Your Top Five Accounts - Where Do They Come From?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 29, 2008 @ 21:04 PM

Where do your best accounts come from?

It's important to think about this from time to time and I was thinking about it today.

Take the company's top 5 accounts and, of course, that brings up another question; based on what? Volume? Profit? Potential? Relationship? Leverage? Ease to Work With? Let's set it up this way:

 Criteria  Weight
 Volume  1
 Profit  3
 Potential  2
 Relationship  2
 Leverage  2
 Ease  1

You may not agree with the weighting and you can feel free to change it but we have to begin somewhere.  Now, based on the score that you assign to your accounts, take your top 5 accounts.

For my sales development company the top five accounts would be:

Company 1 - Cold Call From a New Salesperson
Company 2 - Introduction from a VP at Company 1
Company 3 - Introduction
Company 4 - Introduction
Company 5 - Found us via the Baseline Selling Web Site

For my assessment company the top five end user accounts would be:

Company 1 - Introduction
Company 2 - Introduction
Company 3 - Introduction
Company 4 - Introduction
Company 5 - Introduction

...and the top five resellers would be:

Reseller 1 - Introduction
Reseller 2 - Relationship
Reseller 3 - Introduction
Reseller 4 - Introduction
Reseller 5 - Found our Web Site

As you can see, most of the best accounts come from introductions.  What does that tell you?  What were your results? What are the two lessons associated with cold calls?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: leadership

Kurlan's Law for Sales Force Effectivness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 22, 2008 @ 12:04 PM

Introducing my Rule of Conflicting Sales Realities: Weak sales organizations have little awareness of their ineffectiveness which instills a false sense of greatness.  I believe that this is why generally ineffective sales forces remain that way.

Strong sales forces, that debrief their opportunities on a daily basis, are accutely aware of their challenges, obstacles and bottlenecks, causing them to feel less effective than they actually are. 

My Law: E=AS (Effectivness=Awareness x Strength; not shorthand for He is an Ass!) where awareness is a value from -5 to 5 and strength is a value from -5 to 5.

So the group I was with yesterday, a very weak group, was a -5 on the strength scale and a -2 on the awareness scale, making them a -10 on effectiveness.

The group I was with last week, a fairly competent group, was a 3 on the strength scale and a 4 on the awareness scale, giving then a score of 12 on effectivness. 

What is your sense of how effective your sales force is compared with sales forces from outside of your industry?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 



Topics: leadership

Major Account Sales - Finding the Chauffeur

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 @ 08:04 AM

Selling to a major company, as in large, multi-site, Billion Dollar plus accounts, is very different from selling to a small or medium sized company.  Among the many differences you will find, the biggest difference is the myth of calling at the top.  Chances are pretty good that the CEO doesn't know enough about the problem you can solve and has little interest in rolling up his sleeves to work on it with you.  Most salespeople try to call on the next highest ranking executive, not necessarily the best move.

Your company probably sells one of two things: If you sell something the customer already buys, will continue to buy or has decided to buy, the simple challenge is for them to choose you.  You can take the easy way in, call on the buyer and compete on price, or you can do it the hard way and call on someone who cares enough to change vendors if there is a compelling reason to do so.

If you sell something that the customer never considered buying, the challenge is to create a need. If you call on the VP of something, in most cases, that person wants to protect her job, not stick her neck out and create waves; so what you'll hear is that everything is great. So rather than calling on a decision maker, you'll have to find the highest ranking executive who cares enough about the issue you can solve to 1) admit to it; and 2) drive the process to bring your solution in house.

So, in essence, it doesn't matter whether you find yourself selling something they decided to buy or something they haven't decided to buy.  The common denominator is that in the major account, you must find someone to drive the process, someone who cares enough to to drive you there, a chauffeur of sorts.

You might know those people as champions but I think there is a huge difference between a champion and a chauffeur.  Champions are your friends, supporters and internal talking and walking testimonials.  However, they are often not strong enough to drive it up the decision-making chain, instead, only influencing matters with peers and subordinates.  Chauffeurs on the other hand are not intimidated with titles, may be trying to make a name for themselves, and will drive uphill as easily as a champion drives downhill.

Find the right chauffeur and the VP of whatever may be compelled to act in a way that benefits you.  As the leader of your sales organization, your job is to make sure your salespeople know how to identify this person, contact and connect with this person, and get the sales process moving by uncovering this person's compelling reasons to take action.  Can they do that?  Can you help them?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, leadership

Best Sales Advice in a Single Sentence

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 08, 2008 @ 09:04 AM

Last night, as I've done a couple of times before, I had the opportunity to speak to the sales class at Clark University.  The class was significantly larger than the one from last semester so the professor, Ron Ranauro, CEO of Genome Quest, is clearly succeeding, creating a buzz about the program.

The kids asked some great questions but my favorite was this one: "In a single sentence, what's the best advice you can give us about succeeding in sales?"

Wow. This goes beyond process, technique, mindset and attitude.  I gave the class my sentence last night and I'll share it with you in a future post after you share yours with my readers.

What's your single sentence?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: leadership

2008 Gazelles Sales & Marketing Summit

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 31, 2008 @ 11:03 AM

The Gazelles Sales & Marketing Summit is already the premier sales and marketing event in the US.  The summit is hosted by Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and founder and CEO of Gazelles, Inc.  As a speaker at last year's inaugural event, I witnessed first-hand what can happen when CEO's bring their teams and spend two days listening to the best in the industry share their thoughts, best practices, tips and experiences.

This year's lineup of speakers is even more impressive than last year's and I strongly recommend this event as the one event you must attend in 2008.  Click here for more information and to register.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: leadership

US Airways Selling Their Customers on Defecting - Is it Working?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 27, 2008 @ 13:03 PM

More than a year ago I posted this article about how United Airlines was selling their customers on not choosing their airline by the way they handled people.  They weren't doing it on purpose, it was just poor training.  Today, at the US Airways check-in line at Laguardia, the experience wasn't just poor training, it was downright shocking!  Here's what happened. 

Airlines usually have a supervisor standing near the people in line, asking where they're going and what kind of ticket they have.  Today, the supervisor asked a lady why she was in line (it seemed his purpose was to get people out of the line and using Kiosks) and she said she wanted to get wait listed for an upgrade.  He said, "that takes too long, they're way to busy, so call 1-800-xxx-9999".  She didn't have a cell phone.  He said, "not my problem".  She remained in the line which had 4 people in it at that point.  When the supervisor saw that she was still in the line he went to his agents and said, "when this lady gets to the counter I don't want you to wait on her.  She wants to get wait listed, so I gave her the phone number and she's being a pain in the ass.  Don't help her."

It's awfully hard to be a pain in the ass customer when you don't complain or demand anything.  This lady wasn't guilty of anything and there wasn't much else for her to do.  The supervisor wasn't the least bit nice, and he didn't think it was his job to find a way to help his customers.  Actually, he thought it was his job to keep his agents from being busy.  What a proponent of depersonalized service.

And that's what this post is all about.  The more we depersonalize everything, the more we rely on kiosks, the more we use automated phones, and the more we get angry when people don't want to use our well thought-out costly processes, the more we succeed at selling our customers on not doing business with us anymore.  And whether it's selling them to do business with us, selling them on continuing to do business with us or selling them on never doing business with us again, it's still selling.

Last night upon my arrival at Laguardia, my limo driver asked me to find him.  Nice touch.  Today my limo driver called to tell me he was at the front door of the hotel.  When I told him I was at the banquet entrance he told me he would wait for me.  I asked him if he would get me where I was waiting and he said he didn't know where it was.  I suggested that if he drove the car around the building he might find it and he laughed at me.  But I was probably being a pain in the ass.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, leadership

When the Weak Economy Collides with Ineffective Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 25, 2008 @ 21:03 PM

This is a post on which you must comment after reading it - really.

As the daily stories of economic woes continue to be featured in the headlines, most companies have their own version of the current economy and its affect on them.  From the perspective of the sales force, we help overhear your salespeople returning from calls with objections like:

  • there's a spending freeze
  • it's no longer a priority
  • they're going out of business
  • they're laying people off
  • they're postponing the initiative
  • they're only going to do half of what we spoke about
  • they're too busy putting out fires

There are more but I don't need to list them here.

Chronic mediocrity, excuse making, under achievement, complacency and a selling skill set adequate only for better times are colliding head-on with a recession and possible depression.  What could be worse?  Lots could be worse.  That's the reality but there are many things you can do about it.

  • This is the best time to evaluate and identify the real issues
  • This is the best time to train
  • The strong sales force in a weak economy is the killer sales force in a strong economy
  • This is the best time to coach
  • This is the best time for incentive programs
  • This is the best time for motivational programs
  • This is the perfect time for new accountability initiatives
  • This is the perfect time to install CRM

There are so many more things you can be doing.  Here is the part where you get to comment.  What are you doing in your company to motivate your salespeople and make them more effective when it's most important for them to be more effective?  And if you're not doing anything special right now, why not?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation, assessment

Selling the Dream - 3 Lessons for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 24, 2008 @ 14:03 PM

My wife and I were fortunate enough to be in the opening night audience at the brand new Hanover Theater for the Performing Arts in Worcester Massachusetts.  I saw my first movie in that old building around 45 years ago and later, as a teen, went there after they had turned it into a four screen theater.

The successful restoration project showcased a world-class theater that will attract the shows that were previously held only in Boston, an hour east.  Why am I writing about this in my Blog?  There's are three lessons here for the sales force.

1) One of the many important speakers who participated on opening night,  Fred Eppinger, the dynamic CEO of The Hanover Insurance Group, shared several compelling reasons as to the significance of the theater and hopes of those behind it.  He possesses the ability to connect with his audience and share the dream, the one that inspired the restoration and led to the reopening as well as the dream for the theater's future.  His great speech got me thinking that most business leaders don't work hard enough to come across like that when addressing their salespeople (and other employees too).  You must be able to lead by example and if your example fails to concisely demonstrate your passion for the cause, how can you expect your salespeople to fare any better?  Lesson #1 - You must be able to consistently and effectively articulate the dream and motivate those who you expect to do the same.

2) Opening night featured Bernadette Peters, from Broadway, Movies and Television. She was so spectacular that my wife and I enjoyed her show despite recognizing only about five of her songs.  She had an ongoing dialog with the audience and several times mentioned that she had a home for sale in Florida.  In between songs, she mentioned 200 feet of frontage on the water. During another break she mentioned 5 bedrooms and on yet another break she told us how nice it was.  At the end of her concert she sang a beautiful lullaby, Kramer's Song, she wrote and recorded as a companion CD to a new children's book she authored called Broadway Barks.  She closed with, "So please go to, type in Bernadette Peters, and buy my book so I can be a best-selling author.  100% of the proceeds go to my charity for animals."

It was really pretty clever.  She builds value by talking about her multi-million dollar home, gets us emotionally involved with the lullaby, and then simply asks us to buy her book, to benefit her charity and make her a best-selling author.  Easy sale. Lesson #2 - Make sure your salespeople are selling value, getting their prospects emotionally involved and closing!

3) Both of these stories from the Hanover opening are examples of exceeding expectations.  When a company, vendor, providor, salesperson, sales manager or business leader exceeds your expectations, you will tell somebody, try to get them excited and create buzz.  Lesson #3 - Make sure your salespeople are exceeding their customers' expectations.  That is the surest, fastest way to generate top quality referrals and introductions to new customers.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 



Topics: leadership

Focused Sales Efforts Temporarily Improve Sales Competencies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Mar 09, 2008 @ 23:03 PM

Every company has people whose sales competencies are not fully developed. Perhaps their salespeople don't find enough new opportunities.  Maybe they don't ask for referrals often enough.  It's possible that opportunities languish in the pipeline for too long.  There are a number of reasons for results like these, from weaknesses that prevent your salespeople from performing as desired, to sales management's ineffective motivation, setting of expectations, coaching and accountability.

There are short periods of time when you can cause those underdeveloped competencies to temporarily appear developed. Al Williams, author of All You Can Do is All You Can Do, said, "You can do anything for 30 Days".  For instance, if you are frustrated over the lack of new business, a focused new business effort can  serve as a band-aid and cause a temporary change in behavior and results.  Let's assume that you want to significantly increase the number of new opportunities in the pipeline.  Schedule a one, two, three, or five-day blitz where the only activities that will take place are those that will generate new opportunities.  Have all of your salespeople come in off the road and pretend they are on vacation but instead of hitting the beaches on some warm, sunny island, put them on the phones.  Have them call prospects they failed to sell, prospects with whom they failed to get appointments, prospects they never called on before, and customers/clients who can refer them to new prospects, etc.

Micro manage this blitz, give out awards if you see fit, and make sure the entire company is focused on the goal.  Make sure that all of your employees support the focused sales effort by not distracting the salespeople from what they need to do over this short period of time.

Remember, this strategy is only a band-aid, it doesn't solve the underlying problems and, like any rubber band, will return to it's original state as soon as the pressure is released. 

My company, Objective Management Group, is running such a blitz this week as our coaches focus their efforts on identifying potential, quality resellers for our assessments.  If you know a sales expert, trainer, guru or author; or someone whose expertise is in HR, assessments or management consulting, and you think we should talk to them, drop me an email with their contact information or have them fill out this form.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: accountability, leadership, Motivation

Some Executives and Their Egos

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Mar 01, 2008 @ 06:03 AM

The local Methodist Church has one of those message signs out front so they can promote the minister's next sermon.  Driving by yesterday, I noticed this message:

Sign is Broken.

Message Inside.

That's how I feel sometimes.  So many companies need help but the CEO's, President's or Sales VP's ego prevents him/her from admitting that there's a problem.  They'll read a book or attempt to pick an expert's brain, but admitting that THEY haven't been able to get year to year revenue growth to where they want it to be?  Fugetabout it.

This same group of executives have the exact same frustration with their salespeople who have similarly strong egos and are equally reluctant to admit to any flaws.

Book is Broken.  Email is Broken.  Phone is Broken.  Blog is Broken.  I am Broken.  Message Only Available After Confession.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: leadership

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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