How to Transform Your Sales Pipeline Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 08, 2019 @ 06:07 AM

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Big ones, little ones, sharp ones and stubborn ones. I was pulling weeds from the garden when it became crystal clear to me.  The various weeds were like the many types of opportunities in most sales pipelines.  Big ones, little ones, those that hurt (we're behind the competition) and those who are stubborn (they aren't sharing important information).  The flowers in the garden are allowed to remain and are nurtured with sun, water and plant food. Similarly, we must leave and nurture the opportunities that will grow and produce sales, and weed out the undesirable opportunities that distract us from what is most important.

Flower gardens can be large, colorful, impressive and calming to look at.  Unfortunately, most sales pipelines are full of weeds, not large enough, and certainly not impressive.  From its evaluations and assessments of 1,875,978 salespeople, Objective Management Group (OMG) has found that only 46% of all salespeople maintain a full pipeline.  It breaks down as follows:

Elite  (the top 5%) 76%
Strong 65%
Serviceable 57% 
Weak (the bottom 50%)  41%

And when it comes to full pipelines, we must ask, full of what?  Generally undesirable opportunities.

Why do those undesirable opportunities remain in the pipeline?  They provide salespeople with a sense of security. Unfortunately, what they perceive as a safety net, is really denial of the reality of their pipeline.

Step one in transforming your sales pipeline is to perform a thorough weeding, which leaves you with a smaller pipeline, but with the same number of quality opportunities.  This is where a well-built, predictive scorecard will help.

Step two is to determine how many opportunities must be in your pipeline at all times.  To find the answer to that question you must know the size of your average sale or account, your closing percentage, and monthly sales goal.  Let's assume the following three metrics:

  • Monthly sales goal of $100,000,
  • 25% Closing percentage
  • $20,000 Average sale or account

With those numbers, you must have 20 opportunities worth $400,000 in your pipeline at all times in order to close 5 of them each month.  Complete the same exercise using your own historical numbers.

Step three is to determine the gap between what you need and what you have.  Using the example above, let's say you actually have 4 good opportunities worth a total of $80,000.  Your gap is 16 opportunities worth $320,000 - just for this month!

Step four is to add 16 new opportunities.  How?  Referrals, introductions, inbound leads, cold calls, whatever it takes.  But do it!  Today!  Now!  Referring back to OMG's findings again, only 40% of all salespeople are strong at Hunting.  That breaks down as:

Elite (the top 5%): 88% 
Strong: 77% 
Serviceable: 58% 
Weak (the bottom 50%): 26%

When it comes to generating referrals and introductions, only 35% of all salespeople are strong.  It breaks down as:

Elite (the top 5%): 48%
Strong: 42%
Serviceable: 39%
Weak (the bottom 50%): 32%

[Update - I was asked whether weak Sales DNA is responsible when a strong rep is weak at getting referrals and introductions.  It turns out that for 97% of strong reps, it's not Sales DNA but for weak reps Sales DNA is responsible 97% of the time.]

And as for making cold calls, only 33% of all salespeople prospect consistently.  It breaks down as:

Elite (the top 5%): 70%
Strong: 54%
Serviceable: 43%
Weak (the bottom 50%): 25%

If from among the bottom half of all salespeople, 50% of them won't make cold calls, 64% won't generate referrals and introductions, and 82% won't fill their pipelines, then nearly half of your salespeople may not do much of what was laid out in this article.

But there is hope for the serviceable, strong and elite salespeople - the other half.  Many of them will be able to do most of this but the key is holding them accountable.  Their sales managers must set expectations, designate this as non-optional work, impose a deadline, and enforce penalties for non-compliance. 

These four steps are not a one-time fix; they are requirements for continued success in sales that continue into perpetuity. 

Comments?  Questions?  Leave them on the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, closing, sales pipeline, prospecting, objective management group

Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 @ 08:06 AM

first-impression

Most salespeople don't take first impressions seriously enough. If they did, their first impressions would be much more favorable.

I can still remember my first (unintentional) lesson about first impressions.  My family was gathered at my grandfather's house to watch the debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show.  It was February 9, 1964 and at 8 years old, I was one of seventy-three million people watching the show that night.  I was as excited about this show as I would be later that same year when I attended my first Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park.  That is pretty excited! 

Sitting on the carpet, I was completely focused on seeing and hearing The Beatles play five of their hit songs, but my mother was doing color commentary from the plastic covered sofa behind me.

She said, "He's cleaner than the other 3", referring to Paul McCartney, who had straighter teeth, and a face more suitable for the mop top hair style shared by the four of them.

There it was, my first lesson in judging people by how they looked, and more specifically, what "clean" did and did not look like.

We were all exposed to unintentional lessons like that when we were young and those lessons stay with us today.  My father was an optometrist and around a quarter of his patients were on welfare.  While they were entitled to the same eye examination as everyone else, they were not allowed to choose from the same selection of eye glasses  and were not allowed to wear contact lenses - unless they could pay the difference.  Therefore, I assumed that anyone I saw wearing "those glasses" must be on welfare.

15 years later, when I was in the music business, a man who looked like he spent the night sleeping on the side of the road, bought the most expensive guitar I had in stock.  He paid cash.

Enough for the trip down memory lane.

When you are in sales, your first impression has been made the moment a prospect sets eyes on you, and based on how that prospect reacts, you, in turn, create a first impression of them.

Objective Management Group (OMG), which has evaluated or assessed 1,869,505 salespeople, has a finding I haven't written much about called Sales Posturing.  In a nutshell, Posturing measures first impressions, how memorable you are, and how effectively you differentiate yourself from the competition. In the table below, you'll see scores for Posturing,  as well as Relationship Building which is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies. 

posturing-relationships

While there is a correlation between both sets of scores and the overall effectiveness level of salespeople, the difference in scores is minuscule in comparison to creating urgency, The 21 Sales Core Competencies, Closing, and 5 Scores Related to Money.  This proves my point that most salespeople, even the great ones, do not pay enough attention to the quality of their first impressions.

How much focus have you given to how you make your first impression?  Here are 10 things you can control to assure that you make a great first impression.  For a lot of these, Goldilocks and  the Three Bears will be a good guide.  Not too much, not too little, but just right:

  1. Your smile
  2. Your handshake
  3. Your confidence
  4. Your outfit
  5. Your hair
  6. Your first words
  7. Your tonality
  8. Your trustworthiness
  9. Your approach
  10. Your authenticity

Thirty-three years ago, when I was far less experienced in the sales development space, my first impressions were not very good and it was represented by the quality of my clients at the time.  Fortunately, thirty-three years provides a nice, long runway for improvement!

Selling, and especially consultative selling, is difficult enough without having to dig out of the hole created by first impressions gone wrong.  You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression so remember, every encounter provides you with your last chance to make a good first impression.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, relationship building, assessment, omg, the beatles, objective management group, Ed Sullivan

Do the Best Sales Managers Have the Best Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 17:08 PM

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We all see the effects that strong leaders have when they surround themselves with either strong, mediocre or weak people.  What happens when strong leaders inherit a mixed team?  What happens when they hire a mixed team?  What happens when we ask the same questions about weak leaders?

I dug into a subset of data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations of the salespeople who report to more than 15,000 sales managers to determine whether the best sales managers actually have the best salespeople.  I was surprised and disappointed by what I found.  Check this out!

In the first table, you'll notice that salespeople reporting to elite sales managers are 14% stronger overall than those who report to weak sales managers.  That's good, but why isn't there a larger gap?  I'll answer that question shortly.

mgrs-to-sp-comparison

The second table clearly shows that strong sales managers have 25% more elite and strong salespeople reporting to them than elite sales managers. How can that be explained? And the relatively small gap from the first table?

mgrs-w-elite-spI have a simple explanation that you may or may not agree with.  Elite sales managers have so much confidence in their abilities, that they refuse to give up on mediocre salespeople.  They believe that given enough time they can coach everyone up.  Along the same line of thinking, elite sales managers also tend to believe that they don't have to hire A players because as long as the salespeople they select have a great personality and industry knowledge, they believe they can train and coach them to become strong performers. Because of that, elite sales managers tend to take shortcuts at hiring time as evidenced by their lower scores for recruiting.  Without a doubt, they should be using an accurate and predictive sales-specific candidate assessment like OMG's award-winning tool.

While the best sales managers do tend to have better salespeople, the contrast is not nearly as sharp as most of us would expect it to be, but explains why leaders don't understand when strong sales manager's teams are not significantly more effective than weak sales manager's teams.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales performance, hunting, sales effectiveness, objective management group

Closing and Negotiating Challenges - Symptoms of Another Selling Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

report.jpg Image Copyright Shironosov

I recently learned that one of OMG's clients in Europe purchased two goldfish. In keeping with their tradition, the client named the two fish, Recommended and Not Recommended.  Surprisingly, recruiting salespeople was not one of the topics addressed in this year's 2017 Selling Challenges Study.  Meghan Steiner, from Richardson, was nice enough to send me an advanced copy of the results.  There were a number of interesting findings and to learn what was covered and see my insights from the report, continue reading.

Consider the findings below that I pulled from the much larger report.  Respondents said the following issues are challenges for their companies:

  • 24% said gaining higher prices 
  • 20% said closing win/win deals
  • 17% said maintaining profitability
  • 24% said competing against a low cost provider
  • 16% said creating a compelling case for change
  • 19% said customers who continue to reopen the negotiation
  • 15% said positioning a competing value proposition

The 7 findings I listed above came from two different chapters of the report.  Higher prices, win/win deals and profitability came from the chapter on Negotiation.  Positioning, reopening negotiations, competing against low cost providers and the case for change came from the chapter on closing.  

"When I combined the 7 challenges, together they suggest that the
problem these companies really have is an inablity to sell value!"

The findings from the report came from a survey where most of the 300+ respondents were from companies larger than $500 million, with sales quotas generally running more than $1 million each.

How do the findings compare with OMG's scientific data from the evaluation of 1,100,000 salespeople from 12,000 companies?  Let's compare!

The average score for the Selling Value competency is 56 which means that the salespeople in the 370,000 rows of data in this query have, on average, 56% of the attributes in the Selling Value competency.  You can see that the top 10% are significantly more effective and the bottom 10% are significantly worse!

value2.jpgAnother way of looking at this competency is to determine the percentage of salespeople who have selling value as a weakness.  

"68% of the salespeople we looked at had Selling Value as a weakness.  

Our data shows that selling value is a much greater issue than the survey suggests.  The likely reason for this is that respondents from large companies may not understand why they are having the issues listed by the bullets above.  They only recongize the symptoms.

The Selling Value Competency is 1 of the 7 Tactical Selling Competencies that OMG measures, and 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured in all.  You can see the attributes for this competency in the screen shot from a sales force evaluation below.

value-1.jpg

When companies continue to believe that their problems lie in negotiating and closing, they seek training on negotiating and closing!  When the real problem is selling value, you need to provide training on consultative selling, change your pricing strategy and provide training on selling value.

Here are four other things you should do:

1. See how your salespeople compare to others in your industry and to salespeople in general in any or all of the 21 Sales Core Competencies with OMG's complimentary stat finder tool.

2. Select only strong (16%) and elite (7%) salespeople with OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

3. Become more effective coaching your salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies by attending my annual Sales Leadership Intensive where coaching for impact is the focus during the two day training.  There were only 6 seats left for the May 17-18 event outside of Boston.

4. Download the 2017 Sales Challenges Study from Richardson.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, negotiating, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment

The Benefits of Completely Bashing Your Competition

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 @ 16:10 PM

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Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo 

The circus will be coming to an end in just under 2 weeks.  Everyone has seen at least some of the show and some have seen the entire production, including reruns, reviews, commentary and highlight videos.  In the past 60 days I'm certain that even if you don't live in the United States, you've seen at least part of the circus.  Yes, even you.  I'm referring to the circus known as the 2016 Presidential Election. It has moved from ugly to downright terrifying as we watch two presidential candidates slinging the most horrible attacks on each other.  And the worst part is that most of those attacks are well deserved.  But there is an important selling lesson we can take from all of this.  Does bashing your competition ever work?

While it was expected that we would hear each candidate attack the others in their 3 debates, on Twitter, and in their television advertising, we didn't expect it at the recent Al Smith Dinner in New York City.  It was a festive environment with completely different expectations, but after the two candidates finished telling their best jokes, they each went on the attack. The attacks were not well received and there was even some booing.

Let's take look at how they could have exposed each other's weaknesses and liabilities during a debate and then we'll discuss how you can apply these lessons to selling.

Let's pretend that we are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  For most of us, this will be an incredible test of our acting ability.  It will probably be a disaster.  

Trump has a YUGE supply of potential material about Hillary's lack of integrity, abundance of corruption and foreign policy failures. If he attacks her she will attack back and put him on the defensive and most people find him unlikable when he defends himself.

Hillary has a book full of material about Donald's business dealings, refusal to release his tax returns, lack of knowledge about policy, bad temperament and treatment of women.  If she attacks him, his return attacks will be even more vicious.  There's that as well as the fact that most people don't find Hillary very likable and when she attacks it makes it even worse.

We know what it looks like, sounds like and feels like when they attack each other and we are no longer rooting for them to do so.  We are cringing.  So how would it sound if they proceeded to expose weaknesses and vulnerabilities without attacking?

Donald might say, "I like Hillary, I invited her to my wedding, Bill and I were friends, she has a long history of service to our citizens, and she has always done her very best.  At the same time, most of you have probably heard or read the news reports detailing Hillary's alleged crimes, corruption, lies, cover ups, and deceit.  My opinion about that doesn't really matter, and you can form your own opinions.  Just do the research. Look it up.  Instead, I want to use my time to talk about the issues.  Let's talk about how my plan for a tax reduction will help the economy and benefit the middle class."

Hillary might say, "I've been an admirer of Donald Trump for 20 years.  I've come to know his family and I like them a lot.  We don't always agree but he has supported my campaigns in the past and I have a great deal of respect for him.  However, a lot of people are concerned about Donald's refusal to release his tax returns, his lack of transparency, all of those lawsuits against the failed Trump University, his uneven record in business, the video from a Hollywood set, and the 11 allegations of unwanted sexual advances.  You can make up your own mind about his values and behavior, but I tonight want to talk about my plan to fix Obamacare."

There is a huge difference between an attack and pointing people in the direction of commonly available news stories.  There is a huge difference between complimenting and name calling. You've heard the names and I believe that they are unnecessary.

Applied to selling, it means that you must be complimentary to your competition, ask questions about any dissatisfaction rather than pointing out problems, and don't say that you're better or that they're worse.

For example, at Objective Management Group (OMG) we are often asked to compare our sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments to other assessment brands.  We always agree that the other brand is a good and accurate assessment.  Then we mention the category the other brand is part of.  For example, Myers-Briggs and Caliper are excellent Personality Assessments. DISC and Predictive Index are excellent Behavioral Styles assessments.  While we compliment the brand or the company, we use criticize the category - personality or behavioral styles - to point out that neither type of assessment was built for sales, neither type is predictive of sales success, and neither type measures the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  We always say that the assessment they mentioned is good, and that if they were using (a personality assessment) to determine how well an individual fit within their culture that would be a good use.  Or if they were using (a behavioral styles assessment) to understand the best way to work with and manage an individual that would be a good use.  But if they wanted to accurately predict whether a candidate would succeed in this particular sales role, at this particular company, selling into this particular market, against their particular competition, and at their specific price points, only OMG has the track record, predictive validity and sales expertise do that.

Bashing the competition - even in Politics - doesn't lead to very good outcomes and the same is true in sales.  Play nice!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, election, sales assessments, objective management group, Donald Trump, beating the competition, hillary clinton

Are Millennials Who Enter Sales Better or Worse Than the Rest of the Sales Population?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 @ 12:08 PM

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Image Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Millennials are more independent, more spoiled, have a shorter attention span, tend to be more into their technology than into people, don't like working traditional hours, and don't enjoy working in traditional ways.  That said, would you expect them to be better or worse suited for selling than the generations who came before them?

I took to the data to see what story it might tell. I found data on more than 43,000 millennials in sales and here is what I learned.  This information should be very helpful for hiring new salespeople and developing them as well.

To get a sense for the actual comparison, I looked at four data sets:

  1. All Millennials
  2. The Top 10% of Millennials
  3. The Top 10% of Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry
  4. All Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry

So how do Millennials compare?  

Chris Mott, my trusted colleague and friend, specified the first dashboard - how all millennials scored. Sales Quotient, the overall score, is shown in the top right corner.  108 is weak.  Sales DNA, the combination of strengths, is shown in the middle.  61 represents a salesperson that will not be able to execute sales process, strategies, skills and tactics because the strengths are actually weaknesses.  Commitment, the willingness to do what it takes to achieve greater success in sales is shown in the upper left hand section.  53% represents a lack of commitment.  You'll notice that Handling Rejection and Relationship Building are the only two areas where millennials scored well in the areas of Sales DNA and Selling Competencies.  Scroll down for more.

Millennials-All.jpg

After Chris showed me the first dashboard, I populated the next dashboard with veteran salespeople with 10 or more years in sales.  You can see that as a group, they have higher scores in all of the areas we discussed relative to the previous dashboard, except - and this is a head turner - Relationship Building!  Who could have seen that coming?  Interestingly, they score 39% on Responsibility which means they are twice more likely to make excuses than their younger colleagues.  In this comparison, based on their Sales Quotients, the older salespeople are at least serviceable while the Millennials are simply weak.  Scroll down for more.

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The third dashboard represents veteran salespeople again, but this time only the top 10%.  As you can see, the top 10% are elite, with Sales Quotients averaging 142 and Sales DNA averaging 83.  Nearly every score is in the green and all of the scores are higher than either of the two prior groups.  These are the salespeople you want to hire!  And wherever possible, you want to coach up your existing salespeople to be like the top 10%.  Scroll down for more.

Veteran-Salespeople-Top-10.jpg

The fourth dashboard represents the Top 10% of Millennials.  It isn't very different from the top 10% of Veteran Salespeople with the notable exception of their respective scores for Figure-it-Out-Factor, or how quickly they will ramp up.  Notice the low score on Relationship Building!  This group scores the highest on Desire, Responsibility, Outlook, Sales DNA and Coachable!!  Scroll down for more.

Millennials-Top-10.jpg

It should be clear from this comparison that overall, Millennials are not a great choice for sales.  However, the Top 10% of Millennials are an excellent choice for sales!  So the million dollar question is, when you are hiring salespeople, and millennials are in the mix, how do you determine whether they are millennials of the 108 Sales Quotient or of the 143 Sales Quotient?

I apologize.  That was a trick question. As you can see from the dashboard of all Veteran salespeople, that group only averages a 121 on Sales Quotient. It shouldn't matter whether millennials are in the mix or not. You need the ability to differentiate between the 140's, 120's and 100's with every candidate, and do it as early in the sales recruiting process as possible.  Weed out the undesirable sales candidates in the very first step!  So how can you tell whether you have a 140 or a 108?  Use Objective Management Group's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments. They're built on science and customizable for your business and selling role.  

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, top salespeople, Sales Candidate, sales selection, objective management group, OMG Assessment

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

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:08 AM

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Image owned by or licensed to CartoonStock®

The Harvard Business Review is at it again.  I honestly can't believe that a publication like HBR continues to publish and push junk science about sales.  Nearly every time they publish an article on sales or selling, they are usually as wrong as the mainstream media is with their attempts to manipulate readers and viewers to vote for their preferred candidates. 

I have previously taken issue with seven of HBR's articles: 

They did publish one that I agreed with on Looking for Potential in your Next Hire...

In their June 20, 2016 article, A Portrait of the Overperforming Salesperson, HBR identified several traits, attitudes and actions that they claim differentiate the top from bottom performers.  I'll summarize it for you below and then explain why I believe it is junk.  The findings include:

 

  • Focus which they described as including Money motivated, respected, likable and effective at prioritizing their time
  • Career Orientation which they described as including how much they think about work and why they went into sales
  • Personal Attributes which they described as including how they remember their childhood and what they use to make decisions
  • Customer Interaction Strategy which they described as tailoring, asking questions, being likable and having personal relationships  (these do differentiate tops from bottoms)
  • Attitude which was word association around sales management and sales process (word association?  really?)
  • Self Perception  which was checking off boxes to indicate the traits they believed they had

This was a survey of 1,000 salespeople. 1/3 of them are in field sales, 1/3 are in inside sales and the rest are sales managers or Sales VP's. 

Only 15% met the author's criteria of meeting quota 88% of the time. Although we weren't told what the quotas were, it's pretty safe to assume that the field salespeople manage accounts in existing territories.  Based on the questions asked, it is also safe to assume that the inside salespeople are making calls to and taking calls from existing customers.   So just in case you can't do the math, when you account for the sales managers and sales VP's in the survey, it changes the population from 1,000 top performing salespeople, to 150 people who don't have to find new business.  That is quite a distinction!  

I hate these surveys because surveys do not equate to science.

Compare this to Objective Management Group's (OMG) actual science from evaluating and assessing more than 1,000,000 salespeople from more than 200 industries over the past 2 decades.  7% are elite, and there are 16% more who are strong.  77% are ineffective.  From its 1,000,000 rows of data, I can assure you that no personality trait or behavioral style of any kind is predictive of sales success. Traits and styles are good to know - they help you understand who your employees are.  But they have never been, nor will they ever be, predictive of sales success.  

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies. Most of these competencies include as many as 10 attributes. Here are just some of the many differences between the top 10% and the bottom 10%:

Competency Average Score
for the Top 10%
Average Score
for the Bottom 10%
Sales Quotient (overall score) 143 (out of 173) 91
Sales DNA (supporting strengths) 84 (out of 100) 53
Motivation 75 57
Commitment to Sales Success 68 34
Closing 47 12
Hunting 74 37
Qualifying 81 31
Consultative Selling 74 37
Sales Process 67 39
CRM Savvy 77 37
Presenting 82 57 

If you look at Sales DNA - the combination of strengths that supports the use of strategy, tactics, process and methodology, you'll see that the top 10% are, on average, nearly 60% stronger than the bottom 10%.  You'll also see that the top 10% have an average Sales Quotient that is nearly 60% higher than the bottom 10%.  The top 10% have double the commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve sales excellence. For the more tactical competencies, the average scores for the top 10% are approximately double those of the bottom 10%. 

When we break sales down by difficulty level, industry sector, vertical market, decision maker to be called upon, price points, etc., the specific findings and scores that differentiate tops from bottoms change accordingly!  Now please tell me, when we have real science like this, what is the HBR thinking when they publish rubbish like personal attributes, attitude and self perception?

Will Barron recently interviewed me on some of these topics and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.

Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on some of these topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

This article states that 4% of the salespeople sell 94% of the business.  I don't agree with their percentage but it gives you a sense of what is really taking place in sales.

And from OMG's data, this is just in.  The bottom 10% of all salespeople are actually better than the top 10% in 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  I'll bet you can guess which one...scroll down for the answer...

 

 

 

Relationship Building! It's no wonder that crappy salespeople keep getting hired.  You can hire the best salespeople for your role when you use OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.  Try it! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, comparison of top salespeople, harvard business review, difference between good and bad salespeople, objective management group

Those Who Follow Sales Best Practices Don't Necessarily Become Top Performers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 10:06 AM

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You'll regularly find me writing about the science - the data - that differentiates top sales performers from the bottom.  But today, I'll move into the world from which everyone else in this space operates - anecdotal evidence and opinions. 

I will cite two sources for this article:

  • The 130 sales consulting firms that partner with me at Objective Management Group (OMG) and provide our award-winning sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments;
  • The tens of thousands of salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders that I have personally trained.

In both groups of people I have noticed a few things that are common to the tops and not so much the bottoms and I'm certain that if you paid attention, you would recognize some of the same patterns in your organization.

In my experience, The top salespeople in both groups typically attend scheduled training events, Conferences, Webinars, and coaching calls.  They also tend to stay on top of updates, communications, reviews, emails and notes.  While some bottom performers do these things too, it's clear that there is a correlation between the tops and the learning and development activities on which they choose to invest their time.

The question is, are they at the top because they focus, participate, attend and respond; or do they actively participate because they are at the top?  Which one is cause and which one is effect?

Each of the activities I mentioned are best practices of top performers.  It's almost impossible to be a top performer and not do those things, while it is quite easy to not do those things and be a bottom performer.  But that doesn't answer the question of cause and effect.  Let's take a closer look at the bottom performers that do all of those things but still fail to perform.  If they do all of the same things, what holds the bottom performers back?

I didn't begin writing this article with a plan to go here, but as always, it ends up here.  Assuming that an ineffective sales manager isn't to blame, it comes down to the following four things:

  • Lack of Desire for Greater Success in Sales
  • Lack of Commitment to Do What it Takes to Achieve Greater Success in Sales
  • Weak Sales DNA - Strengths Don't Support their Selling Skills
  • Poor Selling Skills - Never Developed or not up-to-date

 I just looked at a few thousand rows of data from the last two weeks.  While 91% of these salespeople had strong Desire, only 59% had the Commitment to do what it takes.  That's a difference maker!  Additionally, only 33% had Sales DNA of 70 or better and only 9% had Sales DNA of at least 82 which is required to support the Challenger Sale.   Worst of all, only 11% had at least 50% of the selling skills we measure.

So even when I try to write an anecdotal piece, I end up returning to the OMG's science behind selling.

Cause and effect?  Salespeople who do the right things don't necessarily become top performers but top performers necessarily do the right things.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, omg, the challenger sale, top producer, sales assessments, objective management group, top performing salespeople

What Should You Do When You or Your Company is Disliked in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 @ 06:04 AM

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I know.  Everyone loves you. You are just so likable that it's inconceivable that you could be disliked.  As usual, I see things a bit differently and I'll prove that there is someone that not only dislikes you, but might even hate you.  For example, my company, Objective Management Group (OMG), is universally hated by an entire vertical!   I'll share that with you, but first I must ask you a question.  If you are in territory sales, is there a competitor salesperson gunning for you?  Have you taken business away from anyone?  Do they hate you?  Is there a competitor who is all smoke and mirrors, who can't deliver on what they promise, who still manages to win business at your expense?  Do you hate them?  Do you sell a product or service that can help a company do more with fewer employees?  Do those employees hate you?  It wasn't that long ago when Apple hated Microsoft and Microsoft hated Apple.  Allow me to provide a few examples and then I'll share how to deal with the hate.

One of OMG's products is our legendary, accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessment.  Everyone from the CEO down through sales leadership and HR love this tool, but internal recruiters hate it and recruiting firms hate us!  Internal recruiters hate us because they have to work harder to find sales candidates who will be recommended.  It's their job, so they deal with us.  After all, only 7% of all salespeople are elite, and just an additional 16% who qualify as strong.  That means that 77% of the candidates they find suck, usually aren't recommended, and our assessment exposes that.  

For recruiting firms, the hate is even worse.  Their profit depends on a company quickly falling in love with a candidate and when one of their clients wants to use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, it is not only more difficult, but it takes much longer for them to find the right candidate. That eats into their profit and they absolutely hate that!  One way that recruiting firms deal with this is when they attempt to discredit our assessment.  As you can imagine, that kind of hate isn't much fun because it puts clients right in the middle of that battle.

Over the years, the creative people in our entrepreneurial and innovative economy have been responsible for developing products (think internet-related) and services (think outsourcing) that eliminate jobs.  The employees who are most vulnerable to having their jobs eliminated absolutely hate the companies and their salespeople who provide those services.

Speaking of entrepreneurs, one of the best sites is EvanCarmichael.com and last week, Evan hosted a video interview with me when we talked about assessments, selling, presenting and differentiating.  It was a fun and fast-paced interview and you can see it here.

So what can you do when you there are groups of people who hate you?  Introduce the issue yourself.  You'll need to wait until you have uncovered their compelling reason to buy and then you can ask a question like this one, "An ideal solution is going to eliminate some jobs, and while that will save the company money, how will you deal with the pushback that you're going to get?" or, "A solution that will solve the problem we are talking about will cause this group over here to be quite upset.  How will you deal with the protests you are going to get from them?"

Here are some additional resources.

This article on how to ask questions so that customers buy and you don't have to sell was named one of the top 10 sales blog posts of the month.

This article that I wrote for the SellingPower blog explains how to sidestep price issues so that you can sell value!

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, competition, Motivation, Apple, objective management group, selling power, microsoft

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

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 04, 2016 @ 15:04 PM

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Other than birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and sporting events, how many occasions are there when you have repeated an event, in one form or another, for at least 22 years. Not many, right?  This past weekend, I hosted 130 sales experts from around the world as part of Objective Management Group's 22nd Annual OMG Conference.  I'm proud that we kept these sales experts engaged to the point where there were just as many people in the room for the end of the final presentation as there were for the beginning of the first presentation. I want to share 5 out of more than 100 important insights that they took away which apply equally to you too.

Playing Your Part

There were some great take-aways from our keynote speaker, Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports.  He offered dozens of insights and suggestions and shared some great stories, but the two that really stuck with me were:

  1. "Are you a participant or a spectator?"  In my opinion, there are just so many salespeople that would fall into the spectator category - reacting, responding and facilitating - instead of the participant category where they are proactively building their pipeline, gaining traction, achieving velocity and closing business.
  2. "The underdog has nothing to lose - it's like playing with house money!"  It's just like this quote from Band of Brothers which I included in this article, "You're Afraid to Sell Because You Have Hope."   Actual video clip...

Selling to the CEO

One participant asked why it was so difficult to get a CEO to pull the trigger despite having uncovered some pain points. I explained that pain points alone may help to eventually create some urgency, but they represent only one of the three conditions necessary to create enough urgency to cause action.

You may be able to use the pain you uncovered to create the second condition - quantifying the opportunity.  Properly quantifying an opportunity requires using math in a way that helps you build your case, and you can see it demonstrated here.  Quantifying may help you develop a compelling reason for the CEO to move forward, but as I mentioned, it's a CEO, and a CEO may need three conditions to be in place.  The third condition is a connection to their end game - their overall long-term strategy. When CEO's can't see how your solution helps to achieve their long-term strategy and goals, they may not buy despite the pain you uncovered!  

As I explained to the group, it's a lot like a Nor'easter.  For a blockbuster snowstorm like a Nor'easter to materialize, there are three conditions that must exist.  The first is that there must be cold air from Canada in place.  No cold air?  No snow.  The second condition is that the storm must pick up a significant area of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the waters off of the southern coast of the US.  Without the moisture, there can be no big storm regardless of how much cold air there might be.  But there is a third condition that must occur, and that is a favorable track of the storm.  If the storm tracks too far inland, the storm will be in the form of rain.  If it tracks too far to the south and/or east of New England,  only Cape Cod and the islands will see snow.  The storm must track just to the south and/or east of Cape Cod and then most of New England gets a major snow storm.  When salespeople uncover only pain, that's the equivalent of the moisture - but we don't have the cold air in place and the track of the storm sends it out to sea.

21 Sales Core Competencies

We shared the latest enhancements and new features of our Sales Force Evaluation and the attendees were very excited about the expansion of 5 of the Sales Core Competencies for which we already had findings.  Effective today, we have expanded the competency sets for:

  1. Milestone-Centric Sales Process
  2. Relationship Building
  3. CRM Savvy
  4. Social Selling
  5. Pipeline Management (sales management)

We previously included findings/scores for these competencies, but now we show approximately 8 attributes for each of these 5 competencies - a lot more details and explanation. They round out the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure and report on.  The 21 Sales Core Competencies can be seen here.   

Motivation

Last year, we announced that we had expanded our measurement of sales motivation.  We had already begun looking at both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when we began measuring 7 additional ways that salespeople are motivated.  This year, we announced that in addition to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we will begin measuring altruistic motivation.  This is important because sales managers are finding it more difficult to help salespeople who are not motivated by money. When sales managers understand how salespeople are motivated, they can use other strategies and tactics to help maintain motivational consistency.

Zero's are Like Carbs

One of the big take-aways for the group was my comment that zero's are like carbs - they're bad for you.  All of the zeros that appear, when the value of a huge sales opportunity is entered into the CRM application, cause salespeople to become inappropriately excited.  They facilitate instead of pushing back.  They respond instead of being proactive.  They get happy ears instead of continuing to question things.  Just cross out the zeros and treat it like any other opportunity!

There were literally dozens of other insights and take-aways that I don't have time to share today, but if you like these, let me know and I'll share some more in my next post.  I'll know you liked it if you click the LinkedIn share button at the top of the article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, objective management group, creating urgency, selling to the CEO, uncovering pain

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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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