Top 10 Factors for Getting Salespeople to Overachieve

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Feb 04, 2007 @ 15:02 PM

Here is a video where I discuss creating a culture of overachievers.


There isn't a single key to overachieving, so I'll list my top 10 factors for helping salespeople overachieve.  I'm sure I've written about each of these topics at some point in the past, but I'll put them all together here:

Goals - I'm talking "raise the bar, stretch, out of the comfort zone, more than the typical 15% increase in sales" type goals here.  You must raise expectations in order to celebrate superior performance.  Don't forget two things: (1) that a forecast and plan come from the goals; not the other way around; and (2) goals are derived, not from the company, but from the individual's income requirements, based on the bills that accompany life's obligations and desires.

Incentives - including compensation, contests, commissions, awards and prizes.  Incentives bridge the gap between corporate carrots and the personal goals we just discussed.  If an individual has the goals but the company's compensation isn't designed to reward superior achievement, the incentive to perform can not be maintained.  If the company has a rock-solid compensation plan but the goals are wouldn't excite Dr Phil, the personal incentive to perform will be AWOL.

Managing the Pipeline - a Visual Pipeline makes it significantly easier to manage the pipeline but the key to managing the pipeline effectively is working with your critical ratios.  Think monthly goal, closing percentage, average sale and length of the sell cycle. Let's say that your salesperson has a six month sell cycle, a $100,000 monthly goal, a $20,000 average sale and a 25% closing percentage. Effectively managing the pipeline requires that your salesperson places 20 (5 $20,000 sales x 4 at 25% closing) new opportunities worth of total of $400,000 (25% of $100,000) into the pipeline 6 months in advance of the monthly goal (if the goal is for July then the opportunities must enter the pipeline in February).  Get that to work and the outcomes are all but guaranteed.

Accountability - This is such an important factor in over achievement.  You must hold each salesperson accountable to something measurable (like the number of conversations required to book the number of sales calls required to identify those 20 new opportunities) every day.  Even more importantly, you must have consequences for failure to meet those requirements and consistently follow-through whenever necessary.  Develop the nerve for full accountability and you're nearly there!

Motivation - This is the combination of Goals and Incentives. In essence, does the salesperson have a strong enough Desire and Commitment to do whatever it takes - every day - to reach the goals?  When they don't, it's your job to motivate them by knowing what each salesperson's goals are. I'm not talking income requirements or gross sales here, I'm talking planes, boats and cars; big houses, vacation homes, golf trips, world travel, home theaters, fantasy camps, exclusive events, etc.

Self Starter - Last week I posted an article that discussed what it takes for salespeople to succeed in a remote location.  Those factors, whether salespeople are more effective when working independently or as part of a team; and whether they require supervision or can work without it; help to determine whether they are self-starters.  If not, you must start them up every day, twice daily or as often as it takes.  If you have self-starters, you are one lucky manager.

Skills - The more the better, but let's focus on the most important skill sets for overachieving.  Your salespeople must be able to hunt for new opportunities, identify the most qualified and be able to close them.  Anything else they can do is a bonus!

Urgency -  I wrote about Closing Urgency in January.  Your salespeople must have enough urgency to get their opportunities closed, when they become closable, even when their prospects are trying to put them off.

Weaknesses - Unfortunately, there are weaknesses that will neutralize all of the previous 8 factors.  There can be dozens of weaknesses that could impact performance but none are so powerful as these five:  Non Supportive Buy Cycle, Need for Approval, Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved, Money Issues, Self-Limiting Record Collection.

Coaching and Training - Your coaching must support any training initiative and help salespeople overcome their weaknesses, develop skills and master the selling process.  While most training will be conducted by sales development experts from outside your firm, the coaching absolutely takes place from within.  Pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefing, with every salesperson, every day.

This list of factors is not all inclusive but it's a good start.  You can build a sales force of over achievers if you incorporate not some, but all of these factors.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: selling, accountability, Motivation, Pipeline, Performance, Compensation, Featured

Lights Out Sales Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 05, 2006 @ 21:06 PM

I noticed that a red traffic light in town was out so I called the town, got connected to the department in charge of lights and let them know.

'You said this was on Computer Drive? That's the state's responsibility.'

'You want to let them know?'

'I said it's the state's responsibility. You'll have to call them yourself.'

'Don't you live in this town too? Don't you care?'


When you ask your salespeople how a call went and they say good;

When you ask if you'll be getting the business and they say no;

When you ask why and they give you one of the following reasons:

  • relationship with the competition;
  • price;
  • not ready;
  • not the right person;
  • no money;

it's just like the person who says it's not their problem, but someone else's. Oh yeah? Well go back and build a great relationship. Sell value. Create some urgency. Get to the right person. Help them find the money. Don't let your salespeople behave like government employees. Make them take some responsibility or tell them they can go and work for the government where their behavior will be appreciated.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

First Impressions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jun 03, 2006 @ 08:06 AM

I was being introduced to a crowd recently where the speaker wrote his own introduction of me rather than reading the bio I supplied him with. He chose one word, just one word, that inappropriately tied both of us to a brand we had nothing to do with. In doing so, rather than effectively differentiating himself from the crowded market he was in, taking advantage of my appearance in his city and leveraging the venue he had chosen, he commoditized himself.

Then he chose, a single, unspectacular work experience from my career, from 33 years ago, and spoke of it as if it was the defining moment in my sales development career. It could have been embarrassing but I know that once I get up to speak, the crowd will forget anything the and everything the host chose to say about me.

But it got me thinking. We prepare our salespeople to say certain things, talk about certain topics, and present certain products and services in certain ways. But do they? You've been on the road with them but what do they say when you aren't with them? How do they flavor things when they're on their own? If one word can forever reposition a company, how many times do they choose a word that would make you cringe? And if one experience can change someone's opinion of your company, product or service, target market, quality, integrity or mission, how many topics do they choose that would make you wring their necks?

Management must do a better job reviewing what is said by their salespeople to ensure consistency, impact, the integrity of the value proposition and revenue.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

Put Offs that Sound OK

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, May 13, 2006 @ 12:05 PM

Your salespeople come back with good news and tell you that they spoke with the decision maker of the big opportunity they've been working on. They report that the decision maker told them they're very interested in moving forward but want to wait until the close of their fiscal year (90 days away) or want to first complete a project they're currently working on (60 days) before discussing further. Your salespeople are psyched. They try to get you psyched. You get psyched.

The problem is that you shouldn't be the least bit happy about this. Assuming that this was a properly qualified opportunity, your salespeople took the easiest put-off in the business. This is the put-off that promises future business - much more exciting than the put-off where prospects need to compare your proposal with that of the competition.

As many as five variables are at play here:

  • Honesty - is the prospect truly interested in moving forward or are they just letting the salesperson down easily?
  • Recognition - did the salesperson hear a buying signal or recognize a put-off?
  • Skills - if the salesperson recognized the put-off, did they know what to do about it and how to do it?
  • Need for Approval - if recognized and equipped with skills, was the salesperson's need for approval a dominant factor in allowing the put-off to go unchallenged?
  • Buy Cycle - as above, was the salesperson's M.O. for buying services similar enough to his prospect's so as to make their delay understandable?

Chances are, you don't know the answers to these variables, putting you in very good company. Most in management can't objectively evaluate these issues but would love to know the answers. The answers are available as part of Objective Management Group's evaluation of your sales force. You can also learn more about these dynamics at play in Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Closing - Overcoming Objections

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 11, 2006 @ 20:05 PM

Yesterday, 50 salespeople gave me their biggest closing obstacles - about 25 - when we combined them all. I showed them the four bases in Baseline Selling and defined what must happen for the salesperson to reach each base. Then I asked them to identify the specific base paths where the closing obstacles should have been dealt with. Closing takes place at home plate and sure enough, all 25 of those closing obstacles actually should have been dealt with either between 1st and 2nd base or between 2nd and 3rd base. The moral of the story is your salespeople haven't even earned the right to close until there are not issues that would prevent them from getting the business.

Try this with your salespeople. Have them write their biggest closing obstacles on a piece of paper. Then hand each of them a copy of the four bases. Next, review the criteria for each base and then have them identify where in the baseball diamond their issues should have been dealt with. Were they uncomfortable? Have your sales force evaluated to find out why they get uncomfortable dealing with these issues prior to closing time.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Two Kinds of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 11, 2006 @ 20:05 PM

A successful serial entrepreneur who attended my seminar for CEO's in Montreal today, suggested that there were two kinds of salespeople; those who prospected and went through the motions, only to not close, and those who asked for the business.

Give me a break!

The most common type of salesperson is the one who doesn't prospect enough, followed closely by the one who does it, albeit it ineffectively. Then there are those who have the following problems:

  • they don't have a process to follow
  • they don't determine whether the prospect needs what they have
  • they don't find the prospects' compelling reasons to buy something
  • they don't find the prospects' compelling reasons to buy from them
  • they don't get enough face time
  • they don't effectively differentiate themselves
  • they don't build a stronger relationship
  • they don't effectively demonstrate their superior expertise by asking better questions
  • they don't qualify the opportunity
  • they don't make a compelling case to buy from them
  • they don't present the solution in a clear, concise and compelling way
  • they don't present a needs appropriate or price appropriate solution
  • they ask for business (not closing) but don't close the business
  • they don't ask for the business
  • they create too much pressure to buy
  • they don't create enough pressure to buy
  • they take stalls and put-offs

You can learn more about how to solve most of these problems in Baseline Selling. For each one of those 'types of salespeople' there are many more. Many salespeople exhibit multiple symptoms. The most obvious issue to most CEO's is that the salespeople know what they're supposed to do but they don't do it. Our sales force evaluations clearly and consistently show why your salespeople are unable to execute what they already know - hidden weaknesses.

Topics: selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Reasons Why Prospects Don't Buy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 19, 2006 @ 21:04 PM

There are many reasons why prospects don’t buy:

They didn’t need it;

There were no compelling reasons for the prospects to buy;

Your salespeople didn’t have the best solution;

Your salespeople didn’t have the best relationship;

Your salespeople didn’t differentiate themselves from the competition;

The prospects couldn’t afford the solution;

It was more than their prospects wanted to spend;

It cost more than the price for what the prospects perceived was a similar solution;

The prospects weren’t sold;

The prospects weren’t ready.

Regardless of the reasons your salespeople didn’t get the sale, the issues listed above could have all been dealt with earlier in the selling process. Your job, should you decide to accept a true sales management assignment, is to make sure your salespeople recognize these issues before presenting or proposing a solution.

In Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball, your salespeople don’t reach 2nd base unless the prospect needs what you sell, has compelling reasons to buy, and your salesperson has developed a good relationship while differentiating himself and your company from the competition.

They don’t reach 3rd base until they have completely qualified the prospect to do business with your company and completely qualified your company to do business with the them. So all of the issues listed above would have been covered early enough in the process to proceed with confidence or exit gracefully.

Coaching calls for both pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefing. While most sales managers are very ineffective at coaching, you can excel at it if you know when in the selling process these issues need to be addressed and your salespeople are properly prepared to address them.

For more information about Baseline Selling visit

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Developing Weak Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 18, 2006 @ 23:04 PM

Some of your salespeople are chronically weak - they just under perform and you don't quite know where to begin to help them. Perhaps, you don't even know how to help them so you just tell them to do more, try harder or keep at it. Maybe you give them your best 'moves' and hope they take. More often than not, you won't be able to help but you will develop a closer relationship in the process, making it more difficult to terminate them when you give up.

Then there are some who will actually do what you say and if you begin in the right place by helping them secure quality appointments they will begin to succeed. Beware. You were not surprised when the salesperson who couldn't get good appointments last week had lousy outcomes on those weak appointments. Now that the quality of the appointments is better, isn't it normal to expect better results from the meetings or calls? Not really.

Your salespeople will be experiencing new ground. Their first quality meetings, qualifying quality prospects, actual competitive situations and then closing. With each new success comes a point in the selling process that your previously ineffective salesperson has yet to experience. You'll have to provide the same help that allowed them to book quality appointments at each of these subsequent stages of the selling process. And with each passing stage, it becomes more, not less, difficult.

Is there an easier way? Yes. You could evaluate your sales force; the people, systems and strategies, and identify those who can and will improve, along with the specific help they'll need in order to get there. Don't know how to provide the specific help they'll need? No problem. The sales force development experts who explain the results of the evaluation are qualified to provide the help you can't provide. See

Objective Management Group's web site for more information on evaluating your sales force.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

When Salespeople Think the Deal is Closed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 11, 2006 @ 08:04 AM

How often does this happen? A salesperson predicts that an opportunity 'will close' or, they do close an opportunity only to have the prospect delay or back out. What causes prospects to change their minds? More importantly, how do your salespeople respond when this happens? Do they follow up at the time suggested by the prospect? Do they wish their prospect luck? Do they walk away with their tails between their legs? Or do they recognize that this is merely another challenge to be overcome?

Yesterday I changed my mind on a project where a consultant would do an analysis to tell us the best way to bring elearning content on line. Why? The consultant sent over a list of issues prior to our first meeting and it was obvious to me that the only issues he wanted to focus on were to build justification and ROI for the project. That's not what I was paying him for so I cancelled. If he had just showed up at 2PM like he was supposed to, he may have still asked the wrong questions, but I wouldn't have kicked him out. I would have set him straight. But when he advertised his intentions ahead of time, I provided myself with a couple of hours that I could redeploy.

It got me wondering how often prospects change their minds because of something the salespeople do. Are they too anxious? Do they become unprofessional? I saw an email from a salesperson to a client who had just agreed to do business. The first line of the salesperson's thank you letter was, 'I'm looking forward to getting to know you better.' That might have scared his female client. She cancelled the next day.

Lesson - Question everything your salespeople do and try to identify every possible way in which they can improve. Even if you don't know how to make them more effective, recognize that standing pat should not be an option.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

Not Closing Sales - Sales Management Problem Solving Strategies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 07, 2006 @ 03:04 AM

When some of your salespeople aren't closing sales of certain products or services what does it mean? First it helps to identify the possible causes:

  • are you losing sales to competitors?
  • is your pricing strategy wrong?
  • are your salespeople failing to sell value?
  • are the wrong prospects being targeted?
  • are the offerings being positioned incorrectly?
  • are your salespeople doing something differently than before?
  • are they asking the right questions?
  • are they moving too quickly through the process?
  • are they getting enough appointments?
  • are salespeople ineffective at closing?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, the next question has to be why? And don't feel bad if you can't answer the 'why' question. Most executives can't.

All too often, sales management identifies the problem too quickly - in this case they decide it is a closing problem - and determines that some skills training focusing on closing would be helpful. But so often, the problem they identify isn't the true cause and while the training can't hurt, it won't fix the problem.

Ask enough questions to get to the root cause. It's OK if you don't have the answers. Having the right questions can be more helpful than guessing at the answers. Once you have the questions, a sales force evaluation can provide the answers to all of your questions. To learn more about evaluating your sales force visit Objective Management Group's web site or Dave Kurlan's Lens.

(c) 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine 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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