Speed Limits, the Flow of Traffic, and Sales Pipelines

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 @ 05:11 AM

speed-limit

I don't get stressed anymore when I'm driving.  All it took was for me to not exceed the speed limit.  I'm not sure whether it was my navigation system repeatedly telling me to "obey all traffic laws" each time I started the car, or my wife reminding me that I needed to be a good role model for our soon-to-be driving 16 year-old son.  I admit that this was much easier for me to do after I gave up my Jaguar for a Lincoln Navigator.  It holds much more baseball equipment!

There is an exception to not exceeding the speed limit.  When the flow of traffic in all lanes is moving exponentially faster than you are, you must increase your speed to match the flow of traffic or risk getting run over!

That brings me to pipeline flow.

I was doing a top/bottom analysis of a sales force where we look at their top 5 producers and their bottom 5 performers and from among 180 findings and scores, identify the differences between the tops and bottoms. We usually find between 15-20 significant differentiators but for this particular sales force I wasn't finding much.  Until I came to the pipeline.  Their top producers prospected consistently, successfully scheduled new meetings, and had full pipelines.  They were also rejection proof, didn't procrastinate, and didn't need prospects to like them.  In other words, their scores in all aspects of the Hunting Competency were near 100 while the bottom performers had scores below 50.

The thing that is most interesting about that is that these are findings that SHOULD have been obvious to the client - but they weren't.  99% of the time, we identify findings, scores, insights and differences that are complete surprises but this time?  Nobody was paying attention and as such, just couldn't understand why these 3 were doing so poorly.

This top/bottom analysis not only revealed a selection problem, where they hired people for hunting roles who couldn't hunt, but a sales management problem too. It would seem that there was no accountability for salespeople to use CRM and it's unlikely that sales management was reviewing the dashboard or reading any of the reports.  This problem would have been easy to spot months earlier if either of those two best practices were being followed.  

Pipeline flow doesn't really refer to the size of the pipeline though.  Flow measures how opportunities move through the pipeline.  From milestone to milestone, activity to activity and stage to stage.  Most salespeople have bottlenecks that inhibit the flow in their pipeline.  The bottleneck is the point in the sales process where a salesperson's opportunities most often get stuck.  Knowing where they get stuck is helpful, but knowing why they get stuck is essential.  You can't fix the problem unless you know why.

It might be as simple as Johnny isn't reaching the actual decision makers.  That's not the why, that's the where. It's a milestone in a stage.  The why can be anything from:

  • Non-supportive beliefs in which the voice in Johnny's head might sound like, "I don't need to speak with the actual decision maker because my contact will take care of it"
  • Lack of skills whereby Johnny doesn't know how to get the actual decision maker engaged
  • A need to be liked where Johnny worries that if he asks to meet with the actual decision maker he might piss off his contact who won't like him anymore
  • Lack of consultative selling capabilities where Johnny got the prospect to "nice to have" but not as far as "must have".  As a result, there is no compelling reason for the prospect to go to or get the decision maker engaged

My favorite CRM application is Membrain which is great for a complex sale.  It's opportunity-focused and has great pipeline management features among many other things right out of the box.  Membrain not only measures time in stage, but also measures stalled opportunities. That helps you get started with the where and the why analysis.  The image below shows a stalled opportunity analysis for a top salesperson.

stall-analysisThe graph makes it very obvious.  If an opportunity stalls for more than 33 days, the salesperson will probably not get the business.  There were five outliers between 76-132 days but they are the exceptions, not the rule.  The 35 wins inside of 33 days, and the 27 losses after 33 days are the rule.

Because Membrain is opportunity focused, you can easily identify where the bottleneck is.  I clicked through on the 6 opportunities to the right of the 33 day mark and most of them lacked the funds to move forward.  That's the where.  The why could be skill, discomfort talking about money (when the budget isn't there) or the less obvious one, failure to uncover a compelling reason to buy.  That means nice to have but not must have.  When a salesperson reaches must have, the prospect must find the money.  When the salesperson only reaches nice to have, it's not crucial to find the money.  When attempting to uncover compelling reasons to buy, it's just like driving in a 55 MPH zone and you must reduce your speed as you enter a 40 MPH zone.  SLOW DOWN.  

And that concludes today's lesson on pipeline flow.  Now you're in the flow.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, empty pipeline, delayed closings, uncovering budget

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 11:08 AM

pitcher

As you know, I'm a baseball guy.  I wrote the best-selling book that merged baseball and selling, my son is a ranked high school catcher and I use baseball analogies in many of my articles.  With apologies to soccer, hockey, football, basketball and golf fans, no sport is more analogous to selling than baseball.

Before we get to sales and the data, let's take a quick dive into the most important skill position in baseball, pitching.  Even that's a sales word!  Pitchers don't have to throw hard if they have great control and effectively and consistently locate their pitches.  Hard throwers don't need to be as precise as long as they have a second and third pitch to keep the hitters off balance.  Pitchers who throw hard, locate their pitches and have a 4-pitch mix are elite.

One group of special pitchers are the closers.  They typically enter games in the 9th inning, throw hard and close out the game.  For example, Craig Kimbrel, the Boston Red Sox closer, has been such a guy.  Entering play on August 14, 2018, he has appeared in 49 games, pitched 49 innings, has amassed an amazing 75 strikeouts and has saved 35 games in 39 chances.  At the other end of the spectrum, less effective pitchers usually fail in the closer role because they don't dominate the hitters.

Pivot to sales.  Elite salespeople don't need to close and weak salespeople suck at closing.  Want proof?  Let's review some data from 1831605 evaluations and assessments of salespeople conducted by Objective Management Group (OMG).  You can see and play with the data here.

closer-competency-1

Only 108,000 out of 1,800,000 salespeople are strong at the closer competency and 63,000 of them are from the elite top 5% and the next group of 20% who are strong.  This proves that salespeople who are strong at the 7 Sales Core Competencies that precede closing don't need to be strong closers.  Those 7 competencies are:

  • Hunter Competency
  • Sales Process Competency
  • Relationship Builder Competency
  • Consultative Seller Competency
  • Value Seller Competency
  • Qualifier Competency
  • Presentation Approach Competency

The data also proves that the remaining 75% of salespeople who are serviceable or weak and also ineffective at most of the 7 Sales Core Competencies that precede closing, can't close even when they try!  Closing is so overrated!

Join the discussion of this data on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, objective management, closing deals, OMG Assessment, delayed closings

Eliminate Delayed Closings Once and for All

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 14, 2018 @ 06:05 AM

leavesA long time ago I realized that in the suburbs outside of Boston, new leaves reach full size each Spring on May 11.  This year, with the cold April we endured, May 11 came and went and the leaves were delayed.

That said, spring leaves on May 11 are exponentially more predictable than pipeline opportunities.  Why might an opportunity not close when it was forecast to?

Technically, there are seven possibilities:

  1. Closes as forecast and you win.
  2. Closes when forecast and you lose.
  3. A short delay that you will close
  4. A short delay that someone else will close
  5. A long delay that you will close
  6. A long delay that someone else will close
  7. A delay of any duration that results in no decision.

And why might those conditions apply?

  • Your CRM application wasn't configured to properly calculate the projected close date
  • Your sales process/CRM application does not include a scorecard that scores and predicts a win
  • The opportunity was not thoroughly qualified because the salesperson:
    • didn't know how
    • wasn't aware of the need
    • fear or discomfort
    • ignored what the prospect said
  • The salesperson had happy ears

The statistics on salespeople evaluated and assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG) show us that only 27% of all salespeople have the Qualifier Competency as a strength.  The top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 77% of the attributes of a Qualifier and all salespeople average 53%.

The same statistics show us that only 30% of all salespeople have the CRM Savvy as a strength.  And the top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 64% of the attributes of CRM Savvy and all salespeople average 43%.

And 27% of all salespeople have the Milestone Centric Sales Process as a strength while the top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 66% of the attributes of the Sales Process Competency and all salespeople average 49%.

Of the nearly 6,000 candidates that were assessed in the past 4 weeks for sales positions, 38% of them "think it over" when making major purchases.  That makes them vulnerable to prospects who wish to think it over at closing time, extending the sales cycle, and causing a delay. because they "understand."

See OMG's statistics in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and filter by industry as well as your company.

Preventing delays can't always be avoided but more thorough qualifying makes a huge difference.  The key is asking more questions.  When you think you have asked enough, there are always a few more you can ask.  For example, in this article, the difference between "nice to have" and "must have" are often the difference between delays and closes.  This article shows that the when salespeople meet with the actual decision makers they are 56% more likely to close the business.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales CRM, qualifying, OMG Assessment, steps in a sales process, delayed closings

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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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