10 Selling Scenarios When You Must Slow Down

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 07, 2017 @ 07:02 AM

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Image Copyright honglouwawa

By now, surely everyone has written their Super Bowl articles, drawing inspiration from the game, the comeback and the records to make their points.  In my business, it's rare when someone isn't an optimist but I'm a realist and the realist in me kept saying how improbable it would be - even for Tom Brady and the Patriots - to come from that far behind and tie it - never mind win it - against a team as powerful as the Falcons.  But the Falcons' defense was not accustomed to staying on the field for such long stretches and after the Patriots finally tired them out, the Patriots were able to repeatedly drive down the field at will and claim the historic victory.

I read many articles and quotes after the game but the one that works best in this Blog is a quote from 2016 Cy Young Award Winner, Rick Porcello.  He said:

[When I find myself behind in baseball] There are two things you can do. You can think about how insurmountable it is to overcome or you can think about what you can control. That’s getting strike one on the next hitter and going from there.

I felt like there was a comparison there. [Brady's] thought process and why he’s so good is that he’s able to slow those situations down and focus on the present and what’s in front of him. That’s really hard to do, especially in a game of that magnitude.

And of course, we can easily translate that into the language of sales.

Rick Porcello's thoughts about the importance of slowing down in certain situations and focusing on the present apply to the following 10 sales and sales leadership scenarios.  Slow down:

  1. When sales calls and meetings aren't going as planned
  2. When an important account is making threats about leaving
  3. When a large opportunity is slipping away from you
  4. When your sales have fallen behind your forecast
  5. When you are conducting a discovery call with a new prospect
  6. When debriefing a salesperson on a recent sales call or meeting
  7. When you just heard what you wanted to hear, but you need to question it
  8. When you are qualifying an opportunity
  9. When you feel that you must blow up an opportunity
  10. When you you feel like it's time to bail out on an opportunity

Noah Goldman, Host of The Enterprise Sales Podcast, interviewed me about all of this today.  Listen here.

Nurturing the ability to slow down on demand is one of the greatest skills you can develop.  It goes hand in hand with patience.  You can't have too much and you can't have too little.  One thing that can help, especially on a discovery call, is to have a large number of questions that you can use if the conversation requires it.  This infographic from Hubspot, that was made with Visme, should help you along!

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales forecasts, super bowl 51

An Ode to the Evolution of the Pipeline

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 @ 07:07 AM


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Over the weekend, I was thinking about sales pipelines and inaccurate forecasts, how companies are always experiencing issues at the top of the funnel, and it inspired the following poetry. It won't win an award for imagination, creativity, rhyming or flow. I'll stick to my day job for this, I surely know.

The pipeline on the left with all the eggs in one basket
Scares me to death - a business, one hope, surely heading for a casket
The one on the right has a healthier look
With more opportunities for deals to be booked.

Once so simple, my pipeline for next quarter
Suspects, prospects, and the sales cycle was shorter
Names and numbers on cards was a must
In a shoe box or a file box, today they collect dust.

The prospects were familiar - referred or introduced
Not like today where leads are seduced
Tire kickers, assistants and all the wrong folks
Wanting ebooks and samples -- it's all a cruel joke.

Back then our forecasts were accurate and true
We reached all the ones who made decisions too
They paid on time, not 90 days late
And cared about partnerships since those were first rate.

We have CRM, email, and marketing tools
And our blogs and our websites make visitors drool
Graphics and videos are now all the rage 
And they clog up the pipeline in the very first stage.

I love all the tools for managing the pipe
Membrain is awesome and will keep prospects ripe
While you're sleeping, Hubspot helps prospects find you 
And their Workflows automate your messages too.

ConnectAndSell gets prospects to the phone for you
7 in an hour - almost too good to be true
Schedule new meetings from calls that are cold
It's today's way of calling - what's new is really old.

With all that has changed, one thing remains clear
You must still do the work or your pipeline goes bare
Get on the phone and talk with some prospects
Or quit sales today and move to customer service.

The End. No it isn't.

Selling - the art and science of getting people who didn't necessarily want what you have, to pay you a premium for it. Before you can sell anything, you must have some people to sell it to! Fill the pipeline today!

Would you like to contribute a verse to this pipeline poem? Give it a try - it can't be any worse than mine!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales pipeline, membrain, sales forecasts, chad burmeister, connectandsell

Earthquakes Hold the Key to Accurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

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I love finding cool new apps for my iPad and I'm always looking for the next great weather app.  I recently downloaded eWeather HD and as I poked around, I found something I had never seen before and it has a huge tie-in to sales management, the pipeline, and accurate forecasts!

Appearing right next to the tab for weather alerts, eWeather HD has a tab labeled Quakes.  What the...?  Yes indeed, it logs earthquakes!  Did you know that today, as I write this at 10:18 AM, there have been 6 earthquakes in the past hour?  There was a quake in Eastern Turkey 31 minutes ago that registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, and in the past hour, there were 5 more:

A 2.8 in San Juan, Argentina, a quake in Eastern Turkey that registered 2.3, a 2.4 in the Ionian Sea, a 3.0 in Oklahoma and a 3.1 in Alaska.  And if we go back just 8 hours, there were 14 others, including a 4.3 in Mexico, a 4.5 in Japan, and a 5.0 in Vanuatu.  I don't know about you, but I had no idea that our planet experienced non-stop quakes.  I thought that the ones we heard about on the news accounted for all of the known earthquake activity.

If you run a company, lead a sales force or manage salespeople, you are probably in the dark about salesquakes in much the same way I was in the dark about earthquakes.  The salesquakes registering 5.0 and up on the Kurlan scale - issues that your salespeople come to you with - you know all about those.  But how many of the issues do you hear about when they register below 5.0?

You hear about the deal that's about to close, but then it falls apart.  That's a 6.0.  You hear about the big customer that doesn't renew because they are moving to a competitor.  That's a 7.0.  But do you hear anything at all about opportunities where a salesperson:

  • doesn't get to the decision maker and is talking with the wrong people?  A 4.0
  • doesn't get a firm budget and proposes something the prospect can't pay for?  A 3.9
  • presents or demos to gain interest instead of having a conversation to uncover compelling reasons to buy?  A 4.2
  • is competing against an incumbent and is told the only thing that matters is price?  A 3.4
  • doesn't identify the competition?  A 3.1
  • doesn't tell you that a good opportunity has stalled in an early stage of the sales process?  A 2.9

There are dozens more, but you get the point.  You should know about these salesquakes!

If you have the right CRM solution, and it was configured properly, it would be alerting you to salesquakes in much the same way that eWeather HD alerts me to earthquakes.   If you are using one of the most popular solutions, you probably couldn't identify these quakes even if you were looking for them.

That's one of the things I like so much about Membrain.  There's a ready-to-use version with my Baseline Selling process, Visual Pipeline and methodology built right in that you can get here, or you can contact Membrain for their loaded version with everything you need to run a sales force.

We may not be able to stop earthquakes or even forecast them, but we can put an end to salesquakes and improve the accuracy of our sales forecasts.

Top Sales World and LiveHive have gotten together and published a terrific ebook on getting a jump start to your 2015.  You can download the book here.

You can download the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales management, sales leadership, sales pipeline, sales forecasts, eweather HD

Top 10 Reasons For Inaccurate Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 @ 07:02 AM

sales pipelineFor double article Friday, in addition to my Sales Pipeline Nazi article, I have the following bonuses for you:

For those of you who wanted to attend the Webinar on the Sales Candidate Analyzer, here is a link to the recording.

WittyParrot has just released the Top 50 Sales Productivity Tips ebook with 50 Experts, including me, offering their advice.  Download it here.

And the March Issue of Top Sales Magazine is available!  It includes an article from me and several other noteworthy sales writers.  You can download your copy here.

**********

The Sales Pipeline Nazi

When I wrote this article, the Northeast corner of the US was being walloped by yet another snowstorm, which in this case, was very accurately forecasted.  At the same time, the first email I saw today had a link to a very funny video – a spoof of a Pipeline Review being run by Hitler.  Here is a link to that video on You Tube.

So the storm and the video led me to the following thoughts.

We joke a lot about sales forecasts being no more accurate than weather forecasts, but everything is relative.  An inaccurate forecast of cloudy won’t have much of an impact on anyone, but an inaccurate forecast of sunny and warm might.  An inaccurate forecast of flurries might not cause a problem if they don’t materialize, but an inaccurate forecast of a foot of snow – in either direction – has serious consequences.

Inaccurate sales forecasts are legendary.  Here are the 10 most common reasons why salespeople, sales managers, Sales Directors and CEO’s suffer from this: 

  • They lack a formal, staged, criteria-based pipeline.
  • They lack a functional, sales-specific CRM or Pipeline Management application.
  • Their sales process is not integrated into the CRM/Pipeline Management application.
  • Salespeople have the power to suggest the likelihood of closing.
  • Salespeople have the power to override the application’s weighting of an opportunity.
  • Salespeople fail to LIVE in the CRM application, providing infrequent updates, causing most report and dashboard data to be outdated.
  • There is a lack of accountability for keeping the application up-to-date - not weekly, not daily, but in real-time!
  • The data being entered is not being inspected by management.
  • Nobody cares about getting it right.
  • The concept of pipeline management has not been integrated into the culture.

As for the weather, we learn to live with those inaccurate forecasts by preparing for the worst.  We also learn to check back often, get an updated forecast the night before, the morning of and right before that outdoor event, trip to the airport, or 6-hour drive.  What if our salespeople did that?  What if sales managers did that?

If sales forecasts are truly like weather forecasts and we have learned to make the best of the weather, why can’t we simply employ the same strategies and tactics to sales forecasts?  Why can’t we get updates, check-in, check back, verify and re-verify?  Why can’t we get it right?  Why don’t we get it right?

In my opinion, there are a combination of factors at play that discourage salespeople from taking the steps that I just mentioned:

  • Laziness – “It’s too much work!”
  • Fear of Rejection – "When I check back, what if they changed their mind?”
  • Need for Approval (Need to be Liked)  - “They might not like me anymore.”
  • Fear of being wrong – “How could I live with myself?”
  • Pressure to find new opportunities – The only time hunting takes precedence over anything!
  • Consequences of removing an opportunity and its related value from the forecast and/or pipeline – “It’s much better to slide the opportunity to next month than the alternative.”

We must get sales forecasting right.  And we can.  If one company can do it, all companies can do it.  But it takes a commitment, from the top down, to make it work.  It takes work after the commitment has been made.  If the first 9 reasons, from my list at the beginning of the article, are properly addressed and the appropriate commitment has been made, then any company wishing to have an accurate sales forecast can have one. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, crm, Pipeline, membrain, salesforce.com, sales forecasts

Why Was the Sales Forecast So Unreliable?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 @ 11:02 AM

Yesterday, schools were canceled, non-essential state workers were told to stay home, and businesses were asked to release their employees early. We told our employees that they could leave at Noon. It was quite a powerful storm and we were going to get in the neighborhood of 8-12 inches, all during business hours. Based on history, that is when drivers are most likely to become stranded on the roads. As late as 6 AM, they stuck with their 8-12 inch forecast, with snow scheduled to begin within 2 hours and intensify as the day wore on, snowing as heavily as 2 inches per hour during mid-day.

It never happened. We got an inch - over a 12 hour period - and the state shut down for nothing. And it's not like we can't handle a snow storm here in New England. We can handle anything! They just blew it.   How was this forecast similar to the sales forecast?

Does this ever happen to you? Your sales force? Your company?

Do the sales opportunities that were sure things ever fizzle out or become so delayed that you wonder what could have possibly gone wrong?

Is it because salespeople get too excited about the opportunity and take shortcuts?

Is it because they haven't properly staged the opportunity in the pipeline?

Is it because they're failing to make sure that the opportunity meets the criteria of a particular stage?

Is it because they failed to uncover any compelling reasons for the prospect to buy from them?

Is it because they couldn't push back and can't tell when a prospect is leading them on?

Is it because they developed a good relationship and simply assumed that something good would happen?

Is it because the prospect loved your product or service but had no urgency to buy it? Is it because your salespeople suck at closing and accept every stall and put-off that comes their way?

Is it something else?

When you identify the reasons, the next step is to identify the hidden cause for those reasons.  Failure to identify both the reasons and the causes are why most managers have difficulty getting things to change.  And if you can't change the behaviors, you can't change the results.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan


Topics: sales management, Sales Force, sales forecasts, dave kurlan unreliable forecasts

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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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