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, empty pipeline, sales pipeline, delayed closings, uncovering budget

Which 4 Sales Competencies Best Differentiate Top from Bottom Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 08, 2018 @ 20:10 PM

elite-v-weak

The difference between great salespeople and weak salespeople has been debated for years.  The articles in my Blog typically address these differences with science and data to support to my position. 

For example, In 2018 alone I have written 21 such articles:

Data Shows That Only 14% are Qualified for the Easiest Selling Roles

The Wrong Salespeople are Hired 77% of the Time

Examples of How Salespeople Lose Credibility with Their Prospects

Golden Nuggets from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study

New Data Shows that You Can Double Revenue by Overcoming This One Sales Weakness

Salespeople With This Weakness Score 47% Worse at Reaching Decision Makers

New Data Shows That Elite Salespeople are 700% Less Likely to Do This

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

Does Being a Strong Qualifier Correlate to Having a Strong Pipeline?

Elite Salespeople are 200% Better in These 3 Sales Competencies

Latest Data - Strong Salespeople Score 375% Better Than Weak Salespeople

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if they Worked in Accounting

New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

New Data Shows Sales Weaknesses Cause Powerful Chain Reactions in Salespeople

Discovered - Data Reveals the Second Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Discovered - Data Reveals the Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

New Data Reveals Why Veteran Salespeople Are Not Better Than New Salespeople

Data Shows Most Salespeople are Dinosaurs When it Comes to Social Selling

Persistence Over Polish - What the Top 10% of All Salespeople Do Better

What Happens When You Force a Square Sales Peg into a Round Sales Hole?

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Other Blogs, and far too often, the Harvard Business Review and Blog, state these differences using junk science - anecdotal observations.  While those observations can be useful, they do not actually differentiate between good and bad, as much as they are what the authors perceive as personality traits commonly found among good salespeople.

I reviewed data from nearly 511,000 sales evaluations and assessments from among the 1.8 million that Objective Management Group (OMG) has produced to date.  I compared 21 Sales Core Competencies (you can see much of that data here) of the top 5% (elite) with the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  Then I identified the 4 competencies with the biggest gaps and you can see those in the image below.

 544Competency

The 4 competencies with the biggest gaps are all tactical selling competencies and on average, the top 5% have these competencies as strengths 544% more often than the bottom 50%. However, the 544% number isn't really the story.  The big story is that that 64% of the top 5% have the Consultative Selling as a strength compared with only 3% of the bottom 50%.  Nearly as big a story is that 91% of the top 5% are strong at the Qualifying competency compared with only 6% of the bottom 50%.  And a whopping 95% of the top 5% are strong at the Value Selling competency compared with only 10% of the bottom 50%.

So what does this mean?

Elite salespeople are twice as likely to have solid pipelines because nearly every one of them are strong at the Hunting Competency.  Then, because they are so proficient at selling value and qualifying their opportunities, a high percentage of a greater number of opportunities close and not because they are better closers!

Weak salespeople - in this case, more than 255,000 of them - are twice as likely to have a weak pipeline, and because they are selling transactionally and not consultatively, they close a very small percentage of a smaller number of opportunities.  That's why they are so ineffective. 

Could there be a better case for why transactional selling doesn't work?  Please tell me if you have one!

The other story here is that it's value selling and qualifying that almost every elite salesperson executes so effectively while only 2/3 of them have learned to excel at a consultative selling approach.

The gaps are clear and if you manage salespeople, the question is how do you coach your salespeople up and close such a large gap?  You must attend my Sales Leadership Intensive and learn to coach to these 4 competencies and more.  And if 30% of your people can't be coached up, use the most customizable, accurate and predictive sales specific candidate assessment to easily identify the top 25%.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales competenices, Great salespeople, difference between good and bad salespeople, empty pipeline, closing deals

What Do You Blame When Salespeople Don't Schedule Enough New Meetings?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 23, 2016 @ 06:05 AM

call-reluctance.jpg

Most salespeople suck on the phone.  If you read that article, you learned about 10 common mistakes that salespeople make on the phone.  But those are strategic and tactical mistakes - they are skill-based.  What happens when you have salespeople who won't even make calls?  Could they be suffering from call reluctance?  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and one of them is the Hunter Competency. The Hunter has about a dozen attributes and 4 in particular determine if, and to what degree, a salesperson will have call reluctance:

  • 58% of all salespeople need to be liked to such a degree that it can have a negative effect on their ability to prospect for new business. They worry that a prospect might become upset and not like them, so they don't ask the questions they should - when and if they call.
  • 20% of all salespeople have difficulty recovering from rejection to such a degree that it can prevent them from making calls. Not making the calls is a defense mechanism to protect them from rejection.
  • 13% of all salespeople possess a "will not prospect" belief to such a degree that they won't prospect unless they are forced to by their sales manager.
  • 46% of salespeople are perfectionists who procrastinate until they believe they can do something perfectly. In the case of prospecting, it contributes to what seems like a time management problem (they didn't have time to prospect.)  

The image below, from the evaluation of a large sales force, has salespeople distributed almost equally (unusual) among the four groups:

inside-sales-hunting.jpg

  • Hunters will hunt for new business without being asked.
  • Potential Hunters would hunt for new business if their sales managers held them accountable.
  • Fishermen will follow up on a lead, but won't engage in proactive hunting.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Prospects will not hunt, no matter what, ever.

I'll be leading a fast-paced 45-minute online presentation on The Magic Behind OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, June 7 at 11 AM ET.  There is no cost to attend and you'll learn a lot about sales selection that you didn't know before.  Click here to register.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, call reluctance, phone prospecting, empty pipeline, not making calls

A Hidden Weakness that Makes Salespeople Procrastinate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 15, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

perfectionYesterday, I was on three separate calls with sales managers whose salespeople needed to fill their pipelines, but hadn't.  They needed those salespeople to schedule meetings, but they weren't doing it.  They needed those salespeople to make calls, but they wouldn't make them.  They needed to get those salespeople moving, but those salespeople were stuck.  

For the salespeople, it was their own doing.  Self-imposed.  And they knew it!

Would you like to know which mysterious, hidden weakness was holding them hostage, preventing them from taking the action they knew was crucial to their success?  Of course you would.

All of them were perfectionists.  You may be wondering what could be wrong with that?

When it comes to salespeople doing something they haven't done before, everything is wrong with that.  A perfectionist must do things perfectly and if ever there was a sales activity that was ripe for imperfection, it would be the prospecting call.  After all, a new salesperson might have to speak with 10 or more prospects to schedule one meeting or call.  And in their perfectionist minds, that would be 9 failures.

So they procrastinate.  And they'll continue to procrastinate until they are certain that they can get it right.  Make it perfect.  And the more they prepare, rehearse, wordsmith and prepare some more, the worse they'll be.  It won't sound like a conversation, they won't sound real, but they will sound like a telemarketer reading from a script and nobody will want to speak with them.  They will fail.  It's a catch-22.

So what can you do?

If you're a sales manager, give these salespeople permission to fail.  Not only permission, insist on it.  Force them to get someone to say "no" to them and praise them for their effort, remind them that they lived to tell about it and ask them what they learned from it.

If you're a salesperson, give yourself permission to fail.  But even more than that, remember this:

If you make the worst prospecting call in the history of selling, who, other than you, will even know about it?  The chances that a prospect will remember you are in direct disproportion to how bad you were!  The worse you are, the less you'll be remembered.


Image Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, call reluctance, cold calls, empty pipeline, procrastination, perfection, sales under achievement

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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 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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