Selling Styles - How Many Styles Should Your Salespeople Have?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 @ 23:08 PM

rscmWe were invited to see and hear a friend's son perform in the Royal School of Church Music of America.  We were very impressed with the voices, performance and beautiful church service.  It was very memorable.  While we were there, I noticed that some of the choristers appeared to be in trances; lost, disengaged and almost catatonic.  However, as soon as the choir director lowered his baton for the first beat, those children suddenly morphed into the most passionate, powerful, wonderful, young singers I had ever seen.  You just wouldn't believe the transformation!

Terrific salespeople make that transition too.  They morph from laid-back but confident, to powerful, animiated and charismatic when it's time to present.  Most salespeople however, don't make that transition because it doesn't feel authentic to them or they fear that they might look and sound like salespeople.  Isn't that sad?  Salespeople worrying that they might be mistaken for salespeople?  (Don't forget that you can hear me talk today, August 14, 2012, about developing salespeople and transforming them into A-players.  It's free - click here to attend.)

If you've met me and also heard me present a keynote address, you've witnessed this transformation.  My one-on-one style is a direct contradiction to my public speaking style.  Why?  If I appeared on stage with my one-on-one style, I don't believe anyone, regardless of my message, would really pay attention.  If we were to meet - just you and me - and I began with my public speaking style, it would feel very threatening and inappropriate.  You would hate me.  

There is a balance to all of this and the proper selling style, at the proper time, in the proper place, with the proper people, will work quite effectively.  However, most salespeople have only a single style and they aren't even aware of it!  If they aren't consciously aware of it, they usually aren't able to adapt to the situation in which they find themselves.

This is where video recording can be quite useful.  The ability to show salespeople how they look, sound, act and respond to varying situations is just the medicine they need to adapt, make the necessary changes and become more effective.

Steady and predictable is generally a good formula for success, however, when we need to convince people to buy what we have, flexibility and the appropriate style will always be more effective.

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales personality, sales presentations, rscm, sales charisma

Developing Top Performers - How to Turn Salespeople into A-Players

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 @ 09:08 AM

jazz bandWe recently saw the New Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at the Newport Jazz Festival.  We had seen them before, once at the Festival and about 20 years ago in New Orleans when they weren't so "New".  That first time, I left their performance with mixed feelings.  On one hand, it was terrific that we had a chance to be in the presence of a musical institution and hear their traditional New Orleans Jazz.  On the other hand, it was stale, mediocre and failed to move me.

Last weekend, they were fresh, exciting, energized and musically superb!  They were relevant again, had made the transition to A-Players and now opened the Festival.

So what changed?  They got younger.  They finally cut the cord to their very old, slow, stoic band members and brought on some exciting, younger musicians.  New blood.  The band is now led by 41 year-old tuba player, Ben Jaffe.  They embraced technology.  Rather than a single microphone in front of a seated band, each musician had a small wireless microphone attached to his horn.  That technology has been around for years, but they had not embraced it.  Now it allowed for movement and move they did.  They were not only mobile, but the newest tuba player, Ronell Johnson, danced around the stage for their entire set in much the same way that Verdine White, the bass player from Earth, Wind and Fire, has done for the past 40 years.  Technology gave them mobility which gave them energy and made them exciting to watch and hear.

Turning salespeople into A-players requires the same approach.  (I'll be speaking on this topic today, August 13, and you can participate for free!)  You need to replace those who have not adapted to the changing times, shown the willingness to learn new methodologies, models and processes, or embraced the newest technology and gone mobile.  The new salespeople whom you hire must be exciting enough and strong enough to lead the way, infusing the sales force with new energy, becoming new role models and causing others to follow their lead or be left behind.

Training and coaching play a major part in the development of A-players, but you must have the right people in place or you will waste both time and money training and coaching salespeople who don't have the ability to become A-Players.  It's much easier to turn B's to A's then it is to turn C's into B's.  And if you already have some A's, it becomes more obvious to the B's that they need to step it up.

After nearly 30 years in the sales development business, I can say without a doubt that the biggest problem which I witness every day is when executives overrate their salespeople.  In most companies, the salespeople whom management considers to be A's are nothing more than C's who are hitting easy targets.  Their so-called A's appear to be A's only when compared to their under-achieving and non-performing colleagues, but in most cases, the executives have it all wrong.  The result is an inability to imagine how much better their sales force could perform and generate revenue as a result of an upgrade, good training and good coaching.

Take the road traveled by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and adapt to these changing times!

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, preservation hall jazz band, developing a players, top performing salespeople

Why Your Lowest Price Can Be a Barrier to Closing Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 02, 2012 @ 17:08 PM

Price Comparison and Sales ContextIt's not really the price as much as it's the context for which that price is provided.  Let's take mobile apps for example.

$9.99 on its own seems very inexpensive, but with apps available for $3.99, $1.99, $.99 and even free, it's expensive - by comparison.  Look at the moon - we think it's fairly large, but when you look at it in comparison to Earth and Mercury's moon, it's a blip in the sky!

Let's look at a more complex service with a much higher price tag.  If the salesperson says that their solution is only $5,000 per person, the prospect immediately views this as an expense - and a costly one at that.  How can they justify spending on average $5,000 per person?  However, if the salesperson says, "We can help you recover $3 million in lost revenue and solve your customer retention problem for around $50,000 over the next 8-12 months", it sounds like a bargain and a no-brainer.  The reality is that the $50,000 solution could be more costly even than the $5,000 per person solution.  But the context, the perceived value and expected result are different.

It's not about prices, presentations or building value; it's about putting prices in the context of what those prices will buy.  Compare the two examples above and you'll see both the answer and the obstacle.  The answer is the context.  The obstacle is that your salespeople may not be learning what the compelling reason is for their prospects to spend the money.  Without the compelling reason, it's impossible to replace the red-bolded words above with the words your salespeople need to use.

Another potential obstacle, but hidden this time, is that some of your salespeople are uncomfortable having financial discussions with their prospects.  Those salespeople won't be able to get to the quantification of the problem.  And what about the salespeople who need to be liked?  They can't ask the tough questions and become emotional if they go out on a limb and ask.  These are three of the many hidden weaknesses that OMG often finds when evaluating sales forces.

You can teach and coach on most strategies and tactics, but when your salespeople aren't able to execute one that was properly introduced and demonstrated through role-play, you can be sure that there is a hidden weakness to blame.

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales evaluation, sales personality, hidden sales weaknesses, selling value, overcoming price objections

Keys to Successful Sales Negotiations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 22:07 PM

mlbIn the United States, Major League Baseball's trading deadline passed today with some noteworthy moves by teams other than my Boston Red Sox.  Aside from my disappointment that the Red Sox failed to make an impact trade to help the team, I recognized something else...

First-year General Manager Ben Cherington has made some interesting trades this year, most where he seemed to give up more than he received in return.  (See Appendix A below for examples.)

In contrast (bad, free-agent signings aside), most of the trades orchestrated by former GM Theo Epstein seemed to yield more in return than whom he gave up.  (See Appendix B below for examples.)

Assuming that I'm right, what are the reasons for the differences?  

  • Was Theo dealing from a position of strength while Ben dealt from a position of weakness?  
  • Was Theo a better negotiator?  
  • Was Ben more desperate?  
  • Did Theo hold out for a better deal?  
  • Did Ben concede too quickly?  
  • Was Theo more willing to walk away?  
  • Was Ben afraid of leaving the table with nothing to show for it?

Very often, the final stages of many sales cycles, especially those to large companies with procurement people, are negotiations.  Assuming that your salespeople have developed some compelling reasons to buy, and buy from you, then YOU have leverage.  They want what you have.  However, when your salespeople fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy from you, then YOUR PROSPECTS have leverage.  You want their business.

Your outcome from a negotiation or competitive sales situation is in direct disproportion to how badly you want the business.

Appendix A - Examples of Cherington Trades

He gave up top Sox prospect, Josh Reddick, and in return received Andrew Bailey, who has been on the Disabled List (DL) all year, and Ryan Sweeney, who has been on the disabled list three times already this year.

He gave up 3-time All-Star Kevin Youkilis for a minor league pitcher and a utility player whom they have already traded away.

He gave up a good hitter, Jed Lowrie, for Mark Melancon, a relief pitcher who has just plain sucked for the Red Sox this year.

As compensation for letting Theo Epstein move to the Cubs, he received an injured minor league pitcher, Chris Carpenter, in return.

Appendix B - Examples of Epstein Trades

He gave up 3 talented minor leaguers and got All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzales in return.

He gave up a talented minor leaguer and got All-Stars Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in return.  Beckett and Lowell, along with Curt Schilling below, helped them win the 2007 World Series.

He gave up 4 young pitchers, none of whom panned out, for Curt Schilling.  Schilling helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded disgruntled All-Star Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, both who helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded clubhouse cancer and multiple performance-enhancing drug offender Manny Ramirez in a three team deal for Jason Bay. 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales personality, ben cherington, Boston Red Sox, theo epstein, trades, competitive sales call

3 Types of Salespeople - Which are Best at Growing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 @ 14:07 PM

sailsYesterday, we were in a small seaside village and in a nautical gift shop, I read this sailing quote:

"The pessimist complains about the wind.  The optimist expects it to change.  The realist adjusts the sails."

Translated for selling:

"The pessimist complains about the prospect.  The optimist expects him to buy.  The realist adjusts the sales strategy."

Let's look at these three points a little more closely, shall we?

The pessimist: Sure, the pessimist will complain about the prospect, but more specifically, that the prospect wasn't open, was hostile, talking with competitors, wouldn't share a budget, wanted only a proposal, wouldn't commit to anything, blocked him from reaching a decision-maker, etc.  If this is normal buyer behavior, then this calls for a salesperson!  All salespeople must be able to navigate around and push through these common issues or we really can't call them salespeople.

The optimist:  The optimist has happy ears.  The bigger the opportunity, the better the opportunity.  The better they got along, the better the chance of a sale.  The longer they talked, the shorter the sales cycle.  Optimists are just as much of a liability as pessimists because they don't inspect or question what they hear.  They assume that everything will be okay.  While a positive attitude is good, it can be terribly frustrating!

The realist:  This is exactly who you need on your sales force.  Salespeople must be optimistic about their outcomes, but pessimistic about the things that could go wrong to derail the opportunity and prepared to overcome them.  The realist is flexible enough to be both pessimistic and optimistic at the appropriate times.

So, sailing, selling - the approach is the same except that while wind helps to expand your sails, having salespeople who are full of air doesn't help to expand your sales.

Most salespeople are good at talking and presenting - they are full of air - but 74% of them are ineffective when it comes to listening and asking good questions.  How about your sales force?  

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales personality, increase sales, sales strategy

The Unusual Case of Arturo - How He Sabotaged His Own Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 @ 07:07 AM

ArturoOne of my clients owns a Mexican company which provides phone, video conferencing and surveillance equipment to integrators and end-users.  During the height of the violence in Mexico, Arturo was kidnapped and held, bound and gagged, at gunpoint.  He was released - one of the few, fortunate survivors - but the emotional scars ran deep.  It took months for him to recover from the post-traumatic stress and return to work - selling again - and I have been coaching him for the past few months.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Arturo and the courage that he has demonstrated to once again face the world.

During our last few conversations, he has had a huge backlog of follow-up calls to make - as many as 150 at one point - on known opportunities.  We worked on time management, scheduling a specific date and time with a prospect for the follow-up call, identifying the strongest opportunties and not wasting time on the weaker opportunities, being more effective at qualifying, blocking out time in his calendar to make follow-up calls, etc.  In the end, the list of opportunities that required follow-up continued to grow.

When I learned that he still hadn't rectified the problem I asked for an example of a follow-up call which he needed to make, but didn't.  I was amazed at what I heard.  

He had a fairly large opportunity scheduled - in his calendar as I had suggested - for follow-up.  He didn't make the call and of course, the prospect didn't call him either.  Interestingly, Arturo was making all of his 1st calls without any problem; however, once he developed a relationship and created an opportunity, he was developing call anxiety before the follow-up call.  Instead of fearing rejection while doing the hard work - making 1st calls - he was struggling with being rejected at the end of the sales cycle, causing him to avoid the calls all together.

Arturo is not the only person with this issue.  For months, Arturo has been sabotaging his closing efforts and for the first time, finally understands why his failure to follow-up has been occurring.

Solving the problem was actually quite easy.  I explained to Arturo that his prospects were wondering, "If he doesn't follow up when he is trying to get the business, what kind of follow-up will I get after he has the business?  He doesn't appear to care very much or be very reliable, so I don't think I will buy from him."

Arturo is a proud man and when he understood the implications, the embarassment of the consequences was much greater than the discomfort from the fear of rejection.  I told him to make a sign that says, "Choose Success over Discomfort."  The fear won't soon disappear, but he will take action in spite of it.

Congratulations Arturo - I expect your sales to quadruple!

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales personality, increase sales, overcoming rejection, follow-up calls, sales case history

Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 @ 07:07 AM

The first problem with today's title is the "5" in "Top 5."

They are not the 5 on which most sales managers spend their time, so let's begin with the sales management practices on which most sales managers actually spend their time.  By the way, that's how so many "best practices" (that aren't) actually get published.  Authors ask (in this case sales managers) how they spend their time.  The answers that are most often reported become best practices.  So I repeat, the first list does not contain best practices, but includes those activities on which most sales managers spend their time.  

The 5 practices, which aren't best practices, on which sales managers spend their time:

  1. Selling
  2. Putting out fires
  3. Creating, reading and distributing reports
  4. Closing deals for salespeople
  5. Teaching (not coaching, but lecturing)
Let's see how those actually compare with the Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices - not the things sales managers necessarily do, but the things sales managers should  do:
 
  1. Coaching (should account for 50% of a sales manager's time)
  2. Accountability (to KPI's, pipeline and sales process)
  3. Recruiting (on-going process of upgrading the sales team)
  4. Motivating (more and more salespeople are not money-motivated, so this is more important)
  5. Development (grooming a replacement)
When you compare the best practices with the standard practices, you'll see that there isn't any overlap!  I'm describing two completely different sets of responsibilities, even though the role - sales management - is identical.
If you are a sales manager, how difficult will it be to change what you currently do in your role to follow best practices rather than existing practices?
If sales managers report to you, how difficult will it be to get your sales managers to make that change?
The biggest challenge to adopting these best practices is that while coaching and accountability sound familiar, Objective Management Group's data shows that 86% of all sales managers aren't effective at either.
You can learn more about these 5 sales management best practices in this free, archived Webinar.  Click here to view and listen.
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Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices, SMM Connect, Sales & Marketing Management, Top Sales Functions

Prospecting Trends for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 @ 23:07 PM

inmail

Three salespeople left voice-mail messages for me today.  They were all cold calls, they were all bad, and they were all following up on brochures they dropped off last week.  Nothing out of the ordinary here, as one of the callers wanted to know when our copier leases expire, one wanted to know when our commercial real estate lease expires and two wanted to introduce themselves as our new reps.

There are several reasons why they were so bad:  

  • They sounded bad on the phone - not like someone with whom you would choose to speak;
  • They were reading scripts - the first tip-off that you wouldn't want to speak with them;
  • They talked about what they wanted for outcomes from their calls instead of about what I might have been interested.  

I have always had a problem with the concept of dialing for expiration dates (think commercial insurance, commercial real estate and copiers) and following up behind brochure drops (think office supplies, hotels and copiers).  Distributing literature is not selling!

I also received 4 InMails through LinkedIn.  I responded to all of the InMails, but ignored the voice-mails.  

The voice-mails were easy to ignore - they were bad and the salespeople told me just enough to know that I didn't want to call them back.  The InMails were about me, I didn't get a chance to hear how bad they were and I was interested in what they had to say.

Salespeople should not use LinkedIn InMails to replace phone calls, as much as they shouldn't be ignoring the power of that social media tool either.  Sending well-written InMails to carefully-targeted prospects might help salespeople stand out and have a better chance of getting a response and/or meeting.  These days I get so few cold calls that anyone who is even borderline effective will stand out in good way.  In the end, these salespeople - both the callers and the writers - are being proactive, so at least they're actually doing something to drive new business!

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, business development, prospecting, Social Media, inbound leads, hunting, cold call

What Leads to Salespeople Underperforming?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 08:07 AM

focusAs a baseball fan, it drives me mad when underperforming players don't play because of one nagging injury after another.  It makes me wonder whether their injuries are causing them to underperform or their "injuries" are convenient excuses for their lack of performance.  We usually don't know, but it sets up my next question.

Doesn't it drive you mad when terrific, yet underperforming salespeople, take time off for their car to be serviced, to bring their pets to the vet, to spend time with visiting family members, to work out of the house, when they feel under the weather, to meet a with a contractor, for the dentist, for their annual physical, etc?  Take a vacation - no problem - but if you're not on vacation, then work for crying out loud!  

The funny thing is that your overachievers may include these same things in their very busy schedules.  The difference is that you either don't know about it, because they only spend the hour it actually takes to get it done instead of the entire day, or they don't do these things during their selling time.

Why do you suppose your underperformers are always coming up with things that cause them to take time off?  Are those distractions the very reasons why they are underperforming or are they merely symptoms of their lack of focus, discipline, commitment, or work ethic?

I know from personal experience that when I am focused on results, I never have time for golf.  Can't justify it.  However, when I have focused on golf, I didn't get the business results which I'd expected.  That's just the way it works.  People will get results, not by accident, but only when they are completely focused on the activities, behaviors, work, flow and relationships that lead to results and when they are disciplined enough to remain focused and active for as long as it takes to achieve those results.

How do you keep a salesperson focused and disciplined?  Those are the very salespeople who must be micro-managed, but don't be surprised if those same salespeople resist your efforts.  They may not want to be so focused and disciplined, meaning that you aren't on the same page.  When that's the case, it just might be time for a change of scenery.  They do that with ballplayers....

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance, sales evaluation, sales personality, underachieving, underperformance, overachiever

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

sales motivationThis was the question posed at Focus.com. 

When I reviewed the page, there were 18 other answers to the question.  There was nothing particularly wrong with them, but they just weren't transferable or scalable.  They didn't answer the question of how sales professionals stay motivated as much as they answered how certain salespeople motivate themselves and how certain sales managers motivate others.

The most important thing to understand is that when someone must ask how to motivate their salespeople, they may not have the right salespeople!

The best salespeople don't have to be motivated - they just are - and it not something they have to do.  Sure, they are goal-orientated.  Sure, they are disciplined.  Sure, they love praise and recognition.  But salespeople who love what they do and love either the thrill of success or the sight of their growing bank account are pre-motivated.  Think pre-washed or pre-faded jeans. They come to the table wired for it.

The real issue is what to do about those who aren't wired for it.  The easy answer is to evaluate the sales force and, as part of that process, look for the data which will tell you who is motivated; not in general terms, but specifically for success in sales.  Who can be developed and how much improvement are they likely to show?  You may learn that you don't have the right salespeople in the right roles and may need to make some changes.

You'll also see this problem with veteran salespeople who have made a lot of money and have become complacent.  Just because they have succeeded in the past, doesn't mean they will continue to succeed in the future.  And did they really succeed in the past or did they make a bunch of money because they inherited lucrative accounts?

Change is the best way to motivate a complacent sales force.  Send a message that they can all be replaced and that you are willing to make those changes.

Read more of my articles on sales force motivation.

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales development

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

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