Improper Use of BANT Will Cause You to Kill Opportunities

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 @ 13:04 PM

talking-on-the-phone

I received an email asking me to check out an article on the Salesforce.com blog that features an infographic they hoped I would promote.

The article focuses on the middle of the funnel and the handoff between marketing and sales.  In doing so, they discuss MQL's (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQL's (Sales Qualified Leads).  While I don't have an issue with the infographic, I have huge issues with the content of the article and if you follow the advice in this article, you'll have far fewer MQL's that your salespeople can turn into SQL's.

Here's why.

They are promoting the use of an adapted form of BANT - in this case, BANTA.  BANT was introduced by IBM in the 60's as a way to qualify opportunities.  It stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline.  This article adds Attitude.  These are important milestones in the sales cycle so what's wrong with BANT?  As a tool for qualifying, there is nothing wrong with BANT.  My issue is with WHEN BANT is used.

Most of you are familiar with Solution Selling.  That was one of the earlier sales processes for selling consultatively.  Technology companies loved Solution Selling but every time my company was asked to help a tech company the second thing we always had to do was replace Solution Selling as the standard sales process. (The first thing is evaluate the sales force) Why?  Solution Selling called for salespeople to qualify too early in the sales process and that was still AFTER the opportunity had been handed off from Marketing. 

This short video explains the importance of sequence and timing in the sales process and especially why you can't qualify too early.

The second stage of the sales process is too early for salespeople to qualify an opportunity because at this point the potential customer has no incentive to answer any qualification questions!  YOU WILL LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY IF YOU ATTEMPT TO QUALIFY TOO EARLY!  If that is true, then what business do we have asking Marketing to qualify opportunities before turning them over to sales?  

There are 2 sets of qualifiers required:

  1. Are they qualified to meet with us?
  2. Are they qualified to buy from us?

These are two completely different issues.  In the first case, we want to know how close the opportunity is to the profile of our ideal customer.  In the second case, we want to know if they can actually buy from us.  BANT provides a framework for the second and as you no doubt saw in the video, the components of BANT don't come into play until the third stage of the sales process.

This is simply the latest from several years of fake news declaring that:

  • Cold calling is dead
  • Consultative Selling is dead
  • SPIN Selling is dead
  • Salespeople are dead
  • Sales process is dead
  • Inbound is King

So who comes up with this crap?  Usually it's marketers with something to sell, who have little actual expertise in sales, sales strategy or sales process in all their variations.

What should you do? 

You can't go wrong if you focus on perfecting sales process and consultative selling. As for Marketing, let marketing do what they do best and generate leads.  If there are too many crappy leads for your salespeople to waste time on, add dedicated BDR's (Business Development Reps) to identify the good ones and hand them off which brings us back to MQL.  What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?  They are willing to have a conversation about whether we can help.  Period.  Let your salespeople convert interest to opportunities.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales process, Consultative Selling, Dave Kurlan, solution selling, BANT, salesforce.com

4 Great Sales Lessons from a Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony

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

gen_martin_dempsey_300.jpg

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

Why Inbound and Inside Sales Experts Think Sales Process is Dead Too

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 @ 16:08 PM

Sales Process isn't even the only thing that inbound marketers say is dead. They'll have you believing that salespeople are no longer needed, selling is dead, and a consultative approach is dead too. They are basically ready to proclaim that anything selling-related, that they don't really understand or find it necessary to do, is not needed and dead.  

Let's start with my recent Google search for "Sales Process is Dead."  That search turned up these articles on the first page of results:

So who wrote all of these articles?  

One article was written by a sales expert discussing the concept of following the buyer's purchasing process. OK, that's still a sales process and it has some validity if you have weak salespeople that sell to large companies where you can't impact or change anything relative to how they buy.

One article was published in Harvard Business Review and was really about Solution Selling being dead. It isn't dead, but the authors are making a lot of money by saying that and pushing the Challenger Sale!

And the rest were written by marketers who might sell a lot more of their services if they can convince you that sales process is dead. 

The second page of the Google search results was even worse, including proclamations that B2B selling is dead and that field sales is dead. Don't get me wrong. I love and use some of their tools and services and recommend them to clients too. But the key word here is tools. They support and enhance selling. Tools don't replace selling.

There's very little question that everything we know about selling has changed dramatically in the past 5-8 years. I've written about these changes on 5 occasions and even my viewpoint has changed during this time! See:

There is some truth to what inbound marketing experts and inside sales experts are saying relative to the context of who they work with. Certainly, those who work inbound leads only need to follow up and either schedule a call or get the lead to click a button and subscribe. There isn't any complicated selling or sales process to navigate in order for that to work! Many inside salespeople only need to concern themselves with the top of the funnel where scheduling an appointment is their ultimate success.  

The disconnect occurs when salespeople, sales managers, sales leaders, marketing executives and CEOs read the propaganda from the inbound/inside experts and mistakenly believe that it applies to them! There are 10 scenarios where that message does not and will not ever apply to you:

  1. If you don't sell inexpensive subscriptions,
  2. If you aren't the lowest price in your category,
  3. If you don't have a short sales cycle,
  4. If you aren't the brand leader,
  5. If you have a story to tell,
  6. If your product requires design/build or customization,
  7. If what you sell is a lot of money,
  8. If you have a new company, new product or new technology,
  9. If you need to get to the C Suite, and/or
  10. If you are the underdog.

Today, there are a significant number of inside salespeople who are responsible for the entire sales cycle and they carry a quota too. Don't even suggest that they don't need a sales process and don't need to sell. Today, if you want even a chance of selling value, differentiating your company and winning business, you must take a consultative approach and use a milestone-centric sales process. You can include buyer-side milestones in that process if you like, but if you include only buyer-side milestones and don't focus on sales-side milestones too, you will get beat by competitors who have a true sales process.

This is important.  

Selling has become more difficult than ever before. Consistent success requires a consultative approach that most salespeople have difficulty executing. They haven't been properly trained or coached in its application, don't practice, and aren't confident enough to use it. It's much easier to give in to the marketers, abandon the sales process, abandon the consultative approach, abandon value selling, and abandon best practices despite how relevant and effective they still are. You'll have a longer sales process and a lower win-rate, but failing could never be easier!

Or, you can take the path less traveled, use the more difficult consultative approach in a more challenging milestone-centric sales process. It will be harder, but your sales cycle will be shorter and you'll have a higher win rate.

Easy gets you lousy results. Difficult helps you achieve consistent success.

I've seen this first-hand with golf and tennis. Accept the difficult job of learning to play either game the right way, learn the correct way to stroke the ball, learn the right strategies, practice your butt off and you'll win a lot more than you'll lose and feel much better about yourself too. Or, continue to play like a hack and you'll lose a lot more than you'll win and constantly have a feeling of frustration and discouragement.

In the end, it's always up to you. There are plenty of us who are always more than willing to help if you want to take the journey to mastery.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Inbound Marketing, sales process, solution selling, sales funnel, cold calling, inside sales, SPIN Selling, selling is dead

What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 @ 06:07 AM

sales process

If you were on vacation the past two weeks, this is what we were discussing:

June 30: The Top 10 Reasons Your Great New Salesperson Could Fail 
July 1: The One Sales Question I've Been Wrong About for Years 
July 2: The One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling Part 2 
July 7: Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers 
July 8: Top 21 Keys to Making Your Sales Force Dominate Today 
July 10: The New 21 Core Sales Competencies for Modern Selling   

The following article first appeared in the July Issue of TopSales Magazine.

I’m a baseball lover, die-hard Red Sox fan, and proud father of a 12-year-old baseball star.  Having founded Kurlan & Associates in 1985 and Objective Management Group in 1990, the only surprise should be that it took so long to combine the two passions and write Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, in 2005.

Baseline Selling

Companies have terrific results when they implement Baseline Selling, and last week a well-known expert asked, “What is the big secret that makes Baseline Selling so powerful?"  He thought it would make for a great article discussion, so let’s attempt to answer that question by starting with a few questions of my own.

Is it the sales process that makes it so powerful?  The big difference between the sales process in Baseline Selling and other sales processes is that rather than having outcome-based steps, time-based steps or task-oriented steps, it has customizable milestone-centric steps.  You might think that a step is a step, but there are huge differences.  With time-based steps, you may have achieved a certain number of calls or meetings, but you may not have actually achieved the desired outcomes.  With task-oriented steps, you may have completed the tasks, but you may not know whether you are any closer to having a new customer or client.  With outcome-based steps, you may have achieved the desired outcomes, but as with time and task-based steps, you may not know what will actually happen next.  With a milestone-centric process, the sequence of steps is extremely important because the steps build off of each other, and as each milestone is achieved, a salesperson gains more evidence, thus leverage and confidence that they are closer to the sale.

Sales Process Grader

Is it the methodology that makes it so powerful?  Nothing is more important in today’s selling than the conversation that takes place between the salesperson and the prospect.  While other methodologies are based on relationship-building, strategy or tactics, the Baseline Selling methodology is based on the conversation that continues across each stage.  Milestones are known only to the salesperson, achieved within the conversation, and invisible to prospects.  The methodology then, is consistent with the conversation that moves the process from step to step and stage to stage.

Is it because of uncovering compelling reasons to buy?  Unlike needs-based, buyer-journey, or pain-based approaches, the compelling reasons as to why a prospect would move their business to you, or buy this product, service or program in the first place, provides the salesperson with leverage.  It allows the salesperson to build a case using the prospect’s reasons, and helps the salesperson to position the solution in such a way that resonates with what is most important to the prospect.  On the other hand, a need may not be reason enough to change.  The buyer journey includes the salesperson at a point where it is difficult to move backward to gather the necessary information, and pain only works when there is a known problem and a desire to fix it.  While pain could be the source of a compelling reason, the desire to take advantage of an opportunity could just as often be compelling enough for a prospect.  In that scenario, the salesperson seeking to find pain would conclude that in the absence of pain, the prospect should be disqualified.

Is it the concept of SOB Quality?  Before we can discuss SOB Quality, you really need to know how that concept was developed, what it refers to in baseball, and how it translates to selling.  Watch this impromptu 3-minute video for my complete explanation of SOB Quality. 

Now you should understand just how accomplishing SOB allows salespeople to differentiate themselves from their competitors, internal adversaries, and become trusted advisors.  SOB does not exist in other processes, methodologies, sales strategies or tactics.  The closest anyone has come, since this was introduced in 2005, is The Challenger Sale; however, that describes a certain type of salesperson, whereas in Baseline Selling, achieving SOB Quality is simply a milestone that any type of salesperson can achieve.

So what is the big secret that powers Baseline Selling?  While all four of these concepts are important to Baseline Selling, SOB brings selling to a whole new level.  It causes prospects to think, “We need to work with Dave.  He gets it better than anyone else, he asked great questions, he got us on the right track, he helped us realize that we were approaching this the wrong way and we’ve never had a conversation like before that with anyone else!”

There are hundreds of experts offering dozens of processes, methodologies, approaches, strategies, styles and advice.  It’s all good.  All you have to do is choose one that meets the following 10 criteria: 

  1. It resonates with you.
  2. It’s easy to understand, teach and learn.
  3. It’s easy to customize and apply.
  4. It works today and will work tomorrow.
  5. It’s time-tested and proven.
  6. The methodology was designed for the process.
  7. The process is intended to be integrated into your CRM or pipeline management application.
  8. The process and methodology are rich enough to offer layered or stepped learning and application.
  9. The trainer has lived and breathed the process and methodology.
  10. The trainer understands your goto market strategy.

 Most of the executives, who reach out to us for help, tend to incorrectly believe two things:

  1. They already have a sales process - They have some steps, but steps don't make an effective sales process.  It's effective when it's predictive of outcomes, every salesperson follows it, and every sales manager coaches to it.
  2. They have good salespeople, but just need some tips - They may have some good salespeople and some of them can be coached up.  A company has good salespeople when they all overachieve stretch goals.
Image Copyright: sirikul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales methodology, solution selling, Relationship Selling, customer focused selling, buyer journey

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 06:06 AM

one thing missingI subscribe to several newsletters written by medical doctors who practice natural medicine.  They not only provide healthy nutritional advice and natural cures, but also expose the mainstream media, doctors, FDA and pharma for pulling the wool over our eyes and publishing so much misinformation.  And the misinformation is killing people!

I read most of the other sales blogs too.  Some of them are from companies within the Inside Sales community which, in an attempt to sell their services, are also publishing misinformation.  And the misinformation is killing sales forces.

I'm all for the new way of selling:

Migration to Inside Salesgreen checkIt's more efficient, less costly and more practical.  And it will work in most industries!

Social Selling green checkIt's one more way to get found, make connections and get introduced.

Sales Tools green checkI'm for any tool that will help salespeople to be more productive and effective.  These tools include gamification, call technology, email marketing and analytics.

Sales Automation green checkThis category includes lead nurturing, pipeline management and CRM.

Customers Already Have the Information They Need green checkSo what must salespeople do?  They must differentiate themselves and their companies by being the value. It's no longer adding value or talking about their value proposition or adding in something.  It's being of value to the customer.  The best way to be of value to the customer is to have the conversation that nobody else has had with them.

The Buyer Journey Instead of Sales Process red x  Understanding the buyer journey is fine, but without a milestone-centric sales process, salespeople cannot confidently move forward the sales process.

Customer-Centric/Customer-Focused Selling red x  Of course salespeople must be more focused on the customer and prospect.  However, that missive is being incorrectly interpreted and morphed into an epidemic of facilitation.  "Tell me what you want and I'll give it to you."  That's just plain stupid!  Anyone can do that.  And companies currently have anyone and everyone doing just that.  Veteran salespeople who have not adapted.  New salespeople who have not learned to sell.  This results in demos galore!  And that's one of the reasons that sales cycles are getting longer and win rates are decreasing so rapidly.  Customer-Centric Selling is the current catchphrase, but it's really consultative selling that makes the big difference.  Consultative Selling, when executed correctly, is a sophisticated form of listening and asking questions.  But's it's about asking the right questions, at the right time, and listening for the right information and following that up with more of the right questions.  Why?  To uncover and be able to discuss their compelling reasons to buy and/or move their business to you!  Anything other than that makes the salesperson appear incompetent. Objective Management Group (OMG) has statistics on this that are just plain ugly.  When it comes to selling consultatively, most salespeople, including the entire bottom 74%, are either not doing this at all or not doing it anywhere near how it should be done.   Of the more than 750,000 salespeople evaluated and assessed to date, salespeople possess, on average, just 22% of the attributes of a consultative seller.

Prospects are Further Along in their Buying Process Before Meeting Salespeople red x

That is the perception and that is what we are being told, but if this is really true, then why are sales cycles increasing in length and win rates decreasing?  It's not really later in the buying process as much as it's later in the research process.  And because of the customer-centric approach, salespeople are acting more like facilitators, gathering even less information than they did a decade ago.  Prospects aren't ready to buy at this point in their process, they're just getting finished with looking at their options!  Salespeople don't have qualified or closable opportunities at this point, but they're acting as if they did, creating and sending unqualified proposals, making assumptions, and hoping for the best.

What's Missing?

So with all that's new and all that's the same, what is missing?  If you have read some of the other articles being pushed and shared, you might notice that they are leaving out the single most important fact about sales.  It's the same misinformation that would have you believe that cold calling is dead, SPIN Selling is dead, Solution Selling is dead, Relationship Selling is dead, Consultative Selling is dead, Baseline Selling is dead, and Salespeople are doomed.  They are completely leaving out the one thing that you need salespeople to do and do well. Without it you will lose, lose hard and lose often.  Someone must change people's minds and persuade them to buy from you and feel good about paying your price.  Salespeople must Sell!

It's probably not you.

Face it.  Only one company can have the lowest price.  Only one company can have the best product or service.  Only one company can provide the best customer service.  Only one company can have the most recognizable brand.  Only one company can have the best and longest track record of success.  Only one company can have the largest and/or happiest installed user base.  If you aren't that company on that day with that customer, you will have to change their mind!  Marketing can't do it.  Inbound can't do it.  Best pricing could do it, but you might be out of business before you get a chance to find out if it worked.  

What to do?

The only way to change people's minds is with very effective, highly-trained, relevant, up-to-date, consultative salespeople [read this article for more on that].  You can't change minds by forcing information, arm wrestling or lecturing.  Demos and presentations don't change minds either.  You can change minds by using gradual perception, asking good, tough, timely questions, and helping prospects come to the realization that buying from you will be the best decision they can make.

Image Copyright: lianna2013 / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, solution selling, customer focused selling

Sales Management Best Practices - Are Top Salespeople Challengers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

describe the imageI am asked quite often about the Challenger Sales model.  I've written about it twice, something that might lead you to believe I like it, but that's not entirely true.  Read this article and be sure to read the comments - a disagreement between me and the editor of the study.  Make sure you read this article too, written when the study appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

I am certainly not the only one scratching my head about why The Challenger Sale is getting so much attention.  There's nothing new here (for 24 years I have been writing about the blueprint to the sales DNA they just recently described, building into our assessments and delivering training on it) and while some of the Challenger approach is fundamentally correct, it can be very misleading too.

Sales has changed dramatically in the past 5 years and among the many things that are significantly different is this:  You must be able to differentiate yourself and your company and actually be the added value.  You can do that by asking the right questions, at the right time, for the right reason.  It's all about listening.  Consultative Selling, while being a question-centric approach, is driven by listening and nearly everyone who writes about it misses that point.  Another point that is often missed is that when Consultative Selling is properly executed, you can't help but develop a relationship.  Another point that is often missed is that if you are effective with Consultative Selling, you will, in essence, also be using Solution Selling.  Why am I bringing all of that up?  One of the premises of the Challenger Sale is that Relationship Selling and Solution Selling are dead.  As they say in Monty Python, it's Not Dead Yet.  

I don't promote an approach based on either Relationships or Solution Selling, but both must be incorporated into an appropriate 2013 sales approach.  Also worth noting, the approach or methodology is only one part of selling.  Without a sales process and a sales model, no methodology will work very well on its own.

Mike Schultz, a partner at The Rain Group, wrote this article highlighting their own study, What Sales Winners Do Differently, and the areas where their study reaches different conclusions from the Challenger Sale.

Finally, if you want to learn how to drive best practices in sales coaching, sales process, sales accountability and sales motivation through your sales team, sales force and sales organization, you'll want to be in attendance when we present our Spring 2013 Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, May 14-15.  It's coming up quickly and seating is limited.  If you and/or your sales leadership team would like to attend, please send me an email and I will get back to you.  Event details are here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales leadership, solution selling, sales management training, Relationship Selling, challenger sale

Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 20, 2012 @ 13:07 PM

I was asked to comment on an article called The End of Solution Selling, which appeared in Harvard Business Review.  The article was generally right on, but it also included several things that irritated me enough to question them and the article.

"The End of Traditional Solution Selling" - The ineffective selling model described by the authors is more aligned with transactional selling than solution selling.  The real issue is that the authors were describing ineffective salespeople who, because of their ineffectiveness when attempting to use solution selling, have sales cycles that are more transactional, an approach that simply doesn't work anymore.

"Reps" - It was difficult for me to accept the authors' use of the word "reps" 81 agonizing times.  They were writing about solution selling being dead and how successful reps use "insight selling".  We don't call salespeople "reps" anymore unless they are independent manufacturers' reps.  They referred to solution selling as a methodology from the 80's, but the term "rep" probably came into use right after the term salesman - probably back in the 50's!

Mobilizers - The article discussed the different people inside an organization who used to coach salespeople on how to get the business.  The authors wrote that a successful salesperson would now coach these people on how to get the company to buy from them.  The authors settled on the term "mobilizers" to refer to a group of skeptics, go-getters and teachers with whom salespeople should align themselves.  I wrote an article about this around 4 years ago and believe it's a much better approach to utilizing people inside the prospect's organization.

Complex Solutions - This article is based on selling complex technology solutions and you and your company are probably outside the boundaries of that focus. 

Major Accounts - As usual, this article is based on research of big company sales forces, selling to other big companies, and has little to do with what most sales forces look like or face.  As a matter of fact, our data on 600,000 salespeople and 8,500 sales forces, significantly larger and more comprehensive than the Corporate Executive Board research data, shows that big company salespeople are among the least effective salespeople anywhere.  They aren't underdogs, they have the welcome mat laid out for them, have the resources to heavily discount the deal to buy the business, and don't face the resistance of smaller, newer or more expensive competition.  

Summary - My first take away from this article is that the "superstars" (the best of all big company, ineffective salespeople) are simply selling the way that modern day salespeople are being taught to sell.  I didn't read anything in that article that was different, controversial, eye-opening or even new.  Everything about which they wrote was simply well-executed consultative selling strategies and tactics and any sales training company worth its fees will teach their own version of that.  Some will do it a lot better than others. 

My final take away from this article is to reinforce this warning, which I issued just two months ago.  If your salespeople aren't effectively utilizing a consultative sales model, you must move to the 2nd decade of the 21st Century or you will continue to climb an uphill battle to win your share of new business.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales model, sales methodology, sales training, harvard business review, solution selling, hbr blog

Top 7 Things That Consultative Sellers Do

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 @ 09:11 AM

competencyMy series about the Top 10 Sales Competencies that nobody talks or writes about is among the 10 most widely read of my articles.  That series did not include the traditional sales competencies so I want to talk about one of those competencies today.

In my opinion, this sales competency has become the most important of all the competencies.  It's More important than the closing competency.  It's more important than the ability to develop relationships.  It's more important than the ability to manage accounts.  It could even be more important than the ability to find new opportunities!  When salespeople master this competency, they close more business, receive more referrals and introductions and retain customers and clients indefinitely.  

Objective Management Group's data shows that on average, salespeople possess only 21% of the attributes of this competency.  The elite 6% and some of the top 26% have this competency in abundance.  The bottom 74% of all salespeople have even less than 21%.

Companies whose salespeople emphasize presenting, conducting demos, proposing, quoting and chasing business for months thereafter have very few salespeople that possess attributes of this competency.

Even the experts don't agree on the importance of this competency.

A small group of experts, especially those that lack this competency themselves, believe that using this competency for selling is manipulative and counters being customer-centric.  They are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine.  But remember, you simply can't argue with science, data and results.

So which competency am I referring to?

It is the ability to sell consultatively.  The interesting thing about this competency is that if you ask 10 people what it means, you'll get 10 different answers.  I've helped companies who told me up front that they have been focusing on consultative selling, yet after evaluating their sales force and beginning the training and development process, there was no evidence of the ability to sell consultatively!   

At its worst, people believe it refers to presenting a solution, based on the identification of needs.  That's actually closer to the definition of solution selling but not correct for either approach.

When your salespeople sell consultatively, they are actually:

  • slowing down the sales process, asking dozens - maybe even hundreds - of very good, tough, timely questions,
  • having deep and wide discussions about the prospects'reasons to: 
    • change how things are done, 
    • begin an initiative, 
    • change suppliers, 
    • spend money, 
    • take advantage of an opportunity, 
    • solve a problem, 
    • save money,
    • etc.
  • discussing the implications or consequences of taking various actions or steps
  • talking about who is affected by these issues and how they are affected
  • identifying the real compelling reason(s) to buy and buy from you,
  • differentiating themselves through this conversation,
  • building a relationship based on sharing, trust, and caring.

As I mentioned, some will tell you that this kind of selling is dead but in reality, fewer than 15% of all salespeople have even learned to do this yet, the rest still selling in a very archaic way.  They are selling in a transactional way, selling based on relationships, or selling by presenting and proposing.  The rules have changed, the buyers have changed, the reasons and timing for spending limited amounts of money have changed, but most salespeople have not yet changed.  If your salespeople haven't learned and mastered the skills required to sell consultatively, they will lose out more often than they will win.

Topics: sales force assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, solution selling, consutative selling, selling skills training

Effective Sales Models

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 @ 06:09 AM

modelBack in June I wrote this article about the difference between sales process and sales methodology.  In addition to those two sales infrastructure components, companies should have a sales model.  How is the model different from the other two key components of an effective sales organization?

Where processes contain the sequence of customized/optimized steps, milestones and tasks in your sales cycle, and methodologies are the sales approaches or styles, the model is the success formula.  The model is presented to new salespeople during orientation and it demonstrates what they must do in order to succeed.  Models often include the target customer/client, some application of what they would typically purchase, a revenue goal per customer/client/account and a summary of how many of those it takes to achieve quota/goal/income.  In sumary, the model is a blueprint for what your successful salespeople do in order to succeed.

When companies are able to easily and successfully plug-in new salespeople, have predictable ramp-ups and few hicups, it is because they usually have all three crucial pieces of sales infrastructure in place.

Do you have a customized, optimized, formal, structured sales process that delivers consistent predictable results and everyone follows it?

Do you have a sales methodology and everyone is able to effectively utilize it?

Do you have a sales model that everyone understands and they all use it to achieve success?

If you are missing any or all of these components, or have them but people aren't locked in to them, think of the consequences in terms of each component having the potential to provide a 33% gain in revenue over the course of 1-3 years!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales model, sales management, solution selling, complex sale

The Complex Sale - Part 2

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 19, 2011 @ 08:05 AM

Yesterday, we discussed the elements of the complex sale and the factors that make it so challenging.  I also asked whether you should you attempt to incorporate some of the elements of the complex sale in order to outsell your competitors.

Today, we will revisit the factors that make it so challenging and discuss how various selling weaknesses interact with those factors.

There are several common selling weaknesses that cause salespeople to become ineffective in various selling scenarios.

Need for Approval, or the need to be liked, prevents them from asking tough questions, challenging, and pushing back.

Those who have Difficulty Recovering from Rejection avoid questions or statements that carry the perceived risk of evoking a "No".

Salespeople who have a Discomfort Talking About Money aren't able to have an in-depth conversation about finances - finding the money that isn't there.

A Non-Supportive Buy Cycle causes salespeople to empathize with various stalls, put-offs, excuses and objections rather than asking questions to overcome them.

A Self-Limiting Record Collection has salespeople listening to their greatest fears and self-limiting beliefs, affecting outcomes before they have left their offices.

Salespeople who easily Become Emotionally Involved on calls go into reaction mode rather than calmly and systematically continuing to ask questions.

Salespeople who are Too Trusting don't challenge or push back on conventional buyer thinking, put-offs or stalls because they take everything they hear at face value.

The table below places the 16 challenges from yesterday's article in a matrix with the 7 common sales weaknesses and illustrates which weaknesses impact each of those 16 challenges.  

Copmplex Weaknesses

It's OK if you don't immediately understand how the weaknesses cause problems for each challenge.  Just be aware that based on more than 500,000 salespeople that Objective Management Group has assessed, the data is there to back it up.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales model, sales management, solution selling, selling weaknesses, complex sale

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About Dave

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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