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

Sales Performance - Stop Worrying About the Words You Say

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 @ 04:01 AM

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When coaching, most sales managers change the words their salespeople use.  "That's not how I would say it - try this instead!"  While there are a couple of key moments in the sales process where the words do actually matter, for 98% of the sales process, it's about listening and asking appropriate questions, following the process, achieving key milestones, following the company's general strategy and using appropriate sales tactics.  It's almost never about the actual words.  For example, last week I coached a salesperson who was using all of the words the other salespeople on the team were instructed to use - but with vastly different results.  I think you'll find the coaching interesting.

I wrote an article about it for LinkedIn Pulse and you can read it here.  It's a quick read and it has the details I did not provide above.

As she tried to reduce her time-on-call from 9 to 7 minutes, she skipped an important step, rushed and became ineffective.  More often than not though, poor performance is the result of not being either strategic or tactical enough, avoiding milestones because of discomfort, or allowing the prospect to lead the salesperson away from the crucial sequence of the sales process.  

Whatever reasons may be causing poor performance, it's the sales manager's job to identify it, make sure that the salesperson learned a valuable lesson, role-play how it should have sounded instead, and make sure there is a sound plan of action moving forward.

While Sales Managers should be spending at least 50% of the time on coaching, statistics say that fewer than 25% of all sales managers spend more than 25% of their time coaching. According to this article, only 7% of sales managers are elite, 18% shouldn't even be in a sales management role, and 34% aren't trainable.  As bad as the statistics are, the eye test is even worse.  When we train and coach sales managers on how to be more effective at coaching, most have little idea as to how much of their time should be spent coaching and few have any concept as to how to coach effectively.

It's time.  Let's make ineffective sales performance and ineffective sales coaching a thing of the past.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance

How Better Accountability Causes Sales Performance to Increase

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2016 @ 06:01 AM

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This is a perfect topic to begin the New Year!  While others will be talking and writing about goals and resolutions, we'll be discussing the things that really make a difference.  Sure, having goals is important, but having them in writing, with an achieve by date and a plan is exponentially more likely to have an actionable outcome than only having goals.  And if you really want results, accountability is to goals as the accelerator is to the automobile.  They both cause immediate action.  Here's what I mean.

Let's assume that the salespeople who read this blog are a little smarter and more dedicated to sales success.  If that resonates with you, then let's also assume that they have a strong will to succeed in sales.  If you're still with me, then it's safe to assume that they gave their all and tried to get 2015 off to a good start in the first quarter of last year.

We are going to compare the year over year results of 5 randomly selected salespeople with the only difference being that in 2016 they will be accountable, whereby in 2015, they were not.  Oh sure - they worked for someone, but that is not the same thing as being accountable.

To begin, I'll need 5 volunteers.  Here are the requirements:

  • You must be willing to have me use your real name and company.
  • You must have and provide your goals and actual metrics/results from the 1st quarter of 2015.
  • You must be willing to provide me with your 2016 metrics/results every day during the 1st quarter of 2016.
  • You must be willing to allow me to periodically write about your progress and results here in my blog.
  • You must be willing to take part in a video interview before we begin and after we finish.
  • You must allow the videos to be shown online.

I guarantee that the five people who are selected for this program, despite not getting coached, will experience their best years in 2016.  We know how powerful good coaching is, but I want to show how powerful effective accountability can be all by itself - especially when there is positive peer pressure.

Will it be you?

Will it be someone who reports to you?

If you or someone you care about would like to apply, just send me an email, state that you are willing and able to abide by the 6 requirements listed in the January 4 blog article, and I'll be in touch.

What are some of the things we can compare to last year?  They include, but aren't limited to:

  • Pipeline Quantity
  • Pipeline Quality
  • Pipeline Acceleration
  • Sales Cycle Length
  • Call to Meeting Rate
  • Attempt to Conversation Rate
  • Milestones Achieved in Sales Cycle
  • Suspect to Prospect Conversion Rate
  • Prospect to Qualified Conversion Rate
  • Qualified to Closable Rate
  • Win Rate
  • Average Sale
  • Average Margin
  • Number of Referrals
  • Percentage of Leads Converted
  • Archived Opportunities
  • Percentage of Decision Makers Reached
  • Demos Scheduled
  • Demo to Win Rate
  • Compelling Reasons Uncovered
  • Compelling Reasons to Win Rate

Of course, if we don't have the specific metric from last year at this time, we can't run a comparison on that metric.  So how many of these metrics are you tracking?  Most companies track no more than 5 of these!  What would happen if you started to track all of them?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, KPI

The Holidays Help to Differentiate Good from Bad Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2015 @ 06:12 AM

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If you are anything like me, there are certain times of year that cause or allow feelings or sensations from years ago to come pouring back.  For me, it's the first day that smells like spring; the first snow of the winter; opening day of the baseball season; and burning leaves.  Each of these brings me back to my childhood and specific days or occassions that I associate with these milestones. Christmas has that effect on me and when it comes to sales in December, there is one article which, because of popular request, I have reposted for six consecutive years.  Why?  I'm not sure why it has remained so popular or why the analogies work so well, but the difference between good and bad salespeople can be explained very easily in this article.This year, I published it on LinkedIn Pulse and you can see it here.

After you read it, please return here for a few important notes:

I'll be leading two free presentations for Rapid Learning Institute on the topic of interviewing salespeople and how to be more effective at selection.  You can learn more about "Signs Your Candidate Will be a Bust" here.

This is also the time of year where we review and vote on your favorite articles from Understanding the Sales Force in 2015.  

The 5 I am nominating are:

How Wrong is the Harvard Business Review Article on How to Hire Salespeople?  
30 Reasons Why 1 Million Sales Jobs Will be Obsolete 
The Next Big Game Changer in Sales 
Rebuttal to What Elite Salespeople Do Differently 
Are We Wasting ourTime on LinkedIn? 

Each of these articles had thousands of views and were shared hundreds of times. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales effectiveness

Bugged by the Difference Between Great and Lousy Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 @ 09:07 AM

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Yesterday, I noticed a large, furry, dead bug on the hood of my car. It seemed to be attached to the outer lip of the hood - like the edge of a cliff - right where the hood drops down to the grill. I got out of the car to remove the chunk of dead fur and I was shocked to see how wrong I was. It was dead all right, and it was furry. I'm not a tall person, so I wasn't sitting high enough in the car to notice the distance between the bug and the lip of the hood, but my estimate was off by more than 2 feet! What I thought I saw was completely different from reality.

When salespeople don't call high enough into a company, they experience the exact same thing. What they believe they are seeing and hearing is quite different from what they would see and hear if they were higher up, talking with an executive that can communicate the entire story, rather than the partial view and limited information they get from a middle manager. This is Vertical Reach.

One area where vertical reach has a huge impact is selling value. I wrote a very important article on the role that emotions play in selling value for the Selling Power site last week.  

The ability to truly sell value is one of the competencies that elite salespeople have, but ineffective salespeople don't.  I have data from the nearly 1,000,000 salespeople and sales managers that have been evaluated or assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG). Regular readers have read about the elite 6% and the bottom 74%, but today I want to provide some additional eye-opening statistics that differentiate the very good from the not-so-good salespeople. What makes them different?

That's the question that most behavioral scientists and personality assessments don't answer. They usually find traits, styles or qualities that are common among top performers, while failing to realize that bottom performers have those exact same qualities - qualities that brought them into sales in the first place. They don't see that the bug is 2 feet short of the lip.

OMG clearly differentiates the top performers - the studs - from the bottom performers - the duds. Not only are there findings that differentiate top sales performers from those at the bottom, but some of those findings tend to vary by company, industry and selling role.

For example, in one company, top inside sales performers had sales DNA scores of better than 65, while their bottom performers had Sales DNA scores of below 57; top performers had Sales Posturing scores of over 45, while bottom performers all scored below 37; and top performers had qualifying scores of over 60, while bottoms all scored below 50.  Tops had Figure it Out Factor scores of over 75, while bottoms scored below 63; and compatibility scores were over 72 for tops and under 68 for bottoms. These are just a small sampling of the differences.

In another company, top outside sales performers had scores above 78 for being able to stay in the moment, while bottoms were under 67; tops didn't need people to like them, all scoring over 75, while bottoms scored below 62; tops had scores above 83 for Desire for success in sales, while bottoms had scores below 75;  tops had Sales DNA over 63 and bottoms were below 49; tops had closer skills over 33, while bottoms had scores under 22; tops had account management skills of better than 50, while bottoms had scores under 40. Again, these differences are just a small sampling.  

Those two examples are consistent with the variations we find in every sales force evaluation and very useful when it comes to identifying new sales candidates who will succeed in a specific role at their specific company.  And in case you don't think the differences in scores are significant, consider the difference between a baseball player with a batting average of .300 versus one who hits .270.  The .300 hitter is a perennial all-star while the .270 hitter is rarely known outside of his home market.

Returning to the bug on the hood, there is a much larger difference than what you might see with your own eyes when comparing the elite 6% and the bottom 6%.  For instance:

  • 93% of the elite have strong commitment to sales success compared with only 33% of the bottom.
  • 94% of the elite take responsibility for their results and don't make excuses compared with only 20% of the bottom.
  • 78% of the elite don't need their prospects to like them compared to only 6% of the bottom.
  • 98% of the elite are very comfortable talking about finances compared to only 2% of the bottom.
  • 79% of the elite have supportive sales beliefs compared to none at the bottom.
  • 76% of the elite have supportive buying behaviors compared to 8% of the bottom.
  • 95% of the elite are rejection proof compared to 18% of the bottom.
  • 77% of the elite have most of the attributes of a hunter compared with only 31% of the bottom.
  • 100% of the elite have strong desire for sales success compared with none at the bottom.

As you might suspect, there are dozens of additional differences. For example, elite salespeople have, on average, more than 80% of all possible good Sales DNA, while those at the bottom have less than 55%. [Click toTweet] The impact of those 25 points is HUGE! It's the difference between executing a sales process and methodology versus having only the ability to talk about it.

There are many great reasons to evaluate a sales force. Being able to accurately predict which new sales candidates will succeed at your company is only one of them. One of the best reasons to evaluate is to learn which underachievers can become A players, what it will take, how long it will take, and how much improvement you can expect. Of course, you would also learn which underachievers will never get any better than they are today and why.

Today, we sell in very different times than a few years ago. A sales force evaluation helps us understand which of your salespeople have adapted - who is truly selling value instead of price and who can learn? Who is truly taking a consultative approach and who can learn? Whether the sales force has what it takes to shorten the sales cycle and improve the win rate and why? These are just a handful of popular reasons to evaluate the sales force today. Interested in getting some of your pressing business questions answered? 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales performance, top sales performer

Do We Have Sales Compensation All Wrong?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 06, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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Earlier this week, I posted an article that explored whether or not a salesperson should be punished for landing a big deal if that same salesperson had nothing else in the pipeline.  It generated some heated discussion in the comments section and since there was disagreement about compensation in the comment section, I thought it would be helpful to discuss that.  Should a salesperson receive the maximum commission on the big deal if there was no other activity, critical KPI's weren't met, and the pipeline is essentially empty?

I believe the question merits more than a simple yes or no answer.

The negative comments appeared not only on my Blog, but also in the various LinkedIn Groups where the article was shared. One commenter said that we can't reward effort OVER results while another commenter said that we can't reward results to the exclusion of effort.  Both have their pros and cons, but is there a happy medium?

Let's suppose that our company expects each of its salespeople to generate $2 million annually, or $500K each quarter.  The sales cycle is 8 months, the average sale is $50,000, the closing percentage is 30%, and one quarter is already in the books.  The company has 5 salespeople and their quarterly performance was as follows:

Salesperson

# of Opps 
in Pipline

Value of Opps 
in Pipeline

Revenue YTD

Qualified 
Proposals

 Overall
Results

Overall 
Performance

1

0

$              0

$500,000

0

  On Target

 Poor

2

27

$ 1,850,000

$385,000

6

  Below Target

 Good

3

16

$    800,000

$520,000

3

  On Target

 Excellent

4

6

$    300,000

$250,000

2

  Under Target

 Poor

5

30

$ 1,500,000

$550,000

4

  Above Target

 Excellent

 

One commenter said the only thing he cared about was the results. He was referring to the big deal that salesperson #1 landed in the first quarter.  He wanted to celebrate this deal and this salesperson, but when you see the overall performance in black and white, it's clear that with an 8 month sales cycle and one quarter in the books, salesperson #1 will have annual sales of only $500,000 - the same number achieved for the first quarter.

Salesperson #3 is on target, but with a 30% closing ratio, there is not enough in #3's pipeline to support more than $240,000 in additional revenue.

# 5 will be fine, but #4 is currently failing and the rest of #4's year will likely be horrible.  

The interesting example is #2, who is below target, but has the healthiest pipeline, the greatest number of qualified proposals and will likely lead the sales force in revenue for the year.

Now let's factor in compensation.  If #1 maximizes his possible compensation by hitting his quarterly number, and then bombs the rest of the year, he will have been overpaid for his first quarter contribution to revenue.  If #2 is paid on the lowest possible scale for missing first quarter quota, she will have been underpaid for her first quarter contribution to revenue.

Those two salespeople and their first quarter performance make a great case for a compensation plan that factors results as well as quality effort (# of new opportunities/value of opportunities).  Results should still be weighed more heavily than effort, but if we include both, then both salespeople would be paid more in line with their overall performance.

If sales is worth 75% and effort is worth 25%, how would that affect compensation for these two salespeople on a bonus plan that pays out a maximum of 10% of revenue?

Salesperson #1 would be paid 75% of the maximum $50,000 (on $500,000 quota), or $37,500 for revenue and $0 for effort.

Salesperson #2 would be paid 25% of the maximum $50,000, or $12,500 for effort and 75% for revenue, or $28,500, for a total of $41,000.  Despite sales that were $115,000 short of quota, salesperson #2 would earn $3,500 more than salesperson #1 for adding 27 opportunities worth $1,850,000 to the pipeline.

I'm sure this will cause many to chime in with their own versions and variations and that would be awesome!  And based on what we read from commenters in the earlier article, I'm sure others will criticize the concept and they are more than welcome to do so.

I'm simply suggesting that we can get more from our salespeople if we factor more into the compensation plan than results.

Let's get as much feedback as possible. Have a comment?  Want to read what others think?  Either way, please use the buttons at the top of the article to share it on LinkedIn and Twitter to reach a wider audience for their thoughts.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales performance, Compensation

30 Reasons Why 1 Million Sales Jobs Will be Obsolete

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

 

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Image Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

On March 8, this article on the Hubspot Sales Blog reported that one million B2B sales jobs will be lost.  Are you, or any of your salespeople at risk?  The article talked about four archetypes of salespeople and the two types at greatest risk.  While I agree that there won't be a place for order takers, and those who sell consultatively will always have work, I see the shakeup a bit differently.  Here's why.

If you're reading this article, it means that you are at least somewhat active on social media and could be less at risk than others.  For example, there are certain signs that people who meet some or all of the following 10 conditions might not have a place in the new sales order by 2020:

  1. You're my age or older (I'm 59).
  2. You don't have a LinkedIn profile.
  3. You have fewer than 500 connections on LinkedIn.
  4. You don't visit LinkedIn each day to see what's happening with your connections.
  5. You don't actively participate in LinkedIn groups where your customers are most likely to find you.
  6. You don't read articles and comment to improve your visibility.
  7. You don't have your picture on your LinkedIn profile.
  8. You haven't integrated the myriad of powerful and effective tools that make selling easier and makes you more efficient.
  9. You call yourself "old-school".
  10. Your only use of LinkedIn occurs when someone sends an invitation to join their network.

While LinkedIn does not replace prospecting, it helps people find you and when they do, they may be presold on you based on what they read about you and by you.  The opposite can happen too...  If you aren't taking advantage of this great platform, you have lost tremendous ground to your colleagues and competitors.

I mentioned tools in #8 above.  My favorites include Reachable.com, toofr.com, Shufflrr.com, Membrain.com, Wunderlist.com, ScheduleOnce.com, Postwire.com, Wistia.com, AdobeConnect.com, ToutApp.comConnectAndSell.com, and many more.  Why are tools important?  They help you personally target, market, identify, get introduced, and connect.  Then they help you track and manage your sales cycle with each opportunity as well as your pipeline.  The days of managing opportunities and sales cycles with notebooks, clunky CRM, spreadsheets and email are long gone.  You might just be starting to use clunky CRM, spreadsheets and email for this, but you're too late.  The cheese moved again!

Then there are some actual sales criteria.  if you aren't proactively making sure that you have the following 10 issues mastered, then you, selling, and the year 2020 may not be long for each other:

  1. You are following a time-tested, proven, milestone-centric, formal, customized, sales process.
  2. You are selling consultatively - all the time.
  3. You have finally stopped positioning a demo as a milestone predictive of revenue.
  4. You have finally stopped doing demos before an opportunity is completely qualified.
  5. You are always working to improve your listening and questioning skills.
  6. You are rejection-proof.
  7. You have unconditional commitment to sales success.
  8. You are disciplined, consistent and resilient.
  9. You seek effective and helpful coaching from your sales leader and/or outside experts.
  10. You have stopped being a source of product knowledge and pricing; and have become a valued resource.

Without a doubt, selling is more difficult than at any time in our history.  It is also more complex and requires a completely different skill set than it once did.  As an example, salespeople who just 10 years ago were doing just fine, are now struggling to make ends meet as they deal with the fact that they can no longer do the following 10 things and expect it to have a positive impact:

  1. Bring donuts and coffee.
  2. Be a product encyclopedia.
  3. Quote pricing.
  4. Explain features and benefits.
  5. Show up and expect to get quality time.
  6. Expect people to buy because of their relationship alone.
  7. Expect people to buy because of their pricing alone.
  8. Expect people to buy because of their quality or service alone.
  9. Differentiate by talking about how they are different.
  10. Waste the time of people who are important.

This warning is bigger than salespeople.  This is about sales organizations and companies and industries too.  Back in the 1990's, companies were working on Lean, ISO, Just in Time, Just Enough, upgrading their operations, and working on every phase of their business except sales.  I see similar things occurring today with upgrades to technology, capabilities and capacity, while salespeople are all but abandoned.  If you have a sales organization and you haven't had it evaluated, right-sized, right-roled, upgraded and improved in order for you to still be relevant in 2020, you are falling further behind each day.  This is all happening faster than most people think, so there is no time like the present.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, social selling, salespeople, sales tools

Sales Success is Like Making Great Tasting Soup

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

french_onion_soup_med

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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