Speed Limits, the Flow of Traffic, and Sales Pipelines

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 @ 05:11 AM

speed-limit

I don't get stressed anymore when I'm driving.  All it took was for me to not exceed the speed limit.  I'm not sure whether it was my navigation system repeatedly telling me to "obey all traffic laws" each time I started the car, or my wife reminding me that I needed to be a good role model for our soon-to-be driving 16 year-old son.  I admit that this was much easier for me to do after I gave up my Jaguar for a Lincoln Navigator.  It holds much more baseball equipment!

There is an exception to not exceeding the speed limit.  When the flow of traffic in all lanes is moving exponentially faster than you are, you must increase your speed to match the flow of traffic or risk getting run over!

That brings me to pipeline flow.

I was doing a top/bottom analysis of a sales force where we look at their top 5 producers and their bottom 5 performers and from among 180 findings and scores, identify the differences between the tops and bottoms. We usually find between 15-20 significant differentiators but for this particular sales force I wasn't finding much.  Until I came to the pipeline.  Their top producers prospected consistently, successfully scheduled new meetings, and had full pipelines.  They were also rejection proof, didn't procrastinate, and didn't need prospects to like them.  In other words, their scores in all aspects of the Hunting Competency were near 100 while the bottom performers had scores below 50.

The thing that is most interesting about that is that these are findings that SHOULD have been obvious to the client - but they weren't.  99% of the time, we identify findings, scores, insights and differences that are complete surprises but this time?  Nobody was paying attention and as such, just couldn't understand why these 3 were doing so poorly.

This top/bottom analysis not only revealed a selection problem, where they hired people for hunting roles who couldn't hunt, but a sales management problem too. It would seem that there was no accountability for salespeople to use CRM and it's unlikely that sales management was reviewing the dashboard or reading any of the reports.  This problem would have been easy to spot months earlier if either of those two best practices were being followed.  

Pipeline flow doesn't really refer to the size of the pipeline though.  Flow measures how opportunities move through the pipeline.  From milestone to milestone, activity to activity and stage to stage.  Most salespeople have bottlenecks that inhibit the flow in their pipeline.  The bottleneck is the point in the sales process where a salesperson's opportunities most often get stuck.  Knowing where they get stuck is helpful, but knowing why they get stuck is essential.  You can't fix the problem unless you know why.

It might be as simple as Johnny isn't reaching the actual decision makers.  That's not the why, that's the where. It's a milestone in a stage.  The why can be anything from:

  • Non-supportive beliefs in which the voice in Johnny's head might sound like, "I don't need to speak with the actual decision maker because my contact will take care of it"
  • Lack of skills whereby Johnny doesn't know how to get the actual decision maker engaged
  • A need to be liked where Johnny worries that if he asks to meet with the actual decision maker he might piss off his contact who won't like him anymore
  • Lack of consultative selling capabilities where Johnny got the prospect to "nice to have" but not as far as "must have".  As a result, there is no compelling reason for the prospect to go to or get the decision maker engaged

My favorite CRM application is Membrain which is great for a complex sale.  It's opportunity-focused and has great pipeline management features among many other things right out of the box.  Membrain not only measures time in stage, but also measures stalled opportunities. That helps you get started with the where and the why analysis.  The image below shows a stalled opportunity analysis for a top salesperson.

stall-analysisThe graph makes it very obvious.  If an opportunity stalls for more than 33 days, the salesperson will probably not get the business.  There were five outliers between 76-132 days but they are the exceptions, not the rule.  The 35 wins inside of 33 days, and the 27 losses after 33 days are the rule.

Because Membrain is opportunity focused, you can easily identify where the bottleneck is.  I clicked through on the 6 opportunities to the right of the 33 day mark and most of them lacked the funds to move forward.  That's the where.  The why could be skill, discomfort talking about money (when the budget isn't there) or the less obvious one, failure to uncover a compelling reason to buy.  That means nice to have but not must have.  When a salesperson reaches must have, the prospect must find the money.  When the salesperson only reaches nice to have, it's not crucial to find the money.  When attempting to uncover compelling reasons to buy, it's just like driving in a 55 MPH zone and you must reduce your speed as you enter a 40 MPH zone.  SLOW DOWN.  

And that concludes today's lesson on pipeline flow.  Now you're in the flow.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, empty pipeline, sales pipeline, delayed closings, uncovering budget

New Data Shows that You Can Double Revenue by Overcoming This One Sales Weakness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 @ 06:10 AM

24 TV Show Cast

My wife and I have been watching 24 for the last few months and we've made it to season 7.  Once in a while, one or both of us falls asleep during late-night episodes but we are always saved by:

PREVIOUSLY ON 24...

With that in mind, I will save you if you didn't happen to read last week's article which is a pre-requisite for this one.

PREVIOUSLY ON UNDERSTANDING THE SALES FORCE...

My article revealed that salespeople who are burdened with the need to be liked are far less effective at selling than those who don't have that weakness.  The biggest insight of all was that these salespeople were 47% less effective reaching decision makers!

This article will take the same approach and use the same data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations of 1.8 million salespeople to look at salespeople who are uncomfortable having a financial conversation with their prospects and customers.  The latest data reveals that 60% of all salespeople have this weakness!  What do you think it will reveal?

As you might guess, the money weakness effects fewer competencies than the need to be liked.  Where the need to be liked has an impact on sales effectiveness in 7 of 21 sales competencies, discomfort discussing finances impacts only 4 of those sales competencies.  See the table below.

money-stats-2
It should not be a surprise that this weakness has an impact on the Value Seller (47% less effective), Qualifier  (50% less effective) and Negotiator (46% less effective) competencies.  What might be surprising is the overall impact it has on Sales Percentile (they score 69% worse overall) and Opportunity Probability.  Salespeople who are uncomfortable having the financial conversation are 50% less likely to close their opportunities than those who are comfortable!  That's huge!  Coincidentally (we are measuring different things here), that is the same difference as in the Qualifier competency. Cool!

But the big story here is not the difference in effectiveness.  In my opinion, there are two big stories with discomfort talking about money.

  1. Wasted time and energy - just think about the calls, meetings, visits, quotes, proposals and people that were involved in the HALF of opportunities that didn't close.  That is a huge waste.
  2. Lost opportunity - think about two numbers - either the value of a customer, account or deal and the number of customers, accounts or deals in a year.   Let's pretend that a deal is worth an average of $25,000 and each salesperson closes an average of 4 per month or 48 per year.  That comes out to $1.2 million.  If a salesperson with this weakness is wasting 50% of his opportunities, that is $1.2 million in lost opportunities - PER SALESPERSON - with this weakness!

While the need to be liked can take many months to overcome, overcoming one's discomfort discussing finances is more of a decision to simply have these conversations.  So if you have this weakness, the $1.2 million dollar question is, are you ready to double your sales?

Read the discussion and add your comment to the LinkedIn thread for this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, talking about money, uncovering budget, double revenue, Sales DNA

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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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