Discovered - Data Reveals the Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 @ 05:04 AM

decisionmaker

Humans have been waiting for thousands of years to discover the secrets of life.  Why are we here?  Why do bad things happen?  What happens after we die?  Is Heaven real?  What is God's plan for us?

While many experts have attempted to answer all of these questions, most of us lack proof. There's no data.  If we wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly there are not only answers to these questions, but science-based proof, that would be a game-changer for us.

Likewise, every day most companies try to determine why their salespeople don't close more business, why so many opportunities die on the vine, and what they need to do differently to change change their results.  They try everything!  Most leaders think it's an issue of closing skills.  It's not.  Others think it's about prospecting.  While that has an impact on the size and quality of the pipeline, it has little to do with results.  But I have discovered the cause, will show you the data, and discuss how to fix it.

Recently, Objective Management Group (OMG) integrated its sales force evaluation and its pipeline analysis.  Previously, the pipeline analysis was a separate chapter and while very revealing, the data was standalone.  OMG also expanded its analysis of salespeople's ability to reach decision makers and rather than a finding as it once was, it is now a full competency with 8 attributes.

I have reviewed several dozen sales force evaluations conducted since the change and discovered something very revealing.  Look at the bar graph shown below:

DM's

This is VERY representative of every sales force evaluation I reviewed for this article. There is a lot going on in this graph so let me walk you through it.

This sales force averages 54% of the attributes for reaching decision makers but only 13% (green slice of the pie) are strong at this competency.  The overwhelming majority of the salespeople believe in the importance of reaching decision makers and use their skills to attempt that.  Let's focus on the first two attributes which are both Calling on Actual Decision Makers but show contradicting data.

DM2

Let's start with the second attribute.  We ask each salesperson to identify 4 late-stage, proposal-ready or closable opportunities and we ask them 19 questions about each of those opportunities.  Nearly 90% of the salespeople met with the actual decision makers on these late-stage opportunities.  That's pretty good.

The first attribute comes from each salesperson's personal evaluation.  It shows that only 10% of them are reaching actual decision makers overall.  That's pretty bad.

Now that we have these two opposing data points, it should be clear what the problem is, both for this company and for many of the companies showing the same contradiction.

When salespeople successfully reach the actual decision makers, opportunities move through the pipeline and reach the closable stage, often resulting in a win.  However, MOST salespeople are NOT reaching the actual decision makers and those are the opportunities that lose traction and/or result in a loss.

Remember, for the most part, these are salespeople who believe it's important to reach the decision maker, have that as a milestone in their sales process, have the sales skills to reach decision makers, but still fail to reach the decision makers. 

Let's take a closer look at a few of the other attributes.

DM3-1

Half of their salespeople are calling on buyers at the start of the sales process.  Why are they doing that?  Nearly half aren't comfortable meeting and talking with the target decision makers, and a third need to be liked and can't push back on buyers who won't introduce them to or allow them to meet with decision makers.

Clearly, this is not the only problem that sales organizations are facing by a long shot.  However, this data shows that if they could fix just one thing today, the consistent ability to reach decision makers would make a huge difference.

It's one thing to know what the problem is and its impact on results.  However, fixing this problem is not  simple. Reaching decision makers is made possible by having advanced listening and questioning skills in an effective consultative selling process, an ability to differentiate, and being perceived as a trusted advisor.  Reaching decision makers is time sensitive in that the timing must be perfect to consistently succeed at getting the decision makers to engage.  Let me use my expert ability to combine baseball and sales for the perfect analogy.  Have you read Baseline Selling?

If the batter swings too early he will probably miss the pitch or perhaps hit a weak ground ball.  If the batter swings too late he will probably miss the pitch or perhaps hit a pop fly ball.  If the batter times his swing perfectly and squares the bat to the ball he will crush it.  Salespeople need to crush it when it comes to reaching decision makers.  They must time their ask perfectly or they will probably strike out.  You can also use comedy as an analogy where the comedy writer provides the same routine to a professional comedian and an amateur.  The words coming out of each person's mouth would be identical but the professional comedian gets the laughs because of having mastered the timing and cadence of the delivery.

This problem can be fixed but the trainer or coach providing the help must have a mastery of the nuances of how these pieces all come together.  If your salespeople can reach even 25% more decision makers, think about the impact that will have on revenue.

You can see all of OMG's data for all 21 Sales Core Competencies, by industry and even see how your company compares.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, reaching decision makers, closing more sales, win rates

What Percentage of New Salespeople Reach Decision Makers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 @ 11:06 AM

deadend.jpeg

It isn't as good as the Father's Day gifts I received from my wife and son, but I love it just the same.  My team at Objective Management Group (OMG) built a great new tool and this one does not help us to more effectively evaluate sales forces and assess sales candidates.  We're already pretty darn good at that.  The new tool allows me to quickly grab and analyze data faster and more effectively than I ever could before.  For example, I used it last week for the first time and within a few minutes I was able to write this article that showed 2 of our 21 sales competencies in a completely surprising way.  While this is very cool for me, I think this could be even more awesome for you!

For example, I reviewed a new set of around 8,500 rows of data today.  I wanted to know what percentage of salespeople were able to get past gatekeepers, including voice mail systems, and reach decision makers. This was very interesting!

Overall, 46% of all salespeople are able to get past gatekeepers and reach decision makers - but that's only when we include procurement folks as decision makers.  If we filter the data on salespeople who do not begin with procurement, that number drops to just 13%!  But there's more!  When I filtered the data by salespeople who are brand new to sales it drops to only 1%.  ONLY ONE PERCENT OF NEW SALESPEOPLE ARE ABLE TO REACH DECISION MAKERS!!  And who are the people filling all of the new sales development and business development roles - the top of the funnel roles where BDR's and SDR's call to make appointments for the account executives to meet with Decision Makers?  Brand new salespeople!!  This data is only about getting through - prior to having a first conversation with a decision maker - is it any wonder that they average only 1.5 meetings booked per week?

There are plenty of people writing articles about the differences between good salespeople and everyone else.  I attempt to debunk as many of those articles as I get to see but there are more than I could ever get to. Compared to the science based data that OMG has, those articles are based on opinions and anecdotal references and generally quite false.  Do you have a theory about salespeople?  Have you observed a difference maker?  Have you worked with some great salespeople?  With this new tool at my disposal, I can accept any and all of your theories, questions, assumptions and requests, run an analysis, and report on what we learn!  I'm very excited about the process.  You can enter your request in the comments below, or if you prefer anonymity, email it to me at dkurlan@objectivemanagement.com.  I won't use your name if you don't want me to.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, booking appointments, reaching decision makers, phone prospecting, top of the funnel

Bad Guys - How We Lost This Deal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 13:02 PM

lost-the-deal

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Lost deals, as well as sales calls and sales meetings that go south, make up a huge portion of our coaching calls with clients and their salespeople.  After all, everyone can learn a lot more from what went wrong than they can from what went right.  We also coach clients and their salespeople on how to win the deals that are currently in the later stages of their pipelines.  They tend to be overly optimistic, so for a dose of reality, we always ask about what could possibly go wrong.  They rarely know what could go wrong, so we help them out and introduce them to a long list of possibilities.

Today, Murphy's Law made a rare appearance at our company.  My favorite law from Murphy is, "Beauty is only skin deep. Ugly goes straight to the bone." Unfortunately, that wasn't the law that appeared.  Of course, it was, "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong."  Here's what happened...Last week, we received a verbal go ahead from the CEO of a company and a formal agreement was to be signed today.  There didn't seem to be anything that could derail this deal and in addition, they had tremendous urgency to get started.  They knew they needed help and in my opinion, things were even worse than what they thought.

Last week, they were very excited about what we could do to help and couldn't wait to get started.  We were talking with both the Chairman and the CEO, so we couldn't have gone any higher in the company.  We are uniquely qualified to provide the very specific help that they required in both the short and long term and there was terrific alignment on both sides of the table.

Blindsided

Today, we learned that they were going with another company due to the relationships that two of their outside investors had with the competitor.

Wait a minute...what outside investors?  Isn't the chairman the outside investor?

How did we miss that?  

In an action adventure novel, there is never only one bad guy trying to kill the hero; there are always at least two!  And the mastermind never sends just one team of bad guys, he always sends a backup team just in case his first team fails.  

Remember this!!  It doesn't matter whether we are talking about bad guys or outside investors.  There are always at least two!!

It turns out that there are more than two more outside investors.  Would knowing that last week have changed anything?  Maybe.  We could have asked if the outside investors would have input.  We could have asked to include them in the conversation.  We could have asked if they knew anybody in our business.  We could have asked what would happen if they wanted to work with someone they had personal experience with.  We could have sold them on working with us.  We could have done more than we did.

The Lesson

In professional sales, there is a qualified opportunity and then there is thoroughly qualified opportunity.  On the opportunity in question, we substituted qualified for thoroughly qualified.  It does not help to know that our version of qualified is still at least 10 times more qualified than what the typical salesperson calls qualified.  Does-not-matter-one-bit.  If you miss something, whether or not you should have known about it, you still missed it.  If something catches you by surprise after the fact, you still missed it.  If a new competitor, a new stakeholder, a new issue, a new budget, or even a new time line comes up at the 12th hour, you still missed it.

It's our job to know everything.  We failed because we didn't do our job.

There is yet another way to lose a deal and that's by losing control of your emotions.  Read this article on the Hubspot Blog for more.

Join me for one of the following free presentations coming up in the next couple of weeks:

February 19 at Noon Eastern: How to Hire Your Next Salesperson presented by TAB.

February 26 at 11 AM Eastern: The Magic Behind OMG's Legendary Sales Candidate Assessments presented by Objective Management Group

March 5 at 9 AM Eastern: The Power of Sales Process and Pipeline Management/CRM presented by Membrain and Kurlan & Associates

Finally, the latest issue of Top Sales World Magazine is available today.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, sales qualification, reaching decision makers, lost sale, lost deal, outside investors

Top 4 Reasons Salespeople Struggle to Reach Decision Makers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 @ 05:10 AM

Bodyguad with uziThree separate, but related, incidents occurred this week, all having to do with reaching decision makers.

First, I received a cold call that went like this:

"Hi Mr. Kurlan, this is [name withheld] from [huge company name withheld]. We're a company that.....oh no - the script disappeared from my computer. I...I...can't talk to you without following the script.  Bye."

First off, the Mr. Kurlan thing is like fingernails on a chalkboard - I can't stand it and never will.  About the only time it doesn't bother me is when my Korean dry cleaner sees me and says, "Oh, Mista Kuelahn, hah ah you?"  That makes me chuckle.

Second, the Mr. Kurlan thing again.  It tells me before he says another word that he doesn't know me.  If he did he would call me Dave.

Third, the Mr. Kurlan thing yet again.  It tells me that he doesn't think he is at the same level as me, shouldn't really be talking with me and can't speak my language.

I don't even have to provide commentary about what happened with his computer and script. I do know that there isn't a CEO anywhere that would have listened for even 5 seconds if he had started reading from a script!

Okay, so that's the first incident.  The same day, I was asked about a salesperson at a client's company.  The Objective Management Group (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessment said that he would have difficulty calling on Senior Executives and, of course, he was struggling.  When asked what they could tell him, I said this:

  • Intellectually, he needs to know how crucial this is for his success.
  • Conceptually, he needs to know that he can reach senior decision makers.
  • Belief-wise, he needs to know he belongs with senior decision makers.
  • Practically speaking, he needs to learn the strategies and tactics for how to consistently reach senior decision makers.

Incident number three:  Yesterday, I received an email announcing the results of a survey conducted by the cloud-based, business presentation company, Brainshark, Inc.  While the survey included plenty of silly statistics, there were some very important findings in there too.

Much of the survey focused on how, when and where salespeople prepare for and deliver presentations to close.  Most of the sales questions (how they sell) focused on presenting - not conversations, discussions, questions, or anything approaching a consultative approach.  So it shouldn't be at all surprising that the survey reported that salespeople were frustrated by the following presentation challenges:

  • technology not functioning (56%), 
  • key decision-makers absent from the room (50%), 
  • a disengaged or distracted audience (34%),
  • not feeling well-prepared (14%),

and the following post-presentation/closing challenges:

  • unresponsive/difficult-to-reach prospects (55%)
  • not knowing who else is influencing purchasing decisions (49%)
  • having a hard time telling if the prospect is interested (26%)
  • not having appropriate follow-up materials (17%)

So here we are again, with half of the salespeople reporting that they aren't reaching decision makers.  And why would a decision maker want to be reached if the salespeople are focused only on presentations?  And companies wonder why their sales cycles are so long, their closing percentages are so low and their margins are slip sliding away...

Also noteworthy were these findings from the survey results:

  • Prepare:  77% of reps graded themselves a “B” or better for their prep work, while Managers thought that 58% of their reps merited a “B” or above, with 42% grading reps a “C” or below.
  • Present:  Only 14% of reps thought their presentation skills deserved a “C” or lower, while managers rated reps with a “C” or worse  43% of the time.  22% of reps thought they earned an “A” compared to 8% of managers who gave reps that grade.
  • Follow-up:  Reps were twice as likely as managers (21% versus 10%) to think they earned an “A” for post-meeting follow-up.  

When OMG evaluates a sales force, one of the two dozen or so questions we answer is whether the company's salespeople can be more effective at reaching decision makers.  We include several factors to support our answer but I can share that the findings come from:

  • their sales DNA,
  • their Beliefs,
  • their existing set of selling skills, and
  • their comfort level.

When it comes to salespeople believing, reaching, acting appropriately and speaking the language of senior decision makers, it is very ugly out there.  OMG's statistics show that a whopping 68% of salespeople struggle to reach decision makers.

How do your salespeople measure up?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, sales survey, reaching decision makers, sales presentations, sales assessments

The Longest Sales Cycle Ever - How They Closed the Deal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 02, 2011 @ 23:05 PM

$25 MillionToday I heard a true story about one of the longest sales cycles ever.  This particular team attempted to reach their target but couldn't get through to the decision maker.  Rejected, they didn't give up,  and they didn't take 'no' for an answer either.  They stayed with it in the face of failure and adversity.  As a matter of fact, this committed team did whatever they had to in order to connect with their targeted decision maker. Finally, they identified a center of inluence who could connect them with their target.  When they finally reached the decision maker they closed him on the first call.  That's right, after all that time, their killer instinct surfaced, they took advantage of their short window of opportunity, and executed a one-call close. Over and done. A $25 million opportunity!  Yes, they finally killed Osama Bin Laden.

If only your salespeople had that kind of commitment and staying power.  If only they were able to somehow get connected to their target prospects.  If only they could close the big ones on the first call.  It's OK to dream big.  It's OK to think about possibilities like this. It's OK to want your salespeople to do more, more quickly, more often, and with more success.  Until your desires become expectations, you won't do anything to change the behaviors that lead to results.

Speaking of "no's", I wrote an article about 4 years ago that was nominated for Article of the Month for May 2011.  There must have been a delayed reaction!  It was called "12 Reasons that People Say No". If you weren't reading my Blog four years ago or don't remember it, you can read that article here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, reaching decision makers, overcoming rejection, Sales Advice, one call close, killer instinct

Subscribe via Email

View All 1,700 Articles

About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile

Subscribe 

Receive new articles via email
Subscribe
 to the Blog on your Kindle 

 

Audio Book
Top 30 on Kindle
Top 100 on Amazon

Most Recent Articles

Awards

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2017 - Article/Post - Gold
 Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2017 - Assessment Tool - Gold

 2016 Top Sales & Marketing Individual Blog - Bronze

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 -  Bronze - Thought Leader

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Podcast - Gold

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Webinar - Gold

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 - Bronze - eBook/White Paper

2018 Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs Widget

Dave Kurlan Top 50 Sales Influencer 2015

Sales Pro Insider Blog

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers

Top100Strategic

Top100SalesInfluencersOnTwitter



Hubspot Top 25 Blogs

 

Free Tools

Sales Process Grader

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Sales Ghost Calculator

Sales Force Grader

Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator

FREE Recruiting Process Grader