Sales Excellence: How to Close Anything and Everything in Any Vertical

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

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I was listening to CNN on Satellite Radio and in between rants about the immigration ban, protests, the federal judge who issued a stay, and Trump's first week's worth of executive orders, an advertisement came on promoting How to Close Anything and Everything, no matter what you sell and who you sell it to.  And to make their offer even more enticing - it's being offered for free!  Did you hear it?  It wasn't a promotion for my company...

Closing is awfully important. Nothing happens until the business gets closed.  But most people don't know the real truth about closing.

I am going to share the real truth about closing and it's quite different from what you've read, what you've listened to, what you've watched, and probably from what you've practiced.  Countless books, tapes, videos and podcasts have been devoted to closing techniques.  Thousands of companies deliver seminars and training programs to help salespeople develop their closing skills.  They're all wrong and they have all wasted your time.

I have written 1,600 articles and not once have I shared the closing secret that I am about to share in this article.

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed over one million salespeople.  If we review the 21 Sales Core Competencies, zoom in on the 10 Tactical Selling Competencies, and then filter the results to show average scores for elite salespeople - only the top 7% - you will see this:

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Top 7% of All Salespeople

Notice that the best salespeople in the world possess fewer than half of the attributes of the Closer competency - it's their second worst score next to Social Selling (isn't that ironic?).

If closing is so important, then how come the world's best salespeople don't have very good closing skills?

The top 7% have closing skills that are twice as good as the general sales population who average only 23% of the attributes of the Closer competency. 

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All Salespeople

But this isn't about contrast. I told you that I want to share the truth about closing.

The average scores for elite salespeople are very good for Hunting, Consultative Selling, Qualifying, Presenting and Sales Process.  

If you start with an effective sales process and follow it, keep your pipeline filled through consistent hunting, use an effective consultative approach, and thoroughly qualify, the business will simply close and most of the time, you will be the one who wins it.

However, if you don't have an effective, predictive sales process, don't take a consultative approach and don't thoroughly qualify, then the pressure will be on you to be a great closer.  And even if you are a great closer, most of the time, it still won't be enough to get the business.

Some of the companies that have asked me to help were winning an incredibly small percentage of business.  Most of them believed they needed training to improve their salespeople's closing skills when the reality was that they were not executing the milestones and competencies that precede closing.

Winning business is not brain surgery, but developing the skills to execute an effective process, be a consultative seller and qualify effectively takes time and a lot of practice.

Great salespeople do this.  Great sales trainers know how to teach this.  Great sales managers know how to coach to this.  Nike said it best.  Just do it.  

It's not a secret anymore.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Closing Skills, Closing Sales, closing excellence

7 Reasons Why Salespeople Underperform and How Sales Leaders Can Coach Them Up

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

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Image Copyright 123RF

Day after day and call after call, I hear the frustration from sales managers and sales leaders who have at least one thing in common.  They know that their salespeople could and should be doing better.

For almost ten years and regardless of how the US economy has performed, reports continue to show that only 50-60% of reps are hitting quota.  That's nothing to be proud of and the sales leaders who call and email have come to the realization that try as they might, they have been unable to coach up half of their salespeople.

These are smart, talented, experienced sales leaders, who work for companies with excellent reputations, great products and wonderful customers.  So why does nearly every sales leader struggle with the problem of under performing salespeople?  The biggest problem is that there isn't one reason - there are many - and I'll share them with you now.

  • Selection - When you hire the wrong salespeople, it becomes clear that the fit isn't very good.  The salespeople might be wonderful people, but when they are wrong for the role or lack the capabilities required to succeed in the role, failure is the norm and it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible to coach them up.
  • On Boarding - Some companies lack a comprehensive on boarding program and instead of preparing new salespeople for success, the new salespeople are setup for failure.
  • Messaging - I've seen the results from the sales force evaluations of more than 11,000 companies and 1 million salespeople. One thing I have observed in nearly every one of those companies is the utter lack of consistency in their messaging. Whether it's the value proposition, brand promise or elevator pitch, each salesperson tends to say something completely different from everyone else.  
  • Sales DNA - Some salespeople are good relationship builders, have a solid set of skills, but lack the necessary Sales DNA - the set of strengths that support successful sales outcomes - to be effective.  It is very difficult for a sales leader to coach up a salesperson when the issue is Sales DNA.  If you have salespeople, and you have repeatedly had to coach them on the same issues, it's more than likely Sales DNA that is causing the problem, not a skill gap.
  • Training - A lot of companies don't provide their salespeople with professional sales training and of the companies that do, it's important to know that a lot of the sales training that is out there isn't very good.  Why?  A lot of it is incomplete, outdated, focuses on the wrong things, and most of it ignores the issues of Sales DNA.  There are 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Sales Training must thoroughly cover all 21 of those competencies - in context - through role play - and more.
  • Coaching - This is it.  The big differentiator.  The one thing that can make up for mediocrity.  You know that coaching now accounts for 50% of any sales leader's role.  The problem is that there is coaching, and there is coaching that has an impact.  How do you know if your coaching is having an impact?  Your salespeople will be begging you for your time.  Opportunities on which you coached your salespeople are getting closed - by them, not you.  They are getting stronger, better, more confident and meeting and exceeding their quotas.
  • Sales Process - I've written about sales process 31 times because it's that important.  When salespeople don't have a proven, predictable sales process to follow they will fail much more often than they need to.  And the coaching must take place within the context of the sales process.

If coaching is the single most important sales leadership competency that will have the greatest impact, and you aren't having that impact on each of your salespeople, every single day, and in every coaching conversation, what can you do?

Dedicate yourself to becoming the best sales coach on the planet.  Period.  The challenge is in finding the right place to start.

I can help.  My annual Spring Sales Leadership Intensive is coming up May 17-18 outside of Boston and in those two days we will explain, show, demonstrate, listen, watch and discuss how to coach - for impact.  You will leave us with the ability to coach - for impact - and feel so good about your ability to grow and develop your salespeople.  

If that's not enough, we have a kick-ass coaching application that will help after the intensive training.  Click here to learn more about the event.  If you would like to attend, you can use my special discount code to save $100.  Use the code DK-Blog-Subscriber.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales core competencies

A Bit of Holiday Tradition to Spice up your Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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What is your favorite part of the holiday season?  Do you have traditions that you follow every December?  For the past 15 years an important part of our holiday season is going to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker.  You wouldn't think that a show like the Nutcracker would correlate to selling, but it does.  As a matter of fact, if you read a little further, you'll see that the Nutcracker is very much like selling to a major account!

Buyers and sellers have their traditions too: habits, learned behaviors, and standardized questions and comments.  

If you have ever attended a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listened to some of the Suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll instantly recognize the melody.  Go ahead - give it a listen.

You've surely heard this before, even if it was only in a television commercial.  But can you identify the 4 musical instruments used at the beginning of the composition?

You heard the Glass Armonica, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Were you able to identify those instruments as they were played?  Outside of the readers who are weekend musicians, the rest of you are probably unable to do that the first time.  It's OK, it's even difficult for musicians!

Similarly, salespeople find familiarity in the sounds (questions, comments and discussions) of their sales calls.  As much as you might not be able to identify the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", salespeople may not be able to identify the most important comments and questions and distinguish them from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose a salesperson hears one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And at the same meeting, another prospect says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And a third says, "In the mean time, please send us a proposal with references and time line."

There are three distinct lessons that can be taken from this scenario:

Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group's data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:

  • Seventy will return to the office to begin working on a proposal and tell their managers that the "large opportunity they are working on is very promising - all three prospects in the meeting were very interested";
  • Nineteen will leave the meeting, make two entries in their CRM application - "propose" and "follow-up" - and will likely do that at the appropriate time;
  • Eleven will remain in the meeting, ask more questions, and get additional clarification.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific assignment in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they are played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  In the scenario above, prospects' comments have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal" or "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP  - it has far different meaning than if the comments come from procurement.
  • When any of those three comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an executive, the comments may be much more genuine, but they carry significantly less authority.

Lesson #3:

I enjoy listening to a song, symphony, or simple melody and try to figure out why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.  Your salespeople should apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  In a mid-market or large company, the prospect could be any one of the following musicians or roadies:

    • the composer (started the initiative), 
    • arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), 
    • director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or 
    • musician (following directions of the conductor)
    • chauffeur (can drive you directly to the person who cares enough and has the authority to make something happen).  

A salesperson's responsibility is to figure out who they're dealing with, the role they play, what influence they have, and how to get all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Review Lesson #1 and answer the following two questions: 

Which of the three endings is your default?

Can you identify any of the additional questions that the eleven salespeople stay and ask?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Nutcracker, major account sales

Companies Rush to Get This One Thing in Place for their Sales Teams Before January

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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I've been writing about the importance of having a milestone-centric sales process for a decade and Objective Management Group's (OMG) data is showing that companies - and their salespeople - have finally begun to make some serious progress in this area.  Ten years ago, only 9% of the sales population was following a formal, structured sales process.  Today, that number has crept up to 32%.  

Over the past few years, the majority of calls and emails I have received about sales process have been from companies asking for help buiding a sales process that their salespeople will actually follow and, more importantly, one that will work.  But that's changing too.

Over the past few months, the majority of the calls and emails coming in have been to get help building predictive scorecards.  Yesterday alone I spoke with the CEO's from 3 companies about building and slotting scorecards into their existing sales processes.

Why the sudden rage over scorecards?  

Eariler his year I wrote about scorecards a couple of times.  In February I raved about Membrain's built-in scorecard and in October I wrote about scorecards as the key to a predictive pipeline.

So the question is: Is this hype or is the scorecard a true game changer?

I don't know how many scorecards the experts on my team have built for our clients, but my personal clients tell me that the scorecard I built for them has changed their world.  Their win rates are way up, their sales cycles are shorter, their salespeople are more confident about the opportunities they have decided to pursue, and they have more time and resources to devote to those opportunities.

In short, scorecards are the scientific way to transition from going after every opportunity and hoping to close a small percentage of them, to identifying which opportunities to pursue and closing all of them.

Scorecards are a simple concept but they get tricky in the final stages.  You must be able to accurately:

  • Identify consistently predictive conditions
  • Weight them properly
  • Set the proper cut-off

If you fail to get each of those things just right, you'll have scorecards that won't work the way you hoped.  It's crucial to get all three variables right the first time.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, shorten the sales cycle, closing deals, win rates, scorecard

Salesperson's Terrible Reaction Part 2

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 @ 10:10 AM

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I posted a very short article where I discussed one salesperson's reaction to a great sales role play.  I received a number of emails telling me how helpful the video, story and lessons were.  

The article highlighted Self-Limiting beliefs or negative self talk. Today we will take it a step further and discuss the other things that could have been at play - hidden weaknesses - and the interference they cause salespeople while selling to their prospects.  Like chains, salespeople are only as strong as their weakest link...

The salesperson (let's call him Fred) really believed – from conviction – that the approach was too direct.  I had challenged his personal values and when you challenge someone’s values they will usually dig in their heels. 

Suppose someone else in the room felt exactly the same way as Fred, but wasn't as comfortable confronting me as Fred was.  Would that have been any different?  Yes, it certainly would!  Their fear of confrontation would suggest that they have a need to be liked - technically known as Need for Approval - a very common, yet hidden sales weakness that prevents salespeople from asking questions and pushing back for fear that the prospect will not like them anymore.  I don't believe that Fred has this weakness or he would have been too uncomfortable confronting me and digging in his heals in front of the group.  He was definitely not uncomfortable when he made his case!

Need for Approval affects more than half of all salespeople but only 6% of elite salespeople have the weakness while 78% of weak salespeople have it.  That says a lot, doesn't it?

To say that Need for Approval gets in the way of selling is an understatement.  This weakness alone can interfere with the execution of every stage of the sales process.  For example, it's crucial that modern salespeople have the ability to take a consultative approach in order to differentiate themselves from the competition.  A consultative approach requires asking a lot of questions, pushing back, punching holes, and sometimes, gently confronting. Salespeople with the need to be liked simply will not do that.

When Fred reacted, we were in a role play where we were having a financial conversation.  His reaction could have been triggered by his own discomfort talking about money, a hidden weakness that prevents salespeople from having financial conversations.  Salespeople with this weakness often skip over financial qualification steps and can't dive in for a deeper discussion when there is a challenge finding enough money to pay for what needs to be bought.  Those salespeople often under or over propose because they always fail to learn exactly how much money their prospects will spend with them.

Today it is more difficult than ever to be successful in sales.  The most important take away from these examples is that when salespeople further complicate the modern challenge of selling with their own weaknesses, success becomes even more unlikely and difficult to achieve.

Make sure you read Dan McDade's article - part 3 in his lies or myths series - on sales and marketing alignment.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, sales process, sales qualifying, hidden sales weaknesses, EQ

The #1 Key to Making Sales Forecasts Accurate Again

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 @ 15:10 PM

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What is they key to accurate sales forecasts?  Sure, it's all of the things I've written about before, like sales process, uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, thoroughly qualifying, etc.  But haven't you witnessed more than enough opportunities where all of that was completed at an acceptable level and the business still failed to close?  Don't too many of those well qualified opportunities become delayed closes or losses?  So what is it?  What is the one thing that will accurately predict whether or not an opportunity is strong enough to pursue with everything you've got?

It's the scorecard.

For the past year we have been insistent on including a sales scorecard as one or more steps of the sales process.  You might recall that I wrote about scorecards once before, although in that article it was more about how excited I was that Membrain included a scorecard building functionality in its CRM application.  This time, I want to emphasize how important it is to build a scorecard and not just any scorecard, but one that is predictive enough to make your forecasts accurate!

So how can you build the perfect scorecard?

It's a somewhat complicated process where you must follow these steps:

  1. identify potential criteria that might be predictive
  2. narrow it down to 5-6 criteria that should be predictive
  3. for each criteria, create 3-4 conditions
  4. weight the criteria in order of predictive value
  5. assign points to each of the conditions
  6. make sure that if someone meets the ideal condition for each criteria the maximum number of points is equal to 100
  7. test the scorecard on several opportunities that were won and make sure that the score would have predicted a win.
  8. test the scorecard on several opportunities that were lost and make sure that the score would have predicted a loss.
  9. if your first attempt was not predictive, make some changes and retest, finally setting a cut-off score
  10. install your scorecard as a step in at least two stages of the sales process - expect the score to change over time

With some variations,This example should apply to every company:

Criteria - Level of Decision Maker Reached - Value 15 points

Conditions:

C Suite  15 points
VP 10 points
Manager 5 points
User 0 points

Can you come up with 4-5 more criteria that are always predictive of a sale in your business, with your customers, and against your competition?

Finally, you need to have the discipline to not follow up when a score falls below your cutoff, and to follow up with even more firepower when the score suggests you can win the business.  Discipline is more difficult than building the scorecard!

Last chance to register for my presentation of the 6 Hidden Weaknesses That Impact Sales Results on Tuesday, October 25 at 11 AM Eastern.  Register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, accurate sales forecast, scorecard, predictive pipeline

Is it Your Salespeople or Did You Make a Bad Decision?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 @ 12:10 PM

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Consider buying a car that had an insanely cheap price, with every option you could imagine, as well as options that you never thought you could use.  Nice!  But, you can't drive it until you hire an after market specialist to install instrumentation on the dashboard, a steering wheel, brakes, and gas pedal in the driver's area.  When you finally accept delivery and take it for a spin with your family, everyone hates it, nobody wants to drive with you, and you feel like it wasn't such a great price after all. You can't trade it in, and now you're stuck with it. Sounds impossible, doesn't it?  But for many companies, that is exactly how things are playing out for that purchased this popular application.

Salesforce.com.  

Consider this quote from a client:

"You were right, you know.  Six months ago, when you told us that we wouldn't be happy with the integration of the customized sales process into Salesforce.com, we didn't understand what you meant.  But now we do.  It's clunky, not really part of the interface, the customization cost us tens of thousands of dollars, and it doesn't work the way we need it to.  We are so sorry we didn't listen because that train has left the station."

Companies think they have to buy salesforce.com when, in reality, there are some really great alternatives.  Our favorite is Membrain.  It doesn't cost as much, doesn't require third-party integrators to get it to do what you want, and has perfectly good dashboards out of the box.  There's even a standard configuration for Baseline Selling.  [Speaking of Baseline Selling, I've received so many compliments on the great job of the voice over talent on the new audiobook!  You can order all versions (hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio) of Baseline Selling here.]

Nobody should be stuck in a CRM application that salespeople don't want to use!  They will be inconsistent at best with regard to entering data, when they should actually be living in their CRM application.  Whether they are inconsistent or invisible when it comes time to enter and update opportunities, you won't have real time data on your dashboard and that makes the application useless to management.  At that point it's like owning a car that has a folding chair for a driver's seat and the car does not have a working speedometer, odometer or gasoline gauge. 

CRM is important.  Accurate forecasts are important.  Visibility into each and every opportunity is important.  Integration of the sales process that must be executed and the stage and milestone on which each opportunity sits is important.  Real time visibility is important.  If it's not working for you, cut your losses and move on.  Isn't that what you would do with an under performing salesperson?

Kitedesk featured me in a Sales Expert interview that you can read here.

I was the guest expert on a Rapid Learning Institute Webinar on the sales candidate interviewing mistakes you must avoid.  You can listen to that Webinar here.

I'll be hosting a 30-minute presentation of my own on October 25 at 11 AM Eastern.  I'll be talking about the 6 Hidden Weaknesses that impact sales revenue!  If you would like to listen in, you can register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales CRM, membrain, salesforce.com

The Buyer Journey - Myth, Reality, Hybrid, or an Avoidable Part of Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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The Buyer Journey is front and center again.  Dan McDade posted the second in his 3-part series on Lies and Myths and part 2 is about the Buyer Journey.  8 Sales Experts weighed in with their thoughts about the Buyer Journey and you can read those here.  Don't miss Mike Weinberg's comment - I love it!  It's pretty clear where the sales experts stand, so where is all of the Buyer Journey data coming from if not the sales experts?

Could it be the people with the most to gain from propagating the myth of the Buyer Journey?  Those people are the big proponents of inbound of course.  If they can get you to believe it's 57% over when a salesperson gets invited in, then there is more reason for you to purchase inbound programs and applications to generate even more inbound leads for which you can be late.

The reality is that when salespeople are late to the party, in most cases it is because they are passive rather than proactive about pursuing an opportunity - a trait of weak salespeople or the bottom 77%.  And then, when those same crappy, passive salespeople enter the opportunity late, they aren't able to suddenly become proactive because they are afraid they will lose the business.  Another trait of weak salespeople.  So they facilitate and offer up demos, quotes, proposals, referrals, tours, trials and discounts.  Nothing of value.  Nothing to create urgency.  Nothing that qualifies the opportunity.  Nothing that gathers information.  Nothing.  So that group - 77% of them - would actually perceive a buyer journey where prospects are at least 57% along the way to buying.  And that group will have a loooong sales cycle and a pit.i.ful win rate.

So what is it that enables salespeople to behave so passively on these sales calls?

In my experience, even with weak salespeople, you can blame sales process - either ineffective, inefficient, or a complete lack of a sales process. In some cases, it is a sales process that sales management is not holding salespeople accountable for executing.  With a proper sales process, this.does.not.happen.

This week I wrote an article for Gazelle's Growth Institute's Blog and it just so happens to be on the benefits of getting your sales process right.  You can read that article here.

So what do you believe relative to the buyer journey?

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales cycle, closing ratio, dan mcdade, win rates, gazelles, the buyer journey

The Biggest Secret to My Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 06:09 AM

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Remember this week.  On Tuesday I shared the single biggest selling lesson of my life.  On Thursday I shared the second biggest selling lesson of my life.  And today, in my most controversial article ever, I will share the biggest secret of my sales success.  Some will undoubtedly call this the Dave went crazy article.

Some of you might be able to sense what my secret is.  Some of you won't appreciate how simple it is.  But I'm guessing that most of you will love what I share in this article and if not, you don't have to continue reading it.  Find something else that resonates for you.

Everyone knows that in business there are three topics that you must not talk about.  This year it's been very difficult not to talk about US Politics and it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you side with - you'll be in for an argument if it's the side opposite your lunch companion.  While it should be easy to keep sex out of business conversations, we continue to read about scenarios in which sex was not only included, but the focal point.  And the third is religion.  And I agree that religious beliefs should not be a topic of business conversation. Religious differences cause most wars! But religion is not equal to God.  Here's an Algebra equation for you.  Religion is to God as Amazon is to Samsung.  Think about that for a moment.  God is a manufacturer and the various religions are the resellers.

Over the past 10 years and 1,500 articles, I have typed the word God five times.  In only one of those occasions did I give God any credit and few people actually read that great article!  But today we'll change that.

Those who believe in God say that God will provide.  That's a lot like the book, The Secret, where one only needs to make the affirmation known and it will come true.  The Secret leaves out the work part - the what you have to do part.  Before The Secret, there was Earl Nightingale's The Greatest Secret. The new version was hugely popular but the first book was the real deal. God will provide though - if you do what you're supposed to do.  For example, it is a lot easier for God to provide - in this case protect - if you are living indoors or driving a car down the highway as opposed to living on the streets or driving a go-kart on the highway.  You can't be passive! There are certain common sense things that you must do for yourself in order for God to provide.

In the case of sales, God will provide too, as long as you have done your part.  The sales version of living indoors or driving a car on the highway is having a sales process.  A sales process provides the framework, the symbolism, something to believe in, similar to how a Cross, Rosary Beads, Mezuza or Star of David might serve that purpose in some religions.

I want to share two specific examples of when I have always taught the God part of selling without attributing any of it to God.

Faith in God - After providing about a year of sales training, I have always said something along the lines of, "You just need to have faith that when you respond to your prospect and open your mouth the right words will come out."  I always positioned it as not having to think about the response, staying in the moment and being present. Back in the early 90's I wrote an entire book about that last sentence, called Mindless Selling. The key word in that sentence, and the way I always meant it though, is faith.  Not so much faith in your words, but faith in God - to help you through the conversation and providing you with a good outcome - the right outcome - the outcome that was meant to be.

God Will Provide - When conducting a goal-setting exercise, it is important to get from the personal dream or goal, to the amount of sales required, to the commission required, to the number of sales required, to the daily activity required in order to meet and exceed the goal.  The focus then becomes on the activity rather than the goal.  This was always a very effective way of getting salespeople to focus on the prospecting required to fill the pipeline.  In many cases, it was prospecting that salespeople were not doing nearly enough of.  And I always told them that in my experience, when you take responsibility for doing the right things - for yourself - then good things would happen and the universe would reward you in the form of business that drops into your lap.  While I had them focusing on activity that would be rewarded, what I really believed was that God will provide if you do what you are supposed to do.

Those are two key things that I have taught and now you know that they were really about God.  Here is another key piece to the puzzle.

Gratitude, Asking for Help and Promises - I pray to God almost every night - that is if I don't fall asleep before I can get started.  I've been doing this for as long as I can remember and I feel a great sense of peace after my little chat.  I always - always - begin with thanks and gratitude.  For my God-given talent, life, accomplishments and family.  I continue by asking for help where I need it and praying for others.  I ask for what I want help with but not without thanking God for what I already have.  And this week, I promised that I would write this article if he helped.

The biggest secret of my sales success?  My faith in God.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, God, goal setting

Remembering The Most Powerful Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Hold on for a moment and I'll share that lesson with you or, if you can't wait, scroll down to "How I Learned to (Really) Sell.  

If you had to choose a single idea, concept, tip, tactic, developing strength or strategy, which one do you think helps salespeople succeed more than anything else?

It is a difficult question to answer because while we have plenty of science to identify the biggest reasons why salespeople struggle and fail, simply fixing one of those isolated issues won't automatically translate to instant success.

For example, one salesperson might be failing because he needs so much to be liked.  But another salesperson, who doesn't have that issue, might be failing because he can't talk about money.  And yet another might be failing because his Sales DNA doesn't support hunting.  And a fourth might be failing because she lacks Commitment to sales success.  Those might be there single biggest weaknesses, but helping them to overcome their single biggest weaknesses without helping them with all of their other challenges won't lead to success.

So back to my original question, which one thing helps almost every salesperson succeed, even when they have other challenges?

Compared to what I usually write about, the science on this is a bit fuzzier but after more than 30 years of helping companies and their salespeople generate more revenue, I am certain that it all starts with sales process.  A staged, visual, milestone-centric process.  I've written a lot about sales process over the years and my most recent article, for Growth Institute, was one of the best.  

Sales process also causes one to ask, "Which sales process?"  This article answers that question but make sure you watch the video from that article - it brings the concept to life.

Regular readers should be familiar with my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is both a sales process and methodology.  After 10 years, in response to all of the subscribers who have asked for an audio version of the book, the wait is over.  Michael Lenz did the narration and the audio book is now available.  You can order it here but if you are one of the first 5 readers to respond via email I will provide you with a promo code to receive a complimentary copy of the audio book! [Update - Congratulations to Jeff Woolf, Benjamin Barron, Brad Betson, Jeff Anderton and Scott McNeil - winners of the five promo codes.]

Let me share my favorite story from the book.

How I Learned to (Really) Sell

I learned to (really) sell from a career pots-and-pans salesman, Bob Jiguere, one of the top sellers at WearEver™ Aluminum from the 1940s through the 1960s. By the time he got to me in 1974, Bob was in his early sixties, and I had been with the company for just over a year, eleven months longer than most of us who began selling Cutco knives to people in their homes.

I will never forget the first call I went on with him, because it was so surprising in so many ways. First, the call was the complete opposite of the “features and benefits” selling that I had been taught to emphasize. Second…well, I should just tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

We walked up to the third floor of a six-unit apartment building in Lowell, Massachusetts. We were calling on an eighteen-year-old girl who lived in the four-room apartment with her mother. Girls typically bought kitchenware for their hope chests; their mothers usually had well-established kitchen accessories. As we entered the apartment, I noticed that Bob didn’t have his samples with him. But I figured he wouldn’t need them, because this girl could not possibly afford a $250 (1974 prices) set of knives—never mind cookware, flatware, or china. I was sure she and her mother were destitute.

We all sat down at the table, an old gray, plastic-topped table with metal legs. Although Bob did talk with the girl, he spent most of his time talking with her mother. He asked her to make coffee, then cookies, and then complimented her baking.

We had been in there for about 45 minutes, and if it were my sales call, I would have been finished by now. But Bob hadn’t even started! He finally got around to asking the girl some questions—but why in the world was he asking these questions? “Would you ever like to be married?” “Would you ever like to have a family?” “Will you want nice things?” “Have you started putting things away?” “Do you have a hope chest?” “What’s in there?” “Are you helping her, Mom?” “If you found something really special and you really wanted it, could you put aside $10 a month?” I had been taught to present and build value by asking if a prospect was impressed with what I was demonstrating.  I didn’t know where he was going with these questions.

Finally, he sent me to the car for the samples. He opened them but didn’t demonstrate anything, didn’t explain anything, didn’t “build value,” or tell any stories about the knives. He just opened the display and sat there looking at the knives as if they were gold bullion.

Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the girl’s boyfriend, coming over to visit. I figured he was fairly possessive and jealous, because his first question was, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

Well, the girl very nicely replied that “these boys are showing me some nice knives for when we get married.”

“You don’t need that shit,” he said.

I knew where this call was going. We were about 10 seconds from being back in the car and going on our next call.

Bob turned to her mother and said, “These punks are all the same today. All they want to do is get in your daughter’s panties.”

I was going to die, right there and then. I didn’t think it could get any worse, when her mother said, “You’re right! I want you out of my house!”

The punk replied, “Baby, you gonna let her talk to me like that?”

The girl said, “She’s right. Get out!”

Up to this point, I had been 100 percent wrong about everything that had happened. But even as I began to sense that Bob actually knew what he was doing, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. Mom said, “I don’t know how much you sell those knives for, Bob, but I’d like to get a set for my daughter—and another set for me.”

Bob said, “Of course. You are one sharp cookie and a hell of a baker, too. The two sets come to just $500. Do you have that under the mattress?”

The mother said, “Oh, Bob. You know me like a book. Come on into my bedroom and I’ll show you where I keep the money.”

He followed; she lifted the mattress, took out a wad of cash, peeled off $500, pinched his cheek, thanked him for coming, made us finish the cookies, and wished us well.

A dozen or so qualifying questions, no presentation, and he sells two outrageously priced sets of knives to a mother and daughter with no creature comforts or possessions to their name. If you were on that call, would you have sat up and taken notice? I sure did. Selling would never be the same again!

While selling has changed dramatically since then, the lesson has not.  He was ahead of his time and while he would have much to learn about selling today, that approach, integrated into a modern sales process, would fit in very nicely, thank you.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales methodology, sales tips, how to sell, sales lesson

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About Dave

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

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