How Your Salespeople Measure Up in the 21 Most Crucial Sales Competencies for Modern Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 04, 2017 @ 15:04 PM

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Image Copyright BrianAJackson

Over the years I've debunked a number of articles that cited nothing but junk science. The authors often relied on observation, anecdotal evidence and personal opinion while proclaiming traits, competencies, skills and differentiators between top salespeople and everyone else. Today those articles would qualify as fake news.  My rebuttals to those articles, many of which can be found here, are always based on science.

Speaking of the difference between fake news and real sales science, the next topic downright amazes me and should amaze you too. 

Nearly 22,000 people have viewed the 5 traits of the best salespeople - traits that are purely anecdotal on the author's part - while only around 1,000 viewed the scientific rebuttal. Only 17,000 people viewed the 21 Sales Core Competencies that were updated in 2014, and only 1,000 have viewed the most recent 2017 revision of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Just to be clear, I'm not whining about popularity, traffic or page views.  My Blog has 1.7 million views and dozens of my articles have 15,000+ views.  My best-selling book, Baseline Selling, was ranked 15th on Amazon's list of the Top Sales Books this morning - after 12 years...so I'm not lacking for traffic or readers.

This is really about sales professionals who place more faith in the traits that are consistent with their beliefs, fearing that their actual capabilities won't match up with the science.  People want to see themselves in the most popular, positive way.  They don't want to discover that they might be lacking in 10 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies or have gaps in all 21.

Speaking of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, OMG has a brand new tool that I promise you're gonna love.  

We built a very cool website that you can use to see the average scores for each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, the average scores for your industry and even how your own company compares.  You must check it out - keep reading!

Here's how it works:  

  1. Go to the site and select your industry.  
  2. For each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, average scores for all salespeople, plus the top 10%, the bottom 10% as well as salespeople from your industry, will be displayed in side-by-side comparisons. If you need further explanations there are videos that provide more detail on each competency.
  3. At any point, during your tour through the 21 Sales Core Competencies, you can request that your own company be included in the comparison - free of charge!  No catch. No conditions.  Simply click on the "learn how your salespeople are doing" button displayed beneath the competencies.  
  4. Fill in the very limited contact information (we don't sell it and we won't call you unless you ask us to) and we'll email a link for your salespeople to be assessed.  
  5. When your salespeople have completed the assessment process, the "Your Company" column in each graph will be populated with the data for your company.  Awesome and easy!  We'll keep you posted about their progress.
  6. Options to gain access to additional detailed data and information will be made available.

The early feedback on this site has been amazing - people love being able to access this data and compare it to their own and I'm sure you'll find it fascinating too!  Enjoy.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales core competencies, difference between good and bad salespeople, OMG Assessment, how my salespeople compare, data on salespeople

HBR or OMG - Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:08 AM

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The Harvard Business Review is at it again.  I honestly can't believe that a publication like HBR continues to publish and push junk science about sales.  Nearly every time they publish an article on sales or selling, they are usually as wrong as the mainstream media is with their attempts to manipulate readers and viewers to vote for their preferred candidates. 

I have previously taken issue with seven of HBR's articles: 

They did publish one that I agreed with on Looking for Potential in your Next Hire...

In their June 20, 2016 article, A Portrait of the Overperforming Salesperson, HBR identified several traits, attitudes and actions that they claim differentiate the top from bottom performers.  I'll summarize it for you below and then explain why I believe it is junk.  The findings include:

 

  • Focus which they described as including Money motivated, respected, likable and effective at prioritizing their time
  • Career Orientation which they described as including how much they think about work and why they went into sales
  • Personal Attributes which they described as including how they remember their childhood and what they use to make decisions
  • Customer Interaction Strategy which they described as tailoring, asking questions, being likable and having personal relationships  (these do differentiate tops from bottoms)
  • Attitude which was word association around sales management and sales process (word association?  really?)
  • Self Perception  which was checking off boxes to indicate the traits they believed they had

This was a survey of 1,000 salespeople. 1/3 of them are in field sales, 1/3 are in inside sales and the rest are sales managers or Sales VP's. 

Only 15% met the author's criteria of meeting quota 88% of the time. Although we weren't told what the quotas were, it's pretty safe to assume that the field salespeople manage accounts in existing territories.  Based on the questions asked, it is also safe to assume that the inside salespeople are making calls to and taking calls from existing customers.   So just in case you can't do the math, when you account for the sales managers and sales VP's in the survey, it changes the population from 1,000 top performing salespeople, to 150 people who don't have to find new business.  That is quite a distinction!  

I hate these surveys because surveys do not equate to science.

Compare this to Objective Management Group's (OMG) actual science from evaluating and assessing more than 1,000,000 salespeople from more than 200 industries over the past 2 decades.  7% are elite, and there are 16% more who are strong.  77% are ineffective.  From its 1,000,000 rows of data, I can assure you that no personality trait or behavioral style of any kind is predictive of sales success. Traits and styles are good to know - they help you understand who your employees are.  But they have never been, nor will they ever be, predictive of sales success.  

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies. Most of these competencies include as many as 10 attributes. Here are just some of the many differences between the top 10% and the bottom 10%:

Competency Average Score
for the Top 10%
Average Score
for the Bottom 10%
Sales Quotient (overall score) 143 (out of 173) 91
Sales DNA (supporting strengths) 84 (out of 100) 53
Motivation 75 57
Commitment to Sales Success 68 34
Closing 47 12
Hunting 74 37
Qualifying 81 31
Consultative Selling 74 37
Sales Process 67 39
CRM Savvy 77 37
Presenting 82 57 

If you look at Sales DNA - the combination of strengths that supports the use of strategy, tactics, process and methodology, you'll see that the top 10% are, on average, nearly 60% stronger than the bottom 10%.  You'll also see that the top 10% have an average Sales Quotient that is nearly 60% higher than the bottom 10%.  The top 10% have double the commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve sales excellence. For the more tactical competencies, the average scores for the top 10% are approximately double those of the bottom 10%. 

When we break sales down by difficulty level, industry sector, vertical market, decision maker to be called upon, price points, etc., the specific findings and scores that differentiate tops from bottoms change accordingly!  Now please tell me, when we have real science like this, what is the HBR thinking when they publish rubbish like personal attributes, attitude and self perception?

Will Barron recently interviewed me on some of these topics and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.

Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on some of these topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

This article states that 4% of the salespeople sell 94% of the business.  I don't agree with their percentage but it gives you a sense of what is really taking place in sales.

And from OMG's data, this is just in.  The bottom 10% of all salespeople are actually better than the top 10% in 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  I'll bet you can guess which one...scroll down for the answer...

 

 

 

Relationship Building! It's no wonder that crappy salespeople keep getting hired.  You can hire the best salespeople for your role when you use OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.  Try it! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, comparison of top salespeople, harvard business review, difference between good and bad salespeople, objective management group

Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 @ 05:11 AM

HBRSubscriber Ken Leeser pointed me to this recent Harvard Business Review article.  Their observations of 800 salespeople weren't significantly different from Objective Management Group's data on 500,000 salespeople.  Following is where they hit the mark:

Our data has an elite 6% and they categorized 9% as experts.

Our data has an upper 26% and they categorized an upper 37%.

Our data shows that 74% of the sales population are ineffective while their observations peg it at 63%.

They attempted to illustrate seven skill sets and map them with their top 37%.  They included (their categorizing, not mine):

  • Skills Related to Sales Success
    • Rising to the Challenge (overcoming objections)
    • Customer Interaction (listening)
    • Meeting Prep
  • Skills Not Related to Sales Success
    • Story-Telling
    • Presentation and Rapport
    • Company Presentation
    • The Sales Pitch

They said their top 9% had all 7 of these skill sets while the remaining 28% of the top group all excelled at the pitch and the presentation.  The top 37% were above average at customer interaction.

Where did all this lead?  Their conclusion was that everyone receives sales training on presentation and pitch but not on rising to the challenge and customer interaction.  They recommended that salespeople should get more training in those areas where they haven't developed the other skills.  You don't say...

OK, I can't wait to share my perspective.  Here is how HBR missed the mark:

In no particular order:

  • Expanding the topics for training won't solve the problems they identified.  The truth is that the salespeople who are being trained on presentation and pitch are probably being trained on Rising to the Challenge as well and, to a certain degree, Customer Interaction.  The training may not be very good, but they are probably getting it.  The reason the large group of salespeople on the bottom were observed to require more training is because they have hidden weaknesses that make it uncomfortable for them to use the tactics, strategies, competencies, skills and approaches they learned from the training.  Comfort Zone Rules!
  • The key skill possessed by the best salespeople was completely glossed over in their findings.  That key skill is the ability to ask a lot of good, tough, timely questions along with the ability to push back and challenge prospects' assumptions and decisions.  To the researchers it may have simply appeared to be "interaction" but make no mistake.  Exceptional salespeople know exactly what they are doing with their questions and while the result is interaction, the skill they have mastered is asking questions.
  • The researchers came to a faulty conclusion with their claim that the last four skills are not related to sales success.  The problem is that those skills are often used without the three skills that do relate to sales success making it very difficult to succeed with the four unrelated skills alone.  But when those unrelated skills are used at the right time, and a salesperson emphasizes the three related skills, the last four are absolutely related to sales success.

In the end, a successful sales force has the right people in the right roles, a process that can be easily accomplished with a sales force evaluation.  The next requirement is a greater emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness in the sales selection process.  And only then will appropriate training make a significant difference.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, harvard business review, difference between good and bad salespeople, sales assessments

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About Dave

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

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