The Correlation Between Milestones, Sales Process and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

process

The shit show known as 2020.  Many of us have heard that term used to describe this uniquely strange year.  Despite everything unusual about 2020, there have been some normalcies too.  We celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's and Father's Days, and we will all celebrate the upcoming holidays.  The gatherings might be smaller and more localized, but the holiday won't pass by without us.  These are all Milestones.

Objective Management Group (OMG) celebrated some milestones this year too.  In January we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, in August we processed our 2 millionth sales assessment and in September we updated the industry standard 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Milestones are important.  How are they important to sales success?

Milestones are also the most important components of a strong, reliable, predictive sales process. 

Without specific milestones that must be reached in each stage of the sales process, there is no sales process!

Back in the early 90's, in the very early days of OMG, only 9% of all salespeople had and/or followed a sales process.  While that has improved dramatically in the last 30 years, to 45%, it is still way too low.  Check out these findings.

Sales Process is only one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies yet it correlates perfectly with sales percentile.  As you can see, the best salespeople are 94% more likely to have and follow a sales process while 83% of weak salespeople, the bottom half of all salespeople, are out there winging it!  And when it comes to all salespeople, 55% are winging it.  Hmmm.  That's pretty close to the 57% who don't hit quota, isn't it?

Consider that salespeople who are just winging it usually have milestones.  For example, most lousy salespeople have conceptual milestones for things like:

  • Getting on an approved vendor list
  • Quoting
  • Submitting a Proposal
  • Scheduling a Demo
  • Getting a Prospect to Agree to a Trial

There is nothing wrong with these milestones unless they are the only milestones in a company's or salesperson's sales process. Unfortunately, that's what we usually see, with salespeople looking to achieve late stage milestones without meeting the ten to fifteen crucial milestones that must be achieved PRIOR to the five listed above. A best-practices sales process has at least four stages (think in terms of stages like suspect, prospect, qualified, closable) with each stage having between three and eight measurable milestones.  

Skipping a single milestone can have devastating consequences.  Imagine what can happen when salespeople skip ten to fifteen milestones! 

Very often, companies lacking the appropriate milestones in its sales process have win rates below 15%.  Companies that get their sales processes customized and optimized with predictive scorecards get their win rates up to near 80%!  If yours isn't that high, there's a good chance that sales process is at the top of the list of root causes. 

To get a better sense for what a sales process should look like, and how popular sales processes compare, check out this 11--minute video that I recorded four years ago.

Milestones are important.  One of your milestones should be to make your sales process as structured and predictive as your accounting, operations, manufacturing, programming, legal, shipping or engineering processes.  It is irresponsible for your sales process to not be as solid and well-thought out as each of your other processes. Sales success drives revenue and profit. Why would you allow the single process that drives revenue and profit to suffer from lack of professional attention. 

Sales is not some fluffy art-form that can be molded to the whims of each salesperson!  Sales is more like a software application where the science lies under the hood in its code and the art or personality is infused into the look, feel and easy-to-navigate user interface.  Sales science lies in the sales process and methodology and the art or personality is infused by the salesperson to have a friendly, easy and enticing conversation with the prospect.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales effectiveness, sales success, sales milestones, sales software

4 Great Sales Lessons from a Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 17, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

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We were fortunate to be in the audience for the 2016 Notre Dame Commencement where Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and former Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired 4-Star General, Martin Dempsey were among the speakers.  While all were good, Biden had one great takeaway, and the General shared 3 tips and an action step. I believe that these are all share-worthy and apply to sales and sales leadership as well, and perhaps even better than they apply to those graduating from universities.

Dempsey is known for a 3-word call to action, "Make it Matter."

Let's apply "make it matter" to sales and sales management.  In sales, it means that every conversation, with every prospect and customer, should be meaningful to the customer and/or prospect.  How can we make each conversation matter to them? To them!  We need to stop thinking about our own needs and focus on the needs of the person on the other end of the call or the other side of the conference room table.  This doesn't mean giving up control, or facilitating, but it does emphasize the importance of listening instead of talking.

When it comes to coaching salespeople, this concept is even more important.  How do you get your salespeople to come back and want more coaching from you?  After all, that is the true measurement of whether or not your coaching is having an impact.  Are they getting enough from it to want more of it?  Make it matter - to them!

I found his advice to graduates even more meaningful.  He told them, "We need you to have a warrior’s heart, an immigrant’s spirit, and a servant’s soul."

Let's review.

Heart of a Warrior - It's the will to sell - grit - the ability to do what it takes - and wanting it badly enough.  It's finding a way - any way - to get the desired outcome.  It's more than surviving sales; it's achieving and thriving in sales. 

Spirit of an Immigrant - It's finding your way, seeking something better, and fitting in.  It's being flexible, taking risks, being memorable enough to differentiate yourself from all others.  It's learning your customer/client's culture and embracing it.  

Soul of a Servant - It's about giving people what they truly want and need and you identify that by asking great questions and listening and following up with more great questions.

Biden stressed engagement.  He urged graduates to engage with conversation and build lasting relationships.  My sales translation is that while our current generation of technology is great and should be leveraged, a connection on LinkedIn is not a relationship, a follower is not a raving fan, and a conversation cannot be conducted over email.

These are all common sense guidelines, but today, whether it's politics, technology, or how we view ISIS, there doesn't seem to be enough common sense as a main ingredient of our discussions.

As an example, as I write this, we are in the first morning of our spring Sales Leadership Intensive and the conversation taking place this very moment is about the importance of a formal, milestone-centric sales process.  Common sense suggests that a time-tested and proven sales process will be much more effective, consistent and predictable than going without.  Despite the common sense factor, I've read articles suggesting that we no longer need such things with the current technology available to us.  I've read countless articles about the death of selling, the death of SPIN selling, the death of Solution Selling, and the death of consultative selling approach. And of course we have all been told that cold calling is dead.  Uh-oh.  Most of these articles were written by companies trying to get you to buy their software applications and they hope that you will buy into the dead = need for software.  Nice try!

There is no doubt that selling has changed.  If you just read the article I linked to, you should recognize that the real key is in understanding how the dynamics have changed.  Selling has changed only to the degree that we must understand how to deal with those changing dynamics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, solution selling, SPIN Selling, notre dame, joe biden, sales software, selling has changed, martin dempsey, john boehner

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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