What is the Sales Stack and Do You Need it?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 01, 2019 @ 20:10 PM

sales-stack-1

You bought a really nice, new, laptop computer and you thought to yourself, "Now I'm all set!"  But are you?  You needed a case to carry it around, a thumb drive for quickly moving files from your laptop to another, and a printer and if you have a Mac notebook, a port that will serve as adapters to your various cables.  These are your accessories.

You'll also need cloud storage, a broadband connection, email, a browser and 20 or so software applications so your computer can help you do the things you purchased it to do.  This is your technology stack.

But now there is a sales stack too.  What is the sales stack, and should you have one for your salespeople?

The sales stack consists of CRM, gamification, lead engagement, pricing and configuration, proposal generation, e-signature, content sharing, video conferencing, video production, video server, broadcast email, social selling tools, calendar scheduling, sales compensation, and more.  These tools, along with sales and sales management training and coaching, keep sales enablement folks busy.

And therein lies the problem.

You don't need all of these tools!  They are a distraction.  They create busy work.  They take time to learn and integrate.  Very few of them actually help you sell.  But you are told by the people that develop them that you must have these tools.  And you are told by sales enablement folks that you will be getting these tools.  After all, if you are the VP of sales enablement and you don't keep the flow of tools, applications, integration, training and implementation of these tools coming, there isn't much of a need for you to be there.  In order to justify your existence, you "keep 'em coming!"  Sales Enablement is the sales stack's best friend.

The question is, if we didn't have a sales enablement function, how many of these tools would we acquire based on the following criteria?

  • They help salespeople follow their sales process
  • They help salespeople stay organized in their efforts to close business
  • They provide sales leadership with important, realtime data
  • They provide insight and visualization into the sales pipeline
  • They give salespeople more time to sell and less time doing paperwork
  • They make salespeople more efficient

You would have CRM, but it probably wouldn't be Salesforce.com.  If you have a complex sale or a 1 month or longer sales cycle I would advise you to choose Membrain.

You would have an e-signature application to streamline getting your agreements signed.  I like AdobeSign.

If your salespeople aren't in the field or in a territory you would probably have video conferencing.  I like Zoom.

To avoid sending emails back and forth you would have a calendar scheduling application.  I like Youcanbook.me

If you run a company or lead the sales organization, those 4 tools would help your salespeople be more efficient, more effective and more focused.  Add anything else to that "stack" and you are taking away efficiency and effectiveness.

The stack won't sell for you.  The stack won't make your salespeople better.  You don't want the stack for the sake of having the stack.

That's my story and I'm "stacking" to it.  Leave your comments in the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, crm, sales effectiveness, sales stack

How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 @ 16:08 PM

young-v-old-image

I'll be 64 in November which means that just like everyone else, I'm getting older. 

There are certain things that younger people do that change when they get older.  For example, younger adults :

  • go to bars and night clubs but tend to choose dinners out or nights at home binge watching TV when they become more mature
  • go to concerts but tend to choose movies when they get older
  • backpack across the US or Europe but tend to choose cruises as they age
  • want freedom at work but are more open to structure and accountability when they become more mature
  • focus on themselves but tend to focus on their children and then their grandchildren when they become older

The same applies to salespeople.  Young salespeople (0-2 years experience) tend to wing it, while older salespeople (20 or more years experience) tend to be more skilled and structured.  Want proof?  Let's dig into the data.

young-v-old

On average, older salespeople are 105% more likely to be strong and effective than young salespeople.

But let's dig even deeper.  The biggest differentiator between younger and older salespeople is the Qualifier competency.  Older salespeople know that if they don't qualify, they may be wasting their time, while younger salespeople are so thankful for the interest, they might skip qualifying altogether.  Look at the specific attributes of the Qualifier competency below. 

young-v-old-qualifier-1

Notice that as we keep digging, one finding stands out as a difference maker and in the case of the Qualifier competency, it's self-limiting beliefs where older salespeople are 213% more likely to have supportive beliefs around qualifying than their younger counterparts.

If we dig in on self-limiting beliefs, we'll find that two self-limiting beliefs that stand out:

  • It's not polite to talk about people's money
  • I need my prospects to like me.

Those two self-limiting beliefs alone show that older salespeople are  on average 55% more effective than younger salespeople.  I wrote much more about self-limiting beliefs last month in this article.  There are 21 Sales Core Competencies that Objective Management Group measures.  You can see them here and learn how you compare.

It's not surprising to find that old salespeople are more effective than young salespeople but it is very surprising to learn that the biggest differentiators are not skill related. They are Self-Limiting Beliefs which are part of Sales DNA.  If you look at the attributes that make up the Qualifier competency, you'll see that there isn't much difference between young and old salespeople on the skill-related attributes where young and old suck equally:

  • Meets with Decision Maker
  • Uncovers Actual Budget
  • Knows the Decision making process
  • Knows the Decision making criteria
  • Asks about Everything

On average, there is only an 8% difference between old and young on the 5 skill-related attributes.  That doesn't say much for the older salespeople who simply didn't improve over their 20 plus years in sales.

Would you like to comment?  Leave it on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales qualification, sales effectiveness, age difference

Do the Best Sales Managers Have the Best Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 17:08 PM

sales-team

We all see the effects that strong leaders have when they surround themselves with either strong, mediocre or weak people.  What happens when strong leaders inherit a mixed team?  What happens when they hire a mixed team?  What happens when we ask the same questions about weak leaders?

I dug into a subset of data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations of the salespeople who report to more than 15,000 sales managers to determine whether the best sales managers actually have the best salespeople.  I was surprised and disappointed by what I found.  Check this out!

In the first table, you'll notice that salespeople reporting to elite sales managers are 14% stronger overall than those who report to weak sales managers.  That's good, but why isn't there a larger gap?  I'll answer that question shortly.

mgrs-to-sp-comparison

The second table clearly shows that strong sales managers have 25% more elite and strong salespeople reporting to them than elite sales managers. How can that be explained? And the relatively small gap from the first table?

mgrs-w-elite-spI have a simple explanation that you may or may not agree with.  Elite sales managers have so much confidence in their abilities, that they refuse to give up on mediocre salespeople.  They believe that given enough time they can coach everyone up.  Along the same line of thinking, elite sales managers also tend to believe that they don't have to hire A players because as long as the salespeople they select have a great personality and industry knowledge, they believe they can train and coach them to become strong performers. Because of that, elite sales managers tend to take shortcuts at hiring time as evidenced by their lower scores for recruiting.  Without a doubt, they should be using an accurate and predictive sales-specific candidate assessment like OMG's award-winning tool.

While the best sales managers do tend to have better salespeople, the contrast is not nearly as sharp as most of us would expect it to be, but explains why leaders don't understand when strong sales manager's teams are not significantly more effective than weak sales manager's teams.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales performance, hunting, sales effectiveness, objective management group

How Salespeople Must Run Stop Signs and Red Lights - Legally

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 05, 2017 @ 09:09 AM

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Image Copyright iStock Photos

There is one simple thing you can do each day that will dramatically improve your sales effectiveness.

But you don't think it's possible to do what the title says, do you?

Well, it is not only possible, it's crucial - and not only that you do it, but that you do it often and start doing it today.

Okay, so maybe I'm not talking about driving a car.  Maybe the stop signs and red lights I'm talking about are in your head.  But that doesn't make them any less real.  As a matter of fact, you probably stop at more signs each day because of what you think, than you ever encounter when you're behind the wheel.

I'll explain.

About five weeks ago my wife and I watched a movie called What the Health.  The movie scared her into becoming Vegan and convinced me to try it too.  The thought of me and a plant based diet was terrifying!  But I agreed to do it for two weeks and for those two weeks I pushed through.  It wasn't awful but I simply didn't enjoy a lot of the food I was eating.  That was one part.  The other part is that I lost 10 pounds, I had more energy and I felt better.

In other words, I ignored all of the self-limiting talk in my head:

  • It's gonna taste like crap.
  • I'll gag.
  • I won't be able to eat it.
  • I'll throw up.
  • I'll hate it.
  • I won't be able to do it for more than one meal.
  • I won't be getting any real nutrition.
  • Real men don't live on plants.
  • I can't live without ice cream!
  • I should be able to eat organic or grass fed - this isn't fair.

Yes, I ignored all of the stop signs and red lights and good things happened!

It is exactly the same in sales.

If you would simply ignore all of the self-limiting talk in your head:

  • They won't answer the phone
  • They won't want to speak with me
  • They'll be upset if I interrupt
  • I can't ask too many questions
  • I can't push back
  • I have to talk about the company and the product
  • I must provide a quote or proposal
  • I need them to like me
  • It's OK if they think it over
  • I need to sound like I know what I'm talking about
  • It's OK if they talk with my competitors
  • I need to have the best price in order to win the busine
  • I can't call on the final decision maker
  • I need to begin with purchasing

Of course that isn't the complete list - there are 50 more like that - but you get the point.  What would happen if you ignored all of the self-limiting noise in your head and pushed through like I did with food? 

Good things would happen.

Would that be so bad?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales excellence, self-limiting sales beliefs, sales effectiveness

How Executives Fail to Understand the Reasons for Poor Sales and Revenue Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 @ 09:08 AM

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"That wasn't what I expected!"  

You might say that after reading an awesome book, waiting for months and years in anticipation of the movie version, only to be extremely disappointed when the much hyped film failed to live up to what you remembered feeling when turning the pages.

You might also feel let down after leaving a great, but expensive restaurant, but the meal, service or ambiance was quite different from what you had imagined when you heard about the business.

And from experience, I can tell you that once in a blue moon, after we evaluate a sales force and present our findings, a rare CEO can become defensive and react poorly to the results.  When it happens, it's usually a sign that the CEO is out of touch with the sales force.  I'll share some of the things to which they sometimes react badly:

The top 5 findings that a CEO might react poorly to are:

  1. An executive sales leader appears to be weak on OMG's Sales Leadership Evaluation.  The CEO might say, "Well, the only reason we landed that multi-million dollar contract with that billion dollar company is because of Bob.  He sold it himself.  So how do you explain that?" 

    The CEO didn't recognize that the company took a great major account salesperson, place him in the Sales VP role, and instead of leading the sales force and functioning as a Sales VP should, he still wants to be the rainmaker and the star of the show. That definitely makes him a weak Sales VP!

  2. The entire sales team is weak.  The CEO might say, "Then how do you explain our double digit growth over the last 5 years?"  

    The CEO doesn't recognize that the company's success has more to do with great marketing and desirable products than the salespeople who represent them because their salespeople just plain suck!  This is an example of Mediocrity winning out over excellence. If the company grew at double digit rates with this group, then they would be growing by leaps and bounds with stronger salespeople!  

  3. The salespeople have issues around the Will to Sell.  Many of the salespeople lack the kind of commitment to sales success that is required to get to the next level.  The CEO might say, "I can't understand how that can possibly be and I certainly don't know how to fix it."  

    The problem is that the company was hiring the wrong salespeople, focusing on technical skills instead of sales core competencies and in doing so, created a culture of complacency.

  4. With the proper training and coaching, the existing sales force can generate 75% more revenue but it will take 24 months.  The CEO might say, "That's a considerable increase.  I don't believe that's possible.  Why is it so large and why will it take so long?"  

    The problem is that the existing sales force is so weak that they are leaving letting large numbers of opportunities slip through their fingers without any ability to capture it.  It will take 24 months because the gaps are so wide and deep and there is a lengthy sales cycle.

  5. Some of the top account managers evaluated as weak salespeople.  The CEO might say, "They are the top 3 salespeople so they can't be that weak!"  

    The problem is that those 3 account managers manage more revenue than anyone else and they're extremely important to your success.  However, they aren't your top 3 salespeople and we can prove it.  If you took their existing accounts away - which they probably inherited and didn't close themselves -  and asked them to build a pipeline, close some new accounts and generate new business, they would fail in dramatic fashion.

Our eyes can be wide open yet still fail to see what we don't want to see.  When expectations aren't met it causes the three D's - discomfort, disappointment and disaster.  Sometimes you can't see the reality of your own sales force until you have the actual data and use it to look at your people, systems, processes and strategies through a different lens.  Companies that fight the data don't change.  Companies that are afraid of the data remain clueless.  And companies that embrace the data grow by leaps and bounds.

The sales force evaluation is the most important and powerful thing you can implement at your company.  It leads to better decisions, changes based on science instead of hunches, and improvements based on necessity instead of opportunity.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales effectiveness, Drive Revenue

Great, Previously Unread Sales Research Uncovered

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 02, 2017 @ 10:08 AM

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Today I'm bringing you some insightful information that was not widely read when it was published back in 2014.  Tony Cole, CEO of Anthony Cole Training and one of OMG's great partners, forwarded me an article that appeared in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Marketing Research.  The 19 page article, by Kumar, Sander and Leone, was much more intelligent than anything I have ever written or developed. They used vocabulary that I had to look up!  It was so intelligent, that after my third attempt to read it, I still can't figure out what they are saying.  I'm not smart enough.  Anyway, even if you don't attempt to read this article, you need to click on the link and skim the pages just to see how unreadable and math-based it is.  So who are these authors?

Kumar (VK) is the Chang Jiang Scholar (HUST), Richard and Susan Lenny Distinguished Chair & Professor of Marketing, and Executive Director.

Sarang Sunder is a doctoral student in Marketing, Center for Excellence in Brandand Customer Management, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University.

Robert P. Leone is the J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Chair and Professor of Marketing, Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University.

On the ninth page of the article they begin the section on methodology with this paragraph:

"We estimate a latent class model to account for the unobserved heterogeneity. We also account for the potential endogeneity problem that arises due to the opt-in nature of the training interventions using an instrumental variable approach. Next, we describe the details of the model specification and its estimation."

That was the only paragraph in the entire article that I came close to understanding.  To me, it looks more like a document on physics!

They claimed that nobody had ever looked into a methodology for evaluating sales forces until their foray into this area, so they couldn't have looked very hard.  A google search on sales force evaluation turns up 1.8 million results and OMG and/or Dave Kurlan occupies most of the top 10 spots.

At the risk of offending these three scholarly writers, what do they know about sales and salespeople?  Their article studies one large company with around 500 salespeople and they attempt to determine a salesperson's future value to a company.  In their work evaluating the sales force, they don't measure any of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  As a matter of fact, it appears they aren't even aware of the Core Competencies of Selling.  They paid more attention to CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) than any selling competencies that this sales force might have possessed.  If you take a peek, you might conclude the same thing that I did. which, Their model is based more on historical buying patterns of existing customers, retention, and application of those findings to potential new customers. Then they consider the impact of incentives and training. In other words, this isn't even about the salespeople - it's about the customers and whether salesperson incentives and training will cause current and future customers to purchase more.

On the other hand, Objective Management Group (OMG) has a proven process for conducting a thorough sales force evaluation that focuses on the people, strategies, systems and processes of the sales force.  We can accurately predict how much additional revenue your group can bring in after correcting gaps and flaws.  We can identify which salespeople will perform more effectively.  We conduct a pipeline analysis, messaging analysis, and measure 21 Sales Core Competencies.  One of our analyses suggests the best role for each salesperson (when you have multiple roles). We can definitely answer nearly any question you have about your sales force and back it up with science! Check out a real sales force evaluation!

I thought I knew sales.  I've been studying what makes salespeople tick for 32 years and continue to learn and share more each day.  OMG has evaluated more than 1.1 million salespeople and with around 250 findings, we have 275,000,000 data points!

I thought I was pretty smart but I was wrong.  The authors of this article are way smarter than me.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales effectiveness

12 Reasons They Didn't Like You Enough to Buy From You

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 @ 10:07 AM

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Image Copyright iStock

Everyone has had this happen...probably more than once.

You worked hard and smart, thought you did a great job, expected to win the business, but didn't.  Later, you learned that the prospect "Didn't really like your style."

It's not at all unusual, but it is almost always misinterpreted.  Salespeople tend to take this personally by internalizing the comment as, "They just didn't like me.  But why?"

What most salespeople fail to understand is that "style" is really code for something completely different.  I have listed 12 possibilities that style could really mean.  Think back to one of those situations and determine how many of these 12 could have been the real culprit:

  1. Relationship - it wasn't strong enough and you failed to connect.  In extreme cases this would be termed a personality conflict.
  2. Resistance - you were not effective enough at managing their level of resistance and it failed to drop.
  3. Accommodating - you were actually too accommodating and failed to gain their respect.  They saw you as a facilitator as opposed to an expert, a resource or an adviser.
  4. Value - the prospect failed to receive value from the time spent with you and considered you to be more of a vendor or supplier than a resource or adviser.
  5. Content - they did not like what you presented, suggested or recommended.  It wasn't what they wanted to hear.
  6. Listening - they didn't believe that you listened to them or to what they wanted.  You were too interested in following and achieving your own agenda.
  7. Authority - your statements lacked authority and you failed to establish credibility.  You were just like everyone else.
  8. Aggressive - they found you to be too confrontational, or obnoxious.
  9. Intellectual - you relied too much on facts, logic, and figures and failed to include anecdotal stories and examples.  You weren't engaging.
  10. Cultural - they have a defined culture, specific core values, and you didn't fit with their culture
  11. Flow - your meeting or call wasn't conversational, it lacked the give and take and back and forth associated with being a mutually authentic conversation.
  12. Expectations - they had certain expectations of you, your capabilities, your offering, the meeting or call, and you failed to meet those expectations.

Have you been guilty of any of these dozen?  If so, what can you do to improve?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, overcoming resistance, Closing Skills, sales effectiveness, lost a deal, beating the competition, personality conflict

Crucial Selling Take Aways from the 2017 Home Run Derby Lead to Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 @ 09:07 AM

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Did you watch the Home Run Derby on Monday night?  I've never seen anything like it. You could see thunder and lightening through the glass wall in left field as thunderstorms raged while all the home runs were being launched.  Wow, what a show!  Of course, my mind always looks for a correlation to selling and there are some good ones here.  

The sales equivalent to the Home Run Derby wouldn't really work - buyers lining up to place orders with the greatest salespeople on the planet.  That's stupid.  But there's another way to correlate the derby to selling greatness and that is in the area of preparation.  Consider this:

I did some research and found that MLB hitters take as many as 500 swings per day - and they are already among the 750 greatest baseball players in the world.  Resource. What would that look like if we compared it to selling preparation?  Let's consider the following:

  • Each "at bat" (AB) is equal to a sales phone call or sales meeting.
  • Each "dry swing" is equal to a mental review of an upcoming conversation.
  • Each session of batting practice or cage work is equal to a role-play.
  • A swing takes about 3 seconds, so 500 swings is equal to a 25-minute role play.

What if you aren't already one of the greatest salespeople but want to become one?  This article tells the story of a 45-year-old writer with nothing but Little League experience.  He embarked on a quest to become a home run hitter and in doing so it took:

  • 100 swings per day
  • 15 months
  • 28 broken bats
  • a total of 38,400 swings

The key ingredient here is practice and in the area of practice, role playing.   Most salespeople not only hate to practice (read role-playing), but don’t believe it is necessary.  But it's crucial to practice every possible scenario that could come up so that we are completely prepared - for anything. How many salespeople are so thoroughly prepared that it wouldn’t matter what their prospect said, did, or asked and the competition would be irrelevant?

"The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the very things they don't like doing."  

Here is a great movie clip from Hitch that demonstrates how difficult it is to role-play.

 

 

As Aaron Judge became the greatest home run hitter on the planet Monday night, it's important to understand how much practice and preparation was required to get there.  It has taken him his entire short lifetime!

If you want to become a great salesperson - one of the top 7% - then you need to put in the equivalent of your 500 swings every day and practice through role play.  Those who commit to this and make it all consuming will experience financial rewards and personal gratification that will make it all worthwhile.

If you like the baseball/sales analogy, there is none better than the one found in the best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, role play, sales effectiveness, aaron Judge, HR Derby

30 Interesting Non-Selling Subjects to Make You Better at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 05, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

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I was sitting next to a guy who knows that our son is one of the best ball players in his age group in New England.  He is from the former Soviet Union and when he told me that he tought his son to play catch I was confused.  I said, "You didn't play baseball growing up - how were you able to teach him?"  

He said, "When I was in school, we may not have played baseball, but we did have to practice throwing grenades and it's exactly the same motion!"

Who knew?

And he didn't know at the time that practicing grenades would prepare him for something completely different years later.

The same goes for sales.  There are so many subjects, all unrelated to selling, that can make salespeople more effective.

I've written about many of these subjects before.  Don't click on all of them though.  Find 3 that interest you and read only those.  Then leave a comment below on how that could help you.

Intentions and Affirmations

Driving

The Nutcracker

Baseball Practice

George Carlin

Faith

Shoes

Basketball Practice

Military General

Coyotes

Preppers

March Madness

School of Rock

Presidential Debate

The Martian

Jack Reacher

Whiplash

Chris Cagle 

Punishing Ballplayers 

Music

The Mac OS Beachball of Death

Bad Guys

Engelbert Humperdink

Superbowl 49

Blizzard of 2015

Earthquakes

Politics

Band of Brothers

Soup

Baseball

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, sales effectiveness

Phone Prospecting - the Key to Scheduling Meetings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 23, 2017 @ 17:05 PM

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Cold calling is dead.  Not.

Cold calling doesn't work.  Untrue.

Cold calling is a waste of time.  True if you suck at it.  False if you're good at it.  

Even if you are following up on inbound leads your follow up call will be cold.  They don't know you and you don't know them.  Cold.

Back in the 20th century, when I first started cold calling, I hated it so much that I vowed to become so good at it that I could reach my new appointment goal in an hour instead of the 6 hours it was taking each day. It's about being effective, not dialing your brains out!

Today, a salesperson left a voicemail message and he didn't sound bad; but his strategy and script were awful.  Listen to the message below and try to identify what was wrong.  Then watch the video below to hear me talk getting your prospects to pay attention and engage with you on the phone.

Listen to the voicemail.

 

If you took the quiz then you know the right answers, right?

So why do salespeople have such a difficult time on the phone?

In addition to poor strategy, their scripts are awful, they usually sound awful, they fail to get their prospects' attention and rarely, if ever, get their prospects engaged.

Watch this video to get a better sense for what I mean.

 

Latest News -

Kurlan & Associates was named again in the 2017 Selling Power list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies.

The Salesman Podcast, with host Will Barron, just released this interviewwith me talking about Excuse Making.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, sales effectiveness

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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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