Double Article Friday and the Death of All Selling Forever

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 @ 07:04 AM

warYou get more bang for your buck on Fridays!  Especially this Friday when you get my powerful rant below, as well as two bonus articles!

The Selling Power Blog has my new article on why consultative selling is so difficult.  Head over there for a great read!

And over at Top Sales World, my article on the premature announcement that SPIN Selling is dead is one of the top 10 articles for last week.

There is no doubt that selling has changed - a lot - but the marketers who most benefit from telling you that it has changed to the point where you should not sell anymore are simply trying to get you to buy their stuff!

Don't get me wrong - they ALL have great tools, applications, insights, data and uses.  But you need to buy those services on their own merit because you need them or they would add to your sales force's effectiveness.  THEY DO NOT TODAY, NOR WILL THEY TOMORROW, BE USED INSTEAD OF SELLING!

There is a very significant movement, by everyone selling something for inside sales and inbound marketing, to get everyone else on this overhyped, death of selling, band wagon.  I've said this before and I'll say it again.  For very transactional sales, very quick sales, very inexpensive sales, or the lowest price on the planet sales, inbound, outbound, overbound, double bound, inside, not outside, two-sided and both-sided, inside and inbound will surely replace traditional salespeople.  But it stops there folks.  Everyone else needs salespeople, and while selling has surely changed, that doesn't mean that you should take their myopic advice and stop selling!

You don't stop selling.  Repeat it three times. You don't stop selling.  You don't stop selling.  You don't stop selling. You don't replace salespeople with marketing.  You don't make salespeople passive.  You don't stop asking questions. You don't stop qualifying and closing.  If the methods of these inside sales experts are so good, why are their win rates so low and their sales cycles so long?  Why is their turnover so high?

Good questions.

I've seen the underbelly of their sales forces and you don't want to trade what you have now for what they have now.  Adopt some of their technology, sure, but don't blow up the farm.  You still need the harvest to eat.

Image credit: stefanolunardi / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, inside sales, death of selling

Is This an Example of Succeeding or Failing at Inside Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 @ 20:04 PM

forestYesterday I was in the office, preparing for the formal introduction of Objective Management Group's (OMG) award-winning, new and improved, fourth generation, Sales Candidate Assessment (view the 25-minute Webinar here) when the phone rang and I answered.

Not only was it a cold call, but it was one I could write about - the best kind!

The salesperson was from Oracle and wanted to know if I was aware of and had seen their CRM software demonstrated.  

It's bad enough when companies move to the demo too quickly, but it doesn't get any faster or more transactional than when they ask you if you've seen their demo with their very first question.  But hey, give him a break.  At least he asked a question instead of telling me he wanted me to see a demo...

I explained what my company did, and that we would normally be recommending CRM to our clients and he repeated his question - did I want to see a demo?  I repeated my statement, that among other things, we recommend the appropriate CRM solution to our clients, and don't need to see a demo.  His response was that he was from inside sales.  In other words, "I'm not supposed to figure out what you're trying to explain to me - I'm an inside salesperson!"

He said he was making a notation in the file (in Oracle's CRM application?) and he thanked me for his time.

Of course, if he was not an inside salesperson, he could have asked any of the following questions:

  • Do you recommend Oracle?
  • How many of your clients use Oracle?
  • Can we get you to recommend Oracle more often?
  • Which CRM applications do you recommend?
  • Why do you recommend those?
  • What do you think is the most important feature?
  • Why is that so important?
  • How do you think Oracle handles that feature?

On the other hand, his job was to schedule demos and I wasn't going to become one, wasn't going to count toward his quota, wasn't going to count toward his bonus, and wasn't worth another minute of his time.

From an inside sales perspective, he actually did his job because he cut his losses and moved on to the next call.  But from a practical, business development standpoint, he completely blew his opportunity to become aligned with a major influencer to the vertical into which he sells!

There couldn't be a better example of just how consistently misguided some of the inside sales experts are.  I just set myself up for two weeks of nasty tweets and comments from the entire inside sales community.  Most of them hate me for my opinions.  Most of them can't see the forest for the trees and the top of the sales funnel is represented by the first row of trees in the forest.

Speaking of inside sales, Dan McDade wrote a great post on everything that's wrong with inbound marketing and how it is causing inbounditis!  It's a must-read.

What is your opinion about the appropriate role for inbound and inside sales?

Image Credit: Foto4u 123RF.com

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, inside sales, objective management group, inbound sales, dan mcdade, oracle

Is There a Lack of Clarity on the Current State of Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 15:04 PM

clarityLast week, I wrote this article questioning the Death of SPIN Selling.  Over the years, I have questioned the impending death of other important areas like cold-calling, selling, sales process, salespeople and more.  As we continue to discuss these issues and more like them, let's think about why there are two camps - those who continue to prophecise the eventual death of salespeople and selling; and those who defend its existence and continued importance as we march into the future.

I believe that if you do some digging into who is writing relative to each topic, it becomes fairly easy to see that most of the deathmongers hail from isolated areas of the industry. Some of them are marketers who, in order to push their applications, must convince you that marketing can handle both finding and closing sales - all via the internet.  Others are from the big, new, inside sales industry.  Those bloggers too must convince you that traditional sales is on its way out the door in order to get you to buy their services.  It's no coincidence that because most inside sales groups are responsible for the top of the funnel (following up on leads or generating leads and/or meetings) or selling low-cost, high-demand products and services (transactional of course), they have little insight into a longer, more complex sale.  Then there are researchers who simply fail to talk with the right people. 

On the other side of this discussion are those, like me, who are saying, "Sorry, you just don't get it.  You don't know what you're talking about."  We are actually in the field, working with companies, their leadership teams, their sales management teams, their salespeople and helping them navigate these choppy waters and develop modern, effective sales processes, strategies, tactics and styles.

Without question, the internet, inbound marketing, and social selling have replaced traditional sales - IN CERTAIN AREAS.  But they are relatively small areas and most B2B sellers will NEVER, EVER find themselves in that situation.

If your company has a long sales cycle, a complex sale or sells a high-ticket product or service, you will always require great salespeople.  If your company is not the market leader, low-cost alternative, or the maker of the products that people wait in line to buy, you will always require great salespeople.  And if your company and/or your technology is new, you will require great salespeople.  It's really that simple.

There is some clarity though.  It's clear that most of the inside sales/marketing folks lack clarity when it comes to writing about sales.  What they write about certainly applies to what they are doing in their corner of the sales world, but it is no more representative of sales and selling than Palm Beach resorts and Orlando Theme Parks are representative of Florida.  People who visit there experience life in a controlled environment.  It's an aberration - a bubble - because the real Florida has violence, crime, pick-up trucks, cowboy boots and large metal belt buckles. 

Yesterday, during our 2014 Objective Management Group (OMG) International Conference, I was speaking with Cliff Pollan, CEO of Postwire, my favorite content-sharing application and one of our great Strategic Partners.  Despite leading a company that essentially helps companies market via an ability to push, pull and track content engagement, Cliff sides with those of us helping traditional B2B companies to sell their products and services.  

OMG introduced its brand new, fourth generation Sales Candidate Assessments at this conference and they go live next Monday, April 21.  I will be leading a webinar and walking end-users through the new report on Thursday, April 17, at 11 AM ET.  Even if you aren't a current user, you are welcome to join us and learn why there is so much buzz about OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.  Register here.

Image credit: rtimages / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, inside sales, postwire, cliff pollan, b2b sales, sales assessment testing, objective management group

Are Inside Sales and Consultative Selling Mutually Exclusive?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 07, 2014 @ 05:04 AM

headsetI don't write about Inside Sales as often as I should.  After all, everyone else is writing about it, some bloggers are devoted to it, and if you read what the inside sales bloggers are writing, you would think that inside sales is king.  Of course, it is the king of the top of the funnel where everything begins, but with few exceptions, selling rarely ends in that department.

It's important to separate inside sales into its five most common forms:

  1. As a replacement for traditional outside sales.  They are quota-carrying salespeople responsible for the entire sales cycle, but doing it from the comfort of a desk.  This is technically "inside", but the comparison to inside stops there.
  2. Traditional inside sales where salespeople field incoming calls from people seeking prices and quotes and placing orders.  This form of inside sales has been around since the telephone.
  3. Customer Service, where the focus may be upselling and/or cross-selling, has been around for ages.  
  4. The top of the funnel group is responsible for generating leads and/or scheduling calls and meetings for more traditional salespeople.
  5. Inbound, the newest group, where salespeople work the contacts generated by websites, social sites and from getting found.

In this discussion, we'll focus on group #2, traditional inside sales, where salespeople field incoming calls from existing loyal customers, existing disloyal customers, and potential customers.

Throughout the history of selling by phone, these calls have traditionally taken the form of, "Yes, can I have a price on 2,500 microwidgitettes?"

And during the same history, the inside salesperson responds with something like, "Sure.  They are $1.29 each, but with a quantity of 2500, the price goes down to $1.19."

Then, the caller either places the order or says, "Thanks.  I'll let you know."

That call is incredibly transactional and if they buy now, or later, a sale cannot be any more transactional than that.  So where does consultative selling fit into that approach?

To properly answer the question, we must explore the context a bit more thoroughly.

Are there any downsides to this?  Could this approach really be hurting us?  Is there a problem with this type of efficiency?  Hell yes!

Let's look at the three types of potential callers and the potential downside:

  1. Loyal customer - What could possibly be the problem with this call being so transactional?  After all, aren't we all in a hurry?  There are two problems though.  The first is that while this loyal customer will place their order with you, your persistent competitors are working their asses off trying to make your customer their customer.  The second problem is that when the average call takes just under a minute, it is impossible to develop relationships.  And one thing that hasn't changed in all these years is that without that strong relationship, especially with the people they call all the time, it is easier for your competitor to lure this customer away!
  2. Disloyal customer - They do buy from you, but only when your price is lower or your competitor doesn't have what they need.  It may not be possible to change this customer's behavior, but you can't even try unless you get more than one minute on the phone with them!  You need the relationship, even if it's to earn the right to have a deeper conversation about this behavior and how you can help them save time (less calling, fewer shipments to receive and fewer invoices to pay), and money (better prices when they buy everything from one source, in greater quantities, and over an extended period of time).  This requires having an actual conversation and taking a consultative approach.
  3. Potential customer - They don't buy from you today, but they continue to call for prices.  There could even be more of these calls than those from your loyal and disloyal customers!  How can you possibly turn these callers into customers UNLESS you take a consultative approach and have a conversation about why they call, why they don't place orders, what might be going on, displeasure or unhappiness with another vendor, changes in their strategy, or anything else that might provide a clue and topic for the appropriate conversation?

This is all fairly simple in concept, but executing is more difficult because inside salespeople have been trained to be efficient, not consultative.  Inside salespeople have been trained to do one thing well, not multiple things.  This really involves training inside salespeople to have conversations that are similar to those that should be taking place on the outside.

Are inside sales and consultative selling mutually exclusive?  They seem to be today, but they shouldn't be.  Companies are failing to leverage all of the calls they receive and seem intent to spend more money on marketing to generate more calls and inquiries!  It costs a lot of money to generate a new customer.  It costs even more to have a disloyal customer.  It's a waste of money to let potential customers slip right through the earpiece of the phone.

Image credit: racorn / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, inside sales, phone selling

Why Did The Move from Outside to Inside Sales Take So Long?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 09, 2013 @ 05:12 AM

dave kurlan,inside sales,outside sales,the new sales paradigmEventually, most antiquated models are replaced by more up-to-date, efficient, and sometimes exciting models.

Outside sales is being replaced by inside sales but not in the way that most people think.  The people in outside sales aren't being replaced by the people in inside sales. That's not what this is all about.  Let's quickly compare inside sales to outside sales.

By the way, inside sales is a term that no longer works for me because it could refer to any of the following roles: 

  • Customer Service - solving problems
  • Order Fulfillment - taking orders
  • Telesales - making transactional sales
  • Lead Generation - generating leads
  • Appointment Setting - scheduling first meetings or calls
  • Inbound Marketing - following up on internet-driven leads
  • Telemarketing - scripted sales pitch for a specific product or service
  • Traditional Inside Sales - talking with existing customers, quoting, order taking
  • New Inside Sales - responsibility for the entire sales cycle by phone

Outside sales has traditionally been associated with a territory, assigned accounts, and/or new business development, where customers would place orders with inside salespeople between visits.  I have purposely over-simplified the role of outside sales in order to save time and get to my point.

The change that is taking place simply takes the outside sales role and brings that role to the phone.  Why?  It:

  • Eliminates or reduces travel expenses, including vehicle, gas, airfare, meals and hotels,
  • Increases productivity by a factor of 4; where 3 visits per day becomes 12 phone conversations,
  • Pleases customers who only need a short conversation instead of an hour-long visit, and
  • Improves focus and purpose for the calls - it's no longer a social call.

Of course, there will be exceptions.  This won't work for all industries, verticals and companies, but it has been taking place for a few years now and is occurring as I write this.

Back to my original question, why did this move take so long?

If we look more closely at the outside salesperson, we can see that the role has changed over time.  After all, this was the original traveling salesperson, going from village to village, town to town and city to city in a horse and buggy, perhaps sending via mail, thank-you notes and advanced notices of visits.  The horse and buggy was replaced by the car.  The telephone replaced the write-ahead letter.  The landline phone is being replaced by the cellphone and VoIP.  The computer replaced the typewriter.  Highways replaced back roads which replaced dirt paths.  And email is replacing mail.  Online ordering is replacing phone ordering which is replacing the act of walking into a store and making a purchase.  Most of these changes occurred over decades.  So, it is only natural that this change from outside to inside sales takes place as well.  But why did it take so long?

I don't have an answer beyond the cliché, "It's always been done that way."  

In the US, gas stations still charge by the 9/10ths of a gallon.  That made sense in the 1960's when gas was 18 cents per gallon, but it doesn't work at $4 per gallon.  It's always been done that way.

When you travel by air, flight attendants still recite or play video that shows how to buckle a seat belt.  That made sense before automobile seat belts became mandatory in the 70's, but it doesn't make sense in a generation where everyone has been buckling seat belts since they were old enough to get into a car by themselves.  It's always been done that way.

In a changing world where technology pulls us kicking and screaming into new systems, processes and procedures that promise ease of use, reduced cost and huge savings of time, the only things that remain the same are that we have less time, most companies earn less money and everyone must constantly learn new ways to do things.

Outside salespeople are simply the latest in that group to succumb to change.  The more important lesson though, is that to retain their positions, they must adapt to their new roles!  They will still have responsibility for the entire sales process, but by phone instead of face-to-face.  Selling by phone is not the same and if they don't change, they will end up where the buggies ended up - in museums.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, inside sales, outside sales, the new sales paradigm

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

How Dell and Apple Use Customer Service as a Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 19, 2010 @ 22:05 PM

customer  service repI've written several articles about customer service and how quickly and easily they can passively sell your customers on defecting from your company and moving their business to a competitor.  My favorite targets over the years have been Verizon, Dell and the airlines, but recently, my commercial insurance agent, and my accountant have accomplished this feat too.  In this article, it's Apple's turn and just wait until you read this...

If you've dealt with Dell, and who hasn't, you know that first you have to wait, and wait some more just to talk with someone.  When you do finally get someone to speak with, you can't understand a word they are saying.  Then you get transferred a few times to more people you can't understand.  Then you rinse and repeat (start from scratch with each person you have to speak with), and are asked 50 stupid questions that have nothing to do with your problem.  They ask you to try all kinds of things that don't fix your problem because they don't know what they're talking about.  Then finally, after two frustrating hours, Dell MIGHT resolve your issue but you are resolved not to buy from them again.   

macbook proI went on Apple's support site tonight at around 5:45 PM.  I entered the information (my user ID, password and the problem selected from a drop-down list) and the site said I would receive a call back immediately.  Sure - right.

It took 5 seconds - 5 SECONDS! -  to speak with a live person, who spoke English and actually had my information in front of her. No rinsing or repeating!  Want to know what happened next? 

She said she would get a replacement shipped out today.  Done.  The entire conversation - and it was a conversation, not someone following prompts on a computer screen, took less than 5 minutes.  Makes we want to buy something else from Apple.  That new iPad looks pretty awesome, doesn't it? [UPDATE - it arrived less than 17 hours later - 10:30 AM]

Customer Service has more impact on customer retention than your salespeople because they may interact with them more than your account managers do. This is such an important concept.  They must be able to hold conversations and make your customers thrilled with the outcomes. And consider that if you want to make this transition, you may not have the right people in place to get them to perform the way you want. 

You expect your salespeople to find and close business.  You should expect your customer service people to not only retain the business, but uncover new opportunities too.  Sounds a lot like inside sales to me...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, inside sales

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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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