FOX News and CNN Can Help You Conduct Better Sales Opportunity Reviews

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 17, 2020 @ 13:08 PM

cnn-fox-news_list

I don't really care whether or not you like, approve of, tolerate, or agree with President Trump and/or the issues he stands for.  Doesn't matter to me.  And you shouldn't care what I think of him or which side of that invisible center line I am on.  Shouldn't matter to you.  While this is an article about coaching salespeople, I am going to use the current divisiveness as an analogy to help you better understand how sales leaders can have a huge impact on your salespeople.

If you're on the side that hates the President and can't wait for him to leave office when Biden gets elected, you might be watching CNN.  They will report on and amplify anything that Trump does that can possibly be ripe for attack.  They will rarely, if ever, share any of his accomplishments, wins or achievements and even lie to make sure he is constantly vilified.  What fun for his critics!

If you're on the side that loves, likes or tolerates the President and you prefer that he be reelected instead of Biden, you might be watching FOX.  They will report on and amplify anything that Trump does that can possibly be ripe for praise.  They will rarely, if ever, share his disappointments, defeats or mistakes and even lie to make sure he is praised (except on their hard news shows which do tend to go right down the middle).  What fun for his fans!

OK, so that should have been detached and objective enough to prevent anyone getting upset with me so far.  Hooray for me because that isn't easy these days.  But you ask, what does all this have to do with coaching salespeople through an opportunity review?

There are two sides to every story.  Trump is rarely as horrific as CNN makes him out to be and rarely as awesome as FOX makes him out to be.  The truth is always somewhere in the middle. The same holds true for your salespeople when you ask them to tell you about a current opportunity and why it might be in a stage of the pipeline that it's been stalled in for weeks or months.

Your salesperson might explain what a great opportunity this is, how well they have connected with their contact, the good feedback they have received from their conversations, why they expect movement in a week or two, how this is just the tip of the iceberg because there's more where this came from, and they are extremely confident.  Like FOX talking about Trump.

You look in your CRM application and observe that critical milestones have not been met, it's been stuck in stage 2 for 60 days, the salesperson still has not met with the decision maker, doesn't know the compelling reason why they would switch to your company, and noted that their company has been buying from the same incumbent for 8 years yet the salesperson hasn't uncovered a single negative issue about that incumbent.  You begin to think that this is about getting a lower price from you to keep the incumbent honest.  You conclude that this is a terrible opportunity.  Like CNN talking about Trump.

As with the coverage of Trump, an opportunity review with a salesperson is often two tales about the same prospect.  The salesperson's version compared with yours.  FOX compared with CNN.

This is very important!  If you begin to review an opportunity without that difference in mind, without looking for holes, without looking to challenge them, without looking to invalidate or dismiss their optimism, it will be a wasted review.  Your job is to help your salespeople to better understand their own next steps to either move the opportunity forward, justify leaving it where it is, or abort the opportunity altogether.  Often times, your salespeople are way too close to the opportunity to see it clearly and objectively.  This will be especially true when your salespeople don't have enough opportunities in their pipeline, causing them to be even more attached to and hopeful for the few opportunities they do have.

Your salespeople don't know what they don't know and can't do what they can't do.  That's why you're there!

Politics is the business of where different parties stand on various issues.  It's supposed to be about healthy debate.  It's not supposed to be as divisive and nasty as it has become.  Similarly, a solid, thoughtful, helpful opportunity review should be a healthy debate about the opportunity.  The salesperson should not be attacked or made to feel bad.  All criticism should be constructive.

Are you conducting productive and effective opportunity reviews with every salesperson every day?  If not, then today is a great day to start!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales pipeline, crm, sales opportunities, fox

Golden Nuggets from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 @ 20:10 PM

gold-nuggets

I had a chance to review the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study and extracted some fascinating data.  I thought it might be interesting to take their data, overlay some of Objective Management Group's (OMG) data, and see what we can take away from that.

Tick-Tock.  The report reveals that open sales positions remain so for an average of nearly 4 months and 9 months pass before a new hire achieves full productivity.  That's over a year!  This particular finding is a moving target and somewhat reflective of the relatively small number of proactive sales candidates and far smaller percentage of good ones.  The report shows that only 22.6% of organizations believe that hiring is an organizational strength, so this recruiting performance shouldn't surprise anyone.  OMG has a finding called FIOF (Figure it out Factor) which correlates to how quickly a candidate will ramp up to speed. Candidates who come up to speed more quickly than typical sales candidates score 75 or better and only 25% of all candidates have this as a strength.   

Not Nutritional.  Western diets are notorious for their inclusion of unhealthy, unnecessary, processed, fatty food instead of healthy whole foods.  Similarly, companies listed sales requirements for new salespeople that were filled with unnecessary requirements (ie., business degree from a university, college degree of any kind, STEM degree, industry sales experience, emotional intelligence, etc.) instead of strong and broad capabilities in the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  This suggests that companies still lack a basic understanding of what causes salespeople to succeed.

Tooling.   An equal number of companies use candidate assessments as those who don't.  However, those who do use assessments have 61% quota attainment and 14.6% attrition, versus 49% quota attainment and 19.8% attrition for those who don't use assessments.  Companies that use assessments are 25% more successful at quota achievement and that data is not even for any particular assessment.  Imagine how much better the results are for the companies that use OMG's accurate and predictive sales-specific candidate assessments. Data from companies who have hired salespeople that were recommended by OMG shows an attrition rate of only 8% and quota attainment of 88%.  

Put Me in Coach.  Just 10% of the companies said that coaching was a strength.  That jives pretty well with OMG's data from its evaluations of more than 25,000 sales forces.  Only 10% of all Sales Managers have the Sales Coaching competency as a strength but most of that group are in the top 20% of all sales managers.

Two-Step.  38% of companies reported that they have a sales process.  Respondents appeared to be overly optimistic as OMG's data shows that only 27% of companies actually have a formal, structured sales process.

Right Down the Pipe.  20% claimed that pipeline management is a strength at their company but that claim is even more optimistic than the dance above.  Remember, their report is built from a survey so it's vulnerable to optimistic misstatements.  OMG's sales force evaluation data reveals that the actual number is 8%!

In conclusion, I'm still disappointed that these numbers aren't improving more quickly.  I believe that there are several reasons for this, but my top 3 are:

  • Too many sales leaders have large egos that don't allow them to ask for or receive help, believing that they and they alone are responsible for, and capable of moving the needle
  • The C Suite often delegates responsibility for change but change won't occur until the commitment to change is demonstrated to the sales organization from those at the very top of the company
  • Many companies are well intentioned about change but don't always make the best choices and don't always see those choices through.  Exhibit #1 is CRM.  My observation of CRM selection, installation, training, customization, integration, acceptance, and adoption is that it has been nothing short of an industry-wide cluster fuck.  Please excuse my language.

Of course there are more reasons than these 3 but most of them, when looked at objectively, can be traced back to these three.  For example, we can consider the people, coaching, training, strategy, systems, processes, expectations, accountability, motivation, culture, and more, but as soon as you seek the cause we must look to the original three reasons.

In the end, it's not usually an unwillingness to spend money to improve sales selection, provide the right tools, hire the right sales leaders, consultants and trainers.  It's the lack of unconditional commitment to get it right.

Join the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, sales pipeline, sales opportunities, cso insights, sales recruiting failure

What True Story Does Your Sales Pipeline Tell You about Your Business?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Nov 05, 2015 @ 12:11 PM

Yesterday I was looking at the dashboard in my new car and noticed that one of the gauges could be swapped out.  There aren't any fixed gauges on this dash because the gauges, ranges and needles are displayed digitally. I can even change their color!  The thing that caught my interest though, was the flashlight effect where the ticks to either side of the needle are brighter and bolder to draw attention to where the needle is pointing.  That got me thinking about the dashboards for my company.  First I looked at the dashboards for Kurlan & Associates and because of what I saw, I never got to the Objective Management Group dashboard.

We use Membrain for our CRM/Opportunity/Pipeline Management system because it's the one we recommend most often to our clients and if we're going to recommend a CRM application, shouldn't it be the one we use, embrace and love?

While changing the filters for one of the graphs, I noticed some things that I hadn't noticed the last time I checked in.  And I promise, the things I noticed are probably occurring at your company too.  The question is, can your CRM application let you know (and do you know) what to do next?  So here's what I found that was so interesting.

In the past two months, there were 40 new opportunities added, bringing the number of active opportunities in the pipeline to 80. That's an average of 1 new opportunity per person, per week, which is exactly what it should be in our business.  So that's good.  But I also noticed this:

There are currently 16 highly probable, closable opportunities representing 20% of the pipeline which is a lot better than what we normally see.  For instance, for every 2 new clients, it historically requires the following:

  • 20 suspects that convert to,
  • 10 prospects that convert to,
  • 5 qualified opportunities that convert to,
  • 3 closable opportunities.

In other words, only 10% of the prospects we begin talking with typically become clients.  Not because we aren't effective or that prospective clients go with other companies; but mostly because half of the 20 suspects we start conversations with are either the wrong person for us to be speaking with or there isn't a good fit and we disqualify them!  Similarly, we often disqualify half of the remaining 10 prospects because they don't have or won't spend the money to work with us.  That's how we get from 20 to 5.  And as with any business, we don't close every one.  Some decide to do nothing at all and once in a blue moon, a prospect chooses to go with another company.

I also noted that there was forward progress made on 58 opportunities - meaning that no single opportunity is sucking up the team's time or resources at the expense of other opportunities.

The metric that really stuck out for me though was that 22 of the 80 opportunities were stalled.  They had exceeded the baseline number of days allowed for an opportunity to remain in a particular stage of the sales process and our dashboard in Membrain has some very compelling data about opportunities that stall.  The image below represents the graph of stalled opportunities. Green represents an opportunity that we closed and gray represents one that we archived or lost.

This small red line in this graph indicates that when an opportunity stalls for more than 19 days, the chances of closing that business decrease dramatically, from 78% to less than 50%.  It further illustrates that if an opportunity stalls beyond 35 days, there is very little chance that the opportunity will close, with the win rate dropping to just 10-15%.

So when I saw that there were 22 stalled opportunities, I dug a little further and found that all of them were stalled beyond 35 days.  So the probability of any business occurring with these opportunities is already below 15%.  Next I wanted to identify which stage of the pipeline they were stalled in.  In Baseline Selling, we have 5 stages of the pipeline where opportunities are either:

  1. On Deck - 1st Meeting has not been scheduled.
  2. 1st Base - 1st Meeting has been scheduled but not yet held (Suspect).
  3. 2nd Base - 1st Meeting has been held and it is a real opportunity (Prospect).
  4. 3rd Base - Opportunity has been thoroughly qualififed (Qualified).
  5. On the Way Home - Opportunity is Closable (Closable).

I found that all but four of the stalled opportunities were on Deck.  So either a lead had come in, someone had expressed interest or we were referred to the company but no meeting had been scheduled - after more than 35 days!

That's the beginning of the process of reading a useful CRM dashboard.  The data tells us where the problem is, who has the problem, and what we should be asking.  In this case, one person - a very busy senior sales expert - was responsible for 36% of those stalled opportunities.  So while we can understand how the business interfered with getting meetings scheduled, it is still not acceptable.  The opportunities should have been handed off to a consultant on the team who isn't as jammed with training, consulting and coaching as he is.  In another case, one person was only responsible for 5%, or just 1 of the stalled opportunities.  That's good, right?  No, it's bad.  Everything is relative.  He doesn't have as many opportunities in the pipeline as the others, so his 1 stalled isn't an indicator that he's moving things along as much as it's an indicator that his pipeline is too small!

While most of my articles address sales selection, sales force evaluations, sales competencies, sales DNA, sales strategy, sales process and sales tactics, sometimes getting the pipeline right can make all the difference in the world.  Of course, to get the pipeline right, you must have an application that gives you the right information, in an easy-to-access format.  You also need an application that your salespeople embrace and always keep up-to-date so that you have real-time data.  And finally, you must be willing to consistently review your dashboard and let it tell you a story.  What story is your dashboard telling you today?

And before you comment, I'll make the first one:

"Dave, you talk about consistently reviewing the dashboards, but in this case, you weren't aware of the stalled opportunities until they were all beyond 35 days.  Isn't that hypocritcal you fat, old, sales guy?"  Someone was going to write that so I figured I would save him the trouble.  Yes, it would have been a male troll.  And yes, I should have been on top of that, but I wasn't this month.  And hey, my mistake is your gain because it made for a good topic for the blog, didn't it?

Don't miss this article that was published on LinkedIn Pulse about Fred - The Top Salesperson or a Horrible Salesperson?

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales win rate, sales opportunities

Closing Sales, Process, Hauntings, Training & More

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

ghosthaunting

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

Top 6 Factors for Killing a Sales Opportunity or Prospect

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 @ 22:03 PM

I hear this question a lot..."When should I move on?"

You have left 6 messages and haven't received a return call.

You have a prospect and things were moving along pretty well and now you can't get them back on the phone.

Should you move on?

First, the data is clear on this - it takes an average of 8 attempts - eight! - to reach a prospect.  And if it's a prospect that is already in the sales process, you probably screwed something up....

Second, whether or not you should move on is dependent on six factors. I'll list them here:

Factor #1 - The Size of Your Prospect Pool:  If you have thousands of potential prospects, it's easy to say, "next!", while if your pool of potential prospects is limited, "next" is not a viable option.

Factor #2 - The State of Your Pipeline: If your pipeline is filled with quality opportunities, it's easy to say, "next!", while if your pipeline is on the empty side, "next" is not a viable option.

Factor #3 - Competitive Nature: If you don't mind losing, it's easy to say, "next!", while if you can't stand to lose, "next" is not a viable option.

Factor #4 - Odds: If you don't have much of a chance to win the business, it's easy to say, "next!", while if you have a good chance to win the business, "next" is not a viable option.

Factor #5 - Profiling: If the prospect doesn't fit the profile of your ideal customer, it's easy to say, "next!" while if they are right in your sweet spot, "next" is not a viable option.

Factor #6 - Leverage: If the prospect was using you to keep their existing vendor/supplier honest, it's easy to say, "next!" while if low price isn't a factor and there isn't an existing vendor in place, "next" is not an option.

Can you think of any more?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales tips, reaching prospects, sales opportunities

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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 eight 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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