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

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

Improper Use of BANT Will Cause You to Kill Opportunities

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 @ 13:04 PM

talking-on-the-phone

I received an email asking me to check out an article on the Salesforce.com blog that features an infographic they hoped I would promote.

The article focuses on the middle of the funnel and the handoff between marketing and sales.  In doing so, they discuss MQL's (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQL's (Sales Qualified Leads).  While I don't have an issue with the infographic, I have huge issues with the content of the article and if you follow the advice in this article, you'll have far fewer MQL's that your salespeople can turn into SQL's.

Here's why.

They are promoting the use of an adapted form of BANT - in this case, BANTA.  BANT was introduced by IBM in the 60's as a way to qualify opportunities.  It stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline.  This article adds Attitude.  These are important milestones in the sales cycle so what's wrong with BANT?  As a tool for qualifying, there is nothing wrong with BANT.  My issue is with WHEN BANT is used.

Most of you are familiar with Solution Selling.  That was one of the earlier sales processes for selling consultatively.  Technology companies loved Solution Selling but every time my company was asked to help a tech company the second thing we always had to do was replace Solution Selling as the standard sales process. (The first thing is evaluate the sales force) Why?  Solution Selling called for salespeople to qualify too early in the sales process and that was still AFTER the opportunity had been handed off from Marketing. 

This short video explains the importance of sequence and timing in the sales process and especially why you can't qualify too early.

The second stage of the sales process is too early for salespeople to qualify an opportunity because at this point the potential customer has no incentive to answer any qualification questions!  YOU WILL LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY IF YOU ATTEMPT TO QUALIFY TOO EARLY!  If that is true, then what business do we have asking Marketing to qualify opportunities before turning them over to sales?  

There are 2 sets of qualifiers required:

  1. Are they qualified to meet with us?
  2. Are they qualified to buy from us?

These are two completely different issues.  In the first case, we want to know how close the opportunity is to the profile of our ideal customer.  In the second case, we want to know if they can actually buy from us.  BANT provides a framework for the second and as you no doubt saw in the video, the components of BANT don't come into play until the third stage of the sales process.

This is simply the latest from several years of fake news declaring that:

  • Cold calling is dead
  • Consultative Selling is dead
  • SPIN Selling is dead
  • Salespeople are dead
  • Sales process is dead
  • Inbound is King

So who comes up with this crap?  Usually it's marketers with something to sell, who have little actual expertise in sales, sales strategy or sales process in all their variations.

What should you do? 

You can't go wrong if you focus on perfecting sales process and consultative selling. As for Marketing, let marketing do what they do best and generate leads.  If there are too many crappy leads for your salespeople to waste time on, add dedicated BDR's (Business Development Reps) to identify the good ones and hand them off which brings us back to MQL.  What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?  They are willing to have a conversation about whether we can help.  Period.  Let your salespeople convert interest to opportunities.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales process, Consultative Selling, Dave Kurlan, solution selling, BANT, salesforce.com

Would You Like to be Selling Guns Right Now?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 @ 21:02 PM

guns.jpg

In the current social and political environment, can you imagine what it must be like to be a salesperson whose job it is to sell memberships for the NRA?  How about selling guns for Smith & Wesson, Glock, Colt, Sturm Ruger, or Beretta?  Many of you have worked for companies that had less than desirable products and/or reputations and you know how difficult that can be.  But how bad might it be for those salespeople when so much of the nation is demonizing their company, organization and/or products?

It was an awful week for stunned people around the USA and an unimaginable tragedy for parents of the 17 students who were killed in the most recent shooting rampage.

Going off my Blog topic for two paragraphs, allow me to warn you that this article will be very controversial and many people will hate it and/or me. I don't like guns, I don't own a gun, I don't want to be in the same room as a gun, but some of my best friends hunt and have collections of hand guns and hunting rifles. I'm OK with people using firearms for hunting, but I'm sure it pisses off members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was under attack in the past week but I don't understand why.  I thought the NRA was a membership organization for people who own guns in much the same way that the American Automobile Association (AAA) is a membership organization for people who own cars.  The AAA doesn't manufacture or sell cars but they do provide benefits to their members.  When drunk drivers take innocent lives because they were driving under the influence, I am not aware of anyone attacking the AAA.  The NRA doesn't manufacture or sell guns but like the AAA, they offer benefits to their members. And while they certainly don't write the laws, they do lobby congress to enact laws favorable to their members.  Monsanto lobbies for legislation that allows farmers to spray cancer-causing Roundup on Roundup resistant crops and then we eat the stuff.  Pharmaceutical companies lobby to fast track drug approvals that allow doctors to prescribe poisonous treatments that we inhale like candy and become even sicker.  Agricultural companies lobby to have their diabetes-causing wheat products included on the government's food pyramid of healthy eating.  These industries and big companies lobby for favors that eventually kill us and we don't attack them.  So why are people blaming the NRA for the recent string of shooting tragedies?  Let's stop kidding ourselves.  If we have to place the blame somewhere, let's blame our dysfunctional, bought and paid for, corrupt government and the media that amplifies the outrage and pushes the divisiveness.

OK. I'm done with my rant and returning to the sales topic that I began with.  What must it be like to sell for one of these companies or organizations when they are under attack from all sides and what should those salespeople do?

I don't think salespeople representing gun companies have anything to worry about as this article in the NY Times shows that MORE people, not fewer, are buying guns!  

But what if you sell for a company whose products are not reliable, lack the latest and greatest features, aren't a good fit, or don't have competitive pricing?  That would suck, wouldn't it?  What if you sell for one of America's 20 Most Hated Companies?  That would suck too.  But those sales organizations are not disintegrating, their salespeople are not heading for the doors and their revenues are not in a nosedive.  Most of the outrage, hate, and reputation-killing is taking place in the media, not with their customers.

Most of the 16 million salespeople in the USA work for an underdog because only one company in each space can be the most well known, the best in quality, or have the lowest prices.  Everyone else is an underdog and underdogs do just fine.  In order to succeed when selling for an underdog you must be better at selling but unfortunately, 43% of all salespeople are crappy.  

In the battle to win business, great salespeople, who follow an effective sales process, take a consultative approach and sell value, will win more often than crappy salespeople whose only attributes may be to make friends and offer the lowest price.  However, when there aren't any great salespeople in the mix, the crappy salespeople with the best prices will beat the crappy salespeople who don't have the best prices, each and every time.

Those of us in the sales profession might not be able to do anything about the tragedies that are taking place, but we can do something about all of the crappy salespeople out there.  If you are responsible for hiring salespeople, don't hire any more crappy ones.  Use an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.  If you manage salespeople, get better at coaching them!  Attend my Sales Leadership Intensive in May.  If you lead a company or a sales organization, determine how your salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.  And if you are a salesperson, ask for training and coaching to help you become elite and become one of the top 5% of all salespeople in the world.

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Topics: sales process, NRA, selling tips, Dave Kurlan, florida shooting

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

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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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