Last Day Madness on the Sales Force - That's One Kind of Urgency

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 05, 2018 @ 20:11 PM

madness

The 2018 World Series is in the rear view mirror, my family can go to sleep at a normal time again, and sports fans can finally devote their attention to Basketball, Hockey and Football (and soccer okay?  You got me to say it).  I'm still getting calls and emails asking if I've come down from cloud 9 over the Red Sox world-series victory but I keep explaining that I was never on cloud 9.  The series victories over the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers, all 100-win teams in their own right, were too easy. There wasn't enough drama, tension, adrenaline or doubt.  There was no sense of urgency.  That's the topic for today - urgency.  Check out the table below:

RedSox-RevenueAs you can see in the table, each clinching victory became bigger than the one before it as final days of the month, quarter and year increase in importance to a company.

If a company has the month won, the quarter in the bag, and even the yearly revenue goal met by the end of November, there isn't any drama, doubt, tension, or urgency.  They just keep on selling without any pressure.  

We know that 50% of sales reps won't hit their quota this year because the same thing has been happening for years without signs of improvement.  That's not surprising given that the data from 1.8 million salespeople evaluated and assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG) shows that the bottom 50% of salespeople are very weak.

Most sales managers don't have their months, quarters and years end like the Red Sox did.  They're pushing, pulling, demanding, asking, strong-arming, discounting and screaming to get the deals in, all because the deals were never closed in the first place.  If customers will place their orders on the 30th of the month, they would have placed them on the 20th if the salesperson was effective.  But prospects have learned that if they hold out, the call offering a discount will come through at the end of the month.  And the difference between good and crappy salespeople?  The ability to create Urgency.  This article shows how Elite salespeople create urgency 326% more often than weak salespeople!  

There's one other factor at play in last day madness.  Crappy sales managers are part of the mix too and effective coaching, as you can see in this article, is achieved by only 10% of all sales managers.

There will always be urgency to win. - The question is simply, will you create the urgency and eliminate last day madness, or by failing to create urgency, require unnecessary urgency - madness - on the last day instead?

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, urgency, closing more sales, end of quarter closing, red sox, world series

As Good as Your Last Successful Hire - 10 Tips for Consistency

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 13:07 PM

ben

Most executives struggle at maintaining any kind of successful momentum when it comes to consistently hiring salespeople who actually succeed.  It's easy to hire a great salesperson who, when all is said and done, sucks.  It's difficult to hire any salesperson who, in the end,  performs great.  

Let's leave the world of sales and look at my favorite topic for analogies, baseball, and although it's very difficult this year, my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.  

Under first-year GM, Ben Cherington, the 2012 Red Sox were horrible.  They finished last after 10 years of playoff appearances and World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.  Ben inherited part of that team, but he engineered the draft, trades, signings, releases and promotions that became the final design of the 2012 Red Sox. 

The very same GM made questionable moves during the following off-season, and most experts predicted that the Red Sox would continue to be a team that wasn't very competitive.  The Red Sox fooled everyone and finished first, winning the American League championship and 2013 World Series.  Boston Strong.

A few more off-season moves led to the 2014 team, destined to finish last again.  It will be the first time in Major League Baseball history when a team would go from worst to first and back to worst during three consecutive seasons.

Most fans are wondering how the genius of 2013 could have ended up with such a horrible team just one year later.  Experts point to a lot of possible reasons, but most neglect that this was the same GM who led the 2012 team to a last place finish.

Is he the genius of 2013, or the incapable GM of 2012 and 2014? 

The answer is probably neither, but only time will allow us to judge fully.  [This just in, today he traded Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes for Yuenis Cespedes]

Back to sales.

When a company hires a salesperson who turns out to be awesome, the sales leader is a genius for knowing this person would succeed.  When a company hires a salesperson who turns out to be horrible, the sales leader couldn't have known things would end up this way.  After all, the candidate had a track record of success.

There are 10 things you can do to hedge your bets:

  1. Create and stick to a best practices, sales-specific, recruiting process.
  2. Use and don't vary from a validated, predictive, sales-specific, candidate assessment.
  3. Attract the right candidates with a killer job posting.
  4. Develop strong, sales-specific, interviewing skills.
  5. Identify specific selection criteria and stick to them.
  6. Design a powerful, meaningful, structured, onboarding program for new salespeople.
  7. Improve sales coaching skills and spend more time coaching.
  8. Improve your ability to hold salespeople accountable to agreed-upon KPI's.
  9. Check references.
  10. Prepare new salespeople for success instead of setting them up for failure.
In the end, you're only as good as your last successful hire.  Just ask Ben Cherington!
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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Sales Candidate, red sox, ben cherington, sales selection

World Series, Super Bowl and the Sales Force - The Rallying Cry

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This article was originally going to be just a single paragraph,  but it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.  I believe that amplifies the significance of this topic.

world series winnersWe saw it for the first time in October when the overachieving Boston Red Sox beat the talented Detroit Tigers for Baseball's American League Championship.  Then those same Red Sox topped a great St. Louis Cardinals team to win the World Series.  The most impressive element of the 2013 Red Sox is that what they lacked in talent, they made up for in chemistry, character, work ethic, intensity, commitment, and a rallying cry.  Those elements led to a unique culture of togetherness and a true desire to pull for each other.  They were not an untalented team; they just weren't the most talented team.

super bowl winnersThe Seattle Seahawks story is not significantly different from the Red Sox.  Their Super Bowl winning team was comprised of the same type of chemistry and character that led the Red Sox to the world championship of baseball.  Is character a substitute for talent?  Not at all.  But when you combine a strong dose of talent with a strong dose of the right character, it makes all the difference in the world.

With selling being such an individual sport, can any of this character and culture stuff be applied to a sales force?  Let's discuss it and figure it out.

If every salesperson is aligned around your rallying cry - the why we're all doing this - and they all pull for each other instead of competing with each other, you can get your talented salespeople to overachieve.  Of course, that is much easier said than done.

Let's discuss the rallying cry.  Every April, the state of Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day and there are two special events.  The Red Sox always play a special 11 AM game while marathoners compete in the annual running of the Boston Marathon.  As you know, in 2013, tragedy struck when the Marathon was disrupted and people were injured and killed by what is now known as the Marathon Bombing.  There was a heartfelt and immediate response by the Red Sox players as people from around the world watched the events play out on live television.  

boston strong"Boston Strong" became the rallying cry of the Red Sox.  David Ortiz, their biggest star, addressed the crowd and on live television, famously said, "This is our f---ing city."  Even the FCC didn't mess up that moment, deciding not to assess a fine on Ortiz, the Red Sox, or NESN, the sports network that broadcasts Red Sox games, for his use of the F-Bomb on live television.

But make no mistake.  Those two statements - Boston Strong, and This is Our F____ing City - became the rallying cry around which the entire team aligned and that evening, they committed to bring the World Series championship to Boston. They pushed each other.  They pulled for each other.  They found a way.  They achieved.  They overachieved.  They persevered.  They did it.  They won.

How would things change if you could come up with something bigger and more important than money, sales, profits, commissions, metrics and personal achievement?  How would things change if there was something bigger and better than you and me and them?  How would their approach change?  What would happen to their sense of urgency?  When it's bigger than the one and the all, how important would it be for everyone to succeed?  

What could be your rallying cry?

meadowlandsI haven't written too much about incentives and contests, although I have some strong opinions.  I'll share those opinions in my next article.  But a rallying cry, that could be bigger than everyone, could be an event, location or thing where if the team succeeds, everyone on the team participates and celebrates.  "New Jersey" was a rallying cry of the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson, their Quarterback, got the entire team aligned around, "Why not us?"  If the team achieves its goal, everyone on the team goes to New Jersey and competes, as a team, in the Super Bowl.

What could be your rallying cry?

duck boatIn addition to the team's World Series trophy and the player's share of the World Series money, there is one additional reward for winning the World Series in Boston.  The Red Sox and their families are paraded through Boston and into the Charles River on Duck Boats.  A third rallying cry for the 2013 Red Sox team was "The Parade" and "Duck Boats."  After the parade, pitcher Jake Peavy went so far as to purchase the Duck Boat in which he and his family rode.

What could be your rallying cry?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales motivation, red sox, marathon bombing, boston strong, seahawks, sales incentives

Is a Lost Sale Better for Salespeople Than a Win?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 16, 2012 @ 23:09 PM

winnersIn the past decade, Boston's sports teams have won a number of championships.  The two which excited me the most were the Red Sox' 2004 World Series victory and the Patriots' 2001 Super Bowl win.  When I reminisced about those long-awaited championships, I was surprised at how little time I spent savoring those wins, compared with how much time I spent mourning the huge losses.  I was on cloud nine the day after the big wins, but speechless, depressed and generally miserable for weeks after the big losses - especially the 1986 World Series loss to the Mets and the 2003 Playoff loss to the Yankees.

As always, this got me thinking about sales and whether the same reactions to wins and losses in sports held true for wins and losses in selling.  There is a huge difference between sports and selling:

  1. We are not spectators in sales, we are participating!  
  2. There is money at stake for salespeople, much different than when we root for our team (unless there is gambling taking place).
  3. We have some control over the selling outcome.

Does personal participation, a financial stake or being in control change how we feel about the selling outcomes?

I analyzed some of my own biggest wins and losses from the past 5 years and realized that the wins only provided me with satisfaction.  That's it you ask?  Yes, that's it.  Satisfaction.  There were no celebrations, champagne, ice cream or pats on my own back.  On the other hand, when I identified the losses (they were harder to locate), I remembered that more than anything else they made me angry.  So the losses in sales, just like in sports, evoked a greater emotional response from me than the wins.

So, which is better?  I believe it depends on the individual.  For most of us, wins build confidence, momentum and lead to greater success.  For others, losses make us better because unlike the wins, they force us to debrief, replay the entire process including each meeting, every conversation, follow-up, time lines, commitments and missed opportunities.  

When a baseball team wins the World Series, fans aren't thinking about how the team could improve to have a better chance at winning next year.  But when they lose, fans do think about potential trades, free agent signings and promising rookies who could come along to make the team better next year.

When salespeople are required to debrief after a loss, a call which didn't go as planned, a meeting which didn't have the desired outcome, or there was no decision, they improve and reduce the chance of a similar outcome.  I believe losses are more powerful than wins.  What do you think and what is your personal experience?

Topics: sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, lost sales analysis, red sox, Patriots, sales debrief, sales success

Baseball's General Managers versus Business' Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 @ 05:03 AM

The 2010 Major League Baseball season officially gets underway this Sunday evening with its greatest rivalry, the Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees, at Fenway Park.  It gives me a great excuse to write a baseball themed article.  But hey, what else would you expect from the author of Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball?

This week is one of the most active weeks for General Managers because they need to trim their rosters to 25 players.  The best 25 players.  The 25 players that give their teams the best chance to win, the greatest depth, and the best protection in case of injury.  General Managers have several tools they can use to evaluate who gets those final roster spots.  They can go by what they witnessed, first hand, during Spring Training.  They can go by the players' statistics from the Spring Training games, or they can use a player's statistics from the last year, two years or three years to make their decisions.  There are dozens of statistics being used these days, with the traditional stats of HR, RBI, BA, and ERA being overtaken by newer stats like OPS, OPB, and WHIP. I'm all for the newer stats because of the insights they provide.

You should be evaluating your sales team's performance as the first quarter of 2010 comes to a close.  You have many ways to evaluate sales performance.  Observation, statistics, sales force evaluation, performance, etc.  As part of a sales force evaluation, sales force optimization - the optimal number of salespeople for your sales force - should be considered.  Unlike baseball, the number is probably not 25.  But once you have the number, it becomes much easier to determine who the best salespeople are. The ones that give you the best chance to win, the best depth, and the best protection in case of injury.  Baseball doesn't award roster spots for tenure, appreciation, or effort.  The spots go the best, period.  You should do the same.  

You have one huge advantage over baseball General Managers though. Forward looking indicators. Except for observation, all of the statistics they use in baseball are lagging indicators.  They tell the story of how a player has performed in the past, not how they will perform in the future.  And while past performance can be an indicator of future performance, it can't be relied upon.  Too often, companies rely on lagging indicators to evaluate sales performance by citing revenue.  While revenue is important, forward looking indicators are more significant.  They can accurately predict future sales performance in a way that would make baseball's General Managers drool!  I wrote this comprehensive article on What to Do With Your Useless Sales Pipeline for AlisterPaine.com.

Rely on your forward looking indicators - your sales pipeline and the metrics that keep it filled and balanced - and you can accurately predict your revenue before, instead of after the fact.  Not only will you be able to predict revenue, but you'll be able to impact it as well.  Don't like what you see?  Change something!  It's just a lot easier to change the numbers before they happen than after.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales pipeline, Baseball, red sox, sales metrics, yankees

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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 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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