Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 @ 12:04 PM

past or present

It's April 17 and nearly every salesperson is selling from home.  It's just temporary, right?

Maybe.  But what if it's not? According to the President, Vice-President, Scientists and some Governors, the economy will begin reopening in stages, perhaps as soon as May 1.  So it's back to the office and your territories, right?  Wrong.  You'll still be home.  Welcome to the future of selling where I'll share my top five reasons why.

Reason #1 - School: Your kids are still home from school, they probably won't be back this spring, they probably won't be going to summer camp, and may not even be at school in September.  And if they're home, then your salespeople are home too.

Reason #2 - Efficiency: Once your salespeople have begun to sell not only remotely, but virtually via video conferencing, you'll quickly realize that they can meet with 6-8 prospects and/or accounts per day, compared with 2-3 when they're traveling in a territory.  Think about how much more business they can generate and how many more touches your customers will get from your salespeople?

Reason #3 - Cost: Depending upon your business model, the cost of cars, gas and maintenance, parking, airfare and hotel, meals and entertainment can be drastically reduced or even eliminated when your salespeople are selling virtually. 

Reason #4 - Coverage: Many companies don't have enough coverage to blanket the entire region, country, or continent.  Their customers are spread out so they deploy salespeople where most of their customers are.  With virtual selling, your salespeople can reach every customer that's out there.

Reason #5 - CRM Compliance:  Your salespeople have great excuses for not keeping their CRM up-to-date.  They were "traveling", "on the road", "away from their computers", "unable to get to it", or they forgot.  But when they are selling via the very same piece of hardware that their CRM is in, there are no longer any excuses for lack of compliance.  It will finally be time for them to live in CRM and you'll finally have the visibility into real-time data that you wanted when you invested in your CRM platform.

Although those five reasons as to why selling from home will become the new normal, you should be forewarned.  Selling from home is not without its challenges.  Three primary challenges will make selling from home difficult:

Challenge #1 - Only 41% of all salespeople are well-suited for working from home.  This speaks to whether they are self-starters, can work independently from a team, and can work without supervision.

Challenge #2 - Sales Managers will need to coach more, not less, increasing the time they spend on coaching to as much as 75%.  Unfortunately, most don't spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Sales Managers will need to huddle with their team twice per day despite the fact that most haven't even begun leading daily huddles yet.  Only 7% of all sales managers have the coaching skills required to coach up a remote team.

Challenge #3 - The new world of selling will appear very much like it appears today, only everyone will get better at it.  They must!  Selling has been pretty easy the past three years and despite that, fewer than half of all salespeople were meeting or exceeding quota.  It won't become easy again for a quite a while.  Companies will either be on spending freezes, have money but not want to spend it on what you're selling, or if they are buying, will demand that you sell it for less than ever before.  All this at a time when it's more important than ever that you maintain your margins.  This will require your salespeople to master three competencies that most salespeople aren't very good at:

Competency #1 - Consultative Selling - only 15% of all salespeople effectively differentiate by listening and asking great questions

Competency #2 - Value Selling - only 41% of all salespeople have the ability to be the value

Competency #3 - Qualifying - only 31% of all salespeople can thoroughly qualify an opportunity

Good luck!

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, qualifying, value selling,, selling remotely, selling from home, selling virtually, video conferencing

How All Those Trucks on the Road Can Help You Stop Discounting

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 05, 2019 @ 06:08 AM

discount

We've been doing a lot of traveling this summer to baseball tournaments (30-second video showing how one playoff game ended), college baseball showcases and back. During these travels, one thing has become abundantly clear.  Trucks and construction.  Lots of trucks.  Lots of construction.  Lots of congestion on the roads because of all those tractor trailers. 

If you heard that inventory levels are low, it's certainly not because companies have stopped buying.  It's because the supply chain is busier and stronger than ever and as a result of all of the buying, our roadways are jammed with trucks shipping products to distributors, retailers, warehouses and fulfillment centers.  Don't believe a word of it when you hear an economy related objection or put-off.  Business isn't off, inventories aren't purposely low, money isn't tight, companies aren't on buying freezes, and the economy isn't tanking.  If you aren't reading or hearing how historically great the economy is right now, you're listening to, watching or reading the wrong news outlets. Business is booming and procurement departments would like nothing more than for you to buy into the fake news, hoping that your next move will be an incentive. 

I have an awful lot to say about incentives to buy! The occurrences are as predictable as the 6pm news beginning exactly at 6pm.  If you have opportunities in the pipeline during the last week of the month, the last week of the quarter and the last two weeks of the year, and your prospects showed a strong likelihood of moving forward, they'll be sitting back waiting for a call from a salesperson or sales manager to sweeten the pot so that you can get this deal in before the end of whenever.  How lame.  

Why do we need salespeople if their only method of getting business closed is to offer a time-sensitive discount? Nor do we need sales managers and sales leaders spending their time offering discounts.  Anyone, from any department, from any background, who is capable of having an adult conversation, is capable of making the, "Have I got a deal for you!" call.  Even worse is when it occurs via email.

The practice of end-of-month, quarter and year incentives must stop.  If salespeople aren't strong enough to sell and close the deal on its own merits, then companies should either hire stronger salespeople or train and coach up the existing salespeople so that they are providing much needed expertise and solutions, to prospects with problems who haven't been able to solve them on their own or with their current vendors.  This describes a consultative approach.  The timely discount is a transactional approach.

I know what you're thinking.  "We do take a consultative approach and when they don't buy at closing time it's then that we offer a discount."  That's actually quite transactional and you do that because your consultative approach is simply not consultative enough or not consultative at all.

Only 41% of all salespeople have consultative selling as a strength.  But it's worse than it looks.  Only 3% of the bottom half of all salespeople have strong consultative skills.  Just about half of all salespeople do not have the skills to take a consultative approach!

It's similar with selling value.  Only 41% of all salespeople have selling value as a strength and this is also worse than it looks as only 11% of the bottom 50% of salespeople have strong value selling skills.  Just about half of all salespeople do not have the skills to sell value!

If we look at the Sales DNA behind those two competencies, the bottom half have Sales DNA of only 28%!  That totally sucks.  Instead of having the selling strengths to support a consultative and value-based approach they have selling weaknesses that sabotage their attempts to sell that way.

The data isn't from some lame survey.  This is Objective Management Group (OMG) data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,885,255 salespeople from companies.  You can see the data for yourself and even see how you compare in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

All the blame for discounting does not fall on salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders.  CEO's must accept their share of the blame for setting precedent.  The sooner that CEO's shut the door on incentives, the sooner companies will stop suggesting that "we might be able to do better."  When salespeople give prospects some hope that they will be competitive, in the ballpark, meet or beat any legitimate quote, or might be able to do better, value selling goes right out the window and in the prospects' eyes, if you then can't meet those expectations you lied.  Only a CEO has the power to end that ill-advised strategy.

Join the discussion and leave your comments on the LinkedIn thread for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, closing, discounting, value selling,

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 07, 2018 @ 15:02 PM

garage.jpg

Recently, I installed vented plastic garage floor tiles like those in the picture above to improve the look of our garage.  It's the same garage, but now it looks awesome.

Yesterday I received an email from Richardson Training, letting me know that they have completed their 2018 Selling Challenges Study.  The data in the report, which you can download here, hasn't changed a great deal since 2017, but the report's new look is awesome.  I reported on last year's report in detail here, but my conclusion for 2018 is the exact same conclusion I came to in 2017.

In 2017, the biggest challenge that companies faced was selling value and that continues into 2018.  It's no surprise.  Most sales organizations that Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluates appear to be quite challenged when it comes to selling value. For example, if you visit OMG's public stats page and scroll down to the Selling Value competency, you'll notice the following:

stats-value.jpg

  • Only 35% of all salespeople have the competency as a strength.
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 56.

In order to effectively sell value, salespeople must also take a consultative approach and use a sales process that supports consultative selling and selling value.  If you scroll from the Selling Value competency to the Consultative Selling competency and then the Sales Process competency, you will find that:

stats-consultative.jpg

  • Only 22% of all salespeople have the Consultative competency as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 46 in the Consultative Competency

stats-process.jpg

 

  • Only 26% of all salespeople have the Milestone-Centric Sales Process as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 49.

By contrast, if you scroll to the Presentation Approach competency, you will find that:

stats-present.jpg

  • 69% of all salespeople have Presentation Approach as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of 73.

So the question is, why does selling value continue to be such a problem for so many companies?  

It takes me and my team at Kurlan & Associates about 8 months, training twice per month, to move salespeople to the point where they are confidently, effectively and efficiently selling value.  That's 16 training sessions, reinforced by at least 32 coaching conversations from their sales managers over the same 8 months.  And prior to those 8 months it takes some time to get sales managers to the point where they can handle the heavy lifting that coaching requires.  So it brings me back to my opening.

Do most companies do the sales training equivalent of laying down the garage tiles by finding non-disruptive training so they can say they provided training?  Or do they refurbish the entire garage - find training like Kurlan provides and make the decision to require their sales managers to become great sales coaches?

Only the refurbishing option will cause change.

Sales Managers won't find better training at turning them into great sales coaches than the training we provide at my annual Sales Leadership Intensive.  I have 5 seats left for the training on May 22-23 outside of Boston.  You can learn more here and register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Richardson, value selling,

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 06:10 AM

the-one-thing-salespeople-can't-do

Can you guess what it is - the one thing most salespeople are unable to do?

Based on what I most frequently write about, you might think that it would be consultative selling, but that's not it.  You might also guess that it's the sales equivalent of eating right - not doing demos and presentations so early in the sales process. But that's not it either.

However, there really is one thing that all but the most elite salespeople are unable to do.  It is partly a result of their inability to sell consultatively while continuing to demo, present, quote and propose too early.  Can you guess what it is now?

Most salespeople can talk about their value proposition, and they can certainly add something of value, but they are unable to provide value - enough value so that their prospects will pay more to do business with them.  I'm not just talking about salespeople selling value, I'm talking about salespeople being the value!

How huge is this problem and how hot is this topic right now?

In just the past week, it has been the host's topic of choice on 2 radio shows on which I was the guest, the topic of 2 articles I was asked to write, the topic of two keynotes I was asked to give, and the topic of an upcoming presentation my team will conduct (you're invited!) later this month.  Is this a hot topic or what?

The inability to sell value is nothing new though...it has been going on for decades.  What's different now is that so many people care so much about it.  Why do you suppose that it's suddenly so important?

[Insert your answer in the comments below.]  I'll give you my answer right here.

Only one company in each product category can be the low price leader and they have to sell shit-loads of their stuff to make any money.  Everyone else must fight for the business that may not go to the low price leader.  Some try to get the business by competing on price, while others try to get the business by attempting to justify a higher price.  That's where it's essential for companies and their salespeople to sell value.  And most aren't very good at it.  So companies are getting fed up with making very short money on the business they are winning, while losing a much larger number of opportunities than they care to admit.  For most, this is a losing battle that can't continue.  Therefore, one of three things will occur:

  1. They will give up, shut the doors, and go away.
  2. They will give in, lower their prices, and try to make it up on volume.
  3. They will give us (or someone else) a call and get some help selling value.

If only it was that easy.

There are many reasons why salespeople aren't able to sell value.  The categories include, but aren't limited to:

  • Lack of alignment on Philosophy,
  • Unclear, ineffective and/or inconsistent Strategy,
  • Useless and ineffective Tactics,
  • The mission can't be supported by salespeople's Sales DNA,
  • Salespeople have Sales Skill Gaps, and/or
  • The Sales Process does not support and/or reinforce a value sale.

I don't have the space to write in detail about each of these categories in this article, but there are some things you can do that will help:

Buyers will continue to drive prices down until salespeople learn how to stop it, or companies start dropping like flies.  The time has come to stop the squeezing.  Won't you join me in putting an end to the madness?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling value, overcoming price objections, value selling,, Evan Carmichael

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

negotiation Image Copyright: violin / 123RF Stock Photo

I was discussing the OMG Partnership opportunity with a gentlemen from Hong Kong, who objected to our reasonable licensing fees, refusing to pay any fees to a US company.  This is when the conversation began to resemble a sales call.  He did what a lot of buyers do to salespeople and began to boast about how well-positioned his company is to market OMG in Hong Kong and what a huge opportunity this would be for OMG.  He expected me to waive the fees in exchange for the great opportunity he described.

Most salespeople - 74% to be exact - not wishing to jeopardize a great opportunity, start negotiating or worse, agreeing, to the unrealistic requests.  There are ripple effects to this, for example:

  • It creates precedent, making it difficult to uphold terms with new and even existing customers
  • It makes whatever deal they sign very short term.  It is only a matter of time before someone else offers a better price and the business goes away before it has a chance to generate enough volume to make up for the discounted pricing. 
  • It threatens the profitability from the account.  If you reduce or waive fees and/or prices once, the customer expects to negotiate and win every time, making it more difficult to achieve profitability.
  • In OMG's case, the potential partner would have no skin in the game - removing the urgency for them to generate business, and further eroding the potential for a profitable partnership

Weak salespeople mistakenly see the compromise or discount as the value when, in fact, selling at a premium actually establishes the value.  This is so difficult for most salespeople to comprehend.  They think they are doing everyone a favor when they acquiesce, but in reality, they are setting everyone up for failure.  

Most executives think that this is a training issue, but they would be wrong.  While training can provide a number of strategies and tactics for dealing with prospects and buyers who behave this way, it doesn't change the misguided salesperson at all.  At best, these salespeople have new words, but still execute with the old beliefs.

The root cause appears in the way that salespeople make major purchases for themselves. If they have always shopped for the best price, that behavior becomes the norm.  When a prospect wishes to do the same, the salesperson views that as acceptable - appropriate even - and finds a way to accommodate.

This particular issue is one of the many hidden weaknesses that OMG identifies when we evaluate sales forces and assess candidates.  It can explain why margins are poor, why salespeople are unable to sell value, and why business is lost because of price.   Listen carefully to this entire audio clip, taken from a sales training webinar, where a salesperson ambushed himself as a result of this very weakness.

How many of your salespeople have this hidden weakness?  How many candidates have you considered that have this hidden weakness?  How would your business change if none of your salespeople had this issue?  What did you learn from the audio clip?


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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales weaknesses, sales assessment tools, value selling,

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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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