Closing Sales, Process, Hauntings, Training & More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

ghosthaunting

Photo Credit: Psychic Library

Today I will explore the least-read articles I have ever written.  That's right.  The least read.  It's very fashionable - and a best practice - to continue promoting the most-read, most-liked, most-favorited, most-shared, most-tweeted and most-commented articles; but I don't think anyone has gathered up their worst work and said, "Look at this!"  It's actually not my worst writing.  It's all every bit as good, and in some cases, better than my best articles.  Sometimes crappy articles spread like wildfire and the good stuff comes out on a day when people aren't paying attention.  So here are the 10 best articles I ever wrote that hardly anyone noticed.

Closing Sales - The Fine Line Between Patience and Pressure  August 2007

The Impact of Sales Training  October 2006

Great Sales Opportunities That Don't Close March 2010

Salespeople - Can Their Work Ethic Be as Good as BB King's?  March 2007

How to be Memorable - Things to Do When You are Selling Yourself  August 2009

What Do Sales Managers Do with Their Time?  May 2007

My Sales Process, Strategies and Tactics in Your Voice  October 2010

But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation June 2007

Top 14 Requirements to Perform a Sales Force Makeover April 2009 

Hauntings and Salespeople  November 2006

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales motivation, Sales Tactics, Closing Sales, sales compensation, sales opportunities, bb king, how to be memorable, time management for sales managers, sales methodologies

After the Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 18:02 PM

englebert

If you were listening to Top 40 Radio back in the 70's, then you may remember the hit song, After the Lovin', by the artist that all the girls and women loved, Englebert Humperdinck.  For those of you who were not yet born in 1976, Englebert had a string of hits - all love songs.  After the Lovin' was his biggest hit and while it may not be a perfect analogy for my article, it makes for a great blog title.

While much emphasis is placed on sales training itself, often times, the greatest benefit comes after a sales training session.  For example, let's take Russ, who sent in the following homework assignment.  Take a look at what he submitted and then review my response:

Dave,

Three things from today:

  1. Qualifying your prospect by uncovering pains. Many prospects won’t come right out and tell you that they aren’t hitting numbers or have weaknesses on their team. This means that you really have to create value. I will continue to work on uncovering and listening instead of jumping right in to talk about our products.
  2. Timeline. “How soon do you want this problem fixed?” I will use that when appropriate to short circuit the rest of the sales process. “I understand…what do you have to do to make that happen?”
  3. Find the money. It’s appropriate to talk about money. Ask them where they can get it from and don’t beat around the bush. I will do a better job of making sure that when rounding third base I know that my prospect is qualified and has the funds to close the deal.

These were 3 pretty good take-aways, but if you look more closely, you'll see that Russ, who is on a plan, uses words that compromise his effectiveness.  I wrote back and told him that words are everything and to review what I crossed out:

lesson-learned

He thanked me for the help and wrote that he would "Try to be stronger in his wording."

I responded again and told him, "Not just stronger in your wording, BE STRONGER!"

It's only after the sales training when we can determine whether the correct lessons were learned, internalized and ready to be applied on the phone and in the field.  Should we be surprised about Russ and how cautious and tentative he was being?  Not really.  His Objective Management Group (OMG) sales evaluation indicated several weaknesses and skill gaps, findings that were predictive of this behavior:

  • needs to think it over when making purchases (will allow prospects to do that)
  • low money tolerance (thinks $1,000 is a lot of money)
  • difficulty reaching decision makers (likely to talk with the wrong person)
  • too trusting (accepts what prospects say at face value)
  • accepts put-offs (doesn't push back)
  • presenting at inappropriate times (too early)
  • not asking questions (likely to present instead)

The goal of a sales training and coaching program is to address these issues and help a salesperson to overcome their weaknesses and fill their skill gap.  This was only the 4th session, so we are still in the early stages.  Being aware of the weaknesses and seeing them appear in a lessons learned email, allows us/you to connect the dots between the training, how he internalized the lessons, and how his weaknesses played a part. Then you can coach!

You can learn why your salespeople do what they do by having your sales force evaluated; or you can be more effective in sales candidate selection.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, objective management group

How Can a Simple Zero Derail a Sale or Deal?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 07, 2015 @ 13:01 PM

derailment

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Today, I was coaching a very talented salesperson, one who is even better at getting deals closed.  Yesterday, he closed a large deal when late in the day, and completely out of nowhere, he got the dreaded "we changed our mind" email.  This is his story.

When I debriefed him, it was apparent, even to him, that there was a moment toward the end of the meeting when he had happy ears.  He gets that.  He knows what he should have asked.  What really bothered him was, "Why did this happen?"   Not why did the deal come undone, but why the happy ears?  What caused his usually reliable and steady emotions to betray him?  And we better figure this out quickly because he was beating himself up so badly that blood would surely be dripping from his head at any moment now.

He accepted my statement about his having an emotional reaction at that moment in the call, but was adamant that it was abnormal.  We discussed the one thing that was different about this opportunity than others like it.  This opportunity was triple the size of his average sale and challenged his money tolerance.  Money Tolerance becomes a Sales DNA weakness when the deal size exceeds the amount at which money becomes "a lot" to the salesperson.  In this case, the deal had an extra zero and far exceeded this salesperson's conceptual $50,000 limit.

Bob's sales call was a veritable chain reaction - a 3-car pile-up.  The prospect said something, an alarm went off in Bob's mind, but instead of addressing it, asking a question, setting expectations, and clarifying that everything was still OK, he ignored it and hoped for the best.  That alarm was the voice in his head that pointed out that this deal was different.  There was a $50,000 commission at stake.  It was bigger than most.  It became more important than most.  That was his Emotional reaction to the Low (in this case) Money Tolerance.  The Tendency to Become Emotional is another Sales DNA weakness.  Those 2 weaknesses caused another Sales DNA weakness to rear its head.  Fear of Rejection would not ordinarily be an issue for Bob, but in this case, it was the truck that smashed into the first two cars that had collided.   Fear of Rejection morphed into the second voice Bob heard in his head.  It said, "You'd better not ask about that because that might cause you to lose the business.  Better just shut up and hope for the best!"

It's funny, but once Bob understood what happened, he calmed right down, called his prospect, and was able to calmly and expertly resurrect the deal.  Like I said, Bob is a very talented salesperson, but even great salespeople can be hindered by emotions, money and fear when the circumstances are right.

The bigger issue is salespeople who aren't elite, and how frequently they are besieged by some or all of the dozens of issues like these that affect salespeople, sales cycles, sales win rates, and revenue.  Would you like to know how, when, where, and how frequently your salespeople are impacted by things like this?  Watch this 4-minute video to learn about our Sales Force Evaluation.

evals

The year's first issue of Top Sales Magazine is now available for download.  In addition to articles by the heavy hitters of sales consulting and training, do take the time to read my article on page 8 - "What You Think Versus What I Think about Consultative Selling".

Topics: sales training, Sales Coaching, closing deals, hidden sales weaknesses, deals that blow up

Solitaire and Modern Sales Training - What Should it Cover and Include?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 06, 2014 @ 05:10 AM

 training
Image Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

I've been playing one of those Solitaire games on my iPad and I can routinely score in the neighborhood of 2 minutes and 30 seconds, with my best time being just under 2 minutes.  I thought I was doing pretty well until I realized that my wife routinely scores between 1 minute and 1:20 seconds with her best scores (not score) being under 1 minute.  She has scored as low as 48 seconds.

If not for my wife, I would have thought I was a real pro at Solitaire!

This is exactly how many CEO's, Presidents and Sales VP's view their sales forces.  Without anything or anyone with whom to compare, they form their judgements on sales effectiveness in a vacuum.  I routinely hear things like, "We have a custom sales process.", and "We've been working on consultative selling."  Yet, after a sales force evaluation has been completed, those same companies are routinely found to have been lagging, not leading, in those areas.

When it comes to providing sales training for your sales force, what exactly, should modern training include?

You've read a few too many sales blog posts, watched a few too many sales videos, and read a few too many sales books.  You even might have downloaded some white papers, checked out some websites, and talked to some sales experts.  Many are left with a sense of confusion, because what you think you need is different from what people are talking about, and everyone is talking about you needing something different.  Is anyone right?  Is everyone right?  Is it possible that nobody is right?

Let's discuss the single most imporant thing you should be providing to your sales force right now and how modern sales training should address it.

How must your sales training change and what should it include?  Certainly, the training should depend on whether it's inside inbound, inside outbound, appointment setting, inside with responsibility for the entire sales cycle, major accounts, account management, territory sales, vertical sales, channel sales or traditional sales.

It's true - the training should change for every role.

However, there is one constant, that should be front and center of every training program, regardless of your sales process or methodology, or the sales role, frequency, intensity, or duration of the training.

Regardless of how you find your opportunities, selling begins when the first contact, lead or email can be converted to a conversation, either by phone,  face-to-face or the video conference hybrid.  Once you are selling, then regardless of which stage in the sales cycle you are in, or your sales role, the very next thing that will take place is a stage-appropriate conversation.

All training, regardless of role, must demonstrate how to have powerful, eye-opening, attention-getting, brand-differentatiating conversations.  Better conversations than this prospect has had with any salesperson - ever.

And what are conversations?  They are the result of the flow that occurs when salespeople utilize advanced listening and questioning skills.  In order to train salespseople to have stage-appropriate conversations, the emphasis must be on listening and questioning.  

Of course, training must be more than only conversations.  However, without training and drilling and demonstrating and role-playing and practicing and mastering and applying and improving those conversations, the steps and milestones of the sales process would be only checkmarks on a list.  And the sales methodology, strategies and tactics that are used to move from milestone to milestone would become mostly useless concepts.

Are you providing this kind of sales training to your salespeople right now?  You did it last year?  Good.  What about this year?  You must continue to train salespeople because left to their own devices, the bottom 74% will always go back to their default approach.  You can't take your foot off the accelerator!  Are you providing the kind of sales training that will help your salespeople crash through quotas and goals?  Are your salespeople becoming exponentially better - always?  

Are your salespeople even capable of learning to sell the way I described here?  Shouldn't you find out whether or not they have the potential to sell this way?  Which of your salespeople can improve and sell that way is just one of the many pieces of sales intelligence you get when you have your sales force evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales training, listening and questioning, sales force evaluations

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

negotiation Image Copyright: violin / 123RF Stock Photo

I was discussing the OMG Partnership opportunity with a gentlemen from Hong Kong, who objected to our reasonable licensing fees, refusing to pay any fees to a US company.  This is when the conversation began to resemble a sales call.  He did what a lot of buyers do to salespeople and began to boast about how well-positioned his company is to market OMG in Hong Kong and what a huge opportunity this would be for OMG.  He expected me to waive the fees in exchange for the great opportunity he described.

Most salespeople - 74% to be exact - not wishing to jeopardize a great opportunity, start negotiating or worse, agreeing, to the unrealistic requests.  There are ripple effects to this, for example:

  • It creates precedent, making it difficult to uphold terms with new and even existing customers
  • It makes whatever deal they sign very short term.  It is only a matter of time before someone else offers a better price and the business goes away before it has a chance to generate enough volume to make up for the discounted pricing. 
  • It threatens the profitability from the account.  If you reduce or waive fees and/or prices once, the customer expects to negotiate and win every time, making it more difficult to achieve profitability.
  • In OMG's case, the potential partner would have no skin in the game - removing the urgency for them to generate business, and further eroding the potential for a profitable partnership

Weak salespeople mistakenly see the compromise or discount as the value when, in fact, selling at a premium actually establishes the value.  This is so difficult for most salespeople to comprehend.  They think they are doing everyone a favor when they acquiesce, but in reality, they are setting everyone up for failure.  

Most executives think that this is a training issue, but they would be wrong.  While training can provide a number of strategies and tactics for dealing with prospects and buyers who behave this way, it doesn't change the misguided salesperson at all.  At best, these salespeople have new words, but still execute with the old beliefs.

The root cause appears in the way that salespeople make major purchases for themselves. If they have always shopped for the best price, that behavior becomes the norm.  When a prospect wishes to do the same, the salesperson views that as acceptable - appropriate even - and finds a way to accommodate.

This particular issue is one of the many hidden weaknesses that OMG identifies when we evaluate sales forces and assess candidates.  It can explain why margins are poor, why salespeople are unable to sell value, and why business is lost because of price.   Listen carefully to this entire audio clip, taken from a sales training webinar, where a salesperson ambushed himself as a result of this very weakness.

How many of your salespeople have this hidden weakness?  How many candidates have you considered that have this hidden weakness?  How would your business change if none of your salespeople had this issue?  What did you learn from the audio clip?


whitepaper banner

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales weaknesses, sales assessment tools, value selling,

Why You Must Understand This about Desire for Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 @ 06:08 AM

desireOne of the most frequent questions we get from clients has to do with the second most important finding on Objective Management Group's (OMG) sales and sales management evaluations.  "This is one of my top salespeople - how can she possibly lack Desire for sales success?"

It's a great question and I hope to explain it fully here.

First, I'll answer the question that you formed with my opening statement.  "What is the most important finding?  It's Commitment for sales success.

Next, we'll set the stage.  We are talking about this issue in the context of an existing salesperson.  If the finding of Lack of Desire was for a salesperson who was failing, a client would say, "Well, that explains it."  Not really.  Their sales competencies and Sales DNA will explain lack of performance.  But the lack of Desire does tell us that the underachieving salesperson is unlikely to improve due to a lack of incentive to change.  However, when a top-performing salesperson lacks Desire, clients don't know what to make of it. They always wonder, "How could that be?"  Well, it's fairly simple how that could be.  In most cases, it's as simple as something must have changed.

I'll give you an example.  This week, I spent two days training a room full of experts from the sales training space.  These experts are some of the 150 or so who provide OMG's evaluations and assessments to clients.  This particular group was made up of veterans - sales experts who have been with OMG for as long as 25 years, so I can't really do sales or product training with this group.  Instead, we work on how they grow, improve, and get to the next level.  These sales experts are VERY successful, yet if we were to evaluate them, I'm certain that based on what I heard in the room this week, we would see Lack of Desire for most of them.

As a group, they were guilty of taking their foot off the gas.  They lost their edge.  Sure, they still generate a lot of business and are still successful, but the edge that got them there, the intensity that kept them there, and the fire that burned hot within them, was more like a pilot light these days.  My job then, was to reignite that fire while they were with me.

So this group presents a terrific example of top-performers who lack desire.  It simply means that the desire that got them there isn't there anymore, but it doesn't mean that they will no longer be successful.

One of the attendees at this week's training directed me to a video by ET, the hip-hop preacher.  This short video is a great example of what strong Desire truly is.  Check it out here, but you might want to skip the ad at the beginning.

When a candidate for a sales position lacks Desire, there are no questions.  Clients simply do not pursue candidates who lack either Desire or Commitment.  Why hire a new salesperson with that issue?

I hope that you better understand why Desire for success in sales:

  • is so crucial in a new salesperson;
  • explains why an underperforming salesperson will not improve; and
  • can so easily wane in a top-performing salesperson after years of success.

Can you personally feel how your own Desire for success in sales, sales management, sales leadership, or executive leadership has intensified or waned over the course of your career?

 

Image from Eric Thomas

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, omg, sales assessments, eric thomas, desire for success

Fine Tune Your Sales Force as You Optimize Your Computer

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

laptopI love my Macbook Pro.  It's four years old which means I've had it for three years longer than any Windows laptop I ever owned.  That said, it was beginning to underperform, slow down, and choke.  Yesterday, at around 4 AM, I decided to regroup and deal with those issues.  First, I evaluated the problem, and identified the biggest memory hogs and performance sapping programs.  Next I downloaded Memory Clean and Disk Doctor to free up some space and memory.  Then I downloaded the Mac-specific apps for QuickBooks, Wunderlist, Calendar Pro, and MailTab Pro so that I wouldn't have to keep my biggest memory hog, Chrome, always running with all four of those cloud applications permanently open in the browser.  Then I deleted about 10,000 sent items from Outlook, repaired the machine's permissions, restarted the laptop, and it was performing to expectations again.  I was excited about what I had accomplished in such a short time!

That process isn't very different from what executives must do with an underperforming sales force.

  • Evaluate the Sales Force to identify the real reasons for the underperformance, to what degree the issues are causing problems, and which individual underperformers can be saved.  Identify the changes that need to be made under the hood to bring in more new business, increase the win rates, shorten the sales cycle, and determine the increase in performance that will come as a result.
  • Install the most useful and helpful sales applications, pipeline management and analytics to drive performance.
  • Optimize the Sales Process so that it is milestone-centric, properly sequenced, timed and weighted to make the forecasts more reliable.
  • Coach up the sales management team so that they have more of an impact when they coach their salespeople.
    Sales Leadership Intensive 
  • Thoroughly train the sales force on new business development, sales process, consultative selling, qualifying, selling value, differentiation, closing and relationship-building.
  • Upgrade the sales force by developing a sales-specific recruiting process that includes predictive sales selection through a sales-specific candidate assessment.  This must eliminate the guesswork, and instead, consistently result in each new hire being a strong salesperson who will succeed in your business.
    Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial 

I was able to identify the problems with my laptop, optimize it and get it performing well again in just a few hours.  However, it will take several months and probably longer to accomplish the same thing with your sales force.  At four years, my laptop had already far exceeded my expectations for performance and longevity.  Your sales force will produce and eventually meet and exceed your expectations for many years to come, and certainly for a lot longer than four years.

The biggest difference between the laptop and the sales force is not the time it takes to achieve improvement.  It's the time it takes to recognize the limitations and refuse to accept those limitations or say, "It is what it is."  Don't be overwhelmed by the changes that must be made, do bring in a trusted outside expert to evaluate, guide, help and train, and don't overthink it. 

The cost?  That's easy!  How much are you wasting on your worst salesperson?  You already have the money to make the required improvements.  Less is nearly always more.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, grow sales, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales leadership training

Key to Significantly Improve Sales Training Results

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 28, 2014 @ 13:05 PM


Before we discuss how to improve sales training, a quick promo for the latest and greatest taking place over at the ever-improving Top Sales World.  The June issue of Top Sales Magazine has been published and you can download it here.

  • Among all of the important articles this month is mine on The Top 5 Reasons Salespeople Fail to Meet Quota and the Common Link to All 5 Reasons.
  • Jonathan Farrington interviews Jill Konrath on her new book, Agile Selling.
  • In the June issue are the Top Sales Article and Top Blog Article for May.
  • They announce who are the Top 50 Sales Influencers of 2014.
  • They introduce a brand new eLibrary!
  • Finally, they have redesigned their website and it's better than ever!  See it here.

 

Cooperstown

baberuth

For the last 6 years, I have been coaching and/or managing youth baseball teams and personally coaching our son since he could stand.  Monday, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching him during a baseball practice for a 12-and-under team that will be competing in Cooperstown later this summer.  It's a really big deal and it's a very talented team.

It's not just about the talent.

The coach of this team provided some very good, advanced coaching to this group of very coachable, extremely talented kids and he ran some terrific, fast-paced drills.

By comparison, the always likeable kids on a typical regular season team have skills ranging from limited to all-star caliber and everything in between.  On the regular season team, most practice time is devoted to baseball basics while not moving any faster than the speed of the average player.  

Which players and on which teams do you think show the most improvement?

If you guessed the best players, you would be half correct.  The best players, getting the advanced instruction on the travel teams, improve the most.  Those same kids, on their regular season team, learn almost nothing new and aren't challenged or pushed.  Practice, and sometimes even the games, can be so boring for them that they don't play their very best.

Translation from Baseball to Selling

If we translate all of that baseball to selling, the only two things that change are the activity and the age of the people being coached and trained.

In order for your best salespeople to improve, they need to be part of a group that won't hold them back, allowing for more advanced, faster-paced skills training.  They can be coached up very quickly if they get the right training and coaching at a pace that challenges them!

The Talent Warp

It is extremely difficult for some executives to understand this next point.  Some refuse to acknowledge that it's even possible. YOUR top salespeople, when compared with the rest of the sales population outside your industry, might only be B or C Players.  It's just not that unusual to discover that the top salespeople in some companies aren't at the top because of their skills, but because of their accounts, their assigned territory, their expertise or tenure in the industry.  It's important to note that studies show you will get the best bang for your buck when you train your B's!

When it comes to your less effective salespeople, it's important to understand that not all of them CAN be coached up and most of them have hidden weaknesses that cause difficulties becoming comfortable with what they're learning. That makes it nearly impossible for them to apply it in the field unless they are also getting extremely effective coaching from their sales managers.  They struggle to change.  That's why some of your underachievers shouldn't be trained at all.  Some of them just shouldn't be selling!

More on Baseball and Sales

If you like articles that use the baseball playing or baseball coaching analogies, then you may enjoy some of my other articles about baseball and selling:

Are You Any Good at Evaluating Sales Talent?

Improve Sales Effectiveness at the Salesperson's Hall of Fame

When it Comes to Compensation, Sales is Not Like Baseball

Baseball's Huge Impact on Sales Performance 

Sales Lessons from Baseball's 2013 World Series 

World Series, Superbowl and the Sales Force: The Rallying Cry 

Winning and Losing is Contagious 

Sales Coaching Lessons from the Baseball Files 

Making it Easy for Salespeople to Succeed 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales effectiveness, jonathan farrington, jill konrath, Top Sales World

Top 5 Reasons Sales Prospects Ask for References

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 14:05 PM

referencesEverything is going along great, your prospect seems quite interested, they've agreed with your points, accepted your pushback, you got them qualified and you're heading for the home stretch.

It doesn't matter if this has all occurred in the last 45 minutes, or if this took place over a series of meetings, calls and months.  

They ask for references.

The best example of doing a lousy job in this area is the salesperson who was referred in, yet still gets asked for references!

How a salesperson handles the request for references is crucial and most salespeople screw it up royally.

Consider the following 10 issues surrounding the reference request:

  1. Some salespeople dread the reference request.
  2. Some salespeople pray for the reference request and offer references if they aren't asked.
  3. Any reference request is a momentum stopper and at best and extends the sales process.  At worst, it will delay it indefinitely.
  4. Some prospects will never call the references, yet won't move forward without speaking with them.
  5. Some prospects will be so particular about references that you won't be able to meet their criteria.
  6. Some of your references won't return the calls.
  7. Some prospects will ask for references at inappropriate times - too early for the reference to be the final step in the decision-making process.
  8. Some references, in their eagerness to endorse you, will say too much and stumble onto something the prospect did not want to hear.
  9. Some salespeople don't ask what will happen after they talk with happy references.
  10. Some salespeople don't ask why they are asking for references.

Let's discuss the last one.

Do you know why prospects ask for references?  Here are 5 reasons:

  1. They're not sure yet - and they want to hear from someone else whether or not they should buy.
  2. It's a habit - they always do this.
  3. It's a put-off - they want to get rid of you.
  4. They need to make a recommendation and want to have their ducks in a row.
  5. They need realistic expectations - they want to learn what it's like to work with you.

While there isn't too much you can do about reasons #2-5, it's crucial to ask questions, not only to identify the reason behind the request, but to validate the condition.  We also need to know what will happen AFTER they speak to a positive, quality reference.  

You could certainly work to become more convincing as a way of dealing with #1, but for the purpose of this article, we will further discuss #5.

Most prospects really appreciate it when you can set their expectations in these 5 areas:

  1. What will be done - the cliff notes version of your scope of work,
  2. Who will deliver it and to whom it will be delivered,
  3. When it will be done - the timeline for #1,
  4. When they will experience results - especially if results are delayed or non-specific, and
  5. What the results could/should be - how the condition will change.

Try doing a better job of setting expectations earlier in the sales process and let me know whether or not that reduces the number of reference requests.

Image Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales tips, reference requests

What the Sales World Can Learn from Marathon Participants

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 @ 16:04 PM

marathonEarlier this week, the world was once again focused on the city of Boston and the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.  I don’t run, but I know several people who do and the preparation for running this, or any other marathon, is daunting.

This isn’t an event that one can take lightly.  Consider the length of time that a runner must train to prepare for running a 26.2-mile race.  It takes up to 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon, while gradually building strength and endurance.  It includes several shorter weekday runs as well as a long-distance run of anywhere from 12-15 miles one day over the weekend.  Someone training for a marathon should run up to 50 miles per week.  It takes an enormous commitment – to a hobby!

While some professional runners enter a marathon, more than 30,000 people were simply participating because they could.  These participants have full-time jobs, careers and businesses.  This is a hobby.  Yet their commitment to this hobby should be embarrassing to most salespeople, who don’t put forth anywhere near this level of commitment, effort, time or practice into their own career!

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past 8 years and 1,150 articles, then you have no doubt read that salespeople can be categorized into 3 groups.  According to the data amassed by Objective Management Group’s (OMG) assessments of salespeople:

  • There is an elite group of salespeople, but it represents only 6% of the sales population.
  • An additional 20% of the sales population is good, but not great.
  • There is a bottom 74% and, for the most part, they suck equally.

This contradicts the traditional thinking that the bell curve has a top 20%, middle 60% and bottom 20%. 

So, perhaps our top 6% is the group who takes selling as seriously as those runners who train for a marathon.  But the question is, why only 6%?  Why not everyone else?

To answer that question, we need to better understand the differences between selling and other professions.  If you forecast a sale and it goes to a competitor, management says, “Too bad.”  Losing is OK.  But even an attorney who loses a case gets paid to lose…

If you’re a structural engineer and you screw up…if you’re a cop and you shoot an innocent victim...if you’re a bus driver, train conductor, airline pilot, or ship’s captain and you hit something…if you’re in manufacturing and you turn out defective products…if you’re a safety inspector and you “pass” a product that fails…

Most professions have no tolerance for failure.  In sales, because it’s not just possible, but likely that salespeople will fail, most companies have sales cultures of mediocrity, making it a virtual certainty that underperforming salespeople will continue on that track.

If underperformance is acceptable, then why would anyone, other than the most committed salespeople, put in the effort and time that a marathon runner would?

Can we change this? 

Not until we stamp out mediocrity.  That won’t happen until we raise the bar on sales management.  Only 8% of all sales managers make up the elite level and only a total of 18% are competent at sales management and coaching.  With 82% bordering on sales management incompetence, it’s no wonder that we can’t make improvements to the levels of commitment, effort, time, practice and effectiveness of most salespeople.

I’m one voice, but if you’re as disturbed by all of this as I am, perhaps you’ll share this with all of the CEO’s, Presidents, Sales VP’s and Directors, Sales Managers and salespeople in your circle.  Ask them what they have observed.  Ask them what they think.  Ask if they see the need to change something, anything, anytime soon.  And chime in with your own comments about this question – can we change this?

As long as we’re talking about the quest for sales excellence, check out Jack Daly’s new book, Hyper Sales Growth.  In his Weekly Insights Newsletter, Verne Harnish, the Growth Guy, wrote, "It's finally here! The book all the millions of fans (that's literal) of Jack Daly have been wanting -- a book that shares the same time-tested sales management techniques that work to drive the growth he's been teaching in his powerful and packed workshops. It's all about getting the sales management piece right - and this is the book that shows you the way."  

I don't know about you, but there just isn't enough good sales management guidance, and with only a handful of us devoting our blogs to it, a book from someone like Jack will be quite helpful.  To take a line from the old Smucker's jelly tagline, "...it's just got to be good."

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales excellence, sales commitment, jacky daly, hyper sales excellence

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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 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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