Those Who Follow Sales Best Practices Don't Necessarily Become Top Performers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 10:06 AM

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You'll regularly find me writing about the science - the data - that differentiates top sales performers from the bottom.  But today, I'll move into the world from which everyone else in this space operates - anecdotal evidence and opinions. 

I will cite two sources for this article:

  • The 130 sales consulting firms that partner with me at Objective Management Group (OMG) and provide our award-winning sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments;
  • The tens of thousands of salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders that I have personally trained.

In both groups of people I have noticed a few things that are common to the tops and not so much the bottoms and I'm certain that if you paid attention, you would recognize some of the same patterns in your organization.

In my experience, The top salespeople in both groups typically attend scheduled training events, Conferences, Webinars, and coaching calls.  They also tend to stay on top of updates, communications, reviews, emails and notes.  While some bottom performers do these things too, it's clear that there is a correlation between the tops and the learning and development activities on which they choose to invest their time.

The question is, are they at the top because they focus, participate, attend and respond; or do they actively participate because they are at the top?  Which one is cause and which one is effect?

Each of the activities I mentioned are best practices of top performers.  It's almost impossible to be a top performer and not do those things, while it is quite easy to not do those things and be a bottom performer.  But that doesn't answer the question of cause and effect.  Let's take a closer look at the bottom performers that do all of those things but still fail to perform.  If they do all of the same things, what holds the bottom performers back?

I didn't begin writing this article with a plan to go here, but as always, it ends up here.  Assuming that an ineffective sales manager isn't to blame, it comes down to the following four things:

  • Lack of Desire for Greater Success in Sales
  • Lack of Commitment to Do What it Takes to Achieve Greater Success in Sales
  • Weak Sales DNA - Strengths Don't Support their Selling Skills
  • Poor Selling Skills - Never Developed or not up-to-date

 I just looked at a few thousand rows of data from the last two weeks.  While 91% of these salespeople had strong Desire, only 59% had the Commitment to do what it takes.  That's a difference maker!  Additionally, only 33% had Sales DNA of 70 or better and only 9% had Sales DNA of at least 82 which is required to support the Challenger Sale.   Worst of all, only 11% had at least 50% of the selling skills we measure.

So even when I try to write an anecdotal piece, I end up returning to the OMG's science behind selling.

Cause and effect?  Salespeople who do the right things don't necessarily become top performers but top performers necessarily do the right things.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, omg, the challenger sale, top producer, sales assessments, objective management group, top performing salespeople

Sales Coaching and the Challenges of Different Types of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 08, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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When (other) articles and blogs contain sales statistics, they are often made up.  For example, Andy Rudin wrote this article about made up sales statistics and I recently read this article by Stewart Rogers about made up statistics.  Infographics and videos are two more sources of statistics that are often based more on fiction than fact, yet they still have value, even if the numbers aren't correct.  Here's a new infographic which has useful information, even if the purpose is to promote Fatstax.  Recently a reader directed me to a video on the Harvard Business Review site.  They rarely have accurate, relevant sales-specific information there, so I clicked over with great anticipation.I watched the video on 8 types of salespeople and while I don't agree with there being 8 types, their statistics were fairly consistent with the science and data from Objective Management Group (OMG) which states that there is an elite 6%, 20% that are strong, and everyone else - the bottom 74% - who basically suck.

If you are a fan of the Challenger Sale, the Challenger is one of 5 types of salespeople according to its authors.  In OMG language, the Challenger is one of the elite 6%, with a Sales Quotient of 140 (SQ ranges to 173) or higher and Sales DNA of 83 (ranges up to 100) or higher.  Practically speaking, it means that 94% of salespeople don't have the Sales DNA or Sales Capabilities to sell like a Challenger.

Chuck Mache, says that there are 4 types of salespeople.  While Chuck recommends the Professional for B2B sales, his types are based on personality traits, so there is only a one way correlation.  Someone who has the traits of the Professional is not necessarily a great salesperson, but some great salespeople have the traits of the Professional.  To make that a little easier to understand, a winter storm does not always consist of snow (it could be ice, a wintry mix, or even rain), but snow always comes from a winter storm.

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies, including a salesperson's Will to Sell (4 competencies), Sales DNA (6 Competencies), Sales Capabilities ( 8 competencies) and Systems and Processes (3 Competencies).  When viewed through these lenses, personality traits don't play a part in determining sales success.  If we look at the competencies consisting of only the 8 Sales Capabilities, there are 109,600 possible combinations.  And after factoring in the Will to Sell and Sales DNA, the possible combinations exceed one million.  What I'm saying is that there are more than 4 or 5 or 8 or 12 types of salespeople.  

However, when someone insists that there are certain types of salespeople, I can offer you this.  I have found that when it comes to coaching salespeople, we can place them into one of 11 categories.  Keep in mind that while I can categorize them for coaching purposes, this does not define them as salespeople, and does not correlate to how they approach selling - only how sales managers should approach coaching them.  Here they are:

Talking Tammy - Tammy needs to talk for the first 20 minutes before we can provide 10 minutes of powerful coaching.

Fast Frank - Frank wants only a single question answered in each session and wants to get off the phone ASAP.

Take Away Tom - Tom needs just one take away to feel there was value.

Hit Me Hank - Hank needs to be whacked over the head at some point during each coaching session.

Do it Don - Don must be told what to do and then he’ll do it.

Validation Vicky - Vicky tells us what she wants to do and then needs us to validate that it’s the right approach.

Successful Sandra - Sandra wants us to tweak what already works in order to achieve marginal improvement.

Know-it-All Norm - Norm does not want to be told anything at all.  He needs to figure it out himself.

Timid Tim - Tim needs to have his self-worth validated.

Show Me Shelly - Shelly needs to have her current skill-gap demonstrated.

Broadway Betty - Betty needs to role-play.

I wrote a rebuttal to my 11 types of salespeople that sales coaches encounter.  There is no science to this.  No data.  No statistics.  Like the authors I have criticized over the years, I simply reviewed the files of thousands of salespeople I have coached in the past 30 years, and grouped them into categories based on the types of sales coaching they required.  It is purely anecdotal.  And although it makes sense and can be quite useful, it is entirely lacking in science.  These 11 types are completely unlike what Objective Management Group provides to us.  OMG provides us with the data from the evaluations and assessments of more than 1 million salespeople - a very significant sample size.  And OMG measures so many sales-specific findings that together, they always tell a story about a sales candidate, a salesperson, a sales team, and an entire company.  The story itself isn't science, but the science helps us to tell a story.

While types are entertaining and generally somewhat useful to be aware of, there is no substitute - ever - for real science.

If you want to use science that makes sales selection accurate and predictive, check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.

If you want to use science to identify the changes that will significantly grow sales revenue from your existing sales force, check out OMG's Sales Force Evaluation.

Finally, check out cartoonist Stu Heineke's new book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone.  A number of sales experts, including me, were quoted and there are some great tips, stories and of course, cartoons!

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, the challenger sale, sales types

The Challenge of the Challenger Sales Model - The Facts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 @ 09:10 AM

Last week I wrote an article, Now That You Have a Sales Process, Never Mindthat was very critical of an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review.  The authors were nice enough to clarify their position and, even if you read my original article, it's worth revisiting because of the additional discussion that took place after it appeared.

I mentioned the number of times that I have been critical of an HBR article on sales, but I have been nearly as critical of Geoffrey James, a contributor to Inc. Magazine.  He has written a few articles which, at minimum, embarrass me and, at worst, reflect badly on him.  Earlier this month he wrote, 4 Things Your Customers Don't Want, another article that qualifies for some questioning.

In the article he seems to be critical of the Challenger Model.  I've been critical of that as well, but for completely different reasons, so let's review:

The Challenger describes a certain type of salesperson, one that Objective Management Group (OMG) has been identifying for 23 years.  This highly successful, elite salesperson, has a Sales Quotient of 140 (out of a possible 173) or better.  This elite salesperson is also described in my 2005 best-seller, Baseline Selling, where I introduced a sales process milestone called SOB Quality (speed on bases, a baseball expression).  To achieve SOB, the prospect or customer is paying more attention to the salesperson than his/her competitors and achieves that by asking good, tough, timely questions; questions that other salespeople are not asking, questions that lead to better and different conversations; questions that challenge the prospect's thinking.  Questions that challenge the prospect's thinking is the essence of the Challenger.

The Challenger isn't new - the authors of the Challenger simply gave this salesperson a name, got it published in - here we go - The Harvard Business Review, and bingo, it's got credibility.  But, as with most things, now people are talking about the Challenger Sale as if it were a selling process, but, as you must realize, it's not.  In Baseline Selling, it's a milestone.  It's not the first time that people saw a process when none existed.  People still think SPIN Selling is a process.  It's really a methodology and it fits, in its entirety, between 1st and 2nd base in Baseline Selling.  Ironically, the much simpler equivalent to SPIN in Baseline Selling is another milestone, called Compelling Reasons.

The essence of Geoffrey's article is his criticism of the concept of challenging a prospect's thinking.  He says they don't want that, but he's only partly right - about the statement - and dead wrong about the implications.

If we are discussing a transactional sale, then he is completely correct.  Let the customer just buy what they want to buy and don't complicate it.  But most of us in the sales consulting space don't consult to companies with a transactional sale - that's marketing's job to get more people to buy!

However, if we are discussing a more complex sale, or your company is an underdog (higher-priced, newer company, smaller company, new technology, expensive, customizable solution, engineered solution, story to tell, or otherwise not the price or market leader), then you not only have salespeople, but they must overcome resistance with nearly every prospect they encounter.  

Middle managers, who have been tasked to gather information, may not want their assignment challenged and may very well want to simply buy.  In this scenario, without context, James is correct again.  However, in the context of a real sales cycle, the salesperson needs to identify and finally meet the decision maker.  In order to accomplish that, the middle manager must be challenged with enough questions, that they can't answer, so that they feel the need to involve a decision maker.  When the salesperson meets the decision maker, these challenging questions must be asked to not only justify the meeting, but to achieve SOB and differentiate.  This is where James is so wrong.  While the prospect may not have wished for this experience, most decision makers appreciate the push-back that they rarely get from their direct reports and other salepeople calling.

Everything needs context and a lot of what is written today lacks the context to make it applicable.

In summary, prospects may not want to be challenged, but are appreciative when there is value to the questions being asked.

The Challenger Model is not a sales model; it's a name they came up with to describe an elite salesperson that OMG identified two decades ago and I described as a selling milestone in Baseline Selling in 2004. 

Want more?

If you're within an hour of Baltimore, I'll be there speaking at a public event (CEO's, Presidents and Sales VP's only) on Wednesday, October 23.  If you're interested in attending, email me and I'll get you a complimentary ticket.

If you're within an hour of Atlanta or NYC, my colleague, Dennis Connelly, will be speaking at two public events.  Tomorrow, he'll be in Atlanta and on Thursday, he'll be in NYC.  If you're interested in attending, email Dennis and he'll get you a complimentary ticket.

if you aren't available for those three events, then perhaps you're available for my International Webinar on Thursday, October 24, when I'll discuss the reason why 4 Out of 5 Sales Managers are Ineffective and What You can Do About it.  Register.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, geoffrey james, the challenger sale, inc. magazine sales article, harvard business review sales article

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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