What Leads to Salespeople Underperforming?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 08:07 AM

focusAs a baseball fan, it drives me mad when underperforming players don't play because of one nagging injury after another.  It makes me wonder whether their injuries are causing them to underperform or their "injuries" are convenient excuses for their lack of performance.  We usually don't know, but it sets up my next question.

Doesn't it drive you mad when terrific, yet underperforming salespeople, take time off for their car to be serviced, to bring their pets to the vet, to spend time with visiting family members, to work out of the house, when they feel under the weather, to meet a with a contractor, for the dentist, for their annual physical, etc?  Take a vacation - no problem - but if you're not on vacation, then work for crying out loud!  

The funny thing is that your overachievers may include these same things in their very busy schedules.  The difference is that you either don't know about it, because they only spend the hour it actually takes to get it done instead of the entire day, or they don't do these things during their selling time.

Why do you suppose your underperformers are always coming up with things that cause them to take time off?  Are those distractions the very reasons why they are underperforming or are they merely symptoms of their lack of focus, discipline, commitment, or work ethic?

I know from personal experience that when I am focused on results, I never have time for golf.  Can't justify it.  However, when I have focused on golf, I didn't get the business results which I'd expected.  That's just the way it works.  People will get results, not by accident, but only when they are completely focused on the activities, behaviors, work, flow and relationships that lead to results and when they are disciplined enough to remain focused and active for as long as it takes to achieve those results.

How do you keep a salesperson focused and disciplined?  Those are the very salespeople who must be micro-managed, but don't be surprised if those same salespeople resist your efforts.  They may not want to be so focused and disciplined, meaning that you aren't on the same page.  When that's the case, it just might be time for a change of scenery.  They do that with ballplayers....

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance, sales evaluation, sales personality, underachieving, underperformance, overachiever

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

sales motivationThis was the question posed at Focus.com. 

When I reviewed the page, there were 18 other answers to the question.  There was nothing particularly wrong with them, but they just weren't transferable or scalable.  They didn't answer the question of how sales professionals stay motivated as much as they answered how certain salespeople motivate themselves and how certain sales managers motivate others.

The most important thing to understand is that when someone must ask how to motivate their salespeople, they may not have the right salespeople!

The best salespeople don't have to be motivated - they just are - and it not something they have to do.  Sure, they are goal-orientated.  Sure, they are disciplined.  Sure, they love praise and recognition.  But salespeople who love what they do and love either the thrill of success or the sight of their growing bank account are pre-motivated.  Think pre-washed or pre-faded jeans. They come to the table wired for it.

The real issue is what to do about those who aren't wired for it.  The easy answer is to evaluate the sales force and, as part of that process, look for the data which will tell you who is motivated; not in general terms, but specifically for success in sales.  Who can be developed and how much improvement are they likely to show?  You may learn that you don't have the right salespeople in the right roles and may need to make some changes.

You'll also see this problem with veteran salespeople who have made a lot of money and have become complacent.  Just because they have succeeded in the past, doesn't mean they will continue to succeed in the future.  And did they really succeed in the past or did they make a bunch of money because they inherited lucrative accounts?

Change is the best way to motivate a complacent sales force.  Send a message that they can all be replaced and that you are willing to make those changes.

Read more of my articles on sales force motivation.

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales development

Are (Lack of) Results Due to the Salesperson or the Company?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 09, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

resultsI'll open with a baseball analogy:  A few weeks ago, the Boston Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis - a disgruntled, underperforming, 3-time all-star - to the Chicago White Sox AND the Red Sox paid most of his remaining 2012 salary.  In return, they received a couple of unspectacular spare parts.  What has happened since?  Youkilis reverted to form and quickly became a fan favorite in Chicago.  The Red Sox continue to lose games and underperform.  So, the question is: Was it Youkilis or the team that caused him, and just about everyone not named David Ortiz, to underperform this year?

Now the sales connection:  Whether your salespeople are underperforming or doing well, are they responsible or is it your company, culture, advertising or offerings that's responsible?

Using data from the 600,000+ salespeople and sales managers whom OMG assessed, we know that salespeople, who work for industry leaders, do well because of their company's reputation, advertising and offerings.  We know that in underdog companies (pricier than competition, high-ticket, new company, new technology, story to tell, pioneer, etc.), when salespeople are underperforming, it is usually because of the salespeople, not the company.

Sales is not like other roles.  A salesperson's successful performance at one company does not necessarily translate to success in a different role or at another company, much like certain baseball players don't perform well in the Boston or New York markets, despite having the ability to perform at a high level for smaller market teams.

As selling continues to be more challenging, companies must make dramatic improvements at sales selection and development.  Specifically, sales leaders at all levels must follow best practices for the sales selection process, on-boarding and ongoing development.  OMG's data also shows that 86% of all sales managers don't perform any of those three roles very well. 

When sales managers are ineffective at selecting the right salespeople, they compound the problem by being equally ineffective at coaching - the foundation of ongoing development.

Training salespeople is nice, but a waste of time and money when the wrong salespeople are trained and sales managers aren't prepared to coach to and hold salespeople accountable to the training.

It's time to fix these problems, not turn a blind eye.  

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales evaluation, omg, sales personality

Sales Force Lessons from Gates, Crowley and Obama

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 @ 06:07 AM

The outraged Harvard Professor who was arrested and Cambridge's arresting officer of record will both meet over a beer with President Obama at the White House this week.  The President is reaching out to mend fences between local adversaries and as unusual as that sounds, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

This sort of thing happens - parents bringing to quarreling kids together. Sports managers uniting players that don't get along.  Letterman and Oprah.  But it happens in business too.  The boss meeting with the manager and employee that are having trouble.

This should happen a lot more often on the sales force.  How often do customers become upset over the behavior of a salesperson, customer service rep, technician or even accounting?  When controversy jeopardizes a good account, it's time for the president or CEO to reach out and mend fences between adversaries!  Some top ranking executives feel as though they are above such gestures but now we have precedent.  After all, when the President of the United States of America can bring cop and professor together, you can bring customers and company representatives together too.  It should be a best practice and it shouldn't be limited to behavioral disasters either.

How about good opportunities with profitable accounts that can be leveraged?  When a salesperson or team loses traction, hasn't positioned itself correctly, or takes a misstep along the way, isn't it appropriate for a top executive to step in?

So what should an Entrepreneur do? While there are upsides to Entrepreneurs being their own best salespeople, there are downsides too.  The two biggest are:

  • Despite being the president, they are viewed as a salesperson
  • When things go wrong, there isn't anyone higher up to step in and reset the opportunity 
I know a CEO of one large company who makes calls to existing customers and not only makes his presence known, he always asks for more business.  Why not take advantage and leverage your position?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales, selling, Sales Force, CEO, sales personality, sales strategy

Misleading Statistics and Hiring the Wrong Sales Candidates

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Nov 02, 2008 @ 20:11 PM

The November issue of Fortune Small Business has an article called Entrepreneurial Myth Busters. FSB has Ken Blanchard (consultant )and Scott Shane (academic) go head to head answering questions about small businesses and entrepreneurship.  While Blanchard provides insightful answers based on his years of experience working in, consulting to and writing about business, Shane provides surprising answers based on data.  I'm sure that if you read the article you'll agree that Shane's data lead to some very misleading conclusions. Academics who haven't been "out there" can fall in love with their data!

I "browsed" more than 400 articles that I have written for this Blog in the past three years and found only 22 articles where I reference Objective Management Group's data on the 400,000 salespeople that we have assessed. I've been researching, consulting to, evaluating, training, devloping and coaching CEO's, sales VP's, and their sales forces for more than 20 years.  Like Blanchard, I know what's going on out there from being out there but I also have the benefit of having data to back up my first-hand knowledge and resulting claims.

Data has its place.  For example, when Tom Peters said women make better salespeople than men, I knew that to be true - to a point - and then explained it with data.  I believe that the researchers with data should use it responsibly rather than to promote counter intuitive yet irrelevant findings to draw attention to themselves.

I'll illustrate my point by using some of our sales selection data. Take the following statistic for example:

70% of the very strongest salespeople take their assessments prior to 7 AM.

Wouldn't that fact cause you to select salespeople that take their assessments early in the morning? 

Not really. 

Additional Statistic #1 - We assess salespeople from around the world, so most of the European assessments and all of the Asian and Pacific Rim assessments are processed before 7 AM ET. 

Additional Statistic #2 - The very strongest salespeople make up only 6% of the sales population, 70% of that group would yield only 4.2 strong candidates out of 100. 

Without the additional statistics I could have led you to believe that the 7 AM statistic would be valuable!

Look at another statistic on sales selection:

80% of the strongest salespeople do not have Need for Approval.

Wouldn't this cause you to look for people who did not have need for approval?

As with the case above, no.

Additional Statistic - 38% of all salespeople do not have need for approval so you would select the right salesperson only 15% of the time!

This is one of the things that amuses me.  After developing familiarity and confidence with the assessment, a small percentage of clients will simply key in on one finding or another and believe that they can suddenly identify successful salespeople without having to use the assessment. 

Selection is never about one or two findings - it is always about a combination of findings and how that combination will impact the candidate in your business, where there is a unique set of findings that will identify a salesperson that will succeed for you.

Statistics are awesome when they're used in a way that benefits everyone.  When they're used to fool people it makes me angry.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales statistics, Fortune, Ken Blanchard, Scott Shane, hiring assessments

Who Are Better Salespeople - Men or Women?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 @ 22:10 PM

Tom Peters said women are better salespeople than men.

I wrote that Objective Management Group has data that proves that a greater percentage of women are stronger than men.

Here is how that data breaks down:

In areas of motivation - Desire, Commitment, Money Motivated, Enjoys Selling, and Excuse Making, men and women are statistically the same.

In the area of Outlook - Women are slightly more likely to have a strong Outlook.

In a surprise finding, men and women are statistically just as likely to have any of the five major weaknesses we identify, including Need for Approval and the Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved. The same goes for Difficulty Recovering from Rejection.  The big difference though is in the severity of these weaknesses.  Men are three times more likely to have severe weaknesses than women!

Women are 50% more likely to have low self-esteem.

Tom Peters also said that (Woody Allen said that) 80% of success is just showing up.  Women are far more likely to show up in front of a prospect because they are 25% more willing to make cold calls than men. While we have no statistical evidence for the next statement, we believe that women are more effective getting an audience with their prospects.

Hunting and Closing skills are statistically the same but overall, women have more selling skills and strengths than men.

And finally, a man is twice as likely to have a Sales Quotient of greater than 130.  As a matter of fact, as the sales quotient gets higher, men make a stronger showing:

Sales Quotient over 140 70% male and 30% female.
Sales Quotient over 145 79% male and 21% female.
Sales Quotient over 150 80% male and 20% female.

The important thing to remember is this: if you interview 100 candidates, a quarter of the the top 26% will be women which translates into about 6 superior female candidates to go along with 18 top male candidates. 

So like I said in my previous post, a larger percentage of the females are stronger than the percentage of males that are stronger.  There you have it.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

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Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales personality, women in sales, men versus women, men vs. women, women are stronger than men, sales evaluations

Tom Peters - Sales Excellence

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 @ 06:10 AM

My team was watching Tom Peters at the Fortune/Gazelles Growth Summit yesterday.  Tom always has a lot to say, some of it new, some not, but always good.  Even though he is a scientist type, I belive he is a sales & marketing guy at heart.  Try some of these one liners on for size:

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting ‘GERONIMO!' "-Bill McKenna, professional motorcycle racer

Tom applied it to business but think of the implications if you can drive this message home to your sales force! My comments follow each one of his one liners.

"Across the Board Cuts are Dumb"

Amen!

"Minimize Cuts in Training Costs"

That's right -it's more important than ever to focus on your salespeople and customer service people!

"Beware of such things as sales travel cuts and ad cuts"

Go Tom!

"Excellence now, more than ever"

If you become excellent in this economy, you'll blow the doors off of your competition when companies and people start spending money again.

"Women are better salespersons than men"

Objective Management Group has data on almost 400,000 salespeople that we have assessed.  About 80% of them are male. Our data shows that a greater percentage of the females are good salespeople compared with the percentage of males that are good salespeople.

"How can a high-level leader like _____ be so out of touch with the truth about himself? It's more common than you would imagine. In fact, the higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be. The problem is an acute lack of feedback [especially on people issues]." -Daniel Goleman (et al.), The New Leader 

I see this all the time.  Presidents lamenting over their sales force when, so often, the Presidents are the problem!

"Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone around you is what distinguishes a superior leader." -Edie Seashore (Strategy + Business #45) 

"Do something scary every day"

Reminds me of the comment I've so often written - the biggest difference between sales winners and everyone else is that winners choose to do what they don't want to do.

So today, have a greater sense of how you either positively or negatively impact your sales force, get each of them to do something they don't want to do, have them return to the office all beat up and increase your emphasis on sales training to assure continued, consistent sales excellence.

 (c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

 


Topics: sales competencies, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales excellence, sales personality, Tom Peters, Economy

Management's Guide to the Top 10 Differences Between Sales Winners and Losers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Oct 19, 2008 @ 22:10 PM

Friday I wrote this post and today I wrote this longer article about the Top 10 Differences between Sales Winners and Sales Losers.

This post is the sales management version of the article referenced above.

In that article, I asked sales professionals to rate themselves.

In this article, I'll ask you to rate each of your salespeople using the same scale.  Top producers score 40-50.  B players score 30-40.  C Players score 20-30. Below 20? Losers.

Now, use this scale to rate your sales force.

80-100% A Players - You have an over achieving sales force.  Congratulations!

50-80% A Players - You have a core of A players to build around. You're on the way.

30-50% A Players - You know what they look like, now go find some more!

Less than 30% A Players - You are working to hard, hoping for more but often getting less and your pushing the 18 wheeler up hill.  You may need to start from scratch!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, over achievement, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, under achievement, sales winners, sales losers, sales assessments, salespeople, sales success

The Sales Assessment as Crystal Ball

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 @ 10:10 AM

Not all sales assessments are created equal.

That's an understatement.

Yet it's when a client pushes back - not when they look at the recommendation or prediction and accept it - that we get an opportunity to bring our sales assessment to life.

Take the candidate who lacks desire or commitment - not in life, not in general, but for sales.  Clients can't believe it when a candidate they know, with a track record of success, is found to possess lack of desire or commitment. 

Of course, in these cases the clients are on a backward looking path while we are on a forward looking path.  What has happened in the past isn't a guarantee of what will happen in the future.  I won't get in to the factors that could cause an otherwise average or below average salesperson to have wild success in one position and fail miserably at the next but trust me when I tell you that it happens a lot.  That's why it is so important to look beyond what you see on the resume and in the interview.

When we bring a sales assessment to life and use the data points to tell the story behind the findings, then the sales assessment becomes a crystal ball.  How about the former successful business owner who must now apply for a sales position?  He is known in his industry and the client is all excited about hiring him.  Yet the sales assessment says, Lack of Desire and Lack of Commitment.  "How can that be?" The client pushes back because it doesn't correlate to his backward thinking experiences.  But if we look forward the story unfolds.  Can you imagine this former owner, used to running things, making cold calls every day?  Going on sales appointments every day?  Actually hanging in, being tough and closing business the way good salespeople do? Sure the candidate was successful - running his business. But it's not sales success that he wants or is committed to now. Right now he simply needs something to do and he needs to bring in some money.  There aren't many companies posting jobs for former owners and he has all of these industry contacts so why not a position in sales?

If you ask the client what he originally wanted his new salesperson to do he would tell you, "find new business."  And if you were honest about what this former business owner was capable of doing it would be run a business or possibly bring some former accounts to his new company.

While clients get discouraged and sometimes even upset about our ability to bring desire and commitment issues to light, they eventually appreciate their new toy - the crystal ball - their ability to predict the future sales success of every candidate.

Would you like to know why more executives don't use the crystal ball?  They'd rather not know.  They find it more comforting to use hope - and be wrong - than use information and have to try again.  After all, isn't the goal of sales recruiting to hire someone?  And why not the person sitting in front of me?  She has as good a chance of making it as anyone else..."

It's that kind of lazy, quick to the finish practice that leaves us with a sales force filled with under achievers.  The crystal ball will give you a sales force made up of over achievers!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Salesforce, Sales Force, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, sales personality, hiring salespeople, sales profile, sales personality test, sales test

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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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