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, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling value

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

Closing and Negotiating Challenges - Symptoms of Another Selling Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

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I recently learned that one of OMG's clients in Europe purchased two goldfish. In keeping with their tradition, the client named the two fish, Recommended and Not Recommended.  Surprisingly, recruiting salespeople was not one of the topics addressed in this year's 2017 Selling Challenges Study.  Meghan Steiner, from Richardson, was nice enough to send me an advanced copy of the results.  There were a number of interesting findings and to learn what was covered and see my insights from the report, continue reading.

Consider the findings below that I pulled from the much larger report.  Respondents said the following issues are challenges for their companies:

  • 24% said gaining higher prices 
  • 20% said closing win/win deals
  • 17% said maintaining profitability
  • 24% said competing against a low cost provider
  • 16% said creating a compelling case for change
  • 19% said customers who continue to reopen the negotiation
  • 15% said positioning a competing value proposition

The 7 findings I listed above came from two different chapters of the report.  Higher prices, win/win deals and profitability came from the chapter on Negotiation.  Positioning, reopening negotiations, competing against low cost providers and the case for change came from the chapter on closing.  

"When I combined the 7 challenges, together they suggest that the
problem these companies really have is an inablity to sell value!"

The findings from the report came from a survey where most of the 300+ respondents were from companies larger than $500 million, with sales quotas generally running more than $1 million each.

How do the findings compare with OMG's scientific data from the evaluation of 1,100,000 salespeople from 12,000 companies?  Let's compare!

The average score for the Selling Value competency is 56 which means that the salespeople in the 370,000 rows of data in this query have, on average, 56% of the attributes in the Selling Value competency.  You can see that the top 10% are significantly more effective and the bottom 10% are significantly worse!

value2.jpgAnother way of looking at this competency is to determine the percentage of salespeople who have selling value as a weakness.  

"68% of the salespeople we looked at had Selling Value as a weakness.  

Our data shows that selling value is a much greater issue than the survey suggests.  The likely reason for this is that respondents from large companies may not understand why they are having the issues listed by the bullets above.  They only recongize the symptoms.

The Selling Value Competency is 1 of the 7 Tactical Selling Competencies that OMG measures, and 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured in all.  You can see the attributes for this competency in the screen shot from a sales force evaluation below.

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When companies continue to believe that their problems lie in negotiating and closing, they seek training on negotiating and closing!  When the real problem is selling value, you need to provide training on consultative selling, change your pricing strategy and provide training on selling value.

Here are four other things you should do:

1. See how your salespeople compare to others in your industry and to salespeople in general in any or all of the 21 Sales Core Competencies with OMG's complimentary stat finder tool.

2. Select only strong (16%) and elite (7%) salespeople with OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

3. Become more effective coaching your salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies by attending my annual Sales Leadership Intensive where coaching for impact is the focus during the two day training.  There were only 6 seats left for the May 17-18 event outside of Boston.

4. Download the 2017 Sales Challenges Study from Richardson.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, negotiating, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment

Sales Podcasts and Video Interviews are Better Than Sales Articles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

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Regular readers know that I write a lot - 1,700 articles on sales and sales leadership over the past 12 years.  I'll be the first to admit that the articles are not all award-winners but readers find most of them helpful, entertaining, and good enough to keep coming back.  And a few dozen of them have won awards.

But are the articles better than say, a lively podcast on the same topic?  A television interview?  A radio interview?

There are pros and cons to both.  The advantage of the articles is that you know what you are getting because you can see it and you know how long it will take to read since the vast majority take only a few minutes.  Interviews and podcasts run much longer, most ranging from 30-60 minutes but the advantage is that you can really hear and/or see the message come to life so much more than with the written word. Why?  I'm a better speaker than writer!

Over the years there have been a number of interviews that I am proud of, that were well done and are worth listening to and watching.  A good interview is so dependent on the interviewer, the questions they ask, and their ability to go off script and let the conversation flow.  

It is finally time to devote an article series to podcasts and interviews.  Here are the top interviews with me from the last several years:

  • Barb Giamanco -  Video Interview - How to Improve Closing Ratios
  • Noah Goldman - The Enterprise Sales Podcast - on Closing, Patience, Slowing Down and Tom Brady
  • Aaron Ross - Predictable Revenue - Podcast
  • Barb Giamanco - Sales Hardtalk for Top Sales World - Podcast - Selling Value
  • Lori Richardson - Score More Sales - Audio Interview - The Future of Sales
  • Will Barron - Salesman Red - Video Interview Traits of a Great Salesperson (2016 Gold Medal Winner)
  • Michael Mason - Smart Sales Pro Audio Interview Sales DNA (one of my favorites)
  • Will Barron - Salesman Red - Video Interview Why Salespeople Struggle
  • Frank Visgatis - Sales Rehab Podcast Audio Interview Get Prospects to Buy From You More Often
  • Evan Carmichael - EvanCarmichael.com Video Interview The Pitch
  • Jim Lobaito - Biz Talk Radio Audio Interview Sales Selection
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV Video Interview A New Guide for Selling Value
  • Stu Heinecke - How to Get a Meeting with Anyone - Audio Interview
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview Build & Manage a Great Sales Force
  • Jason Kanigan - Audio Interview Magical Phone Prospecting Tactics 
  • Jonathan Farrington - Top Sales World - Audio Interview - Why Sales Managers are not More Effective
  • Evan Carmichael - Video Interview - Selling Value
  • Sales Mastery Summit - Video Interview - Sales Pipeline
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview - Sales Leaders Need to Create Value (44,000 views)
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview - What to do with Millennials
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview - How to Create a Predictive Sales Model
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview - How to Adapt to the Massive Changes in Selling
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV - Video Interview - Sales Coaching
  • Gerhardt Gschwandtner - Selling Power TV Video Interview - Selling Value
  • Will Barron - The Salesman Podcast - Video Interview - Is Excuse Making Holding you Back?
  • Kurt Mortenson - Maximize Your Influence Podcast - Audio Interview - Sales Process and More
  • Richard Smith - Refract TV - Video Interview - How to Achieve Great ROI from Sales Training
  • Jonathan Farrington - Top Sales World Roundtable - Audio - Why are Sales Managers So Weak?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Great salespeople, selling value, sales podcast

Sales 102 - The Pitch Deck, the Price Reduction and the Data

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

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Recently I met with a CEO whose salespeople were not closing enough business.  We had just evaluated their sales force and I had the answers as to why their sales were so underwhelming.  Before we could explain what was causing their problem, the CEO said something along the lines of, "We are going to create a new pitch deck and reduce our prices. That will solve the problem!"  

They weren't suggesting a small price change either.  It sounded like an 80% reduction and their reasoning overlapped with one of the contributing issues that we identified.  Their salespeople weren't reaching decision makers which raises more questions.  Why weren't they reaching decision makers and could anything be done about it?  Would lowering their prices solve the problem or did the issue go deeper than that?

It's not terribly unusual when salespeople are unable to reach decision makers but there are always several potential reasons as to why:

  • Tactical - they simply don't know how to get the decision makers engaged in the conversation
  • Conceptual - they don't think they need to
  • Sales DNA - their weaknesses won't allow them to ask to get the decision makers engaged
  • Commitment - they give up when the going becomes too difficult for them
  • Fear - they aren't comfortable speaking or meeting with that level of decision maker

What did the data from the sales force evaluation tell us?

In the case this company, the salespeople didn't believe they needed to reach the decision makers.  As it related to reaching decision makers, their Sales DNA was OK.  Commitment and Fear factors were OK too.  So if they didn't believe they needed to, isn't that lack of direction, inspection and accountability on the part of management?

The other big issue for this sales force was their Sales DNA as it related to money and decision making.  To the salespeople, the amount they were asking for was, "a lot" but the new reduced amount will probably be a lot too.  They also "understood" when their contact stalled to talk with a decision maker who would routinely not be interested in spending that much money.

The Solution

The appropriate solution would be for us to help their salespeople become more effective at getting the decision makers engaged in the conversation and at selling the value of their offering, while helping management coach to those outcomes.  

Lowering the Price

Their reasoning for lowering the price is that the contacts their salespeople are talking with would supposedly have the authority to spend the lesser fee without requiring approval from the decision makers.

Can that work?   

In my experience, if the salespeople don't reach decision makers it won't matter how much they are charging.  They'll continue to hear the same stalls, especially if they continue to begin their first meetings with the pitch deck!  The pitch deck is simply a crutch that turns a potential two-way conversation into a one-way presentation and that makes matters worse instead of better.  If they do convert more often with the lower price, they'll still have to close 5 times as many deals to bring in the same revenue.  So if they are closing 1 of 10 today, and they close 3X more deals but at 1/5 the fee, they will lag 65% behind their previously unacceptable run rate.

On the other hand, if they become effective reaching decision makers, their sales cycle will be significantly shorter, their win rate will improve by 3-5X and at the original fees, their revenue will increase by 3-5X as well.

Hermann Simon wrote the bible on pricing and questions related to how your product or service should be priced can be answered in his book, Confessions of the Pricing Man.

"The question to be answered is, should they do what's easiest and lower the fees, or do what's best for the company and fix the problem?"

It's an obvious choice unless you're the one who has to make the choice, with the future of the company depending on the decision.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales DNA, pricing, selling value, OMG evaluation, pitch deck

4 Critical Changes to Go from Failure to Success in Sales Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 @ 13:07 PM

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Today I'm in Florida, preparing to speak at a company's national meeting.  Like many companies, they have not only realized that selling has changed dramatically, but that their salespeople may not have adapted, developed new skills, and changed the way they sell.  If you're a regular reader, active on LinkedIn or Social Media, then you have certainly read about the many ways that selling has changed.  But most senior executives haven't put two and two together yet.  They know that win rates are down and sales cycles are longer, they know it's more difficult than ever before, they see that their salespeople are struggling to meet quotas, but they don't realize the extent to which things have changed.  There are four critical requirements which, together are the difference between success and failure.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that we are talking about good salespeople, not bad ones.  There is an elite group of 7% - superstars - a larger group of an additional 16% that are fairly strong, and then the bottom 77% who suck.  We're going to talk about the changes that the top 23% need to make.  While the manner in which the bottom 77% approach selling can significantly change their results, there are issues other than those we will discuss here that limit their success.

1.  Value.  Since there is more competition than ever before and competition puts pressure on margins, it is more important than ever that salespeople have the ability to sell value.  Refer to this article for more on selling value today.  I just analyzed the data from nearly 8,000 OMG (Objective Management Group) sales candidate assessments from earlier this month.  I narrowed it down to 66% who have been in sales for 5 years or more and found that on average, these sales veterans possess only 62% of the attributes of a value seller.

2. Consultative Approach.  It is not possible to sell value unless it is integrated into a consultative approach to selling.  Refer to this article for more on a consultative approach, which helps you to tailor your solution and differentiate you and your company from the competition.  Today, salespeople possess, on average, only 48% of the attributes of Consultative Sellers.

3. Process.  If you can't sell value without a consultative approach, then the same can be said for the approach.  Value and a consultative approach will not work unless they are integrated into a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process.  Read this great article for more on sales process.  In surveys, most companies say they have a sales process in place. However, our sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments reveal that salespeople possess, on average, only 52% of the attributes required for following a Sales Process.

4. Social.  Cold calling isn't dead but it is on life support.  It takes between 10-15 attempts to reach a decision maker and the conversion rates are falling like a piano dropped from the roof of a skyscraper.  Salespeople must be able to leverage their social networks, get introduced, and reach out to prospects via LinkedIn, Twitter and email to supplement the calls that they make.  Salespeople possess, on average, only 38% of the attributes of a Social Seller.  This one is worse than that score.  More than 1/3 of this group scored below 25%!

What Can You Do?  If you want to dramatically change and improve results, there are three things you can do.

  1. Bite the bullet and have a customized, optimized modern, staged, milestone-centric sales process created for you ASAP!
  2. Get your sales force trained and coached on the new process, a consultative approach to selling value, and social selling.
  3. Hire the right salespeople - those who already possess these capabilities!  The best selection tool is OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment.  Check out the free trial!

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

This Simple Strategy Will Sell Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 07, 2016 @ 06:03 AM

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Most salespeople can calculate ROI and explain it to their prospects, but many of them find it equally difficult to articulate that same ROI after they have been presented with a price objection.  They become defensive, review features and benefits, and make the situation worse for themselves instead of better.  We are going to review the case history of a salesperson who had an $85,000 solution that would increase company revenue from $10 million to $20 million.  Despite promising a $10 million gain, he was unable to overcome what he heard from his prospect:  "That's too much money!"  In this article, we willl discuss how it's done.

The prospective client had 30 outlets and needed to grow from $10 million to $20 million, the magic number for the CEO.  At $20 million, volume and pre-payment discounts would increase his bottom line by 10 points or an additional $2 million over and above what the $10 million in organic growth would produce.  $20 million was also the key milestone to sell the business to a strategic buyer and get a 10:1 return on EBITDA.  If ever there was a compelling reason to move forward, this CEO had it.  Unfortunately he was looking at the $85,000 cost as a line item rather than an investment to achieve a $10 million return. Rex, the salesperson, was unable to get him to see the $85,000 through that lens, so he turned to me for help.

I asked Rex what the prospect's average project sold for and learned that it was $35,000.

When you put that in context, that is 10 additional projects, per outlet, per year, to capture the additional $10 million.  And if we break it down even further, it's each outlet, selling just 3 additional projects, every 4 months.  At a 30% margin, it requires only 8 projects in total to break-even or 16 for a 100% return on investment.  That can be achieved when half of their outlets sell 1 additional project in a year!  So what does that tell us?

Rex never put this in context or he would have closed this in about 2 minutes flat.

It also means that the prospect had probably not done the math either.  If he had, then he was betting that Rex's solution wouldn't help half of the 30 outlets sell even one additional project over the entire year.  Rex was betting that his solution would help each of the 30 outlets sell ten additional projects over the entire year.

Articulating this particular ROI is simply about having a discussion on the point spread!

Did the prosopect think so little of the solution that he really believed it couldn't help 30 outlets capture 16 additional projects between them in a year, or did the prospect fail to do the math?

Most of the time, selling has little to do with features, benefits, products or services.  It always has a great deal to do with math - the quantification of the compelling reason to buy - in this case $10 million - and the articulation of the value proposition in the context of the prospect's real world situation - 30 outlets capturing a total of 90 additional projects between them over a year.

Selling is all about the math.

For example, the candidates in the 2016 US Presidential primaries have been presenting their plans and much of that revolves around math. I am not making a political statement here; I'm simply providing three examples of math used by the candidates in their attempts to support (or not support) their plans. The challenge for most of them is that their math doesn't always work and that leads to issues with credibilty, but not necessarily their popularity!

Bernie's plan is about free everything, but when you do the math, free will actually cost taxpayers $1.5 trillion per year.  That math doesn't work.  Donald has used the $58 billion trade deficit with Mexico to demonstrate how he will use that as leverage to get Mexico to pay for a wall.  That math works.  Ted wants a 16% flat tax.  I didn't know if that math worked, so I did some research.  I found that the total of American wages paid is around $10 trillion and the total of corporate revenue is about $16 trillion so at 16% that would generate around $4 trillion in revenue to the US Governement.  The 2016 US Federal budget is $3.5 trillion so that would leave $500 billion surplus to pay down the debt.  If that surplus could be sustained, the debt would take 36 years to pay off!  So does that math work?  Only to balance the budget.  

Learn to do the math and you'll make it so much easier for your prospects to understand your value proposition as it pertains to them.

Watch this 45-minute training video on Selling Value to capture the other pieces of the value selling puzzle.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, roi, EBITDA, building value, selling value, Donald Trump, ted cruz, bernie sanders, unique value proposition

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before (and Why)

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

Saturday evening, I was driving my car and listening to the radio when a song played that I hadn't heard since the 70's.  It occurred to me that long before the advent of rap music, Charlie Daniels must have been the accidental originator of rap with his song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  If you are too young to have heard it, don't remember it, or just want to hear this white country boy do his thing, watch this awesome YouTube clip.

Thinking of rap got me to thinking of salespeople - who always get a bad rap - and that got me to thinking about Bad Company, and their song, Taking Care of Business.  The only problem with my thinking is that Bad Company didn't record that song; Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) did as you can see in this YouTube clip recorded at a prison!  If you're like me, you must be wondering where this post is heading...

Salespeople always seem to get a bad rap and obviously that's bad for business. But it's always been that way and nobody has made a very big deal about it, so what has changed? This article details all of the things that have dramatically changed modern selling in just the past several years.  And this article explains why millions of salespeople will lose their jobs and become obsolete.
 
Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed more than one million salespeople and while selling has changed and evolved, the data shows that one thing hasn't changed at all.  The following graph shows sales capabilities as measured by OMG's Sales Quotient and how that has changed in the past 15 years.
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For years, I've been writing that there is an elite 6%, another 20% that are fairly strong, and then the remaining 74% suck.  Well, those numbers have moved.  As you can see in the graph above, the percentage of elite salespeople has climbed by a whopping 1% to 7%, or an increase of 10,000 salespeople.  Unfortunately, the decrease in strong salespeople, from 20% down to 16%, means that the percentage of sucky salespeople now stands at an unbelievable 77%.
 
So despite the glut of free content in the form of blog articles, podcasts and videos, how do we explain that sales capabilities on the whole are worse than ever before?  Going back to Charlie Daniels and BTO, the devil may be in Georgia, but he is definitely right here in the details where it is obvious that we aren't doing a great job of taking care of business.
 
When a change in the way that people buy is taking place at a faster rate than a change in the way that people sell, we see results like these.  Richardson just published their 2016 Selling Challenges Report.  I typically don't care for surveys - especially those with a small sample size like this one, and those whose respondents are primarily from large companies. But in this case, the findings are correct; especially the top 3 issues that salespeople are struggling with:
  1. Creating value and insight during the client conversation
  2. Uncovering complete information regarding the decision making process
  3. Exploring client issues and challenges

The 3 topics are identical to those I write about most frequently because they correlate to the issues we uncover when we evaluate sales forces.  Why are salespeople struggling so much with these issues?

  • Their sales managers aren't capable of helping them.
  • The majority of companies fail to bring in expert help from the outside.
  • A lot of the training doesn't focus on the cause - only the symptoms.
  • Salespeople tend to not practice and when they do practice, they practice doing it the wrong way.
  • Those 3 issues are the core of Value Selling and a Consultative approach - the 2 most difficult competencies out of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
  • A lot of the training either isn't very good, isn't reinforced, or isn't enforced.  Sales leaders and CEO's are not holding salespeople accountable for change.
  • The starting point for any effective training is a customized, formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process and that is missing from many well-known training programs.  Last week I received a call from an Israeli company that wanted Kurlan & Associates to teach their 200 salespeople to sell based on the video tools they created.  Their products were cutting edge 21st century products, but the selling approach they created on their own was vintage 1970's.  I told them that they would have to either allow us to completely change their sales process and approach, or they would have to find another company to help them.
  • Sales DNA plays a huge part in the difficulties that salespeople have when attempting to sell value or use a consultative approach.  Sales DNA is the combination of strengths that support skills and when the strengths are actually weaknesses, salespeople are uncomfortable and/or unable to execute the process, strategies, tactics and achieve milestones.
Today, if salespeople do not learn to master the consultative approach, a prerequisite for Value Selling, they won't be able to differentiate themselves in the field.  Without differentiation strongly grounded in value, buyers will ultimately make their decisions based on price.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment, charlie daniels, bachman turner overdrive

Price Quotes and the Inability of Salespeople to Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 @ 06:10 AM

Last week, I was training a sales force to sell value - an absolutely revolutionary concept - when the unthinkable happened, not once, but twice in the same training.  As incredible as it was to me, it clearly illustrates why it is so darn hard for companies to get their salespeople to sell value.

We had just spent an hour demonstrating a consultative approach to selling, a prerequisite for selling value.  We then spent another hour on the 4 keys to selling value.  We were in the middle of a role-play when Dick asked, "Why do I need to ask all those questions when all he wants is a price?  Isn't there a scenario where I can just quote him a price?"

Sure there is, Dick!  If you are prepared to be entirely obsolete - right now - then go ahead, skip the questions and the whole conversation, and quote your precious price.  Because we don't actually need you if all you're going to do is quote a price.  Your prospects and customers can get that online - and quicker than you can come up with an answer for them.  Today, prospects and customers have zero use for a salesperson whose value is limited to knowing prices and technical specifications.

It got even better after I was done with Dick.  Bob told me about Tom, a customer who can't buy from him because Tom has to buy from his brother-in-law.  Apparently, Bob's wife will kill him if he doesn't buy from Tom... Anyway, there was a scenario where Tom couldn't get what he needed from his brother-in-law, so he called Bob and asked, "How much?"

Of course, Bob wanted to quote a price, but I suggested that we role-play because there was probably another way to handle the call.  I played Bob's part in the role-play and wanted to take the call in a completely different direction.  Instead of quoting a price, I asked, "Tom, does your wife know you called me?" and "Why can't Tom deliver this for you?" and "You only want to make a one-time purchase?" and "Why should I do that?"

While Bob was thinking transactionally about the small order he might easily get, I was thinking about how we can leverage this turn of events and convert this into Bob doing a favor for Tom instead of Tom doing a favor for Bob.

The one thing that always gets in the way of selling value, is when salespeople want to quote prices!  Stop-quoting-prices!  There will be plenty of time - LATER - to let them know how much they will pay you when they decide to buy from you! 

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

How Dramatically Has Selling Changed?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 06:02 AM

dramatic-change

Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio promotion when they said, "Take a selfie with a standie and then, using your smartphone or tablet, upload it to Facebook, or tweet your image using hashtag [something I can't remember]."

Now, pretend it's 1995, and reread the quotation.  Twenty years ago, would you have recognized any of the words other than "take", "and", "then", "using", "your", "or" and "to?"  In 1995, selfie, standie, smartphone, tablet, tweet, hashtag, upload, and Facebook would have had you believing that you were listening to a foreign language.  That's just one example of how dramatically some things have changed in the past 20 years.

Let's take selling.  How dramatically has that changed in 20 years?

There are some obvious changes that most people in sales will recognize, like:

  • Salespeople are no longer sources of product knowledge or pricing, both of which are readily available online.
  • Salespeople enter the sales cycle only to find their prospects much further along in their buying cycle.
  • Salespeople utilize Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, email marketing, blogging, and the web for knowledge and to connect with prospects, before they speak for the first time.
  • Personal online networks, like Facebook, Google+, and LInkedIn are exponentially larger than the physical networks of twenty years ago.
  • Salespeople with transactional products and services, like tickets, travel, commodities and most retail items have found themselves being replaced by online sales.
  • Many salespeople who once worked in a territory or vertical, now find themselves doing the exact same thing by phone.
  • Video conferences and phone calls are replacing face-to-face visits.
  • Inbound, Lead-Gen, and Appointment Setting Teams are recent additions to Inside Sales.
  • Value Propositions and Added Value have given way to salespeople who must now be the value.
  • A vast array of productivity tools, especially those that sync between devices, make selling not only more efficient, but more fun.
  • National and global competitors are making it more difficult to win the business.
  • Demos can be easily conducted online.
  • There are vast amounts of free, online resources that individuals can use to improve themselves.

And then there are the changes which are not as obvious, like:

So my question is, are these changes good or bad?  Have you made any or all of these changes?  If you have ignored any of the changes, was it due to ignorance, discomfort, or arrogance?

What is the next change that will rock your world?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, twitter, linkedin, selling value, long sales cycle, sales win rates, google plus

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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 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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