Sales Performance - Stop Worrying About the Words You Say

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 @ 04:01 AM

AngryCoach.jpg

When coaching, most sales managers change the words their salespeople use.  "That's not how I would say it - try this instead!"  While there are a couple of key moments in the sales process where the words do actually matter, for 98% of the sales process, it's about listening and asking appropriate questions, following the process, achieving key milestones, following the company's general strategy and using appropriate sales tactics.  It's almost never about the actual words.  For example, last week I coached a salesperson who was using all of the words the other salespeople on the team were instructed to use - but with vastly different results.  I think you'll find the coaching interesting.

I wrote an article about it for LinkedIn Pulse and you can read it here.  It's a quick read and it has the details I did not provide above.

As she tried to reduce her time-on-call from 9 to 7 minutes, she skipped an important step, rushed and became ineffective.  More often than not though, poor performance is the result of not being either strategic or tactical enough, avoiding milestones because of discomfort, or allowing the prospect to lead the salesperson away from the crucial sequence of the sales process.  

Whatever reasons may be causing poor performance, it's the sales manager's job to identify it, make sure that the salesperson learned a valuable lesson, role-play how it should have sounded instead, and make sure there is a sound plan of action moving forward.

While Sales Managers should be spending at least 50% of the time on coaching, statistics say that fewer than 25% of all sales managers spend more than 25% of their time coaching. According to this article, only 7% of sales managers are elite, 18% shouldn't even be in a sales management role, and 34% aren't trainable.  As bad as the statistics are, the eye test is even worse.  When we train and coach sales managers on how to be more effective at coaching, most have little idea as to how much of their time should be spent coaching and few have any concept as to how to coach effectively.

It's time.  Let's make ineffective sales performance and ineffective sales coaching a thing of the past.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance

The Secret to Coaching Salespeople and Why It's So Scary 

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 @ 05:09 AM

If you have time to read only a single one of my articles this year, read this one on the great business disconnect that was published on LinkedIn.  You won't be sorry.  And if you want to see just how awful Microsoft's latest Office 2016 for Mac is, read this off-topic post here

I was speaking at the AA-ISP event in Boston earlier this month when I learned something very interesting about how sales leaders feel about coaching salespeople.  

I was leading a session on how to coach Inside Salespeople.  The session had the same components as I would normally include for showing sales leaders how to coach salespeople.  We discussed Shaping the Sales Environment, The Different types of Sales Coaching Conversations, the Importance of Role-Playing and then we listened to an actual coaching call.  Under normal circumstances, each of those topics would get at least an hour before reviewing actual calls.  Under the best of circumstances, like during my Sales Leadership Intensive, we spend the better part of two days.  At this event I had just 30 minutes...

So what is the surprising lesson I learned at this event?

I learned that the way in which sales leaders react to the exact same material differs exponentially in accordance with the time we have to discuss it.

After two days, testimonials suggest that my Sales Leadership Intensive is simply the best sales leadership training on the planet and that we cover the topic differently and more effectively than anyone, anywhere.

However, when we have only two hours, sales leaders like what we are sharing with them, but that's it.  They only like it.

And when we had only 30 minutes, sales leaders simply hated the exact same material.

I'm interested in what you think about that.  What do you make of it?

Of course, I have my own opinion.

The difference may be very similar to this ocean analogy:  In our two-day scenario, we slowly wade into the icy cold water, give our bodies plenty of time to acclimate, and gradually move deeper before going for a swim.  

In the 30-minute scenario, we are on a fast-moving motor boat when we are dropped into the icy cold, deep, dark sea without a life preserver or wet suit.

When getting "dropped in", sales coaching seemed difficult, scary and confrontational to the 30-minute gang.  When wading in and slowly acclimating, the two-day groups understand that while sales coaching may certainly be challenging, there is ample time for them to recognize how powerful it is and despite how different it may be from how they have coached in the past, there is plenty of time for them to get comfortable.

Why is sales coaching so difficult and for some, so scary?

In a word, Role-Playing.

You must be able to do what we do.  You must be handle any scenario, in any stage of the sales process, with any set of challenges, with the toughest prospect imaginable, and demonstrate through role-play how it would have sounded had your salesperson executed properly.  You must also be able to demonstrate how to solve any selling scenario that your salespeople find themselves in.  This isn't telling them what to do.  This isn't providing them with a strategy.  This is being able to conduct the sales side of the conversation and ask the right questions to get a desirable outcome.  It's hard.  We do it all day - every day - in 200 industries.  Sales Leaders must do this all day - every day - with each of their salespeople.

We can teach you how to do this.  If you would like to become really effective at coaching salespeople, I am hosting an overflow Sales Leadership Intensive for those who were unable to make the August dates work.  This will be a much smaller group, with more one-on-one attention.  The dates are October 13-14 outside of Boston. You can learn more here and register here.

My new eBook is also available.  63 Powerful Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales.  Free Download here.

Have I learned my lesson?  Not really.  On October 7, I'll be conducting a 45-minute Webinar on Sales Coaching that is sponsored and hosted by Handshake.  Stay tuned for more details.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, inside sales, sales management coaching, aa-isp

The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 @ 06:07 AM

the_hard_thing.jpg

Thanks to another recommendation from my client and friend, Chris Collias, I am reading a terrific book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers.

On page 49 (of the Kindle Edition), there is a must-read passage for Sales Leaders who want to properly lead a sales force. The passage sums up what sales coaching and accountability are all about. 

After assembling a top-end sales force, he completely revamped the sales process and sent every salesperson through a rigorous and unforgiving training program. He demanded mastery. Any slip-up in technique, skill, or knowledge would be met with total intolerance from Mark.

We held a weekly forecast call where Mark reviewed every deal in front of the entire 150-person sales force.  On one such call, a salesperson described an account that he'd forecast in detail: "I have buy-in from my champion, the vice president that he reports to, and the head of purchasing.

My champion assures me that they'll be able to complete the deal by the end of the fiscal quarter."

Mark quickly replied, "Have you spoken to the vice president's peer in the networking group?"

Sales rep: "Um, no I haven't."

Mark: "Have you spoken to the vice president yourself?"

Sales rep: "No."

Mark: "Okay, listen carefully.  Here's what I'd like you to do.  First, reach up to your face and take off your rose-colored glasses.  Then get a Q-tip and clean the wax out of your ears.  Finally, take off your pink panties and call the fucking vice president right now, because you do not have a deal."

Mark was right.  It turned out that we did not have a deal, as the vice president's peer in networking was blocking it.  We eventually got a meeting with him and won the deal.  More important, Mark set the tone:  Sloppiness would not be tolerated.

 

I loved this passage. I'll read it at every Sales Leadership Intensive. I don't condone using the language [Update:  See comments below for clarification] with a salesperson, but the approach is spot on. The challenge, for most sales leaders, is whether or not they can do the following:

  • Can they see around the corner?
  • Can they anticipate 5 steps ahead?
  • Can they be cynical?
  • Can they be both optimistic and skeptical at the same time?
  • Can they push back and challenge their salespeople without being afraid of their salespeople hating them or quitting?

If you can't imagine a sales leader having any of these difficulties, then you are fine! If you have some of these difficulties, then you absolutely must attend my annual Sales Leadership Intensive in August.

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, accountability, sales pipeline, pipeline review

Connecting the Dots on Sales Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 28, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

connecting-the-dots.jpg

Copyright / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you remember the morning that you couldn't find your keys, but they were right there on the counter?  Or the time that you couldn't find an article of clothing, but it was hanging right there in your closet the entire time you were looking for it?  Or the time you couldn't find your car in the airport parking garage?  And yes, it was right where you parked it.  Sometimes, things are right in front of you and you don't notice them!  And that brings us to this sales management topic.  

Last week, I wrote about the sales force where half of the salespeople resigned and why that happened.  If you didn't read that, please read that now.

And earlier this week, I wrote about the similarity between the 2 main characters in the movie Whiplash and a salesperson with a difficult prospect.  If you didn't read that article, please read that now.

So it was right in front of me and I missed it completely.  Until now.

The tormentor in Whiplash could have been the sales manager in the first article!  He didn't have relationships, he wasn't trusted, and he wasn't respected.  He may have confused respected with feared - he knew his students feared him and he believed - incorrectly - that it was respect.  He didn't take the time to know what motivated his students, although he assumed, like most sales managers do, that he knew.  In this case, he assumed it was greatness or stardom.  He didn't have any need for his students to like him, he put tremendous pressure on them and was hated!  Fletcher and Jeff are the same person!

Objective Management Group's statistics show that 18% of all sales managers should not be in sales management, 34% of them cannot be trained to become effective sales managers, and only 7% are elite at their role.

You should know by now that half of a sales manager's time - 50% - should be spent coaching their salespeople.  Unfortunately, most sales managers don't allocate that kind of time for coaching and aren't very effective at it.

That's why we hold our annual Sales Leadership Intensive where, among other things, we spend the major parts of two days on how to master sales coaching.  Assuming that you and your sales managers are not among the elite 7%, this two-day event is the fast track to joining that elite group.  Learn more about our August Sales Leadership Intensive right here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, training, whiplash

How Music Can Definitely Help You Sell More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

music-and-selling

Next week, I have a special treat for my readers.  I will post an article that features my least read articles of all time - sounds very exciting, doesn't it?  While I was looking for the least read articles, I consistently came across a whole bunch of my articles that were related to music.  I found enough to create another article series.  By the way, do you know about my article series?  If you scroll down the left-side panel of any article on my Blog, you'll come to a section where the heading is KURLAN ARTICLE SERIES.  You will find 21 series of articles and my personal favorite is the one where I Compare Salespeople to Children.  In the past 10 years, I have written 33 articles with a tie-in to kids and not surprisingly, they are almost always about my kid at various ages.  Anyway, I just realized that I already have a series on Music and Selling, but it's missing a few articles that should have been included there.  So check out that series, and then read these articles too:

When are Salespeople Too Old to Sell Effectively? 10 Conditions

Can the Beatles Help You Close Big Deals?

Mastering Sales and Sales Management

The Impact of Coaching Salespeople and Sales Managers

Top 7 Reasons Why Ineffective Salespeople Get By

Trigger Events - The Anatomy of Sales Wisdom

Professional Sales and the All-Star Jazz Performance

Music is all around us and you can't escape from it if you wanted to.  But there's a lot you can learn from music, and music can definitely help you sell!  Music can set the mood, get you pumped, calm your nerves, or provide a great example.  Lyrics can make great positioning statements, be used to tell a story, or be used on slides.  Rhythms can help with pace and set a mood.  Music can be used to introduce you, a subject, or a point.  You can use music in the background of a presentation.

Mostly, you can use music to help your audience relate to you.  Everyone loves music and if you use a bit more music and a lot less of you talking, you can't help but be more successful!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales mastery, closing big deals, sales wisdom, the truth about old salespeople

After the Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 18:02 PM

englebert

If you were listening to Top 40 Radio back in the 70's, then you may remember the hit song, After the Lovin', by the artist that all the girls and women loved, Englebert Humperdinck.  For those of you who were not yet born in 1976, Englebert had a string of hits - all love songs.  After the Lovin' was his biggest hit and while it may not be a perfect analogy for my article, it makes for a great blog title.

While much emphasis is placed on sales training itself, often times, the greatest benefit comes after a sales training session.  For example, let's take Russ, who sent in the following homework assignment.  Take a look at what he submitted and then review my response:

Dave,

Three things from today:

  1. Qualifying your prospect by uncovering pains. Many prospects won’t come right out and tell you that they aren’t hitting numbers or have weaknesses on their team. This means that you really have to create value. I will continue to work on uncovering and listening instead of jumping right in to talk about our products.
  2. Timeline. “How soon do you want this problem fixed?” I will use that when appropriate to short circuit the rest of the sales process. “I understand…what do you have to do to make that happen?”
  3. Find the money. It’s appropriate to talk about money. Ask them where they can get it from and don’t beat around the bush. I will do a better job of making sure that when rounding third base I know that my prospect is qualified and has the funds to close the deal.

These were 3 pretty good take-aways, but if you look more closely, you'll see that Russ, who is on a plan, uses words that compromise his effectiveness.  I wrote back and told him that words are everything and to review what I crossed out:

lesson-learned

He thanked me for the help and wrote that he would "Try to be stronger in his wording."

I responded again and told him, "Not just stronger in your wording, BE STRONGER!"

It's only after the sales training when we can determine whether the correct lessons were learned, internalized and ready to be applied on the phone and in the field.  Should we be surprised about Russ and how cautious and tentative he was being?  Not really.  His Objective Management Group (OMG) sales evaluation indicated several weaknesses and skill gaps, findings that were predictive of this behavior:

  • needs to think it over when making purchases (will allow prospects to do that)
  • low money tolerance (thinks $1,000 is a lot of money)
  • difficulty reaching decision makers (likely to talk with the wrong person)
  • too trusting (accepts what prospects say at face value)
  • accepts put-offs (doesn't push back)
  • presenting at inappropriate times (too early)
  • not asking questions (likely to present instead)

The goal of a sales training and coaching program is to address these issues and help a salesperson to overcome their weaknesses and fill their skill gap.  This was only the 4th session, so we are still in the early stages.  Being aware of the weaknesses and seeing them appear in a lessons learned email, allows us/you to connect the dots between the training, how he internalized the lessons, and how his weaknesses played a part. Then you can coach!

You can learn why your salespeople do what they do by having your sales force evaluated; or you can be more effective in sales candidate selection.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, objective management group

How Can a Simple Zero Derail a Sale or Deal?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 07, 2015 @ 13:01 PM

derailment

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Today, I was coaching a very talented salesperson, one who is even better at getting deals closed.  Yesterday, he closed a large deal when late in the day, and completely out of nowhere, he got the dreaded "we changed our mind" email.  This is his story.

When I debriefed him, it was apparent, even to him, that there was a moment toward the end of the meeting when he had happy ears.  He gets that.  He knows what he should have asked.  What really bothered him was, "Why did this happen?"   Not why did the deal come undone, but why the happy ears?  What caused his usually reliable and steady emotions to betray him?  And we better figure this out quickly because he was beating himself up so badly that blood would surely be dripping from his head at any moment now.

He accepted my statement about his having an emotional reaction at that moment in the call, but was adamant that it was abnormal.  We discussed the one thing that was different about this opportunity than others like it.  This opportunity was triple the size of his average sale and challenged his money tolerance.  Money Tolerance becomes a Sales DNA weakness when the deal size exceeds the amount at which money becomes "a lot" to the salesperson.  In this case, the deal had an extra zero and far exceeded this salesperson's conceptual $50,000 limit.

Bob's sales call was a veritable chain reaction - a 3-car pile-up.  The prospect said something, an alarm went off in Bob's mind, but instead of addressing it, asking a question, setting expectations, and clarifying that everything was still OK, he ignored it and hoped for the best.  That alarm was the voice in his head that pointed out that this deal was different.  There was a $50,000 commission at stake.  It was bigger than most.  It became more important than most.  That was his Emotional reaction to the Low (in this case) Money Tolerance.  The Tendency to Become Emotional is another Sales DNA weakness.  Those 2 weaknesses caused another Sales DNA weakness to rear its head.  Fear of Rejection would not ordinarily be an issue for Bob, but in this case, it was the truck that smashed into the first two cars that had collided.   Fear of Rejection morphed into the second voice Bob heard in his head.  It said, "You'd better not ask about that because that might cause you to lose the business.  Better just shut up and hope for the best!"

It's funny, but once Bob understood what happened, he calmed right down, called his prospect, and was able to calmly and expertly resurrect the deal.  Like I said, Bob is a very talented salesperson, but even great salespeople can be hindered by emotions, money and fear when the circumstances are right.

The bigger issue is salespeople who aren't elite, and how frequently they are besieged by some or all of the dozens of issues like these that affect salespeople, sales cycles, sales win rates, and revenue.  Would you like to know how, when, where, and how frequently your salespeople are impacted by things like this?  Watch this 4-minute video to learn about our Sales Force Evaluation.

evals

The year's first issue of Top Sales Magazine is now available for download.  In addition to articles by the heavy hitters of sales consulting and training, do take the time to read my article on page 8 - "What You Think Versus What I Think about Consultative Selling".

Topics: sales training, Sales Coaching, closing deals, hidden sales weaknesses, deals that blow up

Sales Managers are Sometimes Like Cashiers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 06:10 AM

curry

At lunchtime one day, my curry-chicken salad tasted so bad that I returned it to the deli next door.  The owner asked what was wrong and when I told him, he tasted it, said it was fine, and get this - he returned the uneaten portion of my salad into the bowl in the display case.  Yuck!  And I never went back.  Until yesterday.  I was desperate and didn't have enough time to go anywhere else, but I knew enough to stay away from the specialty salads.

The crowds that used to line up were gone.  The staff was about half the size.  The menu, and specifically, the browning chicken salads in the display case were still there.  The owner was operating the cash register, calling names when their meals were ready, and taking their payments.  Instead of working on his business, fixing what was wrong, making much needed changes and urging customers back into his deli, he was handling the money - the one thing that any unskilled worker could do.

He reminded me of so many sales managers I have met during the past 30 years.

Instead of working on the sales force, working with their salespeople, developing their people, fixing what was wrong, guiding and directing, coaching and motivating, recruiting and holding salespeople accountable, they were spending their time doing busy work, running reports, sending emails, collecting call reports, creating quotes and proposals, approving pricing, approving incoming orders, watching the sales numbers, prodding their salespeople to close more deals, and doing simple administrative tasks that a sales assistant or coordinator could do.

Of course, the most important of these sales management functions is coaching.  Coaching salespeople should account for 50% of a sales manager's time.  Coaching salespeople has the greatest impact on development and revenue.  Yet only 15% of all sales managers spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Instead of focusing on what has the greatest impact on their business, sales managers are often like the deli owner - just standing at the register and taking the money.

Speaking of coaching, next Wednesday, I'll be leading a Top Sales Academy session on "How to Master the Art of Coaching Salespeople".  It's free to register and attend and it would be terrific to have you on the webinar!  Please use this link to register for the Noon ET session on October 8.

Speaking of recruiting, last week I led a webinar/tour of the "Magic Behind OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment".  If you weren't able to attend, you can see the slides here and watch the 20-minute presentation, recorded live, here.

As long as I'm sharing links, the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine is now available here.  This issue includes an article of mine that you'll want to read on Why Sales Leaders Continue to Hire the Wrong Salespeople.

 

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management functions, sales managers

Keys to Improved Sales Performance - Part 4 of 4

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 07:09 AM

sales force dominationThis is the last in a four-part series that ran this week.

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here.  
See Part 3 here.

If you are like most folks, you were away for at least part of the summer, took as many long weekends as you could, and worked fewer hours on the days you actually did work.  As part of getting the work done, you deleted as many emails as you could where a reply wasn't required and visited fewer websites and blogs.

That means you missed a lot of what we were discussing this summer.  This series was written to catch you up in a hurry.

Four days, four categories, with related articles.  Easy.
 

The Sales Leadership Articles

Sales Leadership and sales management are the keys to successful sales performance.  Without good sales leadership, management, coaching, motivation and accountability, we have salespeople left to their own devices.  You've all seen that show before and for all but the top 6% of the sales population, that show is one that will cause you to change the channel and tune out because you can't stand what you're seeing.  Think Reality Television.
 

Starting with the Sales Management Team - Is it a Bad Decision? 

Why You Must Understand This about Desire for Sales Success 

Does Efficiency or DNA Help to Increase Sales? 

My Top 21 Keys to Help Your Sales Force Dominate Today 

United Airlines Uses Customer Service This Way to Impact Sales 

Fine Tune Your Sales Force as You Optimize Your Computer 
 

Please tell us what you think and share your opinions about how these sales leadership topics impact you, your thinking and your sales force. 
 

Image Credit Lightspring via Shutterstock.com

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales team

Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make When Under Pressure

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 @ 06:08 AM

 AngryCoachBefore I unveil the top 5 mistakes, you might be interested to know that last week, Top Sales World Magazine went from monthly to weekly.  I was featured on the cover, but I'm most hopeful that everyone will read Jonathan Farrington's interview with me.  He got me to be very outspoken about what's taking place right now in our industry and I believe that everyone will benefit from reading it.  View it online here.  

Now for the Top 5 Mistakes.  At a recent baseball tournament, a panicked coach watched as a 12-year-old did not not run as hard as he possibly could to first base.  Despite that, he reached on an error and the coach screamed so that everyone could hear, "Get your butt out of your head."  He also told the boy that in the next inning, he would be on the bench for not hustling.

The coach had become emotional and in doing so, he clearly overreacted, got the well-known expression backward, embarrassed the kid, and embarrassed himself. 

There are some sales lessons here.  

Many salespeople panic and become emotional when they hear certain objections, get asked certain questions, or are told certain things.  When this happens, several things can occur:

  • They may be completely unable to use their words (you might encourage a 2-year-old to, "Use your words.")
  • They may say something stupid.
  • They may say something completely unrelated.
  • They may become defensive.
  • They may become offensive.

Regardless of the type of reaction, when panicked, salespeople tend to lose control of the sales call, while their prospects become less comfortable with the idea of doing business with them.

There are some sales management lessons here too.

When a sales manager perceives that a salesperson may not be putting in the desired effort or time, or may not be as focused, he may not be able to bench or suspend the salesperson without being told where to stick it.  However, a discussion should take place so that the manager can learn why the desired behavior isn't there and offer some encouragement, coaching or counseling to improve performance.  If performance (effort) doesn't improve in the agreed upon timeframe, termination, not suspension, may be the appropriate course of action.

Many volunteer youth baseball coaches scream the outcomes they want, like, "Get on base!", instead of coaching kids on the approach they should take to reach base in their next at bat.

Many Sales Managers are guilty of similar mistakes when they instruct their salespeople to, "Go sell something."  Effective sales managers can pinpoint exactly why their salespeople are struggling and offer coaching to solve the problem.

Salespeople and Sales Managers alike must remain cool, unemotional, in the moment, and learn to respond rather than react.  When they become emotional, bad things happen.  The best way to stay in the moment is to stop thinking.  Just listen.  Don't think.  Don't strategize.  Don't plan.  Don't script a next move.  Don't get creative.  Don't engineer anything.  Don't worry.  

You know Nike's tagline, "Just do it."  Well, use my tagline, "Just don't."

You can always respond with something along the lines of, "How would you like me to address that?"  Listen to their instructions and respond to those.

Image Copyright: toonerman / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance, sales mistakes, Top Sales World

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About Dave

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

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