Only 11% of All Salespeople Do This at the End of a Sales Call

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 02, 2019 @ 16:12 PM

nutcracker2019

This will be the 18th consecutive year that we attend the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker, and while it is the same performance every single year, it is a wonderful family tradition and we wouldn't miss it for the world.

Traditions are important.  They ground us, give us a sense of stability and purpose, and provide something that we can look forward to.  Rituals are like traditions in that they serve the same purpose, but occur much more frequently.  Selling, is filled with rituals, from the sales process we always follow, to those specific questions we always ask to those specific talking points, comparisons, and stories we always share.  Why?  They work!

So it is with that sense of tradition that for the 10th consecutive year, I republish my Nutcracker article which is always the most popular article each December.

The Top 3  Lessons  from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

If you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to distinguish the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

Leave your comments on the LinkedIn discussion thread.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Closing Skills, sales and selling, sales stats

Why Do You Think That Harvard Business Review Does This When it Comes to Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 @ 11:11 AM

hbr-cover.jpg

For years now, Harvard Business Review and its Blog on hbr.com have been accepting articles on sales that are usually laugh-out-loud wrong.  The information is sometimes old and outdated, usually not routed in science, and sometimes simply stupid.  While they have always published a great magazine, the information on selling regularly fails to meet our expectations.  

My issue with HBR is not one of sour grapes.  I have plenty of subscribers and followers that read my science of selling and opinion pieces.  My concern is that because it's HBR, readers accept that which is written on those pages as gospel. "It can't be wrong!"

Why do they allow these articles to see the light of day?  

There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Their editors don't know enough about selling so they lack the knowledge to say, "Sorry Charlie."
  • They typically don't accept articles from authors without a PHD after their name so that generally rules out submissions from experts like me
  • Those with a PHD after their names are often teaching in academia - a wonderful source of real world experience and data.  Most of their data comes from surveys and the real world experience often comes from industrial companies who are still in the analog age.
  • Their model is to publish work from university professors because it appears more credible.

I don't post a rebuttal every time an article like that appears, but when it flies in the face of what we know to be true I can't help myself.  

The most recent example of Harvard Business Review and sales stupidity came earlier this month when they ran an article on social selling being the solution to prevent salespeople from becoming obsolete.  I wrote this article on LinkedIn bring it to light and differentiate fact from fiction.

But this is only the most recent example.  There have been 13 other articles that I have written to correct their false information, as well as this white paper that you can download for free.

The Challenge of the Challenger Sales Model - The Facts

Harvard Business Review Blog Off Target on Sales Greatness

Harvard Business Review Blog Post Gets Salespeople Wrong

Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on SalesHow Wrong is the Harvard Business Review Article on How to Hire Salespeople?

Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR

Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings

Top 10 Questions for Salespeople to Ask and Stay Away From

What Customers Expect From Your Salespeople and More

HBR or OMG - Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople?

More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog

Now That You Have a Sales Process, Never Mind

Is SELLING an Afterthought in Today's Sales Model?

So what do you think?  Why does HBR consistently publish bad information when it comes to sales?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hbr blog, sales and selling, HBR, linkedin

Why Sales Leaders and Salespeople Get Frustrated

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 06, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

frustrated with salesOK, so you do get frustrated with sales or you wouldn't have clicked the link.

Why?

Do you get frustrated with:

  • Salespeople?
  • Prospects?
  • Results?
  • Effort?
  • Forecasts?
  • Effectiveness?
  • Focus?
  • Discipline?
  • Consistency?
  • Growth and Improvement?
  • Pipeline Velocity?
  • Change?
  • Behavior?
  • Attitude?
  • Sales Selection?
  • On-Boarding?
  • Ramp-Up?
  • Coaching Stickiness?
  • Coachability?
  • Efficiency?
  • Distractions?
  • Commitment?
  • Motivation?
  • Enjoyment?
  • Something else?
The point is that any one, two or even three of these (while frustrating) can be handled either internally or externally.  There are obvious, viable solutions; however, when several, many or most of these things begin to frustrate you, it can become overwhelming.  So much so that it interferes with your ability to do the right things, do things the right way, act professionally, perform effectively, and eventually, get the results you need and want.  It becomes a catch-22, with frustration causing even more of the very things that led to your initial frustration.

You may not have control over external factors or forces but you do have control over how you react to them.  Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  Clear your head.  Start over.  Choose one thing that you know you can fix.  Take action.  Then get help fixing everything that you aren't sure you can fix.  One thing at a time.  You can do this.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales and selling, sales results, sales attitude

Two Fantastic Examples of Addressing Sales Objections

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 05, 2012 @ 08:12 AM

objectionsI'm exposing myself to criticism again today.

It seems that each time I use a political example, I'm attacked for making a political statement.  However, I never made a political statement on this blog and never will.  I simply use examples, from both sides, to illustrate sales lessons.  If you don't need proof, scroll down to the last 2 paragraphs for today's examples.  

If you need it, I'll offer some proof that I don't make political statements.  As you read these, ask yourself whether I'm taking sides or simply pointing out good and bad things the politicians do and subsequently apply those lessons to selling.  Exactly 8 (including today) of the 985 articles, which I've posted to date mention politics or a politician.  By my count, 3 were favorable for Obama, 1 for Ann Romney and Chris Christie, 0 for Mitt Romney, and 3 that were unfavorable for Obama.  Can't get any more balanced than that!

Sales Force Lessons from Gates, Crowley and Obama  

Obama and McCain - Competing Salespeople Fighting for the Big Sale 

Obama and Friends on Stage - Implications for the Sales Force 

Did President Obama Do More Damage to the Image of Salespeople? 

How Dan Pink, The Heaths, George Steinbrenner and Kurlan Might Prepare Your Sales Force for Change 

Two Keys to Selling Success from Ann Romney and Chris Christie 

10 Keys to Solving the Sales Performance Issue 

Examples of Addressing Objections

With those examples out of the way, now I'd like to share a 10-minute video clip of Bill Whittle.  This is NOT a political statement on my part.  I'm simply sharing HIS two examples of how Romney and Obama should have responded to their critics.  Bill's speech is to a conservative Republican audience.  Forget the politics.  It isn't about that for me.  Just get the lesson on how objections should be addressed!  The point was that both Romney and Obama went on the defensive and attempted to hide information, and confuse people with their spin on the facts and history.  
  
These are GREAT examples!!!  In the clip, Bill handles the objections (in Romney's case - "you're too rich and can't relate"; and in Obama's case - "Benghazi was a disaster") head on and aggressively took responsibility for what both were accused of.   While it is still advisable to ask questions to better understand the objection, at some point either the original objection or the newly uncovered concern must be addressed.  It doesn't get any better than this.  It's worth the 10 minutes that it will take to watch.

Thanks to Rocky LaGrone for passing the clip along to me.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, handling objections, bill whittle, president obama, sales and 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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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