Is Your Sales Process Backwards, Upside Down or Stupid?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 07, 2021 @ 07:07 AM

Here Today movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

My wife and I recently watched the new funny but sad movie, Here and Now, written and directed by Billy Crystal, who stars as comedy writer Charlie Burnz.  In one scene, Charlie recalled a happier time when his family used to have what they called "upside down day." On upside down day they started the day by eating dessert, had dinner for lunch, and finally ate breakfast for dinner.  

Speaking of meals, we recently dined in a restaurant which had its rules laminated and affixed to the table. Their very first rule read, "Food must be ordered with alcohol" instead of what it should have said, "Alcohol must be ordered with food."  Words are important and these words were backwards. (100 bonus points if you can guess the restaurant name.) 

In between the meal and the movie, we attempted to shop at a well-known French retailer.  Before entering, they required scanning a QR Code, registering on their website, and waiting to receive a call from an associate before being allowed to shop.  Also frustrating was the problem that most of their products were not on display so you needed to know exactly what you were looking for because browsing in this upscale retail store was not encouraged.  Retail is all about browsing and at this store, they forgot about making it easy to buy and replaced it with making it difficult to get started.  Brand stupidity. (100 bonus points if you can guess the French brand.) 

Last night I was pulled over by a Massachusetts State Police Officer for changing lanes when there are double solid white lines.  I don't think it was the first time I've done that in 50 years of driving, but I'm certain I've never been pulled over for that before. I broke the rules.

Let's take upside down, backwards, rule breaking and stupid and use those four conditions to dissect sales processes.

When we look at the sales processes that most companies have in place, there are usually elements of upside down, backwards and stupid.

Some companies have a dedicated team of BDR's that work the top of the funnel before they hand-off the opportunity to an account executive. The very poor conversation to meeting ratios are an example of a serious combustion point with this scenario. There are many reasons for these unacceptable ratios that companies invariably find ways to justify (see my article about Why We Should Blow up the BDR Role).  While inexperience and ineffectiveness are the two most obvious reasons, another significant reason is the use of BANT which stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing.  (See my article about Why BANT Can Kill Opportunities.) Put another way, BDR's are not only charged with reaching decision makers, engaging them in conversation and scheduling first meetings, but many of them are also supposed to qualify those opportunities so that account executives don't waste their time.  While it's smart to have account executives working qualified opportunities, it's upside down, backwards and stupid!  A decision maker has no incentive to answer qualifying questions this early in the sales process before there is some compelling reason for them to buy what you have.  In other words, while you want to start the sales process with a decision maker with authority, you start with whom you start and go from there.  You can't qualify a prospect's ability to buy or get to the actual decision maker  until there is enough urgency for them to take action!  At that point, they'll ask you what you need from them!  When it's done at the right time in the sales process, it's much easier!

Another problem with most of the sales processes is the sheer number of steps that have nothing to do with selling.  For example, Marketing has worked its way into the sales process and while the lead generation work flow is important, it does not belong in the sales process.  A signed contract is an acceptable final step in the final stage of the sales process but the steps that legal undertakes are part of the legal team's process, not sales. 

Sales processes tend to emphasize three major steps - prospecting, presenting and closing - but seriously lack the actual selling-based stages and milestones. If we wish to sell value and create urgency, a consultative approach is required.  Without it, the conversation will invariably turn to price and your attempts to sell value will go right down the drain.

In this case, the sales process is not upside down or backwards, it is inside out - the inner core is missing!  For a better explanation, watch this ten-minute video that explains the difference between sales process and sales methodology, the milestones a good sales process must include, and the differences between some well-known sales methodologies and processes.


 

Even when we have helped companies optimize their sales process, salespeople are multiple-time-offenders when it comes to following the new sequence of milestones in the sales process.  Salespeople LOVE to skip steps.  They break the rules!

The single best example of upside down, backwards and stupid occurs when considering the limitations of certain CRM applications and/or the limitations of the integrators who customize those applications.  Your sales process must be integrated into your CRM application so some companies, acknowledging the various limitations of their CRM/integrators, include only those simple steps that they can get into their CRM. You can't dumb down your sales process because of limitations in your CRM! 

For the complex sale, we recommend Membrain, a robust CRM that emphasizes opportunity and pipeline which is fairly easy and quick to  customize, add content, create complex playbook scenarios, create stages and milestones and produce the reports you want.  Despite the availability and recommendation of a perfect application like Membrain, some companies cite their accumulated investment and training, and refuse to give up Salesforce, MS Dynamics and others, despite the lack of user compliance, inability to make it user friendly, customization challenges and costs.  Lack of compliance means very little realtime data and inaccurate forecasts and that's the reason you bought CRM in the first place!  Upside down, backwards and stupid!

What are you doing that is Upside down, backwards and stupid? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, qualifying, account executive

Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 @ 12:04 PM

past or present

It's April 17 and nearly every salesperson is selling from home.  It's just temporary, right?

Maybe.  But what if it's not? According to the President, Vice-President, Scientists and some Governors, the economy will begin reopening in stages, perhaps as soon as May 1.  So it's back to the office and your territories, right?  Wrong.  You'll still be home.  Welcome to the future of selling where I'll share my top five reasons why.

Reason #1 - School: Your kids are still home from school, they probably won't be back this spring, they probably won't be going to summer camp, and may not even be at school in September.  And if they're home, then your salespeople are home too.

Reason #2 - Efficiency: Once your salespeople have begun to sell not only remotely, but virtually via video conferencing, you'll quickly realize that they can meet with 6-8 prospects and/or accounts per day, compared with 2-3 when they're traveling in a territory.  Think about how much more business they can generate and how many more touches your customers will get from your salespeople?

Reason #3 - Cost: Depending upon your business model, the cost of cars, gas and maintenance, parking, airfare and hotel, meals and entertainment can be drastically reduced or even eliminated when your salespeople are selling virtually. 

Reason #4 - Coverage: Many companies don't have enough coverage to blanket the entire region, country, or continent.  Their customers are spread out so they deploy salespeople where most of their customers are.  With virtual selling, your salespeople can reach every customer that's out there.

Reason #5 - CRM Compliance:  Your salespeople have great excuses for not keeping their CRM up-to-date.  They were "traveling", "on the road", "away from their computers", "unable to get to it", or they forgot.  But when they are selling via the very same piece of hardware that their CRM is in, there are no longer any excuses for lack of compliance.  It will finally be time for them to live in CRM and you'll finally have the visibility into real-time data that you wanted when you invested in your CRM platform.

Although those five reasons as to why selling from home will become the new normal, you should be forewarned.  Selling from home is not without its challenges.  Three primary challenges will make selling from home difficult:

Challenge #1 - Only 41% of all salespeople are well-suited for working from home.  This speaks to whether they are self-starters, can work independently from a team, and can work without supervision.

Challenge #2 - Sales Managers will need to coach more, not less, increasing the time they spend on coaching to as much as 75%.  Unfortunately, most don't spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Sales Managers will need to huddle with their team twice per day despite the fact that most haven't even begun leading daily huddles yet.  Only 7% of all sales managers have the coaching skills required to coach up a remote team.

Challenge #3 - The new world of selling will appear very much like it appears today, only everyone will get better at it.  They must!  Selling has been pretty easy the past three years and despite that, fewer than half of all salespeople were meeting or exceeding quota.  It won't become easy again for quite a while.  Companies will either be on spending freezes, have money but not want to spend it on what you're selling, or if they are buying, will demand that you sell it for less than ever before.  All this at a time when it's more important than ever that you maintain your margins.  This will require your salespeople to master three competencies that most salespeople aren't very good at:

Competency #1 - Consultative Selling - only 15% of all salespeople effectively differentiate by listening and asking great questions

Competency #2 - Value Selling - only 41% of all salespeople have the ability to be the value

Competency #3 - Qualifying - only 31% of all salespeople can thoroughly qualify an opportunity

Good luck!

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, qualifying, value selling,, selling remotely, selling from home, selling virtually, video conferencing

Does Being a Strong Qualifier Correlate to Having a Strong Pipeline?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 07, 2018 @ 09:08 AM

qualify

My latest data mining project reveals that the answer to this question is a partial correlation.  

Check out the two tables below and you'll see just what I mean.

All of the data in this article comes from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments of salespeople.  See the data yourself in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and find out how your team compares by industry, region and more.

The first table shows the percentage of salespeople that have the Qualifier competency as a strength.  Look at the difference between elite salespeople where 93% have it as a strength versus weak salespeople where only 9% have it as a strength.  Also notice that the all of the scores in the table correlate to Sales Percentile.  The correlation ends there.  Strong and elite salespeople who are strong at the Qualifier competency are also strong at the Value Selling competency and have strong pipelines.  However, the 9% of weak salespeople who are strong at qualifying do not have strong pipeline quality and are not strong at selling value.

correlation-qualifier-to-pipeline

The second table has the same three competencies but it's framed based on those with strong pipeline quality.  Once again we see a partial correlation between pipeline quality, qualifier and value selling.  Most elite and strong salespeople who have strong pipeline quality are also strong at qualifying and selling value.  However, most weak salespeople who have strong pipeline quality are not strong in the qualifier or value selling competencies.

correlation-pipeline-to-qualifier

My takeaway from this is that when weak salespeople have strong pipeline quality, it's not because of them, it's because of the circumstances they find themselves in.  They likely stumbled upon the good opportunities, prospects shared more information than normal, and the opportunity moved to a late stage.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, qualifying, selling value

Eliminate Delayed Closings Once and for All

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 14, 2018 @ 06:05 AM

leavesA long time ago I realized that in the suburbs outside of Boston, new leaves reach full size each Spring on May 11.  This year, with the cold April we endured, May 11 came and went and the leaves were delayed.

That said, spring leaves on May 11 are exponentially more predictable than pipeline opportunities.  Why might an opportunity not close when it was forecast to?

Technically, there are seven possibilities:

  1. Closes as forecast and you win.
  2. Closes when forecast and you lose.
  3. A short delay that you will close
  4. A short delay that someone else will close
  5. A long delay that you will close
  6. A long delay that someone else will close
  7. A delay of any duration that results in no decision.

And why might those conditions apply?

  • Your CRM application wasn't configured to properly calculate the projected close date
  • Your sales process/CRM application does not include a scorecard that scores and predicts a win
  • The opportunity was not thoroughly qualified because the salesperson:
    • didn't know how
    • wasn't aware of the need
    • fear or discomfort
    • ignored what the prospect said
  • The salesperson had happy ears

The statistics on salespeople evaluated and assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG) show us that only 27% of all salespeople have the Qualifier Competency as a strength.  The top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 77% of the attributes of a Qualifier and all salespeople average 53%.

The same statistics show us that only 30% of all salespeople have the CRM Savvy as a strength.  And the top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 64% of the attributes of CRM Savvy and all salespeople average 43%.

And 27% of all salespeople have the Milestone Centric Sales Process as a strength while the top 10% of all salespeople only have an average of 66% of the attributes of the Sales Process Competency and all salespeople average 49%.

Of the nearly 6,000 candidates that were assessed in the past 4 weeks for sales positions, 38% of them "think it over" when making major purchases.  That makes them vulnerable to prospects who wish to think it over at closing time, extending the sales cycle, and causing a delay. because they "understand."

See OMG's statistics in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and filter by industry as well as your company.

Preventing delays can't always be avoided but more thorough qualifying makes a huge difference.  The key is asking more questions.  When you think you have asked enough, there are always a few more you can ask.  For example, in this article, the difference between "nice to have" and "must have" are often the difference between delays and closes.  This article shows that the when salespeople meet with the actual decision makers they are 56% more likely to close the business.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales CRM, qualifying, OMG Assessment, steps in a sales process, delayed closings

A Salesperson's Terrible Reaction to Good Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

You won't have to read much in today's post because I included most of it in a short video.  This is a story about a salesperson who reacted extremely badly to some great training tips and disrupted the training.  His thinking is so representative of salespeople that struggle, and is the kind of thinking which, if shared with others, could derail an entire sales force!  

I shared the story is in the 4-minute video below, along with a very important lesson.  But don't let the final lesson cause you to miss the power of the questioning that I shared within the story. 

Qualifying.jpg

How did you react to the training tips - were you thinking like him - "That won't work!",  or were you thinking more like a salesperson? 

This is a classic example of a self-limiting belief that is so strong that it will prevent this salesperson from executing the sales process, the methodology, the strategy of selling value, and the tactic of qualifying.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, effective sales training, qualifying, asking for money

Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

failing-report-card.jpg

I've written more than 1,400 articles for Understanding the Sales Force and every one of them has been my observation of salespeople, sales managers and sales teams.  The observations come from sales force evaluations, sales candidate assessments, sales recruiting projects, sales training and coaching initiatives, and sales leadership training.  After 10 years and 1,400 articles and to avoid boredom, we will change things up a bit for this article.  

Ken is one of my longtime readers, a former client, and last week he sent this note expressing his frustrations as a buyer of services.  I'll add my comments and conclusions at the end of his note.

I just wanted to let you know that your sales training program has ruined me as a buyer.  The ineptitude of almost every sales team I have encountered recently is chilling, especially since you have shown me that they can do so much better.   I have come to wonder if it would be cost-effective for buyers to provide sales training to their prospective vendors to save us time, effort and aggravation in our purchasing process.  Salespeople chasing prospects??? I can’t tell you how much time I spend chasing vendors.

I started a new career in Information Security about 6 years ago and am now Chief Information Security Officer for a fast growing SaaS startup in the expense reporting and expense management space.  In my role, I need to purchase compliance services, auditing tools, training products, etc.

Here is the scenario that prompted this email:

A few weeks ago, I got a blast email to participate in a Webinar for a new auditing tool which was being offered by a well-known information security vendor.  I attended the Webinar but no salesperson followed up.  I went to the company website and filled out the ‘request evaluation’ form. No salesperson followed up.  I sent an email to sales@company.com requesting a conversation.

About 5 days later I got an email and a voicemail: ‘Would you like to set up a conversation?’ I responded to the email, ‘ I am available tomorrow morning from 10 a.m. to noon.’ The voicemail asked ME to call the rep. There has been no successive follow up.  I then reached out to some consultants I know in the industry asking for intros. One gave me a name but no introduction. Finally, my auditor set up a call for today.

The call started out promising, (i.e., I didn’t have to sit through 50 NASCAR slides telling me how great the company was and all the other companies they have done business with.)  The rep asked me what I hoped to learn.  After I told them, he handed the call off to his Sales Engineer for the ‘demo.’  Unfortunately, the SE had no capacity to show me or discuss with me the auditing tool that I was interested in. After 2 minutes the rep broke in and suggested we re-schedule for another time.  We’ll see if I hear back.

This is probably the worst example of about a half dozen similar ones where I have a need, I would like to buy something, and I end up doing all of the work.

Very frustrating.

Anyway thanks for allowing me to vent.

You're probably thinking, well, that's not what would happen if I was the salesperson or sales manager or sales VP or CEO.  Believe it or not, this is fairly common!  These are the very same companies that believe they have effective sales processes in place, that their 10% win rates are acceptable, and that they need to get people interested by conducting demos.  These are the companies that don't think they need help, have everything under control, have ineffective sales selection and even more ineffective sales management.

If the sales managers were decent, the very first time they debriefed a salesperson, listened to a call, observed a meeting, or discussed an upcoming call, they would have been able to identify ineffective follow-up, ineffective qualifying, ineffective listening and questioning, etc.

It's most likely that the sales managers are former salespeople who, like those they manage, specialized in conducting demos, creating proposals, and finding the 10% that will stick.

Monday, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, posted a great article on qualifying, why so many salespeople suck at qualifying, and how that ultimately leads back to ineffective sales management (read the comments too).

This article on Linkedin Pulse questions whether it's really sales managers who are to blame or someone else.

Speaking of sales management, I'll be hosting my annual Sales Leadership Intensive - the best training anywhere on showing sales leaders how to really coach salespeople for impact.  We have a full house every time we offer it and some sales leaders come back multiple times!  It will be offered on May 17-18 in the Boston area and you can learn more about the event here.  You can register here.  And if you use - DKSLIMAY16 - the discount code for my readers, it will save you $100 per ticket.  It will be great to finally meet you!

Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales process, sales performance, qualifying, win rates, pete caputa

Quote 85% Less - Sell 300% More!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 @ 16:09 PM

Back in December I posted this article to my Blog on the concept of less being more. You should read that first.

This week, Al Strauss, my guest on Meet the Sales Experts, provided a case history on the subject.

He had a client who, when he met them, closed 4 deals for every 100 quotes they prepared and submitted.  Not only that, it took their highly paid engineers anywhere from 1 hour to 1 week to complete those quotes.  After he worked with them, they were quoting only 18 of those 100 opportunities and closing 12 of them.  That's an 85% reduction in quotes in return for triple the sales.  Truly a case of less is more.  Would you like to hear how he did this?  Listen to the show.

Al also said that right now is the perfect time to figure out who will go out and hunt because, right now, there aren't many salespeople actually calling on your prospects, especially in the industrial and consumer segments.  He also said this is the time to terminate your non-producers and use that money to improve the capabilities of your sales force.

Click here to listen to the show.  Click here to contact Al.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, increasing sales, sales tips, al strauss, qualifying

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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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