How I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

crap

Those are strong words and probably quite surprising coming out of my mouth but I'll explain it all.  Earlier this week I was leading another Sales Leadership Intensive and during a break it came to me.  

I was emphasizing how important it is to role-play as part of every coaching conversation and that's when I realized that what I was sharing was a bunch of crap.  I even looked up the quantity required to qualify as "a bunch" and I stick by my use of the word.  Selling is just crap and here is what I mean by a bunch of it.

Consultative approach, strong RelationshipsActive listening, and follow the sales Process. CRAP.

But for it to be a bunch of crap, we need more crap, so:

Keep your prospects Comfortable, lower their Resistance, Ask lots of good questions, and use Positioning statements. CRAP.

Challenge your prospects, help them Reveal their problems, speak with Authority, and be Prepared for anything. CRAP.

Establish Credibility, be Rejection-proof, and don't seek their Approval when asking Probing questions.  CRAP.

Uncover their Compelling reasons to buy, Remain unemotional, be Animated and sell value instead of Price.  CRAP.

Discover Consequences, Relax, and help them Articulate how it impacts them PersonallyCRAP.

Calculate ROI, and Anticipate their Pushback.  CRAP.

A big bunch of CRAP.

Don't worry - I'm not going to write a new book on selling called CRAP Selling.  There are already two well-known sales methodologies that use 4-letter acronyms, like Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling, and Jill Konrath's SNAP selling.  But if you want a popular sales solution that features both sales process and sales methodology rolled into one, then order my best-selling book on modern selling, Baseline Selling. I promise that there isn't a single reference to CRAP and after 13 years, it's still ranked #15 on Amazon.

baselineThis video compares Baseline Selling to SPIN Selling, the Challenger Sale, Solution Selling and Sandler.  If you've heard about Baseline Selling over the past 13 years and haven't read the book, listened to the audio book or attended Baseline Selling training, what the heck are you waiting for?  If you aren't familiar with Baseline Selling, the book is a simple way to start.  And if you're in sales and you like baseball, you have found a match made in heaven.

Topics: Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling

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

Could it Really be The Death of SPIN Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 09, 2014 @ 20:04 PM

deathI read an article last month that actually had as its title, The Death of SPIN Selling.  Although the author tried, the article did little to convince ME that SPIN was dead.  Say what you will about SPIN, it was the most comprehensive questioning methodology of its day.  In my opinion, the only problem with SPIN was that most salespeople were unable to  execute it!

The author wrote that since most prospects today know what they want, they won't rehash all of the needs and decisions that got them to this point, and as a result, a salesperson won't be able to back them up to an earlier stage of the sales process to implement SPIN or any other questioning strategy.

Well, maybe.

I agree that most prospects are well aware of what they want and why.  But, and it's a BIG but, they WILL answer your questions -- if, and only if -- they are the right questions.  The questions must be good, tough, timely and relevant.  They must be different from any questions that have been asked by others, and must lead to the tough conversation that nobody else has had with them.

For instance, today I was training a great group of salespeople and we worked on that very scenario.  At the point where it would be advantageous for the salesperson to back up to an earlier stage of the sales process, I conducted a role-play to demonstrate.  If you were a fly on the wall, you would have heard the prospect quickly become engaged and emotional, feeling tremendous urgency and commitment to make a change.  Yet, I didn't ask any questions about why they were looking, how they were deciding, what was driving the decision, or how we could win.  Neither did I talk about capabilities, present or propose, or talk pricing other than to get their commitment that they would spend more to do business with me.  

I know.  It was only a role-play and it wasn't real.  But it was very real for them and it would be very real for you too.  And if there is one thing I know about the role-plays that I conduct with salespeople, it's that they will always play the part of an extremely difficult prospect - just to make sure that what I'm demonstrating WON'T WORK!  And they never succeed at that...

It's not that you can't go backward.  It's not that you can't execute the questioning in SPIN. It's not that you can't execute the questioning in Baseline Selling.  It's just that you can't ask the same, stupid, moronic sales questions that everyone has been trained to ask!  Prospects will not tolerate that.

In most cases, when you read in a blog that prospects know what they want and you have to find some value to bring to the table, it's being written by people who understand marketing and buying more than they truly understand selling, sales process, lowering resistance and psychology.  Selling is not dead and not dying.  And the good, modern sales processes and methodologies aren't dying either.  What's dying is the resolve to learn how to adapt the good processes and methodologies for the selling challenges of 2014 and beyond.  Don't give up and don't give in.  Instead, learn how to make these crucial tools work for you and your company.

Image credit: lakhesis / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, SPIN Selling

Top 12 Questions to Ask Yourself About Sales Process

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 @ 11:06 AM

Today I worked with a group of salespeople from different companies and when I asked how many of them followed a formal sales process only 2 people raised their hands.  That's even worse than Objective Management Group's statistics about sales process.  The statistics show that 91% of the more than 500,000 salespeople assessed to date did not have/follow a structured sales process.  And the two who did raise their hand?  They claimed that their process was 20 steps!  Who can remember that?

A bigger issue is that most people don't understand the difference between sales process and sales methodology.

A customized, optimized, formal sales process includes the sequence of steps, to-do's, milestones and goals that must be achieved during a sales cycle.

A sales methodology is the approach one takes to execute those steps.

For instance, using a few well-known companies and brands:

  • Huthwaithe's SPIN Selling is a methodology.  
  • Miller-Heiman's Strategic Selling is a methodology.  
  • Kurlan's Baseline Selling has both a process and a methodology.  
  • Sandler Training is a methodology.

Another way of looking at this is to use construction or engineering where the blueprint represents the strategy.  The particular steps that each engineer or contractor follows to execute their part of that blueprint is their process.  And I promise, the process is not a seat of the pants, wing it, trial and error approach.  "Hey, let's skip the forms on this foundation and pour the concrete without them - it might be faster that way!"  Or, "Let's skip the moldings because these people are in a hurry and they might not notice.  Let's just plaster to the edge of the windows and doors!"

Then each of those contractors has a methodology or approach, the way electricians run and install wiring and connect them to the power source, outlets and switches; the way plumbers cut, solder and install piping; the way back-hoe operators excavate and finish the property, the way the plasterers prepare and plaster the walls and ceilings. In each of those cases, they have a proven method to get the job completed correctly each time.

So here are some questions for you to answer about your sales force as it relates to process:

  • Is there a sales process?
  • Has it been customized?
  • Has it been formalized and structured?
  • Has it been optimized?
  • Is it legacy?
  • Does everyone follow it?
  • Does everyone speak the language of your process?
  • Is it referenced as a context for coaching sessions?
  • Can your salespeople identify where they are by simply naming a step?
  • Is it integrated into your CRM software?
  • Is it integrated with your pipeline?
  • Is the pipeline routinely reviewed and restaged according to the criteria for each step of the process?

If you can't answer yes to all of those questions, you aren't yet in a position to shorten your sales cycle, improve the effectiveness of your coaching and accelerate your revenue growth.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales methodology, sales training, sales management, SPIN Selling, Strategic Selling, Sandler Training

10 Attributes of the CEO Who Drives Sales and More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 @ 06:08 AM

Both Sides of MouthI had two conversations that were in stark contrast to one another.

The first was with an executive who told me that the company must have their salespeople selling more consultatively to better differentiate themselves in the global market, so they began training on SPIN selling - a year ago.  I told him that was a good start and wondered if they experienced the same thing as most companies that train on SPIN selling - it is a great questioning strategy but their salespeople simply can't apply it or execute it. 

[Note - SPIN is a questioning strategy developed by Neil Rackham but it is not a sales process.  If you are familiar with my Baseline Selling sales process and book by the same name, SPIN would take place between 1st and 2nd Base.]

Back to the story...This executive said that their salespeople aren't able to demonstrate any more competance than they were a year ago but he didn't want to upset anybody, anything, any apple carts, any vendors, any salespeople, etc.  He believed he had all the answers despite his own evidence pointing to the contrary.  I  mentioned that he was talking out of both sides of his mouth and he even agreed with that!  He was simply too invested in maintaining the status quo and keeping the peace to change anything.  A powerful, consistent formula - for failure.

You may have read my article from earlier this week when I described 10 CEO's and the Impact They Have on Their Sales Forces.  The executive above was a combination of #1 and #9. 

My second conversation was with an effective CEO who is completely unlike those that I described in the other article.  My good CEO has the following 10 qualities that have a positive impact on the sales force:

  1. He asks questions and listens when he doesn't have the answers;
  2. He has very little patience for incompetence;
  3. He holds people accountable;
  4. He lets people know where they stand;
  5. He demands the best from everyone;
  6. He leads the way and drives change;
  7. He sets clear expectations and has consequences for failure;
  8. He isn't afraid to terminate anyone;
  9. He is very decisive;
  10. He knows that revenue is King.

He has many more good qualities but these ten stand in contrast to the ten I wrote about in the previous article.

If you lead a company or a sales organization, which leader would you like to emulate?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, accountability, CEO, Drive Revenue, Lead Sales Force, Lead Change, SPIN Selling

SPIN Selling and Miller Heiman Compared to Baseline Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 28, 2006 @ 03:04 AM

 
Baseline SellingA reader asked me about my book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, and how it compares with SPIN Selling and Miller Heiman's Strategic Selling. Both books - SPIN Selling AND Strategic Selling are good; but neither of them are selling systems or processes.

Baseline Selling covers four points in the evolution of an opportunity within the selling process: first base (suspect), second base (prospect), third base (qualified) and home (closable). SPIN is a questioning process that can be mapped onto Baseline Selling and the entire process takes place between first and second base. Most of the concepts in Strategic Selling take place in the on-deck circle and between second base and third base. So, while neither of them are complete processes, both qualify as methodologies or approaches.

The 2nd topic we can explore is how applicable they are to your business. As good as SPIN is, most salespeople simply can't replicate it. It's just too difficult. So Baseline Selling has a simple questioning process that anyone can do - right out of the book! As good as Strategic Selling is, it isn't tactical. In other words, it's a book on strategy but it doesn't explain with detailed examples of dialog how to execute the strategy. Baseline Selling takes only a few pages to explain the four steps and the remaining 213 pages are devoted to tactics - how to get around the bases. Is Baseline Selling for you? Most sales development experts think so!

[Updated - This short video shows a much better comparison of SPIN, Solution Selling and the Challenger to Baseline Selling]

 

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc

Topics: Dave Kurlan, top sales books, Baseline_Selling, SPIN Selling, Strategic Selling

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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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