Why Do Salespeople Forget What They Learn?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

sellingandgolfI was on the golf course 3 times in the past 7 days.  That's 3 more times than I played in the last 2 years combined!  As you might expect, I was very inconsistent and the resulting score was not surprising.  I was never a good golfer, taking it up just 8 years ago when I turned 50.  However, during the first 3 years, I took weekly lessons, went to the driving range each day, and played quite often in an attempt to become good enough to enjoy it.

Perhaps you can relate to this, not necessarily with golf, but perhaps with something else you may have taken up.

I think there is some commonality with selling, as well as a discrepency.

Some salespeople are fortunate enough to get trained and/or coached.  Maybe it's an all-day seminar, not really training as much as exposure to some different thinking or approach.  We don't expect anything to change from a single day, so why should you?  I went to a short game golf school for a day.  It was awesome while I was there, but 4 years later, I can't do any of the things I learned there.  Comprehensive sales training (8-16 months) leads us to expect dramatic change and a significant increase in sales.

Years later, why would you expect salespeople to have remembered, mastered, and continued to use what they learned?  The fact is that without consistent reinforcement and practice, most salespeople will revert back to what is most comfortable and easy for them.  That's  telling, showing, demonstrating, proposing, quoting and following-up.  They gradually get away from questioning, quantifying, justifying, building value, building a case, qualifying and closing.  They revert to rushing and taking shortcuts.

This is similar to forgetting the essence of the golf swing.  My posture was wrong, my backswing was horrible, my follow-through lacked extension, my feet were moving.  I was in such a hurry to hit it great that I hit it awful.  And salespeople are in such a hurry to close the business that they neglect to sell first!

Training is not an event or a one-year commitment.  It's a never-ending process of gradual improvement with the goal of developing mastery.  Unfortunately, for most companies, it's a much shorter term than that and then they believe that sales improvement has been achieved.

Here are links to a few other articles that I have posted about the similarities between selling and golf:

Putting for Eagle - Going for the Unlikely Close 

Teaching Sales in School is Like Learning to Golf on the Wii

Hit More Fairways and Close More Sales  

Sales Effectiveness by Borrowing From Best Ball Golf Tournaments

 

 

 

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales improvement, sales enablement, sales effectiveness

Sales Leadership Challenges to Having a World Class Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

World-Class Sales Organization.

We hear those words a lot.  Some companies aspire to it.  Others claim to be there already.  You are more likely to hear claims like those from a large enterprise, but you have better odds of actually finding it in a small-to-midsize company.

World-Class Sales Organization.

Some would say it's a description of a company's people.  Others would suggest it has more to do with results.  Many would say it's about the size of the sales force.  And a few would point to sales leadership and discipline.

World-Class Sales Organization.

The top team of sales strategists at my sales leadership consulting and training firm, Kurlan & Associates, set out to define what a world-class sales organization is and we developed this model.

World Class Sales Force

There is an important distinction to be made here.  At a large company, there could be one or more individuals responsible for each category in the model.  In a small business, one person (and sometimes fewer than that) may be responsible for all categories.  And in many companies, some of those categories are placed under the direction of people who aren't qualified  to lead them.  In other companies, there are huge gaps where some (or all) of one or more categories are missing.

Let's discuss the challenges of this model in a smaller company where there may be a half dozen salespeople reporting to one sales manager.  How is one person supposed to handle:

  • Sales Leadership 
  • Sales Architecture
  • Sales Infrastructure
  • Sales Talent Management
  • Sales Enablement
  • Sales Human Capital
Some of the help, which we provide in small and mid-market companies, occurs when some (or all) of these pieces are missing altogether, or when they have been undefined or improperly executed.
 
We are nearly halfway through 2013, so this is a good time to determine where the gaps exist in your sales organization and then deal with them.  It's not as important that you get it right, as it is that you have the above in place.  You can get them right over time.

Speaking of time, we're on the cusp of summer which begins on June 21 and it can't come quickly enough for me!  Nancy Bleak, author of Conversations That Sell, has published her 3rd Annual List of sales books you can bring to the beach.  We are proud and thankful that Nancy has chosen to include my best-seller, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball on her list.  We also encourage you to include Frank Belzer's terrific book, Sales Shift, on your summer reading list.
 
If you found this article helpful, you might find these articles on the subject of sales leadership helpful too:
 
 
 
 
 

Help is Here for Salespeople Who Find Themselves as the Underdogs

How Coyotes are at the Heart of Sales Motivation

What Percentage of Sales Managers Have the Necessary Coaching Skills?

Quadruple Dittos Motivate Your Sales Team to Achieve

Latest Debate Had Some Great Sales Leadership Examples

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

The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

Connecting the Dots on Sales Management

Verne Harnish's Rant and 3 Sales Leadership Issues

The Most Important Sales Issues Heading into 2015

Keys to Improved Sales Performance - Part 4 of 4

The Real Problem with the Sales Profession and Sales Leadership

Why Sales Leaders and Salespeople Get Frustrated

Top 10 Sales Leadership Tips From 2013 - So Far

Top 5 Sales Leadership Articles of 2013 - So Far

How Much Sales Development Can Leadership Do In-House?

Sales Leadership Challenges to Having a World Class Sales Force

Sales Leadership Observations about Pipeline and Terminations

Sabermetrics for Sales Leadership - Projecting Sales Revenue

Disagreement Over Sales Leadership Best Practices?

The Sales Leadership Landscape - A Different Perspective

Are Sales Leaders More Receptive to Training Than Salespeople?

Sales Leaders Got These Issues All Wrong

Sales Strategy and Tactics - Thoughts from the Super Bowl

What Sales Leaders Don't Know About Ego and Empathy

Sales Leadership - a Balancing Act to Achieve Compliance and Quotas

Sales Leadership - It's Not About the Title

Sales Leadership - 6th of the 10 Kurlan Sales Management Functions

Sales and Sales Leadership Lessons from Lou Piniella and the Umpire

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales enablement, sales architecture, world class sales organization, sales talent, top sales books, sales infrastructure, sales strategy

This is How Sales Managers Should Coach Their Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 @ 06:03 AM

HallOfFameLast week I posted an article that linked to two additional articles I wrote for EcSELL Institute and Top Sales World.  [Speaking of Top Sales World, they just published a page showing all of the greats (I'm honored to be included) that have been inducted into their Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame in the past 3 years.]  Apparently there were issues with those links from last week because I got dozens of emails letting me know that you couldn't get to those two articles.  I will share the article I wrote for EcSell below.  Sales Management must spend 50% of their time coaching salespeople like this: 

An enormous part of developing salespeople these days is helping them to differentiate themselves from your competitors.  Effectively applying a consultative sales process helps to accomplish this.  Executed correctly, the salesperson has a conversation with a decision maker that is unlike any conversation the competition has had.  It uncovers the compelling reasons for spending money, changing vendors, buying a product or service and, as important, buying it from you.  That creates urgency, and an incentive for a prospect to self-qualify.  The end-result should be a prospect that is willing to spend more to do business with you, and a sales cycle that is not based on winning the price war.

A salesperson told me he met with a customer that had taken their business to a competitor because of price.  It sounded like they were getting what they were paying for: 

    • Paying more for freight,
    • Finding variations in the product,
    • Stocking more inventory than necessary because of availability problems

The salesperson accomplished enough to uncover some issues and while these aren’t compelling reasons, additional questions would lead us there.  To keep the story short and get to my point, let’s assume that the salesperson did enough correctly to continue moving the opportunity forward.   

The Salesperson Comes to You Having Said This to the Former Customer 

“If you had access to local delivery, through a distributor, and the price was competitive, would you consider looking into this?” 

Step 1 – Can you identify what’s wrong with his outdated trial close?

Step 2 – Can you articulate why it’s wrong?

Step 3-  Can you explain the root cause of why it happened?

Step 4 – Can you role play the solution?

Step 5 – Can you get to lessons learned? 

Coaching – Step 1

Forget for a minute that the call to action was horrible; “Look into this” instead of “Pay a little more for my help solving this problem”.  

That wasn’t the worst of it.  

The horror of the salesperson’s question was that he introduced an unnecessary criterion - competitive pricing - for doing business with him.  

Coaching Step 2 - What’s wrong with that? 

Two things: 

    1. Even if you wanted to be the low priced seller, and you don’t, after that question, if you don’t come back with a competitive price you don’t get the business!
    2. He didn’t need to offer competitive pricing because he sold value!  He identified the problem and has a solution for the problem.  That is the value someone will pay for and he undermined it by bringing the customer’s attention back to price! 

Coaching Step 3 – What’s the Root Cause? 

The salesperson was afraid to ask the customer to pay more so there are 4 potential weaknesses at play, as well as the possibility that he hadn’t remembered the correct way to ask the question.

    • Discomfort talking about money prevented him from addressing it
    • Understanding of Price Sensitivity because that’s the way he buys
    • Need for Approval caused him to believe the customer may not like him anymore if he asks a tough question.
    • Self-Limiting Belief that he needs a competitive price in order to get the business 

Coaching Step 4 – Can You Role Play the Solution? 

Salesperson: “How important is it to have continued availability of quality, local inventory?”

Customer: “Extremely important”. 

Salesperson: “Tell me how that would affect your business. 

Customer: “I’ll have control over costs and availability.” 

Salesperson: “Peace of Mind?” 

Customer: “Exactly.” 

Salesperson:  “And, in order to solve this problem, get local, as needed, quality inventory, eliminate your enormous freight costs, and restore peace of mind, are you willing to pay a little more for my help and solve this problem once and for all?” 

Coaching  Step 5 – Lessons Learned

I hear an awful lot of salespeople complaining that they can’t sell in their business unless they have the best price.  The reality is that there are only four reasons why price becomes an issue:

    • The salesperson made it an issue (experience)
    • The salesperson accepted that it was an issue (non-supportive beliefs)
    • The salesperson didn’t know how to prevent it from being an issue (tactics)
    • The salesperson was foolishly calling on purchasing instead of an actual decision maker who owned a problem or an opportunity. (strategy)

What did you learn?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales skills, sales management, Sales Coaching, EcSELL Institute, sales weaknesses, sales enablement, sales effectiveness, Top Sales World

Harvard Business Review Blog Off Target on Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 04, 2013 @ 23:03 PM

This recent article in the Harvard Business Review Blog was as far off target as any I have ever debunked.  Steve Martin lists 7 characteristics that he says differentiate great sales forces from good ones.  His seven are:

  1. Strong Centralized Command and Control with Local Authority, 
  2. Darwinian Sales Culture, 
  3. United Against a Common Enemy, 
  4. Competitive but Cohesive Team, 
  5. DIY Attitude, 
  6. They Suspend Negative Belief Systems, and 
  7. There is Energy and Esprit de Corps!

Compare that with the six I wrote about in this article:

  1. Effective Sales Selection for Appropriate Sales DNA,
  2. Effective Sales Coaching,
  3. Effective Sales Accountability,
  4. Formal, Structured Consultative Sales Process,
  5. Sales and Sales Leadership Training, and
  6. Coaching and Development and Hunting for New Business.

By the way, I'll be leading our top-rated Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, May 14-15, 2013, and we'll be doing justice to all six of my competencies.
Steve's seven characteristics may be common among the 200 companies he worked with, but common is not the same as cause.  Whether these seven characteristics are adopted or not is dependent on personnel.  As noted on my list, if the #1 priority of a sales organization is the selection of top talent, most of Steve's seven characteristics are unnecessary.  If the #1 priority of a sales organization is to protect the status quo, and/or retain underperforming veteran salespeople, Steve's seven characteristics may be more necessary.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has studied 650,000 salespeople and 100,000 sales managers from around 10,000 companies and if we looked only at common findings, we would be completely misled about the top sales management core competencies.
Whether you call them competencies or characteristics, which ones will actually cause a sales force to perform to their greatest potential?  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales management functions, harvard business review, sales enablement, sales management competencies

Why Salespeople Won't Abandon the Early Demo and Presentation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 04, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

changeTwo weeks ago, I wrote this article about how demos and presentations are like snack foods.  One of the comments, by Jason Kanigan, said:

"Traditional selling revolves around the demo/presentation. The result is we end up giving many presentations to unqualified prospects. Hit a lot of rejection. Spin our wheels.  
  
Move the demo/presentation phase to the END of the process. Only show how you do what you do to fully qualified prospects. Otherwise, you are merely giving a free education to someone who will thank you, but buy from another person who can give it to them at the lowest price. And you'll be sitting there, wondering what the heck happened."

Jason is right, but it's more complicated than that.  He nailed the location/timing of the demo/presentation as well as the likely outcome. But, he didn't explain what must happen instead or why it is failing to happen more than 75% of the time.  To be fair to Jason, I covered what must happen instead in that article, so I'd like to discuss why selling effectively isn't happening more frequently and with more salespeople.

Consider some of the major innovations that have been introduced in the past century:

  • Personal computers replaced typewriters, calculators, journals and even people.
  • Email replaced fax machines and is significantly reducing the demand for mail.
  • The internet is replacing the library as a source for research.
  • Cars replaced horse-drawn carriages.
  • Satellites and cable television have replaced roof-top antennas.
  • Cell phones replaced pay phones and are reducing the demand for home land lines.
  • Indoor plumbing replaced outhouses.
  • Electric lights reduced the demand for candles.
  • Television reduced the demand for and changed the programming on radio.
And to come full circle, smart phones are reducing the demand for personal computers and 3D high-definition home theaters are replacing the television.

People WANT these advances in technology; they wait in line for new products at Apple stores! Conversely, salespeople STILL WANT TO PRESENT.  For most salespeople, the presentation and demo are what they do best, what they have the most confidence in, and how they define selling.  They don't see anything wrong with it in much the same way that a young child doesn't realize that it's wrong to act out in a public indoor gathering.

Until salespeople can be shown just how ineffective it is to demo and present early in the sales process, and until they realize that presenting is not selling, they will not demand or even embrace change.  Until they realize that a sales cycle consisting of nothing more than presenting, explaining, demoing, proposing and chasing is inefficient and ineffective, they will not change.  Until they understand that to differentiate, decommoditize, and build a case for their offering, they will need to sell consutatively and follow a structured sales process they will not change.

I know from first-hand experience how long it takes for this series of events to unfold.  We can get a sales force to recognize the error in their ways, understand the benefits, and buy-in to a new sales process and corresponding methodology on the very first day of training.  However, getting them from buy-in to mastery is another story all together.  Consultative Selling requires a reliance on effective use of advanced listening and questioning and lots of it.  It usually takes 3 months before salespeople can begin to have quality conversations and resist presenting, and another 3 months for them to become comfortable.  It can take 8-12 months before they become consistently effective.  While salespeople typically don't realize just how much work and practice is required on the first day of training, they certainly figure it out by the third month of training.  By then, they not only want to improve, they have tremendous urgency to outsell everyone else on the team.  After all, at this point they finally recognize that what they used to do wasn't really selling.

If you want your sales force to strive for sales excellence, the bottom line is that your salespeople won't drive this transition and neither will a sales manager.  You have to drive it.  You must commit to it and it must be a sustained commitment.  It's not a do-it-yourself project, so you must also be prepared to do it correctly, get help from a results-oriented firm, and lead by example.

Demos and presentations are powerful, but not until you have an interested, motivated, qualified buyer.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales enablement, sales effectiveness, sales assessments

Subscribe via Email

View All 1,700 Articles

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.

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile

Subscribe 

Receive new articles via email
Subscribe
 to the Blog on your Kindle 

 

Audio Book
Top 30 on Kindle
Top 100 on Amazon

Most Recent Articles

Awards

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

Leaading Sales Consultants 2018

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2017 - Article/Post - Gold
 Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2017 - Assessment Tool - Gold

 2016 Top Sales & Marketing Individual Blog - Bronze

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 -  Bronze - Thought Leader

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Podcast - Gold

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Webinar - Gold

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 - Bronze - eBook/White Paper

2018 Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs Widget

Dave Kurlan Top 50 Sales Influencer 2015

Sales Pro Insider Blog

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers

Top100Strategic

Top100SalesInfluencersOnTwitter



Hubspot Top 25 Blogs

 

Free Tools

Sales Process Grader

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Sales Ghost Calculator

Sales Force Grader

Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator

FREE Recruiting Process Grader