Vote the Best Top Article on Sales and Sales Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 @ 00:12 AM

This is a pretty exciting time for us.  We reviewed 1,000 articles which I've posted on this Blog since 2006 in an effort to present you with the Top 15 Sales Articles of the past six years, and later this week, the Top Sales Article of the last six years.  It was not quick, easy, fun or obvious.  They aren't necessarily the most viewed and they do not have the most inbound links.  But we did pick fifteen of the more serious articles.  Some are articles backed by science and some are assessment comparisons.  Five are on selling and two are articles where I debunked other published articles.  Missing are the articles with analogies, humor and comparisons to children, but other than that, it's a nice cross-section.

You can do one of three things with this post:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Read and learn from some or all of the Top 15.
  3. Read the Top 15 and vote on your favorite to influence future topic choices. [Voting ended on 12-19-2012]

THE TOP 15 BLOG ARTICLES

  1. What's the Difference Between Sales Commitment and Motivation?
  2. 10 Sales Competencies of Steve Jobs
  3. What is the #1 Sales Competency and How Many Salespeople Have it?
  4. Selling Power Hits and Then Miss the Mark on Sales
  5. Harvard Business Review Hits and Then Missed the Mark on Sales
  6. Effective Selling Can't Occur Until Salespeople Perfect This
  7. Exposed - Personality Tests Disguised as Sales Assessments
  8. Tale of Two Assessments - Comparing Value
  9. Ultimate Comparison of Top Salespeople versus Salespeople That Fail
  10. The Sales Assessment that Dave Kurlan Developed
  11. Top 10 Steps to Recruit Strong Salespeople
  12. Only 11% of Salespeople Do This at the End of a Sales Call
  13. How to Close the Big Sales that are so Difficult to Close
  14. What Makes Salespeople Stand Out from the Crowd?
  15. The Science of Achievement Applied to Sales Success

Topics: sales blog, Dave Kurlan, grow sales, sales force evaluation, top sales articles, sales backed by science, salesforce blog, sales assessments

Why Assessments Will Never Work for Some Companies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 @ 23:12 PM

Assessments are awesome, especially when you choose the right ones, for the right purpose, at the right time.  Despite the availability of some terrific assessments, they won't work for every company.

For example, let's select Objective Management Group's (OMG) highly predictive Sales Candidate Assessments.  As accurate and predictive as it is for sales selection, there are some companies for which it just won't work.  

Some executives believe that their gut instinct is more accurate than any assessment possibly could be.  They will consider the OMG assessment recommendation only when it's consistent with their gut.  I agree that it's important for both the gut instinct and recommendation to be consistent.  However, that's not really the problem.  Executives run into a problem when their gut instinct and the recommendation are at odds.  Then, on which should one rely?  It depends. Check the table below. 

Assessment
Finding 
The Gut
Says 
What Your Action
Should Be 
Recommended Yes Hire
Recommended NO No Hire
Not Recommended NO No Hire
Not Recommended Yes **DO NOT HIRE**

The big dilemma occurs only when the assessment says "Not Recommended" and the gut instinct says "Yes."  So to use the assessment more effectively, the only change which an executive would need to make is to heed the warnings of the "Not Recommended" findings!  

The ironic thing is that an executive should never have this conflict in the first place.  If we're following best practices in a sales selection process, we wouldn't waste time interviewing a candidate who's not recommended for your sales role, selling your product/service, into your specific market, calling on your target decision maker, against your competition, with your price points, challenges, and level of difficulty.  No interview?  No conflict.

Another issue is that some executives are insistent upon requiring that their candidates come from their own industry.  When industry experience is more important than sales competencies, there's a good chance that after, the candidates take the OMG assessment, the majority of those experienced, but weak, salespeople won't be recommended.  

Other executives insist on hiring salespeople who come from big, well-known competitors. Formerly successful, big-company salespeople often fail at smaller, lesser known companies, especially when the company and/or its technology is relatively new.  The OMG assessments will identify accurately most of these candidates as "Not Recommended", but executives will find it hard to believe.  After all, "They were successful at that big company, right?"

And some executives prefer to use an assessment which they've previously used and with which they have some familiarity.  Even if it isn't predictive, they'd rather use a familiar personality- or behavioral-styles assessment as opposed to OMG's product, which may be unfamiliar to them, but has the most predictive sales assessment on the planet!  Ironically, because the personality- and behavioral-styles assessments aren't predictive, they've forced executives to rely on gut instinct, use assessments the wrong way and use them only as a single data point.

It takes more than a great assessment to help companies select and hire great salespeople.  It takes buy-in from the management team to use them the right way, at the right time and have faith in the recommendation. 

TopSalesWorld.com is holding their 2012 Top Sales and Marketing Awards this month.  I'm honored to have been nominated for 5 awards this year:

Top Sales Assessment Tool 
Top Sales and Marketing Blog

Top Sales and Marketing Blog Post
Top Sales and Marketing Article
Top White Paper or eBook

This year, winners will be determined by a panel of judges, but you can vote for:

  • Top Sales and Marketing Thought Leader, and
  • Top Sales and Marketing Social Networking Site. 

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales candidates, sales personality test, objective management group

#1 Sales Presentation Tip from October 16 US Presidential Debate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 @ 08:10 AM

presidential debatePolitical analysts say that the 2nd presidential debate was the best in history.  Why?  Was it because they actually confronted each other?  Got in each other's face?  Went toe-to-toe?  Maybe.  The analysts also have been saying that most people had long ago decided which candidate they liked and the race is really about persuading the uncommitted voters.  This means that if you are pro-Obama, then you rooted for Joe Biden and loved his passionate performance last week.  It means that if you are pro-Romney, then you couldn't believe how condescending Biden was and you loved Ryan's steadiness and calm.  We root for the people we love!  From that perspective, it's very much like rooting for your favorite sports teams.  For better or worse, they're your team and you'll support them through thick and thin.

Hold on to that thought as we transition to sales.  

Let's discuss sales presentations.  When your salespeople are invited back to be one of several to present capabilities, value propositions and solutions, the exact same scenario as described above is sure to be played out.  If the prospect liked you going in, they'll look for opportunities to support your presentation.  If the prospect liked your competitor going in, they'll look for opportunities to discredit you in any way they can.  That's just how it works and that's why it is so darn important to differentiate yourself up front - earlier in the sales process - instead of hoping to accomplish that during the presentation.  Your presentation will certainly differentiate your personal presentation skills, but it won't differentiate your company, value proposition or capabilities.  

That's why Consultative Selling is so important.  Executed properly, your salespeople will finally differentiate themselves upfront (early) and by the time they present, the prospects will already be on your side.  The problem is that you can't say simply that going forward your salespeople shall sell Consultatively.  It's a major change.  It requires special skills, strengths and disciplines to execute, and it routinely takes 8-12 months of training and coaching to make the complete transition.  Further complicating matters is that not all salespeople can make this all-important transition.

One of the questions which Objective Management Group answers, when we evaluate a sales force, is just that.  Who from among all of your salespeople are capable of making the transition from presenters and order-takers, to effective, Consultative Sellers.  We can answer hundreds of other questions too.

Make the transition.  Improve your KPI's.  Close more business.  Block out your competition.  It requires a Consultative Selling methodology and process.

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales management, KPI, sales presentations

Unintentional Selling - Selling Customers on Defecting

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:10 AM

verizonI've hit on this topic several times before when I ranted about:

Today, Verizon Wireless gets the brunt of my wrath!
 
I'm a planner.  I make sure in advance that every detail has been covered because I hate surprises.  So before my recent trip, I purchased a new smart phone after I was assured that it would work in Europe and Turkey.  Then I called Verizon to confirm that my new phone would work in the three cities where I would be and I subsequently purchased Global Roaming.
 
Then, on October 9, it happened.  I landed in London and had no phone service.  How could this be possible after the precautions which I'd taken?  I was panicking because I had no way to connect and I desperately needed to connect.  I found a wireless network (that wouldn't be the case in the Turkey airport), got Skype working, called Verizon and was told that my phone would not work in London, Istanbul or Amsterdam.  And it wouldn't work anywhere else in Europe either.  Duh.  I had already figured that out myself.  But what was Verizon going to do about it?  Could they unlock it so that I could purchase a SIM card?  No, that would have been too easy.  Could they refer me to a partner in Turkey so that I could get a phone to use while I was there?   No, that would have been too complicated.  I could buy a disposable phone, but Heathrow airport didn't have any stores which  sold them.  There was literally nothing that they could do.  The people who needed to connect with me were out of luck.  They couldn't connect with me, nor could I connect with them.  My entire trip was in jeopardy.
 
Companies make mistakes.  People make mistakes. We judge them not by their mistakes, but how they solve the problems which they caused.  Not only could my entire problem have been avoided, Verizon could have had someone meet me at my next stop with a working phone.  I would have paid for that.  A small company would have found a way to do that because they cherish every customer and wouldn't want to lose even one.  However, once companies get to a certain size, they race to the bottom, don't care about churn and their support people care little about anything except meeting call number quotas.  'Uh-oh. I've had Dave on the phone for 10 minutes. I'm 5 minutes over. Need to get to the next call. "Sorry sir, there's nothing I can do to help."'
 
Companies still don't seem to understand that it doesn't matter if their marketing is good.  It doesn't matter if they they sell effectively.  It doesn't matter if the product or service is good.  At the point when they show their customers that they really don't care about their customer's experience, the customer will have been well sold on defecting.
 
Put as much effort into keeping your customers as you do into getting your customers and your business will grow from word-of-mouth!  We often help companies whose sales have been flat for several years.  The usual reason is that their salespeople are failing to bring in new business.  On the flip side, the one thing these companies seem to be doing well is keeping the business they have.  Kudos to them!

Topics: sales blog, Dave Kurlan, sales management, customer service, unselling customers, customer defection

Is a Lost Sale Better for Salespeople Than a Win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting Sales Opportunities - The Hidden Truth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 @ 08:09 AM

targetingWe frequently discuss reasons why salespeople fail, the differences between successful and unsuccessful salespeople, and scenarios where salespeople make good versus bad choices.  Those aren't the only topics which separate good selling from bad.  Salespeople make other decisions which impact the likelihood for success and today's article takes a look at one of those.

Targeting is a fairly simple practice, but when sales management doesn't perform this activity for their salespeople (as in, "Mary, call on these 27 accounts.") and salespeople do it themselves, it leaves plenty of room for trouble.  

Take the case of the salesperson who targets hospitals, oil companies, banks and insurance agencies.  You might say, "Good for her.";  until you learn that these markets are the most difficult verticals to which one could sell and the company would rather have her call on technology, distribution, manufacturing and professional services.

How about the salesperson who chooses to call on VP's?  You might say, "Good for him."; until you learn that VP's are very resistant to the offering and that most business is conducted in the C-Suite.

There is also the case of the salesperson who calls on the right people in the right industries (so far so good), but all of the opportunities are the wrong size.  They're either larger than the company's sweet spot or they are too small (easy enough to close, but not large enough for the company to profit or the salesperson to earn sizable commissions.)

Why do salespeople make these ill-advised choices?  Here are four possible reasons:

  1. They don't know any better and are reinventing the wheel, perhaps calling people and companies on whom they called in other roles or jobs.
  2. They' are not getting proper direction, coaching or feedback from sales management.
  3. They aren't being held accountable by sales management.
  4. They aren't comfortable with where sales management wants them to focus, so they focus on that with which they are comfortable, even if the results don't justify it.

Comfort.  It's responsible for choices.  It's responsible for the skills, strategies, tactics and practices which are applied in selling.  It's responsible for the weaknesses which salespeople successfully overcome as well as those that aren't.  It's responsible for how much money for which they can ask and get, their need to discount, allowing prospects to comparison shop, whether or not they ask the tough questions and so much more.

The biggest challenge is that comfort is hidden, not communicated, and difficult to observe.  However, a sales force evaluation can successfully uncover all of their discomforts and identify opportunities to increase sales.

Everyone has salespeople like this.  The question is, can you identify them, refocus them, and help them to become more successful before having to replace them for under achieving?

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales performance, underachieving, targeting

2 Keys to Selling Success from Ann Romney and Chris Christie

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 @ 06:08 AM

ann romney and chris christieAnn Romney gave a great speech at the Republican National Convention.  She wrote it specifically for her intended audience of women, connecting herself and her husband, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, with that audience, and it worked.  They loved her.  

She was a tough act to follow, but Chris Christie successfully followed with a terrific speech of his own.

Speaking of love, one talking point which I heard loud and clear from Christie was that the people of this country need to choose respect over love.

I have been delivering that message for more than 20 years, not to citizens who must vote for a candidate, but to sales leadership, sales management and salespeople who let their need for approval - their need to be liked - interfere with every facet of what they do.

Salespeople who have need for approval have a difficult time asking questions, pushing back and challenging their prospects.  This affects them at every stage of the sales process, from overcoming early resistance, to scheduling meetings, to selling consultatively, to qualifying and to overcoming putoffs at closing time.

Sales Managers, who have need for approval, find it difficult to be consistently firm - think lack of accountability - and it's even more challenging to coach salespeople to ask better questions via roleplay.

Sales Leaders, who have need for approval, often have organizations where everybody likes them, but not quite enough to perform for them.  They have an especially difficult time replacing non-performers and holding Sales Managers accountable.

Chris Christie said that "we the people" need to choose respect over love and the love will come.  The key word is choose.  We have free will, which means that we can choose.  When we choose respect, by nicely asking tough questions, pushing back with permission and challenging the status quo when appropriate, we usually earn the respect of others.  They will be your friend if they like you.  They will buy from you if they respect you.  Which would you prefer?

You probably know which salespeople, working for you today, have need for approval, but it's not so easy to identify candidates who have that major weakness.  That's where OMG's legendary, accurate, predictive Sales Candidate Assessments enter the picture.  

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, chris christie, ann romney, GOP and sales, sales presentations, objective management group

6 Keys to Make All Sales Calls Easy Sales Calls

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 16:08 PM

easySome sales calls just go so well, flow so smoothly and have little to no resistance.  Some have no competition, others have plenty of money and a few allow unlimited access to senior decision-makers.  Some of your sales happen so quickly that you wonder why they can't all be that easy.

Your salespeople can have more easy calls, but you'll have to change up a few things.  

  1. They'll need to qualify much more thoroughly.  Those easy sales were already prequalified, but it wasn't your salespeople who did the thorough qualifying.  The customers just happened to meet all of the criteria.
  2. They'll need to differentiate much more effectively.  Your company was differentiated because your customer had already eliminated your competitors.  They were ready for you!
  3. They'll need to do a better job of selling value.  Your company's value proposition was well-known to your customer before your salesperson called or appeared.

For the prior three things to occur on a regular basis, your salespeople must become proficient at selling more consultatively.  When all is said and done, that means being able to do three things better than your competition:

  1. Listen,
  2. Ask good, tough, timely questions and
  3. Uncover the compelling reasons to buy from you.
Those easy sales were those customers who had compelling reasons to buy from you, but your salespeople may not have known what they were.  Your salespeople must develop superior listening skills, superior questioning skills and a superior ability to continue asking relevant questions until they have uncovered the compelling reasons to buy from you.  Those compelling reasons could be the consequences of problems or opportunities.  Either way, most salespeople fail to learn about the problems and opportunities, never getting close to consequences or, even deeper, to personal feelings.
That's the secret to consistent easy selling.   By easy, I mean that they consistently get the business without much resistance, delay and the advantage of having the lowest prices.  Do your salespeople find the going difficult or easy?  
One of the biggest questions for companies today is the challenge of whether their salespeople can make the transition from transactional selling (demo or present, quote or propose and close) to consultative selling.  A sales force evaluation will answer that question and so much more.

Topics: sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales qualification, easy selling

Free Sales Content - Use at Your Own Risk

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 12, 2008 @ 05:12 AM

I can't count and may not even know about all of the portals now on the web that feature subject matter experts, content, free downloads, articles and tips from people like me.  It's generally a good thing, at first, until someone like me loses control of his intellectual property - the articles I write.

Some sites run my articles with my permission.  Others simply include the RSS feed. Others run teasers with links back to my Blog.  These are all OK.  However there are some that run my articles, copy my articles, take excerpts from my articles or rewrite my articles and pass them off as their articles.  That's when it becomes a generally bad thing.

One site that said they would change that is ilearningGlobal.tv.  They claim to have the exclusive technology that will stream high-def, full screen content from experts like Dennis Waitley, Bob Proctor, and me directly to your desktop and protect the content from being pirated.  Sounded good to me.  They invited me to join their faculty, offered a revenue sharing model and said they would fly me to their studios to record my content at their cost.  Sounded even better...until my third conversation with them when they were more interested in the 3,000 of you that visit this blog each week, the 10,000 that subscribe to Baseline Selling Tips and my network of sales development experts that provide our world-class sales assessments to companies around the world.  Why?  The engine underneath this cool concept is...Multi-Level Marketing.  They wanted me to generate a down line with a few key people that would really market it.  Market what exactly?  $79 per person, per month subscriptions to "their" content. And the revenue share?  3%.  Wow - is that appealing! I've never been willing to go near the MLM space, either as participant or consultant.  And what makes them think they can even sell these subscriptions?

One site that I thought had a lot of promise and to whom I agreed to let feature my content is CanDoGo.com.  Their premise was to feature nuggets of content rather than content in its entirety.  They too were going to sell subscriptions but recently changed the model and went to a free service.

One of the sites I particularly like because of their design and richness of content from experts like me is EvanCarmichael.com.  Two more that do a great job of culling the best from the best are EyesOnSales.com and TopSalesExperts.com.  And then there are sites like Guy Kawasaki's AllTop.com, which aggregates the top content on a variety of subjects.  And then there is the webinar version of all this, BusinessExpertWebinar.com, which features various experts in webinar format all through the day.

Today's Lessons:

I still hate Multi-Level Marketing.  If you can invest even an hour a week in their business, think about the impact that additional hour per week will have on your existing business!

If you have something that others want you have leverage.  As soon as you give them what they want your leverage goes away.

If someone dangles an offer that sounds too good to be true they probably want something for nothing.

You get what you pay for.  Much of the free content out there (not mine, of course) is either  contradicting, regurgitated, unproven, inapplicable or stupid.  And there is a huge gap between a great article on strategy or tactics and your ability to apply that strategy or tactic, as written, at your company.

Watch your step.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

 

Topics: sales blog, sales, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales tips, Sales Experts, free sales content, sales assessments

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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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