Is Your Sales Force More Like a Dunkin', Starbucks or Panera Drive Thru?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 21, 2020 @ 06:01 AM

starbucks

On a frigid New England morning, I pulled into a Dunkin' drive thru and noticed that there were only ten cars ahead of me and that meant that it shouldn't take more than five minutes to get through the fast-moving line.  Contrast that to the Starbucks drive thru.  There were five cars ahead of me and that could take from ten to fifteen minutes because of how long it takes to prepare beverages at Starbucks.  That ten to fifteen minutes is a freakin' dream come true compared to Panera Bread.  I don't know if you have Panera Bread where you are but I love the food at Panera.  However, if there was ever a restaurant chain that shouldn't have a drive thru window, Panera, at least the one in my town, fits the bill.  When I pull into the Panera line, I see that there are two cars ahead of me and I know for certain that it's going to take twenty minutes to get through their line.  At lunch time I order ahead using their app but on that cold New England morning I'm not getting out of the car so I'm going to live or die by the drive thru.  Yet despite the intolerable wait times and ridiculously bad customer service, I return time and time again.  All it takes is to reset my expectations so that I no longer get upset with the twenty-minute wait.

This all begs the question, is the sales force at your company more like the Dunkin', Starbucks, or Panera drive-thru?  Today's article will explain how to answer that question.

If your sales force meets or exceeds budget and the revenue flows through the pipeline easily and consistently, then you have a Dunkin'-like sales force.  It only seems to take a couple of people to make a Dunkin' line zip right along so your sales force is mean and lean and gets the job done.

If your sales force meets budget, but it takes a lot of hand-holding, pressure, accountability, hard work and additional reps to do it, you have a Starbucks-like sales force.  It seems to take at least four baristas to move a Starbucks line along but they make it happen.

If you have to lower your expectations, and the sales force still fails to meet budget, then you have a Panera-like sales force.  You don't have enough reps, those you do have under-perform, most projected closes are delayed, and your win rate is very low.  It seems that Panera has a single employee taking drive thru orders, making the food, packaging the order, collecting the money and handing over the order before miserably taking the next order.

The reality is that those three drive thru lines perfectly describe most sales forces.  

Do you remember the old ads for the car rental companies?  Hertz advertised that "We're number one."  Avis marketed that because they were number two, "We try harder."

I would say the same is true for the Starbucks-like sales force.  While Dunkin' is like the Apple sales force selling iPhones, with people waiting in line to place their orders, the Starbucks-like sales force tries harder.  They have to work for every order and since their products are more expensive, they must utilize the more difficult consultative approach, and sell value to generate revenue.

Consultative selling is more difficult because it depends on the two skills that most salespeople have not come close to mastering; listening and questioning.

As you can see below from ten of the twenty-one selling competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) measures, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  Only the Closing competency has a smaller percentage of salespeople who are strong in the competency.  And this isn't from some small sample size.  This is data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,937,474

selling-competencies-1

Let's drill down into a few of the ten attributes of the Consultative Seller competency.  We find that only:

  • 27% of salespeople have listening skills as a strength
  • 24% have Asks Enough Questions as a strength
  • 41% have Asks Good Questions as a strength.

It's pretty ugly.

The Starbucks-like sales force has mastered the consultative approach but most sales forces have not.  What does it take to move from "have not" to "have mastered?"

Lots and lots of training and coaching on consultative selling in the context of a consultative sales process.  And you should have your sales force evaluated by an OMG-Certified sales expert to properly set expectations as to how long it will take, who can improve, how much improvement to expect, and how much more revenue you should expect.  And that's just on the Consultative competency.  You should want to know that about all twenty-one sales core competencies!

Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales, sales process, sales leadership, panera, dunkin, starbucks

The Most Successful Negotiation is The Negotiation That Isn't Needed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 09, 2019 @ 05:12 AM

driving-in-the-snow

The last few years it seems that each time it snows, even a little, they cancel school.  Are school officials convinced that parents and bus drivers will put kids' safety in jeopardy because snow is falling?  They weren't worried about such things when I was growing up  and back then, we didn't have cell-phones, all-wheel drive, anti-lock breaks, traction control, all-weather radials, blind spot warning, collision warning or lane assist!  Winter drivers are better equipped to deal with snow than at any time in history so cancelling school every time it snows doesn't make any sense.

Another thing that doesn't make any sense is the "Negotiate" step I see in the sales processes of most companies.  Why is it there?  Why are we negotiating?  What are we negotiating? How are we negotiating?  The only thing that's clear is when we are negotiating and apparently, it occurs just prior to closing.  Like cancelling school when it snows, it doesn't make any sense.

If we begin with the concept of why we are negotiating, it might answer the what and how questions too. If our salespeople are thoroughly qualifying, and they get their prospects to agree to share their budget, agree to a dollar amount or range, or better yet, that they'll spend more to do business with us, we should never have to negotiate prices, fees or cost.  Is that step in most sales processes?  It sure as sh*t should be!

So if we shouldn't be negotiating the price, are we negotiating terms?  In my experience, when salespeople qualifying properly, only terms need to sometimes be negotiated.  In the normal world, sellers set their terms; not buyers.  But in Bizarro sales world buyers (at most big companies) try to bully sellers into agreeing to their ridiculous terms. 

This week, one company said that their terms are Net 75.  I said, "I'm sorry, but we can't solve your problem and be your bank.  Our terms are due on receipt of invoice and it's non-negotiable." 

They said, "Oh, OK."

I could have said, "If you can get us 50% on receipt of invoice, we'll let you pay the balance net 30.  Would that have been a negotiation?  Of course it would.  But it would be the exception, not the rule, and it wouldn't require a negotiation step in the sales process!

The existence of a step in the sales process requires that we must always execute this step.  The belief that we must negotiate price, terms, deliverables or anything else puts salespeople in a situation where they are expected to sacrifice profitability.  And companies wonder why their margins are being squeezed.

According to data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments of 1,925,985 salespeople, only 13% of all salespeople have the Negotiator competency as a strength. Only 13%!!  If you force your salespeople to negotiate, most of them will give away the farm!  OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and while the Negotiator competency isn't one of the 21, you can see the data on the 21 Sales Competencies and how you and your salespeople compare here,

Instead of negotiating, your salespeople should be mastering selling value.  Selling value completely neutralizes the need for negotiating and while fewer than 50% of all salespeople have the Value Seller competency as a strength, that's a lot better than the percentage of salespeople who can negotiate.

Stop telling your salespeople to negotiate and get them the training and coaching they need to effectively sell value.  The most successful negotiation is one that never occurs.

What do you think?  Leave your comments on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, negotiating, selling value

The Top 15 Sales and Sales Leadership Articles of 2019

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 04, 2019 @ 13:12 PM

best-of-2019

Just when it seems that I don't have any more articles to write, another year has passed and I've now surpassed 1,800 articles on my Blog.  As with any other year, some are really good and some aren't as good but I try to inject my style of using analogies because everywhere I look I see a correlation to sales and sales leadership.

For example, as I look out the window, Dinger, our Golden Doodle, is trying to find a good place to do his business in the snow.  He picks a spot, rejects it, chooses another, rejects it, and circles around and gets distracted, and asks to come back inside without having done what he went out there to do.

To me, that sounds like a lot of salespeople!  They sit at their desk, open their list of prospects, come up with reasons not to call or follow up, finally choose a prospect they feel good about calling, get distracted by an incoming email, get a cup of coffee, go back to the computer, choose another contact, get distracted again, this time by social media, and leave for lunch without having done what they were supposed to do.

After reviewing the 50 or so 2019 articles, I have chosen the top 10 articles based on views, comments here and comments and likes on LinkedIn and Twitter..  Most of these articles rely on statistics from Objective Management Group and/or correlate to strong analogies.  Enjoy!

10 Most Popular Articles (Views, Comments and Likes)

1. The 14 Lies Preventing Salespeople from Getting Their Prospects into a Buying State of Mind

2. Change in Approach Leads to 304% Increase in Sales Effectiveness

3. The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

4. How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness

5. The Best Salespeople are 2733% More Likely to Have This Than the Worst Salespeople

6. How All Those Trucks ion the Road Can Help You Stop Discounting

7. New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

8. Sales Process and Why So Many Salespeople Lose Their Way

9. How to Transform Your Sales Pipeline Today

10. The Best Salespeople are 791% Better at This Than Weak Salespeople

The Red Sox are my favorite baseball team but they didn't make the playoffs this year.  It doesn't always work out that my favorite teams are champions!  Similarly, five of my favorite articles from 2019 failed to make it into this year's top 10.  

My Favorites from 2019

1. The New Salesenomics

2. Did You Know That the Beatles Taught us about Selling

3. Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

4. A Tale of Three Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

5. New Data Reveals a Powerful New Score for Sales Effectiveness 

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, sales performance, sales effectivnes

New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

current

Fish, rafts, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and swimmers all find much more success when they are moving with the wind or the current rather than going against it.

Unfortunately, the same isn't necessarily true in sales.

Most salespeople who are struggling with large companies and all of the meetings, procedures, stakeholders, vendor options and criteria, find it easier to just go with the flow - the current - and wait and see how it all shakes out.  Following the "current" results in a future outcome rather than a "current" outcome.  In other words, current = future.

On the other hand, when salespeople are confident enough to ask questions, challenge their process, and nicely push back, they will not only differentiate themselves from their competition,  they might be able to disrupt the current, move themselves to the top of the list, and get a current outcome instead of a future outcome.  In other words, anti-current=current.

There are three keys to succeed with this approach.

The first key to having success with this approach is whether or not you need to be liked.  This is not about whether you can get people to like you.  This is about whether you NEED people to like you.  They are two completely different things and NEEDING people to like you is a huge barrier to disrupting the flow. 

Consider that 79% of the top 10% of all salespeople DO NOT need to be liked, while only 8% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength.  

The second key to having success with this approach is whether or not you can stay in the moment.  The opposite of being able to stay in the moment is when you talk to yourself, worry, get excited, or strategize on the fly. 

66% of the top 10% of all salespeople are able to stay in the moment while only 10% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength. 

The third key to having success with this approach is whether or not you understand and agree with their buying process.  68% of the top 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process and therefore, don't understand why the prospect needs to comparison shop, look for a better price or think it over.  By contrast, only 2% of the bottom 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process as a strength.  

When we take the average of these three elements of Sales DNA, 71% of the top salespeople have these strengths and only 2.5% of the worst salespeople have these strengths. These three are huge differentiators between studs and duds! Top salespeople are twenty-eight times more likely to disrupt the flow and get a current outcome.

Those elements of Sales DNA are just three out of a total of twenty-one Sales Competencies that are measured by Objective Management Group. You can see them graphed here.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, objective management group

Using the Most Powerful Sales Tool to Get What You Want

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 16, 2019 @ 06:09 AM

blacklist

My wife and I have been binge watching a TV series called Blacklist which rivals 24 for its drama and intensity.  James Spader stars as international bad-guy Ray Reddington.  He's on the top of the FBI's most-wanted list but works with the agency to help them track down bad-guys that are as bad as he is.  Somehow, he gets the FBI to help him get what he wants and he gets the bad guys to give him what he wants from them.  Everybody gets what they want because he is so good at using leverage.

Leverage is the most powerful tool in your sales tool box because with leverage comes urgency and after you have urgency your prospect will qualify so easily you won't believe it.  They'll ask, "What do you need from me?"

That brings me to a recent LinkedIn post by Andy Paul.  I've never disagreed with anything Andy wrote before but this one is just plain wrong.  He wrote that you should talk about money up front.  Read his post here

The problem with qualifying up front for money is that you haven't yet built a case.  It's like walking into a doctor's office and when you sit in her chair the first thing she says to you is, "You're going to need surgery and it will cost $25,000."  Talk about getting your resistance up!  On the other hand, if you told her that something hurts, and she does a complete examination, blood tests, and x-rays and then says, "You're dying but surgery will save your life and it will cost $50,000, you'll say, "When should I be here?"

Want proof?  The top 10% of all salespeople take a consultative approach, sell value and then qualify in that order.  Those who talk about money up front all fall into the bottom 10% of all salespeople.  They are the sucky ones!  You can check out the stats here.

Building a case is important because it allows you to develop the leverage you need.  You develop leverage by uncovering compelling reasons to buy, learning about personal impact, and monetizing what you uncovered.  It isn't easy and it isn't for rookies.  But if you try to qualify for money up front, without having built your case, you'll have:

  • a transactional conversation instead of a consultative one
  • a resistant prospect instead of a cooperative one
  • left money on the table because you weren't able to sell value
  • lose more than you win
  • not differentiated yourself from the competition
  • fallen victim to taking the easy path which leads to difficult-to-get results instead of the hard path which leads to easy-to-get results

Nothing will get you what you want faster than having leverage.  Make sure you never forget that!

Share your comment on the LInkedIn discussion for this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, omg, building value, selling value

Change in Approach Leads to 304% Increase in Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 09, 2019 @ 06:09 AM

track

You're famished and someone suggests that you go on a 2-day fast!

You're late, it's a two-hour ride by car to your destination and someone suggests that you walk!

You're exhausted and ready for a nap and someone suggests you should clean out your basement!

You've decided to eat better and lay-off carbs, and someone suggests ordering pizza!

These are all crazy opposites of what you were focused on and they cause you to ask, "whaaat?"

So now you'll understand how I responded when, during a two-day training program, I was asked about messaging for a talk track.

A talk track?  Given that we are trying to get them to take a more consultative approach to selling, shouldn't we be working on a listening track?

Salespeople don't think in terms of listening.  They think like, "OK, I'll ask a few questions so that I can talk about what I know."  There it is - the talk track.  They think they can control the call when they're talking.  They can't.  They think they can lead and direct the prospect.  They can't.  They think that they're selling.  They aren't.

But a listening track - now we're (not) talking! Listening informs our next question.  Listening helps us direct the conversation with our next question.  Listening puts us in control because we're the one asking the questions!

My favorite video for the power of asking questions is this one from the comedian Louis CK.  [note - after 11, 271 views I received an email complaining about my use of a Louis CK video clip to illustrate the power of questions. Louis CK took advantage of women, admitted it and this reader was offended that I used his material.  For this I apologize.  I was not and am not condoning Louis CK's behavior.]

 

 

The top 10% of all salespeople are 304% more effective at listening and asking questions than the bottom 10%.  Good salespeople don't need talk tracks.  They use listening tracks to ask great questions.  

How do you get yourself to ask better and better questions?  Leave your comment in the LinkedIn discussion.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, Listening

How All Those Trucks on the Road Can Help You Stop Discounting

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 05, 2019 @ 06:08 AM

discount

We've been doing a lot of traveling this summer to baseball tournaments (30-second video showing how one playoff game ended), college baseball showcases and back. During these travels, one thing has become abundantly clear.  Trucks and construction.  Lots of trucks.  Lots of construction.  Lots of congestion on the roads because of all those tractor trailers. 

If you heard that inventory levels are low, it's certainly not because companies have stopped buying.  It's because the supply chain is busier and stronger than ever and as a result of all of the buying, our roadways are jammed with trucks shipping products to distributors, retailers, warehouses and fulfillment centers.  Don't believe a word of it when you hear an economy related objection or put-off.  Business isn't off, inventories aren't purposely low, money isn't tight, companies aren't on buying freezes, and the economy isn't tanking.  If you aren't reading or hearing how historically great the economy is right now, you're listening to, watching or reading the wrong news outlets. Business is booming and procurement departments would like nothing more than for you to buy into the fake news, hoping that your next move will be an incentive. 

I have an awful lot to say about incentives to buy! The occurrences are as predictable as the 6pm news beginning exactly at 6pm.  If you have opportunities in the pipeline during the last week of the month, the last week of the quarter and the last two weeks of the year, and your prospects showed a strong likelihood of moving forward, they'll be sitting back waiting for a call from a salesperson or sales manager to sweeten the pot so that you can get this deal in before the end of whenever.  How lame.  

Why do we need salespeople if their only method of getting business closed is to offer a time-sensitive discount? Nor do we need sales managers and sales leaders spending their time offering discounts.  Anyone, from any department, from any background, who is capable of having an adult conversation, is capable of making the, "Have I got a deal for you!" call.  Even worse is when it occurs via email.

The practice of end-of-month, quarter and year incentives must stop.  If salespeople aren't strong enough to sell and close the deal on its own merits, then companies should either hire stronger salespeople or train and coach up the existing salespeople so that they are providing much needed expertise and solutions, to prospects with problems who haven't been able to solve them on their own or with their current vendors.  This describes a consultative approach.  The timely discount is a transactional approach.

I know what you're thinking.  "We do take a consultative approach and when they don't buy at closing time it's then that we offer a discount."  That's actually quite transactional and you do that because your consultative approach is simply not consultative enough or not consultative at all.

Only 41% of all salespeople have consultative selling as a strength.  But it's worse than it looks.  Only 3% of the bottom half of all salespeople have strong consultative skills.  Just about half of all salespeople do not have the skills to take a consultative approach!

It's similar with selling value.  Only 41% of all salespeople have selling value as a strength and this is also worse than it looks as only 11% of the bottom 50% of salespeople have strong value selling skills.  Just about half of all salespeople do not have the skills to sell value!

If we look at the Sales DNA behind those two competencies, the bottom half have Sales DNA of only 28%!  That totally sucks.  Instead of having the selling strengths to support a consultative and value-based approach they have selling weaknesses that sabotage their attempts to sell that way.

The data isn't from some lame survey.  This is Objective Management Group (OMG) data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,885,255 salespeople from companies.  You can see the data for yourself and even see how you compare in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

All the blame for discounting does not fall on salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders.  CEO's must accept their share of the blame for setting precedent.  The sooner that CEO's shut the door on incentives, the sooner companies will stop suggesting that "we might be able to do better."  When salespeople give prospects some hope that they will be competitive, in the ballpark, meet or beat any legitimate quote, or might be able to do better, value selling goes right out the window and in the prospects' eyes, if you then can't meet those expectations you lied.  Only a CEO has the power to end that ill-advised strategy.

Join the discussion and leave your comments on the LinkedIn thread for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, closing, discounting, value selling,

How to Know if You Are You Really Selling Consultatively

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 03, 2019 @ 20:06 PM

consultative-2

Most of the CEOs and sales leaders I speak with agree that their sales organizations need to be more effective at taking a consultative approach to selling. At the same time, they insist that they talk about it often and that their salespeople are doing OK with a consultative approach.  OMG's Sales Force Evaluation usually reveals that they aren't doing much more than talking about it, as their scores for the Consultative Seller competency are quite low.

How can you determine if you or your team are being effective at using a consultative approach?  I created this list of outcomes that would be true if your consultative approach was working effectively.  You and/or your salespeople are :

  1. Having much better, very different conversations
  2. Experiencing prospects who are much more engaged
  3. Witnessing your prospects becoming emotional
  4. Watching prospects take shortcuts to give you their business
  5. Being thanked for your help by your prospects
  6. Realizing that price is no longer an issue
  7. Finding it easier to get and keep the decision maker engaged throughout the sales process
  8. Seeing your sales cycle becoming shorter
  9. Getting excited over higher win rates
  10. Finding your competition becoming irrelevant
  11. Bonus - Closing occurs naturally.

Speaking of closing, Graham Hawkins shared a post on LinkedIn which listed all of the known closing techniques. He noted that his close rate is through the roof and he doesn't need to use any of those closes any longer because when you are selling consultatively, the sales close themselves.

He is completely correct because the top 5% of all salespeople in the world have mediocre scores for closing (55%) and very strong scores for consultative selling (77%).  Looking at this data another way, only 24% of the top 5% are strong closers but 60% are strong at selling consultatively.

If you're truly selling consultatively, you won't have a problem with the buyer journey either.  Whether you call it the buyer journey or the buyer-seller journey, there are things you need to consider.  

The buyer journey is a slippery slope. The journey is completely separate from the sales process,   When salespeople align with the journey, they become facilitators, and when they facilitate, they are the same as everyone else and become commoditized.  When salespeople use a consultative sales process, the buyer journey is completely neutralized.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, buyer journey, win rates

The 14 Lies Preventing Salespeople From Getting Their Prospects into a Buying State of Mind

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 17, 2019 @ 13:05 PM

lies

Most lies are truths to the people who state them.  Take climate change for example.  Climate change is clearly a real thing. The planet has been warming exponentially since the ice age!  But to think that humans are responsible, that humans can stop it, or else we'll be dead in 12 years, seems ludicrous to me.  My statement is a lie to every reader that doesn't agree with it, but rings true to those who agree.   Lies are in the minds of the beholders.

Let's cover some of the lies being told to companies with sales organizations and how those lies prevent sales organizations from being their best.  Over the past 10-20 years, we have seen and heard the following proclamations (and you can find most of them with this Google search link:

Selling is dead.  Circa 2001. This is obviously false!  Currently in the US, there are around 4.5 million B2B salespeople and nearly 16 million salespeople overall and those numbers are growing.

Cold Calling is dead.  This lie was so freaking good that people actually believed it!  Why?  If they could justify not making cold calls anymore, then their lack of prospecting might not look so bad because, Didn't you hear?  Cold calling is dead, right?" Referrals and introductions are at the top of the food chain but a cold call is much more likely to convert to a meeting than a cold email or an inbound lead regardless of how many follow-ups are attempted.  More importantly, you'll experience far less competition for your prospect's attention by using the phone than if you use web-based cold approaches.

Inbound is King (so selling is dead).  False. How many years running did we hear this lie?  Hubspot, the Lion King of inbound, has a large sales force placing outbound calls to generate sales.  How's that for alive and well?

SPIN Selling is dead. False.  I first read this in 2008.  While it it is true that only the top 5% of all salespeople can execute SPIN, it's still being taught and it's still being (kind of) implemented and executed.  It's one of the oldest forms of consultative selling which, by all accounts, is supposed to be dead!

Solution Selling is dead. False.  I first read that Solution Selling was dead in 2007.  Most of the tech companies I have worked with, including now, in 2019, had been using some form of Solution Selling prior to my arrival so it's clearly not dead.  I believe that there is a fatal flaw within Solution Selling that makes the methodology far less effective and efficient than it could be (learn more here) and than others are, but it's far from dead.

Consultative Selling is dead.  False.  According to Objective Management Group (OMG) which has evaluated and assessed 1,861,244 salespeople from  companies in countries, 59% have not even begun to sell this way yet!  How can something that is still trending up be dead?

Sales Process is dead.  False.  See Consultative Selling is dead.  According to the same statistics, 52% of salespeople are not following a staged, milestone-based, customer-centric sales process.  This is a huge improvement from just 10 years ago when the percentage was only 9!  This too is trending up, not down, so not only is it not dead, but CRM without an integrated sales process is just a data warehouse.

Traditional Selling is dead.  False.  This one depends on how you define traditional selling.  If we define traditional as features and benefits selling (FAB), then it should be dead and buried and forgotten.  Unfortunately, it's far from dead because more than half of all salespeople - the weak half - are still selling this way.

The old way of selling is dead.  See Traditional Selling.

Relationship-building in sales is dead.  False.  In 2011, Harvard Business Review, the biggest publisher of junk sales science, declared Relationship Selling dead.  That alone should be reason enough to call it a fake news.  As a sales methodology, Relationship Selling prioritizes taking making friends and building a relationship over time because people buy from people they like. In the 60's and 70's, a good relationship was more than enough for people to justify buying from you. Today, not so much.  While people DO like to buy from people they like, the relationship is no longer the only criteria.  If you can help your prospect as well as anyone else, the relationship could be a difference maker but if you can't meet the other important criteria, your relationship won't help you.

Always-be-closing is dead.  This. Should. Be. Dead.  It fits right up there with traditional selling and FAB selling.  Of the salespeople that are selling this way, most are misinformed  and the rest are sales bullies.  It should be dead because it leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths and gives salespeople a bad reputation.

Social Selling is dead.  Already?  Talk about fads!  We've only been selling socially for several years so how can Social Selling die as quickly as Pokemon Go?  The reality is that Social Selling never existed in the first place.  Personal promotion?  Sure.  But selling?  Nobody sells anything over social networks.  Everything is marketing, advertising, blogging, tweeting, videos messages, connecting, and building networks and followers.  Sounds like PR and marketing to me.

Outbound is dead.  False.  See this article.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace salespeople.  False.  I'm sure you're getting the same cold emails as I do.  They all promise to grow your business, generate leads, make appointments, and if you don't respond to their first attempt, then several more emails will follow.  Each email is powered by AI.  Each email is worse than the one that preceded it and are so awful that I'm sure that the recipients hit the delete button faster than you can say thank you.  Further, AI will never be able to replicate a human having a deep, thoughtful conversation that helps a prospect become emotional.  Prospects buy emotionally.

For example, check out the following consultative questions I taught a sales team to use yesterday.  I used generic versions of the questions and hid the responses but you should be able to easily understand the flow.  Identify a business issue that you frequently uncover and use that as you convert the questions and answers to your business.

Salesperson:  So why do you need this?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson:  How were you handling that problem up until now?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson: How long has that been going on?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson:  If you've been doing it like that for all this time, why change now?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson: Tell me about the last time that happened.

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson:  How much it that cost when that happens?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson:  So over this period of time, what has the total cost been?

Prospect: Response.

Salesperson:  How does you that affect you?

Prospect: Response

Salesperson: How do you feel about that?

In each case, the salesperson can't ask the follow up question unless they get the appropriate response they are hoping for.  And as the questions become more emotional and more difficult, the tonality, pace and facial expressions must change along with it?  Can you imagine this type of exchange taking place over email driven by AI?  No. Freakin. Way.

All of the lies we are told create excuses for salespeople to not learn, embrace, practice and apply the most important aspects of successful selling.  The lies mask the best practices of great salespeople and great sales organizations because they suggest that there's an easier way to sell where you can hide behind your keyboard and monitor.  Well, I've got news for you.  There are no shortcuts, no easy paths, no magic pills, nothing but doing the hard work.  If it isn't challenging, and you aren't challenging yourself to improve, then AI will replace you.

Join the discussion and leave your comment at the LinkedIn post.

Image copyright iStock Photos

 

Topics: Consultative Selling, solution selling, Relationship Selling, inbound, SPIN Selling, outbound, AI

The Power of Smart Differentiation in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 @ 06:03 AM

AOC

In a previous article, I wrote about the one question that can help salespeople differentiate themselves from the competition.  On the heels of that article, one interesting theme from the emails I received was the importance of differentiation.  Some questioned whether I was exaggerating the importance of differentiation and I think that's a great topic for discussion!

In order to weigh the benefits, let's look at the current political landscape.  

Currently, there is a young, female, hispanic, enthusiastic, freshman congresswoman from New York who is getting a tremendous amount of media attention.  They are treating her as if she is the voice of the democratic party. She has ideas, plans, hopes and dreams and everywhere she speaks, people are listening and reacting.  She has differentiated herself from the fat, old, stuffy, white guys that are so representative of public office.

The only problem with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) is that she isn't very bright. Her inability to understand the history of socialism, her complete ignorance of the implications of her green new deal, her "win" over Amazon, and the embarrassing questions she asked Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan in a recent hearing are just 4 recent examples of her inability to grasp fairly simple concepts.  But what if she was intelligent?  What if she possessed both the ability to differentiate AND some brilliance?  She would be unstoppable!

Most salespeople are guilty of spending way too much time talking about their products and capabilities.  In other words, they're guilty of being too smart.  While they should be listening and asking questions, their insistence on talking about how much they know simply commoditizes them.  What would happen if they could differentiate like AOC, but refrained from slipping to her level of dumbness?

Differentiation gets prospects to listen and engage.  Smart, common sense differentiation will cause them to buy from you.  When you ask good, smart, tough and timely questions and have the difficult conversation that nobody else has had with them, you differentiate. You'll be able to identify the real problem, the one others missed while they were too busy talking, and you can uniquely recommend a smart, tailored solution that's packaged differently from what everyone else recommends.

Smart differentiation will help you to consistently outsell your competition.

Join the discussion of this article right here on LinkedIn.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, AOC, differentiation, alexandria ocasio-cortez

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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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