The Future of Selling - Understanding This Crucial Sales Competency is More Important Than Ever

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 @ 13:04 PM

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Image Copyright donskarpo

While much about selling has changed in the past 10 years, most of the science behind sales excellence has not changed at all.  While there have been a few changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies, most of them have remained the same as well.  Most of the average scores in those 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as the percentage of salespeople with gaps in those Core Competencies, don't change much either.  However, Sales Motivation is one competency where the changes have been dramatic over a very short period of time and today I want to share those changes, as well as how the changes impact salespeople, sales leaders and sales organizations.

Definitions - Let's clarify the difference between Desire for Success in Sales and Sales Motivation. Desire is how badly a salesperson wants to achieve greater success in sales.  Motivation is the "what" behind that Desire.  What is driving that Desire?  Desire and Motivation are part of a triad of sorts, with the third, and most important piece being Commitment to achieve greater success in sales.  It doesn't matter how strong the Desire is if the Commitment isn't there.  And it's with that triad where some of the changes are occurring.  Many companies are hiring recent college graduates to fill inbound and outbound lead generation roles or, in other words, appointment setting roles.  Many of these kids haven't chosen sales and they tend to score low on both Desire and Commitment.  And that's where Motivation comes in.  At least there's that.  But there have been dramatic changes with Motivation.

Changes - During the time that Objective Management Group (OMG) has been measuring both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in salespeople, we have seen a tremendous shift over a relatively short number of years.  For example, in 2007, 54% of the sales population was extrinsically motivated.  Four years later, in April of 2011, I reported that 50% fewer salespeople were money (extrinsically) motivated, bringing the percentage to just 27%.  Fast forward another 6 years to April of 2017 and when we look at the most recent 350,000 salespeople to have been assessed, the percentage is down an additional 70% to just 8%!

Would you like to see the data and the average scores in all 21 Sales Core Competencies?  You can!  Our brand new site shows you the average scores for all salespeople, the top 10%, the bottom 10%, salespeople in your industry, and salespeople at your company.  The scores are very interesting! See OMG's data here.
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Impact on Companies - Most compensation plans are designed to provide incentives to salespeople that are motivated to earn commissions.  But if most salespeople are now intrinsically motivated, then most compensation plans don't work the way in which they were intended. There are exceptions but generally speaking, most companies must get some help from sales experts who understand the new trend, understand accounting, and have the ability to help you develop a new plan.

Impact on Sales Leaders - Most sales leaders have learned to motivate using the carrot - read commission - but that's not really in play to the same degree as it once was.  Intrinsically motivated salespeople respond to coaching.  Yesterday I wrote about how great sales coaching lets you off the hook on motivation, accountability and recruiting!  Intrinsically motivated salespeople also want to master their craft, love what they do, and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Sales Leaders must learn to become great sales coaches and motivate in all new ways.  OMG measures 7 additional ways in which salespeople are motivated, including whether they love to win or hate to lose, spend to perform or perform to reward, want recognition or self-satisfaction, want to be closely managed or self-manage, want to be pressured or apply self-pressure, have something to prove to others or to themselves, and whether they prefer competition with others or to compete with themselves.

Impact on Salespeople - Surprisingly, these changes have little impact on salespeople as long as they have strong sales motivation.  It doesn't really matter whether they are intrinsically, extrinsically or even altruistically motivated, as long as the motivation is there.  However, if sales leaders aren't motivating them accordingly, and companies don't modify their comp plans accordingly, then the impact on salespeople can be quite negative and limiting.  And you wonder why there is so much turnover in sales!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales commissions, sales incentives, OMG Assessment, motivated salespeople

How to Eliminate the Need for Sales Motivation, Accountability and More!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

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Image Copyright Sezer66

Sales Management is challenging.  With coaching accounting for 50% of the role, it doesn't leave much time for anything else.  Yet pipeline management, along with the ability to motivate, recruit and hold salespeople accountable are also required.  For many sales managers, those four activities simply aren't much fun.  But what if I told you there was a way to completely eliminate the need to manage the pipeline, motivate, recruit and hold salespeople accountable?  There is and I'm going to share it with you!

When 100% of your sales force is comprised of salespeople from the top 23% of the sales population, you won't have to motivate them because they are all self-motivated.  You won't have to hold them accountable either because they'll hold themselves to a higher standard than you would.  And because they will all perform, they will meet and exceed quota, goals and expectations so they won't need to be replaced.  That means you won't have to spend any time recruiting.

So how do you develop a sales force made up of only the top 23 percent?

Coaching.  Very easy for me to say but siginificantly more difficult to execute.

In this article I wrote about why sales coaching is so scary.

In this article I discussed why sales coaching is so difficult.

And this article explains why great salespeople struggle with becoming great sales managers.

Please read read those three articles.

Done? Then you probably know how you compare in the area of being able to utilize role-playing as a primary means to effective coaching salespeople.  Fewer than 10% of sales leaders can do this effectively.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, sales management training, sales leadership training, Sales Accountability

What it Takes to be an Elite (Top 7%) Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 @ 06:10 AM

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Last week I received a call from a young, motivated salesperson - we'll call him Jim - who desperately wanted to be one of the elite 7% of all salespeople.  Despite being just 26 years old, he believed that he was already in the top 7%.  During our call, he asked me a great question.  He asked, "How many of the top 7% have you actually met and where are they today?"  I didn't have to think very long or hard to answer that question because it was one of the easiest questions I have ever been asked.

Most companies have mediocre salespeople and a small percentage - less than 10% - are strong.  But there is an exception.  Many of the greatest salespeople, following a necessary stint in sales leadership, become sales consultants.  Now you are probably familiar with the sales consultants who have best-selling books or who tweet and blog on social media.  But they aren't the only sales consultants and trainers by a long shot.  There are thousands more and some of them are really good at what they do.  The best and brightest of them partner with my company, Objective Management Group (OMG), and provide our award winning sales candidate assessments and sales force evaluations to their clients.  Without a doubt, the nearly 300 individuals that represent OMG around the world, are the single biggest collection of the top 7% anywhere.  And each year, when around 150 of them gather for our international sales experts conference, that is where you will find the single biggest gathering of elite salespeople.

Why did Jim ask how many of these top performers I had met?  Because to him, the top 7% are the celebrities of sales.  It's like asking someone if they have met any professional athletes, movie or TV stars, or Presidents.  He has the top 7% on a pedestal because he wants to be one.

The bigger question for me is why Jim?  Why aren't the other 93% of the sales population calling, writing and asking how they can become part of the top 7%?  Why isn't it more important to them?  

Part of the answer should be so, so obvious.  If it was more important to them they would already be part of the top 7%, certainly part of the next 16% and not one of the bottom 77%!

Much of this problem boils down to Commitment to success in sales.

  • All salespeople score, on average, only 59% for Commitment.
  • The top 7% (Sales Quotient over 139) average, 72%.
  • Strong salespeople (Sales Quotient between 130-139) Score, on average, 65%
  • Serviceable salespeople (Sales Quotient between 115-129) 60% - or borderline Commitment.
  • Weak salespeople (Sales Quotient between 91-115 and the largest group) score, on average 45%
  • The bottom 10% (Sales Quotient under 91) score, on average, 39%

Notice that the biggest drop-off (from 60% to 45%) occurs when you drop from serviceable to weak.

If I had to guess, Jim's commitment is consistent with the elite group.  And while the top group has the highest overall scores for Commitment, it doesn't necessarily hold true that if a salesperson has a high commitment score that they are or will become part of that group.  Commitment is only 1 of 250 data points and while it is the most important, it is only 1.  For example, a salesperson with strong commitment, but a low score for Desire for success in sales, Motivation, Excuse Making, or even Coachable, is less likely to make it to the top group.  

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competenceis and while I have mentioned 4 in this article, there are 17 others that will also have a great impact on whether a salesperson can make it to the top.  While 10 of those competenices are Tactical Selling competencies, 6 of them represent Sales DNA.  The top 7% have Sales DNA greater than 82% while weak Salespeople score 60% and the bottom 10% only 54%.  Sales DNA is a huge contributor to sales success and the lower the score on Commitment, the less likely it is that one could overcome a low Sales DNA.

Of course, when it comes to hiring salespeople, there is only one tool that can accurately predict whether you have an elite candidate, a strong candidate, or one of the others.

And if you were an elite salesperson, have put in your time in sales leadership, and are ready to bring OMG's great tools to your clients, you can learn more here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales excellence, sales commitment, Sales Experts, elite salespeople

How Boomers and Millennials Differ in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 18, 2016 @ 13:05 PM

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I hate this article already - the last thing we need is another article to help us to understand Millennials.  Except for one thing.  Most of you reading this are Millennials and you probably need to better understand boomers.

We've all heard many of the distinctions of Millennials - how they like to work, where they like to work, when they like to work, how little they like to work, how entitled they are, how money isn't that important, how they want to change the world and be a part of something bigger than themselves.  So I'm not going to write about any of that in this article.  Instead, I'm going to talk about several tendencies that differentiate these two generations of salespeople.

We can begin with Motivation.  Boomer salespeople are generally extrinsically motivated - motivated by money and things - while Millennials are typically intrinsically motivated.  They would prefer to love what they do and strive for mastery.  Here is more on the difference between these two types of motivation in sales.

We can talk about New Business Development too.  Boomers are much more likely to pick up the phone and make a call - even a cold call - to initiate contact and follow up and they prefer to meet face-to-face.  Millennials are more likely to use their social networks - LinkedIn, Twitter, Text and Facebook - to initiate contact - and email to follow-up and they tend to prefer selling by phone.  The two newest selling roles - SDR's and BDR's - are both top-of-the-funnel roles where the reps simply schedule meetings and calls for account executives.  These roles are filled almost exclusively by Millennials.  I hear you.  "But they are on the phone and you said they don't like using the phone!"  Exactly.  And that explains why they are so bad at it. The latest statistics from ConnectAndSell tell us that these reps book, on average, 1.5 meetings per week.  If that is the only thing they are required to do, shouldn't the number be more like 2-3 meetings per day?

And speaking of Selling Skills, Boomers are far more likely to have professional selling skills while Millennials are more likely to frame selling in the context of demos, proposals and follow-up.  It might not be their fault, as most of them are in the aforementioned top-of-the-funnel roles, while Boomers are almost always found in outside territory, major account, vertical or account management roles.

One of the new things that Objective Management Group (OMG) introduced last month is industry statistics where the results of a company's sales force evaluation are compared against other companies in their industry.  Here's an image from a slide that looks at the average scores for salespeople in 6 major strands of Sales DNA and how this sales force (burgundy) compares to similar companies (blue) as well as all companies (green).

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Regular readers know that OMG has evaluated more than one million salespeople from more than 11,000 companies.  I am hoping that in the coming months, we can filter our data by generation and share the differences in the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, inside sales, selling skills, top of the funnel

How Coyotes are at the Heart of Sales Motivation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 06:04 AM

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My family lives west of Boston where it is not uncommon for us to see lots of squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, deer, the family of foxes that live on our property, and on most nights, we hear coyotes.  We usually hear them in the early morning hours, and always thought they were celebrating a kill.  Recently, I did some research and learned that this is how coyotes greet each other when they are assembling before going out to hunt - before the kill!   For those of you who don't live in or alongside a forest, a group of wild coyotes usually looks and sounds just like in this 1-minute video that I found on YouTube. That got me thinking about the connection to sales motivation and more.

 

Not too many decades ago, sales teams were very local and met weekly and sometimes daily as a group.   The purpose of a typical meeting was to share information and motivate the troops.  Most meetings ended with a motivational cheer - similar to what you might expect from a modern-day pep rally!

It got me thinking that pep rallies, coyote gatherings and sales meetings are all very primal and we, as people, need the rallying.  It provides external motivation and while that tends to be short-lived, it improves confidence, gets everyone focused and aligned, and creates a sense of urgency. 

Most sales teams don't meet as frequently anymore and while adults are capable of performing without the pom-poms and cheers, providing some external motivation certainly doesn't hurt.  It builds team and spirit.  That's why, in lieu of being able to gather and meet each week, daily huddles can fill the gap.  They aren't designed to motivate as much as they are to align, develop a laser focus, report on KPI's, uncover coaching opportunities and hold the team accountable.

When the team does come together, there should be at least one motivational moment - in the form of an awards ceremony, a keynote motivational talk or an event that gets everyone excited.

Today, there are three ways that people are motivated to perform on a day-to-day basis.  I've written about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and we still need to consider a third, altruistic type of motivation.  I believe that the third group is represented by a very small minority in sales, but as Objective Management Group (OMG) begins to measure and analyze the presence of the third group, I'll bring that science to the discussion.  As far as intrinsic motivation goes, OMG measures 7 additional ways that salespeople are motivated.

At my annual Sales Leadership Intensive, in addition to 2 comprehensive days on how to master the art of coaching salespeople, we also teach sales leaders how to effectively motivate their salespeople.  It's the best two days of sales leadership training you can get - anywhere - and we would love to have you attend.  Seating is limited to just 26 and as of today, April 21, 2016, we have 5 seats remaining for our May 17-18 event outside of Boston. Register with this link and embedded discount code to automatically receive a 30% discount. [Update - Sold Out]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales motivation, sales management training

Closing Sales, Process, Hauntings, Training & More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

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Photo Credit: Psychic Library

Today I will explore the least-read articles I have ever written.  That's right.  The least read.  It's very fashionable - and a best practice - to continue promoting the most-read, most-liked, most-favorited, most-shared, most-tweeted and most-commented articles; but I don't think anyone has gathered up their worst work and said, "Look at this!"  It's actually not my worst writing.  It's all every bit as good, and in some cases, better than my best articles.  Sometimes crappy articles spread like wildfire and the good stuff comes out on a day when people aren't paying attention.  So here are the 10 best articles I ever wrote that hardly anyone noticed.

Closing Sales - The Fine Line Between Patience and Pressure  August 2007

The Impact of Sales Training  October 2006

Great Sales Opportunities That Don't Close March 2010

Salespeople - Can Their Work Ethic Be as Good as BB King's?  March 2007

How to be Memorable - Things to Do When You are Selling Yourself  August 2009

What Do Sales Managers Do with Their Time?  May 2007

My Sales Process, Strategies and Tactics in Your Voice  October 2010

But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation June 2007

Top 14 Requirements to Perform a Sales Force Makeover April 2009 

Hauntings and Salespeople  November 2006

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales motivation, Sales Tactics, Closing Sales, sales compensation, sales opportunities, bb king, how to be memorable, time management for sales managers, sales methodologies

Sales Warfare: Love to Win or Hate to Lose?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 05, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

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Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Happy New Year, everyone.

I hope you had an opportunity to recharge, review, and look ahead.  During the break, in addition to spending quality time with my family, I listened to music, read four books, watched some movies together, went to 3 shows, and saw Unbroken.  The common thread among concerts, books, shows, and movies is whether or not they are memorable.  For me, memorable refers to whether or not I will remember a book, show, movie, scene, passage, chapter, event, line or moment - years later.

I'm sure you have some of those memories too.  I remember a Rod Stewart concert from 10 years ago when he stopped a song about 20 seconds in and said he had "f****d it up" and wanted to start over.  I also remember a Michael Franks concert from 27 years ago when he thanked the audience for helping his album reach Gold, and admitted that it was probably because we all purchased both the vinyl record and then the CD, thereby doubling his sales.

There was a very memorable line in Unbroken:  "If you can take it, you can make it."

As is always the case, these memorable moments got me thinking about memorable selling moments and that led to some interesting insights about motivation...

Can you remember your most memorable sales calls?  Your most memorable wins?  Your most memorable losses?  

Last month, while training a sales team, I asked if they loved to win or hated to lose.  Everyone raised their hand in response to love to win.  I challenged them to reconsider.  In my case, as well as most top sales performers, the many wins are nice - very nice - but the losses, especially because there are so few of them - make me angry.  I remember them, learn from them, and make sure I don't repeat the mistakes that led to a loss.  Yes, it is always my fault when there is a loss.  A top performer will always take responsibility and learn from it.

So do you love to win or hate to lose?

I think it was Jimmy Connors, the championship tennis player, who is most famous for saying he hated to lose.  On the other hand, it only takes a single tennis or golf victory to see how glorious it is to win a championship.  But that's a win of a totally different type.

I remember the awards for winning, but not most of the winning moments.  I think that's because I expect to get the business, so the win meets my expectations, while a loss catches me by surprise and causes an emotional reaction.

It's very important to know which outcome - winning or losing - is more motivating for you and your salespeople.  If it's winning, then the strategy can be traditional - how to win the deal or account and how great you will feel upon winning.  If it's losing, then the strategy should be an opposite strategy, based on how you will feel if you lose and how to prevent that outcome.

It really doesn't matter whether winning or losing motivates you more, but it is important to know and understand how you are motivated. 

LeadTrigger has published its book of 2015 Sales Predictions.  You can download your copy here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, winning sales, losing sales

7 New Ways to Motivate Salespeople Through 20 Old Hurdles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 07:09 AM

Sales Challenges

Trust me when I say that this is a great article, but before we get to it, I have a few post-vacation links for you.  

This is important!  We want you to be part of our next White Paper on Sales Force Effectiveness.  Would you kindly take no more than 5 minutes to answer some questions about the sales force at your company?  We won't even ask your name or email address!  

Hubspot's Sales Blog published this post with some professional follow-up email templates.  It's worth a look and it has one of mine...

The September issue of Top Sales World was published last week and my article about the Top Mistakes Salespeople Make on the Phone was named Top Blog Post for August.

Gerhard Gschwandtner interviewed me for SellingPower TV. You can see the 5-minute interview here.

I'll be speaking at Inbound14, September 17, and I'll be talking about How to Hire Great Inbound Sales/Marketing people.  You can register here.

Finally, my article about How to Hire Salespeople That Will be Great Instead of Great Salespeople that Will Fail was posted in EcSell Institute's Coaching Library.  You can hear me speak on this topic there next month.

 

Now for the article.

The ability to motivate salespeople is just as important as it has always been.  However, there are differences today that make it more complicated than it used to be.

In the old days (pre-2008), if salespeople were motivated, then they were probably motivated by money.  According to data from Objective Management Group (OMG), 54% of salespeople were money-motivated during the 1990's and first half of the 2000's.  Today, the data shows that no more than 27% of salespeople are what we now call extrinsically-motivated.  Even the name has changed!

But what about those who are intrinsically-motivated - those who are motivated by satisfaction, fulfillment, praise and recognition.  They want to change the world.  They love what they do and want to achieve mastery.  That motivates them.  OMG is able to differentiate between intrinsically-motivated and extrinsically-motivated salespeople, but how do you manage those who are intrinsically-motivated?  How do you get them to perform when they are interested in things that go beyond a commission check?

Perhaps this will help:

In the next release of OMG's suite of Sales Candidate Assessments, Salesperson Evaluations, and Sales Force Evaluations, we will be able to show you exactly what YOU can do to motivate your existing and new salespeople.  For instance, wouldn't you love to know if a salesperson:

  • Loves to win - or hates to lose?  It's a subtle difference, but you would take a completely different approach to motivate each of these two types of salespeople.
  • Spends money to force performance - or performs and spends the money as a reward?  Just like the first example, the difference is subtle, but your motivational approach would be different.
  • Responds better to being pushed by the sales manager - or prefers to push himself?  If you are familiar with the scene in "Facing the Giants", you'll have a good idea of what it means to be pushed to be the best.  
  • Performs better when closely managed - or when left alone?  Some salespeople cannot function well when left to their own devices.  They don't self-start or self-direct and need to be directed and/or be part of a team.
  • Performs better when competing against others - or when competing against her own expectations?  What if the mediocre salesperson would rise to the next level if the competition and the rewards were compelling enough?
  • Responds better to recognition - or satisfaction after meeting and exceeding goals?  For some, it doesn't get any better than hearing their name called out, receiving an award or plaque, reading about themselves on a website or being listed as the winner.  Others could care less about all of that because the self-satisfaction one gets from knowing they're the best is all they need. 
  • Is motivated by proving someone else wrong - or proving himself right?  There are some salespeople who can be motivated to achieve greatness just because someone told them that they would fail at sales, that they weren't ready for this role, that they couldn't sell that big account, that they wouldn't beat out that particular competitor, or that they could never earn that much money.
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Salespeople are different - very different - and the more you know about what will help them face and overcome the following 20 hurdles, the better:

  1. Adversity
  2. Rejection
  3. Better-Known Competition
  4. Disinterest
  5. Ambivalence
  6. Existing Relationships
  7. Preconceived Motions
  8. Lower Priced Competitors
  9. Insulated Decision Makers
  10. Liars
  11. Assholes
  12. Impossible Political Structures
  13. Unfair Terms
  14. Unwillingness to Answer Questions
  15. No's
  16. Maybe's
  17. Self-Limiting Beliefs
  18. Discomfort with Certain Selling Situations
  19. Fear
  20. Pressure
     

Image Copyright: texelart / 123RF Stock Photo 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales challenges, sales testing, sales assessments, objective management group

How to Run a Killer Sales Incentive Contest

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 23:02 PM

contestYesterday, we had a fairly sizable snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow and it reminded me of this article from last winter.

Also yesterday, in my article on the importance of rallying cries, I promised to discuss incentive programs.

Incentive programs are still very powerful as long as you make sure they don't last for more than 90 days.  There are other factors that can make the difference between an effective and ineffective program.  Consider the three most important concepts:  Everyone must believe that they can win the contest, there should be more than 1 winner, and the rewards must be motivating enough for them to go into overdrive to win one.

Let's begin with how you get them to believe they can win.

It's easier than you think.  Just don't base your contest on revenue.  When a contest is based on revenue, everyone knows, well in advance, who the likely winner will be.  So if not revenue, then what?  That's also easier than you think.  What would you like your salespeople to do more effectively?  Find new business?  Fill the pipeline?  Then base the awards on behaviors that you want to change.  And when you base it on more than one behavior, your salespeople will believe they have a chance to win!  Consider some or all of the following:

  • Most new meetings scheduled,
  • Most new opportunities added to the pipeline,
  • Most referrals and introductions received,
  • Most new accounts or customers,
  • Most new sales (that's number of new sales closed, not revenue),
  • Most leveragable new account, and/or
  • Biggest new opportunity added to the pipeline.

Won't every salesperson believe that there is at least one of those that they can win?

What about the award or prize?  How can you make that compelling enough so that they WANT to win?

That's also much easier than you think.

Eliminate any award, reward or prize that they can buy for themselves.  That gets nobody motivated.  Instead, focus on things that either wouldn't be practical, or wouldn't be safe for them to buy with family money.  For instance, some of your salespeople would simply love to participate in a week-long sports fantasy camp, but most of them would feel way to guilty to actually spend the money and go away for a week of fun.  However, if they were to win it, that changes everything.  Another way to get them excited about the payoff is to ask them to choose their prizes.  Give them a range and have them pick!

Finally, there are websites that will run your contests for you.  They're called gamification sites and you can find some of them here.

So keep it short, have multiple winners, reward the behaviors you want to change, don't reward revenue, offer guilt-free prizes and you'll have the killer contest that gets everyone motivated, excited and working hard.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales motivation, sales contest, gamification, sales incentives

World Series, Super Bowl and the Sales Force - The Rallying Cry

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This article was originally going to be just a single paragraph,  but it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.  I believe that amplifies the significance of this topic.

world series winnersWe saw it for the first time in October when the overachieving Boston Red Sox beat the talented Detroit Tigers for Baseball's American League Championship.  Then those same Red Sox topped a great St. Louis Cardinals team to win the World Series.  The most impressive element of the 2013 Red Sox is that what they lacked in talent, they made up for in chemistry, character, work ethic, intensity, commitment, and a rallying cry.  Those elements led to a unique culture of togetherness and a true desire to pull for each other.  They were not an untalented team; they just weren't the most talented team.

super bowl winnersThe Seattle Seahawks story is not significantly different from the Red Sox.  Their Super Bowl winning team was comprised of the same type of chemistry and character that led the Red Sox to the world championship of baseball.  Is character a substitute for talent?  Not at all.  But when you combine a strong dose of talent with a strong dose of the right character, it makes all the difference in the world.

With selling being such an individual sport, can any of this character and culture stuff be applied to a sales force?  Let's discuss it and figure it out.

If every salesperson is aligned around your rallying cry - the why we're all doing this - and they all pull for each other instead of competing with each other, you can get your talented salespeople to overachieve.  Of course, that is much easier said than done.

Let's discuss the rallying cry.  Every April, the state of Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day and there are two special events.  The Red Sox always play a special 11 AM game while marathoners compete in the annual running of the Boston Marathon.  As you know, in 2013, tragedy struck when the Marathon was disrupted and people were injured and killed by what is now known as the Marathon Bombing.  There was a heartfelt and immediate response by the Red Sox players as people from around the world watched the events play out on live television.  

boston strong"Boston Strong" became the rallying cry of the Red Sox.  David Ortiz, their biggest star, addressed the crowd and on live television, famously said, "This is our f---ing city."  Even the FCC didn't mess up that moment, deciding not to assess a fine on Ortiz, the Red Sox, or NESN, the sports network that broadcasts Red Sox games, for his use of the F-Bomb on live television.

But make no mistake.  Those two statements - Boston Strong, and This is Our F____ing City - became the rallying cry around which the entire team aligned and that evening, they committed to bring the World Series championship to Boston. They pushed each other.  They pulled for each other.  They found a way.  They achieved.  They overachieved.  They persevered.  They did it.  They won.

How would things change if you could come up with something bigger and more important than money, sales, profits, commissions, metrics and personal achievement?  How would things change if there was something bigger and better than you and me and them?  How would their approach change?  What would happen to their sense of urgency?  When it's bigger than the one and the all, how important would it be for everyone to succeed?  

What could be your rallying cry?

meadowlandsI haven't written too much about incentives and contests, although I have some strong opinions.  I'll share those opinions in my next article.  But a rallying cry, that could be bigger than everyone, could be an event, location or thing where if the team succeeds, everyone on the team participates and celebrates.  "New Jersey" was a rallying cry of the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson, their Quarterback, got the entire team aligned around, "Why not us?"  If the team achieves its goal, everyone on the team goes to New Jersey and competes, as a team, in the Super Bowl.

What could be your rallying cry?

duck boatIn addition to the team's World Series trophy and the player's share of the World Series money, there is one additional reward for winning the World Series in Boston.  The Red Sox and their families are paraded through Boston and into the Charles River on Duck Boats.  A third rallying cry for the 2013 Red Sox team was "The Parade" and "Duck Boats."  After the parade, pitcher Jake Peavy went so far as to purchase the Duck Boat in which he and his family rode.

What could be your rallying cry?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales motivation, red sox, marathon bombing, boston strong, seahawks, sales incentives

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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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