Speed Limits, the Flow of Traffic, and Sales Pipelines

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 @ 05:11 AM

speed-limit

I don't get stressed anymore when I'm driving.  All it took was for me to not exceed the speed limit.  I'm not sure whether it was my navigation system repeatedly telling me to "obey all traffic laws" each time I started the car, or my wife reminding me that I needed to be a good role model for our soon-to-be driving 16 year-old son.  I admit that this was much easier for me to do after I gave up my Jaguar for a Lincoln Navigator.  It holds much more baseball equipment!

There is an exception to not exceeding the speed limit.  When the flow of traffic in all lanes is moving exponentially faster than you are, you must increase your speed to match the flow of traffic or risk getting run over!

That brings me to pipeline flow.

I was doing a top/bottom analysis of a sales force where we look at their top 5 producers and their bottom 5 performers and from among 180 findings and scores, identify the differences between the tops and bottoms. We usually find between 15-20 significant differentiators but for this particular sales force I wasn't finding much.  Until I came to the pipeline.  Their top producers prospected consistently, successfully scheduled new meetings, and had full pipelines.  They were also rejection proof, didn't procrastinate, and didn't need prospects to like them.  In other words, their scores in all aspects of the Hunting Competency were near 100 while the bottom performers had scores below 50.

The thing that is most interesting about that is that these are findings that SHOULD have been obvious to the client - but they weren't.  99% of the time, we identify findings, scores, insights and differences that are complete surprises but this time?  Nobody was paying attention and as such, just couldn't understand why these 3 were doing so poorly.

This top/bottom analysis not only revealed a selection problem, where they hired people for hunting roles who couldn't hunt, but a sales management problem too. It would seem that there was no accountability for salespeople to use CRM and it's unlikely that sales management was reviewing the dashboard or reading any of the reports.  This problem would have been easy to spot months earlier if either of those two best practices were being followed.  

Pipeline flow doesn't really refer to the size of the pipeline though.  Flow measures how opportunities move through the pipeline.  From milestone to milestone, activity to activity and stage to stage.  Most salespeople have bottlenecks that inhibit the flow in their pipeline.  The bottleneck is the point in the sales process where a salesperson's opportunities most often get stuck.  Knowing where they get stuck is helpful, but knowing why they get stuck is essential.  You can't fix the problem unless you know why.

It might be as simple as Johnny isn't reaching the actual decision makers.  That's not the why, that's the where. It's a milestone in a stage.  The why can be anything from:

  • Non-supportive beliefs in which the voice in Johnny's head might sound like, "I don't need to speak with the actual decision maker because my contact will take care of it"
  • Lack of skills whereby Johnny doesn't know how to get the actual decision maker engaged
  • A need to be liked where Johnny worries that if he asks to meet with the actual decision maker he might piss off his contact who won't like him anymore
  • Lack of consultative selling capabilities where Johnny got the prospect to "nice to have" but not as far as "must have".  As a result, there is no compelling reason for the prospect to go to or get the decision maker engaged

My favorite CRM application is Membrain which is great for a complex sale.  It's opportunity-focused and has great pipeline management features among many other things right out of the box.  Membrain not only measures time in stage, but also measures stalled opportunities. That helps you get started with the where and the why analysis.  The image below shows a stalled opportunity analysis for a top salesperson.

stall-analysisThe graph makes it very obvious.  If an opportunity stalls for more than 33 days, the salesperson will probably not get the business.  There were five outliers between 76-132 days but they are the exceptions, not the rule.  The 35 wins inside of 33 days, and the 27 losses after 33 days are the rule.

Because Membrain is opportunity focused, you can easily identify where the bottleneck is.  I clicked through on the 6 opportunities to the right of the 33 day mark and most of them lacked the funds to move forward.  That's the where.  The why could be skill, discomfort talking about money (when the budget isn't there) or the less obvious one, failure to uncover a compelling reason to buy.  That means nice to have but not must have.  When a salesperson reaches must have, the prospect must find the money.  When the salesperson only reaches nice to have, it's not crucial to find the money.  When attempting to uncover compelling reasons to buy, it's just like driving in a 55 MPH zone and you must reduce your speed as you enter a 40 MPH zone.  SLOW DOWN.  

And that concludes today's lesson on pipeline flow.  Now you're in the flow.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, empty pipeline, sales pipeline, delayed closings, uncovering budget

Golden Nuggets from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study

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

gold-nuggets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

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

Does Being a Strong Qualifier Correlate to Having a Strong Pipeline?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 07, 2018 @ 09:08 AM

qualify

My latest data mining project reveals that the answer to this question is a partial correlation.  

Check out the two tables below and you'll see just what I mean.

All of the data in this article comes from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments of nearly 1.8 million salespeople.  See the data yourself in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and find out how your team compares by industry, region and more.

The first table shows the percentage of salespeople that have the Qualifier competency as a strength.  Look at the difference between elite salespeople where 93% have it as a strength versus weak salespeople where only 9% have it as a strength.  Also notice that the all of the scores in the table correlate to Sales Percentile.  The correlation ends there.  Strong and elite salespeople who are strong at the Qualifier competency are also strong at the Value Selling competency and have strong pipelines.  However, the 9% of weak salespeople who are strong at qualifying do not have strong pipeline quality and are not strong at selling value.

correlation-qualifier-to-pipeline

The second table has the same three competencies but it's framed based on those with strong pipeline quality.  Once again we see a partial correlation between pipeline quality, qualifier and value selling.  Most elite and strong salespeople who have strong pipeline quality are also strong at qualifying and selling value.  However, most weak salespeople who have strong pipeline quality are not strong in the qualifier or value selling competencies.

correlation-pipeline-to-qualifier

My takeaway from this is that when weak salespeople have strong pipeline quality, it's not because of them, it's because of the circumstances they find themselves in.  They likely stumbled upon the good opportunities, prospects shared more information than normal, and the opportunity moved to a late stage.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales pipeline, qualifying, selling value, Dave Kurlan

Sales Pipeline Data Shows That Most Late Stage Opportunities Just Aren't

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 @ 07:07 AM

pipeline

If you happened to read the article about most salespeople being fired or arrested if they worked in accounting then this is the sequel - Arrested 2!

That article focused on the number of late-stage opportunities in the pipeline.  Objective Management Group (OMG) conducts a pipeline analysis as part of its Sales Force Evaluations.  We ask salespeople to answer nineteen questions on four late-stage, proposal-ready, closable opportunities each.  In addition to looking at and rating the quality of the pipeline, we then go and re-stage their pipeline based on their answers.  It's pretty cool and the re-staging looks like what I described in this article.

The premise is that if we ask for late-stage, proposal-ready, or closable, then 100% of the opportunities should be in either the qualified or closable stage. I looked into the percentage of opportunities that required re-staging sorted by sales percentile and once again, the findings are powerful and insightful.

Take a peek at the table below where you can see the percentage of opportunities that we replaced in each stage, organized by sales percentile.

restaging-percentages

The first thing you'll notice is that without exception, the percentages correlate perfectly with sales percentile.  This is powerful because OMG does NOT use pipeline data to calculate sales percentile. So the opportunity percentages by stage serve to validate of our sales percentile scores in one more way!

Elite (5%) and Strong (15%) salespeople represent around 20% of the population, while around 50% of all salespeople are weak and the other 30% or so are serviceable.  Notice that elite salespeople had 150% more of their opportunities remain in a late stage (qualified or closable) than weak salespeople who only saw 16% of theirs remain late stage.  That's right. 84% of their opportunities were restaged to either the suspect or prospect stages of the pipeline.

As with the other articles that dig deep into the data, this is less of a surprise and more of a confirmation of what most of us have suspected and believed.  But like the data, it goes deeper.  You've heard the expression, "Inspect what you expect" and it is so true with pipeline.  Before you give elite salespeople a free pass, note that even they had 60% of their opportunities restaged!

My takeaway is that organizations must move from pipeline reviews and forecasts, to pipeline inspections and justifications.  Only then will coaching be in the proper context and will forecasts become accurate and reliable.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales pipeline, Dave Kurlan, omg, sales data

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if they Worked in Accounting

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 02, 2018 @ 06:07 AM

jailed

It's summer so they're digging up streets, repaving roads, and repairing bridges.  That leads to epic traffic jams, long commutes and tremendous amounts of frustration.  And you're late!  I've been doing my best impression of the digging, without the paving and repairing.  Ten of my last fourteen articles have been based on Objective Management Group's (OMG) data from the evaluations of 1.8 million sales professionals and like the road work, we're gonna dig some more today!  

In this article, we will look to determine whether there is a correlation between sales percentile, sales pipeline and sales performance.  And as has been the case with the last ten articles like this, the data is sure to surprise.

OMG includes a pipeline analysis as part of every Sales Force evaluation it conducts. We ask each salesperson 19 questions about four late-stage, proposal-ready/closable opportunities currently in their pipeline.  In the table below, the percentage of salespeople who actually had 4 late-stage opportunities on which they could report are sorted by Sales Percentile.

Percentile-PipelineAlmost half of the elite and strong groups, representing the top 15% or so percent of all salespeople, had 4 late-stage opportunities while only a third or so of the serviceable salespeople and just 21% of the weak salespeople (half the population) had 4 late-stage opportunities in the pipeline.  It should come as no surprise at all that stronger salespeople have more quality opportunities in their pipelines.

The table below shows correlation between sales percentile, sales process and sales performance.  

Percentile-Process-PerformanceThere is a strong correlation between sales percentile and sales process. 86% of the elite salespeople (5% of the sales population) and 70% of strong salespeople (11% of the sales population) have the Sales Process Competency as a strength.  It drops off quickly and significantly for serviceable salespeople (34% of the sales population) and dramatically for weak (50% of the sales population) salespeople.  Is it any wonder that only 20% of weak salespeople have Sales Process as a strength?

The most interesting finding was in the area of performance.

While the percentages do correlate to Sales Percentile, the way companies report sales performance is insightful. In the table above, read the column on performance backwards. Companies report that 36% of elite salespeople aren't performing.  In other words, they believe that they "should do better!"  The finding is even worse for strong salespeople where companies say that 43% should do better.  Companies say that 53% of the serviceable salespeople are performing and 40% of the weak salespeople are performing.  This is crazy and it's all about expectations.  Expectations of the best salespeople are incredibly high, while expectations of the crappy salespeople are incredibly low.  For example, take a look at this screen shot of one small company's revenue by salesperson, and whether or not the company believes the salespeople are performing.

performance

As you can see, the company says that their top 2 salespeople, generating approximately $20 million between them, are not performing, while they say that their worst salespeople, generating a little more then $6 million combined from 3 of them, are performing.  Crazy, right?

Quotas continue to go up for the salespeople who perform until they can no longer hit the numbers. Meanwhile, in a race to the bottom, quotas are adjusted downward for crappy salespeople until they hit a mutual area of pathetic.  Some of us intuitively knew that this insanity was occurring, and now we can show proof of this with the data.

We can do so much better than this.  Why do so many executives protect their worst salespeople?  We hear things like, "Their customers love them."  "They serve a purpose."  "They have legacy knowledge."  "They're family."  "I recruited him here from another company we both worked for."  "They're not really costing us anything."

If these crappy salespeople and their protective bosses worked in accounting they would have been fired or jailed for this kind of performance!

What will it take for companies to demand the same performance from all salespeople that they get from their best salespeople?  Better recruiting and selection, better training, better coaching and better accountability.  And what will it take for those things to happen?  Don't hold your breath.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales data, sales process, sales performance, sales pipeline, Dave Kurlan

Discovered - Data Reveals the Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 @ 05:04 AM

decisionmaker

Humans have been waiting for thousands of years to discover the secrets of life.  Why are we here?  Why do bad things happen?  What happens after we die?  Is Heaven real?  What is God's plan for us?

While many experts have attempted to answer all of these questions, most of us lack proof. There's no data.  If we wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly there are not only answers to these questions, but science-based proof, that would be a game-changer for us.

Likewise, every day most companies try to determine why their salespeople don't close more business, why so many opportunities die on the vine, and what they need to do differently to change change their results.  They try everything!  Most leaders think it's an issue of closing skills.  It's not.  Others think it's about prospecting.  While that has an impact on the size and quality of the pipeline, it has little to do with results.  But I have discovered the cause, will show you the data, and discuss how to fix it.

Recently, Objective Management Group (OMG) integrated its sales force evaluation and its pipeline analysis.  Previously, the pipeline analysis was a separate chapter and while very revealing, the data was standalone.  OMG also expanded its analysis of salespeople's ability to reach decision makers and rather than a finding as it once was, it is now a full competency with 8 attributes.

I have reviewed several dozen sales force evaluations conducted since the change and discovered something very revealing.  Look at the bar graph shown below:

DM's

This is VERY representative of every sales force evaluation I reviewed for this article. There is a lot going on in this graph so let me walk you through it.

This sales force averages 54% of the attributes for reaching decision makers but only 13% (green slice of the pie) are strong at this competency.  The overwhelming majority of the salespeople believe in the importance of reaching decision makers and use their skills to attempt that.  Let's focus on the first two attributes which are both Calling on Actual Decision Makers but show contradicting data.

DM2

Let's start with the second attribute.  We ask each salesperson to identify 4 late-stage, proposal-ready or closable opportunities and we ask them 19 questions about each of those opportunities.  Nearly 90% of the salespeople met with the actual decision makers on these late-stage opportunities.  That's pretty good.

The first attribute comes from each salesperson's personal evaluation.  It shows that only 10% of them are reaching actual decision makers overall.  That's pretty bad.

Now that we have these two opposing data points, it should be clear what the problem is, both for this company and for many of the companies showing the same contradiction.

When salespeople successfully reach the actual decision makers, opportunities move through the pipeline and reach the closable stage, often resulting in a win.  However, MOST salespeople are NOT reaching the actual decision makers and those are the opportunities that lose traction and/or result in a loss.

Remember, for the most part, these are salespeople who believe it's important to reach the decision maker, have that as a milestone in their sales process, have the sales skills to reach decision makers, but still fail to reach the decision makers. 

Let's take a closer look at a few of the other attributes.

DM3-1

Half of their salespeople are calling on buyers at the start of the sales process.  Why are they doing that?  Nearly half aren't comfortable meeting and talking with the target decision makers, and a third need to be liked and can't push back on buyers who won't introduce them to or allow them to meet with decision makers.

Clearly, this is not the only problem that sales organizations are facing by a long shot.  However, this data shows that if they could fix just one thing today, the consistent ability to reach decision makers would make a huge difference.

It's one thing to know what the problem is and its impact on results.  However, fixing this problem is not  simple. Reaching decision makers is made possible by having advanced listening and questioning skills in an effective consultative selling process, an ability to differentiate, and being perceived as a trusted advisor.  Reaching decision makers is time sensitive in that the timing must be perfect to consistently succeed at getting the decision makers to engage.  Let me use my expert ability to combine baseball and sales for the perfect analogy.  Have you read Baseline Selling?

If the batter swings too early he will probably miss the pitch or perhaps hit a weak ground ball.  If the batter swings too late he will probably miss the pitch or perhaps hit a pop fly ball.  If the batter times his swing perfectly and squares the bat to the ball he will crush it.  Salespeople need to crush it when it comes to reaching decision makers.  They must time their ask perfectly or they will probably strike out.  You can also use comedy as an analogy where the comedy writer provides the same routine to a professional comedian and an amateur.  The words coming out of each person's mouth would be identical but the professional comedian gets the laughs because of having mastered the timing and cadence of the delivery.

This problem can be fixed but the trainer or coach providing the help must have a mastery of the nuances of how these pieces all come together.  If your salespeople can reach even 25% more decision makers, think about the impact that will have on revenue.

You can see all of OMG's data for all 21 Sales Core Competencies, by industry and even see how your company compares.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: closing more sales, win rates, Dave Kurlan, sales process, Consultative Selling, reaching decision makers, sales pipeline

Can Sales Statistics be Bad and Good at the Same Time?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 @ 22:02 PM

stats.jpg

I received two pieces of bad news relative to statistics.  

The first is about my award-winning Blog.  It seems that readers stay with an article for an average of only one-minute or so.  That means that most readers don't finish the article, fail to get to my summary, and often don't read long enough to get my point.  Basically, everything that comes after the fourth paragraph is not being read.  This could also be good news.  It could mean that I can actually write shorter articles and that would be great for me!

The other piece of bad news relates to my award-winning sales training company, Kurlan & Associates.  I reviewed 5 years worth of statistics on opportunities that weren't closed and it seems that prospects were 6 times more likely to do nothing than to do business with a competitor.  We don't lose very often and I can count on two hands the number of opportunities I have personally lost in the past 5 years.  But it's one thing to rarely lose, and another to learn that 6 times more often than not, a company failed to act.   But these statistics are very misleading. Let me explain why.

Our business is not one where companies always purchase from somebody and it's only a question of from whom (think network copier).  It isn't a given that companies will follow through on training, coaching, sales process, recruiting, evaluating, assessing, sales enablement, consulting, etc.  A few don't have the appetite to spend the money (too late for them).  Some don't believe they really need the help (ego).  Most aren't willing to do the work (change) to achieve results.  

Still reading?  Oh, you're the one who stays past one minute and the fourth paragraph!

These two crappy statistics are connected in that both are related to attention and engagement. 

The one-minute stat is an average.  Some people stay on an article for 5 minutes to thoroughly digest an article while others exit after reading the title or seeing that I am the author.  They must hate me.  It means that there is enough readership so that the average time on page doesn't even matter.  It's a meaningless statistic that might cause some people to find a solution and improve the number.  Not me.  The average is the average and I don't care about averages.  I write for the people who read my articles, not for those who don't.

The same is true for those who in the end, don't buy from anyone.  It means that we are filling the pipeline and the natural attrition in our pipeline is as it should be.  It says that we are qualifying effectively but even that requires some digging to be certain.  Do these opportunities pass through all four stages of the sales process, including a proposal, before the prospects decide to live with the status quo?  Or, are we recognizing their lack of commitment earlier in the sales process and disqualifying the opportunity at that point?  Fortunately, it's the latter.  We usually move on from them before they have a chance to move on from us.  The more meaningful statistic is that we rarely lose!

Are you paying attention to stats like these?  Are they telling you a story about sales effectiveness or lack thereof?  Are the stats suggesting that you need to do things differently?  Do the stats suggest that you stay with an opportunity too long? 

We use a scorecard just like the ones we customize for our clients.  The scorecard keeps us on the straight and narrow and prevents us from chasing opportunities that score below 65 points.  It helps us disqualify very early in the sales process.  Do you have a scorecard that is predictive like ours?

The reality is that there are no bad statistics.  There are statistics that tell a story and those that don't.  There are statistics you can learn from and those you can't.  There are statistics that are forward looking and those that are lagging and that means that there are statistics that are predictive of something and those that aren't.  

When was the last time you looked at some of your statistics to determine what story is being told and the changes you need to make?

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: scorecard, Dave Kurlan, sales metrics, sales process, sales pipeline

What You Should Know When Your Cold Prospect Suddenly Returns From the Dead

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

thaw.jpg

Last week I wrote about the deep freeze, why prospects suddenly go cold, and how you can prevent that from happening. That article was instantly as popular as any I have ever written.  I also posted a 6-minute  cold-calling rant on LinkedIn that had more than five-thousand views after just a couple of days. The video, like the article, was about mindset, not scripting and tactics.  And last week I also posted an article about writing a good prospecting email.  It seems that there was a theme to the week and it resonated really well with the readers.

Let's build on that theme and discuss the same prospect that went cold two months ago, and now he calls or sends you an email. 

Hopefully, you had archived the opportunity rather than hoping and praying for its revival.  The biggest mistake that salespeople make at this point is they get excited.  I don't know about you but for me, when a supposedly good prospect goes cold and then returns two months later, it's more like the return of the flu.  This prospect caused you a lot of anxiety, embarrassment with your manager, and wasted time.  Who wants more of that?  I raise that issue because the chances of your prospect going cold again are greater than the likelihood of a sale.

For that reason, skepticism should be your number one strategy.

Why has your prospect returned and why now?  A number of things happened with your prospect since your last conversation and you need to hear their story.  What they share could be predictive of what will happen next and what you should do.  For example:

What They Might Say What That Could Mean What You Should Do
We have one more question They will go cold again as soon as you answer the question Ask them a question.  Why did they call you back?  Do not accept "because we had a another question for an answer.  Instead, mention that they didn't return calls and emails for two months so why now?
We would like a proposal They are moving forward but at what speed and with whom? Ask how many proposals they are requesting.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you? 
We want to meet A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome.
We want you to present They are moving forward but at a snail's pace.   Ask how many companies they invited to present.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you?  
Our [top-ranking executive] wants to talk with you A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome. 

The reality is that in most cases, prospects go cold when you weren't talking with the right person.  When they return from their self-imposed ice age they are still the wrong person so don't expect anything different to happen unless the top executive decision maker is fully engaged.

You could even experience these issues if you are talking with a weak decision maker who needs to build consensus.  Decision makers go cold too if they don't get the consensus they are looking for.

If you maintain a healthy level of skepticism, ask plenty of questions and keep your discussion conversational you will get a much better sense of where you really are and whether you will get the business.

Although the prospect has returned, the opportunity can be reactivated in CRM and the odds are no longer zero, don't become too optimistic.  Your odds of closing the business are no greater than 49%.

Image Copyright 2018 iStock Photos

Topics: dead prospect, sales tips, Dave Kurlan, cold prospect, sales pipeline

Grammar - Why Commas Provide Sales Success Where Periods Fail

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 @ 20:07 PM

grammar.jpg
Image Copyright Eerik

You've heard it all before - but not quite this way.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is CRM.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a powerful Inbound initiative.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a customized sales process.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is lots of leads.  Really?

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is targeted marketing.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a custom scorecard.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is outsourced calling.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is an in-house BDR team.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a custom sales playbook.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a sales force evaluation.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is ongoing sales training.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is sales coaching.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a consultative approach.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is the right messaging.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a daily huddle.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a weekly pipeline review.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a full pipeline.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a goal-oriented sales force.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a sales selection tool.

The one thing you need in order to have a successful sales force is a sales recruiting process.

Of course there are more; many more.

The problem is one of grammar.  All of the articles you read, videos you watch and audios you listen to suggest that there is a key to sales success.  Period.  But if you change the period to a comma, you'll quickly see that all of these things are crucial to success in sales.

 

Topics: keys to sales success, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, Sales Coaching, sales management

Predict the Weather but Control the Sales Forecast and Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 06, 2017 @ 06:06 AM

rain.jpg
Image Copyright Mark_KA

It's June 6 in Westboro, Massachusetts, USA, and the temperature is 49 degrees Farenheight or 9 degrees Celsius. It's pouring rain and with the exception of 3 nice days in the middle of May, when the temperature was in the 80's, it's been like early April since, well, early April!   The weather sucks.  And in case you aren't familiar with what the weather should be like at this time of year, it should be 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius) and sunny.  

You may be more familiar when the rant sounds like: "It's almost the end of the quarter, we're only at 65% of forecast, the pipeline is half empty, and nothing is closing. With the exception of 3 nice deals that came in during May, our salespeople have sucked." 

While the crappy weather and your crappy 2nd quarter revenue have crappy in common, there is one huge difference that can help you hit your sales forecast even when the weather forecast is for rain.

As long as you know the monthly sales goal, closing percentage, average order size, and length of the sales cycle, I will guarantee that you will meet or exceed the sales goal.  Let's pretend:

  • The monthly goal is $100,000
  • The closing percentage is 20%
  • The average sale or account is $25,000
  • The sales cycle is 6 months.

If you do the math and nothing else but the math, then as long as 20 new opportunities, worth a total of $500,000, enter the pipeline each month, beginning 6 months ahead of the first monthly goal you intend to meet or exceed, you will never miss another sales goal ever again.

Let's walk through the Algebra.  If you close 1 of 5 then 5/1 x $100,000 is $500,000.  But you can't just have one or two big opportunities worth $500,000 in the pipeline because you close only 1 of 5.  Remember, your average sale is $25,000 so you'll need close 100,000/25,000 or 4 and at 20% that's 4 x 5 for 20 opportunities.  Finally, with your 6 month sales cycle, what you add to the pipeline in June represents December revenue, not June, so beginning this month you're working on next year's revenue.

As long as you manage what you can control - the new opportunities that enter the pipeline - then you will never miss another number again.

Back to the weather.  Consider my rule of puppies, which says that the harder it is raining, the more often the puppy will want to go outside and make sure that I get wet. And don't forget the rule of spring baseball, which states that the more games our son is scheduled to play during April, May and June, the colder and wetter the weather will be.

Topics: sales pipeline, Dave Kurlan, sales forecast, closing

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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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