Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before (and Why)

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

Saturday evening, I was driving my car and listening to the radio when a song played that I hadn't heard since the 70's.  It occurred to me that long before the advent of rap music, Charlie Daniels must have been the accidental originator of rap with his song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  If you are too young to have heard it, don't remember it, or just want to hear this white country boy do his thing, watch this awesome YouTube clip.

Thinking of rap got me to thinking of salespeople - who always get a bad rap - and that got me to thinking about Bad Company, and their song, Taking Care of Business.  The only problem with my thinking is that Bad Company didn't record that song; Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) did as you can see in this YouTube clip recorded at a prison!  If you're like me, you must be wondering where this post is heading...

Salespeople always seem to get a bad rap and obviously that's bad for business. But it's always been that way and nobody has made a very big deal about it, so what has changed? This article details all of the things that have dramatically changed modern selling in just the past several years.  And this article explains why millions of salespeople will lose their jobs and become obsolete.
 
Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed salespeople and while selling has changed and evolved, the data shows that one thing hasn't changed at all.  The following graph shows sales capabilities as measured by OMG's Sales Quotient and how that has changed in the past 15 years.
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For years, I've been writing that there is an elite 6%, another 20% that are fairly strong, and then the remaining 74% suck.  Well, those numbers have moved.  As you can see in the graph above, the percentage of elite salespeople has climbed by a whopping 1% to 7%, or an increase of 10,000 salespeople.  Unfortunately, the decrease in strong salespeople, from 20% down to 16%, means that the percentage of sucky salespeople now stands at an unbelievable 77%.
 
So despite the glut of free content in the form of blog articles, podcasts and videos, how do we explain that sales capabilities on the whole are worse than ever before?  Going back to Charlie Daniels and BTO, the devil may be in Georgia, but he is definitely right here in the details where it is obvious that we aren't doing a great job of taking care of business.
 
When a change in the way that people buy is taking place at a faster rate than a change in the way that people sell, we see results like these.  Richardson just published their 2016 Selling Challenges Report.  I typically don't care for surveys - especially those with a small sample size like this one, and those whose respondents are primarily from large companies. But in this case, the findings are correct; especially the top 3 issues that salespeople are struggling with:
  1. Creating value and insight during the client conversation
  2. Uncovering complete information regarding the decision making process
  3. Exploring client issues and challenges

The 3 topics are identical to those I write about most frequently because they correlate to the issues we uncover when we evaluate sales forces.  Why are salespeople struggling so much with these issues?

  • Their sales managers aren't capable of helping them.
  • The majority of companies fail to bring in expert help from the outside.
  • A lot of the training doesn't focus on the cause - only the symptoms.
  • Salespeople tend to not practice and when they do practice, they practice doing it the wrong way.
  • Those 3 issues are the core of Value Selling and a Consultative approach - the 2 most difficult competencies out of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
  • A lot of the training either isn't very good, isn't reinforced, or isn't enforced.  Sales leaders and CEO's are not holding salespeople accountable for change.
  • The starting point for any effective training is a customized, formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process and that is missing from many well-known training programs.  Last week I received a call from an Israeli company that wanted Kurlan & Associates to teach their 200 salespeople to sell based on the video tools they created.  Their products were cutting edge 21st century products, but the selling approach they created on their own was vintage 1970's.  I told them that they would have to either allow us to completely change their sales process and approach, or they would have to find another company to help them.
  • Sales DNA plays a huge part in the difficulties that salespeople have when attempting to sell value or use a consultative approach.  Sales DNA is the combination of strengths that support skills and when the strengths are actually weaknesses, salespeople are uncomfortable and/or unable to execute the process, strategies, tactics and achieve milestones.
Today, if salespeople do not learn to master the consultative approach, a prerequisite for Value Selling, they won't be able to differentiate themselves in the field.  Without differentiation strongly grounded in value, buyers will ultimately make their decisions based on price.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment, charlie daniels, bachman turner overdrive

Has the Sales Profile of an A Player Changed Dramatically?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 03, 2016 @ 12:02 PM

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Recently, a number of readers asked me to review two articles which they thought were right up my alley.  Apparently they thirst for one of my specialties - poking holes in articles that are just plain wrong about hiring salespeople.  It's not that I enjoy ripping articles apart, it's just that I don't have any tolerance for authors who either don't know what they are talking about, don't have any science backing them up, or use examples that can't be replicated across industries, markets and geographies.  Shall we dig in?

We'll begin with an article from Sales Benchmark Index which in itself is a surprise because Greg Alexander and his team typically write great articles that are usually challenge-proof. If Dan Perry were more specific, and cited the particular assessments and tools to which his theory applied, then The Myth of the Ideal Hiring Profile would be fine as is.  Instead, he used a broad brush leaving readers to believe that all assessments are outdated.  Most personality and behavioral styles assessments were never designed to be used for sales selection, but not wanting to ignore an opportunity, these mostly old social instruments were adapted by using sales-like labels for their findings.  But make no mistake; the findings are still the same age-old social findings that have no connection to business or sales and therefore, are not predictive of sales success.  Clearly, these profiles are all useless and outdated for the specific role of sales selection.  But not all assessments are outdated or adapted for sales.

That brings us to his other point; that the profile for an A player has changed dramatically in the past 12 months.  I could agree with a statement that said sales has changed dramatically in the past 8 years, but really in the last 12 months?  Here are 25 Ways it has changed...  In sales, A players (the elite 6%) have only needed to add some social selling skills and use of tools to their repertoire.  They already bring to the table the selling package required to succeed in sales in 2016 and beyond.  They build relationships, follow a milestone-centric sales process, use a consultative approach, ask the tough questions, qualify thoroughly and get business and accounts closed.  The group of salespeople that has changed the most are B players, who needed to close their skill and Sales DNA gaps.  You can suggest that C's have had the most changes to make, but the thing with C's is that what they most need to change, they actually change the least.  That's why they are C's!

Finally, if you want to use a sales assessment/selection tool that was designed for sales, is more accurate and predictive than any other assessment on the planet, is customizable for any modern sales role, and evolves as selling evolves, then you'll want to become one of the 11,000 companies that rely on Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessments.

 

Moving on to my favorite target, Harvard Business Review, I have to challenge Frank Cespedes again.  I last challenged Frank and HBR in November of 2015 with the very popular article, How Wrong is the Harvard Business Article on How to Hire Salespeople.  Their current collaboration, Hiring Star Salespeople Isn't the Way to Grow, was a very interesting read. The article wasn't really about hiring stars as much as it was about how to scale a SaaS business and I was in agreement with most of that.  My issue - and it's the same issue that I had with the November article - is that the authors insist that hiring salespeople should be based on their ability to complete the tasks they have identified.  

Selling is not task-oriented as much as it is milestone-oriented and that's when we are discussing sales process.  The real magic in selling is when the sales process is integrated with the sales methodology - the consultative approach required for the conversation to flow seamlessly from stage to stage and milestone to milestone.  While there are tasks involved during a sales cycle: following, calling, sending, showing, providing, sharing, explaining, etc., a salesperson's ability to execute on those tasks is dependent upon their underlying selling skills and Sales DNA.  Tasks are an oversimplification of the art and science required to be successful in selling. And whether you want to scale, grow at a moderate pace, or maintain your revenue, your salespeople - both new and veterans alike - must be able to execute consistently and effectively in their roles.  How can you determine whether sales candidates have what it takes?  Once again, I urge you to check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.  How can you determine whether your existing salespeople can execute your plan and what is required to develop their capabilities?  Check out the OMG Sales Force Evaluation

Topics: Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hiring salespeople, HBR, sales benchmark index, sales assessments, objective management group, frank cespedes, sales a players, greg alexander

Sales Selection Experiment - Part 2 - It's Back!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 04:01 AM

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When our son was just beginning to speak and we did something that he really enjoyed, he would say, "Again!  Again!"  

Two years ago, I wrote about a sales selection experiment with a group of college kids and the results were so much fun to read that when they repeated the exercise this year, my first reaction was, "Again!"  I think you're going to really enjoy the conclusions from this year's class!

First, you'll need the back story and results from the first go around and don't worry - it was an extremely short article!

Now that you are familiar with the premise and the first set of results, we must ask whether or not the results will be similar, the same or completely different.  The setup was the same - 5 teams - organized by their scores, and they set out to sell overpriced encyclopedias to homeowners in upscale neighborhoods.  Here are my conclusions from this year:

The students with the highest scores for Commitment to Sales Success sold five times more books than the students with the lowest scores for Commitment.  Once again we see why Commitment is the most important finding.

The team with the highest scores for Desire for Sales Success had both the best win rate and the most wins, but also had the fewest door knocks.  While strong Desire is always a requirement, Desire alone is not enough!

The two teams with the lowest scores for Desire for Sales Success and the lowest Sales DNA / Sales Quotient tied for the lowest win rate and fewest books sold.

The student who had the highest combined scores for Desire and Commitment had the highest win rate and the most books sold.

The five students with the lowest scores for Commitment and the most doors knocked had a combined win rate of 0.  Did they lie about the number of doors they knocked on or simply knock and fail to do what was required after that?

The seven students, or 28%, with the highest combination of Desire and Commitment closed 19 of the 32 sales.

The three students, or 13%, with the highest combination of Sales DNA and Sales Quotient scores closed 5, or 20%, of the 32 sales.

Neither Sales Quotient nor Sales DNA by themselves are enough.  The five who scored highest on each of those scores closed only 6 of the 32 sales.  They must be accompanied by Desire and Commitment!

This study also proved that numbers alone aren't enough to get it done.  The ten students who knocked on the most doors closed only 7 of the 32 sales.

 

 

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assesments, sales selection, objective management group

The Science of Sales Selection vs. the Marketing of Modern Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 @ 07:08 AM

Today I received this email from an OMG (Objective Management Group) Partner after he asked me to run an analysis on a company's top and bottom performers.

He wrote, "After all these years, this is still amazing to me. Thanks Dave, my conversation is Monday and we are getting next steps in place.  Appreciate the help."

So why is that such a big deal?

This is someone who has been an OMG Partner for nearly two decades, is one of OMG's most successful partners, and knows our accuracy and sales-specific findings inside and out.  And he was still surprised at just how accurate the analysis was.  Check out the detailed and revealing graphic below!

 

I started with more than 100 sales-specific findings and narrowed them down to the 18 findings and scores that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms.  A mistake made by behavioral scientists and sellers of personality and behavioral styles assessments is that they only look at top performers and identify common traits.   They fail to realize that the bottom performers have the same personality traits and behavioral styles as the top performers and none of those traits or styles are predictive of sales performance.

In this company, the bottom performers scored just as well as the top performers on some sales-specific findings.  To accurately identify salespeople that are totally perfect for a role, we must understand the differences between both groups, not the commonalities within one group.

The salespeople in the top 7 rows are their top performers and the salespeople in the bottom 9 rows are their bottom performers.  After I identified the findings, scores and cutoffs that we would use, I color-coded them so that you could clearly see the differences - a sea of green on top and a sea of red on the bottom.

Next, in the last column on the right, I calculated the percentage criteria that each salesperson met and set the cutoff to 67%.  

Using these criteria, we would have recommended 6 of their 7 top performers and only 1 of their 9 bottom performers.  We would have been correct on 14 out of 16, or 88% which comes within a few percentage points of our usual predictive accuracy of 92%.

This is scientific sales selection.  It's a necessary part of an overall scientific approach to sales and the sales force.

What drives me crazy are the marketing people who are writing about sales despite their complete lack of understanding about B2B sales.  They spin their messages to get business executives to think that the only thing that matters today is social selling, email, inbound marketing, and content. They hope that if they make inbound marketing sound easy enough by providing their tools and applications then businesses will buy their services and hire them.  For instance, today I read that we no longer need sales process (untrue), a consultative approach to selling is dead (untrue), and all sales forces need to be completely restructured (generally untrue).  That's just today!  And in the past 2 months, I have read that salespeople are now obsolete (untrue), prospects have completed 57% of their buying process before they meet with salespeople (the number is inaccurate) and people are no longer buying value (untrue).

There is no science backing up these claims, just a group of inbound marketers and an inside sales industry trying to convince you that sales today is is only about inbound and inside.  It is true that low-price, low-cost, high-demand commodities that everyone wants - think B2C and subscriptions - are being sold almost exclusively via online marketing. But even some of those companies, like Hubspot, the King of Inbound, have large inside sales forces following a structured sales process and taking a consultative approach.

I've said this before, but it should be repeated.  If you are not the price leader, market leader, or brand leader;  if you have a new product, new technology, or a story to tell; if you have a long sales cycle, provide custom products, or have a design cycle; or if you are the underdog; you need salespeople, you need a custom, formal, structured, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process, a consultative approach and skills that salespeople who came 10 years before you didn't have.  It's a fact.  And you can't let Inbound Marketers, Social Sellers or Inside Sales gurus tell you otherwise.  Don't get me wrong.  There is a place for inbound, social selling and inside sales in all of these companies.  They are complimentary pieces, not replacements.  After all, you wouldn't replace a Quarterback with a Kicker - the Kicker is an important complimentary piece to a football team.  

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales candidates, inside sales, inbound, sales hiring test, social selling, objective management group

12 Proven Sales Hacks to Increase Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 @ 07:06 AM

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It seems that these days, things are changing faster than we can recognize. Cosby is finally out of the news, but the Marathon Bomber is back in. The terrible winter weather is in our rear view mirror, but now we are dealing with droughts and tornadoes! And in our world, Sales 2.0, a term we haven't heard in a while, is making the rounds again. In today's article, we'll talk about the sales improvements that readers are most interested in.

Let's kick things off with the most popular article of the first 6 months of 2015, which talks about how dramatically things have changed in selling. Read this very popular article from earlier this year, which is all about the next change to take place in selling.

On LinkedIn, this article explains one simple change that salespeople and sales managers can make that will significantly improve the pipeline and win rate.

With all that has changed, no single characteristic is more important to selling than an individual's unconditional commitment for sales success. This article explains what committed salespeople do differently.

This popular article compares a bad sales email to a good one and a similar article exposes an ineffective cold call and includes a breakdown as to why it was so bad! This article completes the business development highlights with 3 keys to help convert more of those calls to meetings.

We've covered how to be more effective getting meetings scheduled, so let's move to another popular article that explored the possibility that with everything changing so quickly, consultative selling could already be dead.

One of the biggest challenges that companies are having right now is in attracting, assessing, interviewing and selecting new salespeople. Companies are hiring and it's more difficult than ever to hire a good salesperson. Accordingly, some of the most popular articles of the first 6 months of 2015 were written about hiring salespeople.  

This article explains why 1 million sales jobs will be lost, while this one explains why half of an entire sales force resigned in a single month. Could this happen at your company? Why is it that some great salespeople don't live up to your expectations while others are as good, or better than expected? This article explains how and when that can happen. On the other side of that story are the weak salespeople - those with poor Sales DNA and/or sales skills - who somehow find ways to succeed. This article talks about the intangibles they may possess and why they can't be taught or replicated. To round out the best of the sales selection articles, read this one about the phoney baloney sales candidate and how you can make sure that he doesn't fool you.

Finally, you won't want to click on this one right now. Instead, save it for when you have 30 minutes to read it in its entirety. The article began as a simple rebuttal to some junk science on sales selection and turned into a debate on the science of sales assessments and specifically, put Objective Management Group's (OMG) sales candidate assessments on trial. The people have spoken, but what did they say?

Was today's article helpful? Share it! Tweet it! Comment.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales 2.0, cold calling, sales selection, objective management group, sales emails that work, building the sales pipeline

What You Get When You Accelerate Sucky Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 @ 08:06 AM

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Celebrating Fathers Day, we went to a restaurant of my choosing - an upscale burger place - and it took nearly an hour for the food to come. I asked, "Is it normal for the food to take this long?" I was told, "No, usually it only takes 35 minutes" - for burgers! Granted, they were special, great tasting, artisan burgers, but they were burgers! If this was a romantic dinner for my wife and me, then who cares how long the meal takes? Let's just enjoy the time together. But they had people waiting 45 minutes to be seated. They were scaling and the service kind of sucked.  

Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell.com says, “Be careful not to accelerate suck!”. That quote appeared today on the High Velocity Sales Blog, where Chad Burmeister wrote a great article about outbound on demand. You should read that article. It can change your world! Anyway, I wanted to elaborate on that quote as it applies to expanding your sales force. 

 

So many companies reach the point where they are ready to scale - exponentially grow their company, revenue, operations, capacity or reach - and to do that, they need to significantly expand sales. Scaling requires that the right sales leader(s), along with the right salespeople are already in place to form a foundation that can be replicated and/or multiplied. When that isn't the case, and it usually isn't, that is when suck gets accelerated.

Most companies set revenue as a milestone for scaling, but revenue can be deceiving. There is a huge difference between $10 million comprising 5 major accounts, versus $10 million made up of 3,000 accounts. The first scenario sounds more like a case where the founders were able to go back and sell their wares to the companies that previously employed them. The second scenario suggests that we have a top performing sales force where the majority of salespeople are capable of finding and closing a large quantity of accounts.  

Attempting to scale in the first scenario will lead the company into a dark hole, while replicating the second scenario should work quite well. Most companies find themselves somewhere in the middle so the scaling process and result are less predictable.

How do you know whether or not your sales force is scalable today? A sales force evaluation will quickly and accurately answer that question.

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How do you get the right salespeople for the right roles? Learn more about the award-winning and incredibly accurate and predictive OMG Sales Candidate Assessments.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, growing a sales team, sales assessments, objective management group, Scaling sales

How to Finally Get Sales Selection Right

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 13:06 PM

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Before I share some crucial sales selection tips, I need to begin with some baseball. My apologies to all of my cricket and soccer obsessed readers.

My team, the Boston Red Sox, just lost their seventh consecutive game. They are in last place and heading for their third last place finish in the past four years. The outlier year was 2013, when they won the World Series. I think there was far less talent on that championship team than on this year's edition, but the 2013 team had a rallying cry (Boston Strong) and everyone overachieved. You can't count on everyone overachieving each year, so in lieu of that, as Jim Collins would say, you must have the right people in the right seats. 

When it comes to sales selection, sales leaders regularly make the same mistake that Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has made for the last 4 years. Ben is the architect of these 3H (helpless, hapless and hopeless) Red Sox teams. Ben continues to select players who have succeeded in the easier National League, who struggle to compete in the more challenging American League. He also promotes minor leaguers before they are ready. Similarly, companies hire salespeople who have succeeded for other companies, in other industries, in other roles, against different competition, with other price points, calling on different decision makers, with longer and shorter sales cycles. They even hire salespeople away from their competitors, believing that their customers will follow. Well, how has that worked out for you?

Here's an example:    Yesterday, I received an email from an OMG Client in the Middle East wondering why a candidate was not recommended. The email said:

I would like you input on this attached folder, this guy has a great file, why he is not selected and was not hirable?  I need to understand what are the criteria of selection for an account manager?  

I wrote back:

The custom role specification for an account manager was used on this candidate and as you can see on page 3, it requires a candidate to meet at least 70% of the criteria for an account manager.  Your candidate met only 65% of the criteria and possesses only 40% of the account manager skill set.  He is much better suited for a hunter role where he has 100% of the hunter competency.

Most Sales leaders believe that if a salesperson has had any success, or good references, or even a good score on OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, they should be chosen. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every role, in every company, calling into every vertical and decision maker, selling against every competitor and at every price point, with varying degrees of resistance, is different.

You wouldn't hire a hunter to manage existing accounts any more than you would hire an account manager to hunt. But that's what sales leaders and HR professionals do - every minute of every day - when they aren't using anything more than a resume and experience as a predictor of future performance.

It reminds me of the time when I was on a boat with Dennis Connelly, a senior sales strategist at my company. I can't remember whether the lights weren't functioning or there just weren't any running lights, but I do remember that darkness had replaced light. He needed to navigate back to the slip in the harbor, but there were hundreds of boats to steer clear of and all he had was a flashlight! At that point, you need an awful lot of luck to succeed.

For the most part, that's what sales leaders rely on each time they select a salesperson. "Let's hope that this one works out!" How many 3M's (mishires, mistakes and mishaps) does it take before a sales leader or an HR professional realizes that the way they hire salespeople just doesn't lead to consistent success?

But it doesn't need to be that way. Not when there is a highly predictive, customizable, sales selection tool that consistently gets it right. Not when it's sales-specific and has science on its side.  Not when it's so affordable that it's a no-brainer to use.

92% of the recommended candidates, who are hired with this tool, rise to the top half of the sales force within one year. 75% of the candidates who are not recommended by this tool, but who somehow get hired anyway, fail within 6 months. The tool is insanely accurate.  

It's all about sales selection. You can learn more about OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments right here.

I stand behind it. 10,000 companies use it. It works! Isn't it time for you to finally get sales selection right?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales candidates, Baseball, sales selection, objective management group, Boston Red Sox

Whiplash on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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I don't know too many people who saw the award-winning movie Whiplash.  This past winter, Tom Schaff, an OMG Partner in St. Louis, recommended it and thought that I would love it.  As luck would have it, we were living in an igloo this past February, when temperatures never rose above freezing (for 6 weeks), we had nearly 10 feet of snow on the ground, and our home was encased in ice.  That was a great time to be watching movies!  I did love Whiplash and there were so many great scenes that I could have written about. I never did get around to writing about it, but no problem.  Chris Collias, a friend, loyal reader, and longtime client going back to the 1980's, sent me an email with his suggestion for an article.  Here it is.  Chris said that the main character, the incredible drummer, Andrew, is a metaphor for a salesperson. Fletcher, the brutal and narcisistic music professor, could be viewed as an extremely difficult customer or prospect.   

In the movie, the more impossible that Fletcher made it for Andrew, the harder Andrew worked.  The louder Fletcher yelled, the quicker Andrew put his head down and tried harder.  The more manipulative Fletcher became, the more tireless Andrew was.  Andrew is the epitomy of commitment - doing whatever it takes to succeed.  It wasn't conditional commitment; it was unconditional commitment. No-matter-what.

Chris noted that many salespeople aren’t committed to their profession.  They don’t put in the 1,000 hours that it takes to achieve mastery so when they encounter a prospect similar to Fletcher (who actually threw a cymbal at Andrew's head), they don’t react by working harder or facing their weaknesses. Instead, they rationalize, make excuses, or move on to another company (or band). 

Chris said, "Andrew was able to overcome his nemesis by working hard, planting his feet, and calling his tormentor's bluff by delivering his best.  Some prospects, especially in purchasing, can be real bastards.  However, instead of becoming emotional, timid, defensive or sarcastic, you should view them as providing an opportunity for learning. Face them head on, remain calm, and consider that you might be the only salesperson who ever got this far with this particular difficult prospect."

Well stated, Chris!

In many cases, difficult prospects are actually easier to sell because there isn't a whole lot of competition.  Most salespeople give up or lose the prospect's respect before they get remotely close to doing any business with them.

It is important to be aware of potential weaknesses though.  For example, if you have need for approval - the need to be liked - it may be very difficult for you to navigate a situation like this without worrying about what the prospect will think or say or do.  Get over it.  

If you have difficulty recovering from rejection, you may be very uncomfortable putting yourself in a situation where a prospect like this could reject you.  You have nothing to lose!

If you lack self-confidence, it might be scary to jump in and deal with a prospect like this.  Push yourself and do it anyway.

As Chris says, difficult prospects will make you stronger and that will make it even easier for you to deal with prospects who are normal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales weaknesses, objective management group, difficult customers,

The Phony Baloney Sales Superstar

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

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I was in the car when the call was forwarded to my cell phone.  I didn't recognize the caller and his first statement was, "I have some questions about Objective Management Group (OMG)."  Very Dry.  Very Abrasive.

I was thinking detective, maybe researcher.  I asked, "What kind of questions?" Keep in mind that he hadn't said hello, introduced himself, or explained why he was calling so I was wondering what this was about.

He said, "I took one of your assessments and it prevented me from getting a job.  Is this based on the Myers-Briggs?"

I calmly explained that Myers-Briggs was a personality assessment that reported on 16 dimensions of personality but the OMG assessment he took was sales specific and looked at 21 Sales Core Competencies.

He told me he had problems with the Myers-Briggs preventing him from getting a job once before so it must be based on that. He repeated that it prevented him from getting this job so I asked what led him to that conclusion.  His answers will blow your mind! 

He didn't ask permission or whether or not I had time, but took the next several minutes to tell me what a great salesperson he is, the multi-million dollar deals he has closed, and the quotas he has exceeded by 800%.  He said he had a great interview with this company, but after the assessment, he wasn't called back, so it had to be the assessment that knocked him out.

I explained that the assessment is only a single data point and wouldn't knock out a great salesperson like him.  I asked how he knew it was a good interview and he mentioned a recruiter telling him so.  I asked how many salespeople the company was hiring and he said one.  I asked if it was possible that they had more than one good candidate and if another candidate could have been more qualified or a better fit than he was.  Believe it or not he said, "No."

Then he asked to see his results.

I explained that he wasn't the client and in the United States, clients - employers - were not obligated to share assessment results with candidates.  

He didn't like that answer and asked if there was some other way to get his results.  I explained that if he wanted them badly enough, he could simply pay $400 and retake the assessment on his own.

That's when he said, "That's a lot of money. I'm in between jobs.  That's not fair."

I mentioned that with all of those big deals he sold and quotas he busted, it seemed odd that $400 was a problem for him.

He said that one company still owed him $2.3 million in commissions.  I asked whether his lawyer expected to collect that money and he said his lawyer didn't think he had a case - something about a stupid lawyer...

It's not terribly rare for a candidate to send an email or make a call to their potential employer to whine or complain when they don't think they should have to take an assessment, don't get an interview, or don't get the job.  It is almost unheard of for a candidate to call OMG or me directly.  This is only the second time in the past 8 months!  Just the same, I love this part - it's my favorite.  After the call, I attempt to guess which findings I will see on their assessments, based on how they behaved on the call or in their email.  In this guy's case, I KNEW that I would see:

  • Unlikely to develop relationships early in the sales process (weakness)
  • Doesn't need to be liked (strength)
  • Difficulty recovering from rejection (weakness)
  • Arrogant (weakness)
  • Low Money Tolerance (Weakness)
  • Excuse Maker (weakness)
  • Dillusional (we don't test for this, but if we did...)
  • Poor Outlook (weakness)
  • Low Sales Posturing Score 
  • High Hunting Score
  • Strong Commitment (strength)

While those findings jumped off the pages for me, there was also a low confidence score, meaning that OMG wasn't confident with its overall score for him because he was so inconsistent in his approach to the assessment.  He also had very few selling skills beyond his ability to hunt, only a serviceable Sales Quotient, and he was a poor fit for the selling environment he applied for.  If you want to see a sample of this Sales Candidate Assessment so that you can put all of this into context, you can request a sample here.  If you want to skip right to a free trial, you can request that here.

In most cases, the more insistent that sales candidates are about their sales capabilities, the more likely it is that they are in the bottom 74% and they suck.  In most cases, the only sale they ever make is to the gullible sales manager or HR Director that falls for their lies, claims and exaggerations.

The funny thing is that this candidate was probably right.  In this case, the assessment and its 150 or so sales findings painted an accurate picture of him and alerted the employer that this was a Phony Baloney Sales Candidate who should not be considered for this role.

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, HR, sales weaknesses, omg, objective management group

More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 15:04 PM

science

What do donuts, chips, cake and ice cream have in common with some of the articles that are written and published about salespeople, sales selection and assessments? That's right, they are all junk and junk is bad for you to consume. Over the years, there has been no better source of junk science written about sales and salespeople than the reputable Harvard Business Review Blog. Recently, they put out another absurdly awful piece, this one written by sales consultant, Steve Martin. As most of these articles do, "What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest" attempts to use personality and conditions to differentiate the two groups. This comes on the heels of another horrible article I called out in March 2015, which led to this amazing epic debate on the science of sales, sales assessments, and sales selection. This is why this latest HBR article is yet another example of junk science.The sample size of his research was 800 salespeople plus more than 1,000 interviews he has conducted. In this case, his research consists of a survey, and surveys are not a source of qualitative or quantitative data. As far as the interviews go, if each salesperson was asked identical questions, then they actually would be surveys, and if they were asked different questions, then it's not scientific! Compare his sample size to the salespeople that we have assessed at Objective Management Group (OMG).

He said the information provides interesting insights.  Insights are opinions - a far cry from the conclusions that come from science.

He identified 6 differentiators:

Verbal Acuity - Martin said that top performers were more articulate and communicated their messages more effectively - 11th and 12th grade skills versus 8th and 9th grade skills. I agree that words are important, messaging is crucial, and presenting in a way that works for the prospect is critical. But it's not about scores in English composition. It's about being concise, simple, and targeted - things that can happen only when salespeople have good listening skills. We've all seen articulate salespeople fail, and we've all seen simple-minded salespeople succeed. 11th and 12th grade communication skills are not predictive and not what should be measured. We should be measuring listening and questioning skills. Top salespeople are great listeners and ask great questions. Those two capabilities cannot only be measured, but they are the causation for verbal acuity .

Achievement Oriented Personality - Martin said that 85% exhibited this personality, which included Goal Orientation, participation in high school sports, and being power users of CRM.  These behaviors are symptomatic, not sources of causation. We all know salespeople who bury themselves in technology, played sports and are goal-oriented, but who can't sell space heaters in Alaska.  At OMG, we measure Strong Desire for Sales Success, and Strong Commitment for sales success, along with Motivation for sales success.  This is not the catchall finding of Drive, but sales-specific measures which are responsible for the behaviors that Martin observed. In the end, for findings to be useful, we must be measuring the right things!

Situational Dominance - He talks of the salesperson who is relaxed and able to guide the conversation. Maybe. But you can't measure that. What you can measure, and what is proven to accomplish the same outcome as the customer taking the salesperson's advice, are Consultative Selling Skills. Martin said test scores for situational dominance were 20% higher for top-performing salespeople, but that's not a big difference. When we look at consultative selling skills, there is a huge delta between top and bottom performers. The general population has on average 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller. The top 26% of all salespeople have more than 56% of those attributes, while the bottom 74% have fewer than 12%!

Inward Pessimism - Martin said that 2/3 of the top performers had inward pessimism. We might be in alignment on this one. We call it healthy skepticism or not being too trusting - not accepting at face value that which a prospect says. According to OMG's statistics, 86% of all salespeople are too trusting, but only 56% of the top performers have the healthy skepticism. I agree that Inward Pessimism is measurable and found in top performers, but his number is not consistent with OMG's data.  Additionally, when this finding is combined with an individual that does not need to be liked, and who has over-the-top assertiveness, we have an individual who comes across as condescending and arrogant - not someone we would want selling for us!

Sales Management Impact - I'm sorry, but sales management impact is not a differentiator between top- and bottom-performing salespeople.  If it were, a sales manager would not have both top- and bottom-performing salespeople!   Sales managers can have a tremendous impact on sales performance overall, especially when they spend half of their time coaching, and when their coaching skills are top-notch, but in most cases, the top salespeople became top salespeople independent of the sales manager.

Sales Organization Influence - Martin stated that 39% of top performers versus 23% of bottom performers were held accountable. That is not a very big difference. Of greater significance is that he said 60% of the top performers are not being held accountable, meaning that the top performers are likely to perform regardless of whether or not they are being held accountable. Being a top performer is not sales organization dependent!

###

There are significant differences between top and bottom performers, but you won't find them in the HBR article or any others like them.  With rows of data, across industries with sales organizations of every size, shape and configuration, the differences reported by OMG between top and bottom sales performers can be seen in both a macro and micro view.  And our data does not come from surveys or interviews!

From a macro view, we can look at OMG's Sales Quotient. This score, between 0 and 173, weighs 4 findings that make up a salesperson's will to sell, the 5 most important Sales DNA findings, and the 6 most important Selling Competencies.  The elite 6% of sales performers have Sales Quotients of 140 and higher.  The next 20% have Sales Quotients above 129, and the remaining 74% typically underperform.

From a micro view, each finding (over 100) is sales-specific, and together, they are extremely predictive of sales success. Unlike personality and behavioral styles assessments where the names of the findings are modified to appear (marketing) as if they actually measure sales skills and behaviors, OMG actually does.

But don't take my word for this, experience it for yourself. A sales force evaluation provides you with answers to 26 difficult to answer questions about your business and the sales force that is your economic engine. OMG's award-winning sales candidate assessments will accurately identify only those salespeople who will succeed in the particular role you have identified for them.

It's important to differentiate between the best and the worst, but you need the right tools to help. Without those tools, you'll find yourself coming up with insignificant differentiators like those identified in the HBR article, or in the Epic Debate. Stay with science and you can't go wrong. Follow faulty conclusions and you'll have more hit or miss sales selection results with an emphasis on miss.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hbr blog, sales selection, sales science, objective management group

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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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