Are Your Salespeople Selling Price Like Sam's Club or Value Like Nordstrom's?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:11 PM

Doug McMillon, CEO of Sam's Club, was interviewed in the October 27 issue of Fortune.  He said that people are spending about the same money as before but on different things, as the cost of food and energy has reallocated their discretionary spending.

We were at Nordstrom's today and I noticed two things that were unusual for such a "dismal" economy.  Despite the fact that there wasn't a sale taking place and they don't have low-end or discount pricing, they were busy.  And they were staffed - three people were taking care of my wife - all at the same time - and they had more people to help if needed! Yet, if you walk into the discount stores and need someone to help you'd be out of luck. They are down to bare bones.

So what does this say about the state of the economy and more specifically, about discounting and trying to win business based on price?

I received an email tonight from a fan of Baseline Selling asking for help with his positioning statement.  Here's what he sent me:

"I've been very successful helping owners and CFO's who have had so many insurance quotes that it makes their head spin but who don't understand how to reduce their overall cost of risk in their business. I thought you might want to invite me in to learn how our free risk assessment helped other business owners reduce and predict insurance cost in all markets."

As most salespeople do, it was way too long, and focused on the wrong issues, using price as an enticement to get in the door.  He used "quotes", "reduce" (2x), "cost" (2x), and "free".  Do you think he sounded any different from the other agents that are calling these owners?  Do you think they want to talk with him?  Let's ut it this way, if they wanted to talk with him he wouldn't have emailed asking for help.

Here's what I suggested he use instead and, as you might expect, it follows the Baseline Selling syntax for an effective positioning statement.

I help CEO's who can't stand all of the insurance agents that always call at renewal time. Can I ask you a question?

I help a lot of CEO's and the two things I hear most right now are, one, they're not sure how to assess all of their risk, and two, they're not sure how to determine how much of that risk affects their premium. Does any of that ring true for you?

If you are not a Baseline Selling apostle, you may not understand the reasoning behind the choice of words or the message but you can still take my word for it that this will work for him.

Do your salespeople have formal positioning statements?

If they do, are they identifying the issues that differentiate you from your competition?

If they are, is it working consistently?

If your final answer was a "no", here are some more questions:

Is it their message or their ability to engage and deliver it?

Is it their lack of hunting ability or their lack of willingness to hunt?

Is it their willingness to hunt or do you have the wrong people?

Do you know how to find out?

Click Comments to read how the agent responded....

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Baseline Selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales evaluation, sales profile, sales personality test, selling on price, selling against low price, combatting price, selling value

Sales Competencies and Your Competition

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Nov 06, 2008 @ 11:11 AM

If you have heard me speak or you have completed a profile of your ideal sales hire than you know I believe that your products or services fit into one of four categories of resistance:

  1. Your prospects need it and want it - like food - you have a lot of competition.
  2. Your prospects want it but don't believe they need it - like a luxury car - still lots of competition. 
  3. Your prospects need it but don't want it - like personal lines insurance - lots of competition.
  4. Your prospects don't believe they need it or want it - like high-end consulting - much less or no competition at all.  Not that there aren't others in your space, but your prospects are probably not speaking with the others in your space.

Companies don't invest enough time and energy being strategic and tactical about competition.  The approach shouldn't be economic as much as it should be tactical.  Your approach should revolve around neutralizing your competition as opposed to being competitive with your competition.

For most companies, it's a foregone conclusion that your prospects will buy and the only question is from whom they will buy. But what if you are in group 4?   What if the question is not about from whom but IF they will buy?  What if your biggest competition isn't from another company in your space but it's from prospects that don't think they need what you have?  What if your prospects think that they can do it themselves? Do it in-house?  What if they simply don't want your help? What if your biggest threat is their sense of being able to do without?  That's a totally different strategy than one where you must outsell your competition.  The problem is that most of the group 4 companies use the "why you should buy from us" strategy when they should be using the "why buy at all" strategy.

If you're in group 4, you need salespeople that can create a need for what you have as opposed to salespeople who have mastered the ability to present capabilities and make presentations that focus on why you.

So what if you're a company in groups 1-3 and you have competition and instead of perpetuating the "why buy from us" strategy you adopted the "why buy" strategy from group 3?  If you did that you would suddenly be doing two things your competitors aren't doing.

  1. you'd be creating a greater need for what you sell, which leads to the urgency that causes prospects to pull the trigger;
  2.  you would be differentiating yourself from all of your competitors.
In order to pull this off, your salespeople must be able to sell more consultatively (not a word, an approach), sell value (not tell about the value), and become extremely effective at asking good, tough, timely questions (not making presentations).  Do you have the right salespeople?  Can they make the transition?  What will it take? If you haven't done so already, evaluate your sales force to get these answers.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales, sales process, Salesforce, Sales Force, competition, sales evaluation, sales resistance, sales profile, sales personality test

Sales Process - What Have You Gotten Away From?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 05, 2008 @ 13:11 PM

I'm sitting in the back of the room of a Rockefeller Habits two-days workshop being hosted by one of my companies, Kurlan Associates.

There are about 45 executives in the room, many of them clients of Kurlan Associates.  At two of the tables are clients that have been with the firm for so long, twenty years or so, that they have become great friends and two of them have become business partners at Objective Management Group.

One of the first exercises that the group participated in was Cash Optimization Strategies, and the first part of that exercise was Ways to Improve Your Sales Cycle.

Imagine my surprise when my oldest client (1985), my two best friends, my two business partners, identified "we need to follow a sales process" as the number one way to improve their sale cycle at their packaging company.

Forget that I wrote Baseline Selling - a sales process.

Forget that I'm with them quite often.

Forget that I trained them on a sales process 20 years ago.

Forget that these concepts are being discussed and reinforced on a regular basis.

Instead, think about how easy it is to get away from the fundamental processes, strategies and tactics that impact efficiencies, time lines, effectiveness, consistency, communication, confidence revenue and profit.

Take 3 steps back.  What have you gotten away from?

If you've gotten away from it, it's very difficult to remember what you don't do any more.

When I coach salespeople, I ask them to identify a call that didn't go the way they had wanted.  Most salespeople, the first few times through the coaching process, can't identify a single one of those calls.  It's hard to remember what you aren't paying attention to.

Sometimes it takes a sales force evaluation to identify the things your sales force isn't doing, never did, and can't do effectively


(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Baseline Selling, sales process, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales evaluation, sales profile, sales personality test, Rockefeller Habits

Misleading Statistics and Hiring the Wrong Sales Candidates

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Nov 02, 2008 @ 20:11 PM

The November issue of Fortune Small Business has an article called Entrepreneurial Myth Busters. FSB has Ken Blanchard (consultant )and Scott Shane (academic) go head to head answering questions about small businesses and entrepreneurship.  While Blanchard provides insightful answers based on his years of experience working in, consulting to and writing about business, Shane provides surprising answers based on data.  I'm sure that if you read the article you'll agree that Shane's data lead to some very misleading conclusions. Academics who haven't been "out there" can fall in love with their data!

I "browsed" more than 400 articles that I have written for this Blog in the past three years and found only 22 articles where I reference Objective Management Group's data on the 400,000 salespeople that we have assessed. I've been researching, consulting to, evaluating, training, devloping and coaching CEO's, sales VP's, and their sales forces for more than 20 years.  Like Blanchard, I know what's going on out there from being out there but I also have the benefit of having data to back up my first-hand knowledge and resulting claims.

Data has its place.  For example, when Tom Peters said women make better salespeople than men, I knew that to be true - to a point - and then explained it with data.  I believe that the researchers with data should use it responsibly rather than to promote counter intuitive yet irrelevant findings to draw attention to themselves.

I'll illustrate my point by using some of our sales selection data. Take the following statistic for example:

70% of the very strongest salespeople take their assessments prior to 7 AM.

Wouldn't that fact cause you to select salespeople that take their assessments early in the morning? 

Not really. 

Additional Statistic #1 - We assess salespeople from around the world, so most of the European assessments and all of the Asian and Pacific Rim assessments are processed before 7 AM ET. 

Additional Statistic #2 - The very strongest salespeople make up only 6% of the sales population, 70% of that group would yield only 4.2 strong candidates out of 100. 

Without the additional statistics I could have led you to believe that the 7 AM statistic would be valuable!

Look at another statistic on sales selection:

80% of the strongest salespeople do not have Need for Approval.

Wouldn't this cause you to look for people who did not have need for approval?

As with the case above, no.

Additional Statistic - 38% of all salespeople do not have need for approval so you would select the right salesperson only 15% of the time!

This is one of the things that amuses me.  After developing familiarity and confidence with the assessment, a small percentage of clients will simply key in on one finding or another and believe that they can suddenly identify successful salespeople without having to use the assessment. 

Selection is never about one or two findings - it is always about a combination of findings and how that combination will impact the candidate in your business, where there is a unique set of findings that will identify a salesperson that will succeed for you.

Statistics are awesome when they're used in a way that benefits everyone.  When they're used to fool people it makes me angry.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales statistics, Fortune, Ken Blanchard, Scott Shane, hiring assessments

Management's Guide to the Top 10 Differences Between Sales Winners and Losers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Oct 19, 2008 @ 22:10 PM

Friday I wrote this post and today I wrote this longer article about the Top 10 Differences between Sales Winners and Sales Losers.

This post is the sales management version of the article referenced above.

In that article, I asked sales professionals to rate themselves.

In this article, I'll ask you to rate each of your salespeople using the same scale.  Top producers score 40-50.  B players score 30-40.  C Players score 20-30. Below 20? Losers.

Now, use this scale to rate your sales force.

80-100% A Players - You have an over achieving sales force.  Congratulations!

50-80% A Players - You have a core of A players to build around. You're on the way.

30-50% A Players - You know what they look like, now go find some more!

Less than 30% A Players - You are working to hard, hoping for more but often getting less and your pushing the 18 wheeler up hill.  You may need to start from scratch!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, over achievement, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, under achievement, sales winners, sales losers, sales assessments, salespeople, sales success

The Sales Assessment as Crystal Ball

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 @ 10:10 AM

Not all sales assessments are created equal.

That's an understatement.

Yet it's when a client pushes back - not when they look at the recommendation or prediction and accept it - that we get an opportunity to bring our sales assessment to life.

Take the candidate who lacks desire or commitment - not in life, not in general, but for sales.  Clients can't believe it when a candidate they know, with a track record of success, is found to possess lack of desire or commitment. 

Of course, in these cases the clients are on a backward looking path while we are on a forward looking path.  What has happened in the past isn't a guarantee of what will happen in the future.  I won't get in to the factors that could cause an otherwise average or below average salesperson to have wild success in one position and fail miserably at the next but trust me when I tell you that it happens a lot.  That's why it is so important to look beyond what you see on the resume and in the interview.

When we bring a sales assessment to life and use the data points to tell the story behind the findings, then the sales assessment becomes a crystal ball.  How about the former successful business owner who must now apply for a sales position?  He is known in his industry and the client is all excited about hiring him.  Yet the sales assessment says, Lack of Desire and Lack of Commitment.  "How can that be?" The client pushes back because it doesn't correlate to his backward thinking experiences.  But if we look forward the story unfolds.  Can you imagine this former owner, used to running things, making cold calls every day?  Going on sales appointments every day?  Actually hanging in, being tough and closing business the way good salespeople do? Sure the candidate was successful - running his business. But it's not sales success that he wants or is committed to now. Right now he simply needs something to do and he needs to bring in some money.  There aren't many companies posting jobs for former owners and he has all of these industry contacts so why not a position in sales?

If you ask the client what he originally wanted his new salesperson to do he would tell you, "find new business."  And if you were honest about what this former business owner was capable of doing it would be run a business or possibly bring some former accounts to his new company.

While clients get discouraged and sometimes even upset about our ability to bring desire and commitment issues to light, they eventually appreciate their new toy - the crystal ball - their ability to predict the future sales success of every candidate.

Would you like to know why more executives don't use the crystal ball?  They'd rather not know.  They find it more comforting to use hope - and be wrong - than use information and have to try again.  After all, isn't the goal of sales recruiting to hire someone?  And why not the person sitting in front of me?  She has as good a chance of making it as anyone else..."

It's that kind of lazy, quick to the finish practice that leaves us with a sales force filled with under achievers.  The crystal ball will give you a sales force made up of over achievers!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Salesforce, Sales Force, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, sales personality, hiring salespeople, sales profile, sales personality test, sales test

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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