Sales and Selling - Which Has Evolved More?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 19, 2010 @ 05:01 AM

Let's compare the evolution of selling to the evolution of salespeople.

Which do you think has evolved more?  After all, both have been around since there has been anything to sell.

Selling was fairly late to evolve.  A formal sales process didn't exist before the middle of the 20th century and I can make two points about AIDA  - the first of its kind.  AIDA was an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

  1. It is primitive by today's standards
  2. Despite how primitive it is, it is still a more formalized process than what 92% of salespeople are out there doing according the data of Objective Management Group.
There isn't much evidence that sales experts existed prior to Elmer Wheeler in 1936.  If you haven't read my book, Baseline Selling, then you probably don't know that Elmer invented two concepts that are well-known today.  
  1. "Sell the sizzle, not the steak" appeared in his manuscript, "Tested Sentenes That Sell" from 1936
  2. In his 1947 book, "How to Sell Yourself to Others", he introduced Pain as a buying motivator, and the negative sell as a powerful selling tactic.

Selling evolved more later in the 20th century and into the 21st century with more systems, processes, styles and today, tools and applications.  However, I was recently looking at the data to see two things. How salespeople had evolved or adapted looking at two points in time:

  1. the height of the good times  - early 2007 before the free fall - and at the height of the recession - early 2009.
  2. when we began collecting data - early 1990's - and today.

What I found amazed me and will surely amaze you.  Ready? Salespeople have not changed in any way since the recession.  The statistics are identical with one exception - the percentage of salespeople who are hitting their numbers has declined significantly.  However, the skill sets have not improved despite the need for them to.  And the weaknesses are just as plentiful as they were, despite the need for them to be overcome.  

Surely, when I compare today's data with the data from 20 years ago, there is change, right?  Wrong.  Same findings.

We don't have data from the 50's but if we did, I suspect I would find the same thing.  Selling has evolved, the markets have evolved, the prospects have evolved, the expectations have evolved, the tools have evolved, companies have evolved and salespeople have not.  Who is to blame?  While companies should take part of the blame for not doing a better job of training their salespeople (training is not a seminar once per year!), salespeople must take the brunt of the blame for not developing their talent on their own, putting themselves through the equivalent of four years of sales college.

What do you think?

(C) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Force, sales weaknesses, selling skills, elmer wheeler

What is Causing Your Salespeople to Fail in this Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 @ 16:04 PM

Do you have a salesperson like Bob?

Bob was very anxious over what to write to a suspect that blew him off.  The prospect canceled an appointment and was vague about whether or not he would reschedule.  This stopped Bob in his tracks and he literally spent an entire day getting feedback on what his email should say.  Not only is Bob wasting time, it is time that could be spent finding and identifying additional opportunities, moving existing opportunities along and connecting with customers or clients and collecting referrals.  So what causes Bob to do this and could we have predicted this behavior?

In this scenario, Bob is emotionally involved - not with the suspect himself - in the drama of both the rejection and the upcoming response to his soon to be sent email.  However, the emotional involvement is not the problem, it's merely a symptom.  There are two problems:

  1. The first is his lack of recovery from the rejection of the canceled appointment.  Everyone gets rejected but how long it takes to recover is more important than the actual "fear" of rejection. 
  2. The second is Bob's Need for Approval. He is so worried about how his suspect will respond to the email, that he is putting tremendous, unnecessary effort into the actual letter. It's likely that if Bob recovered from the rejection more quickly, the need for approval may not have kicked in either. 

Let's pretend that Bob didn't have this trouble recovering from rejection.  Without it, he would have been in a position to deal with his suspect's cancellation on the phone, in real time, as it happened, and either rescheduled or ended this opportunity right then and there.  However, even without the rejection problem, his need for approval may have prevented him from confronting the suspect for fear that his suspect would be offended and go away.

So what do we have instead?  A suspect that has likely gone away anyhow, and Bob wasting an entire day on a letter that may very well be irrelevant.  Sound like an unlikely scenario? Both the actual scenario and the hypothetical scenario happen every day to tens of thousands of salespeople, maybe even yours!

Can these behaviors be predicted?

Yes! The Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved, Need for Approval and Difficulty Recovering from Rejection, specifically in sales situations, are standard findings in Objective Management Group's suite of sales assessments.  More important than the findings though, are your ability to manage salespeople with these issues.  How you get your salespeople to navigate their day, despite weaknesses like these, defines how effective you are as a manager.

Do you know which salespeople are likely to fall victim to the myriad of possible scenarios?

Do you know how to prepare them?

Do you know how to help them use their strengths to compensate?

Do you know which role plays to engage them in so that they say, ask, and do the right things when suspects and prospects trigger the weaknesses?

Do you know how to hold them accountable to applying and executing those role plays in real sales calls?

In the current economy, you must be able to consistently succeed in that style of coaching and accountability with each of your salespeople because with the resistance they encounter each day now, those weaknesses will cause certain failure rather than sometimes interfere with success.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales, Emotionally Involved, sales weaknesses, failure, sales evaluation, rejection, selling salespeople

The Secret - The Ancient Scrolls and its Impact on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:03 PM

Al Turrisi was kind enough to give me a book called the Power of the Kabbalah.  Its ancient scrolls originated around 4,000 years ago, inspired The Secret and predates Moses and the Bible!  Since this book is not the Kabbalah itself, rather a Cliff Notes version, it tends to read more like a self-help book. It is far more powerful than a self-help book though as it points to a number of rules that will cause a transformation in one's life.

Seven of the desired behaviors are consistent with the philosophies in Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball as well as Objective Management Group's Sales Assessments:

The importance of Desire. Read the Top 10 Factors for Salespeople to Overachieve.

It's not about you.  Over the past several months I have found myself telling an awful lot of salespeople and sales managers that it's not about them.  It's even become a finding in Objective Management Group's Sales Manager's Evaluation - The It's All About Me finding.

Need for Approval or what happens when you need people to like you.  This is the second most powerful weakness in all of selling. Here's an article about that.

Becoming Emotionally Involvedor reacting instead of proacting.This is the third most powerful weakness in all of selling. I wrote an article about this.

Resistance or the great challenge that presents itself rather than an obstacle.  I wrote a an article about this earlier this month and another one a couple of years ago.

Certainty or having faith that what you say, ask, or do will get the desired outcome.

Doing What's Uncomfortable.  I wrote an article about this a while back too.

Many of the articles I linked to were Baseline Selling Tips.  Speaking of Baseline Selling, this is the third anniversary of the publish date of the book, a good reason to reread or order it.

So in summary, simply by having your salespeople overcome their sales weaknesses, doing the very things they are uncomfortable doing, having faith in their abilities and having a strong desire for success will cause those very same people to experience life changing experiences.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan



Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Baseline Selling, assessments, sales skills, Salesforce, Sales Force, Changing_Behavior, over achievement, sales weaknesses, Motivation, sales core competencies, assessment, sales evaluation, over achieve, improve sales performance, sales winners, overachievers, sales assessment test, Baseline_Selling, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

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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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