The $225,000 Selling Mistake Most Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2020 @ 07:12 AM

big-mistake

I'm going to share the story of a real salesperson and his current, real opportunity, but change the names of everyone involved.  I hear stories like this every day but this particular one happens way too often.

2 months ago, Bob agreed to a $25,000 pilot for an enterprise size company generating billions in revenue.  At the time, he was told a successful pilot would lead to much more business in 2021.  Last week he excitedly shared that the company was very happy with the results of their pilot to date, and they asked Bob to prepare a business case for exponentially increasing the size and scope of their spend.  The future purchase would be north of $250,000.

While colleagues and supervisors shared their enthusiasm for this exciting moment, my first reaction was, "And why do you think this is good news?" 

"Dave, you're so negative."

I was asked to explain why I felt that way because Bob and his team believed that this was clearly a positive development.  I pointed out that the request to prepare a business case was nothing more than a request for (another) proposal and Bob would once again need to prove and convince the company that doing business with them would provide value, create ROI, and justify the tenfold increase in spend.

The response from Bob's team?  "Good point."

This IS the customer moving forward, but only moving forward to resume their discussions as to whether to or not to move forward with an increase in spend.  One more time. The only thing moving forward is a resumption of the discussion about moving forward.  I did not hear anything about decisions, commitments, intent, budgets, terms, agreements, contracts, PO's, timelines, or closing dates.  The only thing certain, is that Bob can open the opportunity in his CRM application and place a checkmark to indicate that the pilot was successfully completed.  Check! The opportunity did not advance in any other measurable or meaningful way because he is right back where he was in October when he proposed the same solution only to settle for 10% of the business in the form of this pilot.  They weren't convinced then, and apparently, still aren't convinced. 

There are a few issues here:

  • The pilot was not sold correctly - When Bob agreed to the mini-pilot, there should have been a very clear understanding of what exactly would constitute success; and if he met the criteria for a successful pilot, what exactly would happen next.  If the "next" step is anything other than easily and automatically transitioning to the larger order, then Bob should not have begun the pilot.
  • The salesperson had happy ears - When the customer asked Bob to prepare another business case for 2021, Bob should not have been so eager to facilitate.  Instead, he should have asked why they were asking for another business case since he did that prior to the pilot.  Bob should have also asked what they were looking for in the business case, who would be reviewing it, and what would happen after it was reviewed.  If Bob hears anything other than "we'll be signing an agreement" it's a no-go on the new business case/proposal.
  • The sales manager did not push back - Given the poorly executed expectations and next steps prior to the pilot, and the new request for a proposal, the sales manager should have pushed back hard and not allowed either the pilot or the business case to move forward without a better understanding of timelines, next steps and commitments.

This story is not unusual in any way.  Scenarios like this occur at an alarming rate throughout each day at companies across the spectrum of more than 200 industries.  Even good salespeople make mistakes like these and ineffective sales managers allow them to happen time and time again.  Great salespeople, who make up the top 5% of the sales population, never allow scenarios like this to take place.  Weak salespeople, who make up the bottom 50%, always allow scenarios like this to occur.

The story I shared here is just one example of the ripple effect from lack of quality sales training and coaching, and lack of effective sales management.  Much of this could be solved with improved sales selection - hiring the right sales managers and salespeople to begin with.  The rest can be solved with a sales force evaluation to identify the core issues and gaps, and then the right training to better prepare the sales team to execute when they find themselves in scenarios like these.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, closing, selling tips, sales managerment, sales milestones, terms, pilot

The Correlation Between Milestones, Sales Process and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

process

The shit show known as 2020.  Many of us have heard that term used to describe this uniquely strange year.  Despite everything unusual about 2020, there have been some normalcies too.  We celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's and Father's Days, and we will all celebrate the upcoming holidays.  The gatherings might be smaller and more localized, but the holiday won't pass by without us.  These are all Milestones.

Objective Management Group (OMG) celebrated some milestones this year too.  In January we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, in August we processed our 2 millionth sales assessment and in September we updated the industry standard 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Milestones are important.  How are they important to sales success?

Milestones are also the most important components of a strong, reliable, predictive sales process. 

Without specific milestones that must be reached in each stage of the sales process, there is no sales process!

Back in the early 90's, in the very early days of OMG, only 9% of all salespeople had and/or followed a sales process.  While that has improved dramatically in the last 30 years, to 45%, it is still way too low.  Check out these findings.

Sales Process is only one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies yet it correlates perfectly with sales percentile.  As you can see, the best salespeople are 94% more likely to have and follow a sales process while 83% of weak salespeople, the bottom half of all salespeople, are out there winging it!  And when it comes to all salespeople, 55% are winging it.  Hmmm.  That's pretty close to the 57% who don't hit quota, isn't it?

Consider that salespeople who are just winging it usually have milestones.  For example, most lousy salespeople have conceptual milestones for things like:

  • Getting on an approved vendor list
  • Quoting
  • Submitting a Proposal
  • Scheduling a Demo
  • Getting a Prospect to Agree to a Trial

There is nothing wrong with these milestones unless they are the only milestones in a company's or salesperson's sales process. Unfortunately, that's what we usually see, with salespeople looking to achieve late stage milestones without meeting the ten to fifteen crucial milestones that must be achieved PRIOR to the five listed above. A best-practices sales process has at least four stages (think in terms of stages like suspect, prospect, qualified, closable) with each stage having between three and eight measurable milestones.  

Skipping a single milestone can have devastating consequences.  Imagine what can happen when salespeople skip ten to fifteen milestones! 

Very often, companies lacking the appropriate milestones in its sales process have win rates below 15%.  Companies that get their sales processes customized and optimized with predictive scorecards get their win rates up to near 80%!  If yours isn't that high, there's a good chance that sales process is at the top of the list of root causes. 

To get a better sense for what a sales process should look like, and how popular sales processes compare, check out this 11--minute video that I recorded four years ago.

Milestones are important.  One of your milestones should be to make your sales process as structured and predictive as your accounting, operations, manufacturing, programming, legal, shipping or engineering processes.  It is irresponsible for your sales process to not be as solid and well-thought out as each of your other processes. Sales success drives revenue and profit. Why would you allow the single process that drives revenue and profit to suffer from lack of professional attention. 

Sales is not some fluffy art-form that can be molded to the whims of each salesperson!  Sales is more like a software application where the science lies under the hood in its code and the art or personality is infused into the look, feel and easy-to-navigate user interface.  Sales science lies in the sales process and methodology and the art or personality is infused by the salesperson to have a friendly, easy and enticing conversation with the prospect.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales effectiveness, sales success, sales milestones, sales software

Why Salespeople Need to Negotiate and 10 Other Timely Sales Lessons

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 12:05 PM

negotiation-1.jpg

Regular readers know that I have written more than 1,400 articles to help them better Understand the Sales Force.  Some of the articles won awards.  A few were stinkers.  I intended for all of them to be very helpful and I believe they are.  Over the years, some of my favorite articles were completely overlooked, getting relatively few reads compared with the most popular articles that were viewed by tens of thousands of people.

Today I wrote an article for LinkedIn that not only explains Donald Trump's rise to presumptive GOP nominee, but identifies ten, great selling lessons associated with his rise.  It doesn't matter whether you love, hate or are neutral to Trump, I invite you to read my observations and lessons and contribute to the conversation.  You can read the Trump article here.

Speaking of lessons, when salespeople miss key milestones in the sales process – and they are often missed – it leads to proposals and/or quotes that rely on guesswork instead of facts, assumptions instead of agreements, and hope instead of acceptance. When salespeople send proposals to their prospects, they hope the proposal will do the selling for them, but it causes one of four things to happen instead. An article I wrote that appears today on the Selling Power Blog identifies those missed milestones and the four things that happen instead.  You can read the Selling Power article here.  

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales lessons, time management, negotiating, sales groups on linkedin, Donald Trump, sellingpower, sales milestones

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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 medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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