What Salespeople Can Learn from Josh McDaniels Gutsy Reversal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 09, 2018 @ 06:02 AM


If you follow American football even a little, then you were paying attention this week when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl VII.  You might have been paying attention when a day later the Patriots offensive coordinator agreed to take the head coaching position of the Indianapolis Colts.  The press conference was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but 3 hours before Josh McDaniels would be introduced as the Colts new head coach he changed his mind, left the Colts in the lurch, and decided to remain with the Patriots.  Wow!  Good for Josh and the Patriots.  Bad for the Colts.  Bad for his reputation.  Interestingly, the thing that excited me most was that we now have a well-known, high profile example of someone  changing their mind AFTER the 11th hour.  And boy oh boy does this relate to sales!

Win rates are all over the place - from as low as 10% in technology sales to 75% for elite salespeople across most industries.  So let's average it out and suggest an average win rate of 42 percent.  For most salespeople, and for all of the bottom 50% who are just plain crappy, they are on the wrong side of success more than half the time.  I'm not going to suggest that crappy salespeople can change anything but good salespeople can...

The truth is that in some cases, people change their minds. 

But most salespeople hear that they aren't getting the business and can't wait for their prospect to hang up so that they can feel the pain of losing.  Fuck that!

The question is, what compelling reason might your prospect have for changing their mind?  Let's assume that they won't reverse their decision if they were happy with the incumbent vendor and decided to remain with them.  But they could change their mind if you were in the mix the entire way and on this opportunity they decided to go with your primary competitor.   How would you do it?

You could start by asking, "Have you ever changed your mind about anything?"  You need precedent.  If they're being honest, they'll say yes. Everyone has changed their mind.  Then you can ask, "For the right reason, could this be one of those times?"  The worst they can say is, "No."  But what if they say, "Yes?"  What if you could get just one in ten to say yes to that question?

Your challenge would then be what might constitute the right reason?  You can ask your them.  I'm sure they know what would get them to reconsider buying from you, assuming that you were being seriously considered right down to the wire.

Give it a try.  If Josh McDaniels can change his mind in public, take an absolute mass attack on his reputation and be OK with it, your prospects can change their minds in private.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, closing strategies, win rates

Companies Rush to Get This One Thing in Place for their Sales Teams Before January

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 06:12 AM


I've been writing about the importance of having a milestone-centric sales process for a decade and Objective Management Group's (OMG) data is showing that companies - and their salespeople - have finally begun to make some serious progress in this area.  Ten years ago, only 9% of the sales population was following a formal, structured sales process.  Today, that number has crept up to 32%.  

Over the past few years, the majority of calls and emails I have received about sales process have been from companies asking for help buiding a sales process that their salespeople will actually follow and, more importantly, one that will work.  But that's changing too.

Over the past few months, the majority of the calls and emails coming in have been to get help building predictive scorecards.  Yesterday alone I spoke with the CEO's from 3 companies about building and slotting scorecards into their existing sales processes.

Why the sudden rage over scorecards?  

Eariler his year I wrote about scorecards a couple of times.  In February I raved about Membrain's built-in scorecard and in October I wrote about scorecards as the key to a predictive pipeline.

So the question is: Is this hype or is the scorecard a true game changer?

I don't know how many scorecards the experts on my team have built for our clients, but my personal clients tell me that the scorecard I built for them has changed their world.  Their win rates are way up, their sales cycles are shorter, their salespeople are more confident about the opportunities they have decided to pursue, and they have more time and resources to devote to those opportunities.

In short, scorecards are the scientific way to transition from going after every opportunity and hoping to close a small percentage of them, to identifying which opportunities to pursue and closing all of them.

Scorecards are a simple concept but they get tricky in the final stages.  You must be able to accurately:

  • Identify consistently predictive conditions
  • Weight them properly
  • Set the proper cut-off

If you fail to get each of those things just right, you'll have scorecards that won't work the way you hoped.  It's crucial to get all three variables right the first time.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, shorten the sales cycle, closing deals, win rates, scorecard

The Crucial Selling Skill That Nobody Talks About

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 @ 20:10 PM


Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Earlier this week I received an unsolicited email from the founder of a company who introduced himself and asked me to try his new tool for speakers.  By itself, this was not unusual because I receive 20-25 unsolicited emails per day. They want to optimize my website, sell me SEO services, provide me with online marketing tools, sell me the latest SaaS program, provide a guest article for my Blog, buy advertising on my Blog, sell me leads, book appointments for us with prospects, or show me the latest sales enablement tools.  Unlike most, this particular email was actually formatted and the sender signed his complete name, title and company.  But let's talk about the biggest, most surprising thing about this sender that brings us to the topic of today's article.

Just three days later I received a follow up email from the same sender and the subject line read, "Good By from [company name withheld].  The body of the message began with, "I was looking forward to helping you but I haven't received a response to any of my emails...so I will be removing you from my contact list."

I couldn't care less because the tool looked lame and if he thought that he was going to hurt my feelings with his threat to remove my name he is as stupid as he is impatient.  And patience is what I want to talk about today.

"Patience is the most important selling skill that nobody ever talks about.  You can visualize patience on a pendulum where on one side there is an excess of patience and on the other, tremendous impatience."

When there is an excess of patience it always results in the salesperson accepting an endless number of stalls and put-offs, thereby lengthening the sales cycle, and shrinking the win rate.

When there is an excess of impatience, as we observed with the email sender, there will be a disproportionate number of prospects who become turned off, pissed off, or off-ended.

In a perfect selling world, salespeople must be able to walk the fine line between patience and impatience.  They must be able to challenge and push back on stalls and put-offs, but do so with kindness and professionalism so as not to cause a prospect to feel pressure.

We can't call the skill Patience because that implies having too much patience.  But the correct balance of patience is the key to pipeline velocity, shorter sales cycles and higher win rates.  I call this the ability to Manage Patience.

And the best news?  In the coming months we will add Manages Patience to Objective Management Group's (OMG) already feature-rich, acutely accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessments.  You can subscribe, get a free trial, or request samples here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales excellence, sales effectiveness, long sales cycle, win rates, managing patience

The Buyer Journey - Myth, Reality, Hybrid, or an Avoidable Part of Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 15:09 PM


The Buyer Journey is front and center again.  Dan McDade posted the second in his 3-part series on Lies and Myths and part 2 is about the Buyer Journey.  8 Sales Experts weighed in with their thoughts about the Buyer Journey and you can read those here.  Don't miss Mike Weinberg's comment - I love it!  It's pretty clear where the sales experts stand, so where is all of the Buyer Journey data coming from if not the sales experts?

Could it be the people with the most to gain from propagating the myth of the Buyer Journey?  Those people are the big proponents of inbound of course.  If they can get you to believe it's 57% over when a salesperson gets invited in, then there is more reason for you to purchase inbound programs and applications to generate even more inbound leads for which you can be late.

The reality is that when salespeople are late to the party, in most cases it is because they are passive rather than proactive about pursuing an opportunity - a trait of weak salespeople or the bottom 77%.  And then, when those same crappy, passive salespeople enter the opportunity late, they aren't able to suddenly become proactive because they are afraid they will lose the business.  Another trait of weak salespeople.  So they facilitate and offer up demos, quotes, proposals, referrals, tours, trials and discounts.  Nothing of value.  Nothing to create urgency.  Nothing that qualifies the opportunity.  Nothing that gathers information.  Nothing.  So that group - 77% of them - would actually perceive a buyer journey where prospects are at least 57% along the way to buying.  And that group will have a loooong sales cycle and a pit.i.ful win rate.

So what is it that enables salespeople to behave so passively on these sales calls?

In my experience, even with weak salespeople, you can blame sales process - either ineffective, inefficient, or a complete lack of a sales process. In some cases, it is a sales process that sales management is not holding salespeople accountable for executing.  With a proper sales process, this.does.not.happen.

This week I wrote an article for Gazelle's Growth Institute's Blog and it just so happens to be on the benefits of getting your sales process right.  You can read that article here.

So what do you believe relative to the buyer journey?


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales cycle, closing ratio, dan mcdade, win rates, gazelles, the buyer journey

Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 @ 06:02 AM


I've written more than 1,400 articles for Understanding the Sales Force and every one of them has been my observation of salespeople, sales managers and sales teams.  The observations come from sales force evaluations, sales candidate assessments, sales recruiting projects, sales training and coaching initiatives, and sales leadership training.  After 10 years and 1,400 articles and to avoid boredom, we will change things up a bit for this article.  

Ken is one of my longtime readers, a former client, and last week he sent this note expressing his frustrations as a buyer of services.  I'll add my comments and conclusions at the end of his note.

I just wanted to let you know that your sales training program has ruined me as a buyer.  The ineptitude of almost every sales team I have encountered recently is chilling, especially since you have shown me that they can do so much better.   I have come to wonder if it would be cost-effective for buyers to provide sales training to their prospective vendors to save us time, effort and aggravation in our purchasing process.  Salespeople chasing prospects??? I can’t tell you how much time I spend chasing vendors.

I started a new career in Information Security about 6 years ago and am now Chief Information Security Officer for a fast growing SaaS startup in the expense reporting and expense management space.  In my role, I need to purchase compliance services, auditing tools, training products, etc.

Here is the scenario that prompted this email:

A few weeks ago, I got a blast email to participate in a Webinar for a new auditing tool which was being offered by a well-known information security vendor.  I attended the Webinar but no salesperson followed up.  I went to the company website and filled out the ‘request evaluation’ form. No salesperson followed up.  I sent an email to sales@company.com requesting a conversation.

About 5 days later I got an email and a voicemail: ‘Would you like to set up a conversation?’ I responded to the email, ‘ I am available tomorrow morning from 10 a.m. to noon.’ The voicemail asked ME to call the rep. There has been no successive follow up.  I then reached out to some consultants I know in the industry asking for intros. One gave me a name but no introduction. Finally, my auditor set up a call for today.

The call started out promising, (i.e., I didn’t have to sit through 50 NASCAR slides telling me how great the company was and all the other companies they have done business with.)  The rep asked me what I hoped to learn.  After I told them, he handed the call off to his Sales Engineer for the ‘demo.’  Unfortunately, the SE had no capacity to show me or discuss with me the auditing tool that I was interested in. After 2 minutes the rep broke in and suggested we re-schedule for another time.  We’ll see if I hear back.

This is probably the worst example of about a half dozen similar ones where I have a need, I would like to buy something, and I end up doing all of the work.

Very frustrating.

Anyway thanks for allowing me to vent.

You're probably thinking, well, that's not what would happen if I was the salesperson or sales manager or sales VP or CEO.  Believe it or not, this is fairly common!  These are the very same companies that believe they have effective sales processes in place, that their 10% win rates are acceptable, and that they need to get people interested by conducting demos.  These are the companies that don't think they need help, have everything under control, have ineffective sales selection and even more ineffective sales management.

If the sales managers were decent, the very first time they debriefed a salesperson, listened to a call, observed a meeting, or discussed an upcoming call, they would have been able to identify ineffective follow-up, ineffective qualifying, ineffective listening and questioning, etc.

It's most likely that the sales managers are former salespeople who, like those they manage, specialized in conducting demos, creating proposals, and finding the 10% that will stick.

Monday, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, posted a great article on qualifying, why so many salespeople suck at qualifying, and how that ultimately leads back to ineffective sales management (read the comments too).

This article on Linkedin Pulse questions whether it's really sales managers who are to blame or someone else.

Speaking of sales management, I'll be hosting my annual Sales Leadership Intensive - the best training anywhere on showing sales leaders how to really coach salespeople for impact.  We have a full house every time we offer it and some sales leaders come back multiple times!  It will be offered on May 17-18 in the Boston area and you can learn more about the event here.  You can register here.  And if you use - DKSLIMAY16 - the discount code for my readers, it will save you $100 per ticket.  It will be great to finally meet you!

Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales process, sales performance, qualifying, win rates, pete caputa

How Targeting Improves Win Rates and Shortens Sales Cycles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 04:01 AM


Now that we are nearly 3 weeks into the new year, have you changed anything with regard to goals, strategies or plans?  How about targets?  A few small tweaks to your targets can have a huge impact on revenue!

Targets are obvious but at the same time, misunderstood.  Of course I have the usual baseball analogy, which I'll skip along with the target analogies for golf, basketball, soccer, football and hockey.  The analogy that works best for today's topic is archery.  In sales, when we talk about targets, most people immediately think about revenue and profit targets, and sometimes product units and/or shipment targets.  However, today we will discuss the importance of having targets around your opportunities.  Please take a moment to review the image below:


Each opportunity is scored based on how perfectly it is aligned with your ideal prospect/customer/client. Of course, that requires that you have the ability to define and describe a perfect customer.  Can you?  That would be the first challenge.  The second challenge is to identify the criteria that would suggest and perhaps qualify that an opportunity is in alignment with your ideal. I suggest that companies choose from variables like the ten that follow:

  1. Prospect's Revenue range or minimum
  2. Prospect's Number of Employees range or minimum
  3. Contact person is the targeted Decision Maker
  4. Size of the opportunity
  5. Proximity to our sweet spot for application/deliverable/service/function/fit
  6. Opportunity can be leveraged
  7. Profit opportunity
  8. Probable Length of the Sales Cycle/Timing
  9. If there is Competition and/or Who the Competition is Likely to be
  10. Odds of Winning an Opportunity Like This

Each variable should be weighted according to importance, but to simplify the concept for this article, we will assign each criteria 10 points.  Then, your opportunities can be scored like this:

  1. 100 points
  2. 90 points
  3. 80 points
  4. 70 points
  5. 60 points
  6. 50 points
  7. 40 points
  8. 30 points
  9. 20 points
  10. 10 points
  11. 0 points

We don't score opportunities at Objective Management Group (OMG), but my sales consulting firm, Kurlan & Associates, scores every opportunity and does not pursue anything below a "D."

I even score my keynote speaking opportunities, but my criteria is quite different than the criteria for Kurlan clients or for that matter, the other speakers at Kurlan.  For instance, I turned down around 15 talks in 2015 for the following 10 reasons (in no particular order):

  1. The fee (a stipend - are you kidding me?)
  2. Time of the year (tough to commit to dates during snowstorm season)
  3. How difficult it is to travel to the destination (I hate long flights and connections.)
  4. Audience demographics (CEO's - great; Marketing people - fagetaboutit)
  5. Potential for additional business (always a good thing!)
  6. Days away from the office (Sorry Asia and the Pacific Rim!)
  7. Conflicts with any of my son's baseball or basketball games (a top priority for me)
  8. The topic they wish to have me speak about (Oh no - not that again!)
  9. The length of the talk (Longer is actually better.)
  10. The person who referred me to the organization or company (someone I don't want to disappoint?)

You'll find that sales cycles become shorter and win rates become better as you more effectively target ideal customers and hold salespeople accountable for executing on those targets.

Do you have a target that is interesting, novel, controversial or very predictive at your company?  We would love to hear about it in the comments below!

2 More Sales Experts weigh in on targeting here on the SpiroHQ Blog.

Several top sales experts, including me, weighed in with our review of 2015 progress and expectations for 2016 over at Dan McDade's PointClear Blog. It's a short article and worth a couple of minutes to check it out.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, shorten the sales cycle, sales targets, win rates

Second Secret to Sales Force Excellence

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 @ 09:11 AM


Last week, I revealed the first secret success ingredient from our Sales Force Effectiveness Study.  Today, before I reveal secret #2, I need to take care of three important promos:

Koka Sexton and I joined Dan McDade to talk about Lead Follow-Up. Watch it here.
Our new White Paper, The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence is available today.  Download it here.
John Pattison wrote his first article for the Sales Operations Blog, Today I met the Worst Salesperson Ever!

One of the stand-out findings that jumps off the pages of our new White Paper is about sales training.  Over the years, many reports have highlighted all of the money that has been wasted on ineffective training.  However, the study on which this White Paper, on Sales Force Excellence, is based was equally clear about this subject.  Most of the companies in the study reported that they offered sales training to their sales force.  But when we looked beyond the obvious, what became most clear revolved around three important distinctions:

  1. Who provided the training
  2. How frequently the training was provided
  3. The content that was included

We looked at the impact of sales training from every possible angle and I'll share a few of them here.  Of the companies that reported both a customized formal sales process AND a resulting increase in sales, 100% of them provided sales training at least monthly, and half of them offered sales training weekly, compared with only 28% of the overall respondents.  Most of these companies had outside sales training firms provide the training compared with only 44% of the overall respondents.  Got that?  The difference is the combination of customized, formal sales process, weekly or monthly sales training, provided by professional sales training companies.

We also looked at companies that were practicing Inbound Marketing/Sales.  We focused on the companies that converted more than 40% of their leads to conversations.  83% of that group hired outside sales training companies and 100% focused on traditional sales competencies as training topics compared with 55% overall.  Half of this group provided sales training on a weekly basis.  On the other hand, when we looked at companies that were converting fewer than 20% of their leads to conversations, only 14% of those sales forces received weekly training and most of them received it from in-house trainers.  Once again, it's clear that frequency as well as outside versus in-house trainers and, with this group, content, are clear differentiating factors.

We also looked at companies whose sales cycles were shorter and win rates higher.  Not surprisingly, 100% of this group reported significant increases in sales and 100% were having their sales forces trained at least monthly, by outside training firms.

It's clear that seminars, 3-day boot camps, and quarterly training are all nice, but they offer very little value and have very little impact.  That comprises the training that is a waste of money.  Companies that hire outside sales training firms, provide training at least monthly, and train on traditional sales competencies increase their win rates, shorten their sales cycles and significantly increase revenue.

This secret is just the tip of the iceberg in this 18 page White Paper.  Would you like to learn about the other big difference makers?  Download our new White Paper, The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence today!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force excellence, win rates

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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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