Persistence Over Polish - What the Top 10% of All Salespeople Do Better

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 @ 06:03 AM

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The best athletes in the world know exactly how they do the things they do that make them so great.  In addition to their God-given talent, they outworked everyone else to master the mechanics and nuances of their sport, the mindset required for greatness, and competed at a high level from a very young age.  When they falter they can easily make the adjustments necessary to get back on track.

Interestingly, most top salespeople don't know what it is that they do that makes them so successful! That's surprise #1.  If you look through the data on the 1.7 million salespeople that Objective Management Group (OMG) has assessed, you will see that the top 10% of all salespeople have better average scores than their colleagues in each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Their average scores are listed below for 5 Sales Core Competencies in which they have the best scores.  They are:

Rejection Proof with an average score of 92. Top salespeople continue asking questions long after other salespeople have given up, allowing them to close opportunities that others have walked away from.

Comfortable Talking About Money with an average score of 90. This strength allows top salespeople to have the conversation other salespeople don't have after a prospect says that they either don't have a budget or don't have enough money in the budget.  Top salespeople excel at helping their prospects find the money.

Great at Hunting with an average score of 89. Top salespeople have pipelines with opportunities that are both high in quantity and quality.  With so much being written about the relatively new BDR and SDR roles that allow good salespeople to focus on meetings while lower paid and lesser skilled reps make the first calls, this would suggest that the best salespeople do well because they are scheduling their own calls and meetings.

Thinking Positive Thoughts with an average score for Supportive Beliefs of 87. Their beliefs support ideal sales outcomes while other salespeople struggle with beliefs that sabotage their efforts.  Beliefs affect behavior and behavior drives results.

Doesn't Need to be Liked scoring an average of 86. This strength helps top salespeople listen and ask questions, challenge when appropriate and push back when necessary, all of the key components of an effective consultative seller.  This component of Sales DNA is also a requirement for selling value.

Surprise #2 is that 4 of the top 5 scores are elements of Sales DNA which represent 6 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Will to Sell has 5, there are 7 Tactical Selling Competencies, including Hunting, above, and 3 Sales Core Competencies can be found in Systems and Processes.  So what does it mean when only 1 top score is a tactical competency and 4 are from Sales DNA?

Surprise #3 is that having strong Sales DNA trumps having strong selling skills.  After processing 1.7 million sales evaluations and assessments, I've seen numerous salespeople who knew what to do, who to do it to, and when to do it; but they couldn't execute what they knew because of their weak Sales DNA.  And I've seen numerous salespeople who lacked a sales process and the tactical selling skills but found a way to get deals done because of their strong Sales DNA.  Sometimes, the top salespeople simply differentiate with persistence over polish.

20 years ago, we developed a product called SalesmindTM that uses affirmations and self-hypnosis to help salespeople overcome their non supportive Sales DNA. Watch this 2-minute video on LinkedIn.  Only a couple hundred of these CDs remain in our inventory and when they are gone they will be gone forever.  They have always sold for $99 but you can get a set for just $49 while supplies last.  Leave a comment on the LinkedIn video and we'll rush you a set of SalesmindTM

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales core competencies, sales excellence

What We Can Learn from the Latest Data on Sales Motivation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 @ 16:07 PM

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Image Copyright iStock

We've been very busy implementing some new findings in our Sales Evaluations and Sales Candidate Assessments.  Sales Motivation is just one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure, but as with all of the competencies, we go very deep.

Back in the good old days, we measured Money Motivated because most of the salespeople employed back in the 90's were chasing commissions.  By 2011, we had decided to go wider and deeper and broke down Motivation based on whether a salesperson was extrinsically motivated or intrinsically motivated.  In 2014 we added 7 sales specific motivational styles to help sales leaders better understand the best ways to work with their salespeople.  And now, in 2017, we have deepened our measurement of Sales Motivation even further by adding a third possibility - Altruistic Motivation

I was anxious to see what the data would look like but had to wait a few days until we had around 1,000 new assessments to review.  Sales Motivation now breaks down in the following way:

  • 47% of salespeople are intrinsically motivated (satisfaction, love of what they do, mastery, being part of something bigger than themselves)
  • 25% are extrinsically motivated (commissions, money, rewards and materialistic things)
  • 13% are altruistic (being of service to others)
  • The remaining 15% are somewhat balanced between 2 or 3 of the styles.

I always believed that Motivation is Motivation.  In other words, as long as the motivation is strong, it doesn't matter whether salespeople are extrinsically or intrinsically motivated.  However, it is very important for sales managers to understand the difference between the two so that they can provide the proper type of external motivation.  And now, with the introduction of Altruistic Motivation we have thrown a monkey wrench into the mix.  Altruistically motivated people should not really be in sales.  Their most effective role would be in customer service where it would be important for them to not have their own agenda but instead, serve the customer without exception.  Think Hospital, Doctor's office, upscale Restaurant, Concierge, Front Desk at a high-end hotel, etc.

I don't have the data yet but I expect salespeople who are altruistically motivated to have low scores for Commitment to Sales Success and Desire for Sales Success.  I'll update you when the data is available.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales performance, sales excellence, altruistic motivation

How Your Salespeople Measure Up in the 21 Most Crucial Sales Competencies for Modern Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 04, 2017 @ 15:04 PM

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Image Copyright BrianAJackson

Over the years I've debunked a number of articles that cited nothing but junk science. The authors often relied on observation, anecdotal evidence and personal opinion while proclaiming traits, competencies, skills and differentiators between top salespeople and everyone else. Today those articles would qualify as fake news.  My rebuttals to those articles, many of which can be found here, are always based on science.

Speaking of the difference between fake news and real sales science, the next topic downright amazes me and should amaze you too. 

On April 4, 2017, Nearly 22,000 people had viewed the 5 traits of the best salespeople - traits that are purely anecdotal on the author's part - while only around 3,000 viewed the scientific rebuttal. While 25,000 people viewed the 21 Sales Core Competencies that were updated in 2014, and only 3,000 have viewed the most recent 2017 revision of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Just to be clear, I'm not whining about popularity, traffic or page views.  My Blog has 1.7 million views and dozens of my articles have 15,000+ views.  My best-selling book, Baseline Selling, was ranked 15th on Amazon's list of the Top Sales Books this morning - after 12 years...so I'm not lacking for traffic or readers.

This is really about sales professionals who place more faith in the traits that are consistent with their beliefs, fearing that their actual capabilities won't match up with the science.  People want to see themselves in the most popular, positive way.  They don't want to discover that they might be lacking in 10 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies or have gaps in all 21.

Speaking of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, OMG has a brand new tool that I promise you're gonna love.  

We built a very cool website that you can use to see the average scores for each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, the average scores for your industry and even how your own company compares.  You must check it out - keep reading!

Here's how it works:  

  1. Go to the site and select your industry.  
  2. For each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, average scores for all salespeople, plus the top 10%, the bottom 10% as well as salespeople from your industry, will be displayed in side-by-side comparisons. If you need further explanations there are videos that provide more detail on each competency.
  3. At any point, during your tour through the 21 Sales Core Competencies, you can request that your own company be included in the comparison - free of charge!  No catch. No conditions.  Simply click on the "learn how your salespeople are doing" button displayed beneath the competencies.  
  4. Fill in the very limited contact information (we don't sell it and we won't call you unless you ask us to) and we'll email a link for your salespeople to be assessed.  
  5. When your salespeople have completed the assessment process, the "Your Company" column in each graph will be populated with the data for your company.  Awesome and easy!  We'll keep you posted about their progress.
  6. Options to gain access to additional detailed data and information will be made available.

The early feedback on this site has been amazing - people love being able to access this data and compare it to their own and I'm sure you'll find it fascinating too!  Enjoy.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales core competencies, difference between good and bad salespeople, OMG Assessment, how my salespeople compare, data on salespeople

Is Excuse Making Actually the Biggest Obstacle to Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 @ 07:12 AM

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I've talked a lot about excuse making and the powerful difference between using your index finger, which points outward, versus your thumb, which points inward.  Today, Brandon Steiner wrote a great little article about taking responsibility.

This video provides another perspective on Excuse Making and how bad that is for sales organization.

 

 

The big thing with Excuse Making is that until the excuse making stops, nothing can change.  So if you want to see improvements in effectiveness, growth in revenue, and a jump in profit, salespeople must execute in a fundamentally different way.  When they rationalize about what happened, accepting that allows them to repeat the mistake.  When they take responsibility, you can ask what they could have done differently.  Excuse Making = Status Quo.  Responsibility = Change.

In the past two months I have been a guest on several shows and the interviews were all quite good!  You might be interested in catching:

  • The Smart Sales Pro Interview where I talked about Sales DNA
  • The Growth Institute Blog where I wrote about Why Sales Training Doesn't Work
  • Will Barron - The Salesman Red interviewed me about Why Salespeople Struggle
  • Rapid Learning Institute featured me as the sales selection and hiring expert in this Webinar on preventing hiring mistakes.
  • I wrote about the Benefits of Getting your Sales Process right on the Growth Institute Blog
  • Will Barron recently interviewed me on sales weaknesses and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.
  • Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on similar topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales DNA, sales excellence, excuse making

Top 10 Reasons Why Sales Don't Grow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 06:08 AM

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Have any of these things ever happened to you?  

  • Physical issues - low energy, prolonged pain or discomfort
  • Automobile issues - vibration under the seat or in the steering wheel, car accident
  • Home issues - leaks, faulty electrical, down trees or power lines from storm damage
  • Legal or Tax issues

If they did happen to you, what did you do? Did you call the doctor, car dealer, electrician, plumber, insurance company, lawyer or accountant?  Or did you hope it would all go away by itself?

Of course you made the call because things don't fix themselves.

Yet, despite knowing that things don't fix themselves, thousands of executives believe that sales problems will resolve themselves, change, and improve.  Why?

That's the key question.  Because when you don't know exactly what's wrong, it's much easier to remain in denial.

Most companies all deal with the exact same issues with their sales organizations. Flat or lethargic sales growth, the bulk of the revenue coming from a small percentage of the salespeople, not enough new business, difficulty selling against low priced competition, longer sales cycles, lower win rates, and on and on and on.  It's universal frustration and companies seem to fall squarely into one of four categories on this:

  1. They identify the cause and fix it.  "Hooray.  Sales and profits are on the rise!"
  2. They don't identify the cause but try to fix it through guesswork.  "Well, that didn't work.  We wasted another year!"
  3. They identify the cause but don't fix it. "We can do this ourselves."  Sure you can.
  4. They don't identify the cause and don't fix. "Hey, everyone has these issues!"

While most companies have similar issues, the causes are usually different.  There can be any number of problems that contribute to the observable issues, but these are the 10 I see most often:

  1. Recruiting - ineffective process and/or inconsistent sales selection
  2. On Boarding - is neglected, shortcuts are taken, or it's done poorly
  3. Coaching - sales managers don't coach enough and don't do it effectively
  4. Accountability - there isn't any so it's very easy for salespeople to fall behind
  5. Messaging - you wouldn't believe how bad - how inconsistent - the messaging is at most companies
  6. Sales Process - there usually isn't one and when there is it's either awful or nobody follows it
  7. Training - it's usually either do it yourself bad or it's not provided at all
  8. Gaps - skill gaps that prevent salespeople from being able to take a consultative approach or sell value
  9. Sales DNA Gaps - the strengths required to support tactics, strategies, process and methodology are missing
  10. Pipeline - usually a mess - filled with unqualified opportunities that will never close

Yet it's not enough to simply acknowledge these problems. Even if you are aware that some or all of these problems exist, whether or not they can be fixed is another story altogether!  That's because it is all about capabilities.  What are they capable of today, can they become more capable, how much more capable, and what will it take?  

To answer those questions we need to know if the people trainable and coachable.  Can sales leadership learn to coach effectively and hold salespeople accountable for the required changes?  Can the sales culture be improved to become a coaching culture?  Is leadership strong enough to replace under performers who can't be coached up?  Which skills and competencies must be developed?  How do you deal with the weaknesses in Sales DNA?  If recruiting and selection are to blame, how can it be improved?  How do you incorporate best practices into a inadequate sales process and/or methodology?  Do we need a playbook?  Is it our scripts?

The problem with improving sales performance is that the more you know, the more questions there will be.  And that is why it is so insane when so many executives ignore the problem, pretend they know what to do about it, and don't call for help call until the revenue issue reaches such a state that there isn't enough time or money to fix it.

It is so easy to blame the sales force but don't. They didn't recruit themselves, they didn't train themselves, they didn't set unreasonable expectations, and they didn't make themselves suck.  The blame gets placed higher up - where a false sense of hope and optimism live.

Ask me about a sales force evaluation - knowledge is power!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales performance, sales excellence

Which Thoughts Affect How Successful You Will be in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 08:06 AM

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I finished reading Game 7 - Ron Darling's book on the final game of the 1986 World Series, and I'm half way through Shoe Dog - Nike creator Phil Knight's memoir.  They're similar books because each devotes so much ink and analysis as to how their own thinking and beliefs - both positive and negative - shaped their actions and outcomes.  Read them and imagine sales instead of baseball and entrepreneurship, and both books will help shape the ideal thought process to support selling!  I highly recommend both books.  I wrote a lot about beliefs in selling in both Mindless Selling and my best-seller, Baseline Selling.  As a matter of fact, when Objective Management Group (OMG) measures this, only 45% of the sales population have 80% or more of the possible supportive sales beliefs and only 6% (elite territory) have better than 87% of the possible supportive sales beliefs!

We're half way through 2016 and I've posted 60 more articles to my Blog.  I used to measure the effectiveness of an article by the number of reads, but these days, that's more a measure of whether the title or first sentence successfully got a reader to click through.  Today, I think a better measure of an article's overall impact is the number of LinkedIn shares it receives.  As I usually do every six months, I listed the top ten articles from January through June ranked by LinkedIn shares.  Chances are that you didn't read them all so here goes:

#1 - Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before

#2 - Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

#3 - Learn How We Discovered They Had the Wrong Salespeople

#4 - The 5 Questions That Get Prospects to Buy so You Don't Have to Sell

#5 - How Boomers and Millennials Differ in Sales

#6 - Sales Coaching and the Challenges of Different Types of Salespeople

#7 - What do you Blame When Salespeople Don't Schedule Enough New Meetings?

#8 - What Percentage of Sales Managers Have the Necessary Coaching Skills?

#9 - How Wrong are Company Methods to Rank and Compensate Salespeople? 

#10 - Why Uncovering Pain Doesn't Close the Sale with a CEO and the 3 Conditions You Do Need

While those were the most shared, there are a couple that should have been shared more often but weren't:

The 3 Most Important Questions about Sales Process

It's Coming Sooner Than You Think - 5 Keys to Prepare Your Sales Force for the Recession

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Coaching, Top Performer, sales performance, self-limiting sales beliefs, sales compensation, linkedin, uncovering pain, phil knight, nike, ron darling

Preppers - Who They are and What They Share with Elite Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 @ 08:03 AM

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I just finished reading Ted Kopel's new book, Lights Out: A Cyber Attack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.  The book was incredibly well researched and written, but more than that, it scared the crap out of me!  While Kopel asked and thoroughly answered all the questions, it left me with a few questions that I just couldn't answer, and that created a sense of urgency in me.  As you know, urgency leads to action and that brings us to our topic.  Who are Preppers and what do they share with Elite Salespeople?

Preppers are those among us who are prepared to sustain themselves in the event of a natural or unnatural disaster.  They have food and water supplies to sustain them for an extended period of time, may have a local or remote shelter, self-sustaining utilities, and could even be armed.  In the context of the book, they are fully prepared and committed to survive an attack on our electrical grid, water supply, transportation system, nuclear attack or other disaster, as well as protect their home and family from looters and thugs.

One of the distinguishing qualities of elite salespeople is that they are fully prepared and committed to survive any attack against their company, product, offering, proposal, solution, price or existing customer.  If you are a fan of the Netflix series House of Cards, then you will see those same qualities in the President and First Lady, Frank and Claire Underwood.  While you should find them to be ruthless, manipulative, corrupt and unethical, they always seem to find a way to survive each and every attack against them.

Salespeople cannot be any of those things, and elite salespeople manage to fend off and survive attacks while selling with integrity.  They control their emotions, push back gently but with confidence, ask questions to uncover the truth, easily talk about money, are rejection proof, don't empathize with stalls, put-offs, excuses or bluffs, and have very healthy skepticism. Additionally, they have tremendous listening and questioning skills, a great sense of timing, follow a proven and effective sales process, and continually improve, practice and refine their selling skills.

You can find elite salespeople like that in the same way that you find mediocre salespeople!  They are usually among your pool of candidates, but are often eliminated early (for being too aggressive, having typos on their resumes, not having the background you are looking for, trying to reach a decision maker, asking too many questions, etc.).  One way to identify them early and not accidentally reject them is to use Objective Management Group's (OMG) incredibly accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments.

Elite salespeople make up 7% of the sales population and strong salespeople represent an additional 16%.  You don't have to put up with mediocrity and you can choose not to.  

Recently, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, posted this terrific article on 7 bad actors on every sales team. It's appears on the Hubspot sales blog.

Stu Heincke, author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, interviewed me for his Chicago Radio Show.  Listen to the Podcast here. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales effectiveness, elite salespeople, ted koppel, qualities of great salespeople, lights out

How March Madness Applies to Salespeople and Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 21:03 PM

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March Madness is all the rage with college hoop fans glued to their sports news feeds, video highlights, and brackets. In addition to March madness, folks are paying a lot of attention to the US Presidential Primaries, with an audience that's huge in comparison to past election years.  Spring Training began this month and as a baseball fan, I've been waiting for spring training all winter long! These distractions are evident in a number of ways and I can speak to how they affect business, the sales organization and salespeople.

This month, more people are showing up late for online training, showing the effects of staying up late to watch election coverage and debates and seeing how their favorite teams fared the night before.

Prospects have behaved worse than ever.  Salespeople are having even more difficulty reaching prospects and getting calls and emails returned - even from those who have expressed their interest in doing business.

On my own blog, March readership has been upside down with some articles getting only 10% of the views they normally receive.  For instance, here are 4 articles that I can almost guarantee that you didn't read, but that you should have:

Top 5 Conditions for B2B Prospects to Buy Your Services

Top 5 Keys to Prepare Your Sales Force for the Coming Recession

The Strategy That Will Help Nail Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

How to Sell to Existing Accounts So That You Don't Lose to the Competition

Salespeople are exhausted.  The salespeople who are selling to me, the salespeople we are coaching, and the salespeople we are training are all a step behind.  They're not quick enough on their feet, they aren't listening effectively, and they are missing openings, important statements and comments.

Even the salespeople who have been scheduled for job interviews are showing up late, missing appointments and have been generally disappointing in their interviews.

I love all of these entertaining things as much as the next person and I'm short on sleep too.  But we can't let that get in the way of what we need to be doing during business hours.  We all need to operate much like a jet airplane ready for take-off.  When it's time, rev those engines, accelerate down the runway, lift off and soar.  The lazy, distracted, zero-urgency, going through the motions pretenders will not have any success - with me or with anyone else.

If you have the skills and the Sales DNA, then you must be focused, disciplined, consistent, committed, motivated and persistent - characteristics that anyone - and I mean anyone - is capable of for 8 hours a day.  If you lack the skills and/or the Sales DNA, then you must use those same characteristics to develop your skills, overcome your weaknesses and become the best that you can be.

You have a choice - be part of the elite 7%; be part of the strong 16% or be part of the crappy 77%.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales DNA, keys to sales success, hyper sales excellence, presidential primaries, spring training

How Wrong are Company Methods to Rank and Compensate Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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When report cards and grades are available, measuring the academic success of your child or grandchild is a lot easier than it is to measure sales success.  School grades go up and we say, "Great effort!"  School grades go down and we say, "Oh-oh, something is seriously wrong here!"   Academic grades are a reflection of test scores, completed homework and class participation. Sales grades are another story altogether and that is where most companies make terrible, horrible, awful mistakes.  Do you think you know what those mistakes are?

When we evaluate sales forces, the most predictable event during the review is when the executives question why their "best salesperson" appears to be so weak on his or her evaluation.  After all, at most companies, salespeople discover how "good" they are by looking at two numbers:

  • Sales for the current period
  • Commissions for the current period

Do you ever wonder when, if ever, those two numbers are measures of actual performance?  Let's take Ken, who inherited a $3 million territory 3 years ago and now has his territory humming along at $3.1 million.  By all accounts, he generates the most revenue and earns the highest commissions in the company and when measured that way, he's doing the best job.  But is he really?

For comparison, let's look at Bob, who started his new territory from scratch 18 months ago.  It's only producing $750K, the lowest sales number in the company, and his commissions are only a quarter of Ken's.  When measured that way, he is the worst salesperson in the company.  But is he really?

I hate measuring performance by looking at revenue and commissions because it's almost always about as accurate as a salesperson's resume and those are mostly fiction.  Neither of these two guys are being paid what they are worth and neither of them deserve the "grades" they are getting.

The reality is that Bob went from 0 to $750K in 18 months - 700% better growth than their top salesperson, Ken, who grew his inherited territory by only $100K over 36 months.  On the other hand, Bob worked hard, found and closed new business, and got paid significantly less money than Ken.  Ken didn't work hard at all, didn't find any new business, and got negligible growth from a couple of big accounts.

Why aren't salespeople being measured on their effort, behaviors that grow the business, and relative success.  What's relative?  Relative to expectations.   The only problem is that expectations are often wrong, too low, or too high.  For instance, just last week a client said that after 9 months, 5 of their 6 most recent hires, all recommended by OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, were ranked in the bottom 5 out of 30.  That didn't sound right, so we dug into the data, pushed back and asked questions.  We learned that these 5 all inherited seriously underperforming territories that were ranked in the bottom 5 before they even began.  On top of that, their sales cycle is 9-12 months, so it would take at least a year for their efforts to even begin to pay dividends and we were still 3 months short of that.   Expectations must be realistic!

So how can a company measure sales performance when they can't see beyond revenue ranked by salesperson?

If that's a measure that a company insists on using, it could be filtered a bit.  They could use revenue from new accounts.  That puts everyone on level playing field and in that model, Bob would be considered more successful than Ken.  Candidly, I wouldn't even want Ken working as a salesperson for me.  I might be OK with him as a lower paid account manager, but I want Bob.  Send me Bob.  I want Bob.  More Bobs.

Are your salespeople being paid on the effort they put forth to grow your company?  Are you compensating them for the right activities and behaviors?  Are you overpaying account managers and undercompensating hunters?

How about the low-paid inside sales team that spends all day making calls and scheduling meetings for the high-paid account executives?  Is that balance appropriate?  I concede that there is a skill gap between the two roles, but without those inside reps, those account executives meet a lot fewer new prospects.

Let's get sales compensation right once and for all and stop looking at account managers with great territories as your best salespeople.  They aren't.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales compensation

Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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I've written more than 1,400 articles for Understanding the Sales Force and every one of them has been my observation of salespeople, sales managers and sales teams.  The observations come from sales force evaluations, sales candidate assessments, sales recruiting projects, sales training and coaching initiatives, and sales leadership training.  After 10 years and 1,400 articles and to avoid boredom, we will change things up a bit for this article.  

Ken is one of my longtime readers, a former client, and last week he sent this note expressing his frustrations as a buyer of services.  I'll add my comments and conclusions at the end of his note.

I just wanted to let you know that your sales training program has ruined me as a buyer.  The ineptitude of almost every sales team I have encountered recently is chilling, especially since you have shown me that they can do so much better.   I have come to wonder if it would be cost-effective for buyers to provide sales training to their prospective vendors to save us time, effort and aggravation in our purchasing process.  Salespeople chasing prospects??? I can’t tell you how much time I spend chasing vendors.

I started a new career in Information Security about 6 years ago and am now Chief Information Security Officer for a fast growing SaaS startup in the expense reporting and expense management space.  In my role, I need to purchase compliance services, auditing tools, training products, etc.

Here is the scenario that prompted this email:

A few weeks ago, I got a blast email to participate in a Webinar for a new auditing tool which was being offered by a well-known information security vendor.  I attended the Webinar but no salesperson followed up.  I went to the company website and filled out the ‘request evaluation’ form. No salesperson followed up.  I sent an email to sales@company.com requesting a conversation.

About 5 days later I got an email and a voicemail: ‘Would you like to set up a conversation?’ I responded to the email, ‘ I am available tomorrow morning from 10 a.m. to noon.’ The voicemail asked ME to call the rep. There has been no successive follow up.  I then reached out to some consultants I know in the industry asking for intros. One gave me a name but no introduction. Finally, my auditor set up a call for today.

The call started out promising, (i.e., I didn’t have to sit through 50 NASCAR slides telling me how great the company was and all the other companies they have done business with.)  The rep asked me what I hoped to learn.  After I told them, he handed the call off to his Sales Engineer for the ‘demo.’  Unfortunately, the SE had no capacity to show me or discuss with me the auditing tool that I was interested in. After 2 minutes the rep broke in and suggested we re-schedule for another time.  We’ll see if I hear back.

This is probably the worst example of about a half dozen similar ones where I have a need, I would like to buy something, and I end up doing all of the work.

Very frustrating.

Anyway thanks for allowing me to vent.

You're probably thinking, well, that's not what would happen if I was the salesperson or sales manager or sales VP or CEO.  Believe it or not, this is fairly common!  These are the very same companies that believe they have effective sales processes in place, that their 10% win rates are acceptable, and that they need to get people interested by conducting demos.  These are the companies that don't think they need help, have everything under control, have ineffective sales selection and even more ineffective sales management.

If the sales managers were decent, the very first time they debriefed a salesperson, listened to a call, observed a meeting, or discussed an upcoming call, they would have been able to identify ineffective follow-up, ineffective qualifying, ineffective listening and questioning, etc.

It's most likely that the sales managers are former salespeople who, like those they manage, specialized in conducting demos, creating proposals, and finding the 10% that will stick.

Monday, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, posted a great article on qualifying, why so many salespeople suck at qualifying, and how that ultimately leads back to ineffective sales management (read the comments too).

This article on Linkedin Pulse questions whether it's really sales managers who are to blame or someone else.

Speaking of sales management, I'll be hosting my annual Sales Leadership Intensive - the best training anywhere on showing sales leaders how to really coach salespeople for impact.  We have a full house every time we offer it and some sales leaders come back multiple times!  It will be offered on May 17-18 in the Boston area and you can learn more about the event here.  You can register here.  And if you use - DKSLIMAY16 - the discount code for my readers, it will save you $100 per ticket.  It will be great to finally meet you!

Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales process, sales performance, qualifying, win rates, pete caputa

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About Dave

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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