The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

remember

If you're young enough, some of the questions in the first few paragraphs won't apply because you haven't experienced the world without the innovations mentioned below.  Don't let that prevent you from reading this because after the milestones, we'll get to the good selling stuff.

For those of you who are my age or older, do you remember the first time you saw color TV?  For me it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early 1960's. Or the first time you watched Cable with more than 6 channels and without snow? Wireless remote controls?  OK, that was all in the 1960's.  Let's skip to the 1980's.

Do you remember the first version of Microsoft Windows?  Computers with more than words and numbers - how cool!  Do you remember what came before Windows?  MS/DOS or CP/M and the commands you needed to know to get the computer to do what you wanted?  How about the 5 1/4" floppy disks that stored a whopping 160KB of data?  

Let's skip to the 90's.  Do you remember the first time you connected to the internet?  I connected through a now defunct service called Prodigy.  AOL had its infancy around that time as well.

Do you remember sending and receiving your first emails?  I remember the pushback I got from OMG Partners who, at the time, didn't want to abandon fax machines to send and receive information.  My first email address was salesguru@prodigy.net.  That was almost 30 years ago!  Do you remember earth's biggest bookstore?  How cool was it when you placed your first Amazon.com order, or later on, read your first book on a Kindle?  Your first look at early HD TV?

Now the turn of the century.  Do you remember when LinkedIn got started?  Most of the people I invited to join my network didn't have LinkedIn accounts yet. You can follow me at linkedin.com/in/davekurlan.

Do you remember reading your first Blog article?  I read one by Seth Godin, became an early subscriber, and in 2005, became one of the very first sales experts to Blog.  This article will be somewhere around #1,750 in the series and since that time my Blog has won 27 awards.

Each of these innovations had the cool effect, as in, "cool! Let's do that again!"  Now we can transition to the same kind of coolness, but in sales.

Do you remember the moment you became a Salesperson?  Not a presenter, Not an order taker, but a true consultative sales professional?

Here are some guidelines to identify the moment you turned professional. 

Do you remember the first time you asked that difficult, frightening, risky question that earned you the business on the spot?  It surprised you.  It wasn't a closing question, discovery question or qualifying question, but a question that changed how your prospect thought of you, completely changed the conversation, and differentiated you from everyone else that prospect had spoken with.

Did you ignore it at the time or can you remember having some awareness of what had just happened, how powerful it was, knowing it was a game changer and looking for opportunities to repeat that experience?

When you consciously began asking these types of questions on every first sales call, you became a bonafide professional salesperson.  Anyone can present.  Anyone can quote.  Anyone can take orders.  Anyone can rattle off specs.  Most can maintain relationships. But taking on the difficult task of becoming truly consultative?  Only the top 5% have mastered that and the next 15% work at it pretty effectively.  The rest?  Not yet.

If you are among the top 5% who have mastered this, congratulations!  If you are working on it as you read this, that's terrific too.  But if you aren't there yet, what must you do to become a master at consultative selling?

Here are the top 8 requirements - selling skills and sales DNA - to become the best

  1. Listening Skills - this goes beyond hearing and focusing.  We're talking about active listening, identifying specific words and phrases that if questioned, will take you wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy.
  2. Questioning Skills - this isn't about having 50 prepared questions.  This is about phrasing your follow up questions to go wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy because you listened effectively.
  3. Tonality - Everyone is capable of asking questions, but not everyone can ask them in such a way so as to not offend.  You need to slow down, get softer, add pauses after each key phrase, smile, and most importantly, your inflection must drop down on the last syllable so that it doesn't sound like a question.
  4. Business and Finance - Behind every problem you uncover, there is usually a financial implication.  You must be savvy enough to help your prospect make that calculation, including hard and soft costs, amortized over the full term of the problem, and agreed to.
  5. You Don't Need to be Liked - There is a difference between being likable, getting people to like you and the 58% of all salespeople that NEED to be liked.  The first two are good while the second prevents you from being able to execute #2 above.  When we look only at elite salespeople, only 18% need to be liked and their average score in this competency is 89% compared with 76% for all salespeople.
  6. You control your emotions - when you are in the moment, and not distracted by your own thoughts, you can listen more effectively as mentioned in #1 above.  63% of all salespeople aren't able to do this, while only  31% of Elite salespeople struggle with this.  Elite salespeople score an average of 86% in this competency while all salespeople score 80% and weak salespeople score 76%.
  7. You are Comfortable Talking about Money - Weak salespeople score just 41%, all salespeople score 58% and elite salespeople score 91%.  60% of all salespeople aren't comfortable with the financial discussion making #4 impossible.  Only 8% of Elite salespeople struggle with this discussion, and 85% of weak salespeople are uncomfortable this.
  8. You follow an effective sales process.  Period.  Consultative Selling is much more difficult than relationship selling which takes forever with no guarantees, or transactional selling which takes no time at all and rarely produces results.  It requires a formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process which incomplete methodologies like Challenger and SPIN don't provide.  Baseline Selling is complete consultative sales process and methodology in one.

Statistics courtesy of Objective Management Group, Inc. which has evaluated and assessed more than 1.8 million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders from 27,000 companies, in 200 industries and  in 47 countries.  Interested in seeing the results?  See how salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.  Want to identify new salespeople who can sell like this?  Check out this accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment here.

Comment?  Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, consultative, Baseline Selling, Relationship Selling, transactional sales

Dave Kurlan's 10 Surefire New Years Resolutions For All Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 03, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

new-years-resolutionjpg

Like most people, this year I intend to make good on my New Year’s resolution.  It’s actually more of a life resolution than it is a New Year’s resolution in much the same way that salespeople should make theirs a career resolution. If it’s important enough then it shouldn't be for only one year.

I’ve compiled a list of resolutions that all salespeople should make and follow.  Some will likely surprise you but they are all necessary to become more successful.  Enjoy the 10 most important elements for New Year's Resolutions That All Salespeople Must Make.  Here we go!

  1. Stretch.  Everyone begins the year with goals but they tend to be goals that will either be easy to reach or impossible.  A stretch goal is important but it can’t be some random number.  Sell this much, sell this many, earn this much, or pay this debt won’t work.  The goal must be for something special, important, exciting, and compelling that the numbers will help you achieve.
  2. Believe.  Your stretch goal doesn’t become real until you believe in it.  Think back to when you were younger and obsessed about that bike, game console, go-kart, dress, date, musical instrument, sports win, computer or toy.  You never stopped hoping and wishing and believing and you can't stop believing now.  
  3. Commit.  Now that you have identified something exciting and believe that it can be accomplished, you must commit to it.  Whatever it takes.
  4. Stuffed.  Achieving your goals is dependent on a lot of things but none more crucial than always having a full pipeline.  You can’t sell six if there are only four opportunities in your pipeline.  First determine what it will take to sell one.  Working backwards, how many opportunities are required in each stage of the pipeline in order for you to sell that one using your own conversion ratios?  (Averages are in parenthesis - actual mileage may vary)
    1. Closable - has indicated intent to buy from you at a specific time (2)
    2. Qualified - thoroughly qualified to buy from you at a specific time (4)
    3. Prospects  - there are compelling reasons to buy from you (8)
    4. Suspects - first meeting has been scheduled (12)
      In this typical scenario, 26 opportunities must be in the pipeline at all times in order to sell one in a week, month, quarter or year or whatever your x per y is.  is the number you must sell and y is the time frame, like 4 per month. Multiply the numbers above by x.
  5. Discipline. When you are fully committed to your mission, you will be disciplined.  It means that you will perform the required activities even when you don't want to.  Back in the 1950's, insurance executive Albert Gray said something along the lines of, "The difference between successful salesmen [note - this was his wording circa 1950] and everyone else is that the successful salesmen will always do what they don't want to do while everyone else doesn't."  Discipline also means no distractions.  Identify what can and does distract you and swear off of it during the work day.  Period.
  6. Consistent.  This is about routines.  You must have a business development routine that you follow each day.  Whether you use the phone, knock on doors, send out emails, connect via social media or follow up on leads to generate new business, you must follow the same routine each and every day,
  7. ExceptionsThis is the hidden key.  Make no exceptions.  While my resolution in 2019 is to eliminate flour and sugar from my diet, I know that if I make just one exception I've blown the day.  If I blow the day, I'll rationalize that I might as well blow the week too.  And a blown week becomes a month blown and the plan fails.  Make. No. Exceptions.
  8. Improvement. Commit to self-development and a goal of becoming just 10% better at every aspect of selling. Check out this article to see how a 10% improvement in effectiveness leads to a 33% increase in revenue.
  9. Efficiency.  Commit to using tools that will make you more efficient.  I'm not a big proponent of all-in-one solutions that do everything because they compromise on everything.  These are my recommendations:
    1. Pipeline management - Membrain
    2. Call Efficiency -  Have 5+ conversations per hour with prospects using ConnectAndSell 
    3. Scheduling - YouCanBookMe
    4. Finding Someone's Email - FindThatEmail
    5. Automated Email Reminders - FollowUpThen
    6. Who Best to Introduce you to Targeted Prospects - Reachable
    7. Powerful Task list that synchronizes across all devices and platforms - ToDo
    8. Easily Share large files - WeTransfer
    9. Easily share content with prospects, look great doing it and track when they visit and what they review - Postwire
  10. Trust the process.  Sales process is crucial to success.  Once you have a customized, formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process, trust it.  If the process works and has a built-in custom scorecard, trust it.  It won't steer you wrong.  Review this article on customized scorecards.  Watch the video in this article to better understand what an ideal sales process looks like.

There you have it.  My surefire 10-step resolution to make your new year your best year.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales goals, sales process, new year's resolution, Dave Kurlan, sell more, sales motivation

Why are Half of All Sales Reps Still Missing Quota in a Booming US Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 @ 05:12 AM

booming-economy

Around this time ten years ago, the US economy was famously tanking.  I remember it well as revenue at Objective Management Group dropped by more than 30%, almost overnight.  During 2008 and 2009 more than half of all US sales reps were missing quota and considering the circumstances, that didn't seem to shock anyone.  But during a slow crawl back to respectability between 2010 and 2016, and soaring revenue during 2017-2018, the percentage of reps making quota has not only remained flat, but the percentage hasn't even returned to pre 2008 rates.  This article attempts to explain why.

Here are 12 possible reasons that don't attribute everything to the completely useless 80/20 rule:

  1. Companies are setting unrealistic quotas, basing increases on nothing other than the belief that "Our revenue should be soaring too"
  2. The quotas are realistic for the territory but the reps aren't up to the challenge as only 5% are elite, 20% are strong and 25% are serviceable.  50% of all salespeople suck anyway!
  3. As the market for sales candidates has dried up, companies are lowering their standards and hiring crappy salespeople to keep territories staffed.
  4. The wealth of Inbound leads, most of them nothing more than contacts, have made salespeople incredibly lazy.  Only 24% of the bottom half have the Hunting competency as a strength.
  5. Only 14% of the bottom half of all salespeople have and/or follow a formal, structured Sales Process.  In other words, they wing it.
  6. The ever-increasing difficulty reaching decision makers has left salespeople with pitiful pipelines.
  7. Only 10% of the bottom half of salespeople are providing, demonstrating or selling value, resorting to price as they fail to differentiate
  8. Salespeople are still taking a transactional approach to selling instead of learning and embracing the more desirable consultative approach to differentiate themselves from the competition. Only 3% of this group has the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.
  9. Salespeople are mistaking "nice to have" for "must have".  When they only get their prospects to "nice" they fail to create urgency, making it difficult to get decision makers engaged or money approved, with opportunities stalling in the pipeline.  Only 20% of the bottom half of all salespeople have reaching decision makers as a strength, only 9% of that group has the  Qualifier Competency as a strength, and only 22% of this group has the CRM Savvy competency as a strength.
  10. Lack of Commitment - 53% of the bottom half of all salespeople lack the commitment necessary to do what it takes to achieve success. When it becomes difficult, they do what's easiest and most comfortable instead of what is required.
  11. Excuse Making - Even worse, 66% of the bottom half of all salespeople make excuses, rationalize their outcomes, preventing improvement.
  12. Sales DNA - In order to execute sales process, methodology, strategy and tactics, salespeople must have strong Sales DNA. The bottom half of all salespeople don't, as only 3% of them have Sales DNA that is strong enough to help them execute.

If the bottom 50% are this bad in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, then what are the bottom 50% good at?  They may have tremendous product knowledge, decent presentations skills and some great relationships, but they aren't very good at selling.  They are really order takers.  If they work for the best-known company, the low price leader, or the incumbent vendor, then it might be enough. But if they work for an underdog it's simply not enough to get the job done.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: order taker, sales process, Consultative Selling, selling value, Dave Kurlan, reps making quota, differentiating yourself

Would Henry Ford be Able to Sell Cars Today?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 @ 21:11 PM

Fords-model-t

Cars were in the news this week when GM announced they were closing plants in the USA and President Trump pushed back.  So it got me wondering...

What would Henry Ford think if he were alive today?  I'm thinking that he would ask, "What the hell happened to my motor car and what are all these SUV's, crossovers, smart cars, hybrids and electric cars?  And what are all these pictures, icons, buttons, knobs and dials for?"  I think he would also say, "So let me get this straight.  You need to pay for a government issued license and pass an exam to operate it?  You need to register the motor car with the government and pay for that too?  You need to buy insurance before you can use it?  You have to pay an excise tax to your city or town to maintain ownership? And they sell for how much?  Holy shit!  What did they do to my Model T?  I innovated a car, not a home on wheels!" 

Ford was the entrepreneur who founded Ford Motor Company after the turn of the last century but Karl Benz, from Germany, actually invented the motor car.  I would venture to bet that Ford was the better salesman!

My Grandfather sold cars back in the day when you had to teach someone to drive it before they could buy it.  Whether in my Grandfather's day, or today, cars are a big investment and customers must jump through a lot of hoops to buy a car.  Sure, they're a necessity.  Sure, they can be a symbol of success.  Sure, the auto industry has leveraged financing and leasing to make them affordable for everyone.  But do we have to buy them every 3 years?  We don't have to but we do it anyway to the tune of more than 17 million vehicles sold in the United States in 2017.  While that pales in comparison to Apple's 217 million iPhones sold in 2017, their phones are a fraction of the cost of a car, although they can set you back as much as or more than a monthly car payment.

For some, cars are a necessary evil, a means of getting from point A to point B when public transportation, bicycles or walking won't do.  But most people just love to buy new cars.  You're familiar with the new car smell.  I knew a guy who bought, traded in and bought again every 3 months!  That's how long it took for the elation of driving a new car to wear off.  Or maybe it was the smell.  For me, after 2 years I'm usually ready to buy again.

Car salespeople aren't very good at selling and for the most part, they don't even conduct the actual closing. The only challenge that car salespeople seem to have - and it's not an easy challenge for salespeople to overcome - is that the entire automobile industry is an example of a transactional, price-based model.  

If weak auto salespeople can sell 17 million expensive cars a year despite all of the hoops, why do B2B salespeople struggle to close relatively inexpensive products and services?  Auto salespeople are order takers.  Their customers will buy a car from someone and it's just a matter of from whom.  That's not very different from most B2B customers who will also buy from someone.  As a matter of fact, around 75% of B2B salespeople are order takers.  Do they get the business because of their special relationships?  Their discounted prices? Their superior products? Are they actually helping their prospects reach the conclusion that there is greater value from buying from them?  In the 75% group, it's probably price, product or relationship.  For the top 25%, it's probably their ability to guide their prospects to the correct conclusion.

What do the top 10% do differently from the bottom 10%?  Almost everything!  You can see those differences here where you can compare our data from the most recent 500,000 or so sales assessments.  

The best salespeople have superior Sales DNA, don't make excuses, have strong commitment and excel at selling value and closing.  Back in Henry Ford's day, it was more like a Field of Dreams experience - build it and they will come.  That still seems to hold true for cars and iPhones but for everyone else, it's a different story.  Today, you'd best be able to follow a milestone-based sales process, differentiate by taking a consultative approach, sell value, thoroughly qualify and close.

Image copyright Britanica.com

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process

How I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

crap

Those are strong words and probably quite surprising coming out of my mouth but I'll explain it all.  Earlier this week I was leading another Sales Leadership Intensive and during a break it came to me.  

I was emphasizing how important it is to role-play as part of every coaching conversation and that's when I realized that what I was sharing was a bunch of crap.  I even looked up the quantity required to qualify as "a bunch" and I stick by my use of the word.  Selling is just crap and here is what I mean by a bunch of it.

Consultative approach, strong RelationshipsActive listening, and follow the sales Process. CRAP.

But for it to be a bunch of crap, we need more crap, so:

Keep your prospects Comfortable, lower their Resistance, Ask lots of good questions, and use Positioning statements. CRAP.

Challenge your prospects, help them Reveal their problems, speak with Authority, and be Prepared for anything. CRAP.

Establish Credibility, be Rejection-proof, and don't seek their Approval when asking Probing questions.  CRAP.

Uncover their Compelling reasons to buy, Remain unemotional, be Animated and sell value instead of Price.  CRAP.

Discover Consequences, Relax, and help them Articulate how it impacts them PersonallyCRAP.

Calculate ROI, and Anticipate their Pushback.  CRAP.

A big bunch of CRAP.

Don't worry - I'm not going to write a new book on selling called CRAP Selling.  There are already two well-known sales methodologies that use 4-letter acronyms, like Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling, and Jill Konrath's SNAP selling.  But if you want a popular sales solution that features both sales process and sales methodology rolled into one, then order my best-selling book on modern selling, Baseline Selling. I promise that there isn't a single reference to CRAP and after 13 years, it's still ranked #15 on Amazon.

baselineThis video compares Baseline Selling to SPIN Selling, the Challenger Sale, Solution Selling and Sandler.  If you've heard about Baseline Selling over the past 13 years and haven't read the book, listened to the audio book or attended Baseline Selling training, what the heck are you waiting for?  If you aren't familiar with Baseline Selling, the book is a simple way to start.  And if you're in sales and you like baseball, you have found a match made in heaven.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling

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

The Top 12 Factors that Cause Delayed Closings and What to Do About Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 @ 09:09 AM

delays

Over the past 3 months, my wife and I have been up and down the east coast driving our son to and from baseball tournaments and college showcases.  Invariably, each drive back home has taken twice the time it should have because of road construction.  On Sunday, Waze, my favorite navigation app, said that the drive would take just 2 hours and 32 minutes. 4 traffic delays because of road construction delayed us for another 2 and 1/2 hours.  Delays, delays, delays.  Nearly every coaching call with a salesperson is about a delayed closing.  Nearly every coaching call with a sales manager is about a salesperson with a delayed closing.  Everyone wants to know what to do about the delayed closing but that's the wrong question.  Everyone should be asking these two questions instead.

  1. Was it really delayed or were we overly optimistic about if and when this opportunity would close?
  2. What steps can we take to prevent delayed closings?

When I begin working with companies, most delayed closings are simply a case of the salesperson and sales manager deciding that the opportunity was closable and would close on a certain date.  This assertion was most often made up out of thin air with little to no facts to back it up.  Upon further inspection it was clear that these were not closable opportunities so the delays were not based in reality.

How can we prevent delayed closings?  I will list the 12 most important factors for preventing delays at closing time along with some links that further explain what I mean, how to do it more effectively, and/or provide statistics.  Please keep in mind that the list of factors is not a menu.  You can't choose the factor that seems easiest enough to fix and believe that anything will change.  You must fix all of them!  For example, suppose you need to loose 30 pounds, and are told to avoid breads, pastas, processed foods, snacks and pastries. If you decide to eliminate only bread, not much will change.  However, if you eliminate all of the processed foods the weight will come off quickly and easily.  The same is true with selling.  If you fix all 12 of the factors below, you will not only shorten your sales cycle, you will quickly and easily improve your win rate too.  Here they are:

  1. Not consistently executing a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process 
  2. Failing to get the prospect to "must have" or beginning the process with a demo, but failing to get beyond "nice to have"
  3. Not reaching the decision maker early enough in the sales process
  4. Failing to create urgency because compelling reasons to buy were not uncovered
  5. Failing to differentiate by not having the difficult conversation
  6. Needing prospects to like you.
  7. Failing to build a case and sell value instead of price
  8. Failing to uncover the actual budget
  9. Failing to thoroughly qualify the prospect's ability to buy from you
  10. Not bringing up potential objections earlier in the sales process
  11. Not learning about the competition and how you compare
  12. Not pushing back or challenging conventional or out-dated thinking

You probably noticed at least 3 common factors missing from the list above:

  1. Closing - closing is overrated
  2. Presentation skills - you already know how to do that well.
  3. Relationships - you are probably pretty good at this too.

We shouldn't be talking about delayed closings at all.  Instead, we should be talking about 2 things:

  1. How to shorten the sales cycle and improve the win rate by consistently executing these 12 factors to achieve greater success than ever before and how to coach salespeople up so that they can sell this way.
  2. How to select new salespeople that already have the ability to sell this way!

Image Copyright iStock Photos 

Topics: closing tips, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling skills

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

Sales Playbook and CRM Problems - What the Data Tells Us

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 06, 2018 @ 08:06 AM

pollen

I can't remember a spring where the pollen was worse than in 2018.  You go to the car wash and an hour later your beautiful car is covered in yellow crud and you're out $20.  A waste.

Perhaps you have an irrigation system with a rain sensor that tells the controller that your lawn and flower beds don't need to be watered today because it is pouring outside.  Yet, when you look out the window you see that the sprinklers are running despite the existence of a rain sensor.  A waste.

Did you ever spend hours assembling a child's toy only to watch it sit unused until the kid outgrew it and you gave it away?  Waste.

For years I noticed that most people never touched the manuals, handouts, CD's, card decks, and books that were distributed to them for the training programs in which they participated.  How many books, studies, manuals and reports have you received that sat and collected dust, reside on your hard drive or in the cloud and remain unopened to this day?  In my office, I have 6 shelves full of books that I never read and probably won't read half of the books on my Kindle either!  Waste.

That leads me to the growing demand for Sales Playbooks.  Companies want them, get excited about them, believe they are important, pay tens of thousands of dollars for them, and invest many hours collaborating for a successful final document.  You won't believe the wasteful things that happen next!

Over the past several years, I have witnessed two Sales Playbook creation scenarios repeatedly play out.

  • The executives who are most adamant about wanting to collaborate engage early but then fail to invest the time and effort necessary to provide the data, sample reports, knowledge, expectations, metrics and other information required to create a powerful and useful playbook.  They lose interest and without the necessary company-specific information, they end up with a playbook that is more generic so they don't bother to distribute the book to their salespeople.
  • Collaboration takes place as expected, a great playbook is created, and after distributing it to their salespeople, the books are never again opened or referenced.

In my experience, there is a sense that as long as the company issues a check to pay for the creation of the playbook, they can check the box and move on to their next project.  Check for a check.  They believe that getting the project started is more important than getting the project finished, seeing it through and assuring that the book is utilized according to expectations.  Waste.

I am a big fan of Membrain, the sales enablement application that manages pipeline with a focus on sales process and opportunities with integrated CRM.  Not only do they have a version with Baseline Selling built in, their interface is designed specifically for the creation of playbooks within the sales process.  Each milestone can be a separate playbook, with drop-downs, calculations, conditions, if-thens, cause and effect, instructions, examples and more.

Why invest in a stand alone playbook that either won't be completed or won't be used when there is such a terrific sales enablement application that allows you to integrate all of the desired components in one place?

I will no longer invest time to collaborate with senior executives to compile playbooks when Membrain is a significantly better alternative.  I am happy to help companies integrate playbook and sales process within an application like Membrain. Salespeople that live in Membrain are more able to drive their opportunities forward and manage their pipelines.

The biggest challenge with CRM/Opportunity/Pipeline Management applications is that most salespeople hate them and resist using them.  Want proof?  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and one of them is CRM Savvy. Look at the data below from a subset totaling 450,000 salespeople that were evaluated in the past 5 years.  

crm-usage

The data, showing 3 attributes of the CRM Savvy competency, clearly shows that while the majority of salespeople use CRM, stronger salespeople are 56% more likely to use it than weaker salespeople.  Fewer than 40% of salespeople embrace CRM and fewer than 10% actually live in their CRM application. Living in CRM is a best practice so what does that tell you?  It means that if your salespeople aren't choosing to live in your CRM application, you chose the wrong freaking CRM application! 

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales data, crm, sales playbook, sales process, Dave Kurlan

New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 04, 2018 @ 06:06 AM

dog

In my most recent article, I shared data that showed a chain reaction would occur when salespeople have more than one major weakness in their Sales DNA and the second major weakness is their tendency to become emotional. As a trigger, the first major weakness causes the salesperson to become emotional, at which time their listening skills become compromised.

That article can be found here and as of this writing nearly 6 dozen LinkedIn subscribers have contributed some very insightful comments here.  Their comments inspired me to dig even further and look into the correlation between relationship building that salespeople do and their need to be liked.  In this study, even I was surprised by what I found!

The table I assembled below includes data comprised of 450,000 salespeople from Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on more than 1.75 million salespeople who have been evaluated and/or assessed.

Relationship-Approval-3

The table is sorted by the 5 ranges of Sales PercentileTM with the weakest salespeople in the percentile of 25 or below, and the top 5% in the elite group, with scores of 95 or better.

The second column shows the percentages of those who DO NOT need to be liked arranged by Sales PercentileTM.  You'll notice that those scores correlate perfectly with the Sales PercentileTM, just as they did in this study of the Correlation Between Sales Motivation and Effectiveness.  With the exception of the extrovert column, ALL of the scores in ALL of the columns correlate perfectly with Sales PercentileTM.

Many of the LinkedIn comments referencing the article on Chain Reactions theorized that relationships either were or were not important.  I mined the data on 5 of the key attributes of the Relationship Building Competency and laid them out by Sales PercentileTM in order to compare them to the findings of Not Needing to be Liked.

There are some striking discoveries here, including the fact that the percentage of extroverts positively correlates to sales effectiveness.  In addition, while you can't see it in the table, 78% of the extroverts need to be liked.

Some of the key data points can be seen below.

Relationship-Approval2

Look at the highlighted data for Not Needing to be Liked, Relationship Based Sales Process and Relationships are Key Factors in Closing Business.  While 86% of the weakest salespeople DO need to be liked, only 42% of them have a relationship-based sales process and some believe that the relationship is the key factor.  Do you see it?  Despite NEEDING to be liked, most of them lack the conscious awareness of whether or not they are successfully building a relationship during the sales process. That is one of the key reasons that the weakest group of salespeople are so incredibly ineffective. Some in this group are attention seekers while some are so timid that if you blew them a kiss they would tumble over.  Either way, this is a group that you shouldn't waste time coaching, shouldn't attempt to raise their expectations, and ultimately, shouldn't retain.  Replace these salespeople and use OMG's accurate, predictive, customizable, sales-specific assessment tool.

Conversely, we see that two thirds of the top group, where only 11% need to be liked,  DO have a relationship based sales process while only 1% believe the relationship is a key factor to closing the business.  Do you see it?  They DON'T NEED to be liked but are conscious of the importance of developing a relationship during the sales process.  They know how (mechanical) but don't need to (emotional).

These findings bridge the gap between the two primary groups in the LinkedIn comments. One group implied that relationships didn't matter at all, while the other group said that relationships were extremely important.  It is important to develop a credible, value-based, trusting, respectful relationship, while equally important that salespeople NOT NEED their prospects to like them.

Over the past two weeks I have enjoyed digging into the data and sharing some of the insights that prove and disprove theories while shedding light on the reasons for various sales effectiveness and performance.

Do you have a theory to prove?

Do you have a question that our data could answer?  Leave your question or theory in the comments here or on LinkedIn, or email me at dkurlan@objectivemanagement.com 

I'll be happy to do the digging and share the findings right here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Relationship Selling, sales process, sales science, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Sales DNA

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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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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