New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 04, 2018 @ 06:06 AM

dog

In my most recent article, I shared data that showed a chain reaction would occur when salespeople have more than one major weakness in their Sales DNA and the second major weakness is their tendency to become emotional. As a trigger, the first major weakness causes the salesperson to become emotional, at which time their listening skills become compromised.

That article can be found here and as of this writing nearly 6 dozen LinkedIn subscribers have contributed some very insightful comments here.  Their comments inspired me to dig even further and look into the correlation between relationship building that salespeople do and their need to be liked.  In this study, even I was surprised by what I found!

The table I assembled below includes data comprised of 450,000 salespeople from Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on more than 1.75 million salespeople who have been evaluated and/or assessed.

Relationship-Approval-3

The table is sorted by the 5 ranges of Sales PercentileTM with the weakest salespeople in the percentile of 25 or below, and the top 5% in the elite group, with scores of 95 or better.

The second column shows the percentages of those who DO NOT need to be liked arranged by Sales PercentileTM.  You'll notice that those scores correlate perfectly with the Sales PercentileTM, just as they did in this study of the Correlation Between Sales Motivation and Effectiveness.  With the exception of the extrovert column, ALL of the scores in ALL of the columns correlate perfectly with Sales PercentileTM.

Many of the LinkedIn comments referencing the article on Chain Reactions theorized that relationships either were or were not important.  I mined the data on 5 of the key attributes of the Relationship Building Competency and laid them out by Sales PercentileTM in order to compare them to the findings of Not Needing to be Liked.

There are some striking discoveries here, including the fact that the percentage of extroverts positively correlates to sales effectiveness.  In addition, while you can't see it in the table, 78% of the extroverts need to be liked.

Some of the key data points can be seen below.

Relationship-Approval2

Look at the highlighted data for Not Needing to be Liked, Relationship Based Sales Process and Relationships are Key Factors in Closing Business.  While 86% of the weakest salespeople DO need to be liked, only 42% of them have a relationship-based sales process and some believe that the relationship is the key factor.  Do you see it?  Despite NEEDING to be liked, most of them lack the conscious awareness of whether or not they are successfully building a relationship during the sales process. That is one of the key reasons that the weakest group of salespeople are so incredibly ineffective. Some in this group are attention seekers while some are so timid that if you blew them a kiss they would tumble over.  Either way, this is a group that you shouldn't waste time coaching, shouldn't attempt to raise their expectations, and ultimately, shouldn't retain.  Replace these salespeople and use OMG's accurate, predictive, customizable, sales-specific assessment tool.

Conversely, we see that two thirds of the top group, where only 11% need to be liked,  DO have a relationship based sales process while only 1% believe the relationship is a key factor to closing the business.  Do you see it?  They DON'T NEED to be liked but are conscious of the importance of developing a relationship during the sales process.  They know how (mechanical) but don't need to (emotional).

These findings bridge the gap between the two primary groups in the LinkedIn comments. One group implied that relationships didn't matter at all, while the other group said that relationships were extremely important.  It is important to develop a credible, value-based, trusting, respectful relationship, while equally important that salespeople NOT NEED their prospects to like them.

Over the past two weeks I have enjoyed digging into the data and sharing some of the insights that prove and disprove theories while shedding light on the reasons for various sales effectiveness and performance.

Do you have a theory to prove?

Do you have a question that our data could answer?  Leave your question or theory in the comments here or on LinkedIn, or email me at dkurlan@objectivemanagement.com 

I'll be happy to do the digging and share the findings right here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Relationship Selling, sales process, sales science, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Sales DNA

Surprising New Data on Salespeople Busts the Myths about Relationship Selling and Social Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 @ 13:06 PM

rel-social-image.jpg
Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

 

If you are a regular reader, you might recall this great article on Selling to a CEO.  In that article, I also mentioned some of the expanded Sales Competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) now measures.  Before April, Relationship Building and Mastery of Social Selling were findings in our evaluations, but now, they are full blown competencies with complete sets of attributes.

I had a theory about salespeople, but didn't have the data to prove it out.  I believed that social selling was a godsend to those in sales who were not great at relationship building - that by utilizing applications like LinkedIn and Twitter, they could reach out to new people, but with the benefit of hiding behind the glass screen. Do you think I was right?  Or wrong?

 Actually, I couldn't have been more wrong!

We took nearly 5,000 rows of data from the past 2 weeks and looked at those two competencies and compared the results.  In the 1st graph, you'll see that the overwhelming majority of salespeople are poor at both, or to put it in my vocabulary, they suck at both!  Just 5% were good at both, 11% excelled at social selling and 16% excelled at relationship building.  

rel-soc-graph1.jpg

So I wondered if the data might be skewed based on demographics.  For instance, would the data show that salespeople with more than 10 years in sales are less effective at social selling and better at relationship building?  We filtered the data and removed everyone who had fewer than 10 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 1,850 veteran salespeople.  The graph looked nearly identical to the first graph but the veteran group at 33% was much better at relationship building, 11% - the same as the entire population - had mastered social selling and 8% achieved high scores in both.

rel-soc-graph3.jpg 

So I wondered what would happen if we looked at the people who were new to sales. This time, we filtered the data and removed everyone who had more than 5 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 2,000 newer salespeople.  This graph also looked quite similar, but there were a few small differences.  Just 2% of the newer salespeople were good at both competencies.  33% were good at relationship building, and surprisingly only 9% had mastered social selling - an even smaller percentage than the veteran group!

 

rel-soc-graph2.jpg

 My theory?  Out the window.  Not even close!  Instead we made two even better discoveries from this exercise:  

  1. The majority of salespeople, who aren't very good at relationship building, will be equally poor at social selling.
  2. Although you and I are selling socially, most salespeople - 89% are not effective at social selling! 

Are you surprised by any of these discoveries?  What are your thoughts?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, twitter, Relationship Selling, linkedin, social selling, sales assessments

What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 @ 06:07 AM

sales process

If you were on vacation the past two weeks, this is what we were discussing:

June 30: The Top 10 Reasons Your Great New Salesperson Could Fail 
July 1: The One Sales Question I've Been Wrong About for Years 
July 2: The One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling Part 2 
July 7: Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers 
July 8: Top 21 Keys to Making Your Sales Force Dominate Today 
July 10: The New 21 Core Sales Competencies for Modern Selling   

The following article first appeared in the July Issue of TopSales Magazine.

I’m a baseball lover, die-hard Red Sox fan, and proud father of a 12-year-old baseball star.  Having founded Kurlan & Associates in 1985 and Objective Management Group in 1990, the only surprise should be that it took so long to combine the two passions and write Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, in 2005.

Baseline Selling

Companies have terrific results when they implement Baseline Selling, and last week a well-known expert asked, “What is the big secret that makes Baseline Selling so powerful?"  He thought it would make for a great article discussion, so let’s attempt to answer that question by starting with a few questions of my own.

Is it the sales process that makes it so powerful?  The big difference between the sales process in Baseline Selling and other sales processes is that rather than having outcome-based steps, time-based steps or task-oriented steps, it has customizable milestone-centric steps.  You might think that a step is a step, but there are huge differences.  With time-based steps, you may have achieved a certain number of calls or meetings, but you may not have actually achieved the desired outcomes.  With task-oriented steps, you may have completed the tasks, but you may not know whether you are any closer to having a new customer or client.  With outcome-based steps, you may have achieved the desired outcomes, but as with time and task-based steps, you may not know what will actually happen next.  With a milestone-centric process, the sequence of steps is extremely important because the steps build off of each other, and as each milestone is achieved, a salesperson gains more evidence, thus leverage and confidence that they are closer to the sale.

Sales Process Grader

Is it the methodology that makes it so powerful?  Nothing is more important in today’s selling than the conversation that takes place between the salesperson and the prospect.  While other methodologies are based on relationship-building, strategy or tactics, the Baseline Selling methodology is based on the conversation that continues across each stage.  Milestones are known only to the salesperson, achieved within the conversation, and invisible to prospects.  The methodology then, is consistent with the conversation that moves the process from step to step and stage to stage.

Is it because of uncovering compelling reasons to buy?  Unlike needs-based, buyer-journey, or pain-based approaches, the compelling reasons as to why a prospect would move their business to you, or buy this product, service or program in the first place, provides the salesperson with leverage.  It allows the salesperson to build a case using the prospect’s reasons, and helps the salesperson to position the solution in such a way that resonates with what is most important to the prospect.  On the other hand, a need may not be reason enough to change.  The buyer journey includes the salesperson at a point where it is difficult to move backward to gather the necessary information, and pain only works when there is a known problem and a desire to fix it.  While pain could be the source of a compelling reason, the desire to take advantage of an opportunity could just as often be compelling enough for a prospect.  In that scenario, the salesperson seeking to find pain would conclude that in the absence of pain, the prospect should be disqualified.

Is it the concept of SOB Quality?  Before we can discuss SOB Quality, you really need to know how that concept was developed, what it refers to in baseball, and how it translates to selling.  Watch this impromptu 3-minute video for my complete explanation of SOB Quality. 

Now you should understand just how accomplishing SOB allows salespeople to differentiate themselves from their competitors, internal adversaries, and become trusted advisors.  SOB does not exist in other processes, methodologies, sales strategies or tactics.  The closest anyone has come, since this was introduced in 2005, is The Challenger Sale; however, that describes a certain type of salesperson, whereas in Baseline Selling, achieving SOB Quality is simply a milestone that any type of salesperson can achieve.

So what is the big secret that powers Baseline Selling?  While all four of these concepts are important to Baseline Selling, SOB brings selling to a whole new level.  It causes prospects to think, “We need to work with Dave.  He gets it better than anyone else, he asked great questions, he got us on the right track, he helped us realize that we were approaching this the wrong way and we’ve never had a conversation like before that with anyone else!”

There are hundreds of experts offering dozens of processes, methodologies, approaches, strategies, styles and advice.  It’s all good.  All you have to do is choose one that meets the following 10 criteria: 

  1. It resonates with you.
  2. It’s easy to understand, teach and learn.
  3. It’s easy to customize and apply.
  4. It works today and will work tomorrow.
  5. It’s time-tested and proven.
  6. The methodology was designed for the process.
  7. The process is intended to be integrated into your CRM or pipeline management application.
  8. The process and methodology are rich enough to offer layered or stepped learning and application.
  9. The trainer has lived and breathed the process and methodology.
  10. The trainer understands your goto market strategy.

 Most of the executives, who reach out to us for help, tend to incorrectly believe two things:

  1. They already have a sales process - They have some steps, but steps don't make an effective sales process.  It's effective when it's predictive of outcomes, every salesperson follows it, and every sales manager coaches to it.
  2. They have good salespeople, but just need some tips - They may have some good salespeople and some of them can be coached up.  A company has good salespeople when they all overachieve stretch goals.
Image Copyright: sirikul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales methodology, solution selling, Relationship Selling, customer focused selling, buyer journey

Some Truths (You May Not Like) About Relationship Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Nov 03, 2013 @ 22:11 PM

relationship sellingI've heard this stated so many ways and so many times.

"Dave, you need to know that our business is all about relationships!"

There are 4 possible relationship scenarios:

  1. Strong relationship and you have the business. 
  2. Strong relationship, but you don't have the business.
  3. Lack of relationship and you have the business. 
  4. Lack of relationship and you don't have the business. 

In scenarios 2 and 4, you must outsell the competition, not focus on more time-consuming relationship building.  It's not that relationships aren't important, it's that they distract from the business of selling and, more often than not, become an ill-advised replacement for the actual selling.

Unless you find yourself in a one-time, one-call close, the relationships will always be important. You'll be either attempting to take the business away from the incumbent with the strong relationship, or you'll be protecting an existing relationship of yours to assure that nobody takes the business away from you.

I see something else going on though.  In some companies, the obsession with relationships supersedes the need to generate business.  Perhaps you have seen this in your company: a salesperson has been calling on a prospect for quite some time, perhaps years, and has developed a tremendous relationship.  However, despite that great relationship, the salesperson does not yet have the business.

Unfortunately, this occurs much more frequently than you think. I believe that it occurs so frequently that it's more like an epidemic.

If we were to conduct an analysis of what's actually taking place, we'll find that the relationship is so good that the salesperson is horrified to say, ask or do anything that might jeopardize it. 

Does the salesperson imagine the relationship being that strong?

Does the salesperson imagine that the simple act of asking for the business could actually jeopardize the relationship?

After all, what is the goal?  Is the goal to make friends or generate sales?

If the salesperson has a truly strong relationship, then he must leverage it and get the business.  But more often than not, the successful result simply doesn't occur.

Could it be because of these 10 likely causes?:

  1. Fear of failure? 
  2. Fear of rejection? 
  3. Too trusting? 
  4. Need for approval? 
  5. Self-limiting beliefs? 
  6. Emotionally involved? 
  7. Lack of Commitment? 
  8. Lack of strategy? 
  9. Not having the necessary tactics? 
  10. Not following a sales process?
  11. All of the above?
  12. Some of the above?

There is another thing to consider in cases like these.  Usually, when the salesperson has what is believed to be a strong relationship, but doesn't have the accompanying business, it is likely that there is an even stronger relationship with the incumbent firmly in place.  In cases like that, the salesperson might as well be competing head on for the business without the benefit of any relationship because the relationships essentially cancel each other out!  The salesperson is not in a scenario where the relationship itself will trigger a change, so the salesperson must instead rely on selling capabilities, not relationship building skills.

Relationships are important, but they guarantee nothing, sell nothing, and often yield nothing.  You may not get business without a relationship, but today you'll need much more than a relationship to succeed.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Relationship Selling

Sales Management Best Practices - Are Top Salespeople Challengers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

describe the imageI am asked quite often about the Challenger Sales model.  I've written about it twice, something that might lead you to believe I like it, but that's not entirely true.  Read this article and be sure to read the comments - a disagreement between me and the editor of the study.  Make sure you read this article too, written when the study appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

I am certainly not the only one scratching my head about why The Challenger Sale is getting so much attention.  There's nothing new here (for 24 years I have been writing about the blueprint to the sales DNA they just recently described, building into our assessments and delivering training on it) and while some of the Challenger approach is fundamentally correct, it can be very misleading too.

Sales has changed dramatically in the past 5 years and among the many things that are significantly different is this:  You must be able to differentiate yourself and your company and actually be the added value.  You can do that by asking the right questions, at the right time, for the right reason.  It's all about listening.  Consultative Selling, while being a question-centric approach, is driven by listening and nearly everyone who writes about it misses that point.  Another point that is often missed is that when Consultative Selling is properly executed, you can't help but develop a relationship.  Another point that is often missed is that if you are effective with Consultative Selling, you will, in essence, also be using Solution Selling.  Why am I bringing all of that up?  One of the premises of the Challenger Sale is that Relationship Selling and Solution Selling are dead.  As they say in Monty Python, it's Not Dead Yet.  

I don't promote an approach based on either Relationships or Solution Selling, but both must be incorporated into an appropriate 2013 sales approach.  Also worth noting, the approach or methodology is only one part of selling.  Without a sales process and a sales model, no methodology will work very well on its own.

Mike Schultz, a partner at The Rain Group, wrote this article highlighting their own study, What Sales Winners Do Differently, and the areas where their study reaches different conclusions from the Challenger Sale.

Finally, if you want to learn how to drive best practices in sales coaching, sales process, sales accountability and sales motivation through your sales team, sales force and sales organization, you'll want to be in attendance when we present our Spring 2013 Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, May 14-15.  It's coming up quickly and seating is limited.  If you and/or your sales leadership team would like to attend, please send me an email and I will get back to you.  Event details are here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales leadership, solution selling, sales management training, Relationship Selling, challenger sale

Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 05, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

Dozens of people emailed me the link to this article, which appeared on the Harvard Business Review Blog.  They couldn't wait to hear my reaction.  The HBR article accomplishes two things:

  1. It categorizes salespeople into 1 of 5 styles.
  2. It concludes that salespeople who belong to the "Challenger" style dramatically outperform relationship builders.
Frank wrote an article about relationship selling last week.
I agree with the premise but there's nothing new here.  Objective Management Group has been identifying great salespeople for 20 years and while we don't call the best ones "Challengers", we certainly know the blueprint - DNA, sales skills and sales core competencies - that the best salespeople possess.  As a matter of fact, we can put a number on it:
140
That's the sales quotient of the salespeople they describe in their article.  The scale goes as high as 173 but it is rare to see a score much higher than 155.  Those who depend on their relationship building skills, but don't have the supporting DNA and Consultative Skill Set to accompany it, will usually have a Sales Quotient of below 125.
I have concerns about the way the article's authors reached their conclusions because they gathered their data by having salespeople take a survey.  Surveys generally prove whatever one sets out to prove....But the bigger concern is that the Sales Executive Council Surveys are not usually comprised of companies like yours.  The 6,000 participants are from 100 companies that each generate billions of dollars in revenue.  What's wrong with that?
  • Salespeople at large companies don't face the same resistance that yours do;
  • Customers don't usually get fired for making a decision to buy from these large companies;
  • Large companies can buy business if they choose to meaning salespeople have access to resources that your salespeople don't;
  • Large companies spend millions of dollars on advertising so that their salespeople see the welcome mat everywhere they go;
  • These salespeople are paid differently than your salespeople;
  • These companies have salespeople performing in very specialized roles [read this article];
  • Objective Management Group's data on salespeople that were assessed at some of these large companies indicates that their salespeople are, on average, considerably less effective than salespeople from small and mid-size firms
My point is that the stronger salespeople at the larger companies - often assigned to a single large key account - stand out more than they would at a small to mid-size company.
It has been obvious for more than 20 years that salespeople who have the right blend of strengths to support selling along with pure sales skills will outperform relationship builders.  Somebody simply had to come along and put a name on it to make it news.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, top salespeople, Relationship Selling, sales force evaluations, HBR, sales assessments

Sales Effectiveness - IDC and CEB Draw Conflicting Conclusions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 @ 21:02 PM

relationshipThe latest IDC Study says that of the customers who changed vendors last year, 65% did so because they either had a poor relationship with their vendor or a better relationship with the new vendor.  One of their conclusions is that companies need to do a better job teaching their salespeople how to develop relationship building skills, especially in the C-Level.

The latest Corporate Executive Board study starts out with this headline:  "Most companies are betting that reps who focus on building stronger customer relationships will rebuild sales.  They’re wrong—here’s why."

So why are these two studies coming to two different conclusions?

If we look inside the CEB study, they polled 450 first line sales managers and asked them to assess their salespeople in 44 different areas.  There are three huge problems with this:

  1. 44 is far too large a number; 
  2. Most first line sales managers don't possess the ability to recognize what "good" is supposed to look like because good on their team could be the equivalent of poor on any other team;
  3. Objective Management Group's data on more than 100,000 sales managers reveals that 52% of all first line sales managers shouldn't even be in the role and only 7% are elite.  How can we place any value on a study that doesn't limit its participation to the top 7%?

The IDC study fared no better. They polled customers who then rated salespeople in various areas.  How many customers are aware of how the salespeople performed compared to sales expectations?  It was more likely that they rated salespeople in areas like responsiveness, relationships, attention to detail, ability to provide lowest prices and knowledge. These aren't sales competencies, they're professional competencies and they come with an agenda.

Both studies are really nothing more than surveys and surveys are only as good as the design, criteria, objectivity and demographic of the audience being surveyed. 

Do companies need to develop their salespeople in the area of relationship building skills?  Yes, of course.  Our data shows that 74% of the 500,000 salespeople we have assessed are not as effective as they need to be in that area.  But relationship building skills alone won't get the job done!

Companies must also develop their sales team's selling skills, formalize and optimize their sales processes and significantly develop and improve their sales management skills.

And even more important than all of that?  You absolutely must have the right salespeople in the right roles and nobody can survey their way to those important decisions!  You must evaluate your sales force to determine whether you have the right people, whether they can execute your strategies, whether they can sell the way one must sell to be effective in this new economy, to know how much better they can become, what it will take to get them there and how long before they'll arrive.  Listen to me discuss the reasons to conduct a sales force evaluation.

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales management, relationship building, Corporate Executive Board, Relationship Selling

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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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