Why Do You Think That Harvard Business Review Does This When it Comes to Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 @ 11:11 AM

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For years now, Harvard Business Review and its Blog on hbr.com have been accepting articles on sales that are usually laugh-out-loud wrong.  The information is sometimes old and outdated, usually not routed in science, and sometimes simply stupid.  While they have always published a great magazine, the information on selling regularly fails to meet our expectations.  

My issue with HBR is not one of sour grapes.  I have plenty of subscribers and followers that read my science of selling and opinion pieces.  My concern is that because it's HBR, readers accept that which is written on those pages as gospel. "It can't be wrong!"

Why do they allow these articles to see the light of day?  

There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Their editors don't know enough about selling so they lack the knowledge to say, "Sorry Charlie."
  • They typically don't accept articles from authors without a PHD after their name so that generally rules out submissions from experts like me
  • Those with a PHD after their names are often teaching in academia - a wonderful source of real world experience and data.  Most of their data comes from surveys and the real world experience often comes from industrial companies who are still in the analog age.
  • Their model is to publish work from university professors because it appears more credible.

I don't post a rebuttal every time an article like that appears, but when it flies in the face of what we know to be true I can't help myself.  

The most recent example of Harvard Business Review and sales stupidity came earlier this month when they ran an article on social selling being the solution to prevent salespeople from becoming obsolete.  I wrote this article on LinkedIn bring it to light and differentiate fact from fiction.

But this is only the most recent example.  There have been 13 other articles that I have written to correct their false information, as well as this white paper that you can download for free.

The Challenge of the Challenger Sales Model - The Facts

Harvard Business Review Blog Off Target on Sales Greatness

Harvard Business Review Blog Post Gets Salespeople Wrong

Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on SalesHow Wrong is the Harvard Business Review Article on How to Hire Salespeople?

Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR

Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings

Top 10 Questions for Salespeople to Ask and Stay Away From

What Customers Expect From Your Salespeople and More

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

More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog

Now That You Have a Sales Process, Never Mind

Is SELLING an Afterthought in Today's Sales Model?

So what do you think?  Why does HBR consistently publish bad information when it comes to sales?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hbr blog, sales and selling, HBR, linkedin

How This Awful Cold, Voicemail Message Could Have Actually Worked

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 @ 11:09 AM

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The timing on these two events could not have been more perfect!  Both occurred last week and I wanted to share them with you today.  First came Dan McDade's article - the first of three parts - on whether cold calling is dead.  He asked a number of sales experts to weight in and articulate whether it is truth or a lie.  It was very well done and you'll want to read it.  Then came the comments - most notably on LinkedIn - from both sides of the argument.  And finally, I received a cold call from a salesperson who was following up on an email.  It's a great example of a call that was a complete waste and I'll share that call with you as well as how that call could have worked.

First, let's take a look at Dan's article and his quest to determine if "cold calling is dead" is fact or fiction.

Next, let's wander over to one of the LinkedIn discussions and take a look at the argument in progress.  Click on the comment icon to reveal all of the comments.

Finally, let's listen in on this voicemail.  In the context of "cold calling is dead" it's interesting because cold calls like these are obviously not dead.  Although it's far less common to get the call following up on an email, it's not unheard of either.  But what was the real purpose of the call?  To see if I got the email?  Really? Why would anyone expect this call to work?  Listen first, and then we can discuss it.

He did not give me a reason as to why his initial email or a future conversation with him might be important to me.  In other words, it was a total waste of a call for him and for me.

So what could he have done instead?

He could have started with something that I would have agreed with like: "Dave, I sent you an introductory email last week, but if you're as busy as me, it was probably buried in an avalanche of holiday email and you never saw it."

He could have continued with why he sent it to me. "I sent the email because I believe that we could help you in much the same way that we have helped other growing consulting firms like yours."  This demonstrates that the call was targeted, he knows I have a growing consulting firm, and there is reference to having done this before.

And he could have given me a good reason to call.  "If you could give me five minutes next week, I will make sure that you don't waste your time and I'm sure that you will be glad we talked."

And here is a cold call from this morning. Listen to this one.

Just like the first one - what is the purpose of the call?  To formally introduce himself?  Why would that be compelling unless he said his name was Sean Connery.  I know, Connery is Scottish, but you know what I mean.

So what could he have done differently?  He could have said, "I know you're with Toshiba and a lot of Toshiba customers have been frustrated over inaccurate invoicing and moving to us at Kyocera.  I was hoping that we could spend 5 minutes to see if we could provide with you a more enjoyable experience."

Finally, if you aren't tired of these dissections, here is one you can simply read.

Cold calling isn't dead, but most salespeople don't do it - only 35% of salespeople prospect consistently - and that makes it appear dead. Those that do prospect tend to suck at it - 34% aren't able to schedule meetings when they make a cold call.

Meetings don't get scheduled unless somebody picks up a phone.  Read this article on the next big game changer for sales.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, linkedin, dan mcdade

Which Thoughts Affect How Successful You Will be in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 08:06 AM

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I finished reading Game 7 - Ron Darling's book on the final game of the 1986 World Series, and I'm half way through Shoe Dog - Nike creator Phil Knight's memoir.  They're similar books because each devotes so much ink and analysis as to how their own thinking and beliefs - both positive and negative - shaped their actions and outcomes.  Read them and imagine sales instead of baseball and entrepreneurship, and both books will help shape the ideal thought process to support selling!  I highly recommend both books.  I wrote a lot about beliefs in selling in both Mindless Selling and my best-seller, Baseline Selling.  As a matter of fact, when Objective Management Group (OMG) measures this, only 45% of the sales population have 80% or more of the possible supportive sales beliefs and only 6% (elite territory) have better than 87% of the possible supportive sales beliefs!

We're half way through 2016 and I've posted 60 more articles to my Blog.  I used to measure the effectiveness of an article by the number of reads, but these days, that's more a measure of whether the title or first sentence successfully got a reader to click through.  Today, I think a better measure of an article's overall impact is the number of LinkedIn shares it receives.  As I usually do every six months, I listed the top ten articles from January through June ranked by LinkedIn shares.  Chances are that you didn't read them all so here goes:

#1 - Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before

#2 - Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

#3 - Learn How We Discovered They Had the Wrong Salespeople

#4 - The 5 Questions That Get Prospects to Buy so You Don't Have to Sell

#5 - How Boomers and Millennials Differ in Sales

#6 - Sales Coaching and the Challenges of Different Types of Salespeople

#7 - What do you Blame When Salespeople Don't Schedule Enough New Meetings?

#8 - What Percentage of Sales Managers Have the Necessary Coaching Skills?

#9 - How Wrong are Company Methods to Rank and Compensate Salespeople? 

#10 - Why Uncovering Pain Doesn't Close the Sale with a CEO and the 3 Conditions You Do Need

While those were the most shared, there are a couple that should have been shared more often but weren't:

The 3 Most Important Questions about Sales Process

It's Coming Sooner Than You Think - 5 Keys to Prepare Your Sales Force for the Recession

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Coaching, Top Performer, sales performance, self-limiting sales beliefs, sales compensation, linkedin, uncovering pain, phil knight, nike, ron darling

Surprising New Data on Salespeople Busts the Myths about Relationship Selling and Social Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 @ 13:06 PM

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Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

 

If you are a regular reader, you might recall this great article on Selling to a CEO.  In that article, I also mentioned some of the expanded Sales Competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) now measures.  Before April, Relationship Building and Mastery of Social Selling were findings in our evaluations, but now, they are full blown competencies with complete sets of attributes.

I had a theory about salespeople, but didn't have the data to prove it out.  I believed that social selling was a godsend to those in sales who were not great at relationship building - that by utilizing applications like LinkedIn and Twitter, they could reach out to new people, but with the benefit of hiding behind the glass screen. Do you think I was right?  Or wrong?

 Actually, I couldn't have been more wrong!

We took nearly 5,000 rows of data from the past 2 weeks and looked at those two competencies and compared the results.  In the 1st graph, you'll see that the overwhelming majority of salespeople are poor at both, or to put it in my vocabulary, they suck at both!  Just 5% were good at both, 11% excelled at social selling and 16% excelled at relationship building.  

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So I wondered if the data might be skewed based on demographics.  For instance, would the data show that salespeople with more than 10 years in sales are less effective at social selling and better at relationship building?  We filtered the data and removed everyone who had fewer than 10 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 1,850 veteran salespeople.  The graph looked nearly identical to the first graph but the veteran group at 33% was much better at relationship building, 11% - the same as the entire population - had mastered social selling and 8% achieved high scores in both.

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So I wondered what would happen if we looked at the people who were new to sales. This time, we filtered the data and removed everyone who had more than 5 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 2,000 newer salespeople.  This graph also looked quite similar, but there were a few small differences.  Just 2% of the newer salespeople were good at both competencies.  33% were good at relationship building, and surprisingly only 9% had mastered social selling - an even smaller percentage than the veteran group!

 

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 My theory?  Out the window.  Not even close!  Instead we made two even better discoveries from this exercise:  

  1. The majority of salespeople, who aren't very good at relationship building, will be equally poor at social selling.
  2. Although you and I are selling socially, most salespeople - 89% are not effective at social selling! 

Are you surprised by any of these discoveries?  What are your thoughts?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, twitter, Relationship Selling, linkedin, social selling, sales assessments

How to Get Your Sales Message to Resonate Every Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 @ 07:11 AM

 

This is an article about getting your sales message to resonate - every time.  However, before we can discuss that, I need to share a current, real world example.  So bear with me.

Just like the news programs which, before the Paris attack, had been talking mostly about political debates and candidates, I have been discussing various aspects of the science behind sales selection.

Last week, an article I wrote for LinkedIn went viral and included a large number of very good, very insightful comments that took the conversation deeper and wider.  The article makes for an interesting study because the writing followed the same path I took on an article back in March that had completely different results.  Let's compare the two articles, examine what caused the comments to be so dramatically different, and use that to understand getting your sales message to resonate.

In a typical year, there are usually several articles written by people who aren't experts on sales selection, introducing a certain set of criteria that differentiates top from bottom salespeople.  Sometimes they take the same approach and identify several criteria that should be used in sales selection.  When I read these articles and it is clear that they are as wrong as the government is when they try to run health insurance and over-regulate businesses, I usually write a rebuttal article of some kind.

I wrote the first rebuttal article back in March and it caused a literal firestorm of emotionally charged comments, attacks, support and testimonials.  In some ways, it was awesome and in other ways, it was sad.

I wrote another rebuttal article last week and it caused a tremendous number of good, positive, insightful comments.

Both of my articles were similar in that each exposed the gaps and errors in the original articles and I backed it up with science.  But they were received in completely different ways.  What happened?

In March, The Sales & Marketing Analytics Blog ran an article titled "The 8 Things the Top 1% of Reps Do Differently".  It was lame, and the author didn't really know what she was talking about.  My rebuttal article appeared one day later, on my blog, and had typical readership and comments. Then, CustomerThink ran with the article and that's when the firestorm hit.  CustomerThink's Blog is not my audience, and doesn't have the same demographics as my audience.  The first responders were negatively charged, and the second wave of responders were positively charged.  It was an epic online battle!

This is the link to the articles and all of the comments.  It's an awesome read, but the comments make it extremely long!

On November 2, the Harvard Business Review ran an article on the "Best Ways to Hire Salespeople".  This article was as wrong as snow in July and last week I posted my rebuttal article on LinkedIn Pulse.  It's not my personal blog, but similar readers tend to find it - readers who are looking for information like this.  All of the responders were kind and many added to the conversation.  No trolls.  No emotions.  No firestorm.

This is the link to the articles and all of the comments.  It too is awesome, but not nearly as long.

I believe that the difference between the two articles has little to do with the articles themselves, but more to do about audiences.  Deliver the right message to the wrong audience and you'll get killed.  Deliver the right message to the right audience and it will resonate.

The same thing happens every single day in sales.  When salespeople get to people who really care, who have a problem, who will be impacted, who have a financial stake, their message will resonate and they can do business together.  When salespeople get to people who don't care, who have no stake, who won't be impacted, their message will fall on deaf ears and the wrong conversation will ensue.  You know who I'm talking about - Purchasing!  They don't care about anything other than price yet salespeople continue to call on them, trying to deliver messages centered around quality, value and service.  The folks in purchasing, like teenagers, don't care!  Stop calling on them.  You may end up there to get your purchase order, but please don't start there!!!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling to purchasing, sales operations, linkedin, sales selection

Why I Was Kicked Out of a LinkedIn Sales Group

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 08, 2015 @ 11:07 AM

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[UPDATE: This article was named Best in Sales for July 8 at SalesProCentral]

Each day, I read several newsletters written by physicians who are also natural or homeopathic practicioners. They are proponents of natural health care, a nutritional diet, and supplements. They are vocal in their criticisms of the FDA, Big Pharma, and mainstream medicine. The most vocal of them are viewed as huge threats to the FDA and Big Pharma, because they have legitimate cures and protocols for most, if not all diseases, while Big Pharma needs us to take their drugs, which cure nothing, but cause other diseases that require even more of their drugs. They pay the FDA to approve these poisons that are making and keeping us sick.

Over the years, the most vocal natural medical doctors have been singled out, their offices have been raided and some have been arrested. In the past 2 weeks, 3 of them have been found dead. You may be wondering what this has to do with selling or LinkedIn...

Last week, I wrote an article on whether or not LinkedIn was a waste of time and as with the medical newsletters I read, my LinkedIn article resonated with a lot of people. But as with the medical mainstream, not everyone was happy with the article... In just the past week, I have already been blocked in one LinkedIn group and kicked out of another one! 

Each group on LinkedIn has rules.  Some have a lot of rules and are very strict, while others don't have many rules at all. Most of the sales-related groups on LinkedIn are owned and/or moderated by other sales consultants (self-perceived competitors?) with a lot of time on their hands. They can do what they want - it's their groups. But could their behavior be retaliatory for my article or could the article be an excuse to quiet a vocal sales thought leader? Critics will point to this article saying that I'm too impressed with my own importance, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

After my LinkedIn article appeared, one group owner began moderating my contributions and began blocking my helpful comments in discussion threads. After I posted a helpful comment to a discussion asking for sales book recommendations, another group owner responded to my comment and said I wasn't following the rules. When I responded to his comment, I was redirected to a screen that said I needed to be a member of the group in order to comment. I had been kicked out! I sent a LinkedIn inMail to the group owner and said:

I got your message on the book recommendation thread but was unable to reply to it because you kicked me out of the group!

Of course I know the rule about self-promotion... 

I participate in discussions without self-promotion.

This particular thread was asking for book recommendations - it didn't seem like a violation of the group's rule to respond to a book recommendation request by recommending a book that I believed would be helpful.

Anyway, kicking me out of the group seems like a very professional response to my recommendation.

Dave

The group owner responded with:

Learn to read rules Dave

It's really that simple

If my LinkedIn membership gets revoked next for speaking out, I won't have to wonder whether or not LinkedIn is a waste of time. And by the way, it isn't. If you spend much time participating in group discussions, LinkedIn may be a huge time suck and make you feel good about yourself, but adding to and nurturing your connections will pay off in the long-term.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, linkedin, social selling, sales groups on linkedin

Are We Wasting Our Time on LinkedIn?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 @ 08:06 AM

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Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

It's the place to be. Join 50 groups. Ask questions. Answer questions. Connect. Like discussions. Contribute comments. Is it a means to an end or is it all a huge waste of time?

LinkedIn is a tool that I use more than some and less than others. As busy as I am, I'm unable to spend an hour on LinkedIn each day, but I do visit daily. I am engaged. And I always wonder if it's a complete waste of time. In this article, I'll share the highlights and lowlights from my informal LinkedIn effectiveness analysis and you may be very surprised with my conclusion.  [Click to Tweet]

How much of our business comes from LinkedIn? We should know this, right? The first answer is easy...NONE of our call-in business comes from LinkedIn and it shouldn't, right? But what percentage of the business coming from landing pages on my Blog, the Kurlan & Associates website or the Objective Management Group (OMG) website come from LinkedIn, either directly or indirectly?

Of the 115,000 plus visits tracked to my blog in the past 6 months, less than 1% of that traffic came from social media although most of that small amount was from LinkedIn. Did any of that turn into business? 21 forms on landing pages were completed, but the majority of those landing pages were blog subscriptions, not downloads, samples, videos, white papers, nor requests for more information. None of those 21 ever came close to entering the pipeline. There was no business as a result of visits from LinkedIn.  

In comparison, about a third of those 115,000 visits were the result of organic search and many visits were from referral sites where someone was visiting another website and clicked a link that brought them here. 1.2% of all visitors completed a form on a landing page and the sources that converted best were the referral sites, followed closely by email marketing and organic search. Some of these contacts become clients.

So where is LinkedIn in all of this? Nowhere, really. Except first degree connections. They'll sometimes reach out to me - sometimes to do business - and I'll sometimes reach out to them.

Let's look at LinkedIn in another way.  

One of the groups I belong to, Sales Management Executives, has 205,000 members. With a group that large, you would expect to see incredible engagement, right? This morning I looked through the current discussions and counted 9 new discussions from today, but because we are looking for engagement, I looked at the discussions that were started 3 days ago. Between them, there were 2 comments and 29 likes from 25 discussions posted to 205,000 people and 14 of those likes all belonged to a single discussion. My knee-jerk reaction is that this group is a complete waste of time as there appears to be only 50 or so people or .004% of the group engaged. Is this the norm?

I looked through a second group I belong to, ATD Sales Enablement Community.  This group is more of a niche so I expected better engagement from their 11,000 plus members.  In the past week there were a total of only 5 new discussions which, between them, collected 5 comments and 0 likes.  Historically, there have been a few good discussions in this group but it is the exception, not the norm.

Next I checked in on Executive Round Table and its 17,000 plus members. There were 40 new discussions posted in the past 3 days with 2 comments and 3 likes. Of those 40 discussions, 15 of them were SPAM - income opportunities, loans, investments, etc., and 8 of the 25 remaining conversations were redirects back to the poster's blog article or website. Yikes!

I'm not suggesting that there isn't any meaningful content, nor am I suggesting that I never find a discussion in which to participate. But they are few and far between. You would need to look very hard to find one worthy of your time.

I'm connected to more than 1,000 people on LinkedIn, but a quick trip to my LinkedIn home page, where updates from my connections are posted, suggests that on any given day, there are probably fewer than 25 people - or 2.5% - that are actively engaged.

Another way of looking at LinkedIn is to dissect the discussion topics in the groups. For this analysis, I visited a newer group, Sales & Marketing - Top Management (Worldwide), which has nearly 8,000 members. Of the 15 discussions posted in the past week, all 15 were started by experts (including me) - where the discussion was either a rhetorical question (not me) to which the expert already knew the answer, or a link to the poster's blog article (I did that) or website. The only people engaged are the experts who are looking for more business! Who would want to be part of a group like that?

Until today, I had always believed that if I wrote good blog articles like this one and then shared my content in the LinkedIn groups, that it was a good thing - people would benefit - and it would improve visibility. But today, with my critical eye, I concluded that content like this is not what belongs in these groups and additionally, taking the time to post there is a complete waste of time. I have proof. In the first 6 months of 2015, I have written 50 articles and shared each article with around 10 groups on LinkedIn. If only 3,000 of 115,000 visits can be tracked back to LinkedIn, that averages out to around 60 visits per article or 6 per group, per article. It would be more productive to get an extra hour of sleep each night!

Today I read an article - it was posted on LinkedIn - that said Twitter was the more powerful social medium for business. Really? There are about 25 other sales experts that regularly tweet updates to their followers when we all post new articles to our Blogs. Let's suppose that one quarter of my articles got tweeted by half of those experts to an average of 1,000 followers each (I don't know any of these actual numbers, so I'm trying to be very conservative.)  That would be 13 articles x 12 tweeters x 1,000 followers or tweets that reached 156,000 which resulted in 70 visits over 6 months.  Yup, Twitter will be really useful!

At OMG, we have a private LinkedIn group for the 150 global partners who recommend and use our sales force evaluations and candidate assessments with companies like yours. I wish I could say that this group is the exception and utilizes LinkedIn exceptionally well. Unfortunately, that isn't the case and engagement is no better than in any of the other groups I used as examples.

At the beginning of this article I said I would share my LinkedIn highlights and lowlights and all I have shared so far is lowlights. Are you ready for the highlights?

...

Impressive, huh?

To me, the phone is looking better and better every day. Read this article for more information on the next big game changer for sales.

I still think LinkedIn is important for making connections, visibility and getting found. But the additional time we spend on LinkedIn would be better spent on the phone, talking with prospective customers and clients.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, lead conversion, linkedin, social selling

How Dramatically Has Selling Changed?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 06:02 AM

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Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio promotion when they said, "Take a selfie with a standie and then, using your smartphone or tablet, upload it to Facebook, or tweet your image using hashtag [something I can't remember]."

Now, pretend it's 1995, and reread the quotation.  Twenty years ago, would you have recognized any of the words other than "take", "and", "then", "using", "your", "or" and "to?"  In 1995, selfie, standie, smartphone, tablet, tweet, hashtag, upload, and Facebook would have had you believing that you were listening to a foreign language.  That's just one example of how dramatically some things have changed in the past 20 years.

Let's take selling.  How dramatically has that changed in 20 years?

There are some obvious changes that most people in sales will recognize, like:

  • Salespeople are no longer sources of product knowledge or pricing, both of which are readily available online.
  • Salespeople enter the sales cycle only to find their prospects much further along in their buying cycle.
  • Salespeople utilize Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, email marketing, blogging, and the web for knowledge and to connect with prospects, before they speak for the first time.
  • Personal online networks, like Facebook, Google+, and LInkedIn are exponentially larger than the physical networks of twenty years ago.
  • Salespeople with transactional products and services, like tickets, travel, commodities and most retail items have found themselves being replaced by online sales.
  • Many salespeople who once worked in a territory or vertical, now find themselves doing the exact same thing by phone.
  • Video conferences and phone calls are replacing face-to-face visits.
  • Inbound, Lead-Gen, and Appointment Setting Teams are recent additions to Inside Sales.
  • Value Propositions and Added Value have given way to salespeople who must now be the value.
  • A vast array of productivity tools, especially those that sync between devices, make selling not only more efficient, but more fun.
  • National and global competitors are making it more difficult to win the business.
  • Demos can be easily conducted online.
  • There are vast amounts of free, online resources that individuals can use to improve themselves.

And then there are the changes which are not as obvious, like:

So my question is, are these changes good or bad?  Have you made any or all of these changes?  If you have ignored any of the changes, was it due to ignorance, discomfort, or arrogance?

What is the next change that will rock your world?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, twitter, linkedin, selling value, long sales cycle, sales win rates, google plus

Selling Value - Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 23:12 PM

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Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Some news stories just don't go away.  Today those stories include Ferguson, Bill Cosby, ISIS and The NFL's Domestic Abuse Problem.  There is also Obamacare, Immigration and Ebola.  They remain in the news more because the media continues to milk these stories then readers demand to know more.

When we look at the sales stories of the recent past, the topics that sales experts continue writing about are Social Selling, Inbound Marketing, LinkedIn, Twitter, CRM and Lead Nurturing.  They remain in the news more because the writers are attempting to sell their own services that happen to support those topics more than readers demanding to read more about it.  There's nothing wrong with these topics of course, but sales experts should be addressing topics more closely aligned with helping sellers sell, instead of so much space being devoted to what takes place at the top and above the top of the sales funnel.

So if not those topics, then what should we all be writing about - all the time - that would be a real difference maker for salespeople?

I believe that it's the importance of and ability to sell value.  Why, you ask? 

Selling value is the one thing that all salespeople, operating without benefit of the lowest price, absolutely, positively, must be able to do well in order to consistently earn the business.  

Despite the need to effectively sell value, it happens to be one of things that salespeople do very poorly. The importance of selling value isn't going away, but sales experts are not spending enough time talking about it, writing about it, explaining it, or providing training on it.  The most critical aspect of this topic is understanding the many factors that support a salesperson's ability to sell value.  Selling value isn't a specific thing that one says or does, as much as it's an outcome of several other things.  According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics (close to one million salespeople assessed), of the 6 most important factors required to sell value, most salespeople have, on average, only 2 of them as strengths or skills.

This is such an important topic that last week I hosted a broadcast on Selling Value in Modern Times.  If you would like to watch it, run time is 46 minutes.

According to a Google search on my blog, I've written about or mentioned selling value, in some way, shape or form, 766 times in the past 10 years.  Here are 10 of my favorite articles on selling value and when you extract the major points from each, it provides a very nice collection of guidelines for selling value:

This Simple Strategy Will Sell Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

Why This is Still a Great Selling Sales Book After 10 Years

Price Quotes and the Inability of Salespeople to Sell Value

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

Top 10 Outcomes When Salespeople Screw Up Selling "Value Added"

Top 5 Sales Issues Leaders Should Not Focus On

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

Do You/Should You Have a Complex Sale?

Top 10 Reasons Why Salespeople Let Price Drive the Sale

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering

New Metrics for the Sales Force - Unusual Thoughts for Unusual Times

Boston Ballet and Money Tolerance - What it Means to Your Sales Force

As I mentioned above, selling value does not stand on its own.  You should now understand that from the value selling broadcast and the articles above,  there are several other factors that contribute to selling value.  Unless salespeople are able to effectively integrate all of the necessary factors (Sales DNA, sales process, strategy and tactics), then the end result will always be salespeople that are only able to talk about value, instead of actually becoming the value.

I'll be hosting a webinar on December 10 at 11 AM Eastern Time.  We'll be discussing the 5 Hidden Factors that Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force.  Selling Value is certainly one of those factors!  It will run for about 45 minutes.  If you would like to attend you can register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, crm, twitter, Pipeline, linkedin, social selling, selling value, Lead Nurturing, top of the funnel, Bill Cosby, Value Proposition

Increase in Social Selling Yields No Improvement in KPI's

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 05, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

Yeah, just in case you didn't get that, I'll lay it out for you.

In a recent mining of Objective Management Group's data from June of 2013, there was a huge increase in the number of salespeople using social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Spoke, Plaxo and Reachable for selling.  The graph looked like this:

Social Selling Stats

I was impressed with this development...but...there is a huge problem with this.  For all the attention that these sites get, for all the salespeople who now spend their evenings perfecting their profile, adding people to their networks and asking for introductions, what hasn't changed for the better are these key metrics:

  • Calls-to-contact ratio is now over 10:1 - worse than ever before.
  • Contact-to-meeting ratio is worse, not better.
  • Sales cycle length is longer, not shorter.
  • Closing percentages are lower, not higher.

Weren't the social sites supposed to help with those metrics?

Not really.  These sites help salespeople connect - in the slightest of ways.  Do you even know half of the people in your network?  

Your network is like your neighborhood.  You know that they are there, you recognize them as they go by, in their cars, on their bikes or while walking their dogs.  But, you are only friendly with a small percentage of them.  How likely is it that salespeople could improve their effectiveness because of their neighborhood?  Well, the same is true of their networks.  And the online networks don't work any better than the real networks that they belong to in their home towns.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The chamber, the business networking groups, the peer groups, the resource groups, etc.  In theory, they're all great, but in reality, how often do they produce measurable business from people who aren't your friends?

Networks provide the framework to connect, but nothing happens automatically.  Salespeople must still be effective enough, when reaching out, to convert that connection to a call, meeting, opportunity and sale.  And sadly, we just aren't seeing any improvement in the selling capabilities of the global sales population.  It's almost exactly the same as it was 10 years ago!

It's time that we stop expecting sales to increase as a result of CRM, social selling tools and email.  They are great tools, but none of them replace actual selling, and even worse, all of them serve as distractions, false safety nets and busy work that must be completed before salespeople are caught up and can get on the phone.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales 2.0, twitter, sales metrics, linkedin, KPI, social selling

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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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