I'm Sorry But Your Sales Process Sucks

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 01, 2019 @ 11:02 AM

sucky-process

Perhaps you saw this too.  Yesterday, a post appeared in my LinkedIn feed that talked about the power of sales process.  The article was clearly written to support the author's technology application, which helps track sales KPI's; so they should know a little about the topic of sales process.

Towards the end of the article, they provided a sample of what an effective sales process should look like.  The following text is exactly what they wrote:

If you don't have a sales process or aren’t sure what is meant by that, we can help. Start by thinking about your most successful clients. (Or, if you’re new, some of your team’s most successful clients.) What were the different steps that client went through before they became a client?

It might look something like:
Current Customer Referral
Initial Contact
Follow-up Appointment
First Sale
Upsell/subscription

5 Steps?  Yikes!  

I expect clients to have skimpy, lame, thin sales processes but this was from someone attempting to demonstrate their expertise in sales process!

Their recommended process was basically: get a meeting, sell something and follow up for more.  That's not a process, that's simply 3 outcomes.

In addition to initial contact, a solid, customized, formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric, optimized sales process should include all of the milestones that must be reached to get from that initial contact to the first sale.  In my experience with sales process best practices, that would include between 4 and 6 stages, each having between 4 and 8 milestones for a total of somewhere between 16 and 24 milestones.

The video below is a fast, enjoyable walk-through of sales process and methodology.

 

Let's not forget that a solid, customized, formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric, optimized sales process should also have a predictive scorecard built in.  Your win rates will go up and your sales cycle lengths will go down.

If you don't have these things in place, I'm sorry to say that your sales process sucks.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales best practices

Top 13 Requirements to Help You Soar as a Sales Manager

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 @ 12:01 PM

top-13-requirements

In my last article I shared the top 8 requirements for becoming a great salesperson.  Wow, did that resonate with people and there was a great discussion about it on LinkedIn.  In addition to that, I received a number of emails asking, what are the requirements for becoming a great sales manager?

I'll share those in a moment but first, since they were so popular, a few more "do you remember the first time" questions:

Do you remember your first cell phone that didn't need to be plugged into a roof-mounted antenna or, a little later, the first cordless phones for your home?  Do you remember the first car that allowed you to use Bluetooth instead of holding the handset?

Do you remember your first "portable" computer?  For most people it was a laptop but mine was a Kaypro CP/M based transportable computer that weighed about 15 pounds circa 1984 which I replaced with a Panasonic laptop, with 20 MB of storage circa 1987.

Now for sales management.  Do you remember the first time you coached a salesperson and they told you how helpful your coaching was? Do you remember the first time they asked how soon they could come back for more coaching?  Do you remember when all of your salespeople felt the same way about your coaching?  Do you remember the first time you coached a salesperson on an opportunity they were unlikely to win and they won it because of your coaching?  Do you remember how the rush from coaching a salesperson to a win was greater than the rush you used to get from your own wins?

Of course you don't.  92% of sales managers simply aren't that far along yet.  After all, it's been less than a decade since it became fashionable for sales managers to spend at least 50% of their time on coaching.  For comparison, consultative selling was introduced in the 1960's, was mainstreamed in the 1980's, and is the foundation of most sales training being delivered today. Despite that, only 17% of all salespeople have the consultative selling competency as a strength.  See OMG's statistics for all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

What are the 8 most important requirements for being a great sales manager?

You might be surprised but they are the exact same 8 that I shared for salespeople because you can't become a great coach of salespeople without those 8.  Sure, coaching requires some additional skills but if you can execute on the 8 already listed, you can learn to become a great sales coach.

What else do you need?  Here is my bonus list of 5 additional requirements to become great at coaching salespeople:

  1. Post-Call Debrief - this is a structured debriefing of a call or meeting that has already taken place with the goal of determining why it ended the way it did, which skill gap was was involved, and what in the salesperson's Sales DNA might have caused the skill gap.  This is followed by lessons learned and an action plan
  2. Pre-Call Strategy - this is a structured discussion of an upcoming call or meeting where the salesperson must identify goals for the call, desired outcomes, potential challenges, how those challenges will be addressed, and share how that conversation will sound.
  3. Joint Sales Calls - where the sales manager observes the salesperson and provides real-time feedback.  
  4. Role-play - this is the scariest and most difficult part of coaching and without a willingness to jump and and play any scenario in any stage of the pipeline with any level of decision maker against any competition with any objections is key.  Read more about my thoughts on role-playing.
  5. Patience - Development occurs one day at a time.  You can't and won't coach your salespeople up overnight.  But you should be able to make them incrementally better each and every time you coach them.

So if you're not in the top 8% of sales managers who excel at these 5 bonus requirements, how can you develop mastery of them?

Each year, I open the door to non-clients so that sales leaders like you can attend my top-rated Sales Leadership Intensive.  We spend the better part of 2 days on the 5 bonus requirements listed above.  You will learn how to coach effectively.  You will learn how to coach with impact.  You will do some coaching while you're with us and receive constructive feedback on your efforts.  When you return to your office, you will be able to coach up your salespeople and can expect a 27% increase in revenue!  The secret to our success?  We teach you how to use role play as the primary method of demonstrating the conversation you expect your salespeople to have. We accomplish that by sharing 8case studies - powerful, recorded, real coaching conversations that we dissect, discuss, model and use those to help you develop mastery. If you would like to join us on March 19-20, outside of Boston, there are only 10 seats left as of this writing. You can learn more here.  If you wish to register, use the discount code DKSLIMAY17 at checkout to receive a $100 discount or follow this link to automatically apply the discount code.

Add your comment and join the discussion on LinkedIn.

Watch Selling Power publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner interview me about coaching in this 7-minute video.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales competenices, sales management training, sales leadership training, sales best practices, sales management competencies

The Perfect Day for a Salesperson - 10 Ways to be More Efficient and Effective in 2018

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 08, 2017 @ 09:12 AM

perfect-day.jpg

Introduction

You can be more effective and more efficient selling in 2018, do every single thing I wrote about in this article, exactly as I wrote it, and without any difficulty, by making a conscious decision to follow this blueprint.  It's not hard. It's not scary.  It's not unusual.  It's not even thought-provoking.  It's simply a list of best practices that great salespeople (top 5%) do and that crappy (46%) salespeople either don't do consistently or don't do it at all.

Pre-Planning

The ideal sales day begins the previous evening.  Looking ahead to tomorrow, how many meetings do I have, which of those are sales related, how many items on the to-do list must be completed, how many proposals are due, and how many emails must I respond to before the day begins?  Based on all of that, how early do I need to set the alarm?  For me, most mornings it's for 5:30 AM.

CRM

Upon awakening, I like to begin the day inside CRM (we love Membrain) so that I can see all of my opportunities, the stage of the pipeline they are in, identify those I must move along, and who is waiting on me for something.

Calendar

Next, I need to identify my prospecting time for the day.  That's when I'll do the required work on those opportunities that need attention and schedule new meetings.  On most days, I have less than an hour of time for this so I need to be prepared to be ultra productive.  I can't afford to spend an hour attempting to reach potential new clients since even for me it will take 10-15 attempts to reach a CEO or Sales VP so it's crucial to actually connect with prospects during this time.  I begin with introductions, move to referrals, then to inbound leads from appropriately titled decision makers, and back-fill with LinkedIn connections and other inbound leads.  I only want to schedule future calls - not spend time talking with them today.  If you aren't fortunate enough to have a steady supply of introductions, referrals and inbound leads to call, you need a way to be more efficient than cold calling and I recommend that you use ConnectAndSell.  In an hour of calling they'll help you connect to an average of 7 prospects whereas attempting to reach prospects on your own might not yield 7 connections in an entire day.

Email

It's still early so this is the ideal time to respond to emails that I didn't get to yesterday, those that came in over night, and those where I need to be proactive.

Preparation

Finally, there are the scheduled sales calls.  For brand new opportunities, what do I need to know about them, their company, their industry and our common connections before we speak?  What is the desired outcome for each call?   What is the game plan to get there?

Sales Calls or Meetings

These days almost everything I do is by phone or video conference and that holds true for sales calls as well. If I want to achieve a predictable outcome then all I have to do is have a great conversation that faithfully follows our sales process, reaching the required milestones along the way.  One of the things that I love about Membrain is that the sales process, milestones, scorecards and playbooks for each milestone are on the screen during the call.  Companies that are in sales training, learning sales process and/or methodology, introducing playbooks, on boarding new salespeople, incorporating integrated CRM, or getting veteran salespeople to change the way they do things gain an additional benefit or 3 from these features.

What Can Go Wrong?

There is very little that can go wrong when you prepare like this.  Surely, some calls will cancel or reschedule, some prospects will be unqualified, some opportunities may be poor fits, and some prospects won't want to share answers to your questions.  You can't control any of that stuff but you can prepare for it.  Read this article to better understand how to use your unexpected free time.

Contrast

I receive a few incoming cold calls and schedule a few sales calls or meetings with salespeople calling on my companies each week and here's what I can tell you about them.  They.  All.  Suck.  No exceptions.  Here's why:

When salespeople are scheduled to have an actual sales call with me all they want to do is pitch, present and demo.  Does anyone, other than those salespeople that we train, actually use a consultative approach to sell?

Summary

Armed with an effective approach, appropriate planning, effective sales process and methodology, supportive sales tools and good scores in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, you will succeed.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, crm, sales best practices, membrain, time management, connectandsell

Dissecting the #1 Sales Best Practice

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

best_practice.jpg

One company is attempting to create a compilation of best sales practices by sending out a weekly survey to sales leaders and asking them to choose from multiple choice questions what they most often do and teach.  The topic changes each week.  This is silly because (1) it just isn't that simple, (2) it's different for each selling role, each vertical, the decision makers they call on, their price points, the length of their sales cycle, and their respective competition, just to name a few.  In addition, when you ask multiple choice questions like this, the answers will be so varied that there won't be even a few, never mind a single best practice.  Here is an example of what they asked this week:

Select the action with which you have the most direct experience or expertise.
(My comment - The question is poorly designed and then the choices that follow include about 10 more than is ideal to arrive at best practices.)
  • Proactively ask customers about the “decision criteria” 
  • Directly ask customers about their buying criteria 
  • Develop a set of questions salespeople can use to uncover customer decision process and time line
  • Conduct after sales reviews with customers to determine the real value
  • Develop a set of questions to ask customers at each step in the sales process
  • Develop account plans 
  • Ensure that your sales process is adaptable 
  • Identify and prioritize your high growth and high potential accounts
  • Gather feedback from customers on a regular basis
  • Train sales representatives in active listening and empathy
  • Ensure salespeople are always asking customers questions about what they want and why 
  • Ensure sales and marketing teams are fully aligned on value proposition / messaging
  • Annual review of accounts 
  • Align compensation with the behavior you want 
  • Develop a list of potential objections at each stage in the sales process and a playbook of specific responses to them

So what should the best practice be relative to context of the question and responses provided?

1. You must have the correct opening questions,
2. You must know what to listen for,
3. When you hear it, you must be able to ask a countless number of follow up questions,
4. You must be able to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have uncovered their compelling reason to buy,
5. You must know the consequences for them if they don't move forward with a solution
6. There must be emotion associated with the consequences
7. You must quantify or monetize the consequences.
8. You must be able to leverage this information through the remainder of the sales process.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is!  This is the consultative approach to selling (follow that link and also follow the links to the two additional articles for more on the consultative approach) and it takes months for salespeople to master.  The question is, do you want them to continue selling the way they sell? That leads to inconsistent and even decreasing sales each year and within two years they may become obsolete.  Or do you want them to be challenged to learn the proper way to sell?  That leads to more predictable results, increasing revenue and a valued, or trusted adviser status with customers and clients.  As always, the choice is yours. 

Three times each year, we offer a comprehensive, live, interactive, 12-week online training program that brings Baseline Selling alive. This training teaches salespeople to utilize the 8 steps I outlined above.  If you are interested for yourself or any of your salespeople, please respond to me directly.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales best practices, active listening

Getting Emotional at Dunkin Donuts, and Over Social Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 @ 06:08 AM

daydream

As I approached the window of my local Dunkin' Donuts, the woman said, "How are you today?"  I paid her and then replied, "I'm fine, and you?"  My response had an extreme delay.  Then she asked if I needed a tray, to which I replied, "No....Sorry, yes."  I was faster this time - with a trick question like whether or not I needed a tray, I had to be quick on my feet!  But I gave her the wrong answer.  Of course, I needed a tray for 3 coffees.

What happened to me?  Was I experiencing symptoms of the early stage of dementia?

My sudden inability to comprehend what was taking place is what happens when your mind is elsewhere.  It happens to salespeople when they aren't able to stay in the moment, maintain complete focus on what their prospects are saying, and respond without thinking several moves ahead or, more typically, about what they want to talk.  It's a form of being emotional.

I wrote about becoming emotional last week in this very popular articleThe Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make When Under Pressure.  While both are examples of becoming emotional, we get there in two very different ways!  If you are daydreaming, you are in your own head, and if you are getting frustrated, you are in your own head.  Neither scenario bodes well for selling.  For that matter, it's extremely difficult to coach a salesperson if you are in your own head.

Speaking of coaching salespeople, my annual Sales Leadership Intensive is fast approaching!  It's just 3 weeks away.

September 10 - 11 |  Boston Area  |  2 Days of intense sales leadership training  

If you have any interest in attending, please send me an email and I'll make special arrangements for you.

You might have missed the article that I wrote on Friday last week.  (I never got so many "out of office" messages!)  It was an important article on Why Inbound Cannot Replace Selling and you should read it before the next paragraph.

Not too long ago, the only options for prospecting were either to pick up the phone or knock on a door.  In the 70's and 80's, I would do almost anything to knock on a door rather than call on the phone.  It wasn't very efficient but, back then, I was more comfortable and more effective face-to-face.  Times change and today I would choose the phone over door knocking 100% of the time.  But while there were only 2 options in the 70's and 80's, today there are many more.  Social Selling allows us to connect using Twitter, LinkedIn, email, blogs, Facebook,Google and more.  The problem occurs when people use the newest 6 options instead of the phone.  Ideally, they should be using the newest 6 options in conjunction with the phone.

When people find something they like or an approach that is more comfortable for them, they tend to embrace it to the point of obsession.  But effective selling has never been about what is most comfortable or popular.  Successful selling is about what works most effectively, most of the time, for most people.  They call it Best Practices.

Image Copyright: dundanim / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales best practices, emotional, social selling, sales prospecting

Which Industries Need the Most Help to Get Sales to the Next Level?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:08 PM

lumberThe lumber and building products industry is notorious for having weak salespeople (compared with the population of salespeople in all industries)who call on distributors and retail lumber yards and take orders.  They could be far more effective, much more efficient and experience exponentially better results.

The software industry is notorious for having demo-crazy and technically savvy, but weak, salespeople who hunt for new business, generate binders full of proposals and convert a small percentage of them.  They too could be far more effective, much more efficient and experience exponentially better results.

Sounds pretty much the same for both groups, right?

Not really.

Software industry executives want help, need to improve, must improve their conversion ratios and increase sales.  They call and write often asking for help.  Why?  Their business is changing - rapidly - by the day.  TheStreet.com published this article, The Digital Skeptic - Software Sales are Over. We're All Concierges Now.  (Thanks to Ken Leeser for sending me the link!)  Check out this quote from the article:

Daniel Saks, co-CEO of AppDirect, a San Francisco Web business app installation and management platform, told me it is now sober professionalism that is the deciding factor for which business software app succeeds. "What we are seeing is companies that work through a traditional sales channel and act like a real business are the ones that work," Saks said. "Throwing your app up and hoping folks just figure it out is not getting it done." None of which should surprise Pyle. "If you're doing anything the way you did it even a few years ago," he said, "it gets very tough, fast." "It's like I said. What got you here is not going to get you there."

On the other hand, lumber industry executives don't believe that they need help and those who acknowledge it - even a little bit - believe that somehow they can solve their sales problems in-house.  They never call or write asking for help.  Why?  Their business is exactly the same as it used to be - it's old school and static - except that revenues aren't nearly as strong as they were prior to the economic crisis of 2008.

My Point: The more your business or industry has remained the same, the more you need to stand-out, differentiate, take business away from incumbents and competitors, find ways to compete other than lowering your prices, and grow organically, rather than via costly acquisitions.  You can accomplish that with a sound sales strategy, strong sales leadership, and competent, professional salespeople.  But that's quite different from what most companies in static industries have in place.  You would think that after surviving the past 5 years, the lumber executives would be waiting in line for some professional sales help, but they fancy themselves as experts in this area.  Where did they get that idea?

It doesn't really matter what you sell, to whom you sell it, or how you are organized.  In order to grow revenues and profits, you must be able to outsell everyone else.  Not sometimes.  Not only when it's easy.  Not only when you have the best prices.  Always.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales best practices, lumber sales, software sales, sales consulting and training

Must Read - Accenture / CSO Insights Sales Optimization Study

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 01, 2011 @ 22:12 PM

61% of reps made quotaIn their latest study (thanks to Charlie for sending it to me) - Accenture reported on the 2000 companies worldwide that CSO Insights surveyed. I identified some very interesting findings and if there was a big surprise it was that nothing surprised me!  In fact, it supports everything I've written about here for the past 5 years.  Consider the following:

The authors categorized it as good news that 61.5% of sales reps reached quota - the highest level in 4 years!  Good news?  Would it be good news if you could account for 61.5% of your money?

How about this for confusion: The #1 initiative for sales leaders is to increase revenue, yet increasing sales effectiveness is higher on the initiatives list than capturing new accounts or more effective upselling.  While I am overjoyed that increasing sales effectiveness was #2 on the list, 68% said that they were happy with the amount of sales and other training their reps were receiving. What's worse, is that on the list of sales effectiveness initiatives, revising rep hiring strategies is dead last. Yet I have witnessed many incredible improvements in sales force effectiveness because of a change in the way companies hire sales reps! If companies don't change the training they provide and don't change the way they hire salespeople, how will they change effectiveness and increase revenue?  Can you understand that thinking?

Wait - there's more.

50% are not using assessments in their hiring process - there's a news flash for you. However, of the other 50% that do, 80% of them reported that assessments improved their hiring success rates.  Results showed that using "scientific profiling" provided more consistent results, lowers attrition and improves the number of reps making quota. You can be sure that the 20% who aren't seeing an impact aren't using the right assessments.

That won't surprise my regular readers and clients that use our (Objective Management Group / OMG's) highly customizable and predictive sales candidate assessments. OMG was nominated for Top Sales Assessment Tool in this year's Top Sales & Marketing Awards event.  If you use already use them, you know and you can vote for OMG here. If you don't already use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments, you can begin a Free 72-hour trial by clicking here.  If you're interested in reading more, you can check out my series of articles that compare assessments.

There's more...

50% said they need to improve their sales process and methodology.  It's about time!  Half of you are getting it...The study said that organizations achieve better results by focusing on process and methodology first and then on implementing the technology to support specific objectives.  Read my article on Sales Process and Methodology.  Then answer these questions about your Sales Process.  Read my article about sales process as a sales management competency. And finally, read my article about sales models.

What this and other studies show, is that what people want, what people need and and the initiatives they often establish are not in alignment.  When it comes to the sales force and its ability to increase your revenue - the number one initiative in the study - there is one proven way to identify what needs to be done in your particular company.  Evaluate your sales force and identify exactly what the most important steps are that you must take in the next 12 months.

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales training, sales best practices, sales assessments

If Andre Agassi was in Sales, Would He be Ranked #1?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:09 PM

Andre agassiAndre Agassi's autobiography, Open,  was a great book!  I kept wondering what it would have been like if Agassi was in sales instead of tennis.  Would he have been the best salesperson in the world?  Would he have won all the biggest deals?  Would he have earned as much money?  So I thought about the areas that would have supported a quest for #1 salesperson, as well as those that would have thwarted the effort.

PROS

As a young boy, Agassi hit 2,500 tennis balls a day; 17,500 each week; nearly 1 million practice shots per year - and didn't even like tennis!  If you practiced just 1 1000th of that amount - 2 to 3 role-plays per day - how much more effective would your selling game be?

As he matured, he disovered that his shot making or skills alone weren't going to help him win the tough matches.  To beat those tough opponents, he discovered that his Desire - how badly he wanted it - and Commitment - his willingness to do what it took to win each point - were more important.  We see the same with salespeople - the will (Desire and Commitment) is more important than the skills.

Over time, he learned that to beat the best players he didn't need to attempt high risk shots while trying to be perfect (make the perfect presentation and hope for the best).  Instead, he learned to wear out his opponents by making them run and simply outlasting them (Consultative Selling - taking your time and asking lots of questions, studying your opponent and knowing what they are going to do before they do it).  That's when he was at his best!  

For many of Agassi's first 10 years or so he lacked confidence, played not to lose and choked when his back was against the wall.  When he was confident of the outcome just prior to the match, played to win, and got tougher under pressure, he either won the match or was able to hold his head high in defeat.  How many salespeople manage their sales cycles, afraid of saying or doing anything that might cost them the sale?

CONS

Agassi was easily distracted and when he wasn't focused on tennis, an opponent, or even a point, he was easily defeated.  In the book he made many references to Pete Sampras, who often beat him in the finals, and how Pete was always focused completely on tennis.  Salespeople tend to be more like Agassi than Sampras but would find much more success if they made sales their life's work rather than their job.

By the time he met and later married Brook Shields, he had become complacent.  He stopped working out, eating right, practicing and focusing and that laziness dropped his ranking from #1 to #144 (salespeople become complacent at the drop of a hat). After he and Shields split he rededicated himself to tennis, and his practice regiments, reversed the slide and regained the #1 spot - the oldest man to do so.  This says a lot about the negative impact of complacency and the positive effect of dedication!

By far, the hardest part of selling is controlling the little, and sometimes big voice in your head.  Agassi's voice was big and it was very negative. Those demons (he liked burning things!) were constantly getting him to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, rebel, defy and sabotage his game.  When he had the demons under control, everything was under control.  The same goes for salespeople. Objective Management Group has assessed more then 500,000 salespeople and the data indicates that 84% of those salespeople have self-limiting beliefs (negative self talk), some much worse than others, that interfere with sound selling practices.

We know Andre Agassi wouldn't earn $40 million a year at selling, and he may not have been able to meet, never mind date his two superstar wives (Brooke Shields and Steffi Graf).  But would he make a good salesperson?

Weigh in with a comment?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, tennis, sales best practices, winning in sales, andre agassi, steffi graf, pete sampras, brooke shields

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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