Is Showmanship a Lost Art in Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 @ 07:08 AM

Bruce Springsteen at Fenway ParkI just realized that this is my third music-related post this week, but I'm going with it...

Last night, we were among the 35,000 or so concert-goers at the Bruce Springsteen concert at Boston's Fenway Park.  We have been to dozens of concerts, but this was the best ever.  Why?

It wasn't because:

  • the band was good - they were great;
  • he was on stage for 4 hours;
  • there was tremendous energy - never saw so much;
  • it was at Fenway Park - what a treat;
  • we knew all the songs - what a relief;
  • his singing was so good - he's Bruce.
It was his showmanship.
Showmanship is missing from most modern sales presentations.  Demos tend to be about products, technologies, capabilities and the company story.  Sales calls are about listening, asking questions and qualifying.  But what ever happened to showmanship?
Yesterday, at an internal meeting, we were coincidentally discussing Elmer Wheeler's "sell the sizzle, not the steak" phrase.  He coined that phrase in the 1920's or 1930's!  Elmer is also the guy who came up with the concept of pain as a buying motivator.
I'm in the process of reading the Steve Jobs biography.  He wasn't a very nice person, was impossible to work for and with, and was self-absorbed.  But he was a brilliant innovator and great at showmanship.  His MacWorld appearances were 90% showmanship and 10% technology.
These days, we don't place much emphasis on showmanship, choosing instead to focus on other aspects of the sales cycle.  But when we talk about presenting, should we also spend some time teaching showmanship?  What do you think?  Please chime in on this one!

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales personality, sales presentations, bruce springsteen, fenway park, showmanship

Selling Styles - How Many Styles Should Your Salespeople Have?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 @ 23:08 PM

rscmWe were invited to see and hear a friend's son perform in the Royal School of Church Music of America.  We were very impressed with the voices, performance and beautiful church service.  It was very memorable.  While we were there, I noticed that some of the choristers appeared to be in trances; lost, disengaged and almost catatonic.  However, as soon as the choir director lowered his baton for the first beat, those children suddenly morphed into the most passionate, powerful, wonderful, young singers I had ever seen.  You just wouldn't believe the transformation!

Terrific salespeople make that transition too.  They morph from laid-back but confident, to powerful, animiated and charismatic when it's time to present.  Most salespeople however, don't make that transition because it doesn't feel authentic to them or they fear that they might look and sound like salespeople.  Isn't that sad?  Salespeople worrying that they might be mistaken for salespeople?  (Don't forget that you can hear me talk today, August 14, 2012, about developing salespeople and transforming them into A-players.  It's free - click here to attend.)

If you've met me and also heard me present a keynote address, you've witnessed this transformation.  My one-on-one style is a direct contradiction to my public speaking style.  Why?  If I appeared on stage with my one-on-one style, I don't believe anyone, regardless of my message, would really pay attention.  If we were to meet - just you and me - and I began with my public speaking style, it would feel very threatening and inappropriate.  You would hate me.  

There is a balance to all of this and the proper selling style, at the proper time, in the proper place, with the proper people, will work quite effectively.  However, most salespeople have only a single style and they aren't even aware of it!  If they aren't consciously aware of it, they usually aren't able to adapt to the situation in which they find themselves.

This is where video recording can be quite useful.  The ability to show salespeople how they look, sound, act and respond to varying situations is just the medicine they need to adapt, make the necessary changes and become more effective.

Steady and predictable is generally a good formula for success, however, when we need to convince people to buy what we have, flexibility and the appropriate style will always be more effective.

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales personality, sales presentations, rscm, sales charisma

The Secret to Winning Sales Presentations and Public Speaking Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

presentingI spoke to an Entrepreneurial class at Clark University this week, something I've been doing once or twice a year for the past 5 years.  It's much more difficult than working with experienced C-Level Executives, Sales Leaders, Sales Managers and Salespeople because the kids don't have the context, reference points or experiences that professionals have.  Despite the difficulty, it's more fun because they don't push back, they don't claim to have heard it before, they don't say that "it" won't work in their business, they don't resist, and they are great learners!

This week I talked with them about public speaking and presenting.  While they were as interested as professionals are in learning tips, formulas, challenges, tools, and secrets, they were dramatically more interested in learning how to overcome their fears.  The most common word they used to describe their pre-presentation feelings was, "awkward".  The biggest difference between the students and the professionals I usually work with is their honesty.  While professionals hide behind the tips and technical suggestions for how to be effective presenters, the students were comfortable admitting they were scared.

What would happen if the salespeople who work for you admitted they were scared?  What happens as a result of them masking their fears and fighting their way through important presentations?

Presentations don't make sales, but they can certainly break them and reinforce people's tendencies to lean in one direction versus another.  There is no excuse for a professional salesperson or sales leader that can't stand in front of a large group or sit with a small group and make a winning presentation.  But since it is not common for people to possess those skills, we tend to identify people in organizations that are best at that and by default, defer to them for important presentations.  It's wrong, but until we focus on developing those skills, it's necessary.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales presentations

Top 10 Criteria for a Qualified Sales Presentation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 @ 22:08 PM

crosswalkMany states have crosswalk laws that require drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.  If you are walking and wish to cross the street, you simply wait at a crosswalk on the side of the road, and when the oncoming vehicles stop, you cross.  It's a good law - except when it doesn't work.

The law fails when you are driving, approaching a crosswalk at 30-40 MPH, and a moron simply steps off the curb, begins crossing, and when you aren't able to stop in time, gives you the finger. 

You know the expression, "Give someone a hammer and everything looks like a nail"....Well in this case, paint some lines across a street and some people think it gives them license to start walking - even before a vehicle has yielded the right of way. The intelligent pedestrian qualifies the opportunity to cross by waiting for traffic to stop while the moron crosses simply because the crosswalk is there!

There should be a crosstalk law too.  

Salespeople should not be allowed to present until their prospects have yielded the right of way.  Where intelligent pedestrians qualifiy the opportunity to cross, intelligent salespeople qualify the opportunity to present.

The elite 6% and some of the top 26% do wait until their opportunities are qualified. Unfortunately, most salespeople encounter prospects and see them only as opportunities to present.  The prospect is there so they start presenting and then, when the prospects don't buy, the salespeople give them the finger.  Stupid prospect.  Shithead prospect.  Moron prospect.

The problem is that it's simple to determine whether you have a qualified opportunity to cross the street - vehicles have stopped moving.

It's a bit more complex to determine whether you have a qualified opportunity to present.  The following conditions MUST ALL BE MET:

  1. The prospect needs what you have
  2. The prospect has compelling reasons to buy what you sell and buy it from you
  3. The salesperson has developed SOB Quality (as described in Baseline Selling
  4. The cost of the solution is less than the cost of the problem
  5. The prospect is committed to solving their problem
  6. The prospect is willing to spend more to buy from the salesperson/company
  7. Decision makers have been identified and met
  8. Timeline for the decision has been identified and agreed to
  9. Decision making process and criteria are understood
  10. You can provide an ideal solution for the money discussed
Qualifying an opportunity to present may be a bit more complex than qualifying an opportunity to cross the street but the basic concept is the same.  If you step off the curb and start walking before you wait for the traffic to stop you will have a real good chance of getting flattened.  If you present before you wait for the 10 qualifying criteria to be met you will have a good chance of falling flat on your face.  In either situation, you may not feel very well when - and if - you ever get up again.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales presentations

Top 5 Sales Presentation Tips

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

The one area where salespeople appear to be most comfortable and confident is when they are presenting.  That is when they feel like they are in control and, unlike listening and asking questions, it is when they believe they can do a great job.  The problem is that most salespeople do not understand how to present in the most effective ways.  Here are some examples of what they do wrong and some easy to learn adjustments:

  1. They Have Talking Points - talking points are usually facts, features and benefits and presented as such, they tend to be yawners.  Salespeople need to preceed each fact with a short example like, "Have you ever..." or, "Do you know anyone who ever..."
  2. They Progress Quickly and Easily - and as a result, all of their words just become white noise.  Effective presenters use timing to pause, slow down, and place emotional emphasis to draw attention the most important words and phrases. Comedians do this very effectively.
  3. They present in a linear way - they start with point 1 and work their way to point 10, even though some of those points may not be important to this particular customer and some may be deal breakers.  Instead, it's important to begin  with the point that is most important to this customer/prospect and discuss that and only that until they are convinced that you can solve their problem.
  4. They present - presentations are typically one-way conversations whereas an effective presentation has more resemblance to a discussion.  They must ask questions and get feedback and then discuss the feedback they get.
  5. They use PowerPoint - and they read the bullet points on the slides.  PowerPoint locks them in to a set presentation and they present topics that the prospect/customer may not need/want to hear about.  PowerPoint is great for a large audience but for sales presentations it is a liability, not an asset.
Take these 5 tips to your salespeople and help them make these changes for more powerful presentations.  But remember, presentations should come at the end of the sales process, only after your salespeople have identified the compelling reasons why their prospect would buy, and only after thoroughly qualifying their ability/readiness to buy.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales presentations

What Meteorologists Have in Common with Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 @ 08:01 AM

snowstormIf you reside in an area where it snows during the winter, you'll love this analogy.  If you live where it is mild year round, maybe you'll learn something about what it's like to live in snow country!

Have you ever noticed how excited meteorologists get for:

  • The first snowstorm of the season?
  • The first B I G snowstorm of the year?
  • The first storm that will produce everything except the kitchen sink (snow, ice, sleet, thunder, rain and wind)

After the meteorologists have hyped up those storms with non-stop 20-minute weather updates, details you don't need to know, and all of the potential outcomes, things change - dramatically!  Here in Central Massachusetts, USA, we've already had our 3 firsts, with the last of them occurring yesterday.  Today, the morning meteorologist gave the 5-day forecast and she said:

Today will be mild with temperatures dropping throughout the day.  Tomorrow will be partly cloudy and colder, and then Friday we'll have a plowable snow event.

Wow!  A plowable snow event.  No hype, no accumulation predictions, no mystery about the ever-moving rain/snow line, no warnings about treacherous travel, no details about the track of the storm and where it might go, just a "plowable snow event".  The excitement and exhaustion from the previous 3 storms had surely numbed her senses.

How does this apply to your sales force?

How many presentations will your salespeople conduct until the excitement over the company's capablities and solutions fades?  You've heard about the importance of enthusiasm, right?  While you don't want them to be enthusiastic during the steps of the sales process where they are uncovering issues, problems, compelling reasons to buy, commitment and qualification, you sure as hell want them to be passionate about how your solutions will solve problems.  Prospects interpret that passion as conviction, competence, expertise, longevity, and fit. If your salespeople tire of the story or leave parts of it out, as with today's weather forecast, how could their prospects possibly get excited about doing business with your company?

Time to meet with the sales force again and pass along my latest tip.  Ho hum.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales enthusiasm, sales presentations

The Single Biggest Mistake that Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 @ 05:09 AM

Ask 10 people and you'll get 10 different answers about the biggest mistake that salespeople make.  Ask the question a bit differently and I will give you a different answer too.  But ask the question in the title - "What is the single biggest mistake that salespeople make?", with the key word being mistake - something they do incorrectly rather than something they do because of a weakness -  and I can provide data to back it up.  There are actually 3 mistakes that are almost always made but 2 of them occur as a result of the single biggest mistake. 

Objective Management Group has conducted nearly 9000 sales force evaluations and sales assessments.  The data clearly shows that in 84% of the cases, salespeople make inappropriately timed presentations.  What does that mean?

These days, the typical point of entry for a salesperson is AFTER a prospect determines an interest in purchasing a product or service.  The prospects think they know what they want and THEN the salespeople get involved.  Prospects ask for a presentation of capabilities and salespeople present their value propositions.  Prospects ask for pricing and salespeople create proposals.  Then the salespeople begin to follow up but the prospects have already disappeared when mistake #2 occurs - inappropriately timed follow up.

Let's use my Baseline Selling model to illustrate why the presentations taking place in the scenario above is inappropriately timed.

baseline selling model

In the baseball diamond, capabilities, value propositions, presentations and proposals take place between third base and home plate.  Yet, when a salesperson gets an audience with a prospect the salesperson has only reached first base.  It's inappropriate to run directly from first base to third base without touching second base on the way!  But 84% of all salespeople skip the valuable criteria that sits between first and second bases, as well as the criteria between second and third bases. 

A salesperson representing the industry leader or the low-price leader might get the business by being in the right place at the right time, but it's nearly impossible for everyone else to succeed in those scenarios. It is very difficult to sell without uncovering a prospect's compelling reasons to buy (spend money) and buy from you instead of your competitors.  That is just one of many criteria that must occur between first and second base.  It's nearly impossible to sell without learning how much money the prospect will spend and that is just one of many criteria that must be identified between second base and third base.  When a salesperson isn't aware of those two important slices of information, it isn't possible to differentiate (think decommoditize) your company from the pack nor can you present both a needs and cost appropriate solution!

What can you do about this problem?

I'll be presenting on this topic on October 6, 210 at 12 Noon ET, at the first annual Sales Edge One Sales Summit, a three-day on line event.  Over a span of three days, there will be a number of excellent presentations on a number of topics. And it's FREE! Click here for more information.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales summit, sales presentations, sales assessments

Seth Godin Reinforces the Proper Sales Process

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 05, 2009 @ 09:03 AM

Seth Godin posted this article last week.  Read it it's very short and a very good story.

He finished with, "Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.  Interact first, sell second"

When I help companies with their sales process it always leads to:

  • shorter sales cycles as a result of the process itself
  • higher average sales as a result of the value added to the process
  • higher margins due to selling at their price instead of selling on price
  • selling last instead of selling first.

It's the last point I want to talk about.  I use the Baseline Selling process with clients because (I wrote the book) it's the simplest, easiest to implement and apply, most memorable and  salespeople take to it the quickest.  There hasn't been a company to date where, once the salespeople reach 1st base (face to face or 1st phone meeting) that they aren't skipping over to third base and immediately running home (presenting the value proposition, the company story, a solution, etc.)  They skip all of the real estate between 1st and 3rd base where all the actual selling takes place!

You tell them Seth!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Salesforce, closing, Seth Godin, sales presentations

Obama and Friends On Stage - Implications for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 @ 08:08 AM

There is a lot of buzz surrounding those who took to the podium this week at the Democratic National Convention - and Barach Obama hasn't had his turn yet.

Once again, I will not make a political statement in this article - just a sales opinion.

If the speeches by Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden were sales presentations, every one of their prospects would have bought from them. You're not so sure?  Well a quick visit to Baseline Selling would remind us that we don't begin presenting until we reach 3rd Base and by that point, our prospect has compelling reasons to buy (2nd Base) and is completely qualified (3rd Base).  If we're following the process, we're presenting to a closable prospect only.

Back to Denver. Why would those presentations close all of their prospects?

It met all of the rules for a Baseline Selling presentation:

  • It was compelling
  • It was needs appropriate
  • Unless you earn more than $250,000, it was cost appropriate
  • Even if you earn more than $250,000 you may be willing to pay more to buy their solution
  • They were likable
  • They engaged you
  • They said what you wanted to hear and meant it
  • They were authentic
  • It didn't sound scripted
  • They told stories
  • They were believable

Whether you are a raving Democratic fan or a staunch, anti-Obama republican, you would do well to examine the five-star speeches that were delivered on this historic week in Denver Colorado.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: selling, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, sales presentations

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

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