5 Year-End Awards from Top Sales World

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 @ 08:12 AM

2016-Awards.jpg

I am always honored when my work is recognized and this year is no exception.  The judges at Top Sales Awards named Objective Management Group (OMG) the Top Sales Assessment Tool for 2016.  That marks the 6th consecutive year that OMG has won the Gold!  We believe that we have developed the best Sales Assessment tools in the world but it is gratifying when others validate that belief for us!   It's also nice to receive recognition for my personal content.  The judges awarded my Blog, Understanding the Sales Force, with a Bronze medal for Top Sales & Marketing Blog of 2016.  That marks the 6th consecutive year that my Blog has earned a medal.  In addition, this article won the Bronze for Top Sales & Marketing Blog Post.  Will Barron interviewed me earlier this year and that particular podcast won a Gold Medal for Top Sales & Marketing Podcast. Finally, a Webinar I did earlier in the year on How to Sell value won a Gold Medal for Top Sales & Marketing Webinar.  I would like to thank the judges and congratulate all of my colleagues in the sales training and consulting space who also won awards.  A very nice way to end 2016!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, top salespeople, Top Sales World, will barron

Are Millennials Who Enter Sales Better or Worse Than the Rest of the Sales Population?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 @ 12:08 PM

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Image Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Millennials are more independent, more spoiled, have a shorter attention span, tend to be more into their technology than into people, don't like working traditional hours, and don't enjoy working in traditional ways.  That said, would you expect them to be better or worse suited for selling than the generations who came before them?

I took to the data to see what story it might tell. I found data on more than 43,000 millennials in sales and here is what I learned.  This information should be very helpful for hiring new salespeople and developing them as well.

To get a sense for the actual comparison, I looked at four data sets:

  1. All Millennials
  2. The Top 10% of Millennials
  3. The Top 10% of Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry
  4. All Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry

So how do Millennials compare?  

Chris Mott, my trusted colleague and friend, specified the first dashboard - how all millennials scored. Sales Quotient, the overall score, is shown in the top right corner.  108 is weak.  Sales DNA, the combination of strengths, is shown in the middle.  61 represents a salesperson that will not be able to execute sales process, strategies, skills and tactics because the strengths are actually weaknesses.  Commitment, the willingness to do what it takes to achieve greater success in sales is shown in the upper left hand section.  53% represents a lack of commitment.  You'll notice that Handling Rejection and Relationship Building are the only two areas where millennials scored well in the areas of Sales DNA and Selling Competencies.  Scroll down for more.

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After Chris showed me the first dashboard, I populated the next dashboard with veteran salespeople with 10 or more years in sales.  You can see that as a group, they have higher scores in all of the areas we discussed relative to the previous dashboard, except - and this is a head turner - Relationship Building!  Who could have seen that coming?  Interestingly, they score 39% on Responsibility which means they are twice more likely to make excuses than their younger colleagues.  In this comparison, based on their Sales Quotients, the older salespeople are at least serviceable while the Millennials are simply weak.  Scroll down for more.

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The third dashboard represents veteran salespeople again, but this time only the top 10%.  As you can see, the top 10% are elite, with Sales Quotients averaging 142 and Sales DNA averaging 83.  Nearly every score is in the green and all of the scores are higher than either of the two prior groups.  These are the salespeople you want to hire!  And wherever possible, you want to coach up your existing salespeople to be like the top 10%.  Scroll down for more.

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The fourth dashboard represents the Top 10% of Millennials.  It isn't very different from the top 10% of Veteran Salespeople with the notable exception of their respective scores for Figure-it-Out-Factor, or how quickly they will ramp up.  Notice the low score on Relationship Building!  This group scores the highest on Desire, Responsibility, Outlook, Sales DNA and Coachable!!  Scroll down for more.

Millennials-Top-10.jpg

It should be clear from this comparison that overall, Millennials are not a great choice for sales.  However, the Top 10% of Millennials are an excellent choice for sales!  So the million dollar question is, when you are hiring salespeople, and millennials are in the mix, how do you determine whether they are millennials of the 108 Sales Quotient or of the 143 Sales Quotient?

I apologize.  That was a trick question. As you can see from the dashboard of all Veteran salespeople, that group only averages a 121 on Sales Quotient. It shouldn't matter whether millennials are in the mix or not. You need the ability to differentiate between the 140's, 120's and 100's with every candidate, and do it as early in the sales recruiting process as possible.  Weed out the undesirable sales candidates in the very first step!  So how can you tell whether you have a 140 or a 108?  Use Objective Management Group's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments. They're built on science and customizable for your business and selling role.  

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, top salespeople, Sales Candidate, sales selection, objective management group, OMG Assessment

The Biggest Secret of Sales Rockstars

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 @ 07:10 AM

Jack Black School of Rock

In the old days, after speaking at a conference, I would frequently be told that I was the top-rated speaker at the event.  More recently, people have told me that I "Rocked!"  One time, as I was being introduced, an audience member came up to me and said, "Don't Suck!"  We can't always be rock stars...

I apologize if it sounded like I was bragging.  I didn't mean to.  I was just looking for contrast.  For example, the great rockers of the last 50 years - the Stones, the Beatles and the Dead - now THEY have FANS!  But even those three groups pale in comparison to the original rocker.  No, not Elvis.  Interestingly, I had to go 8 pages deep in a Google search for Rock Star before there was even a mention of anyone remotely connected to being a rock star.  That's when Joe Perry of Aerosmith was mentioned in the Google web search.  Jack Black in his School of Rock role was the first "rocker" shown in the Google image search!  Not quite what I had in mind - no offense to Aerosmith and Jack Black fans...

The greatest of all time to rock would be God.  Who else could have His word in such a huge collection of books written over so many centuries, all while performing miracles?  Who else could have so many devotees?  I know.  I just broke the biggest unwritten (maybe it's actually been written) business rule of all time.  "Don't talk about religion."  Well, fuck that!  If you're one of the readers that usually shares my articles and this paragraph is making you uncomfortable, stop reading right now and don't share the article with anyone.  On the other hand, if you are OK with this paragraph and you would be OK allowing a little more God into our increasingly Godless lives, share to your heart's content.  I was just looking for some more contrast.

Back to speakers and then, finally, onto salespeople.

You've attended conferences and for every speaker that rocked, there were 3 that were so-so and 2 that absolutely sucked.  As a group, do you think that salespeople, and specifically you and/or your salespeople, are any different from speakers?  Do you think that all of your salespeople rock all of their sales calls?  Do some of them rock some of the time?  Do any of them EVER rock?  Let's explore a few of the characteristics of salespeople that really rock.

Salespeople who rock have mastered the following ten competencies:

  1. Animated - This is not just visual animation, like constant movement, but it's also vocal animation, one's ability to reach out with inflection and instantly grab people's attention and keep that attention for the remainder of the meeting.

  2. Memorable - While this tends to be an outcome, the ability to stand apart and differentiate from everyone else is the quality that is most important for being memorable.  Being animated helps, being likable is important, but the ability to stand out from the crowd is most important.

  3. Subject Matter Experts - This is more than being an expert about products and services.  This is about being an expert on application, your industry, your vertical, your market, on process, on your target customer's role and with cost justifications and ROI calculations.
     
  4. Know the Audience - A salesperson must not only connect with a prospect on a personal level, but they must also know their problems, challenges, frustrations, goals and objectives.  A salesperson should understand the personal impact that these issues have on the prospect.  To rock even more, a presentation should be tailored and customized to address what a salesperson has learned about the audience. I was a guest on Evan Carmichael's radio show last week talking about this very thing at the 18-minute mark.
     
  5. Ask Great Opening Questions - Assuming that salespeople have and use consultative selling skills to have great and meaningful conversations (see this post for more), then the quality and depth of those conversations are in direct proportion to the opening questions they ask.

  6. Push Back - Polite and passive salespeople are nice to meet.  However, they are not memorable because they fail to differentiate themselves in a meaningful way.  From time to time, it's important to challenge outdated thinking, push back on a questionable approach or question a decision that might not be in everyone's best interest.  Polite and passive salespeople will struggle mightily with this.

  7. Great Sense of Humor - I am coaching a salesperson who is always too serious.  This caused his prospects to feel threatened, pressured and as a result, they would get defensive.  They just didn't find him likable enough!  Having the ability to detect the moments where it would be useful to lighten things up by using humor makes salespeople more likable and keeps the pressure from mounting.

  8. Presence - When a salesperson is well-dressed, six-feet tall, graying around the temples and has a voice like James Earl Jones, it's hard not to have presence.  But the rest of us need to work at it.  You might not be in an industry or calling on a vertical where your wardrobe can help.  You might not have a great voice.  You might be short like me.  Wisdom may not have appeared in your hair color.  So you make up for these physical shortcomings with pace, confidence, good listening, and a philosophy of less is more.  When you do speak, you should be the voice of wisdom.  Your contribution to the conversation must be significant, unexpected, articulate, relevant, and when possible, profound.

  9. Concise - Being concise will certainly enhance your presence, but one must strive for concise in all circumstances.  No rambling, unnecessary details, complicated demonstrations, or overblown explanations.  When it comes to a presentations, less is always more.

  10. Close - Salespeople must know when to close.  This doesn't vary and it's not after X number of minutes, calls, meetings or questions.  It's not after a demo, presentation or proposal either.  It's when all required milestones within the sales cycle have been achieved. Final Milestone achievement can occur after one day or one year, one call or ten calls, one demo or five demos, after meeting with one person or twenty people.  It's milestone-specific, not time- or quantity-specific.  And when it's been completed, it's closing time.  This point in time is the first and best opportunity for closing and salespeople must be able to get the deal closed when this opportunity finally presents itself. 

All salespeople have the potential to rock, but they may not have all of these competencies mastered.  They can be taught and they can adapt.  I'm certain that when I was younger, the only one of these competencies I had was a sense of humor.  And if I was in front of an audience, then my sense of humor would have been buried beneath layers of fear.  But at some point, I was inspired.  I believe it was by God.  And I believe that you and your salespeople can be inspired to master all ten of these competencies. 

I don't want you to miss the big one here.  It's the biggest secret of all.  Inspiration.  When you are inspired, you rock.  When you inspire others, you rock!

Would you like to be more successful identifying salespeople that rock?

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Topics: Dave Kurlan, top salespeople, changing sales performance, sales personality, sales quotas, sales presentations, Sales Rock Star, Greatness, Inspiration

Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 05, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

Dozens of people emailed me the link to this article, which appeared on the Harvard Business Review Blog.  They couldn't wait to hear my reaction.  The HBR article accomplishes two things:

  1. It categorizes salespeople into 1 of 5 styles.
  2. It concludes that salespeople who belong to the "Challenger" style dramatically outperform relationship builders.
Frank wrote an article about relationship selling last week.
I agree with the premise but there's nothing new here.  Objective Management Group has been identifying great salespeople for 20 years and while we don't call the best ones "Challengers", we certainly know the blueprint - DNA, sales skills and sales core competencies - that the best salespeople possess.  As a matter of fact, we can put a number on it:
140
That's the sales quotient of the salespeople they describe in their article.  The scale goes as high as 173 but it is rare to see a score much higher than 155.  Those who depend on their relationship building skills, but don't have the supporting DNA and Consultative Skill Set to accompany it, will usually have a Sales Quotient of below 125.
I have concerns about the way the article's authors reached their conclusions because they gathered their data by having salespeople take a survey.  Surveys generally prove whatever one sets out to prove....But the bigger concern is that the Sales Executive Council Surveys are not usually comprised of companies like yours.  The 6,000 participants are from 100 companies that each generate billions of dollars in revenue.  What's wrong with that?
  • Salespeople at large companies don't face the same resistance that yours do;
  • Customers don't usually get fired for making a decision to buy from these large companies;
  • Large companies can buy business if they choose to meaning salespeople have access to resources that your salespeople don't;
  • Large companies spend millions of dollars on advertising so that their salespeople see the welcome mat everywhere they go;
  • These salespeople are paid differently than your salespeople;
  • These companies have salespeople performing in very specialized roles [read this article];
  • Objective Management Group's data on salespeople that were assessed at some of these large companies indicates that their salespeople are, on average, considerably less effective than salespeople from small and mid-size firms
My point is that the stronger salespeople at the larger companies - often assigned to a single large key account - stand out more than they would at a small to mid-size company.
It has been obvious for more than 20 years that salespeople who have the right blend of strengths to support selling along with pure sales skills will outperform relationship builders.  Somebody simply had to come along and put a name on it to make it news.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, top salespeople, Relationship Selling, sales force evaluations, HBR, sales assessments

The Role of Preparation in Developing Top Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 28, 2010 @ 05:05 AM

accelerationThe Internet has made it easier than ever for prospects to find your company, a benefit of Sales 2.0.  The upside is that your leads are coming from unexpected places and you are getting audiences with prospects you may not have found ten years ago.  The downside is that this has changed the sales process, accelerated the sales cycle and in some cases, made it more difficult than ever for companies to close these new found opportunities.

We discussed this on this week's episode of Meet the Sales Experts.  My guest was Sales Development Expert Rick Roberge, The Rainmaker Maker.  Ultimately, the conversation came down to three things:

  1. The importance of listening and questioning skills
  2. Why it is so difficult for salespeople to learn effective listening and questioning skills
  3. The importance of backing up and slowing the sales process down when in these situations

I've written about listening and questioning skills before:

 

I've written even more about the sales process:

Developing elite (top 5%) listening and questioning skills requires a tremendous amount of preparation.  Athletes work behind the scenes every day.  You may only see them on the field during games, but for every three hours they spend on the field, they invest six hours in the weight room, with trainers, developing their skills, participating in drills, studying video and practicing.  Those activities contributed to how they became elite and today they influence how these athletes remain elite.  Those practices aren't limited to athletes. 

Take any high-paid, high-profile profession and you'll witness the same practices.  Talk-show host.  Variety Show host.  Actor. News Anchor. National Politician. Speaker. Musician.  Band.  Dancer.  Comedian. Sales Development Expert! The stuff doesn't just happen! It requires preparation and Practice.

Most of the salespeople I've met at most of the companies I've helped didn't practice at all!  No studying, no training, no practice.  They didn't work on their presentations, listening and questioning or tonality.  They didn't watch themselves in the mirror, record conversations, video tape their presentations or role play with others.  Yet day after day, they would go on calls and expect different results without preparing differently.

It's a choice.  It's always a choice.  You can wait for salespeople to figure it out (it's a long wait), you can figure it out for them (beats the alternative) or you can hire these people at the outset (you must know how to find, attract, identify, hire, on board and retain them). A note of warning though...if your culture isn't ready to support elite salespeople (you must have elite sales management and products) they won't stick around even if you can convince them to work for you.

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, top salespeople, top sales force, questioning and listening

Anatomy of the Million Dollar Producer

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 03, 2010 @ 05:05 AM

I was listening to Red Sox manager Terry Francona being interviewed on one of Boston's sports radio stations the other day when I heard him say, "When we get information we try to know what information we are getting."  Huh?

It turns out that he was referring to the difference between what the statistics tell him and what he sees with his eyes.  The statistics don't tell the entire story.  A baseball example of that might be the shortstop who leads the league in errors.  If you look at that statistic you might think he was a defensive liability but if you were watching him perform, you might see that he completes all of the routine plays, regularly makes outstanding plays to prevent runs from scoring, and most of the errors were harmless throwing errors that didn't cost the team runs or games.

Which salesperson would you rather manage?  The salesperson with $1 million in annual sales or the salesperson with $650K in annual sales?  You think I'm going to choose the $650K person, right? Well it depends.  If you simply look at the data, you would choose the $1 million salesperson.  If you also watched them, you might still choose the $1M salesperson.  But let's look a little more closely at the make-up of their business.

Our million dollar man has just two accounts but they are big ones; one is worth $650K annually and the other $350K annually.  He wins roughly 2 deals a week from those two accounts and he's always happy, smiling and confident.  The company and the salesperson were both very eager to have these two accounts and offered sizable discounts in order to land them.  The margin on all of this business stands at only 10% and it's a senior salesperson, earning 30% (of margin) commissions.  So we have a salesperson investing 100% of his time managing just two large accounts that contribute only $70K annually to overhead after commissions. Yikes!

Our $650K salesperson has only been with the company for three years and has 65 small accounts at a 30% margin.  His commissions are 20% (of margin) and he brings in about one small order each week from one of his small accounts.  If you were watching, you wouldn't think his accomplishments were nearly as impressive as the first salesperson's.  But this salesperson is contributing around $175K to overhead, more than double that of our million dollar man.  

The differences go beyond the contribution to overhead though.  If salesperson #2 loses an account, there is almost no change to the business.  If salesperson #1 loses an account, it has a major impact on revenue, capacity and cash flow.  Additionally, it is much less difficult to replace a small account than one of those large accounts.

If salesperson #1 were somehow able to leverage those two large accounts and capture business from two more accounts like that, at 20% margin instead of 10%, that might make his contributions more valuable, but only if the average order from the four large accounts doubled or tripled in size.  Otherwise, he wouldn't have the time to effectively manage twice the workload and the company might have to hire additional workers to handle the volume.

So things are not always quite as they appear.

Do you have salespeople that aren't profitable, don't contribute enough to overhead, won't change what they're doing and simply aren't benefiting the company?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, sales management functions, top salespeople, sales figures, margins, annual revenue

Top Producers, Top Salespeople, or Good Account Managers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 @ 00:08 AM

You know the quote from the bible, "and the meek shall inherit the earth"?  Well I think it applies to many top salespeople that are not also top producers.  I'll explain.

A top producer helps the company grow by finding and closing new business while a top salesperson often lives off of business that has already been brought into the company, many times, not even by the salesperson that currently owns it.  You can call it residual, reorders, repeat, call-ins, contract or ongoing business, it is still the same - the salesperson as account manager - and probably a good one - but still account manager. Or you can call it major accounts, national accounts, global accounts, or key accounts but it's still the same - account manager.  Both are way different than producers.  

When top management is unable or unwilling to recognize the difference between top producers and their good account managers, mistakenly believing that their good account managers are also good salespeople, the company is probably not experiencing very strong growth.  

And many of those good account managers who are mistakenly called top salespeople are, well, meek. We have the data to prove it! And so, the meek shall inherit the best accounts brought in by the top producers.  Hardly seems fair.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, top salespeople

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About Dave

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

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