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.

 

 

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

Salespeople Make This Mistake - The Dumb Question I Was Asked in a Hotel Restaurant

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 21:02 PM

doubletree

I pulled up to the entrance of the Doubletree Hotel, greeted Chris, and we walked into the hotel restaurant.  As we approached the table, a well-meaning server asked, are you an Honors member?  I said, "yes."  

A moment later she returned and said she couldn't find me in the system.  She asked me to spell my name, went back to her computer, and returned again, saying, "I can't find your reservation in the system."

I explained that I wasn't a hotel guest and we were here for breakfast.  "Oh, then you'll have to pay for your breakfast!"  

"OK," I said.  After all, I was expecting to pay for breakfast!

Can you imagine how much simpler it would have been if her first question was, "Are you staying with us?"

Salespeople make the exact same mistake.  How do I know?  I can prove this with several examples.

Personal - In any given year, I might engage in role-play with as many as 500 salespeople and before they know any better, and sometimes after, they nearly always begin with the wrong question.  And it's not limited to only the wrong opening question, there are tremendous odds that they'll ask the wrong follow-up questions too.

Evaluation Data - Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed 1,833,484 salespeople from companies.  If we zoom in on the data related to asking questions, we find the following differences between elite salespeople and weak salespeople.

Elite salespeople are twice as effective as weak salespeople at asking good questions. 
Elite salespeople are three times more effective than weak salespeople at asking tough questions.
Elite salespeople are twice as effective as weak salespeople at asking enough questions.

These three questioning skills are attributes of the Consultative Selling competency, one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures.  See them here and see how you stack up.

Another Sales Core Competency, when it appears as a weakness, prevents salespeople, even those with good questioning skills, from asking the questions.  Salespeople who Need to be Liked are unable to ask a lot of questions, ask tough questions, or have the difficult conversation that nobody else has had with their prospect. 

Elite salespeople are four times more effective in this competency than weak salespeople!

Pay attention to your questions.  If they don't move the conversation closer to uncovering a prospect's compelling reason to buy, don't ask the question.  At the same time, don't skip over important questions and milestones - it rarely works. 

Remember that milestones are the foundation of a staged, consultative sales process and it's difficult to be effective if you attempt to sell without one.

Contribute to the discussion of this article here on Linkedin.

Finally, I leave you with two offers.

Steven Rosen interviewed me for his Fireside Chat series and sales leaders will find our discussion extremely beneficial.  Register here to watch this episode when it's released on February 19 at Noon Eastern Time.

My awesome 2-Day Sales Leadership Intensive is filling up fast.  As of February 15 there are just 7 seats remaining for the March 19-20 event. First come, first served.

Learn more here.

Here's a two-minute video of me explaining why the event is rated so highly.

 

Here's a testimonial from a recent participant.  

 

Here's a quick video with a bunch of participants.

 

I would love to see you there!

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, asking questions, best sales assessment

Do the Least Informed Salespeople Have the Loudest Voices

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

ignorance

Do the least informed among us have the loudest voices? This article is about salespeople but to set the stage, we'll start with the news.

When I listen to and watch the news, it seems that those on the fringes and representing special interest groups get the most attention, benefit of the doubt, dictate how everyone else should think and act, and cause tremendous tension and stress.  Yet, wherever I travel, whomever I interact with, whatever their story, and regardless of their skin color, religion or national origin, I never see any signs of the friction, division or hate that is amplified by the news media on a daily basis.  Why does the news media continue to deliver stories of hate, invite people of extreme opposite sides to debate, or express so much hate themselves?  When I tune into the news, instead of news, all I hear is screaming, hate and accusations.

Do the least informed among us have the loudest voices? 

Now sales.  Consider two very different salespeople working a new opportunity. 

Rita is a consultative seller and in her first meeting with a prospect, she listens and asks a lot of questions.  She is patient, polite and curious.  She doesn't talk about capabilities, products, prices, but she does ask why the prospect has taken so long to address his problem.  In doing so, she learns about other players in the company, their influence, interference, beliefs and the impact it has had on the prospect.  Rita didn't judge or push; she simply continued asking questions until there was urgency to fix the problem.

Lou is a transactional seller and in his first meeting he tells the prospect about his company, its capabilities, and his products.  He claims that his company is better than everyone else, will be competitive and have the best prices, and then he bad mouths Rita's company.  Lou monopolized the conversation, didn't give his prospect a chance to talk, and his prospect didn't care to ask any questions.

Do the least informed among us have the loudest voices? 

Consider a sales training program with an emphasis on helping the sales force develop a more consultative approach and the ability to more effectively sell value.  Those who agree with the need for sales process, methodology, strategy and tactics quietly embrace this approach.  Those who are threatened by change, who want to maintain the status quo, begin the rebellion, oppose the approach, and challenge the trainer. They hijack the training and little is accomplished. I remember this occasionally happening to me 30 plus years ago but I learned to diffuse it up front.  Today, I still hear stories about this happening to other trainers who haven't figured out how to deal with it yet.

Do the least informed among us have the loudest voices? 

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, news media, opposition

Why are Half of All Sales Reps Still Missing Quota in a Booming US Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 @ 05:12 AM

booming-economy

Around this time ten years ago, the US economy was famously tanking.  I remember it well as revenue at Objective Management Group dropped by more than 30%, almost overnight.  During 2008 and 2009 more than half of all US sales reps were missing quota and considering the circumstances, that didn't seem to shock anyone.  But during a slow crawl back to respectability between 2010 and 2016, and soaring revenue during 2017-2018, the percentage of reps making quota has not only remained flat, but the percentage hasn't even returned to pre 2008 rates.  This article attempts to explain why.

Here are 12 possible reasons that don't attribute everything to the completely useless 80/20 rule:

  1. Companies are setting unrealistic quotas, basing increases on nothing other than the belief that "Our revenue should be soaring too"
  2. The quotas are realistic for the territory but the reps aren't up to the challenge as only 5% are elite, 20% are strong and 25% are serviceable.  50% of all salespeople suck anyway!
  3. As the market for sales candidates has dried up, companies are lowering their standards and hiring crappy salespeople to keep territories staffed.
  4. The wealth of Inbound leads, most of them nothing more than contacts, have made salespeople incredibly lazy.  Only 24% of the bottom half have the Hunting competency as a strength.
  5. Only 14% of the bottom half of all salespeople have and/or follow a formal, structured Sales Process.  In other words, they wing it.
  6. The ever-increasing difficulty reaching decision makers has left salespeople with pitiful pipelines.
  7. Only 10% of the bottom half of salespeople are providing, demonstrating or selling value, resorting to price as they fail to differentiate
  8. Salespeople are still taking a transactional approach to selling instead of learning and embracing the more desirable consultative approach to differentiate themselves from the competition. Only 3% of this group has the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.
  9. Salespeople are mistaking "nice to have" for "must have".  When they only get their prospects to "nice" they fail to create urgency, making it difficult to get decision makers engaged or money approved, with opportunities stalling in the pipeline.  Only 20% of the bottom half of all salespeople have reaching decision makers as a strength, only 9% of that group has the  Qualifier Competency as a strength, and only 22% of this group has the CRM Savvy competency as a strength.
  10. Lack of Commitment - 53% of the bottom half of all salespeople lack the commitment necessary to do what it takes to achieve success. When it becomes difficult, they do what's easiest and most comfortable instead of what is required.
  11. Excuse Making - Even worse, 66% of the bottom half of all salespeople make excuses, rationalize their outcomes, preventing improvement.
  12. Sales DNA - In order to execute sales process, methodology, strategy and tactics, salespeople must have strong Sales DNA. The bottom half of all salespeople don't, as only 3% of them have Sales DNA that is strong enough to help them execute.

If the bottom 50% are this bad in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, then what are the bottom 50% good at?  They may have tremendous product knowledge, decent presentations skills and some great relationships, but they aren't very good at selling.  They are really order takers.  If they work for the best-known company, the low price leader, or the incumbent vendor, then it might be enough. But if they work for an underdog it's simply not enough to get the job done.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, reps making quota, selling value, differentiating yourself, order taker

Would Henry Ford be Able to Sell Cars Today?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 @ 21:11 PM

Fords-model-t

Cars were in the news this week when GM announced they were closing plants in the USA and President Trump pushed back.  So it got me wondering...

What would Henry Ford think if he were alive today?  I'm thinking that he would ask, "What the hell happened to my motor car and what are all these SUV's, crossovers, smart cars, hybrids and electric cars?  And what are all these pictures, icons, buttons, knobs and dials for?"  I think he would also say, "So let me get this straight.  You need to pay for a government issued license and pass an exam to operate it?  You need to register the motor car with the government and pay for that too?  You need to buy insurance before you can use it?  You have to pay an excise tax to your city or town to maintain ownership? And they sell for how much?  Holy shit!  What did they do to my Model T?  I innovated a car, not a home on wheels!" 

Ford was the entrepreneur who founded Ford Motor Company after the turn of the last century but Karl Benz, from Germany, actually invented the motor car.  I would venture to bet that Ford was the better salesman!

My Grandfather sold cars back in the day when you had to teach someone to drive it before they could buy it.  Whether in my Grandfather's day, or today, cars are a big investment and customers must jump through a lot of hoops to buy a car.  Sure, they're a necessity.  Sure, they can be a symbol of success.  Sure, the auto industry has leveraged financing and leasing to make them affordable for everyone.  But do we have to buy them every 3 years?  We don't have to but we do it anyway to the tune of more than 17 million vehicles sold in the United States in 2017.  While that pales in comparison to Apple's 217 million iPhones sold in 2017, their phones are a fraction of the cost of a car, although they can set you back as much as or more than a monthly car payment.

For some, cars are a necessary evil, a means of getting from point A to point B when public transportation, bicycles or walking won't do.  But most people just love to buy new cars.  You're familiar with the new car smell.  I knew a guy who bought, traded in and bought again every 3 months!  That's how long it took for the elation of driving a new car to wear off.  Or maybe it was the smell.  For me, after 2 years I'm usually ready to buy again.

Car salespeople aren't very good at selling and for the most part, they don't even conduct the actual closing. The only challenge that car salespeople seem to have - and it's not an easy challenge for salespeople to overcome - is that the entire automobile industry is an example of a transactional, price-based model.  

If weak auto salespeople can sell 17 million expensive cars a year despite all of the hoops, why do B2B salespeople struggle to close relatively inexpensive products and services?  Auto salespeople are order takers.  Their customers will buy a car from someone and it's just a matter of from whom.  That's not very different from most B2B customers who will also buy from someone.  As a matter of fact, around 75% of B2B salespeople are order takers.  Do they get the business because of their special relationships?  Their discounted prices? Their superior products? Are they actually helping their prospects reach the conclusion that there is greater value from buying from them?  In the 75% group, it's probably price, product or relationship.  For the top 25%, it's probably their ability to guide their prospects to the correct conclusion.

What do the top 10% do differently from the bottom 10%?  Almost everything!  You can see those differences here where you can compare our data from the most recent 500,000 or so sales assessments.  

The best salespeople have superior Sales DNA, don't make excuses, have strong commitment and excel at selling value and closing.  Back in Henry Ford's day, it was more like a Field of Dreams experience - build it and they will come.  That still seems to hold true for cars and iPhones but for everyone else, it's a different story.  Today, you'd best be able to follow a milestone-based sales process, differentiate by taking a consultative approach, sell value, thoroughly qualify and close.

Image copyright Britanica.com

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process

The Top 12 Factors that Cause Delayed Closings and What to Do About Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 @ 09:09 AM

delays

Over the past 3 months, my wife and I have been up and down the east coast driving our son to and from baseball tournaments and college showcases.  Invariably, each drive back home has taken twice the time it should have because of road construction.  On Sunday, Waze, my favorite navigation app, said that the drive would take just 2 hours and 32 minutes. 4 traffic delays because of road construction delayed us for another 2 and 1/2 hours.  Delays, delays, delays.  Nearly every coaching call with a salesperson is about a delayed closing.  Nearly every coaching call with a sales manager is about a salesperson with a delayed closing.  Everyone wants to know what to do about the delayed closing but that's the wrong question.  Everyone should be asking these two questions instead.

  1. Was it really delayed or were we overly optimistic about if and when this opportunity would close?
  2. What steps can we take to prevent delayed closings?

When I begin working with companies, most delayed closings are simply a case of the salesperson and sales manager deciding that the opportunity was closable and would close on a certain date.  This assertion was most often made up out of thin air with little to no facts to back it up.  Upon further inspection it was clear that these were not closable opportunities so the delays were not based in reality.

How can we prevent delayed closings?  I will list the 12 most important factors for preventing delays at closing time along with some links that further explain what I mean, how to do it more effectively, and/or provide statistics.  Please keep in mind that the list of factors is not a menu.  You can't choose the factor that seems easiest enough to fix and believe that anything will change.  You must fix all of them!  For example, suppose you need to loose 30 pounds, and are told to avoid breads, pastas, processed foods, snacks and pastries. If you decide to eliminate only bread, not much will change.  However, if you eliminate all of the processed foods the weight will come off quickly and easily.  The same is true with selling.  If you fix all 12 of the factors below, you will not only shorten your sales cycle, you will quickly and easily improve your win rate too.  Here they are:

  1. Not consistently executing a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process 
  2. Failing to get the prospect to "must have" or beginning the process with a demo, but failing to get beyond "nice to have"
  3. Not reaching the decision maker early enough in the sales process
  4. Failing to create urgency because compelling reasons to buy were not uncovered
  5. Failing to differentiate by not having the difficult conversation
  6. Needing prospects to like you.
  7. Failing to build a case and sell value instead of price
  8. Failing to uncover the actual budget
  9. Failing to thoroughly qualify the prospect's ability to buy from you
  10. Not bringing up potential objections earlier in the sales process
  11. Not learning about the competition and how you compare
  12. Not pushing back or challenging conventional or out-dated thinking

You probably noticed at least 3 common factors missing from the list above:

  1. Closing - closing is overrated
  2. Presentation skills - you already know how to do that well.
  3. Relationships - you are probably pretty good at this too.

We shouldn't be talking about delayed closings at all.  Instead, we should be talking about 2 things:

  1. How to shorten the sales cycle and improve the win rate by consistently executing these 12 factors to achieve greater success than ever before and how to coach salespeople up so that they can sell this way.
  2. How to select new salespeople that already have the ability to sell this way!

Image Copyright iStock Photos 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing tips, selling skills

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six 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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