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More Fake News in Sales Organizations Than on TV Networks!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 21:12 PM

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Most of your salespeople are just like fake news and I will prove it.  I'm not talking about the elite top 5% or the next group of 15% who are very strong.  I am referring to the bottom 46% of the sales population who, if I am to be completely honest, totally suck. If yours is like most companies, then half of its salespeople fit this description.

I'm going to show you exactly how your salespeople report fake news but first, we need to break down how fake news happens so that I can demonstrate how your weak salespeople do the exact same thing, every chance they can get.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you couldn't wait to share the news?  Excitement is the key element to fake news.

The opportunity for fake news happens when a journalist has an agenda or bias that reflects their personal beliefs. It's true of democrats and republicans, as well as liberals and conservatives.  You've seen it happen on every major news network and in many major publications.  A news story comes along that supports the journalist's beliefs and the journalist - let's call him Happy - becomes so excited that he can't wait tell that story. In an effort to quickly get it out there, he might skip several steps of the editorial process.  Happy might proceed with an anonymous and/or unreliable source, fail to get a second source, not check the facts, report on a document he hasn't seen, take a quote out of context, twist the words, or simply make the story fit his narrative. I've seen more of this in the past eighteen months than in the rest of my lifetime combined.   

As I said before, your salespeople are doing the exact same thing.  It happens when they are talking with a prospect who shares information that the salesperson recognizes as a perfect fit for your product (or service). These salespeople believe that they must present and they become very excited to pitch their product. In an effort to quickly get to the presentation (or demo) they skip several steps in the sales process, don't ask if they are talking with a decision maker, recommend a solution without understanding the actual problem, and submit a quote without thoroughly qualifying the prospect's ability to pay. Later, in the CRM application, they check off the steps of the sales process as completed and later still, their sales manager reads the summary, contributing to an unreliable sales forecast.  And as I wrote here, this contributes to the 16,000 unqualified quotes and proposals being created and sent each day. Unfortunately, I've been seeing this kind of fake news for 32 years because so many salespeople either don't have or don't follow a formal sales process and as a result the sale usually doesn't close.

Getting excited is one of the six major weaknesses found in the Sales DNA of salespeople.  If there was such a thing as Reporting DNA I'm sure the same weakness would be found there too.  But there's a second weakness at play and that's Beliefs.  Reporters aren't the only ones with beliefs.  Salespeople have as many as 75 sales beliefs and the beliefs either support or sabotage their sales outcomes.  In the scenario above, the non-supportive belief that they must present was so strong that it was responsible for the excitement that caused the outcome to be sabotaged.

Fake news is killing our trust in the media, undermining our government and dividing our country.  What do you think happens when your salespeople provide fake news to their sales managers and don't give their prospects the benefit of having a thorough two-way conversation before they jump and present or demo and propose an out of context quote?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales DNA, fake news

Is Excuse Making Actually the Biggest Obstacle to Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 @ 07:12 AM

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I've talked a lot about excuse making and the powerful difference between using your index finger, which points outward, versus your thumb, which points inward.  Today, Brandon Steiner wrote a great little article about taking responsibility.

This video provides another perspective on Excuse Making and how bad that is for sales organization.

 

 

The big thing with Excuse Making is that until the excuse making stops, nothing can change.  So if you want to see improvements in effectiveness, growth in revenue, and a jump in profit, salespeople must execute in a fundamentally different way.  When they rationalize about what happened, accepting that allows them to repeat the mistake.  When they take responsibility, you can ask what they could have done differently.  Excuse Making = Status Quo.  Responsibility = Change.

In the past two months I have been a guest on several shows and the interviews were all quite good!  You might be interested in catching:

  • The Smart Sales Pro Interview where I talked about Sales DNA
  • The Growth Institute Blog where I wrote about Why Sales Training Doesn't Work
  • Will Barron - The Salesman Red interviewed me about Why Salespeople Struggle
  • Rapid Learning Institute featured me as the sales selection and hiring expert in this Webinar on preventing hiring mistakes.
  • I wrote about the Benefits of Getting your Sales Process right on the Growth Institute Blog
  • Will Barron recently interviewed me on sales weaknesses and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.
  • Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on similar topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales DNA, sales excellence, excuse making

Holiday Sales Treat - A Mashup of Two Classic Songs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 06, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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This past weekend I read that the lyrics to the popular Christmas song, "Baby it's Cold Outside" were rewritten to emphasize consent.  And the weekend before I saw the news that Brady Bunch Mom, Florence Henderson, had passed away.  That immediately caused the Brady Bunch theme song to come to mind but my brain tends to combine things. In 2005, when I combined sales and baseball,  it became Baseline Selling, which when I looked as I was writing this, was still ranked #9 in the sales category on Amazon.com.  So my brain went and combined the Brady Bunch Theme song with a lyric change and came up with this diddy on OMG.

If you're too young to know or forgot how the theme song sounds, refresh your memory here.  Then sing these lyrics to that old memory:

Here’s a story, of a normal sales force
That was struggling to grow business every day
All of them had weak performers 'cept their leader
And most had *NFA.

Here’s the story, of their top performer
Who had bigger, badder, better customers
All of them were sold by other sales reps
Before becoming hers…

The OMG Sales Force Evaluation
Showed the boss why sales were rarely getting closed
Most had Sales DNA below a sixty
And pipelines full of holes.

OMG made some really great suggestions
And they followed what we said they had to do
And the changes caused performance to get better
Sales went through the roof.

OMG helps your business make more money
With answers and some truly great insights
And our candidate assessments help recruiting
You'll get selection right.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales DNA, brady bunch, baby it's cold outside, need to be liked, dean martin

What is the Single Biggest Differentiator Between Top and Bottom Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 03, 2016 @ 06:10 AM

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Thanks for continuing to read my Blog - I appreciate it.  There is one Blog that I never fail to read, and that's Seth Godin's Blog.  Seth doesn't write about sales - he pens a thought leadership Blog - but sometimes his articles are very applicable to sales and selling.  Recently, he posted two very short articles - each is less than 30 seconds to read and I believe they are both well worth your time.

The first is Fully Baked.  The second, on a related topic, is Skills vs. Talents

Over the years, I have seen first hand that one of the major differences between great and mediocre salespeople is that great salespeople want to improve - they made themselves great - and mediocre salespeople aren't willing to make the changes to become more effective.  Great salespeople strive for mastery while underachievers don't.  Back in the 1950's Albert Gray said something along the lines of, "Sales winners do the things they don't want to do and the others don't."

All professions have their small percentage of practitioners who aren't very good, but can you imagine the impact we would experience if attorneys, accountants or engineers underperformed to the same degree as nearly half of the sales population?

You can see evidence of that in this article where the data shows that the best salespeople have twice the level of commitment to achieving greater sales success than their underachieving counterparts.  You read that correctly - that's twice as committed!

All salespeople can develop the skills to achieve greater sales success, but only those who are committed enough to make changes can overcome Sales DNA that doesn't support the execution of those skills.  Even so, most salespeople fail to learn even the skills necessary for sales effectiveness in 2016.  And improving their Sales DNA?  Most salespeople have never even heard the phrase and aren't aware that their sales DNA needs to be improved.  We know you can't fix stupid, but how do you fix uninformed?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales DNA, sales excellence, sales commitment, Seth Godin

Sales 102 - The Pitch Deck, the Price Reduction and the Data

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

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Recently I met with a CEO whose salespeople were not closing enough business.  We had just evaluated their sales force and I had the answers as to why their sales were so underwhelming.  Before we could explain what was causing their problem, the CEO said something along the lines of, "We are going to create a new pitch deck and reduce our prices. That will solve the problem!"  

They weren't suggesting a small price change either.  It sounded like an 80% reduction and their reasoning overlapped with one of the contributing issues that we identified.  Their salespeople weren't reaching decision makers which raises more questions.  Why weren't they reaching decision makers and could anything be done about it?  Would lowering their prices solve the problem or did the issue go deeper than that?

It's not terribly unusual when salespeople are unable to reach decision makers but there are always several potential reasons as to why:

  • Tactical - they simply don't know how to get the decision makers engaged in the conversation
  • Conceptual - they don't think they need to
  • Sales DNA - their weaknesses won't allow them to ask to get the decision makers engaged
  • Commitment - they give up when the going becomes too difficult for them
  • Fear - they aren't comfortable speaking or meeting with that level of decision maker

What did the data from the sales force evaluation tell us?

In the case this company, the salespeople didn't believe they needed to reach the decision makers.  As it related to reaching decision makers, their Sales DNA was OK.  Commitment and Fear factors were OK too.  So if they didn't believe they needed to, isn't that lack of direction, inspection and accountability on the part of management?

The other big issue for this sales force was their Sales DNA as it related to money and decision making.  To the salespeople, the amount they were asking for was, "a lot" but the new reduced amount will probably be a lot too.  They also "understood" when their contact stalled to talk with a decision maker who would routinely not be interested in spending that much money.

The Solution

The appropriate solution would be for us to help their salespeople become more effective at getting the decision makers engaged in the conversation and at selling the value of their offering, while helping management coach to those outcomes.  

Lowering the Price

Their reasoning for lowering the price is that the contacts their salespeople are talking with would supposedly have the authority to spend the lesser fee without requiring approval from the decision makers.

Can that work?   

In my experience, if the salespeople don't reach decision makers it won't matter how much they are charging.  They'll continue to hear the same stalls, especially if they continue to begin their first meetings with the pitch deck!  The pitch deck is simply a crutch that turns a potential two-way conversation into a one-way presentation and that makes matters worse instead of better.  If they do convert more often with the lower price, they'll still have to close 5 times as many deals to bring in the same revenue.  So if they are closing 1 of 10 today, and they close 3X more deals but at 1/5 the fee, they will lag 65% behind their previously unacceptable run rate.

On the other hand, if they become effective reaching decision makers, their sales cycle will be significantly shorter, their win rate will improve by 3-5X and at the original fees, their revenue will increase by 3-5X as well.

Hermann Simon wrote the bible on pricing and questions related to how your product or service should be priced can be answered in his book, Confessions of the Pricing Man.

"The question to be answered is, should they do what's easiest and lower the fees, or do what's best for the company and fix the problem?"

It's an obvious choice unless you're the one who has to make the choice, with the future of the company depending on the decision.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales DNA, pricing, selling value, OMG evaluation, pitch deck

How March Madness Applies to Salespeople and Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 21:03 PM

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March Madness is all the rage with college hoop fans glued to their sports news feeds, video highlights, and brackets. In addition to March madness, folks are paying a lot of attention to the US Presidential Primaries, with an audience that's huge in comparison to past election years.  Spring Training began this month and as a baseball fan, I've been waiting for spring training all winter long! These distractions are evident in a number of ways and I can speak to how they affect business, the sales organization and salespeople.

This month, more people are showing up late for online training, showing the effects of staying up late to watch election coverage and debates and seeing how their favorite teams fared the night before.

Prospects have behaved worse than ever.  Salespeople are having even more difficulty reaching prospects and getting calls and emails returned - even from those who have expressed their interest in doing business.

On my own blog, March readership has been upside down with some articles getting only 10% of the views they normally receive.  For instance, here are 4 articles that I can almost guarantee that you didn't read, but that you should have:

Top 5 Conditions for B2B Prospects to Buy Your Services

Top 5 Keys to Prepare Your Sales Force for the Coming Recession

The Strategy That Will Help Nail Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

How to Sell to Existing Accounts So That You Don't Lose to the Competition

Salespeople are exhausted.  The salespeople who are selling to me, the salespeople we are coaching, and the salespeople we are training are all a step behind.  They're not quick enough on their feet, they aren't listening effectively, and they are missing openings, important statements and comments.

Even the salespeople who have been scheduled for job interviews are showing up late, missing appointments and have been generally disappointing in their interviews.

I love all of these entertaining things as much as the next person and I'm short on sleep too.  But we can't let that get in the way of what we need to be doing during business hours.  We all need to operate much like a jet airplane ready for take-off.  When it's time, rev those engines, accelerate down the runway, lift off and soar.  The lazy, distracted, zero-urgency, going through the motions pretenders will not have any success - with me or with anyone else.

If you have the skills and the Sales DNA, then you must be focused, disciplined, consistent, committed, motivated and persistent - characteristics that anyone - and I mean anyone - is capable of for 8 hours a day.  If you lack the skills and/or the Sales DNA, then you must use those same characteristics to develop your skills, overcome your weaknesses and become the best that you can be.

You have a choice - be part of the elite 7%; be part of the strong 16% or be part of the crappy 77%.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales DNA, keys to sales success, hyper sales excellence, presidential primaries, spring training

The Importance of Resiliency in Sales and Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

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We saw Paul Blart - Mall Cop 2 and laughed a grand total of twice.  It was inept comedy, a horrible sequel and a terrible movie.  Despite that, it was a great example of resiliency as Blart is continually rejected, stopped, ridiculed and put-off, only to ignore those events, bear down and try even harder to accomplish his goals.  From that perspective, the movie, and Kevin James, succeed at demonstrating what it is like to be a salesperson.  Every other employee in a company is provided with a job description, a set of goals or expectations, training if necessary, and then left to do their job.  Nobody will stop them or make it difficult for them to complete their work, as long as they are capable.  Salespeople, on the other hand, must deal with prospects who won't answer their phones or emails, competitors who say bad things about them and their companies, as well as products and services that aren't always the best in quality, value, or the best choice.  Salespeople must demonstrate resiliency in order to succeed, yet one of the components of resiliency is sorely lacking in today's modern salespeople.

Only 34% of all salespeople have strong commitment for success in  sales - down considerably from 58% in 2007. Why?  One reason is that selling is more difficult than it was 10 years ago.  Another reason could be the rapid growth of inside sales teams where, unlike the traditional quota-carrying outside salesperson of years past, members of the inside sales team are often younger, less experienced, and not necessarily committed to a career of sales excellence.

Movies have been a great source of inspiration for me.  In addition to utilizing close to 100 different movie clips to demonstrate various selling and sales management lessons during training, a quick search revealed that I have relied on various movies to offer an analogy in more than a dozen Blog articles over the past 10 years.  Among them are lessons from:

We Bought a Zoo 
Dragnet 
Moneyball 
The Pursuit of Happyness 
The Lion King 
The Peaceful Warrior Movie 
Anti-Trust 
Gravity 
The Secret 
First Knight 
The Blind Side 
Coach Carter 

There are lessons everywhere.  All you have to do is look for them.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Sales DNA, sales commitment, movies and sales

A Good Look at Bad Salespeople - Companies Don't Get This!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

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Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

This week I received a cold call from one of the worst salespeople ever.  

I get to see the Sales DNA and Sales Competencies of more bad salespeople than anyone on the planet so I know bad when I see it or hear it.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has assessed more than 750,000 salespeople and when I compare percentages between the beginning and end of the last ten year period, not much has changed.  74% of all salespeople still suck and I get to see just how bad they suck.  Once in a while I get to experience sucky salespeople up close and personal.  What I am about to share is just such a story.

The caller said she was from [ABC Systems] and asked if I was the person that handled such things.  

Yes, the very first thing she said, did or ask was to qualify me as the decision maker.  No pleasantries, no preliminaries, no questions to see if we had any issues, not anything except, WAS-I-THE-PERSON?  BANT is an ancient qualifying acronym with A standing for authority.  But it shouldn't be used THAT soon in the call!  Even if they were using the ancient BANT method, I was only 25% qualified at that point. That didn't seem to matter to her though because upon learning that she had a decision maker, she stated that she would like to send a rep over to talk with me about it.  I guess she believed that if I'm the guy, then I must be qualified enough to meet with a salesperson.    I said I was happy with our current system and thanked her for trying.  In an effort to salvage the call, she said, "I can assure you that we can save you 40-50% off of what you are currently paying."  So much for credibility.  She didn't know what I was paying for my current system.  For all she knew I might have even been using her system. I do know this:  40-50% savings is a promise she simply can't make.

She was working the top of the funnel as an appointment setter. Those roles are important in a company but if she does make an appointment, can you imagine the poor outside salesperson who shows up for that meeting?  It doesn't matter that it's with the decision maker.  If the field sales rep can't save the decision maker that 40-50% he was promised, the salesperson will fail to meet expectations!  And what other expectations can there be after a cold call like that?  The decision maker will not care how it works, how it's different, or how it's better.  The expectations were set:  How much will this cost?  A sale cannot be any more transactional than that!

So what did she do well?  She made the dial, got me on the phone and got me a tiny bit qualified.  

What did she do poorly?  Everything else.  If she had been evaluated or assessed by OMG, she would have scored OK only as a Hunter, but horribly as a Consultative Seller, a Qualifier, a Closer, an Account Manager or a Farmer.  She wasn't even fun to talk with.  She didn't have any intangibles whatsoever.  She shouldn't have been in this role.

Everyone has sucky salespeople - it's just a matter of how sucky they are.  Companies tend to put these junior/inexperienced/ultra sucky people on the phones to do lead generation/inbound/appointment setting/top of the funnel work and this is a great example of everything that is wrong with that.  Why do companies do this?  It costs too much and is too distracting for their highly paid salespeople to be making these calls.  But salespeople are the very ones who can convert these conversations.  Salespeople are the very ones who want to schedule a quality call, as opposed to an awful call.  Salespeople have a vested interest in the outcomes of these calls.  If only there was a way to have salespeople in the conversations, but not waste their time trying to reach decision makers perhaps once or twice every few hours.

Oh wait.  There is a way!  ConnectAndSell has an amazing service that does exactly that.  As of this morning, the dashboard at the top of their website showed that they had delivered nearly 3 million conversations for their clients.  It really works.  Check them out here.

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, prospecting, Sales DNA, cold calling, lead generation

Does Efficiency or DNA Help to Increase Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 @ 15:07 PM

efficiencyThe Salesforce Blog published a new article of mine today - Read How to Create Perfect Sales Conditions.  It's really an article about how to use tools and efficiency to increase your focus and sales.  Speaking of efficiency, Kyle Dougherty, from Prialto, sent me this very cool video today.  Talk about a tool that helps you to be efficient!

Some people have efficiency in their DNA.  Matt Heinz wrote this article for the Hubspot Inbound Sales Blog, asking whether great salespeople are born.  I usually like what Matt writes, but I take issue with this particular article because the science just isn't there for what he wrote.

Compare that article with this article on the same subject.  Or this article, or even this article.

Science has a lot to say about sales selection!  And there's plenty of science available for us to make sales selection more effective, more consistent and more efficient.  

whitepaper banner

And that returns us to where we began this article - efficiency.

Efficiency and effectiveness are choices.  Do things the same way as always and sometimes get it right; or do things in the best possible way and nearly always get it right.  As always, the choice is yours.

 

Image Copyright: feverpitched / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, Salesforce, Sales DNA, born to sell, sales assessments

Science and the Length of Your Sales Cycle

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 07:10 AM

When Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluates a sales force, 1 of the 26 questions we answer for clients is, Can You Shorten Your Sales Cycle?" 

We have some science behind that and as part of the analysis we conduct on a sales force, we can determine whether they have the skills and sales DNA for that to become a reality.

There are 11 factors that contribute to determining whether a salesperson or sales force can shorten their sale cycle, not including the factors that determine whether or not a salesperson is trainable and/or coachable.

In the screen shot below, this real sales force (names have been changed) has, on average, only 3 of the factors.

Shorten Sales Cycle Factors

One of the 11 factors, that has a great deal to do with the length of the sales cycle, is whether or not the sales force and/or the salespeople have an effective sales process.  As you can see from the image above, nobody was following an effective sales process.  Another really important factor is exactly what salespeople actually believe - what they think - relative to the sales cycle.  In the next screen shot, you might be able to read some of the beliefs that this sales force had around the sales cycle:

SLBeliefsThose two factors alone are enough to double the length of a sales cycle!  There are still 9 more factors that have an impact; however, just from what we've discussed and reviewed so far, it's obvious that this company's sales cycle is M-U-C-H longer than it needs to be.

That gives you a sense for how we go about answering questions for companies.  But there is an additional way!

At my sales consulting company, Kurlan & Associates, we use, love and strongly recommend Membrain as a sales pipeline tool.  They have awesome pipeline analytics that are available right out of the box.  Check out the next 2 screen shots that have to do with - you guessed it - sales cycle length!

Sales Cycle Age

This screen shot basically shows that this company has almost no chance of closing an opportunity beyond 51 days.

Sales Cycle Time in Phase

This screen shot shows that opportunities, that spend more than 10 days in any stage, rarely close.

Sales Science:  When you combine the contributing factors to a long sales cycle and then provide salespeople with actual statistics that show what happens when they allow the sales cycle to extend, we can change behaviors.  When we provide an effective sales process, milestones, qualifiers and effective sales strategies and tactics, we can change results.

Are you using all of the science that you can get your hands on to radically change the way your sales force performs?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, crm, Sales DNA, pipeline management, sales science

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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 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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