong.  You'll still be home.  Welcome to the future of selling where I'll share my top five reasons why.

Reason #1 - School: Your kids are still home from school, they probably won't be back this spring, they probably won't be going to summer camp, and may not even be at school in September.  And if they're home, then your salespeople are home too.

Reason #2 - Efficiency: Once your salespeople have begun to sell not only remotely, but virtually via video conferencing, you'll quickly realize that they can meet with 6-8 prospects and/or accounts per day, compared with 2-3 when they're traveling in a territory.  Think about how much more business they can generate and how many more touches your customers will get from your salespeople?

Reason #3 - Cost: Depending upon your business model, the cost of cars, gas and maintenance, parking, airfare and hotel, meals and entertainment can be drastically reduced or even eliminated when your salespeople are selling virtually. 

Reason #4 - Coverage: Many companies don't have enough coverage to blanket the entire region, country, or continent.  Their customers are spread out so they deploy salespeople where most of their customers are.  With virtual selling, your salespeople can reach every customer that's out there.

Reason #5 - CRM Compliance:  Your salespeople have great excuses for not keeping their CRM up-to-date.  They were "traveling", "on the road", "away from their computers", "unable to get to it", or they forgot.  But when they are selling via the very same piece of hardware that their CRM is in, there are no longer any excuses for lack of compliance.  It will finally be time for them to live in CRM and you'll finally have the visibility into real-time data that you wanted when you invested in your CRM platform.

Although those five reasons as to why selling from home will become the new normal, you should be forewarned.  Selling from home is not without its challenges.  Three primary challenges will make selling from home difficult:

Challenge #1 - Only 41% of all salespeople are well-suited for working from home.  This speaks to whether they are self-starters, can work independently from a team, and can work without supervision.

Challenge #2 - Sales Managers will need to coach more, not less, increasing the time they spend on coaching to as much as 75%.  Unfortunately, most don't spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Sales Managers will need to huddle with their team twice per day despite the fact that most haven't even begun leading daily huddles yet.  Only 7% of all sales managers have the coaching skills required to coach up a remote team.

Challenge #3 - The new world of selling will appear very much like it appears today, only everyone will get better at it.  They must!  Selling has been pretty easy the past three years and despite that, fewer than half of all salespeople were meeting or exceeding quota.  It won't become easy again for a quite a while.  Companies will either be on spending freezes, have money but not want to spend it on what you're selling, or if they are buying, will demand that you sell it for less than ever before.  All this at a time when it's more important than ever that you maintain your margins.  This will require your salespeople to master three competencies that most salespeople aren't very good at:

Competency #1 - Consultative Selling - only 15% of all salespeople effectively differentiate by listening and asking great questions

Competency #2 - Value Selling - only 41% of all salespeople have the ability to be the value

Competency #3 - Qualifying - only 31% of all salespeople can thoroughly qualify an opportunity

Good luck!

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, qualifying, value selling,, selling remotely, selling from home, selling virtually, video conferencing

Companies Surprised by Unexpected Remote Selling Challenges

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 09, 2020 @ 17:04 PM

roller-coaster

Forget Consultative Selling, Value Selling and Sales Process - the things I talk about most often.  The inability to sell that way is nothing - and I mean nothing compared with what I'm going to explain today!

For most salespeople and companies, the last three weeks has been an absolute roller coaster. Most companies expect their sales teams to be not only active, but proactive; to replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings; and to continue pipeline building so that there is business to close when we return to work.  But is that what's happening?  In today's article, I'll blend my usual mix of statistics with some personal observation from the clients I have been helping for the past three weeks.  I also included three videos that I extracted from a sales training session earlier this week.  You'll be surprised!

Yesterday, in a previously scheduled virtual training program to a global seller of test equipment, I learned that they weren't handling the "new" objections (we're not meeting with anyone now; we're not spending any money now) in a way that was consistent with how I trained them to handle objections just one month ago!  This helpful one-minute video about handling these objections was extracted from the training.

 

I was further surprised when I asked them if they had moved their face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.  Only 3 of their 18 salespeople were doing that!  This two-minute rant about their lack of virtual meetings was also extracted from that training.

 

I was surprised again when I asked if they were making outgoing calls and building pipeline on deals they couldn't close today.  Less than a third of them were doing so.  My final three-minute rant, extracted from that training, is about their lack of proactive calling.

 

Should I have been surprised?  Upset?

Kurlan & Associates had Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluate this company's sales force last summer and the following bullet points are among the things we learned about their sales team that are still very relevant today:

  • Their regional sales managers weren't coaching - ever.
  • Their sales managers weren't holding their salespeople accountable and  83% of their salespeople were making excuses.
  • 75% of their salespeople weren't motivated and 84% weren't goal orientated.
  • Nearly half of their salespeople are fishermen (they won't hunt but they'll follow up on an inbound lead), half were potential hunters (they would hunt if someone required them to but as I mentioned above, the sales managers aren't holding them accountable) and only one - one! was a pure hunter.
  • 75% of their salespeople had Closing as a weakness and their average score in the Closing competency was only 28!
  • Eleven out of twelve salespeople lacked commitment to achieve greater sales success
  • Half of their sales force was in the bottom 35 percentile of all salespeople
  • Only half of their salespeople were well-suited for working remotely.

Remember, these factors were discovered last summer and are still impacting their ability to get anything productive accomplished today.  In addition to these issues, they scored poorly in 9 selling Competencies other than Closing, 6 Sales DNA Competencies and 2 Will to Sell Competencies other than Commitment, Excuse Making and Motivation.  Click here if you want to see what the average scores are for nearly 2 million salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures, what they are in your industry, and what they are in your company.

Go back and review the last bullet point - suitable for working remotely.  In the old days - February 2020 - this finding only applied to salespeople who were covering a territory remotely from home office, and who worked for sales managers that didn't closely manage them.  Today it applies to every sales person on the planet that is not being closely managed by a sales manager.  With existing salespeople it's nice to know.  When you're hiring new remote salespeople, it's an important criteria of the recommendation to hire.  Under today's conditions, it could be the most important factor aside from selling capabilities.  Three of the key attributes of working remotely are:

  • Self-Starter
  • Works independently
  • Works without supervision

I looked at the data on the most recent 61,000 employed salespeople that OMG evaluated and found that only 41% overall were suitable for working remotely. 

Sales Percentile Percent Suitable
for Remote Selling
Elite (Top 5%) 67%
Strong (Next 15%) 61%
Serviceable 51%
Weak (Bottom 50%) 33%

As you can see in the table above, even a third of the best salespeople in the world aren't suitable for working remotely!  How will the bottom half perform?  And when two thirds of the bottom half can't effectively work from their homes, and most industrial salespeople fall into the bottom half, they're kind of screwed!

You can't make a salesperson who is not well-suited for working remotely suddenly suitable.  But as with the Pandemic, you can mitigate.  Have a conversation over video three times per day instead of once per week!

These times are different enough.  You shouldn't have any use for a salesperson who won't double down, work twice as hard, and find business wherever they can right now.  

Comments?  Leave them here on the LinkedIn discussion.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, overcoming objections, delayed closings, remote selling

Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 @ 23:03 PM

recession-1

Given the current circumstances - a Global Pandemic and an economy where so many industries have been shut down or compromised - selling value will be more important than ever.  

The result of selling value is that you are able to win the business despite not having the best price. But when we talk about selling value, what does it really mean?

One sales expert who reached out to me last week was worried that when we are focusing on the Value Selling Competency, uninformed salespeople interpret that as an invitation to present the company's value proposition.  They see it as an opportunity to show and tell and talk about capabilities.  He's right.  Most salespeople will seize on an opportunity to share what they know because it is so much easier than asking lots of tough, timely questions.  Let's take a look at the science.  

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated or assessed 1,961,459 salespeople.  In the table below, you can see the percentage of salespeople who are strong in 3 Sales Core Competencies, as well as Sales DNA (average score of the 6 competencies that make up Sales DNA).  All of these impact one's ability to Sell Value and are presented below sorted by various groups of salespeople. 

Group

Selling
Value

Sales
Process
Consultative
Selling
Sales DNA
All Salespeople 41% 45% 15% 28%
Top 5% of All Salespeople 97% 85% 60% 100%
Less Than 2 Years Experience 6% 29% 6% 11%
More Than 10 Years Experience 53% 53% 20% 37%
Bottom 50% of All Salespeople 11% 27% 3% 1%

This isn't a pretty picture because it basically shows that except for the top 5%, most salespeople suck at selling value.

There are four reasons for this:

  • They aren't following or using a sales process that supports Value Selling - only 45% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.
  • They aren't using a consultative approach and value selling won't work without one - only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.
  • Their Sales DNA doesn't support consultative or value selling - only 28% of all salespeople have Sales DNA as a strength
  • The company hasn't been decisive about not discounting - it sends conflicting messages.

You can't really get salespeople to properly and effectively sell value until they have been trained on sales process, consultative selling and been coached up on Sales DNA.

Circling back to the sales consultant who reached out last week, I suggested that selling value uses a consultative approach where:

  • The consequences of the problem are monetized or quantified and the solution is a fraction of the cost.
  • The salesperson, as a result of their care, concern and expertise, becomes the value.
  • The salesperson is valued as a trusted advisor compared to competitors who are mostly viewed as vendors.

Selling value will help your company navigate the economic ripple effect from the Coronavirus.  You'll not only continue to generate revenue,  you'll be able to maintain your margins too.

I've referenced only 3 (plus Sales DNA) of the 21 Sales Core Competencies in this article.  You can view the data on all 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your sales team compares here.

Comments?  Leave them in the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales force evaluation, selling in the recession, coronavirus

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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 eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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