Insider Opinion - Why Sales Experts Can't Agree on Anything

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:11 PM

debateI recently published, Increase in Social Selling Yields No Improvement in KPI's.  In addition to my blog, this article appeared on at least 5 other websites leading to many interesting comments and very strong opinions.  The discussions, comments and opinions, especially at CustomerThink.com, helped me realize why so many experts are arguing - not only about the future of selling, but about what's taking place today, right now.  Among the things being debated are:

  • The migration from outside to inside sales - Yes, it's happening and it's good; but, it won't happen in every company, to every salesperson or necessarily soon.
  • The rise of inbound marketing - Yes, it's happening, and yes, it helps generate leads; but, it's not the be-all, end-all that inbound marketing folks make it out to be.  Salespeople are not being replaced.
  • The integration of social selling tools (the topic of the aforementioned article) - Yes, it's happening and it's helpful; but, it hasn't changed the results  - no measurable change in KPI's at all.
  • The death of selling - Yes, marketing people are predictably predicting this; and no, it's not going to happen.
  • The change in how selling will be conducted - Yes, it's changing; but, some of that change is for the wrong reasons and could be change for the sake of inbound marketing.

I wrote the following response to 12 conflicting comments on my article on CustomerThink.com:

Thank you all for contributing to the discussion and in both challenging and adding your own results and evidence for and against. I'm sure we're not done yet...
It's clear that everyone is approaching this from their own perspective, using their own experience, anecdotal evidence, surveys, studies, clients and subscribers, in the industries in which they work and the marketing and/or sales teams with whom they communicate.
I'll repeat the essence of the article because it already seems to be getting lost or twisted.
The data I used was a selection of around 10,000 Objective Management Group sales assessments (not a survey) completed in the month of June 2013. The results show us that usage of these tools is way up. The companies that these salespeople worked for were reporting no change, or worsening of KPI's. The conclusion is what you had the problem with: Lack of correlation between use of the tools and key sales metrics. That's it - nothing more and nothing less. How could you conclude anything else from this particular set of data?
The 10,000 assessments were taken in a cross-section of industries (companies in more than 200 industries use our assessments) so that is part of the problem. Most of you who are surprised with these results are working with companies and industries that are more likely to see results than the overall population of 15 million plus salespeople.

To summarize, most of the disagreements, arguments, challenges, and strong opinions occur when experts feel threatened by an opposing viewpoint or simply aren't in a position to have a similar viewpoint.  Many of the viewpoints, that are in opposition to what I write about, are from people who just don't have as broad a vantage point .  I am very fortunate to have unique access to data, science and business that isn't available to anyone else:

  • 200 Industries!  That's industries, not companies.  Most of the survey data being used out there is extremely limited by comparison.  Only big companies, only small companies, only SaaS companies, only companies that use inbound marketing, only marketing people responding, etc.
  • 700,000 salespeople!  That's a huge sample size and I can mine it for anything I need to find.  Not only that; but, the population has grown over the years so we can track changes to the data.
  • Salespeople!  We only look at three roles - sales, sales management and sales leadership.  Our data is validated, relevant and impressive.
  • Companies with sales organizations!  Due to the way we go to market, I have access, through our partners, to almost any company, anywhere; and as such, trends across those 200 industries, not just the companies I might personally be working with.
  • Manufacturing!  My colleagues, that limit themselves to technology companies or financial institutions or insurance companies, don't know what they're missing.  When I work with the executives of manufacturing companies, I get to see things before they happen.  Manufacturers are the first to experience increases, decreases and even global spending freezes (these occurred prior to November 2008), allowing me to see the trends before they happen.  These are forward-looking indicators and when the same things happen to multiple companies at the same time, we can predict shifts and changes in the economy.
  • Evaluations and Assessments!  Not surveys.  Anyone can use SurveyMonkey to ask questions, populate drop-down lists and incorporate radio buttons, send the survey to some companies and collect the data.  Surveys are typically a collection of questions and answers gathering opinions, aren't validated, and typically aren't representative of all people reading the results.  The data, that comes from our evaluations and assessments, is always based on science.  Validated.  Accurate.  Predictive.

Today there are a tremendous number of blogs on sales.  There are 85 of them featured on AllTop.com.  TopSalesWorld.com lists the top 50 sales blogs.  I counted 240 different people writing on the subject of sales at EvanCarmichael.com.  You should always consider the author's context, industry, background, experience and bias when reading their sales articles.  Ask yourself, "For this author to have this opinion, are they pushing an agenda, reporting on a trend within a particular industry, expressing an opinion formed only from their personal experience, selling something (I'm sometimes guilty of this), sharing the results of a skewed survey, talking about something that isn't globally applicable, suggesting something that isn't scalable, promoting something that isn't duplicable, talking about something that isn't even sound?"  Some would suggest that if someone causes someone to adopt something so outdated and ineffective in today's world, that they should be found guilty of malpractice.  And finally, the best of all; the experts that only post-attack comments on other experts' blogs.  Do I love them...

As with any industry, ours has some pretty smart, forward-thinking experts who can help any company with any challenge.  I know most of them.  Some of them partner with Objective Management Group.  But the number of really good ones is not 240 or 85 or even 50. Remember, that was the top 50 blogs - not the top 50 sales experts.  Some of the really good experts are included there and some aren't.  Some of the really good blogs are written by people you may not want helping you.  A blog does not make the top 50 list because the author is a brilliant sales mind.  Most of those rankings are based on number of posts, consistency in their posting, and number of readers.  I know a few great sales minds that don't have blogs and vice versa.

I've gone a bit off the track and probably pissed off a lot of people.  But what else is new?  I apologize.

Good things are happening in the world of sales and some of those things are coming your way.  Just keep both eyes open, your nose to the ground and your antenna up.  You'll intuitively know whether or not what you are reading is a bunch of bunk or the real deal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales consulting, top sales blog, sales results, top sales expert, KPI, social selling

Why Sales Leaders and Salespeople Get Frustrated

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 06, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

frustrated with salesOK, so you do get frustrated with sales or you wouldn't have clicked the link.

Why?

Do you get frustrated with:

  • Salespeople?
  • Prospects?
  • Results?
  • Effort?
  • Forecasts?
  • Effectiveness?
  • Focus?
  • Discipline?
  • Consistency?
  • Growth and Improvement?
  • Pipeline Velocity?
  • Change?
  • Behavior?
  • Attitude?
  • Sales Selection?
  • On-Boarding?
  • Ramp-Up?
  • Coaching Stickiness?
  • Coachability?
  • Efficiency?
  • Distractions?
  • Commitment?
  • Motivation?
  • Enjoyment?
  • Something else?
The point is that any one, two or even three of these (while frustrating) can be handled either internally or externally.  There are obvious, viable solutions; however, when several, many or most of these things begin to frustrate you, it can become overwhelming.  So much so that it interferes with your ability to do the right things, do things the right way, act professionally, perform effectively, and eventually, get the results you need and want.  It becomes a catch-22, with frustration causing even more of the very things that led to your initial frustration.

You may not have control over external factors or forces but you do have control over how you react to them.  Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  Clear your head.  Start over.  Choose one thing that you know you can fix.  Take action.  Then get help fixing everything that you aren't sure you can fix.  One thing at a time.  You can do this.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales and selling, sales results, sales attitude

Tale of Two Clients - Sales Training:) versus SAAAlesTraining:(

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 05, 2010 @ 22:10 PM

changeHere's an interesting comparison for you.

Two client companies are on the exact same sales development time line. (Same time line but separate from each other - they don't even know about each other)

Both of their sales forces went through sales force evaluations at the exact same time.

Both of their sales management teams were developed at the same time.

Both of their sales organizations received sales infrastructure help (sales process, sales pipeline, metrics, sales recruiting process, etc).

Now both companies will have their salespeople trained at the same time (but separately).

Company #1 has everyone excited.  They can't wait.  Their sales managers are already coaching to the best practices they learned and holding their salespeople accountable.  They are change ready.

Company #2 has everyone dreading this initiative.  They don't think they need it, even though their sales are off by 45% and their pipeline sucks!  Their sales managers are in whining mode, haven't allocated the time for coaching and aren't holding anybody accountable yet.  They are as far from change-ready as you can get.  Yikes!

So what's the difference?  Leadership.

The CEO is driving the change in company #1 and he did it the right way.  In company #2, the CEO delegated the change to the Sales VP, the second weakest person in the entire company. He is so weak that he didn't want any part of any evaluation, development, coaching or training.  He was afraid that his boss might actually see how weak he was.  Like I said, he was the second weakest person in the company.  Would you like to know who was weaker than him?  Bingo.  The CEO who delegated the whole initiative to him.

You've heard it before. It flows down hill.  Your organization can only be as effective as the weakest leadership link.  When it comes to a sales development initiative, you must start out committed and remain committed to drive the process until the change you demand has been accomplished.  Anything short of that is a formula for failure.

Of course, when you tell that to people who are weak, they don't believe you.  They trust their people.  They have good people.  Their people are committed....

That is such BS.  Strong CEO's see all the flaws their people have and are committed to developing them or upgrading.  Weak CEO's see beauty, and flowers, and blue skies - yes, that's the ticket - blue skies through rose colored glasses.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales results, sales assessments, sales development

Revising the Forbes Message of the Day for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 26, 2009 @ 08:02 AM

The Forbes Success Calendar for 2/25/09 said, "Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of our living.  Out of our overconfidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope.  And out of hope, progress." - Bruce Barton

I think this quote requires a serious revision - for the sales force and for the company.

First, let's make it shorter.  

Action.  Today, any action is better than inaction. And don't react, just respond appropriately.  Reactions are emotional while responses are intentional.

Change is good but forget trial and error.  In this economy there is no margin for error.  Everything you do must be time-tested and proven

Hope is not a strategy but unwavering belief will lead to progress and in turn, confidence

My revision: If what you are doing today is not yielding the desired result, respond, take action, change, believe, progress, succeed.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, Sales Force, success, improve sales, economic crisis, sales results, Forbes

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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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