Another of My Keys to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 06, 2008 @ 00:06 AM

These aren't generally discussed, written about or analyzed, but they are there, getting in the way, sometimes for months at a time.  Most of your salespeople aren't very effective dealing with them.  At the least they interfere with business and at their worst they dominate your salespeople's lives. I'm talking about distractions.

Distractions can take many forms, from the call that takes them off their game, to the illness or death of a loved one that stops their game cold.  Distractions can last a few minutes or they can linger for months.  You can even understand why some, especially the really bad distractions, can interfere for so long.

In the end, it's your salespeople's ability to cope and stay focused in the face of distractions that will determine what kind of year they have.  Everyone, including you and me, has distracting events in their lives.  When one event goes away you can be sure that another will follow.  I know a salesperson who generates a year's worth of business in just 6-9 months, while he is distracted the other 3-6 months - every year! I know another salesperson who was distracted for two years.

You know they'll have distractions so it's your job to know your salespeople well enough to recognize when they are being affected.  Helpd help them cope, focus and work through them in order to get from each as close to 12 months worth of effectiveness as you can.

Don't let this article distract you, go help somebody!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, Motivation

Maximum Effort is the Key to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 04, 2008 @ 07:06 AM

When companies attempt to improve sales they often look first to sales skills. If you've been reading this Blog for a while, you know that I believe skills are important, but only to a certain degree.  The problem with putting an emphasis on developing only the skills is that without the proper combination of strengths and incentive to support the use of those skills, the skills alone don't get it done.

Given a choice between a salesperson with all the skills, but deficient in strengths and incentive, and a salesperson with great strengths and incentive, but lacking in the skills, the second salesperson will usually have greater success.

My team had its weekly sales meeting yesterday and we watched a scene from 12 O'Clock High for the 85th time.  This particular scene explores the question, "what is maximum effort?" In sales, maximum effort is demonstrated by the salesperson who finds a way to get through to the prospect that can't be reached; who gets a decision from the prospect who won't make a decision; who gets the business even after it appears the business can't be had; who wins while others lose.  It's the second, third, fourth and fifth efforts. It's their persistence in the face of stalls and put-offs, objections and excuses.  While skills are very helpful in these moments, most salespeople don't possess enough confidence to use those skills while others, who may not have the skills, have the confidence to continue the process, even if it isn't elegant.

How many of your salespeople give maximum effort on every call, in every meeting, with every prospect, and in every sales process?  How many of your salespeople have the skills but don't use what they have?  How many are lacking in skills but over achieve anyway? Chronic over achievers put forth maximum effort on a consistent basis. You should be able to answer those questions and a sales force evaluation will provide the answers to the more important questions like, what it will take to grow sales, who can improve, by how much, whether they can execute your strategies, the effectiveness of sales management,  who can have success selling value,and selling more consultatively, and the steps you must take to get maximum effort, more opportunities and increased revenue from all.

 (c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Jon Lester No-Hitter Like Sale of a Lifetime?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 19, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

Tonight, Jon Lester, of the Boston Red Sox, pitched a no-hitter. It was the first no-hitter by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher in more than 30 years. It was the second no-hitter by a young, promising Red Sox pitcher in eight months. I attempted to find the probability of pitching a no-hitter but all I could find was a scientifc formula that one would have to understand in order to get the answer. So I took another route, estimating that there are approximately 3820 games played per season and, maybe 1 or 2 no-hitters per year. So that would make the odds of hurling one about 1 in 1900 or a mere .05% chance.

So, I wondered, what would the sales equivalent of a no-hitter be?

a. Landing the Biggest Account of Your Life?
b. Closing the Biggest Sale of Your Life?
c. Beating out the Biggest Competition?
d. Getting the Business Everyone Said You Couldn't Get?
e. Having your first million dollar income year?
f. Winning the sales contest?
g. Being named top salesperson out of hundreds or thousands?
h. Closing 43 in a row?
i. Bringing in your first sale?
j. Landing the $50 million contract after a 2 year sale cycle?
k. other

Leave your comment below and let us know whether it's one of the examples above or you had another experience that was the thrill of a lifeteime.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

More on Leads, Referrals and Introductions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 19, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

First, make sure you read this post from several days ago. 

Rick Roberge had this great post today.  I loved it because, as my comment said, I thought it was comical, I knew the sales manager and his style, I could picture the whole thing so vividly, and the advice was fantastic!

 (c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Motivating Your Unmotivated Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 14, 2008 @ 22:05 PM

When your compensation and incentive programs aren't getting the job done, it's time to look beyond the traditional motivational programs and get creative. There are a number of other ways to motivate salespeople and I'll discuss three of them here.  I'd love to have you comment with your personal favorites.

1) Nothing is more motivational than when a salesperson closes a sale - not any sale - a first sale, their biggest sale, their most challenging sale, their fastest sale, their slump breaking sale, their "I beat the competition" sale, or even their contest winning sale.  Immediately following that success, is when your salespeople are most likely to have another success.  Their confidence is at an all time high, their courage is strong too, and as a result, they'll take the greatest risks within 24 hours of that success.  By risks I mean that these are the times when they are most likely to do the things they have the greatest difficulty doing.

2) A surprising motivator is anger.  Getting your salespeople just pissed off enough to ratchet it up as much as it takes to get the job done, but not so pissed off that they walk out on you.  This method is a little more difficult than example number one, but in many cases, salespeople won't do the things they haven't been able to do until they get angry.

3) I have discussed fear as a motivator before. When your salespeople are afraid of losing their job, losing a residual commission, losing part of their territory, losing a client or losing your respect, they will often perform in a more inspired manner.

What have you tried to motivate your salespeople?  Leave your comments below.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Sales Compensation Plans - How to Make Them Work

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 02, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

Frank Aubuchon of Aubuchon Associates, an HR Consulting Firm, wrote an article about Compensation to incent salespeople. With his permission, I have taken an excerpt from his article to share with you.

Adopt the philosophy that "the more sales my people bring in the more money the company makes. Everyone wins!  Arbitrary earning caps are killers for your very best people and demotivating.  Naturally the plan must direct sales efforts to the most profitable products and services and perhaps the plan should more richly reward new sales verses repeat business.  Also, be careful of monthly or quarterly targets that may encourage salespeople to hold off on writing a sale.  "If it doesn't help me now, I might as well wait until next month or next quarter" so an incentive can be earned.  Finally, avoid setting unrealistic targets which breed the "why even try?" attitude.

The Plan 

The bottom line is that the plan should be easily understood; how incentives are earned, what are the qualifiers, when they are paid.  The type of sales that are more important to the company's strategic direction should be clear and those should be highly incentivized.  The plan should also have some legs.  Year to year tweaks are expected.  Wholesale scrapping and rework sends the wrong message and causes confusion and mistrust.


As stated above, scheduled dates for incentive payments should be part of the plan and must be strictly followed.  In a very real sense it is the salesperson's pay check and pay checks should never be late.  It also helps to explain how the payment was calculated so that discrepancies can be readily addressed.  A salesperson should never be asked to just trust the system.  Your best people know exactly how much money they are making and if your figure is different they shouldn't have to ask why.


Topics: Motivation

May 11 Came Early - What Else Can We Change?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 @ 09:04 AM

One of the things I pay attention to is the day each year that leaves appear on the trees.  In Central Massachusetts, where I live, it usually occurs right around May 11.  This year, thanks to some unusually prolonged warm weather, the buds have popped, the fruit trees have flowered and there are leaves appearing on the trees.  They're not full-size yet but will be in a matter of days.  May 11 came early.

If we can get mother nature to make an exception, then we can change all kinds of beliefs about how long a sale cycle must take, what does and doesn't work in our industry, who, by title, we can call on, our position in the marketplace, and the way our prospects respond to our products and services. We can change our beliefs as to what our salespeople are capable of, who can lead the team in sales, and how effective they are at finding and closing business.

If we can change the day that May 11 arrives, we can change the world.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Singing the Sales Blues

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 @ 15:03 PM

I received an email today that describes How to Sing and Play the Blues. It was very funny but unfortunately, I don't know who wrote it so I can't give proper credit.  I forwarded it to a few music lovers and musicians and one of them, Ken Stark, Owner of Stark & Associates, a St. Louis sales development firm, replied back in less than five minutes with his original lyrics to "Too Much Pretendin' Blues". Next time your salespeople are singin' the blues, have them sing this instead!

The Too Much Pretendin' Blues

Woke up this mornin
was way before dawn.
Woke up this mornin
my pipeline was gone.
Don't know how it happened.
Got dem not enuf doin
And too much pretendin blues.


Was king of my world
bout a year ago.
Then things out there
they got really slow.
The man don't pay me
when the cash don't flow.
Got dem not enuf doin
and too much pretendin blues.


When nobody's buyin
ain't much I can do
Cep sit around cryin
just thinkin bout who


Would take someone on
who wakes up each dawn
With dem
Not enough doin
and too much pretendin blues.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Putting "The Secret" to Work for You

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 @ 12:03 PM

Unless you've been living in a cave you've probably heard all about The Secret by now.  If you're a driven person who has been among the living there is a really good chance that you've either watched the movie, read the book or visited their web site. I am asked often about The Secret, whether I believe in it and if it actually works so in today's post.

Do I believe in it?  Yes. I've always believed in affirmations, goal setting and dreams. 

Does it work? I have many personal experiences which, in hindsight, were a direct result of the process described in the Secret.  Since watching the secret and utilizing the process, I have experienced success by purposely following the process.

Why doesn't it work for everybody?  Like every process, it is flawed and only as good as the user.  There are two crucial requirements missing from the Secret, at least as it is presented in the movie.  

The first is urgency.  It is simply not enough to ask for what you want and review those requests each day.  It is not enough to visualize yourself with what you want each day.  You must also have a tremendous sense of urgency about those things that you want and maintain that focus throughout the day.

The second is action.  You have to do the work.  Nothing will come to you from simply asking for it.  You must do the work you've always done, only with more purpose, more intensity and more consistency.  It is from doing the work that the rewards will come.  I have always noted that when salespeople finally begin to execute a plan with consistency, business seems to fall from the sky - their reward.  But what is really happening is that the consistent focus on executing the plan keeps their eye on the goal and that is The Secret in action.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 


Topics: Motivation

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

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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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