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

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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

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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.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

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

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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

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 07, 2018 @ 15:02 PM

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Recently, I installed vented plastic garage floor tiles like those in the picture above to improve the look of our garage.  It's the same garage, but now it looks awesome.

Yesterday I received an email from Richardson Training, letting me know that they have completed their 2018 Selling Challenges Study.  The data in the report, which you can download here, hasn't changed a great deal since 2017, but the report's new look is awesome.  I reported on last year's report in detail here, but my conclusion for 2018 is the exact same conclusion I came to in 2017.

In 2017, the biggest challenge that companies faced was selling value and that continues into 2018.  It's no surprise.  Most sales organizations that Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluates appear to be quite challenged when it comes to selling value. For example, if you visit OMG's public stats page and scroll down to the Selling Value competency, you'll notice the following:

stats-value.jpg

  • Only 35% of all salespeople have the competency as a strength.
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 56.

In order to effectively sell value, salespeople must also take a consultative approach and use a sales process that supports consultative selling and selling value.  If you scroll from the Selling Value competency to the Consultative Selling competency and then the Sales Process competency, you will find that:

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  • Only 22% of all salespeople have the Consultative competency as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 46 in the Consultative Competency

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  • Only 26% of all salespeople have the Milestone-Centric Sales Process as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 49.

By contrast, if you scroll to the Presentation Approach competency, you will find that:

stats-present.jpg

  • 69% of all salespeople have Presentation Approach as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of 73.

So the question is, why does selling value continue to be such a problem for so many companies?  

It takes me and my team at Kurlan & Associates about 8 months, training twice per month, to move salespeople to the point where they are confidently, effectively and efficiently selling value.  That's 16 training sessions, reinforced by at least 32 coaching conversations from their sales managers over the same 8 months.  And prior to those 8 months it takes some time to get sales managers to the point where they can handle the heavy lifting that coaching requires.  So it brings me back to my opening.

Do most companies do the sales training equivalent of laying down the garage tiles by finding non-disruptive training so they can say they provided training?  Or do they refurbish the entire garage - find training like Kurlan provides and make the decision to require their sales managers to become great sales coaches?

Only the refurbishing option will cause change.

Sales Managers won't find better training at turning them into great sales coaches than the training we provide at my annual Sales Leadership Intensive.  I have 5 seats left for the training on May 22-23 outside of Boston.  You can learn more here and register here.

Topics: value selling,, Consultative Selling, sales process, Richardson, Dave Kurlan

Predictions for 2018 - The Sales Triad Will Provide Record Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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The economy is doing well, unnecessary regulations have been rolled back, the stock market is soaring, unemployment is low, consumer confidence is up, manufacturing has returned, companies are investing in the American economy, businesses are confident about the future and tax cuts are about to make paychecks bigger for about 90% of all Americans.  What will consumers do with that extra money?  They'll spend it of course!  As a result of these positive developments, what should you expect to happen from a sales perspective in 2018?

Companies are spending money, so that's a good thing.  Executives whose past actions suggested that your product or service was nice to have, but not a must have, might want to buy it this year!  Companies that didn't have budgets during the past few years might have budgets this year.  Decision makers who didn't have enough in their budgets may have a surplus this year.  There will be plenty of money to go around.  Hallelujah!

Warning: Don't get too excited.  While companies will be buying and spending, it doesn't mean that your company will get the business.  More buying and spending means more competition and with the internet, companies need not be local in order to compete for and win that business.  

With the availability of money and additional competition, I can tell you this.  If you aren't the low price leader, the best-known company, or the safest decision that a buyer can make, you will have to do some real SELLING to get that business.  And not just selling, but thoughtfully, effectively, efficiently, and articulately selling value.  What?  You already sell value?  Really?  I'll bet you don't.  I'll bet the salespeople in your company talk about value and justify your pricing, but talking about value is not selling value.  Do you ever tell prospects that you will be competitively priced?  Then you're not selling value.  Do you ever discount your price?  Then you're not selling value.  Do you ever make exceptions to your pricing?  Then you're not selling value.

Selling value is extremely challenging for most companies because on it's own, it doesn't translate to a sale.  Selling value is an approach in a sales process with a consultative methodology that supports selling value.  You are undoubtedly familiar with the nuclear triad, and the combination of a consultative sales process, value selling approach and a consultative selling methodology is the selling equivalent.  It's the sales triad!

Companies that still take a transactional approach to selling may have very difficult year when it comes to acquiring new business and retaining existing business.  This will be the year that sales dinosaurs become extinct.  In 2015 I wrote that 1 million salespeople would become obsolete by 2020. Not only has the time come, it has come earlier than expected and it came for many more than 1 million salespeople.  This year, I predict that 3 million salespeople will either lose their jobs to the internet or to salespeople who can sell consultatively and sell value.

Whether it's professional sales training or sales coaching, your sales managers will play a major role in this transition.  Your sales managers can get a jump start on this by attending my annual public Sales Leadership Intensive on May 22-23 outside of Boston.  As of this writing (January 29) there are just 7 seats remaining so you'll need to act quickly.  Learn more at http://kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event.  Register here

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling value, sales process, Consultative Selling

7 Reasons Why Prospects Go Cold and How to Avoid it

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 05, 2018 @ 09:01 AM

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Outside of Boston, today is the day after the blizzard of 2018, it's a winter wonderland, and the deep freeze we have been experiencing is expected to get worse, with extended periods of sub-zero temperatures and wind chills approaching -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  What does that have to do with selling?  Plenty!

One of the biggest frustrations that salespeople and their sales leaders have is when good prospects go cold.  These include prospects that were projected to close soon yet, they aren't returning calls, emails, inmails or overnight deliveries.  Not only have the prospects gone cold; the salespeople have been frozen out.  But it's more like the weather than the two scenarios sharing common words.  

I finished reading Dan Brown's new book, Origins.  I think it's his best work since The DaVinci Code although I did correctly guess the ending...  Anyway, at one point they are reading the Roman Numerals XI + I and coming up with an answer of 12.  12 was not the answer required to decode the matter at hand.  Professor Langdon, the main character, changes his perspective.  He rotates the equation by 180 degrees, turning it upside down until the equation becomes I + IX.  The new answer is 10, exactly what they needed.

If you change your perspective about prospects going cold, you might discover that you caused them to go cold, rather than the myriad of other possibilities.  I'll explain.

The deep freeze didn't just suddenly arrive last week.  The weather has been working up to this since temperatures began to drop in mid November.  It's been getting cooler and cooler and then colder and colder until now.  There is a lead-up to the freeze and if we take a step back, it happens nearly every year around this time.

Your prospects don't suddenly go cold either.  There are signs. 

In half of the cases the salespeople had developed a case of happy ears earlier in the sales process and their belief that the prospects were interested or warm or even hot was entirely imagined.  Their prospects didn't go cold as much as they were already cold and couldn't find another way to tell the salesperson to go away!

In some instances, the prospects were actually hot but the salespeople complicated things and didn't get out of the way enough to allow their prospects buy.  The prospects became frustrated with their inept salespeople, bought from someone who could quickly help them, and didn't talk to the original salesperson again.

In many of the cases, the salespeople were moving more quickly than the prospects.  The salespeople were on their own timeline and the prospects didn't have the same urgency.  Feeling more pressure than they were comfortable with, the prospects decided not to talk with those salespeople anymore.

Many prospects go cold when they aren't the actual decision makers, they haven't engaged the decision makers, and have nothing to report.  These salespeople made two huge mistakes: 

  1. They achieved nice to have, but not must have.  If you aren't talking with the decision maker, nice to have will never be enough to empower a subordinate to ask the decision maker to participate or get the decision maker to approve the needed funds.
  2. They didn't start with the decision maker!  It's nearly impossible to sell up hill and while selling downhill isn't ideal, it doesn't cause your heart to beat as fast as trying to sell up hill.

The reality is that in most scenarios, salespeople caused their prospects to go cold.  When salespeople have been frozen out it's usually because they were talking with the wrong person, weren't moving at the correct speed, or didn't get their prospects to sense that they must have this product or service.

If you are wondering why salespeople find themselves in these scenarios so frequently you don't have to look any further than these 5 Sales Core Competencies:

  1. Sales Process - the freeze will nearly always happen when an effective sales process is not followed and presenting occurs too early.
  2. Doesn't Need to be Liked - when this competency appears as a weakness, salespeople won't ask the necessary questions to smoke this out.
  3. Consultative Seller - when the salesperson fails to take a consultative approach they will fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy and fail to get past nice to have.
  4. Value Seller- when salespeple fail to sell value, it can be difficult for prospects to justify spending the money
  5. Qualifier - when salespeople aren't thoroughly qualifying, they will often find themselves selling to the wrong person

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies in total and while they all play some part in the freeze, these five take center stage.

If you are a sales leader, one thing you can do to address this issue is to hire stronger salespeople who won't find themselves in the deep freeze.  It begins with an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

What can you improve upon to eliminate most instances of the deep freeze?  And equally important, if your prospect returns from the deep freeze, will you know why and will you do the right thing?  Read Part 2 here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales problems, sales process, Consultative Selling, selling value, Dave Kurlan

More Fake News in Sales Organizations Than on TV Networks!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 21:12 PM

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Most of your salespeople are just like fake news and I will prove it.  I'm not talking about the elite top 5% or the next group of 15% who are very strong.  I am referring to the bottom 46% of the sales population who, if I am to be completely honest, totally suck. If yours is like most companies, then half of its salespeople fit this description.

I'm going to show you exactly how your salespeople report fake news but first, we need to break down how fake news happens so that I can demonstrate how your weak salespeople do the exact same thing, every chance they can get.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you couldn't wait to share the news?  Excitement is the key element to fake news.

The opportunity for fake news happens when a journalist has an agenda or bias that reflects their personal beliefs. It's true of democrats and republicans, as well as liberals and conservatives.  You've seen it happen on every major news network and in many major publications.  A news story comes along that supports the journalist's beliefs and the journalist - let's call him Happy - becomes so excited that he can't wait tell that story. In an effort to quickly get it out there, he might skip several steps of the editorial process.  Happy might proceed with an anonymous and/or unreliable source, fail to get a second source, not check the facts, report on a document he hasn't seen, take a quote out of context, twist the words, or simply make the story fit his narrative. I've seen more of this in the past eighteen months than in the rest of my lifetime combined.   

As I said before, your salespeople are doing the exact same thing.  It happens when they are talking with a prospect who shares information that the salesperson recognizes as a perfect fit for your product (or service). These salespeople believe that they must present and they become very excited to pitch their product. In an effort to quickly get to the presentation (or demo) they skip several steps in the sales process, don't ask if they are talking with a decision maker, recommend a solution without understanding the actual problem, and submit a quote without thoroughly qualifying the prospect's ability to pay. Later, in the CRM application, they check off the steps of the sales process as completed and later still, their sales manager reads the summary, contributing to an unreliable sales forecast.  And as I wrote here, this contributes to the 16,000 unqualified quotes and proposals being created and sent each day. Unfortunately, I've been seeing this kind of fake news for 32 years because so many salespeople either don't have or don't follow a formal sales process and as a result the sale usually doesn't close.

Getting excited is one of the six major weaknesses found in the Sales DNA of salespeople.  If there was such a thing as Reporting DNA I'm sure the same weakness would be found there too.  But there's a second weakness at play and that's Beliefs.  Reporters aren't the only ones with beliefs.  Salespeople have as many as 75 sales beliefs and the beliefs either support or sabotage their sales outcomes.  In the scenario above, the non-supportive belief that they must present was so strong that it was responsible for the excitement that caused the outcome to be sabotaged.

Fake news is killing our trust in the media, undermining our government and dividing our country.  What do you think happens when your salespeople provide fake news to their sales managers and don't give their prospects the benefit of having a thorough two-way conversation before they jump and present or demo and propose an out of context quote?

Topics: fake news, Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales DNA

The Perfect Day for a Salesperson - 10 Ways to be More Efficient and Effective in 2018

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 08, 2017 @ 09:12 AM

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Introduction

You can be more effective and more efficient selling in 2018, do every single thing I wrote about in this article, exactly as I wrote it, and without any difficulty, by making a conscious decision to follow this blueprint.  It's not hard. It's not scary.  It's not unusual.  It's not even thought-provoking.  It's simply a list of best practices that great salespeople (top 5%) do and that crappy (46%) salespeople either don't do consistently or don't do it at all.

Pre-Planning

The ideal sales day begins the previous evening.  Looking ahead to tomorrow, how many meetings do I have, which of those are sales related, how many items on the to-do list must be completed, how many proposals are due, and how many emails must I respond to before the day begins?  Based on all of that, how early do I need to set the alarm?  For me, most mornings it's for 5:30 AM.

CRM

Upon awakening, I like to begin the day inside CRM (we love Membrain) so that I can see all of my opportunities, the stage of the pipeline they are in, identify those I must move along, and who is waiting on me for something.

Calendar

Next, I need to identify my prospecting time for the day.  That's when I'll do the required work on those opportunities that need attention and schedule new meetings.  On most days, I have less than an hour of time for this so I need to be prepared to be ultra productive.  I can't afford to spend an hour attempting to reach potential new clients since even for me it will take 10-15 attempts to reach a CEO or Sales VP so it's crucial to actually connect with prospects during this time.  I begin with introductions, move to referrals, then to inbound leads from appropriately titled decision makers, and back-fill with LinkedIn connections and other inbound leads.  I only want to schedule future calls - not spend time talking with them today.  If you aren't fortunate enough to have a steady supply of introductions, referrals and inbound leads to call, you need a way to be more efficient than cold calling and I recommend that you use ConnectAndSell.  In an hour of calling they'll help you connect to an average of 7 prospects whereas attempting to reach prospects on your own might not yield 7 connections in an entire day.

Email

It's still early so this is the ideal time to respond to emails that I didn't get to yesterday, those that came in over night, and those where I need to be proactive.

Preparation

Finally, there are the scheduled sales calls.  For brand new opportunities, what do I need to know about them, their company, their industry and our common connections before we speak?  What is the desired outcome for each call?   What is the game plan to get there?

Sales Calls or Meetings

These days almost everything I do is by phone or video conference and that holds true for sales calls as well. If I want to achieve a predictable outcome then all I have to do is have a great conversation that faithfully follows our sales process, reaching the required milestones along the way.  One of the things that I love about Membrain is that the sales process, milestones, scorecards and playbooks for each milestone are on the screen during the call.  Companies that are in sales training, learning sales process and/or methodology, introducing playbooks, on boarding new salespeople, incorporating integrated CRM, or getting veteran salespeople to change the way they do things gain an additional benefit or 3 from these features.

What Can Go Wrong?

There is very little that can go wrong when you prepare like this.  Surely, some calls will cancel or reschedule, some prospects will be unqualified, some opportunities may be poor fits, and some prospects won't want to share answers to your questions.  You can't control any of that stuff but you can prepare for it.  Read this article to better understand how to use your unexpected free time.

Contrast

I receive a few incoming cold calls and schedule a few sales calls or meetings with salespeople calling on my companies each week and here's what I can tell you about them.  They.  All.  Suck.  No exceptions.  Here's why:

When salespeople are scheduled to have an actual sales call with me all they want to do is pitch, present and demo.  Does anyone, other than those salespeople that we train, actually use a consultative approach to sell?

Summary

Armed with an effective approach, appropriate planning, effective sales process and methodology, supportive sales tools and good scores in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, you will succeed.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales best practices, time management, Dave Kurlan, sales process, Consultative Selling, crm, membrain, connectandsell

Which is Worse - Crappy Salespeople or Crappy Sales Managers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 05, 2017 @ 21:12 PM

crappy.jpg

In his book, The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki said, "Don't Worry, Be Crappy."

That advice suggested that companies just get their early versions of software and tech products out there and they could make them better later.  

How are early versions of technology different from crappy salespeople and crappy sales managers?  For one thing, salespeople and sales managers tend to stay crappy unless professional training, coaching and interventions occur.  And unlike products, user feedback tends to be sketchy when it comes to salespeople because they refrain from giving it.  But what would happen if they did?

Prospects care about two things.  Are the salespeople calling on them likable and do they bring value?  Read that correctly.  I didn't type that they can recite the unique value proposition or talk about value.  I wrote that they actually bring value.  More specifically, strong, effective salespeople must be the value.  While it's great when salespeople receive product training to become more knowledgeable, they shouldn't be sharing their product knowledge on sales calls.  It's redundant because prospects and customers can find that information with 2 clicks on Google so they don't need to hear the same thing from salespeople. 

Most salespeople are crappy and I'll share 3 statistics to help you understand just how crappy they are.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has data on 1.6 million salespeople that have been assessed and evaluated. In the next 3 graphics I will share the Sales Quotient (the overall score for the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures) in 3 categories.  The sample size for this particular statistic is arond 417,000+ salespeople. 

This first graphic below shows the average Sales Quotient for all salespeople.   The average score is 116.

aveSQ.png

The next graphic below shows the avarage Sales Quotient for elite salespeople who have a Sales Quotient of better than 140.  Only 6% of all salespeople are represented here.  Their average score is 144.

ave-elite-sq-1.png

The final graphic below shows the average Sales Quotient for weak salespeople who have a Sales Quotient below 115. Amazingly, 46% of all salespeople are represented in the weak group.  Their average score is just 103.

ave-weak-sq.png

Watch this 1-minute video for some thoughts on what you can work on first. 

Kurt Mortensen interviewed me for his sales podcast and you might find this 15-minute interview on sales process helpful.  As we approach year-end and my article in the December issue of Top Sales Magazine has a number of things that salespeople can work on in December to improve.

It's a different story altogether with sales managers.  Their salespeople need to be coached every day.  And it needs to be the kind of coaching that makes their salespeople want to come back for more.  Providing technical help, pricing, or discounts is not coaching.  Telling salespeople what to do is not coaching either.

Salespeople and sales managers can be trained but I can tell you this.  It's a lot easier to train crappy salespeople than it is to train crappy sales managers.  Selling is difficult but effective coaching brings difficult to a whole new level.

I've written a lot of articles on coaching salespeople and you can find 30 articles right here.  You can also register early to attend my annual Sales Leadership Intensive that is coming up in May.  It's simply the best training on how to master the art of coaching salespeople.

So don't worry if you're crappy - just do something to make yourself better and then instead of crappy you'll be happy.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Consultative Selling, sales process, Sales Coaching, Dave Kurlan, kurt morensen

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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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