3 Lessons that Apply to Every Sales Call No Matter What You Sell

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

3-nutcrackers.jpg

It's a family tradition that each December we attend the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker.  It's truly a magical show and even though the primary dancers change from year to year, the execution of the show's script and musical score is flawless.

Several years ago, during one of the performances, it dawned on me that the orchestra's role in the show correlated very nicely to an effective sales presentation.  There were 3 fantastic lessons that I presented then and as I have done each year since, will present again here.

If you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the orchestral suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to differentiate the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker, listening skills, sales put-offs

A Bit of Holiday Tradition to Spice up your Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

glassarmonica.jpg

What is your favorite part of the holiday season?  Do you have traditions that you follow every December?  For the past 15 years an important part of our holiday season is going to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker.  You wouldn't think that a show like the Nutcracker would correlate to selling, but it does.  As a matter of fact, if you read a little further, you'll see that the Nutcracker is very much like selling to a major account!

Buyers and sellers have their traditions too: habits, learned behaviors, and standardized questions and comments.  

If you have ever attended a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listened to some of the Suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll instantly recognize the melody.  Go ahead - give it a listen.

You've surely heard this before, even if it was only in a television commercial.  But can you identify the 4 musical instruments used at the beginning of the composition?

You heard the Glass Armonica, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Were you able to identify those instruments as they were played?  Outside of the readers who are weekend musicians, the rest of you are probably unable to do that the first time.  It's OK, it's even difficult for musicians!

Similarly, salespeople find familiarity in the sounds (questions, comments and discussions) of their sales calls.  As much as you might not be able to identify the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", salespeople may not be able to identify the most important comments and questions and distinguish them from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose a salesperson hears one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And at the same meeting, another prospect says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And a third says, "In the mean time, please send us a proposal with references and time line."

There are three distinct lessons that can be taken from this scenario:

Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group's data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:

  • Seventy will return to the office to begin working on a proposal and tell their managers that the "large opportunity they are working on is very promising - all three prospects in the meeting were very interested";
  • Nineteen will leave the meeting, make two entries in their CRM application - "propose" and "follow-up" - and will likely do that at the appropriate time;
  • Eleven will remain in the meeting, ask more questions, and get additional clarification.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific assignment in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they are played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  In the scenario above, prospects' comments have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal" or "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP  - it has far different meaning than if the comments come from procurement.
  • When any of those three comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an executive, the comments may be much more genuine, but they carry significantly less authority.

Lesson #3:

I enjoy listening to a song, symphony, or simple melody and try to figure out why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.  Your salespeople should apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  In a mid-market or large company, the prospect could be any one of the following musicians or roadies:

    • the composer (started the initiative), 
    • arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), 
    • director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or 
    • musician (following directions of the conductor)
    • chauffeur (can drive you directly to the person who cares enough and has the authority to make something happen).  

A salesperson's responsibility is to figure out who they're dealing with, the role they play, what influence they have, and how to get all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Review Lesson #1 and answer the following two questions: 

Which of the three endings is your default?

Can you identify any of the additional questions that the eleven salespeople stay and ask?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Nutcracker, major account sales

Sales Traditions and Rituals - They're Not Just for December

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 @ 05:12 AM

holiday traditionFor some salespeople, selling is as caked in tradition and ritual as any religious ceremony.  To get a sense of this, consider the many inside sales roles, demo-centric salespeople, and low-level, in-home salespeople.   Many inside salespeople repeatedly read from the same script.  Most demo-centric salespeople must cover all of the features and benefits.  And many in-home salespeople perform a mini-show on every sales call.

I have several rituals that I can share with you below.  I always:

  • visit their website to get a sense for what they do,
  • prepare to take lots of notes,
  • visualize the outcome,
  • guide them through a conversation that they've never had with anyone before,
  • hit the milestones of our sales process, and
  • discuss and agree to next steps.

December is also the time of year when companies and salespeople send cards, pretzels, brownies, cookies, popcorn, wine, champagne, and other gifts.  These actions are very kind and generous, but not unexpected.  A nice note, card or gift, at a time of year when it's not expected, can differentiate you and your company even more!

Along with the holiday traditions celebrated by you, your family and friends, my Blog has three traditions in December:

  1. I ask readers to vote for their favorite article from the past 12 months (coming next week). 
  2. I am honored to have won one or more of  the annual Top Sales & Marketing Awards since the event's inception several years ago.  This year I was nominated for 3 awards and Objective Management Group was nominated for 1 award.   
  3. I always repost this very popular article from several Decembers ago, Only 11% of Salespeople Do This at the End of a Call.  There are 3 great lessons in this article that are still true today.

Do you have any sales rituals or traditions that you would like to share in the comments?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, top sales blog, Nutcracker, top sales thought leader, top sales assessment, Top Sales Article

Top 3 Sales Lessons from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 @ 05:12 AM

nutcrackerIf you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to distinguish the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

 

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales call, Sales Coaching, Nutcracker, sales questions

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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 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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