The "ABC's" is an alternate term for fundamentals.
Unless ABC stands for Afghanistan, the Border, and Crime. The US Government has seriously botched the ABC's in 2021 and there's no way to easily undo what's been done.
However, there are some misguided selling strategies that can be undone and in today's article we'll discuss the benefits of the single tool that is the real deal and a huge difference maker.
Email sucks for everything except sending links and attachments, confirming meetings, saying hello, catching up, and sending along meeting agendas. You should never sell over email and you know this. How many unsolicited emails do you delete each day with offers to generate leads, appointments, SEO, website design, IT help and more? Would you like to know what is always more effective than email?
The Phone is a much better way to have a conversation because you simply can not have a conversation over email. You lose context, tonality, meaning, timing, spontaneity, and all of the dynamics of a conversation! Please choose the phone for prospecting, following up on inbound leads, making outbound calls, and for follow up conversations. Would you like to know what is always more effective than the phone?
Video is best. While you can have an actual conversation over the phone, you can't see how your prospects and customers are reacting and for building trust, they can't look you in the eyes. Video solves that. I'm going to use my dog, Dinger, as an example. You may recall that last year I proved that Dinger has better listening skills than most salespeople.
This 14 second audio provides an example of what you might hear when asking a question over the phone.
And this is what happens when you can see their reaction.
Seeing how they react, how they respond and what they do is even more important than hearing their words. I know, my example is with a dog. Would it be any different if you asked a person? Suppose you asked, "Is this something you would find useful?" and the human said, "yah, sure."
Let's assume you have the ability to observe them and you see them responding to email while they absentmindedly say, "yah, sure."
It's more important than ever that you choose video over phone if you can't meet face to face. You want to have every possible advantage, tool, weapon, strategy and tactic at your disposal and video is the closest you can get to the good old days of face to face.
One of the new competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) now measures is Video Proficiency.
When evaluating a sales team we also capture two videos of your salespeople delivering their elevator pitches and value propositions. When assessing sales candidates, the Video Proficient competency, while not one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, is still very nice to know. Check out our best-in-class, sales-specific, accurate and predictive sales candidates assessments here.
Most of us have strong passion in support of our own beliefs and opinions and the degree to which we are willing to embrace the opinions of others varies wildly. Allow me to provide two examples where people tend not to change sides:
Boston Red Sox fans "argue" with New York Yankees Fans and in rare cases, the arguments can get nasty. Personally, I am friendly with a boat load of Yankees fans and have never argued with any of them because I'll never say the words "Yankees suck." For the rivalry between the two teams to be at its best, both teams need to be good and when one team sucks, the rivalry ceases to exist.
Democrats disagree with Republicans and it goes without saying that liberals disagree with conservatives. Over the past five years, those differences have become filled with hate. I don't understand why we can't simply agree to disagree but for some reason, liberals think that all conservatives are racists and conservatives think that all liberals are socialists. While there is probably some truth to both arguments on both far extremes, most people are much closer to the center than everyone thinks.
I use those two examples as a context for the "argument" I am most likely to have on a daily basis. As regular readers know, I am the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group. OMG has assessed more than 2 million salespeople and measures their sales capabilities in 21 Sales Core Competencies. While some might not like their scores, most salespeople agree with our findings because they are extremely accurate. However, there is one competency of the 21 that causes salespeople to dig in, disagree, and push back. Today I will explain the competency and share yesterday's conversation with Bob. For new readers, and those who don't remember, Bob tends to get himself into trouble and is representative of all weak salespeople.
The 21 Sales Core Competencies fall into three major categories:
Will to Sell (Grit) - it's the difference between Can sell and Will sell.
Sales DNA - Six major strengths that support the execution of sales process, sales methodology, sales strategies and sales tactics.
Tactical Selling Competencies - these include the things you know and have heard of, like Hunting, Relationship Building, Consultative Selling, Value Selling, Reaching Decision Makers, Qualifying, Presenting, Closing, Sales Process, and Sales Technology.
The pushback comes from within Sales DNA in a competency called Supportive Buy-Cycle. Buy-Cycle represents how a salesperson goes about the process of making a major purchase. Like most of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, it has several attributes:
At what amount of money does something become a major purchase?
Do you comparison shop or just go to one store/vendor/salesperson?
Do you shop for the lowest price, buy value or is price not a consideration?
Do you conduct research?
When you find what you want do you make a decision or think about it?
Do you like or dislike being sold? (coming soon)
The science shows that there is a 100% correlation between how salespeople buy and what they are willing to accept from their prospects. And that's where the disagreement occurs. Everyone agrees that yes, what we report about how they buy is how they actually buy. But a small number of salespeople disagree over whether or not it affects the way they sell. They usually make their point by saying something along the lines of, "In our business, our buyers must shop around" or "must go with the lowest price" or "won't spend more than x" or "never make decisions before this happens."
And when they say these things they are saying, "This is how I buy so it should be obvious that everyone else buys this way too."
Bob messaged me on LinkedIn yesterday and to his credit, it was not an argument. This is the short conversation we had:
Hi Dave, I’m not sure nor clear on Non Supportive Buy-Cycle? I believe it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully when making large purchases. I believe this for moderate purchases!!! I am not clear on how this would impact my ability to sell another human with the same characteristics? I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent and it’s NEW technology. However, part of my role is to also transcend this.
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 5:18 PM
Yup - you need to transcend and change your beliefs and your buying behavior. Your beliefs are totally non-supportive and you make the assumption that because you believe this then the people you are selling to must believe this. Sure, companies have processes, guidelines and rules for buying stuff. But those rules and guidelines are ignored all the time when a true decision maker has a compelling reason to buy from you, and some urgency that would allow for short cuts.
Bob sent the following message at 8:01 PM
Hummmm…..I can’t say I think like that or believe like that Dave, sincerely. My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be? We may part waters on this one respectfully and the entire Team is chatting about this topic
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 8:26 PM
Let me put it another way. The single biggest differentiator between the top 5% of all salespeople and the bottom 5% is Buy Cycle. Period. End of story. The top 5% (67% have it as a strength) are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 5% (only 1% are strong). And, those who have it as a weakness usually argue that "everyone buys this way." Don't know what else to tell you.
As I mentioned, I have this very conversation, albeit usually more heated, by phone, email, text, InMail, in the hallway, over Zoom, with at least one person EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
Bob revealed three self-limiting beliefs associated with Buy-Cycle.
You should have read:
"it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully"
"I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent" (Dave's note - prudent has nothing to do with Buy-Cycle. Bob thinks $580,000 is a lot of money. But that is NOT a lot of money for the company that is spending it. A company that spends $580,000 on capital equipment is generating at least tens and probably hundreds of millions or more in revenue and it's money they were going to spend with someone. It's not new money.)
"My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be?"
Let's compare Bob's beliefs with how great salespeople think. I don't usually do this but for this example I'll use myself.
I've never test-driven a car in my life. When I see a car on the road that I like I say to myself, "That's my next car." I call the dealer, order it, and ask when it can be delivered. I never shop dealers against each other, I never ask for additional discounts over what they offer me, I never think it over and get back to them, and I don't drag out the process. This is how I buy everything. Perhaps you can't imagine buying the way that I buy but it's worth noting that I've never had buyer's remorse, I've never felt like I paid too much, and I never felt like I wasn't being "prudent." For anything. Ever. I ordered my last two vehicles before they were even off the production lines! Not a single 2021 Genesis GV80 had been delivered to the USA when I ordered mine and not a single redesigned for 2019 Lincoln Navigator had been shipped to a dealer when I ordered that SUV. My process is order it, sign, and then wait for it to be delivered (months later) because shopping is a colossal waste of time unless you are doing it for entertainment, like, "Honey, would you like to go to the mall?"
I understand that MY opinion and behavior may very well be different from YOUR opinion and behavior but the science says that my opinion is shared by the best salespeople in the world. This buying behavior enables the best salespeople to push back, question, hang in, ask more questions and eventually influence or outright change buying criteria and processes so they can sell value, eliminate competitors, and reach decision makers who are typically protected from salespeople. Decision makers can change rules, take shortcuts, make decisions, and do it all very quickly.
Let's go back to the science. The top 5% of all salespeople are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 10% of all salespeople and the top 5% score 279% higher than the bottom 10% of all salespeople on this component of Sales DNA. The science backs me up. Check it out here.
Bob and other weak salespeople understand the stated buying process with the keyword being "stated." When Bob follows the stated buying process without questioning it, only buyers have control! Great salespeople DON'T understand why the prospect is going to talk with five vendors, look for the lowest price, take a month to have six internal meetings, narrow the list, negotiate, send it to legal, and all the other stupidity that takes place. That enables great salespeople to push back, ask more questions, and get processes changed. Supportive Buy-Cycles win more business than Non Supportive Buy-Cycles.
Not 30 minutes after this article was first published, I received this email from Bill, who wanted to prove my points above. Bill wrote:
Your analogy between buying capital equipment and how you buy cars makes no sense Dave. What if you liked a Yugo you saw while driving down the road and bought one in preproduction. How would you feel if you bought one of the worst cars ever manufactured without one second of research? Heck, you bought one of the most inefficient gas guzzling monster cars that will only ruin the environment for my children and my grandchildren. How do you sleep with that? I guess you don’t care about the future. You only live for ‘now’.
Shopping is a pain in the ass. The Internet has made a lot of that much easier. Buying capital equipment isn’t an Internet purchase in the half million dollar plus category. Getting past the first purchase with a new sales person is a challenge. Are they competent? Are they knowledgeable? Are they fair? Do you have a rapport with them? Can They meet your expectations?
I just put a fence around my horse pen. One guy wanted $13,000. The other guy wanted $8500. I looked at both quotes, materials, workmanship, referrals and completion dates. They were virtually the same. which one would you go for? Is shopping worth $4500? Or is it only worth it with personal money and not corporate money? When I put the next fence up I’ll probably have my guy for all my fence work. But the first purchase, in my estimation, takes research. All the other purchases are based on trust and relationship.
I did respond, as I usually do, with this note:
Thanks for taking the time to write, make your point and include the personal attack. That’s the point of my article. People get nasty.
You already know my opinion and while it’s different from yours, you’re entitled to your opinion as I’m entitled to mine. The only difference is that when it comes to selling, the science doesn’t lie and while you might not like it, I happen to be the expert on sales science.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying the horse fence the way you did but it does impact the way you sell. It was right there in your first sentence.
No worries. Thanks again for your kind note.
Bill wasn't finished. He felt the need to get the last words in:
Just adding - They get nasty in politics. If you get nasty in sales, you’re in the wrong business. Actually Dave, it doesn’t impact the way I sell at all. You are incorrect. Have I made mistakes in the past selling, absolutely. Will I make them again in the future, absolutely. You may be the expert in sales science. I’m the expert in sales. I do it every day, every week, every month every year for over 20 years and I’ve been exceptionally happy and successful. I like what I do. I like my clients. And I believe Sales is more than boxes in complex sales that I do. Your car is a box.
And by the way, I’m not nasty. I just pointed out a car analogy just like you wrote about a car analogy. Next time I’ll come to you for the $3500 difference when I buy my next fence. I look forward to you writing a check.
By late last summer, we knew full well that our 2021 conference would also be virtual. The difference was that we would have 7 months to prepare and we wanted to optimize the conference specifically for a virtual event. How was it different from what we accomplished a year earlier? Let me share some of the things we did that worked so well.
Shorter Days - Last year we crammed four days into three days and with nobody having anywhere else they needed to be, we presented for 8-9 hours each day! We knew that was an awfully long time for everyone to stay engaged so this year we planned two four-hour days. Much better!
Shorter Presentations - In prior years, including last year, conference presentations were typically 45-90 minutes each. This year our average presentation ran just 8 minutes! That allowed us to present on 50 topics instead of 18!
Chat Q& A - At traditional conferences, questions come up throughout the duration of most presentations and the presenter must stop to answer both the good questions and the stupid questions, those that have already been asked as well as those that should have never been asked. Inevitably there is a person who wants to pound their chest and brag for a while. The questions and the posturing disturbs the natural flow of presentations and makes them unnecessarily long. This year we handled questions as they arose, in real-time, via chat and Q&A tools within Zoom. When there was a question that required a longer answer we answered it live at the end of each presentation. Result? Fast-paced, uninterrupted sessions that kept everyone engaged.
More Video - Last year we learned just how much everyone loved our choice of videos. So this year, we had PENTA Marketing produce a conference teaser, unique 5-minute openings for each day, two different versions of a 5-minute break video with product and company-specific trivia, and six segment-specific 10-second videos to introduce each session. On top of that we carefully chose inspiring videos to play at the top of each hour as we brought the audience back from their five-minute breaks. This is an example of a 10-second segment intro.
Better Video - Using video is one thing but getting video to play smoothly on the viewer's computer is quite another. In the end, we settled on three hacks to make the video play beautifully:
Zoom has a new video feature where you click share, then click the advanced tab, click video and select from your file folder the video you want to share. The video opens and you click the play icon. That's it. Regardless of the size of the window on your computer screen, it plays full screen for your audience. But the frame rate may still be too low to eliminate the choppiness which brings us to hack #2.
Zoom automatically places a checkmark in the "Optimize for Video" checkbox but OMG's COO, John Pattison, discovered that if you uncheck that box the video plays at a higher frame rate.
John contributed one more hack when he discovered that if you lower your screen resolution so it's the same as the standard 720p resolution Zoom uses to stream, the frame rates are higher.
Better Backgrounds - Not everyone had a green screen, enhanced lighting, and a high-end camera so our virtual backgrounds needed to be dark enough to eliminate the swimming and bleeding that occurs when the lighting isn't good and a green screen isn't present. In addition, we had PENTA create a common background for each presenter and they customized each background with the presenters's name, company and title as you can see below.
Better Slide Decks - To complete the professional, "optimized for virtual" look, each presenter was required to use the exact same professional slide templates that we asked PENTA to prepare for us. Our slides rocked!
Of course, OMG introduced new features and enhancements to our already best-in-class sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments and that's one of the main reasons for us having an annual conference.
Virtual events may be with us to stay as part of our new normal so we must step up our game and make virtual desirable, exciting and feature-rich instead of a compromise. You may not be able to offer face-to-face networking and dinners, but you can offer your clients, customers, users and prospects an unforgettable experience.
I just love it when our lawn looks gorgeous - thick, lush, and green, green, green. Getting it looking that good requires fertilizing, aerating, thatching, over seeding, and frequent mowing, all things better suited to the landscaping company than me. Of course, some sun and water help too. And even with an irrigation system, by the middle of the summer, areas of our lawn begin to look like crap. Not to worry though. By mid fall, the lawn looks its absolute best. Yup, my lawn never looks better than it does on November 1. Right before it snows and turns brown for the winter! You have to admit, that's a lot of work and expense for a lawn that looks perfect for all of 6 weeks - 3 weeks in the spring and 3 weeks in the fall!
Great looking spring lawn.
Crappy looking summer lawn
Because my lawn looks its worst on August 1 and its best on November 1, it has a lot in common with most sales organizations. A sales team looks its best on January 1, when every opportunity in the pipeline is a possibility and forecasts predict a banner year. It looks its worst just a week earlier, when on December 23, sales leaders defend the team's sub-par performance to the CEO and explain why 57% of their salespeople failed to hit quota - again! It's easy to explain why the lawn fails, as dry, hot summers will do that. But why do sales teams continue to fail, year after year, regardless of industry, and in every economy? Why don't the numbers improve? Why don't more salespeople jump from C's to B's? From B's to A's? From D's to C's? The answers - and there are plenty - are evasive. But let's try!
We can certainly pin some of the blame on sales managers. My last two articles explain many of the problems contributing to ineffective sales management. Read about crappy sales managers and then read the follow-up article about crappy coaching.
We can certainly pin some of the blame on salespeople. Why don't they try to improve? Why don't they invest in sales self-development? Why don't they read more books and articles, watch more videos, listen to more audio and push themselves out from their comfort zone? Why don't they practice?
After 35 years in this business, I still don't understand why sales, as a profession, includes so many ineffective salespeople. Based on data from Objective Management Group (OMG), who has evaluated and assessed 2,040,355 salespeople, 50% of all salespeople suck. Take a look at the image below where I have isolated the bottom 50% of all salespeople. This screen shot represents the percentage of those weak salespeople who have the ten tactical selling competencies as strengths:
After seeing these percentages is it any wonder why half of your salespeople fail to hit quota? Don't think it could get any worse? Take a look at what happens when we look at the bottom 10% where it's clear that the only thing some of them are capable of is making friends and presentations:
These ten selling competencies are ten of the twenty-one sales competencies that OMG measures. You can see them all, filter by industry and sales percentile, and even see how your salespeople compare. Data on OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies.
We can pin some of the blame on history. To a certain degree, C Suite executives are conditioned to accept these year-end results and when they are disappointed yet again, they don't raise hell, don't fire the sales leaders, and don't storm out the door. They simply aren't surprised any more. Failure is baked in.
You know what it takes to make a lawn look great and from experience I know what it takes for a sales team to become great. Companies that evaluate their sales teams, provide effective sales training, embrace sales process, train their sales managers to coach, get sales selection right and improve their sales cultures, yield huge gains in sales and profits. Yes, margins increase too. That's what happens when salespeople learn to sell value instead of price.
With that in mind, we can certainly assign a lot of blame on company owners, CEO's and senior sales leaders who don't take those steps and/or don't take those steps seriously.
The conversation on the LinkedIn post for this article has some fantastic additional reasons why and took my lawn analogy even further. The best one so far is from Rocky LaGrone who said, "...Don't forget about pesticides for those pesky insects, pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, over watering, and fungus. Those are the same in sales as mediocre sales leaders and salespeople. It's the equivalent to making excuses and accepting them. Add lack of understanding of how to bring value and premature presentation and you have a baron landscape in sales. With zero effective coaching you might as well not mow! The layman landscaper cant see the early warning signs of root damage or infestations of grubs no more than the layman sales executive can't see their rotting sales foundation without measuring the right metrics at the right frequency. Most people react to their grass and don't pay attention to the roots. Healthy roots produce healthy plants and the same is true for sales. The fundamentals never change. It's the application of the fundamentals that make the difference. A professional landscaper will start with a soil sample and analysis. Why wouldn't a sales executive start with an analysis of their salesforce?"
There are a lot more great comments like this one at the LinkedIn post.
There's no excuse for not weaponizing your sales teams and equipping them with every appropriate sales strategy and tool to leverage their ability to close opportunities they have routinely allowed your competitors to retain, steal or close.
As Michael Jackson famously sung in his timeless 1980's hit, Man in the Mirror, Make a change. Start with the [person] in the mirror.
We use remote deposit, a terrific convenience for depositing checks from the desktop without going to the bank. The only problem is that the software that runs the check scanner isn't compatible with the Mac OS. It only runs on Windows so we have to remotely connect to an old Dell that takes up unnecessary space. Oh, if only the software for the check scanner was compatible with the Mac.
My wife and I were friends with a couple that argued ALL the time. They argued when they were alone, they argued when they were with us, they argued when they were with their kids and they were just brutal to each other. If only they were more compatible.
Compatibility is not only important, it could be one of the most overlooked criteria in hiring sales candidates. Let's do a deep dive!
Most sales leaders think that industry experience is the most important criteria for evaluating the fit of a potential sales hire but they couldn't be more wrong. Compatibility with the selling environment is far more important. For example, if you sell payroll services, is it more important that the sales candidate came from the payroll industry or is it more important that they have great selling skills and called on the same HR professionals that a payroll salesperson would need to call on? In other words, is it more important that they know stuff, or is it more important that they have a built-in network of customers to sell to?
There's more to compatibility than who they sell to. Factors like the length of the sales cycle, how many calls/meetings that entails, your price point relative to the competition, the amount of money they'll be asking for, the quality of the competitor's offering, the effectiveness of the competition's marketing and sales, whether they've worked for a sales manager with a similar management style, how much pressure they'll be under, whether they'll get the coaching and training they require, if they've worked under a similar compensation plan, and more should be considered. There are nearly 30 variables that help to determine whether a salesperson is compatible for the role.
At my weekly meeting with Objective Management Group's (OMG) COO, John Pattison, we discussed compatibility in the context of another finding we call FIOF or "Figure it Out Factor." Candidates that have a FIOF score of 75 or better ramp up more quickly than other candidates. Compatibility is weighted pretty heavily in the FIOF finding because of how it influences the ramp-up time of new salespeople. The more compatible a salesperson is with your selling environment, the more quickly they should ramp up because they've "done this before."
OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies as well as 9 other competencies that are important but not core. An additional finding is a score for compatibility.
Out of curiosity, we wondered what the average score for compatibility was because we haven't looked at that before. He asked me to guess and I said "somewhere between 60 and 80." It turns out that the average compatibility score for all sales candidates is 70. Not bad! For kicks, we ran the analysis for the four levels of Sales Percentile which include Elite (top 5%), Strong (the next 15%), Serviceable (the next 30%), and Weak (everyone else - the bottom 50%). This is what the analysis showed:
Who knew that compatibility would correlate to Sales Percentile? I certainly didn't think that the distribution of scores would show this kind of correlation. After all, when we score compatibility, we aren't measuring any of the sales competencies that make up Sales Percentile; only prior selling environments. The top 5% of all salespeople are 41% more compatible with their selling roles than the bottom 50% and it left me wondering, "Why?"
Three theories came to mind and perhaps you can add some additional theories!
Theory 1: The best salespeople naturally identify good fits for themselves so that they can thrive. We could guess that elite salespeople seek out the greatest selling challenges - something beyond their comfort zone - but perhaps they are simply too smart to sabotage themselves.
Theory 2: The worst salespeople don't pay any attention to fit because to them, selling is just spouting off features and benefits, doing demos, generating quotes and proposals, and taking orders. Maybe they simply gravitate to wherever they are wanted?
Theory 3: The best sales leaders, in hiring only the best salespeople, are rewarded with salespeople that can handle their selling environment. It's worth noting that the best sales leaders hire salespeople who are more talented than they are while average and weak sales leaders hire salespeople who are weaker than they are.
I haven't written about compatibility before but it's worth spending a few minutes to understand the role it plays in sales success.
What plays an even more important role in sales success than compatibility? It's the 21 Sales Core Competencies and configuring OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment to recommend those candidates that score well in the competencies that are crucial to success in the role you are hiring for. Learn more about the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
What a month it's been! Not only how the Covid-19 virus has changed our lives and sent us to work from home, but how we are conducting our businesses from home. Green screens, virtual backgrounds, video calls and meetings, team chats, video team huddles, a blur between days, working hours and relaxing hours, and more. In today's article I'm going off topic so that I can share how we converted Objective Management Group's (OMG) 4-day Boston International Sales Experts Conference for OMG Partners, to a 3-Day Virtual Event on short notice, as well as the lessons learned so that you might be able to accomplish the same things that we did.
It's a Broadcast, not a webinar. People have preconceived notions about webinars and you don't want them thinking for even a second that this will be a boring, one-to-many presentation of a slide deck. Why? It.Can't.Be.That.
It's more like a Television News Channelwith shows scheduled every hour - some that are opinion shows, some with guests and some with panels. All of the presenters from OMG's team had consistent, branded, virtual backgrounds with green screens to give the broadcast a professional appearance.
You'll need a team of "Engineers." You won't be able to do this yourself! For our event there were at least four of us at all times monitoring chat and Q&A, announcing questions to the presenters, monitoring hand-raising, and promoting attendees to panelists to get them on camera
Platform - we chose Zoom Webinar. That allowed us to have 2 hosts and unlimited panelists, branding, but more importantly, pre-registration and approval of those registrations, microphones and cameras off by default, and the high-quality play of videos embedded in our slide decks.
Balance - we made sure that we stopped sharing slides the moment the presenter was going to discuss any topic so that no one slide stayed on screen and became the focal point and the speaker/presenter became the focal point.
Slides - speaking of slides, this event required more slides, not fewer. As a matter of fact, when all was said and done, this is what we included.
Panelists - There was one particular session that I found most difficult to convert to virtual. In this session, I planned to distribute a handout consisting of an 80-page slide deck, break the attendees into groups of five, have them work as teams and have team answer one of seventeen questions. Instead, I posted the deck on Bloomfire (our knowledge base/content sharing platform) ahead of time, asked for 17 volunteers and shared the 17-question assignment. As people volunteered, I assigned them to one of the questions, and asked them to email their work and one-minute presentation to me for review and approval. Then, five minutes before that session, they were each promoted to panelists and as their turn approached, we were able to seamlessly turn cameras and microphones on and off to have them appear on screen as the presentation progressed. It was just like a news show!
Video - We included 22 movie clips to break things up, keep things light, and keep attendees entertained. You can't hope to keep people engaged for 8-9 hours per day if you don't break it up. We included everything from an interview of Kobe Bryant to a scene from Forrest Gump to a youtube video called Stay the F**K at Home. And all 22 videos were in the context of the topic we were discussing at the time.
Attendance - There were 135 OMG partners/associates registered to attend our event in Boston but with no conflicts, travel requirements or costs to attend, 250 registered to attend the virtual event and we consistently had around 200 people in attendance through the two nine-hour days. Attendees were from the US, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark The UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Lebanon, Morocco, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil (and the countries I forgot to include).
Awards Banquet- We weren't able to host our annual two-hour awards banquet but we did have an awards presentation that consisted of a 50-slide deck that honored each of the 42 award winners in less than 5 minutes.
Polls, Q&A's and Chat - At a live conference you'll ask people to raise their hands, you'll get feedback on what you introduced, and they'll have lots of questions. We pre-built poll questions that we could open and share at pre-determined times in the virtual conference to get the feedback that we wanted. Starting with the 5-minute intro video on the first day, the chat never subsided as attendees were sharing their thoughts, insights and takeaways for two straight days. We had two people monitoring chat to pull out and share the golden nuggets that passed by. And one person monitored the Q&A and came on camera to share the best questions with the presenters. It was a great team effort!
Attendee Tutorial- We took five minutes at the beginning of day one to put up some slides on how to use the Zoom controls for the best experience, including, but not limited to:
Changing screen size
Muting and unmuting
Camera on and off
Gallery view versus Speaker view
How to contribute using chat
How to ask a question using Q&A
How to separate the chat and Q&A from the Zoom window
How to raise their hand
And for panelists, how to share their screen
Fluid Schedule/Agenda - At a hotel, you need to stick to the schedule to make sure it coordinates with meals, beverage breaks and the group's need to use rest rooms. Not so with the virtual event. If they had to use the bathroom they could go and nobody would be the wiser. If they got hungry or thirsty they could eat or drink and nobody would know. We were able to go longer on sessions that required more time and simply change the schedule as we went along. On both days we skipped presentations and moved them to the end of the day and nobody cared or got upset.
Networking - In the end, this is the only thing that people wanted that we couldn't deliver. At a normal conference, they mingle and talk before and after presentations, network at meals and some really crave that aspect of a conference. We offered a virtual happy hour on Saturday after the final presentation but only 20 people showed up. Oh well. You can't please everyone all the time.
Results - the overwhelming response seemed to be that considering everything, our virtual event was as good or better than our hotel-based event! We worked hard to make it that way but there were other factors. They didn't have to leave home, they could spend evenings with family, it didn't cost them anything to attend, they had comfortable seating, wore comfortable clothing, ate what they wanted, when they wanted and didn't have to be "on" for the sake of others. A good time was had by all.
And finally, OMG introduced some spectacular new tools, features, and insights that were as well-received as if we had presented them with a stage and an audience. I'll write more about this in the days and weeks to come.
One of the questions we are often asked by HR Directors is, "Can people game the OMG assessment?" Of course they can try, but we have a very effective algorithm that smokes out those who attempt to cheat. It doesn't happen very often that somebody attempts a big cheat but when it does, it's almost magical in the way we uncover them.
There is a very small percentage of salespeople who attempt an all out cheat. This unethical group can usually be found in the category of weak salespeople - the bottom 50% - which explains why they think they need to cheat. But what happens if a good salesperson attempts to game the system? What would that look like?
This OMG sales assessment dashboard is from a strong sales candidate who cheated.
The 93 percentile score puts him in the top 7% - with flaws of course - but still quite strong. Find the circled area in the bottom left of the dashboard and you'll see the finding "Scoring Confidence" with the score at the lowest end of the low range. Scoring Confidence is OMG's score on whether we have faith in the results of this particular candidate.
Now look at the top right of the dashboard to the recommendation. What would otherwise be a Recommended candidate is Not Recommended because of the Scoring Confidence score.
Are there any clues that something doesn't add up for this candidate? There are. No, not the low closing score. The Closing competency is overrated. How can someone this good be so bad at building relationships? He also scores quite low on the Building Trust competency which can be found in the details of the assessment document. In my experience, a salesperson who can't build trust or relationships won't be very effective. He also has two weakness that other salespeople in the top 7% don't have. He doesn't uncover budgets and wastes time with unqualified prospects.
If you were interviewing this salesperson, the chances are good that his poor relationship and trust building skills would have caused you to dislike him. You probably wouldn't have hired him because of that. But what if the clues were different? What if the inconsistencies were not with competencies that would have tipped you off in an interview?
In the end, sales selection is about information. There are ten important data points:
Compatibility with your Selling Environment (found in the OMG assessment)
Responsiveness (in your communications with the candidate)
Thoroughness (in those communications and the interview)
Still not using the highly accurate and predictive OMG Sales Candidate Assessment? From among the sales candidates that we don't recommend, but who clients hire despite the warning, 75% of them fail within 6 months! Why would you choose to make such important decisions without the OMG crystal ball?
How do you go about selecting the next movie or show you will watch? Do you look for a specific show, watch the trailer and if you like the trailer, watch it? Or, do you look at all of the new releases, or everything in a particular genre, narrow down the selections, watch several trailers, and finally choose one?
Most people use the second scenario which, by the way, is a very good approach for selecting and hiring salespeople. Unfortunately, that's not how most companies go about it.
You need to cast the net as far and wide as you can to generate a large candidate pool. Then you need to assess all of the candidates in the pool. Most companies either don't use assessments, don't use the right ones, or wait until the final interview to ask candidates to take the assessment. Improper use affects quota attainment and attrition. See the stats below:
As you can see from the slide, companies that don't use assessments have a 49% quota attainment rate, compared to 61% for companies using assessments and 88% for companies using Objective Management Group's (OMG) accurate and predictive sales-specific assessment. Isn't that compelling?
Consider these actual use results from an OMG user below:
This global company, which hires around 30 salespeople per year, is not only the picture of consistency with the number of assessments used, but recommendation rates are within the normal range for roles considered to have significant difficulty. More importantly, look at the number of candidates they had to assess in order to hire the 29 who had the sales capabilities to succeed in the company's various sales roles! That's why you need to cast the net far and wide. 910 might seem like a large number but it's only 18 candidates per week spread among their many global locations.
If your typical candidate pool has many fewer candidates and you don't use an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment, it's no surprise as to why your sales recruiting efforts are hit or miss with an emphasis on miss. When you hire salespeople, they are all supposed to meet or exceed expectations for pipeline building and revenue generation. It shouldn't be cause for celebration when they do!
Assessing all of your candidates up front allows you to focus on only those candidates who are recommended for the role, saving time and money that would be wasted calling and interviewing candidates who don't have what it takes or wouldn't be a good fit for the role.
You can retool your sales recruiting process and the adoption of a sales-specific, accurate and predictive assessment is one of those changes you can quickly and easily make.
Hang in there - this will be an article on sales - but you need to get through the big set up.
Bernie Sanders spoke at a Walmart shareholders meeting and criticized the company for not paying higher wages. He said that a company owned by the wealthiest family in the USA, should be able to pay $15/hour. Bernie and some of his colleagues believe in wealth redistribution, conjuring up images of Robin Hood stealing from the wealthy and giving it to the poor. Walmart says the average wage of their hourly workers is $17.50.
Bernie and his pro socialism friends believe that people who have built successful business enterprises should be penalized for their success while capitalists believe that their success allows them to reinvest in their businesses and create new jobs and great new products and services. Wages will rise as a result of supply and demand and right now, demand outweighs supply. Ask anyone who is hiring salespeople or computer software engineers and they'll tell you how much wages are increasing!
Not stated, but implied, is that minimum wage employees are forced into those low paying jobs and the wealthiest Americans are to blame. Why can't low hourly wage workers seek and earn better paying jobs? Is it lack of skills? Lack of motivation? Lack of commitment? Lack of education? Lack of opportunity? Lack of training?
Why not sales? Selling is a profession that employs 16 million in the US alone and for most sales jobs, especially with today's lack of candidates, there is a laundry list of qualifications that are NOT required:
college degree (an archaeology degree won't be much help)
HS diploma (not usually required for B2C but usually required for B2B)
experience (lots of entry level sales roles available)
skills (they can be taught)
money (not many straight commission jobs being offered)
professional appearance (lots of inside sales roles to be filled)
Instead of wealth redistribution, why can't we offer entry level sales positions to all who are willing to do the work to raise their incomes from $7.50/hour to as much as $53,000? According to Salary.com, that's the total average entry level sales compensation being paid right now.
There is no shortage of sales trainers out there so there would be plenty of help available to train inexperienced salespeople. The government could even pay for some of those training programs. OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment accurately predicts sales success - even for those without sales experience! And every company has sales openings.
The single most common issue revealed in my daily emails is, "Dave, how can we get more salespeople into our recruiting pipeline? Where can we find more sales candidates? Why aren't salespeople responding to our job postings?"
I looked into some of the progress being made by 9 of my personal clients who are currently recruiting salespeople and discovered that despite the lack of candidates, in the last 12 months they have managed to assess 1,919 candidates, 20% were recommended, 25% were worthy of consideration, and 55% were not recommended. Buried in those average recommendation rates, 2 companies had more than 85% of their candidates recommended and 2 had 0% recommended. 4 companies had more than 70% that were not recommended. While difficulty levels will affect recommendation rates, that is surely not the case here. The companies with high recommendation rates had job postings that described their ideal candidates while the companies with low recommendation rates had job postings that described Joe or Mary weak candidate.
You might not think that these recommendation rates would help much if only 45% of this group would be recommended or worthy but if we look at only the lowest difficulty levels - entry level - the combined rates will be closer to 75%.
There are ample opportunities to assimilate low hourly wage workers into B2C sales positions, have them assessed, hired, on boarded, trained and deployed. On the other hand, wealth redistribution would cause massive layoffs, inhibit innovation, stifle R&D, limit consumer spending, stop the booming economy, crash the stock market and cause a major recession. Other than that it's a terrific idea.
What do you think? Add your comments to the LinkedIn discussion here.
Would a NFL Quarterback make a good MLB pitcher? Would a star MLB hitter be a great Pro Golfer? Would an all-star NBA Center be an effective Lacrosse player?
Right now, an event is occurring on the world stage that shows, in a very persuasive way, why success in sales isn't always transferrable from one company, industry or role to another.
For example, a startup storage technology company hired all the salespeople they could get from the most well-known and well-respected company in their space. The leadership team expected that these experienced and credible salespeople would leverage the new company's great new technology and cause sales to take off like a rocket for Storageville (made up name). It didn't happen.
Another company hired a Sales VP from a well-known Fortune 1000 company and believed that his experience would make it easy for him to build a top-performing sales organization like the one he ran at Fortuneville (made up name). It didn't happen.
These two examples aren't exceptions to the rule. They are the rule. But the rule to what? I'll explain the context for the rule and explain the event that serves as such a great example.
In our first example, a start-up - that means UNDERDOG - hired salespeople from the #1 company in their space. The problem with salespeople who work for the biggest and best companies in the world is that they don't have to be very good salespeople. They don't encounter much resistance because they rarely face opposition to a first meeting and often have the red carpet rolled out for them when they arrive. They don't actually need to sell because buying from them is the safe decision and buyers don't get fired for choosing #1. And they don't need to sell value because their company's deep pockets allow them to discount and "buy" market share. When those salespeople move over to the startup they quickly find themselves overmatched for what they are about to encounter. Suddenly, prospects don't want to schedule meetings, are very resistant, believe there is tremendous risk in trying something new, and won't commit to anything. The salespeople, never having faced this level of resistance before, don't really know how to overcome or manage it and they quickly fail in a very big way.
In our second example, the hotshot VP arrives with much fanfare but quickly learns that while expectations are great, resources are scarce and he has one fewer layer of management between him and his team. He is not a roll up your sleeves kind of guy and hasn't actually performed the kind of coaching that this sales team requires to help them overcome the resistance that he never had to face. While the average tenure of a Sales VP is around 18 months, he's gone after just 10 and the company is back to the drawing board.
And then, the biggest and most obvious example of all. An individual who successfully ran a huge enterprise unexpectedly changed industries, roles and organizations. He was the sole decision maker at his previous company but now he has a much larger and empowered leadership team and can no longer make the decisions without support from others. He trusted his family to the most important leadership roles at his prior company but he has struggled to hire and retain leaders that are aligned with his vision in the new organization. Everyone in his prior company was on the same team and supported and executed the business plan. In the new organization, there are those who seek to undermine his authority, goals and plan, and he has enemies and opponents actually working for him.
Only time will tell whether this person achieves the same level of success as President of the United States or he goes up in flames and fails to complete his term in Governmentville (made up name). But make no mistake about it. On the public stage for all to see is the greatest example of how success in one company or industry does not necessarily translate to success in another. The challenges are different, the resources are different and the levels of resistance vary most of all.
The next time you decide to hire, my 3 rules of thumb will make your experience simpler and more successful:
Target candidates who have already done what you need them to do. If you are an UNDERDOG then find someone who has already done exactly what you need for another UNDERDOG.
Only you can determine whether or not you like someone well enough for them to join your team. Use OMG to help you select those who will succeed in a sales, sales management or sales leadership candidates at your company. It's been the most accurate and predictive sales specific assessment on the planet for 7 consecutive years.
Assess immediately after candidates complete an online application. Use the assessment's recommendations to determine who you will invest time interviewing. The worst thing you can do is fall in love with a candidate who later turns out to be not recommended.
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.