Insights Revealed in The Ultimate Analysis of the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

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Image Copyright iStock Photos

They say that data is king and all this time I thought it was Elvis who was King. Who knew? Unfortunately, it all sounds a bit authoritarian so what if we just say that great data can provide us with great insights so that we can make better decisions?  

Objective Management Group (OMG) has approximately 275 million data points from assessing and evaluating more than 1.1 million salespeople from 11,000 companies. The exciting thing is that there are some very cool things that OMG does with our data.

For example, when we evaluate a sales force we include analyses that you can't get anywhere else. My favorite is our Comprehensive Pipeline Analysis which I wrote about here.

Another one of my favorites is the Ideal Role Analysis where we identify the best people for a particular sales role and the best sales role for each of your people.

I referenced that along with some of the insights from several other analyses in this must read article.

We provide a Strategy Alignment Analysis, a Sales Core Competency Analysis, a Sales Cycle Analysis, a Pipeline Building Analysis and an Analysis of Under-Performing Salespeople. We have a Messaging Analysis, a Value Selling Analysis and a Consultative Selling Analysis. We have a new Analysis of the Coaching Environment, a Sales Leadership Tendency Analysis, a Sales Selection Analysis and a dozen more. Soon we will be introducing a Sales Culture Analysis.

Analyses are great but they can't be analyses simply for the sake of doing analyses.  In other words, we shouldn't do them simply because we can.  We live by our brand promise which is Actionable or it's Free. You should be able to take some actionable step as a result of every analysis we include in a sales force evaluation.  It doesn't mean that you'll like the data or the conclusion.  Why should you?  The very reason for having your sales force evaluated is because it isn't possible to come up with this kind of information on your own!  So while some of the data will reinforce what you were thinking or hoping, most will confirm that changes need to be made.

Here's an example of the top 5 sales force evaluation conclusions and findings that leaders don't like to hear.

The purpose of today's article is to ask if you were going to have your sales force evaluated and choose which analyses to include, which would be most important to you and what kind of analysis would you want that I didn't list above?  Your comments would be great appreciated!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales analysis, pipeline analysis, sales role analysis

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

Top 10 Reasons Why Sales Don't Grow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 06:08 AM

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Have any of these things ever happened to you?  

  • Physical issues - low energy, prolonged pain or discomfort
  • Automobile issues - vibration under the seat or in the steering wheel, car accident
  • Home issues - leaks, faulty electrical, down trees or power lines from storm damage
  • Legal or Tax issues

If they did happen to you, what did you do? Did you call the doctor, car dealer, electrician, plumber, insurance company, lawyer or accountant?  Or did you hope it would all go away by itself?

Of course you made the call because things don't fix themselves.

Yet, despite knowing that things don't fix themselves, thousands of executives believe that sales problems will resolve themselves, change, and improve.  Why?

That's the key question.  Because when you don't know exactly what's wrong, it's much easier to remain in denial.

Most companies all deal with the exact same issues with their sales organizations. Flat or lethargic sales growth, the bulk of the revenue coming from a small percentage of the salespeople, not enough new business, difficulty selling against low priced competition, longer sales cycles, lower win rates, and on and on and on.  It's universal frustration and companies seem to fall squarely into one of four categories on this:

  1. They identify the cause and fix it.  "Hooray.  Sales and profits are on the rise!"
  2. They don't identify the cause but try to fix it through guesswork.  "Well, that didn't work.  We wasted another year!"
  3. They identify the cause but don't fix it. "We can do this ourselves."  Sure you can.
  4. They don't identify the cause and don't fix. "Hey, everyone has these issues!"

While most companies have similar issues, the causes are usually different.  There can be any number of problems that contribute to the observable issues, but these are the 10 I see most often:

  1. Recruiting - ineffective process and/or inconsistent sales selection
  2. On Boarding - is neglected, shortcuts are taken, or it's done poorly
  3. Coaching - sales managers don't coach enough and don't do it effectively
  4. Accountability - there isn't any so it's very easy for salespeople to fall behind
  5. Messaging - you wouldn't believe how bad - how inconsistent - the messaging is at most companies
  6. Sales Process - there usually isn't one and when there is it's either awful or nobody follows it
  7. Training - it's usually either do it yourself bad or it's not provided at all
  8. Gaps - skill gaps that prevent salespeople from being able to take a consultative approach or sell value
  9. Sales DNA Gaps - the strengths required to support tactics, strategies, process and methodology are missing
  10. Pipeline - usually a mess - filled with unqualified opportunities that will never close

Yet it's not enough to simply acknowledge these problems. Even if you are aware that some or all of these problems exist, whether or not they can be fixed is another story altogether!  That's because it is all about capabilities.  What are they capable of today, can they become more capable, how much more capable, and what will it take?  

To answer those questions we need to know if the people trainable and coachable.  Can sales leadership learn to coach effectively and hold salespeople accountable for the required changes?  Can the sales culture be improved to become a coaching culture?  Is leadership strong enough to replace under performers who can't be coached up?  Which skills and competencies must be developed?  How do you deal with the weaknesses in Sales DNA?  If recruiting and selection are to blame, how can it be improved?  How do you incorporate best practices into a inadequate sales process and/or methodology?  Do we need a playbook?  Is it our scripts?

The problem with improving sales performance is that the more you know, the more questions there will be.  And that is why it is so insane when so many executives ignore the problem, pretend they know what to do about it, and don't call for help call until the revenue issue reaches such a state that there isn't enough time or money to fix it.

It is so easy to blame the sales force but don't. They didn't recruit themselves, they didn't train themselves, they didn't set unreasonable expectations, and they didn't make themselves suck.  The blame gets placed higher up - where a false sense of hope and optimism live.

Ask me about a sales force evaluation - knowledge is power!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales performance, sales excellence

Why Uncovering Pain Doesn't Close the Sale with a CEO and the 3 Conditions You Do Need

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 04, 2016 @ 15:04 PM

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Other than birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and sporting events, how many occasions are there when you have repeated an event, in one form or another, for at least 22 years. Not many, right?  This past weekend, I hosted 130 sales experts from around the world as part of Objective Management Group's 22nd Annual OMG Conference.  I'm proud that we kept these sales experts engaged to the point where there were just as many people in the room for the end of the final presentation as there were for the beginning of the first presentation. I want to share 5 out of more than 100 important insights that they took away which apply equally to you too.

Playing Your Part

There were some great take-aways from our keynote speaker, Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports.  He offered dozens of insights and suggestions and shared some great stories, but the two that really stuck with me were:

  1. "Are you a participant or a spectator?"  In my opinion, there are just so many salespeople that would fall into the spectator category - reacting, responding and facilitating - instead of the participant category where they are proactively building their pipeline, gaining traction, achieving velocity and closing business.
  2. "The underdog has nothing to lose - it's like playing with house money!"  It's just like this quote from Band of Brothers which I included in this article, "You're Afraid to Sell Because You Have Hope."   Actual video clip...

Selling to the CEO

One participant asked why it was so difficult to get a CEO to pull the trigger despite having uncovered some pain points. I explained that pain points alone may help to eventually create some urgency, but they represent only one of the three conditions necessary to create enough urgency to cause action.

You may be able to use the pain you uncovered to create the second condition - quantifying the opportunity.  Properly quantifying an opportunity requires using math in a way that helps you build your case, and you can see it demonstrated here.  Quantifying may help you develop a compelling reason for the CEO to move forward, but as I mentioned, it's a CEO, and a CEO may need three conditions to be in place.  The third condition is a connection to their end game - their overall long-term strategy. When CEO's can't see how your solution helps to achieve their long-term strategy and goals, they may not buy despite the pain you uncovered!  

As I explained to the group, it's a lot like a Nor'easter.  For a blockbuster snowstorm like a Nor'easter to materialize, there are three conditions that must exist.  The first is that there must be cold air from Canada in place.  No cold air?  No snow.  The second condition is that the storm must pick up a significant area of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the waters off of the southern coast of the US.  Without the moisture, there can be no big storm regardless of how much cold air there might be.  But there is a third condition that must occur, and that is a favorable track of the storm.  If the storm tracks too far inland, the storm will be in the form of rain.  If it tracks too far to the south and/or east of New England,  only Cape Cod and the islands will see snow.  The storm must track just to the south and/or east of Cape Cod and then most of New England gets a major snow storm.  When salespeople uncover only pain, that's the equivalent of the moisture - but we don't have the cold air in place and the track of the storm sends it out to sea.

21 Sales Core Competencies

We shared the latest enhancements and new features of our Sales Force Evaluation and the attendees were very excited about the expansion of 5 of the Sales Core Competencies for which we already had findings.  Effective today, we have expanded the competency sets for:

  1. Milestone-Centric Sales Process
  2. Relationship Building
  3. CRM Savvy
  4. Social Selling
  5. Pipeline Management (sales management)

We previously included findings/scores for these competencies, but now we show approximately 8 attributes for each of these 5 competencies - a lot more details and explanation. They round out the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure and report on.  The 21 Sales Core Competencies can be seen here.   

Motivation

Last year, we announced that we had expanded our measurement of sales motivation.  We had already begun looking at both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when we began measuring 7 additional ways that salespeople are motivated.  This year, we announced that in addition to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we will begin measuring altruistic motivation.  This is important because sales managers are finding it more difficult to help salespeople who are not motivated by money. When sales managers understand how salespeople are motivated, they can use other strategies and tactics to help maintain motivational consistency.

Zero's are Like Carbs

One of the big take-aways for the group was my comment that zero's are like carbs - they're bad for you.  All of the zeros that appear, when the value of a huge sales opportunity is entered into the CRM application, cause salespeople to become inappropriately excited.  They facilitate instead of pushing back.  They respond instead of being proactive.  They get happy ears instead of continuing to question things.  Just cross out the zeros and treat it like any other opportunity!

There were literally dozens of other insights and take-aways that I don't have time to share today, but if you like these, let me know and I'll share some more in my next post.  I'll know you liked it if you click the LinkedIn share button at the top of the article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, objective management group, creating urgency, selling to the CEO, uncovering pain

Sales Coaching and the Challenges of Different Types of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 08, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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When (other) articles and blogs contain sales statistics, they are often made up.  For example, Andy Rudin wrote this article about made up sales statistics and I recently read this article by Stewart Rogers about made up statistics.  Infographics and videos are two more sources of statistics that are often based more on fiction than fact, yet they still have value, even if the numbers aren't correct.  Here's a new infographic which has useful information, even if the purpose is to promote Fatstax.  Recently a reader directed me to a video on the Harvard Business Review site.  They rarely have accurate, relevant sales-specific information there, so I clicked over with great anticipation.I watched the video on 8 types of salespeople and while I don't agree with there being 8 types, their statistics were fairly consistent with the science and data from Objective Management Group (OMG) which states that there is an elite 6%, 20% that are strong, and everyone else - the bottom 74% - who basically suck.

If you are a fan of the Challenger Sale, the Challenger is one of 5 types of salespeople according to its authors.  In OMG language, the Challenger is one of the elite 6%, with a Sales Quotient of 140 (SQ ranges to 173) or higher and Sales DNA of 83 (ranges up to 100) or higher.  Practically speaking, it means that 94% of salespeople don't have the Sales DNA or Sales Capabilities to sell like a Challenger.

Chuck Mache, says that there are 4 types of salespeople.  While Chuck recommends the Professional for B2B sales, his types are based on personality traits, so there is only a one way correlation.  Someone who has the traits of the Professional is not necessarily a great salesperson, but some great salespeople have the traits of the Professional.  To make that a little easier to understand, a winter storm does not always consist of snow (it could be ice, a wintry mix, or even rain), but snow always comes from a winter storm.

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies, including a salesperson's Will to Sell (4 competencies), Sales DNA (6 Competencies), Sales Capabilities ( 8 competencies) and Systems and Processes (3 Competencies).  When viewed through these lenses, personality traits don't play a part in determining sales success.  If we look at the competencies consisting of only the 8 Sales Capabilities, there are 109,600 possible combinations.  And after factoring in the Will to Sell and Sales DNA, the possible combinations exceed one million.  What I'm saying is that there are more than 4 or 5 or 8 or 12 types of salespeople.  

However, when someone insists that there are certain types of salespeople, I can offer you this.  I have found that when it comes to coaching salespeople, we can place them into one of 11 categories.  Keep in mind that while I can categorize them for coaching purposes, this does not define them as salespeople, and does not correlate to how they approach selling - only how sales managers should approach coaching them.  Here they are:

Talking Tammy - Tammy needs to talk for the first 20 minutes before we can provide 10 minutes of powerful coaching.

Fast Frank - Frank wants only a single question answered in each session and wants to get off the phone ASAP.

Take Away Tom - Tom needs just one take away to feel there was value.

Hit Me Hank - Hank needs to be whacked over the head at some point during each coaching session.

Do it Don - Don must be told what to do and then he’ll do it.

Validation Vicky - Vicky tells us what she wants to do and then needs us to validate that it’s the right approach.

Successful Sandra - Sandra wants us to tweak what already works in order to achieve marginal improvement.

Know-it-All Norm - Norm does not want to be told anything at all.  He needs to figure it out himself.

Timid Tim - Tim needs to have his self-worth validated.

Show Me Shelly - Shelly needs to have her current skill-gap demonstrated.

Broadway Betty - Betty needs to role-play.

I wrote a rebuttal to my 11 types of salespeople that sales coaches encounter.  There is no science to this.  No data.  No statistics.  Like the authors I have criticized over the years, I simply reviewed the files of thousands of salespeople I have coached in the past 30 years, and grouped them into categories based on the types of sales coaching they required.  It is purely anecdotal.  And although it makes sense and can be quite useful, it is entirely lacking in science.  These 11 types are completely unlike what Objective Management Group provides to us.  OMG provides us with the data from the evaluations and assessments of more than 1 million salespeople - a very significant sample size.  And OMG measures so many sales-specific findings that together, they always tell a story about a sales candidate, a salesperson, a sales team, and an entire company.  The story itself isn't science, but the science helps us to tell a story.

While types are entertaining and generally somewhat useful to be aware of, there is no substitute - ever - for real science.

If you want to use science that makes sales selection accurate and predictive, check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.

If you want to use science to identify the changes that will significantly grow sales revenue from your existing sales force, check out OMG's Sales Force Evaluation.

Finally, check out cartoonist Stu Heineke's new book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone.  A number of sales experts, including me, were quoted and there are some great tips, stories and of course, cartoons!

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, the challenger sale, sales types

Learn How We Discovered They Had the Wrong Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 01, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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Would you believe me if I told you that in a recent sales force evaluation, nearly 50% of the 300 inside salespeople were not in the right role?  Recently, we evaluated a large inside sales force and I thought it might be interesting to share some of the more unusual findings that were responsible for this sales team's inability to achieve the revenue goals that the company expected from them.It isn't uncommon to learn that salespeople are not in a role for which they are best suited, although it isn't as easy to determine in sales forces when there may be only one role - like territory sales.  On the other hand, when we evaluate a company with multiple selling roles, our analysis will identify the best role for each salesperson and, as I mentioned at the outset, most on this sales force were not in the right selling role!

This particular sales force was interesting in other ways too. 100% had strong Outlook (we never see that even in much smaller teams), 92% were Coachable and 82% had strong Desire.   As good as that sounds - and it is very good for a large sales force - 47% lacked Strong Commitment. I wrote an award-winning article about the difference between Desire and Commitment here.

Understanding the huge difference between their Desire and Commitment levels, it should not surprise you that the sales managers mirrored the salespeople with their Desire and Commitment scores.  You won't have any difficulty determining whose teams had most of the salespeople that lacked Commitment.

A big part of almost any inside sales role would require finding new customers and that was true with this company.  I'm going to share one of the most interesting findings from the evaluation. It is symptomatic of the Commitment problem and is one of the reasons as to why so few of their salespeople were in the right role.  In the image below, you'll see that there was a near-even distribution of the four groups into which we categorize salespeople when it comes to finding new business.  And in case you aren't sure, even distribution in this area is not good.

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  • 21% will hunt for new business without being asked.
  • 30% would hunt for new business if their sales managers held them accountable.
  • 24% will follow up on a lead, but won't engage in proactive hunting.
  • 24% will not hunt, no matter what, ever.

Training and coaching will not change those percentages, but will improve the skills of the 51% that do or would hunt.  The percentages are reflective of their Sales DNA which, in this case, does not support hunting activities.  48% of them lack the Sales DNA which supports hunting for new business!  That explains a lot, doesn't it?  

This company had a well-known value proposition - you've undoubtedly heard it - but they recently changed it.  The image below shows that their salespeople  were generally not using either the old or the new value proposition in their selling!

inside-sales-value-prop.jpgI know we haven't mentioned a single sales competency or selling skill, but suffice to say that this sales force was extremely weak in the area of skills.  So weak, it isn't even worth sharing the scores for competencies like Consultative Selling, Qualifying, Presenting, Posturing, Account Management, Sales Process, Relationship Building, CRM Savvy, Social Selling, etc.  Instead, let's look at one of the findings that explains why this group was not improving.  In the image below, you'll see that Excuse Makers outnumbered those who take responsibility and the sales managers were even worse than the salespeople.  I'm sure you can guess whose teams most of the excuse makers were on...

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Here is a link to a very short article and video where I explain the huge impact of excuse making.

I'll share one more of the many interesting findings from this evaluation.  Notice from the image below that despite the fact that this company positions itself as providing value, most of the salespeople are not comfortable with their pricing.  The majority believe that they must have the lowest prices in order to succeed.  The sales force is out of alignment with the company's value proposition!!  Here is a great article that describes how quoting prices undermines selling value.inside-pricing.jpg

These examples are just 5 out of dozens of interesting findings that we shared with their executives.  Without learning about these issues, they would have continued going down the wrong path and expanded the sales team's general ineffectiveness.  Read about the impact of scaling sucky sales.  

What about your sales force?  Do you have the right salespeople in the right roles?  Are your salespeople actually capable of executing your plan?  Can they provide the growth that you need them to achieve?  There are two ways to find out.  The first is to wait 12 more months and measure results against expectations. How has that worked out in the past?

The second way is to evaluate your sales force and learn how their capabilities align with your goals, expectations and timeline to discover what, if anything, needs to change.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, Sales Force, inside sales, sales effectiveness study, new business, OMG Assessment

What's Missing from the Report That Says Sales Training Doesn't Make Reps Better?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 06, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

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I could not believe my eyes when I read this report.  It was during the break between Christmas and New Years, so perhaps I wasn't as sharp as would be during a regular business day.  Maybe I missed something.  So I reread the report and the words amazed me even further.  The report claimed that salespeople don't improve their skills as a result of sales training.  Really?  Let's take a look.Here's the link to the article at KD Nuggets.

The goal of the report is to sell us on the power of talent analytics - being able to predict pre-hire whether the candidate will be a top performer - or not.  I'm all for that.  That's one of the things that Objective Management Group (OMG) does so well, so I am invested in a good report that supports our business.  But there are so many holes in this report that moths wouldn't be able to sustain themselves for more than a day.

The report is based on two studies; more specifically, the outcomes of training programs at two companies.  At one, the salespeople were actually underwriters - so they weren't really salespeople as much as they were the point of contact for agency salespeople.  Think customer service whose job is to find a way to say, "Maybe."  The second sold internet service to consumers.  So neither company sought or hired B2B salespeople.  After the author established who was studied, the report talks only about the underwriters.  So let's focus first on the underwriters and what the report doesn't tell us:

  • Did the underwriters have sales managers?  My guess is no.
  • Were the sales managers providing sales coaching? Ditto.
  • Who provided the training?  Was it an outside company or employees?
  • What were they trained on?  Was the content relevant to their roles?
  • How long were they trained and how frequently?
  • Was the trainer any good?  I would guess not.
  • Were the underwriters trainable and/or coachable?  
  • Did the trainers understand where Sales DNA would interfere with execution of skills?  I know they didn't.

The author states that the only thing you can do with underperformers, once they have been hired, is to devote resources to making them average.  Really?  If a company doesn't purposely hire an underperformer, don't they still have the option to terminate?

The second graph is quite dramatic at the 12-year point, when you learn that they only had 5 years worth of data and the last 7 years are "hypothetical" with assumed "linear growth."

I've been in the sales development business for more than 30 years and I can tell you this.  Training results differ from salesperson to salesperson, from company to company, from industry to industry, and from marketplace to marketplace. The single biggest variable on whether training will be successful is leadership commitment.  When a CEO, President or other senior authority is visibly driving the initiative, the results will be dramatically better than when that commitment is not visible to the salespeople being trained.  The second biggest variable is whether the participants are trainable and coachable.  The third is that sales managers must be trained and coached to do two things consistently and effectively prior to training the salespeople.  They must be able to coach the salespeople to the content; and they must be able to hold the salespeople accountable for applying what they learned. The capability of the trainer and the content itself come in at fourth and fifth.

We were not told how these variables impacted the training of the underwriters in the report.

Can training fail?  Of course.  Does it fail regularly?  Yes.  However, from personal experience, it is a rarity when properly designed and executed professional sales training fails.  The first step should be an OMG sales force evaluation which, in addition to answering 19 important business questions, shows who we are working with, whether or not they are trainable, and the specific nature of their skill and Sales DNA gaps. Then, when one of OMG's 150 partners provides the training - the right way - it is very rare for training to fail.

The reality is that the report we looked at was not really a study at all. I believe that it was a lame attempt to make a case for talent analytics.  And they are completely right.  When you get sales selection right, most of these issues simply go away.

For the fifth consecutive year, OMG was named the Top Sales Assessment Tool on the planet by TopSalesAwards.  Our predictive accuracy is legendary.  You can check it out here.  And be sure to read this short article on LinkedIn Pulse on the key Difference Between Sales Winners and Everyone Else.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales talent, sales assessments

Bugged by the Difference Between Great and Lousy Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 @ 09:07 AM

bugged.jpg

Yesterday, I noticed a large, furry, dead bug on the hood of my car. It seemed to be attached to the outer lip of the hood - like the edge of a cliff - right where the hood drops down to the grill. I got out of the car to remove the chunk of dead fur and I was shocked to see how wrong I was. It was dead all right, and it was furry. I'm not a tall person, so I wasn't sitting high enough in the car to notice the distance between the bug and the lip of the hood, but my estimate was off by more than 2 feet! What I thought I saw was completely different from reality.

When salespeople don't call high enough into a company, they experience the exact same thing. What they believe they are seeing and hearing is quite different from what they would see and hear if they were higher up, talking with an executive that can communicate the entire story, rather than the partial view and limited information they get from a middle manager. This is Vertical Reach.

One area where vertical reach has a huge impact is selling value. I wrote a very important article on the role that emotions play in selling value for the Selling Power site last week.  

The ability to truly sell value is one of the competencies that elite salespeople have, but ineffective salespeople don't.  I have data from the nearly 1,000,000 salespeople and sales managers that have been evaluated or assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG). Regular readers have read about the elite 6% and the bottom 74%, but today I want to provide some additional eye-opening statistics that differentiate the very good from the not-so-good salespeople. What makes them different?

That's the question that most behavioral scientists and personality assessments don't answer. They usually find traits, styles or qualities that are common among top performers, while failing to realize that bottom performers have those exact same qualities - qualities that brought them into sales in the first place. They don't see that the bug is 2 feet short of the lip.

OMG clearly differentiates the top performers - the studs - from the bottom performers - the duds. Not only are there findings that differentiate top sales performers from those at the bottom, but some of those findings tend to vary by company, industry and selling role.

For example, in one company, top inside sales performers had sales DNA scores of better than 65, while their bottom performers had Sales DNA scores of below 57; top performers had Sales Posturing scores of over 45, while bottom performers all scored below 37; and top performers had qualifying scores of over 60, while bottoms all scored below 50.  Tops had Figure it Out Factor scores of over 75, while bottoms scored below 63; and compatibility scores were over 72 for tops and under 68 for bottoms. These are just a small sampling of the differences.

In another company, top outside sales performers had scores above 78 for being able to stay in the moment, while bottoms were under 67; tops didn't need people to like them, all scoring over 75, while bottoms scored below 62; tops had scores above 83 for Desire for success in sales, while bottoms had scores below 75;  tops had Sales DNA over 63 and bottoms were below 49; tops had closer skills over 33, while bottoms had scores under 22; tops had account management skills of better than 50, while bottoms had scores under 40. Again, these differences are just a small sampling.  

Those two examples are consistent with the variations we find in every sales force evaluation and very useful when it comes to identifying new sales candidates who will succeed in a specific role at their specific company.  And in case you don't think the differences in scores are significant, consider the difference between a baseball player with a batting average of .300 versus one who hits .270.  The .300 hitter is a perennial all-star while the .270 hitter is rarely known outside of his home market.

Returning to the bug on the hood, there is a much larger difference than what you might see with your own eyes when comparing the elite 6% and the bottom 6%.  For instance:

  • 93% of the elite have strong commitment to sales success compared with only 33% of the bottom.
  • 94% of the elite take responsibility for their results and don't make excuses compared with only 20% of the bottom.
  • 78% of the elite don't need their prospects to like them compared to only 6% of the bottom.
  • 98% of the elite are very comfortable talking about finances compared to only 2% of the bottom.
  • 79% of the elite have supportive sales beliefs compared to none at the bottom.
  • 76% of the elite have supportive buying behaviors compared to 8% of the bottom.
  • 95% of the elite are rejection proof compared to 18% of the bottom.
  • 77% of the elite have most of the attributes of a hunter compared with only 31% of the bottom.
  • 100% of the elite have strong desire for sales success compared with none at the bottom.

As you might suspect, there are dozens of additional differences. For example, elite salespeople have, on average, more than 80% of all possible good Sales DNA, while those at the bottom have less than 55%. [Click toTweet] The impact of those 25 points is HUGE! It's the difference between executing a sales process and methodology versus having only the ability to talk about it.

There are many great reasons to evaluate a sales force. Being able to accurately predict which new sales candidates will succeed at your company is only one of them. One of the best reasons to evaluate is to learn which underachievers can become A players, what it will take, how long it will take, and how much improvement you can expect. Of course, you would also learn which underachievers will never get any better than they are today and why.

Today, we sell in very different times than a few years ago. A sales force evaluation helps us understand which of your salespeople have adapted - who is truly selling value instead of price and who can learn? Who is truly taking a consultative approach and who can learn? Whether the sales force has what it takes to shorten the sales cycle and improve the win rate and why? These are just a handful of popular reasons to evaluate the sales force today. Interested in getting some of your pressing business questions answered? 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales performance, top sales performer

Can the Worst Salespeople be Saved?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

failure2

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo

Recently, I was asked to explain what a company can do with the bottom 74% that I write about so frequently.  It's a great question...and I will share several examples...Depending on the size of your sales force, the relative effectiveness of your sales coaching, the degree to which you embrace sales best practices, and your track record at selecting and hiring only A players, your sales force might not have a top 6%, next 20% and bottom 74%.  Nope.  It could be better - or worse.  Your sales force might have salespeople that are all in the top 26% or all of your salespeople might belong to the bottom 74%.  What's interesting is how that plays out.

For example, let's look at a business where the sale is fairly easy, like providing snack food to convenience stores, where salespeople in the bottom 74% can get that job accomplished without a problem.  Take another business, where the salesperson must sell a 7-figure consulting deal, to the C-Suite, against formidable competition, with a sales cycle that could take 12 months or more, and a salesperson from the top 26% probably won't be good enough.  For this scenario, a person will need to come from the top 6%!

With that as a foundation, let's take a deeper look at the bottom 74%.  First, there are two things we need to acknowledge:

  1. You probably don't know if any of your salespeople are in the bottom 74% unless you have had your sales force evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).  The only accurate observation that you can make without our data is that they are either performing or not performing at your company.  You can guess that the performers are in the top 26% and the non-performers are in the bottom 74%, but both guesses might be very wrong.
  2. You absolutely need to know if your non-performers can be saved.

With that said, let's pretend that you do have some salespeople from the bottom 74% who aren't performing, and that isn't acceptable to you.

Focusing on the data representing the bottom 74% of the nearly 1 million salespeople that we evaluated and studied, it shows that 14% of this group should not be in sales at all.  30% of this group are not trainable, can't be saved and won't ever change - no matter what you do.  Take a look at this sample slide below, which has an analysis of one company's non-performing salespeople and you'll see that in this particular company, 70% of the underperforming salespeople can't be saved, while 1 (green check) and perhaps 2 others (yellow flags) are savable.

 savable

There is good news though.  Statistically, 56% of the bottom 74% can be saved under the following circumstances.  The company must have:

  • The luxury of time
  • Energy to spare
  • Desire to see these people succeed
  • Patience to wait for it
  • Effective sales coaching
  • Financial resources to wait for them to become productive and to pay for their training, coaching and development. 
Plan for it to take around 18-24 months of training and coaching to help these ineffective salespeople become productive.  In comparison, salespeople in the top 26% can improve on their existing skills and strong performance in as little as 4-8 months of the right training and coaching.


Sometimes, talking about the bottom 74% makes the state of sales seem a lot worse than it is.  If improved performance is one of the things that you need to achieve, it's entirely possible with salespeople in the bottom 74%.  You simply need the data to make a good decision.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation by clicking the image below.

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales under achievement, salespeople that don't sell,

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About Dave

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

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