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

Have the Promises of Inbound Sales Come to Fruition?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 @ 06:11 AM

inbound.png

Last week, I spoke at Inbound, where 19,000 people attended this sold-out event in Boston.  Ironically, I spoke to a crowd that wanted to learn how to be more effective at engaging prospects by phone and converting those conversations to meetings.  Why is it ironic?  Well, the promise of the Inbound movement is that cold calling is dead. Salespeople will reap the benefits of inbound leads from prospects who had already expressed interest.  Has that happened?

There is no doubt that inbound has been a huge success.  Companies that effectively utilize the power of inbound generate a tremendous number of web submissions for their sales teams.  But whether we can call them leads is another story altogether.  Some of the contacts are interested and ready to buy.  More will be interested at a later date.  Most will never become customers, but were happy to take advantage of a free trial, sample or white paper.  Others subscribe to newsletters and Blogs but may never read a single issue or post.

At some point, a BDR, SDR or salesperson will attempt to contact the person whose name appears on the web form.  We know it may take 10-15 attempts before that person is reached.  But when they do answer their phone, what will happen?

The reality is that even though the caller knows something about the person being called, the contact knows nothing about the caller.  Do you know what that means?  After all the promises stating that cold-calling is dead, even the follow up calls to inbound leads are cold.  That's right, cold calling is alive and kicking, but it's less effective than ever before.

Back in the golden age of cold calling, a salesperson might spend two hours each day, make 40 dials, hope to speak with 10 decision makers and book 2-3 meetings.  And those were icy cold calls.  Today, a salesperson working the top of the funnel might spend the entire day trying to reach people who submitted a form from one of the company's landing pages.  They might make 100 dials, hoping to speak with 7 people, and book only 1-2 meetings per week!  Worse than icy, these calls are frozen solid.

Seth Godin first named what we now call inbound, permission marketing.  But most people who request a free download, white paper, sample or trial don't feel like they have given anyone permission to call.  They seem more annoyed over the calls from inept top of the funnel salespeople than prospects were in the old days when salespeople made traditional cold calls.  One reason is that most of the sellers in top of the funnel roles are millennials, many of whom are not well suited for the role.  If you want to see how poorly they fit, look at the science in this article.

None of this is bad, but it is confusing, misleading and ineffective.

Cold calling has not gone away but the approach has changed.  The problem today is that callers are still using outdated, ineffective scripts to follow up with people who requested anything except a call and are appropriately resistant.  None of the call approaches that I've heard deal with this obvious dynamic.

When we help clients make changes to their approach, teach them how to get the prospects attention, and show them how to get prospects engaged on the phone, everything changes.

But people are resistant to change and in this case, the people are often those leading sales teams.  And they have big egos.  It's simply time to set aside the egos, acknowledge that things are not working anywhere nearly as effectively as they should be, and make the necessary changes.

Some of it is simple excuse making - speaking of which, Will Barron of Salesman Red, completed a terrific interview with me and you can watch it right here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, prospecting, Seth Godin, inbound, cold call

The Science of Sales Selection vs. the Marketing of Modern Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 @ 07:08 AM

Today I received this email from an OMG (Objective Management Group) Partner after he asked me to run an analysis on a company's top and bottom performers.

He wrote, "After all these years, this is still amazing to me. Thanks Dave, my conversation is Monday and we are getting next steps in place.  Appreciate the help."

So why is that such a big deal?

This is someone who has been an OMG Partner for nearly two decades, is one of OMG's most successful partners, and knows our accuracy and sales-specific findings inside and out.  And he was still surprised at just how accurate the analysis was.  Check out the detailed and revealing graphic below!

 

I started with more than 100 sales-specific findings and narrowed them down to the 18 findings and scores that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms.  A mistake made by behavioral scientists and sellers of personality and behavioral styles assessments is that they only look at top performers and identify common traits.   They fail to realize that the bottom performers have the same personality traits and behavioral styles as the top performers and none of those traits or styles are predictive of sales performance.

In this company, the bottom performers scored just as well as the top performers on some sales-specific findings.  To accurately identify salespeople that are totally perfect for a role, we must understand the differences between both groups, not the commonalities within one group.

The salespeople in the top 7 rows are their top performers and the salespeople in the bottom 9 rows are their bottom performers.  After I identified the findings, scores and cutoffs that we would use, I color-coded them so that you could clearly see the differences - a sea of green on top and a sea of red on the bottom.

Next, in the last column on the right, I calculated the percentage criteria that each salesperson met and set the cutoff to 67%.  

Using these criteria, we would have recommended 6 of their 7 top performers and only 1 of their 9 bottom performers.  We would have been correct on 14 out of 16, or 88% which comes within a few percentage points of our usual predictive accuracy of 92%.

This is scientific sales selection.  It's a necessary part of an overall scientific approach to sales and the sales force.

What drives me crazy are the marketing people who are writing about sales despite their complete lack of understanding about B2B sales.  They spin their messages to get business executives to think that the only thing that matters today is social selling, email, inbound marketing, and content. They hope that if they make inbound marketing sound easy enough by providing their tools and applications then businesses will buy their services and hire them.  For instance, today I read that we no longer need sales process (untrue), a consultative approach to selling is dead (untrue), and all sales forces need to be completely restructured (generally untrue).  That's just today!  And in the past 2 months, I have read that salespeople are now obsolete (untrue), prospects have completed 57% of their buying process before they meet with salespeople (the number is inaccurate) and people are no longer buying value (untrue).

There is no science backing up these claims, just a group of inbound marketers and an inside sales industry trying to convince you that sales today is is only about inbound and inside.  It is true that low-price, low-cost, high-demand commodities that everyone wants - think B2C and subscriptions - are being sold almost exclusively via online marketing. But even some of those companies, like Hubspot, the King of Inbound, have large inside sales forces following a structured sales process and taking a consultative approach.

I've said this before, but it should be repeated.  If you are not the price leader, market leader, or brand leader;  if you have a new product, new technology, or a story to tell; if you have a long sales cycle, provide custom products, or have a design cycle; or if you are the underdog; you need salespeople, you need a custom, formal, structured, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process, a consultative approach and skills that salespeople who came 10 years before you didn't have.  It's a fact.  And you can't let Inbound Marketers, Social Sellers or Inside Sales gurus tell you otherwise.  Don't get me wrong.  There is a place for inbound, social selling and inside sales in all of these companies.  They are complimentary pieces, not replacements.  After all, you wouldn't replace a Quarterback with a Kicker - the Kicker is an important complimentary piece to a football team.  

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales candidates, inside sales, inbound, sales hiring test, social selling, objective management group

Has the Death of Selling Finally Arrived?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

Selling - Not Dead YetWell you would think so...

People in inbound marketing would have you believe that if you create the right content, get people to raise their hands, complete a form, and request something, then inbound marketers, formerly known as inside salespeople, can take it from there.  If you are selling something in great demand (iPhone 5), really inexpensive (monthly subscription of $20 or less), significantly lower-priced than your competition (by 20% or more), or that people must have (wireless service), then you can easily replace salespeople with marketers.

However, there are 15 scenarios where you do need salespeople if you are selling something that:

  1. needs to be designed, built, or customized;  
  2. costs significantly more than your competition;
  3. is a new technology;
  4. is from a new company;
  5. is being sold into a brand new market;
  6. is expensive;
  7. isn't a line-item budgeted expense;
  8. has a story that must be told;
  9. has a long sales cycle;
  10. has a lot of competition;
  11. is complicated to understand;
  12. requires configuration;
  13. requires installation;
  14. people don't know they need; and/or
  15. is not the obvious choice in your space.

You must have salespeople.  Period.  Sure, you could benefit from inbound marketing to generate leads, but salespeople must do the follow-up, run the sales process and close the business. 

Problem #2 is that most salespeople have not recognized or accepted that inbound leads are different (requiring a different kind of follow-up), and as a result, they are not treating inbound leads appropriately.  They still have the old mindset where if they follow-up and don't reach a prospect, they attempt a few more failed calls before claiming that the lead is no good.  While that's a possible conclusion, it's more likely to be a faulty one. 

Inbound leads may need to be contacted up to 10 times before they respond.  They may not be prospects today, but that's OK.  They may be prospects next month, next quarter or next year.  Inbound leads need to be nurtured.  You need to get their attention on a regular basis through a newsletter, promotional email, blog or social media so that when they are ready, they will call you.  Then you need salespeople! 

So, just like they say in Monty Python, "I'm not dead yet."  And as long as your business, products or services continue to meet at least 1 of the 15 scenarios listed above, you will always need salespeople.  It's not dead yet.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, inside sales, lead follow up, inbound

Can You Improve a Kick-Ass Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 17:09 PM

Most of the calls and emails which we receive come from companies with flat or declining sales.  However, some of the greatest successes occur when we help companies who are already kicking ass.  

Mark Roberge, Sales VP at Hubspot, is responsible for building one of those kick-ass sales forces and he contributed a guest post to Software Advice on Building a Sales Team the Hubspot Way

When I read the article, I noted a couple of things that I really liked:

  1. They learn very little about sales in the first 30 days.  Mark said, "Instead, they start a blog, create a website, open a Twitter account and begin email marketing campaigns.  By the time training is over, they will rank in Google for a few dozen keywords in their market, have a few dozen followers on Twitter and have written a few dozen blog articles.  HubSpot’s content marketing strategy allows the rep to establish online credibility before even getting on the phone with his or her first prospect."  Cool.
     
  2. A steady flow of inbound leads.  That sure helps new salespeople get started, doesn't it?
Like all kick-ass sales forces, they could do better.  I read a few things that surely aren't as good as they could be and with some tweaking, would significantly improve sales:
  • Mark identified 5 traits that he believes correlate to success and hires salespeople who have these traits.  He identified Coachability, Intelligence, Prior Success, Curiosity and Work Ethic.  While most top-performing salespeople have these qualities, it does not necessarily work in reverse.  For example, top-performing salespeople are also great at developing, building and maintaining relationships.  However, people who are good with relationships do not necessarily become good salespeople.  In fact, most of them don't!  So while it's important to identify predictors of success, predictors that correlate in only one direction will often disappoint.  The problem with the 5 that Mark identified is that none of them speak to either sales DNA, Commitment, Desire or selling skills.  Hubspot has so many leads that their salespeople don't have to be nearly as strong or effective at overcoming resistance as they would if the company were an underdog as described by:
  • Really expensive products or services; 
  • Not the market leader; 
  • Higher priced offerings than their competition; 
  • Have a story to tell; 
  • New product or technology;
  • New company or brand.  
If you are reading this, and your company matches up with any one of my criteria for underdogs, then you couldn't possibly get away with what Hubspot can get away with.  You must have strong hunters who are adept at overcoming resistance, can differentiate by selling consultatively, and ask the kinds of questions that develop respect, allowing prospects to open their mind to the possibility that you can help.
 
  • Hold Them Accountable to a Predictable Sales Process.  I completely agree with the premise, but the example is not a sales process as much as it is a set of metrics measuring conversion ratios.  This too - having a set of KPI's that drives revenue - is extremely important, but you can't choose between KPI's and Sales Process.  You need them both.  I speak with many CEO's who think they have a solid sales process in place and what they actually have are some steps - not necessarily the right ones, and never in the right sequence.  There are two things you can do to determine if your sales process is any good.  The first is the eye test.  Does it always yield predictable results on a predictable timeline?  The second is a graded test.  Use our complimentary Sales Process Grader and get a score!

sales process grader
In summary, Mark has done a great job, written a great article and achieved greatness for Hubspot.  But like any kick-ass sales force, they can do even better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leads, HubSpot, sales process, sales training, inbound, sales KPI, Mark Roberge

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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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