How I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

crap

Those are strong words and probably quite surprising coming out of my mouth but I'll explain it all.  Earlier this week I was leading another Sales Leadership Intensive and during a break it came to me.  

I was emphasizing how important it is to role-play as part of every coaching conversation and that's when I realized that what I was sharing was a bunch of crap.  I even looked up the quantity required to qualify as "a bunch" and I stick by my use of the word.  Selling is just crap and here is what I mean by a bunch of it.

Consultative approach, strong RelationshipsActive listening, and follow the sales Process. CRAP.

But for it to be a bunch of crap, we need more crap, so:

Keep your prospects Comfortable, lower their Resistance, Ask lots of good questions, and use Positioning statements. CRAP.

Challenge your prospects, help them Reveal their problems, speak with Authority, and be Prepared for anything. CRAP.

Establish Credibility, be Rejection-proof, and don't seek their Approval when asking Probing questions.  CRAP.

Uncover their Compelling reasons to buy, Remain unemotional, be Animated and sell value instead of Price.  CRAP.

Discover Consequences, Relax, and help them Articulate how it impacts them PersonallyCRAP.

Calculate ROI, and Anticipate their Pushback.  CRAP.

A big bunch of CRAP.

Don't worry - I'm not going to write a new book on selling called CRAP Selling.  There are already two well-known sales methodologies that use 4-letter acronyms, like Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling, and Jill Konrath's SNAP selling.  But if you want a popular sales solution that features both sales process and sales methodology rolled into one, then order my best-selling book on modern selling, Baseline Selling. I promise that there isn't a single reference to CRAP and after 13 years, it's still ranked #15 on Amazon.

baselineThis video compares Baseline Selling to SPIN Selling, the Challenger Sale, Solution Selling and Sandler.  If you've heard about Baseline Selling over the past 13 years and haven't read the book, listened to the audio book or attended Baseline Selling training, what the heck are you waiting for?  If you aren't familiar with Baseline Selling, the book is a simple way to start.  And if you're in sales and you like baseball, you have found a match made in heaven.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling

Remembering The Most Powerful Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Hold on for a moment and I'll share that lesson with you or, if you can't wait, scroll down to "How I Learned to (Really) Sell.  

If you had to choose a single idea, concept, tip, tactic, developing strength or strategy, which one do you think helps salespeople succeed more than anything else?

It is a difficult question to answer because while we have plenty of science to identify the biggest reasons why salespeople struggle and fail, simply fixing one of those isolated issues won't automatically translate to instant success.

For example, one salesperson might be failing because he needs so much to be liked.  But another salesperson, who doesn't have that issue, might be failing because he can't talk about money.  And yet another might be failing because his Sales DNA doesn't support hunting.  And a fourth might be failing because she lacks Commitment to sales success.  Those might be there single biggest weaknesses, but helping them to overcome their single biggest weaknesses without helping them with all of their other challenges won't lead to success.

So back to my original question, which one thing helps almost every salesperson succeed, even when they have other challenges?

Compared to what I usually write about, the science on this is a bit fuzzier but after more than 30 years of helping companies and their salespeople generate more revenue, I am certain that it all starts with sales process.  A staged, visual, milestone-centric process.  I've written a lot about sales process over the years and my most recent article, for Growth Institute, was one of the best.  

Sales process also causes one to ask, "Which sales process?"  This article answers that question but make sure you watch the video from that article - it brings the concept to life.

Regular readers should be familiar with my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is both a sales process and methodology.  After 10 years, in response to all of the subscribers who have asked for an audio version of the book, the wait is over.  Michael Lenz did the narration and the audio book is now available.  You can order it here but if you are one of the first 5 readers to respond via email I will provide you with a promo code to receive a complimentary copy of the audio book! [Update - Congratulations to Jeff Woolf, Benjamin Barron, Brad Betson, Jeff Anderton and Scott McNeil - winners of the five promo codes.]

Let me share my favorite story from the book.

How I Learned to (Really) Sell

I learned to (really) sell from a career pots-and-pans salesman, Bob Jiguere, one of the top sellers at WearEver™ Aluminum from the 1940s through the 1960s. By the time he got to me in 1974, Bob was in his early sixties, and I had been with the company for just over a year, eleven months longer than most of us who began selling Cutco knives to people in their homes.

I will never forget the first call I went on with him, because it was so surprising in so many ways. First, the call was the complete opposite of the “features and benefits” selling that I had been taught to emphasize. Second…well, I should just tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

We walked up to the third floor of a six-unit apartment building in Lowell, Massachusetts. We were calling on an eighteen-year-old girl who lived in the four-room apartment with her mother. Girls typically bought kitchenware for their hope chests; their mothers usually had well-established kitchen accessories. As we entered the apartment, I noticed that Bob didn’t have his samples with him. But I figured he wouldn’t need them, because this girl could not possibly afford a $250 (1974 prices) set of knives—never mind cookware, flatware, or china. I was sure she and her mother were destitute.

We all sat down at the table, an old gray, plastic-topped table with metal legs. Although Bob did talk with the girl, he spent most of his time talking with her mother. He asked her to make coffee, then cookies, and then complimented her baking.

We had been in there for about 45 minutes, and if it were my sales call, I would have been finished by now. But Bob hadn’t even started! He finally got around to asking the girl some questions—but why in the world was he asking these questions? “Would you ever like to be married?” “Would you ever like to have a family?” “Will you want nice things?” “Have you started putting things away?” “Do you have a hope chest?” “What’s in there?” “Are you helping her, Mom?” “If you found something really special and you really wanted it, could you put aside $10 a month?” I had been taught to present and build value by asking if a prospect was impressed with what I was demonstrating.  I didn’t know where he was going with these questions.

Finally, he sent me to the car for the samples. He opened them but didn’t demonstrate anything, didn’t explain anything, didn’t “build value,” or tell any stories about the knives. He just opened the display and sat there looking at the knives as if they were gold bullion.

Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the girl’s boyfriend, coming over to visit. I figured he was fairly possessive and jealous, because his first question was, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

Well, the girl very nicely replied that “these boys are showing me some nice knives for when we get married.”

“You don’t need that shit,” he said.

I knew where this call was going. We were about 10 seconds from being back in the car and going on our next call.

Bob turned to her mother and said, “These punks are all the same today. All they want to do is get in your daughter’s panties.”

I was going to die, right there and then. I didn’t think it could get any worse, when her mother said, “You’re right! I want you out of my house!”

The punk replied, “Baby, you gonna let her talk to me like that?”

The girl said, “She’s right. Get out!”

Up to this point, I had been 100 percent wrong about everything that had happened. But even as I began to sense that Bob actually knew what he was doing, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. Mom said, “I don’t know how much you sell those knives for, Bob, but I’d like to get a set for my daughter—and another set for me.”

Bob said, “Of course. You are one sharp cookie and a hell of a baker, too. The two sets come to just $500. Do you have that under the mattress?”

The mother said, “Oh, Bob. You know me like a book. Come on into my bedroom and I’ll show you where I keep the money.”

He followed; she lifted the mattress, took out a wad of cash, peeled off $500, pinched his cheek, thanked him for coming, made us finish the cookies, and wished us well.

A dozen or so qualifying questions, no presentation, and he sells two outrageously priced sets of knives to a mother and daughter with no creature comforts or possessions to their name. If you were on that call, would you have sat up and taken notice? I sure did. Selling would never be the same again!

While selling has changed dramatically since then, the lesson has not.  He was ahead of his time and while he would have much to learn about selling today, that approach, integrated into a modern sales process, would fit in very nicely, thank you.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales tips, sales lesson, how to sell

Can Free Sales Content Send You Down a Dangerous Path?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 02, 2016 @ 05:05 AM

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Did you ever drive down a street and see a "free stuff" sign?  Maybe it was a free sofa, chair, or table.  Maybe it was a free lawnmower or bicycle. It even could have been free kid's stuff.  Nearly all of the free stuff you find on the side of the road, available to the first taker, is somebody else's junk.  Instead of throwing it out, and rather than taking the time to donate it (if an organization would have it), they are simply giving it away.  

On the Web, there are three kinds of free sales content available.  

There are free articles - like this one - where you could be inspired, might have to think a bit, might learn of an approach you weren't aware of, or might be privy to some statistics or science you hadn't read about.  

There are free White Papers, which could be anything from a scientific report on Sales Selection, Longevity,Trust, or The Challenger Sale (the topics of my White Papers), to a marketing piece made to look like a scientific report.  

And there are Free Downloads offering a great value in exchange for your name and email address.  I downloaded one such free value this weekend - a Sales Process Cheat Sheet - which promised a standardized playbook and a simple, easy-to-follow sales methodology to help managers coach their inside sales reps into following a proven, standardized process from discovery to close.  Was there value?  It was a joint promotion from Hubspot and InsideSales.com. - maybe you received the same offer in your inbox.  Was it any good?  Was it a process?  Was it a playbook?  Was it a methodology?

It was designed for inside salespeople - BDR's and SDR's - whose role is to connect with prospects and book meetings for account executives or AE's.  In my opinion, it was not a Playbook because it did not show how to execute the call.  Playbooks are how-to's with scripts and action trees.  It was not a Methodology because it did not have a defined approach for moving from one milestone to the next.  Methodologies focus on the kind of conversation that is required to move from one step and stage to the next.  And it was not a Process because it was focused on tasks and outcomes, more than a series of milestones.  A sales process must have stages (typically 4-6) and within each stage, milestones that build on each other.  

Worse than not really being any of the things it was advertised to be, it was WAY TOO COMPLEX for sales reps whose job is to book meetings.  By comparison, the sales processes that Kurlan & Associates builds for companies are designed to be thorough, yet clear, concise and simple.  Simple does not imply that it is inadequate.  Simple means that it works without being overly complex or difficult to execute. Of course Kurlan charges for its work and the cheat sheet we have been talking about was free.  Does that mean it was as valuable as the old sofa, chair or table?

One of the many reader emails I received last week was from someone complaining that he used to get value from my articles, but no longer felt like he did.  I responded to him, apologized, and asked what I could write about that would be valuable for him.  He didn't respond.  No article can be all things to all people.  I'm sure that if you're a regular reader, you dismiss some as easily as you find some save-worthy.  Then there's the free part.  I always save the best stuff for the paying clients, for the consulting and training and coaching and evaluating and recruiting.  Unfortunately, and honestly, the material you get for free falls more into the tease category than the value category.   Even Amazon Prime does that.  There are certain movies that Prime members can watch for free, but you have to pay for the best stuff. 

There are some great thought leaders writing good articles in the sales space.  Just look at the list of the Top 50 Sales Bloggers and you will surely find some useful free content.  But as with my material, the others will save the best, most valuable, and most important information for their paying clients.

It's great that today you can get stuff for free.  Just don't confuse what you get for free with what others are paying for.

Speaking of paying - this is the final call for the last 2 available seats for my Sales Leadership Intensive, May 17-18 outside of Boston. [Update - Sold Out].

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales process, sales methodology, inside sales, top sales blog, insidesales.com, sales playbook

Sales Slumps - What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 @ 13:09 PM

During the course of a baseball season, both hitters and pitchers fall into slumps. In basketball, players slump with their outside shots and from the foul line. Football Quarterbacks go into passing slumps. Golf and Tennis pros have swing slumps. Tiger has been in a slump since Thanksgiving of 2009! (I'm sure there must be some kind of a slump that Soccer players can fall victim to, but I don't know enough about soccer to weigh in.) With slumps being so common, it shouldn't come as a surprise that salespeople get into slumps too. In this article, we'll explore what causes salespeople to get into slumps, what their slumps look like, and how can they be fixed.

In baseball, the sport I know the most about, slumps are often the result of poor mechanics, where the player gets away from doing things that work. My 13-year-old son is in a hitting slump right now. He hasn't been keeping his weight back, resulting in his being way too far in front of the pitch, taking unbalanced swings, dropping his hands, and pulling his head off the ball. It's not unusual, as you can see from the image of Yankee's star Alex Rodriguez, pictured above. My son had a game-winning grand-slam on Saturday, but he uncharacteristically struck out in four of his seven weekend at-bats. It's not his first slump and it won't be his last, but the time during the slump can be difficult as he deals not only with fixing the swing mechanics, but also with the frustration and discouragement of a slump.

In sales, slumps can also come from poor mechanics, where salespeople get away from doing things that work. Some slumps occur at the bottom of the funnel, when deals that were expected to close either don't close at all or are awarded to a competitor.  Slumps can also occur at the top of the funnel, when salespeople experience difficulty converting calls to meetings. Slumps can even occur in the middle of the sales cycle when reps struggle to get traction or velocity with their new prospects.

Regardless of the timing, the causes for a slump can usually be narrowed down to 2 possible categories.

In the 3 scenarios above, the most common cause is rushing, when salespeople hurry to reach a milestone they are comfortable with or an outcome they wish to achieve.  

The other possible cause is laziness. Sometimes the slump is less about converting an opportunity, and more about not having anything to convert. Sometimes salespeople get away from prospecting, asking for referrals, and following up with contacts that at one time weren't ready. 

If this behavior continues for just 90 days, and the salesperson has a 3 month sales cycle, the sales manager won't realize there is an issue until 3 months after the laziness has begun. At the same point in time, the salesperson finds very little in the monthly commission check. Assuming that the laziness is corrected, it will take 3 more months before new opportunities move through the sales cycle, close and produce commissions again. A six-month problem!

How do you fix a sales slump?

Slowing down, listening and asking more questions will usually help salespeople solve sales slumps that arise from rushing.  But just like baseball, you need to practice doing it the right way. And as I learned in short game school, practice makes permanent!

One advantage of a modern opportunity-focused CRM application, a formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process, an up-to-date sales methodology, and on-going sales training and coaching is that each is a reminder of the fundamental things that work. It is far easier to slump without these resources than with them. However, the single biggest resource that can prevent a slump is....

...the sales manager. Daily accountability and coaching are the two most important things a sales manager can do to head off slumps before they can happen.  

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that a proactive sales manager that practices accountability and coaching will replace the resources I just mentioned. No way. They are a package. They must go together! You need a proactive sales manager, and the right CRM, sales process, sales methodology and training.

Pull these things together to minimize the slumps and maximize the sales!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales pipeline, sales slump

How Can Consultative Selling Already be Dead?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

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In this article for Middle Market Executive,Tom Searcy insists that Consultative Selling is dead.  He says that consultative sellers end up with buyers who can only make small decisions, experts end up in purchasing and only industry authorities can reach executive decision-makers.  He also says that consultative sellers ask, "What is your pain?", experts say, "Here is your pain.", and authorities say, "Here is the pain your industry is having and how you can uniquely overcome it."

Is he right?

Let's discuss that right now before your clothes go out of style...

Point 1: Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics on nearly 1 million salespeople evaluated show that on average, salespeople have only 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller.  In the research phase of my recent White Paper, The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence, more than 80% of executives claimed that their sales force was selling consultatively, but my first-hand observations at many of these companies is that they use the word "consultative", but after we evaluate their sales forces, we learn that they aren't anywhere close to selling consultatively.  They only think they are.

Point 2: Like Searcy, most people believe that taking a consultative approach to selling is about finding pain, but that's not true.  Sure, a few consultative methodologies from the 70's were pain-centric, but the consultative approach that my team shares with companies today is about identifying a compelling reason to either buy something for the first time, or a compelling reason for a prospect to move their business from a competitor to your company.  A compelling reason is not necessarily pain, and it will often be an opportunity.  But a true consultative approach uncovers the consequences of not taking action, gets to an emotional level, makes it personal, includes quantification, and creates urgency.  Fewer than 20% of all salespeople have ever learned how to ask more than a question or two before moving to their pitch, presentation or proposal.

Point 3: Today, in order to effectively differentiate, a salesperson must have the conversation that nobody else is having.  That conversation begins with a consultative approach and if it becomes a great conversation with pushback (the challenging of outdated, ineffective or inefficient thoughts, ideas and strategies), it will transition to a collaborative conversation. The salesperson will have earned the respect and status required to sell to an executive.

Summary: I believe that what Tom is really suggesting is that what people are calling consultative selling, is really the same old transactional selling with a few more upfront questions.  He is saying that if salespeople continue to sell that way, they will be relieved of their jobs.  Additionally, if their companies continue to employ this approach, they will no longer be relevant.  A true consultative approach will not only prevail, but will continue to help salespeople differentiate and lead to success.  However, an old and ineffective approach (with 2 or 3 lame questions and a consultative label attached to it) is surely deader than a door knob.

[Update - I heard from Tom Searcy shortly after publishing this article and he responded in the nicest way, as only a professional of his stature would.  Tom said:

Tom Schaff speaks highly of you. Reading your article I have a greater appreciation of why -
Your comments are very accurate and presented in a fashion designed to help people better understand. Thanks for reading and reacting to the article. I think that the issue I am pushing the hardest is not one of “drop consultative” approaches and pick up something new. It is more the issue that consultative selling is not enough and I agree with you, what most refer to as consultative selling is inaccurately labeled.
Best wishes on all of your projects. If there is something that you are working on and I can be of assistance in promoting it, please let me know.
Thanks Tom!]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales methodology, Tom Searcy

Sales Success is Like Making Great Tasting Soup

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 03, 2014 @ 10:11 AM

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Believe it or not, most people still believe that sales success boils down to getting a lot of people to agree to watch a demo.  While that's the case with technology, it doesn't vary too much from that in non-technology sales where most people believe that sales success boils down to one of two things - either a critical mass of meetings, or a proposal or quote.

On the other hand, depending on which experts you listen to, sales success boils down to how effective one is with either Inbound, Social Selling, Consultative Selling, Qualifying, Value Selling, Solution Selling, Relationship Selling, The Challenger Sale, acceptance of the Buyer Journey, Sales Process, Sales Methodology, Prospecting, Telesales, Reaching Decision Makers, Closing Techniques, Value Propositions, Capabilities, Presentations, Metrics, Tools, CRM, Pipeline Management, Training, Coaching, Sales Management, Selection, or Timing.  I'm sure I've missed a few, but you get the gist.

Sales success is no more about any one competency than great-tasting soup is about one ingredient.  If you omit one ingredient, like salt, the soup will taste bland.  If you omit one competency, like Qualifying, your sales effectiveness will suffer.  While you can't leave one ingredient out of the soup, it's also not possible to make soup by focusing on and including only one ingredient.  Likewise, with sales, you can't expect to succeed, dominate your market, and celebrate your results if you focus on and include only one of the competencies on my list.  

It requires all of the competencies, all of the tools, all of the systems and processes, and effective sales leaders to bring it all together.

Companies that abandon their time-tested and proven approaches for new tools and technology are as short-sighted as companies that fail to adopt the new approaches, tools and technologies.  It's not about extremes or polar opposites as much as it's about planning, integration, a practical approach and inspection.

Sometimes, the leaders are too close to know what to keep, what to discard, what to adopt, and how or when to adapt.  Sometimes they are too smart and know the answers without knowing which questions to ask.

Just remember, sales success is a lot like making soup.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, sales methodology, closing, sales performance, sales selelction

Solitaire and Modern Sales Training - What Should it Cover and Include?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 06, 2014 @ 05:10 AM

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Image Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

I've been playing one of those Solitaire games on my iPad and I can routinely score in the neighborhood of 2 minutes and 30 seconds, with my best time being just under 2 minutes.  I thought I was doing pretty well until I realized that my wife routinely scores between 1 minute and 1:20 seconds with her best scores (not score) being under 1 minute.  She has scored as low as 48 seconds.

If not for my wife, I would have thought I was a real pro at Solitaire!

This is exactly how many CEO's, Presidents and Sales VP's view their sales forces.  Without anything or anyone with whom to compare, they form their judgements on sales effectiveness in a vacuum.  I routinely hear things like, "We have a custom sales process.", and "We've been working on consultative selling."  Yet, after a sales force evaluation has been completed, those same companies are routinely found to have been lagging, not leading, in those areas.

When it comes to providing sales training for your sales force, what exactly, should modern training include?

You've read a few too many sales blog posts, watched a few too many sales videos, and read a few too many sales books.  You even might have downloaded some white papers, checked out some websites, and talked to some sales experts.  Many are left with a sense of confusion, because what you think you need is different from what people are talking about, and everyone is talking about you needing something different.  Is anyone right?  Is everyone right?  Is it possible that nobody is right?

Let's discuss the single most imporant thing you should be providing to your sales force right now and how modern sales training should address it.

How must your sales training change and what should it include?  Certainly, the training should depend on whether it's inside inbound, inside outbound, appointment setting, inside with responsibility for the entire sales cycle, major accounts, account management, territory sales, vertical sales, channel sales or traditional sales.

It's true - the training should change for every role.

However, there is one constant, that should be front and center of every training program, regardless of your sales process or methodology, or the sales role, frequency, intensity, or duration of the training.

Regardless of how you find your opportunities, selling begins when the first contact, lead or email can be converted to a conversation, either by phone,  face-to-face or the video conference hybrid.  Once you are selling, then regardless of which stage in the sales cycle you are in, or your sales role, the very next thing that will take place is a stage-appropriate conversation.

All training, regardless of role, must demonstrate how to have powerful, eye-opening, attention-getting, brand-differentatiating conversations.  Better conversations than this prospect has had with any salesperson - ever.

And what are conversations?  They are the result of the flow that occurs when salespeople utilize advanced listening and questioning skills.  In order to train salespseople to have stage-appropriate conversations, the emphasis must be on listening and questioning.  

Of course, training must be more than only conversations.  However, without training and drilling and demonstrating and role-playing and practicing and mastering and applying and improving those conversations, the steps and milestones of the sales process would be only checkmarks on a list.  And the sales methodology, strategies and tactics that are used to move from milestone to milestone would become mostly useless concepts.

Are you providing this kind of sales training to your salespeople right now?  You did it last year?  Good.  What about this year?  You must continue to train salespeople because left to their own devices, the bottom 74% will always go back to their default approach.  You can't take your foot off the accelerator!  Are you providing the kind of sales training that will help your salespeople crash through quotas and goals?  Are your salespeople becoming exponentially better - always?  

Are your salespeople even capable of learning to sell the way I described here?  Shouldn't you find out whether or not they have the potential to sell this way?  Which of your salespeople can improve and sell that way is just one of the many pieces of sales intelligence you get when you have your sales force evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales training, listening and questioning, sales force evaluations

What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 @ 06:07 AM

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If you were on vacation the past two weeks, this is what we were discussing:

June 30: The Top 10 Reasons Your Great New Salesperson Could Fail 
July 1: The One Sales Question I've Been Wrong About for Years 
July 2: The One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling Part 2 
July 7: Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers 
July 8: Top 21 Keys to Making Your Sales Force Dominate Today 
July 10: The New 21 Core Sales Competencies for Modern Selling   

The following article first appeared in the July Issue of TopSales Magazine.

I’m a baseball lover, die-hard Red Sox fan, and proud father of a 12-year-old baseball star.  Having founded Kurlan & Associates in 1985 and Objective Management Group in 1990, the only surprise should be that it took so long to combine the two passions and write Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, in 2005.

Baseline Selling

Companies have terrific results when they implement Baseline Selling, and last week a well-known expert asked, “What is the big secret that makes Baseline Selling so powerful?"  He thought it would make for a great article discussion, so let’s attempt to answer that question by starting with a few questions of my own.

Is it the sales process that makes it so powerful?  The big difference between the sales process in Baseline Selling and other sales processes is that rather than having outcome-based steps, time-based steps or task-oriented steps, it has customizable milestone-centric steps.  You might think that a step is a step, but there are huge differences.  With time-based steps, you may have achieved a certain number of calls or meetings, but you may not have actually achieved the desired outcomes.  With task-oriented steps, you may have completed the tasks, but you may not know whether you are any closer to having a new customer or client.  With outcome-based steps, you may have achieved the desired outcomes, but as with time and task-based steps, you may not know what will actually happen next.  With a milestone-centric process, the sequence of steps is extremely important because the steps build off of each other, and as each milestone is achieved, a salesperson gains more evidence, thus leverage and confidence that they are closer to the sale.

Sales Process Grader

Is it the methodology that makes it so powerful?  Nothing is more important in today’s selling than the conversation that takes place between the salesperson and the prospect.  While other methodologies are based on relationship-building, strategy or tactics, the Baseline Selling methodology is based on the conversation that continues across each stage.  Milestones are known only to the salesperson, achieved within the conversation, and invisible to prospects.  The methodology then, is consistent with the conversation that moves the process from step to step and stage to stage.

Is it because of uncovering compelling reasons to buy?  Unlike needs-based, buyer-journey, or pain-based approaches, the compelling reasons as to why a prospect would move their business to you, or buy this product, service or program in the first place, provides the salesperson with leverage.  It allows the salesperson to build a case using the prospect’s reasons, and helps the salesperson to position the solution in such a way that resonates with what is most important to the prospect.  On the other hand, a need may not be reason enough to change.  The buyer journey includes the salesperson at a point where it is difficult to move backward to gather the necessary information, and pain only works when there is a known problem and a desire to fix it.  While pain could be the source of a compelling reason, the desire to take advantage of an opportunity could just as often be compelling enough for a prospect.  In that scenario, the salesperson seeking to find pain would conclude that in the absence of pain, the prospect should be disqualified.

Is it the concept of SOB Quality?  Before we can discuss SOB Quality, you really need to know how that concept was developed, what it refers to in baseball, and how it translates to selling.  Watch this impromptu 3-minute video for my complete explanation of SOB Quality. 

Now you should understand just how accomplishing SOB allows salespeople to differentiate themselves from their competitors, internal adversaries, and become trusted advisors.  SOB does not exist in other processes, methodologies, sales strategies or tactics.  The closest anyone has come, since this was introduced in 2005, is The Challenger Sale; however, that describes a certain type of salesperson, whereas in Baseline Selling, achieving SOB Quality is simply a milestone that any type of salesperson can achieve.

So what is the big secret that powers Baseline Selling?  While all four of these concepts are important to Baseline Selling, SOB brings selling to a whole new level.  It causes prospects to think, “We need to work with Dave.  He gets it better than anyone else, he asked great questions, he got us on the right track, he helped us realize that we were approaching this the wrong way and we’ve never had a conversation like before that with anyone else!”

There are hundreds of experts offering dozens of processes, methodologies, approaches, strategies, styles and advice.  It’s all good.  All you have to do is choose one that meets the following 10 criteria: 

  1. It resonates with you.
  2. It’s easy to understand, teach and learn.
  3. It’s easy to customize and apply.
  4. It works today and will work tomorrow.
  5. It’s time-tested and proven.
  6. The methodology was designed for the process.
  7. The process is intended to be integrated into your CRM or pipeline management application.
  8. The process and methodology are rich enough to offer layered or stepped learning and application.
  9. The trainer has lived and breathed the process and methodology.
  10. The trainer understands your goto market strategy.

 Most of the executives, who reach out to us for help, tend to incorrectly believe two things:

  1. They already have a sales process - They have some steps, but steps don't make an effective sales process.  It's effective when it's predictive of outcomes, every salesperson follows it, and every sales manager coaches to it.
  2. They have good salespeople, but just need some tips - They may have some good salespeople and some of them can be coached up.  A company has good salespeople when they all overachieve stretch goals.
Image Copyright: sirikul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales methodology, solution selling, Relationship Selling, customer focused selling, buyer journey

What is the Best Sales Model for Your Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 @ 12:01 PM

sales model

This is the 10th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force.  Here are the others:

Earlier this month, I wrote this article about Sales Methodology and today's article focuses on successful Sales Models.  I previously wrote this article about sales models in 2011.

On its own, the concept of a sales model can be confusing, especially when you mention it in the same breath as sales process and sales methodology.  However, when the word "successful" precedes sales model, it lends more clarity to its purpose.

At Objective Management Group (OMG), we have a model that we share with all of our Certified Partners (the companies that provide our award-winning sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments to you).  It clearly shows them what is required in order to generate $1 million in annual revenue.  They don't work for us, so they aren't required to follow our model, but many do and some demand that each producer in their firm follow our model to the letter. 

So what are the components of an effective model and how can they be applied to your business?

Target - A useful sales model should start with your ideal customer.  Who are they?  Where can they be found?  What are their unique characteristics?  What size are they?  In what vertical can they be found?  Why are they your targets?

Revenue - Next, the model should identify what a typical customer would spend in the course of a year, as well as the product make-up on which they would typically spend it.

Activity - Finally, the model should specify what is required of a salesperson to close one customer.  You can work the math backwards as you fill in the blanks.  Note that this not only could, but likely is, different for each salesperson in your company:

To get 1 closed, a salesperson would have to generate __ proposals or quotes, conduct 
__ demos or presentations, qualify__ opportunities, gain traction with  __ quality opportunities (possible result of the first meeting), schedule a first meeting with __ potential opportunities, have __ short conversations by phone, the result of making __ attempts/requests to connect from calls, walk-ins, introductions, LinkedIn requests, leads, etc.

While the ratios to complete the "to sell one" model may be different for each salesperson, you should attempt to settle on a set of ratios that define your best salespeople.  Rather than thinking how unrealistic those ratios could be for your less effective salespeople, allow it to raise the bar, set new expectations and allow sales management to coach and hold salespeople accountable to that level of performance.

After you have identified the ratios to sell one, they should be multiplied by the number of accounts, deals or sales that each salesperson must achieve this year in order to hit their quotas or expected revenue.  The yearly model might look like this:

7500 Attempts/Requests
1500 Conversations
150 New Scheduled Meetings/Calls
100 Quality Opportunities
75 Qualified Opportunities
68 Demos/Presentations
54 Proposals/Quotes
18 Closed

Quickly, convert those annual numbers to the daily or weekly version - it looks much less overwhelming!  A weekly version would look like this:

   155 Attempts/Requests
   31 Conversations
   3 New Meetings Scheduled
   2 Quality Opportunities
   1.5 Qualified Opportunities
   1.35 Demos/Presentations
   1 Proposal/Quote
   0.35 Closed

You may be wondering how this is any different from the days of making 40 cold calls/day. This is completely different.  Those days were about the number of dials and connects and that's all they were about.  And everybody was asked to so the same dialing.   The reality today is that this model might not require any cold calls to generate those 31 Conversations each week.  6 conversations per day could be achieved in a number of ways without having to make cold calls.  On the other hand, a new salesperson in a new territory might have to make cold calls in order to quickly make progress.  The most important thing to understand is that this is a complete model and not just an appointment scheduling model!

Also remember that this will be your model for success.  When your sales managers have the discipline to hold their salespeople accountable to consistently execute your model, while using your sales methodology to follow the sales process, you will overachieve your corporate revenue goals without exception as long as you have considered any changes in your assumptions.

A successful 2014 starts with the right model, a well-chosen sales methodology and a customized, optimized sales process.  You can't expect your sales force to succeed while they continue to sell by the seat of their pants and you can't choose only one or two of the three components presented here.  You need all three in much the same way that a baseball pitcher must have good velocity (model), good secondary pitches (methodology), and good command (process).  He can have two out of the three and it still won't be enough for him to reach the major leagues.

If you enjoyed this series of articles, I am leading a panel of experts in a complimentary webinar on February 5 at 11 AM Eastern called Leading the Ideal Sales Force.  Register.

I am leading a webinar introducing OMG's Candidate Analyzer, an awesome web tool available to users of OMG's Sales & Sales Management Candidate Assessments.  I'll be showing everyone how to access the tool and how to use it.  February 26, 11 AM Eastern.  Register.

I will be speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 10.  Register.

I will be speaking at the EcSell Sales Summit in Charlotte on April 15.  Register.

Image credit: johnkwan / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales model, sales methodology, Sales Force

Why Doesn't Sales Methodology Get More Attention?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 @ 04:01 AM

conversationAccording to FreeDictionary.com, the original definition of Methodology is, "the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge."  Over time, the definition has changed and one present day version is, "A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline."

I've written about Sales Methodology before.  One of my favorites (at least the title) was Sales Process is to Religion as Sales Methodology is to Prayer.  Another Sales Methodology article that I wrote was, Baseball's Huge Impact on Sales Performance.  This also had a math equation within it: Sports is to Selling as Baseball is to Consultative Selling as Pitching and Defense are to Baseline Selling.

If a modern-day sales process is milestone-centric (key outcomes that must be achieved during a sales cycle), then a modern-day sales methodology must support those milestones.

Let's discuss a few possibilities.

As sales processes go, the steps could be as simple as the following:

  1. Appointment
  2. Demo
  3. Qualification                      
  4. Proposal
  5. Close

Watch Dennis Connelly's 3-minute video on this topic:

 

 

The methodology required to convert that process to a productive and effective conversation would be challenging to say the least.  It's safe to assume that when a company goes to market with such a simple sales process, there isn't a methodology to drive the conversation.  To be sure, the key in this process is the demo and the qualification is probably equally simple.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's really two questions around decision-making and timeline.

I once helped a company whose sales process was the opposite of too simple.  It was so complicated that none of their salespeople could remember all the steps!  It went like this:

  1. Inventory of existing components
  2. Size of components
  3. Total capacity
  4. Current usage to capacity
  5. # Users
  6. Reporting Structure
  7. Age of equipment
  8. Budget
  9. Current Vendor
  10. Current Services Provided
  11. Current Fees Paid
  12. Needs Analysis
  13. Estimated of Value of the Opportunity
  14. Technical Fit
  15. Technical Teams Meet
  16. Specifications
  17. Timeline
  18. Credit Worthiness
  19. Trial
  20. Proposal
  21. Negotiation
  22. Contract
  23. Close
  24. Installation
  25. Negotiation
  26. Invoice

This is a horribly designed sales process!  Watch Chris Mott's 1-minute video on this topic:

I will resist going down the sales process path and stick to our discussion of sales methodology.

What methodology would turn that process into a productive and effective conversation?  In a best-case scenario, a salesperson would turn this into 50 questions that a prospect will not want to answer because the prospects don't have the slightest reason to spend their time answering all of these qualifying questions!  Indeed, it would take a very sophisticated methodology to turn this sales process into a conversation.

At this point, you should begin to see two clear themes:

  1. Sales Methodology is all about the conversation between the salesperson and the prospect.  It's how to make it a conversation, how to make the conversation mutually productive and how to guide that conversation to the next milestone.
  2. Sales Methodology and Sales Process are intertwined.  One is not a substitute for the other and one will not work very well without the other.  

    Salespeople that sell by the seat of their pants? - a methodology without a process - Watch my 1-minute video on this topic.

    Salespeople that move from question to question to question? - a process without a methodology - Watch Frank Belzer's 1-minute video on this topic.

[Last week, Dennis Connelly wrote a good article on another important conversation, the one between the sales manager and the salesperson.  And Frank Belzer wrote an important article on the Architecture of a Sales Force.]

This brings me to my original question, "Why doesn't sales methodology get more attention from authors, writers and bloggers, and why does sales process get most of the coverage?" 

In my opinion, it's an educational problem.  Unless executives are able to differentiate between process and methodology, they can't know that one is almost always missing!  If you've been exposed to one of these trainings (SPIN, Sandler, Solution Selling and Strategic Selling), then you know that they're all good.  You also know that there's just something missing!  They are methodologies without processes (even though they might tell you otherwise). 

In other cases, you're getting processes that lack methodologies.  That's why, when I wrote Baseline Selling, I made sure that it had the best of sales process and the best of sales methodology.  It's both, wrapped up in a single title.

Sales Methodology is extremely important today.  Without it, your salespeople lack the ability to have consistent conversations.  Without the right methodology, those conversations may not be as effective or productive as either party would like.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour webinar that will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: huntstock / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales conversation

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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.

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