The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

remember

If you're young enough, some of the questions in the first few paragraphs won't apply because you haven't experienced the world without the innovations mentioned below.  Don't let that prevent you from reading this because after the milestones, we'll get to the good selling stuff.

For those of you who are my age or older, do you remember the first time you saw color TV?  For me it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early 1960's. Or the first time you watched Cable with more than 6 channels and without snow? Wireless remote controls?  OK, that was all in the 1960's.  Let's skip to the 1980's.

Do you remember the first version of Microsoft Windows?  Computers with more than words and numbers - how cool!  Do you remember what came before Windows?  MS/DOS or CP/M and the commands you needed to know to get the computer to do what you wanted?  How about the 5 1/4" floppy disks that stored a whopping 160KB of data?  

Let's skip to the 90's.  Do you remember the first time you connected to the internet?  I connected through a now defunct service called Prodigy.  AOL had its infancy around that time as well.

Do you remember sending and receiving your first emails?  I remember the pushback I got from OMG Partners who, at the time, didn't want to abandon fax machines to send and receive information.  My first email address was salesguru@prodigy.net.  That was almost 30 years ago!  Do you remember earth's biggest bookstore?  How cool was it when you placed your first Amazon.com order, or later on, read your first book on a Kindle?  Your first look at early HD TV?

Now the turn of the century.  Do you remember when LinkedIn got started?  Most of the people I invited to join my network didn't have LinkedIn accounts yet. You can follow me at linkedin.com/in/davekurlan.

Do you remember reading your first Blog article?  I read one by Seth Godin, became an early subscriber, and in 2005, became one of the very first sales experts to Blog.  This article will be somewhere around #1,750 in the series and since that time my Blog has won 27 awards.

Each of these innovations had the cool effect, as in, "cool! Let's do that again!"  Now we can transition to the same kind of coolness, but in sales.

Do you remember the moment you became a Salesperson?  Not a presenter, Not an order taker, but a true consultative sales professional?

Here are some guidelines to identify the moment you turned professional. 

Do you remember the first time you asked that difficult, frightening, risky question that earned you the business on the spot?  It surprised you.  It wasn't a closing question, discovery question or qualifying question, but a question that changed how your prospect thought of you, completely changed the conversation, and differentiated you from everyone else that prospect had spoken with.

Did you ignore it at the time or can you remember having some awareness of what had just happened, how powerful it was, knowing it was a game changer and looking for opportunities to repeat that experience?

When you consciously began asking these types of questions on every first sales call, you became a bonafide professional salesperson.  Anyone can present.  Anyone can quote.  Anyone can take orders.  Anyone can rattle off specs.  Most can maintain relationships. But taking on the difficult task of becoming truly consultative?  Only the top 5% have mastered that and the next 15% work at it pretty effectively.  The rest?  Not yet.

If you are among the top 5% who have mastered this, congratulations!  If you are working on it as you read this, that's terrific too.  But if you aren't there yet, what must you do to become a master at consultative selling?

Here are the top 8 requirements - selling skills and sales DNA - to become the best

  1. Listening Skills - this goes beyond hearing and focusing.  We're talking about active listening, identifying specific words and phrases that if questioned, will take you wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy.
  2. Questioning Skills - this isn't about having 50 prepared questions.  This is about phrasing your follow up questions to go wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy because you listened effectively.
  3. Tonality - Everyone is capable of asking questions, but not everyone can ask them in such a way so as to not offend.  You need to slow down, get softer, add pauses after each key phrase, smile, and most importantly, your inflection must drop down on the last syllable so that it doesn't sound like a question.
  4. Business and Finance - Behind every problem you uncover, there is usually a financial implication.  You must be savvy enough to help your prospect make that calculation, including hard and soft costs, amortized over the full term of the problem, and agreed to.
  5. You Don't Need to be Liked - There is a difference between being likable, getting people to like you and the 58% of all salespeople that NEED to be liked.  The first two are good while the second prevents you from being able to execute #2 above.  When we look only at elite salespeople, only 18% need to be liked and their average score in this competency is 89% compared with 76% for all salespeople.
  6. You control your emotions - when you are in the moment, and not distracted by your own thoughts, you can listen more effectively as mentioned in #1 above.  63% of all salespeople aren't able to do this, while only  31% of Elite salespeople struggle with this.  Elite salespeople score an average of 86% in this competency while all salespeople score 80% and weak salespeople score 76%.
  7. You are Comfortable Talking about Money - Weak salespeople score just 41%, all salespeople score 58% and elite salespeople score 91%.  60% of all salespeople aren't comfortable with the financial discussion making #4 impossible.  Only 8% of Elite salespeople struggle with this discussion, and 85% of weak salespeople are uncomfortable this.
  8. You follow an effective sales process.  Period.  Consultative Selling is much more difficult than relationship selling which takes forever with no guarantees, or transactional selling which takes no time at all and rarely produces results.  It requires a formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process which incomplete methodologies like Challenger and SPIN don't provide.  Baseline Selling is complete consultative sales process and methodology in one.

Statistics courtesy of Objective Management Group, Inc. which has evaluated and assessed more than 1.8 million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders from 27,000 companies, in 200 industries and  in 47 countries.  Interested in seeing the results?  See how salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.  Want to identify new salespeople who can sell like this?  Check out this accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment here.

Comment?  Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, consultative, Baseline Selling, Relationship Selling, transactional sales

Popularity Polls are Just Like Sales Management Tracking Metrics!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 07, 2019 @ 21:01 PM

polls

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Have you ever watched a news program where they presented poll results, like the number of people in favor of legalizing marijuana?  The poll shows popular opinion, but not the facts, logic, or impact on arrests, the economy, traffic accidents, unemployment, addiction, death rates, etc.  There is a huge difference between people's often uninformed opinions, versus what the facts might suggest.  That's the problem with the statistics I'm going to share in this article.  The stats show what sales managers are doing but those managers are largely uninformed. They don't know what's good for them, haven't been asked or held accountable to doing it differently, and aren't in any way shape or form following best practices.  John Pattison, Objective Management Group's COO, mined some data on salespeople who report to sales managers.  I was appalled by what I saw.  Check this out!

I reviewed data from 17,000 salespeople who reported to 4,000 managers in companies across more than 100 industries and here are some of the most interesting findings (see how 500,000 salespeople score in 21 Sales Core Competencies here):

Tracking, Reporting and Pipeline:

  • Margins are the metric tracked most frequently. 65% of sales managers track that because they need that metric to calculate commissions!
  • 3% of sales managers don't track or report on anything
  • Only 6% of sales managers track cost per sales call
  • Of the 5 pipeline metrics that could be tracked, an average of only 32% of sales managers track 1 or more of them
  • Only 33% of sales managers track closing percentage
  • Only 41% track average order size

I have news for you.  If you don't track closing percentage or average order size, you can't identify the number of opportunities that are required to be added to the first stage of the pipeline each month!

Coaching Environment

The data shows that it's more important that sales managers believe their salespeople trust their intentions, and have strong relationships with their salespeople than what the reality might be.  When sales managers believe there is mutual trust and a strong relationship, it is 300% more likely that their salespeople will be strong or elite.  That's because sales managers with these beliefs coach more frequently, coach longer, and coach more effectively.  See this article for the data that shows that how sales managers who coach frequently and effectively see a 27% increase in revenue.

If you want to become super effective at coaching salespeople, register to attend my Sales Leadership Intensive on March 19-20.  If you want to attend, use DKSLIMAY17 at checkout to receive a $100 discount.  Seating is extremely limited (only 20 seats remaining). If you're like the hundreds of other sales leaders that have attended this event over the past 8 years, you'll quickly recognize that it's the finest training you've ever received.

Sales Leadership CoverSpeaking of sales leadership and coaching, order Keith Rosen's terrific new book, Sales Leadership, from Amazon.com.  You won't be disappointed.

Topics: tracking, sales metrics, sales leadership, sales management, Dave Kurlan, self-limting beliefs

Dave Kurlan's 10 Surefire New Years Resolutions For All Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 03, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

new-years-resolutionjpg

Like most people, this year I intend to make good on my New Year’s resolution.  It’s actually more of a life resolution than it is a New Year’s resolution in much the same way that salespeople should make theirs a career resolution. If it’s important enough then it shouldn't be for only one year.

I’ve compiled a list of resolutions that all salespeople should make and follow.  Some will likely surprise you but they are all necessary to become more successful.  Enjoy the 10 most important elements for New Year's Resolutions That All Salespeople Must Make.  Here we go!

  1. Stretch.  Everyone begins the year with goals but they tend to be goals that will either be easy to reach or impossible.  A stretch goal is important but it can’t be some random number.  Sell this much, sell this many, earn this much, or pay this debt won’t work.  The goal must be for something special, important, exciting, and compelling that the numbers will help you achieve.
  2. Believe.  Your stretch goal doesn’t become real until you believe in it.  Think back to when you were younger and obsessed about that bike, game console, go-kart, dress, date, musical instrument, sports win, computer or toy.  You never stopped hoping and wishing and believing and you can't stop believing now.  
  3. Commit.  Now that you have identified something exciting and believe that it can be accomplished, you must commit to it.  Whatever it takes.
  4. Stuffed.  Achieving your goals is dependent on a lot of things but none more crucial than always having a full pipeline.  You can’t sell six if there are only four opportunities in your pipeline.  First determine what it will take to sell one.  Working backwards, how many opportunities are required in each stage of the pipeline in order for you to sell that one using your own conversion ratios?  (Averages are in parenthesis - actual mileage may vary)
    1. Closable - has indicated intent to buy from you at a specific time (2)
    2. Qualified - thoroughly qualified to buy from you at a specific time (4)
    3. Prospects  - there are compelling reasons to buy from you (8)
    4. Suspects - first meeting has been scheduled (12)
      In this typical scenario, 26 opportunities must be in the pipeline at all times in order to sell one in a week, month, quarter or year or whatever your x per y is.  is the number you must sell and y is the time frame, like 4 per month. Multiply the numbers above by x.
  5. Discipline. When you are fully committed to your mission, you will be disciplined.  It means that you will perform the required activities even when you don't want to.  Back in the 1950's, insurance executive Albert Gray said something along the lines of, "The difference between successful salesmen [note - this was his wording circa 1950] and everyone else is that the successful salesmen will always do what they don't want to do while everyone else doesn't."  Discipline also means no distractions.  Identify what can and does distract you and swear off of it during the work day.  Period.
  6. Consistent.  This is about routines.  You must have a business development routine that you follow each day.  Whether you use the phone, knock on doors, send out emails, connect via social media or follow up on leads to generate new business, you must follow the same routine each and every day,
  7. ExceptionsThis is the hidden key.  Make no exceptions.  While my resolution in 2019 is to eliminate flour and sugar from my diet, I know that if I make just one exception I've blown the day.  If I blow the day, I'll rationalize that I might as well blow the week too.  And a blown week becomes a month blown and the plan fails.  Make. No. Exceptions.
  8. Improvement. Commit to self-development and a goal of becoming just 10% better at every aspect of selling. Check out this article to see how a 10% improvement in effectiveness leads to a 33% increase in revenue.
  9. Efficiency.  Commit to using tools that will make you more efficient.  I'm not a big proponent of all-in-one solutions that do everything because they compromise on everything.  These are my recommendations:
    1. Pipeline management - Membrain
    2. Call Efficiency -  Have 5+ conversations per hour with prospects using ConnectAndSell 
    3. Scheduling - YouCanBookMe
    4. Finding Someone's Email - FindThatEmail
    5. Automated Email Reminders - FollowUpThen
    6. Who Best to Introduce you to Targeted Prospects - Reachable
    7. Powerful Task list that synchronizes across all devices and platforms - ToDo
    8. Easily Share large files - WeTransfer
    9. Easily share content with prospects, look great doing it and track when they visit and what they review - Postwire
  10. Trust the process.  Sales process is crucial to success.  Once you have a customized, formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process, trust it.  If the process works and has a built-in custom scorecard, trust it.  It won't steer you wrong.  Review this article on customized scorecards.  Watch the video in this article to better understand what an ideal sales process looks like.

There you have it.  My surefire 10-step resolution to make your new year your best year.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales goals, sales process, new year's resolution, Dave Kurlan, sell more, sales motivation

The Top 10 Sales Articles of 2018

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 @ 07:12 AM

top-10

Many of us love traditions, some of us have rituals or superstitions and most of us find comfort in a routine.  Routines are familiar, we don't have to think about it, and it's predictable.

In December I have two traditions with my Blog.  The first is to repost my Nutcracker article - one of my most popular articles and by far, the most read article each December.  I first wrote the Nutcracker article in 2010 and have reposted it for each of the past 8 years. This year I'm simply providing you with the link to the 2016 version, hoping you read one of my all-time favorites.

My other tradition is to list the top articles of 2018 by popularity (views), engagement (comments), and my personal favorites so here we go:

These were the top 5 articles of 2018 by popularity

Salespeople with this Weakness Score 47% Worse at Reaching Decision Makers

The Biggest Reason Salespeople Don't Close More Sales

Elite Salespeople are 200% Better at These Competencies

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if They Worked in Accounting

 

These were the top 5 articles of 2018 by the number of comments about it on LinkedIn.  You'll notice some repeats...

Latest Data on Sales Coaching is Worse Than Pathetic

Salespeople with this Weakness Score 47% Worse at Reaching Decision Makers

New Data Shows Some Weaknesses Cause Powerful Chain Reactions in Salespeople

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

 

And finally, these are my 10 favorite articles from 2018.  Interestingly, only 2 of these 10 can be found on the popularity or engagement lists and the most popular and talked about articles weren't my favorites.  Go figure!

Would Henry Ford be Able to Sell Cars Today?

How I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Examples of How Salespeople Lose Credibility with Their Prospects

How the Cheesecake Factory Menu Can Make You a Better Closer

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if they Worked in Accounting

10 Reasons Why Parents of Toddlers Make Better Sales Coaches Than Sales Managers

Discovered - Data Reveals the Second Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Persistence Over Polish - What the Top 10% of All Salespeople Do Better

Would You Like to be Selling Guns Right Now?

Predictions for 2018 - The Sales Triad Will Provide Record Sales Growth

Happy Holidays!

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales science, Nutcracker, sales performance, sales excellence

Why are Half of All Sales Reps Still Missing Quota in a Booming US Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 @ 05:12 AM

booming-economy

Around this time ten years ago, the US economy was famously tanking.  I remember it well as revenue at Objective Management Group dropped by more than 30%, almost overnight.  During 2008 and 2009 more than half of all US sales reps were missing quota and considering the circumstances, that didn't seem to shock anyone.  But during a slow crawl back to respectability between 2010 and 2016, and soaring revenue during 2017-2018, the percentage of reps making quota has not only remained flat, but the percentage hasn't even returned to pre 2008 rates.  This article attempts to explain why.

Here are 12 possible reasons that don't attribute everything to the completely useless 80/20 rule:

  1. Companies are setting unrealistic quotas, basing increases on nothing other than the belief that "Our revenue should be soaring too"
  2. The quotas are realistic for the territory but the reps aren't up to the challenge as only 5% are elite, 20% are strong and 25% are serviceable.  50% of all salespeople suck anyway!
  3. As the market for sales candidates has dried up, companies are lowering their standards and hiring crappy salespeople to keep territories staffed.
  4. The wealth of Inbound leads, most of them nothing more than contacts, have made salespeople incredibly lazy.  Only 24% of the bottom half have the Hunting competency as a strength.
  5. Only 14% of the bottom half of all salespeople have and/or follow a formal, structured Sales Process.  In other words, they wing it.
  6. The ever-increasing difficulty reaching decision makers has left salespeople with pitiful pipelines.
  7. Only 10% of the bottom half of salespeople are providing, demonstrating or selling value, resorting to price as they fail to differentiate
  8. Salespeople are still taking a transactional approach to selling instead of learning and embracing the more desirable consultative approach to differentiate themselves from the competition. Only 3% of this group has the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.
  9. Salespeople are mistaking "nice to have" for "must have".  When they only get their prospects to "nice" they fail to create urgency, making it difficult to get decision makers engaged or money approved, with opportunities stalling in the pipeline.  Only 20% of the bottom half of all salespeople have reaching decision makers as a strength, only 9% of that group has the  Qualifier Competency as a strength, and only 22% of this group has the CRM Savvy competency as a strength.
  10. Lack of Commitment - 53% of the bottom half of all salespeople lack the commitment necessary to do what it takes to achieve success. When it becomes difficult, they do what's easiest and most comfortable instead of what is required.
  11. Excuse Making - Even worse, 66% of the bottom half of all salespeople make excuses, rationalize their outcomes, preventing improvement.
  12. Sales DNA - In order to execute sales process, methodology, strategy and tactics, salespeople must have strong Sales DNA. The bottom half of all salespeople don't, as only 3% of them have Sales DNA that is strong enough to help them execute.

If the bottom 50% are this bad in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, then what are the bottom 50% good at?  They may have tremendous product knowledge, decent presentations skills and some great relationships, but they aren't very good at selling.  They are really order takers.  If they work for the best-known company, the low price leader, or the incumbent vendor, then it might be enough. But if they work for an underdog it's simply not enough to get the job done.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: order taker, sales process, Consultative Selling, selling value, Dave Kurlan, reps making quota, differentiating yourself

How Getting Feedback and Making Adjustments are the Keys to Sales Improvement

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 04, 2018 @ 22:12 PM

feedback

Becoming great at selling - or anything else for that matter - is about making adjustments. In order to make an adjustment you need feedback - something you see, hear or feel that informs your ability to adjust.  Take Baseball for example.  When I watch my son hit he receives instant feedback from every swing of the bat.  He usually crushes the ball and that suggests that no adjustment is needed.  If he tops the ball or pops it up it is probably an issue with timing.  If he peels the ball to the right, he probably opened his front shoulder too early. If he squares the ball up but doesn't drive it he probably failed to use his legs. He also has 5 private coaches who coach him or, in other words, provide feedback. 

That brings us back to selling.  Salespeople need feedback too.

Suppose a salesperson completes a sales call and the prospect says, "Thank you for your time" or "It was nice meeting you" or "We'll let you know."  Those are examples of lack of feedback.

What would it sound like if they did get feedback?  A prospect who is not responding or reacting might be providing tremendous feedback.  While it is surely negative feedback, it is very useful feedback.  It suggests that the salesperson failed to get the prospect engaged and the required adjustment would be to ask more effective questions. 

An engaged prospect is also a form of feedback, suggesting that the questions were effective and the prospect is interested.  A prospect who says, "We're not interested" is providing feedback too.  Again, it's negative feedback but a salesperson can work with that.  The adjustment requires changing the questions that are being asked.  A prospect who is very interested is also providing feedback - that the salesperson got close but isn't quite there yet.  Perhaps some additional questions are required.  A prospect who asks, "What are the next steps?" is providing feedback that they are ready to do business and the salesperson was effective in their call or meeting.

The feedback above is positive.  Compare that with a meeting that you think went well because you had a nice conversation.  If you didn't get specific positive feedback, then there aren't any positives to take away from that meeting.  For example, in the last 3 months my son has been showcasing his baseball talent at colleges.In the first 4 showcases he didn't get any specific feedback.  No feedback is negative feedback. In the 4 most recent events, coaches have taken time to tell him how much they liked his skills and how well he performed.  Positive feedback.  

Another powerful form of feedback happens when salespeople record their phone calls and listen to the recordings.  They'll hear several coaching moments as they identify openings where they could have asked great questions, where they failed to listen, where they jumped ahead with their own agenda,  or where they simply said stuff that sounded stupid.  Salespeople tend to respond more effectively to self-identified coaching moments because they own those moments.

This is an example of a salesperson getting coached (feedback) by me.  It's 26 minutes but it will be 26 minutes of coaching that you will definitely learn from and will be well worth your time.

Only 10% of all sales managers are both consistent and effective with their coaching.  For salespeople who wish to improve and become great, most of them will need to accomplish some or all of that work on their own, either by recording calls, signing up for training or getting a sales coach.

Salespeople will go through several transitions if they pay attention to feedback: 

  • They aren't very good.
  • They are just like everyone else
  • They are a vendor
  • They are adding value
  • They are a resource
  • They are a trusted advisor

What is your feedback on article?  Join the discussion and leave your comment here on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Baseball, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, debriefing sales calls

Would Henry Ford be Able to Sell Cars Today?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 @ 21:11 PM

Fords-model-t

Cars were in the news this week when GM announced they were closing plants in the USA and President Trump pushed back.  So it got me wondering...

What would Henry Ford think if he were alive today?  I'm thinking that he would ask, "What the hell happened to my motor car and what are all these SUV's, crossovers, smart cars, hybrids and electric cars?  And what are all these pictures, icons, buttons, knobs and dials for?"  I think he would also say, "So let me get this straight.  You need to pay for a government issued license and pass an exam to operate it?  You need to register the motor car with the government and pay for that too?  You need to buy insurance before you can use it?  You have to pay an excise tax to your city or town to maintain ownership? And they sell for how much?  Holy shit!  What did they do to my Model T?  I innovated a car, not a home on wheels!" 

Ford was the entrepreneur who founded Ford Motor Company after the turn of the last century but Karl Benz, from Germany, actually invented the motor car.  I would venture to bet that Ford was the better salesman!

My Grandfather sold cars back in the day when you had to teach someone to drive it before they could buy it.  Whether in my Grandfather's day, or today, cars are a big investment and customers must jump through a lot of hoops to buy a car.  Sure, they're a necessity.  Sure, they can be a symbol of success.  Sure, the auto industry has leveraged financing and leasing to make them affordable for everyone.  But do we have to buy them every 3 years?  We don't have to but we do it anyway to the tune of more than 17 million vehicles sold in the United States in 2017.  While that pales in comparison to Apple's 217 million iPhones sold in 2017, their phones are a fraction of the cost of a car, although they can set you back as much as or more than a monthly car payment.

For some, cars are a necessary evil, a means of getting from point A to point B when public transportation, bicycles or walking won't do.  But most people just love to buy new cars.  You're familiar with the new car smell.  I knew a guy who bought, traded in and bought again every 3 months!  That's how long it took for the elation of driving a new car to wear off.  Or maybe it was the smell.  For me, after 2 years I'm usually ready to buy again.

Car salespeople aren't very good at selling and for the most part, they don't even conduct the actual closing. The only challenge that car salespeople seem to have - and it's not an easy challenge for salespeople to overcome - is that the entire automobile industry is an example of a transactional, price-based model.  

If weak auto salespeople can sell 17 million expensive cars a year despite all of the hoops, why do B2B salespeople struggle to close relatively inexpensive products and services?  Auto salespeople are order takers.  Their customers will buy a car from someone and it's just a matter of from whom.  That's not very different from most B2B customers who will also buy from someone.  As a matter of fact, around 75% of B2B salespeople are order takers.  Do they get the business because of their special relationships?  Their discounted prices? Their superior products? Are they actually helping their prospects reach the conclusion that there is greater value from buying from them?  In the 75% group, it's probably price, product or relationship.  For the top 25%, it's probably their ability to guide their prospects to the correct conclusion.

What do the top 10% do differently from the bottom 10%?  Almost everything!  You can see those differences here where you can compare our data from the most recent 500,000 or so sales assessments.  

The best salespeople have superior Sales DNA, don't make excuses, have strong commitment and excel at selling value and closing.  Back in Henry Ford's day, it was more like a Field of Dreams experience - build it and they will come.  That still seems to hold true for cars and iPhones but for everyone else, it's a different story.  Today, you'd best be able to follow a milestone-based sales process, differentiate by taking a consultative approach, sell value, thoroughly qualify and close.

Image copyright Britanica.com

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process

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

Data Shows That Only 14% are Qualified for the Easiest Selling Roles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 @ 06:11 AM

qualify-candidates

Lays Potato Chips.  Movie Theater Popcorn.  Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.  BBQ Ribs.  Fudge Brownies.  Rolos (a personal favorite from years ago).  All junk food which, after having the first one, you just can't stop there. You must have more.  Lays even had that as a slogan back in the late 60's - "Bet you can't eat just one."  Back then I couldn't stop at one.

Last week I wrote an article that said companies are hiring the wrong salespeople 77% of the time.  It was very popular and there was a great discussion on LinkedIn but similar to the junk food, you couldn't read that one article and move to another subject.  You need to have some more.

That article was filled with data to illustrate the differences between good salespeople versus those who actually get hired most of the time.  It was ugly and there were questions about the 77% like, "Where does that come from?"

Some of the supporting data came from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study.  Some of it came from Objective Management Group's evaluations and assessments of 1.8 million salespeople.  And I'm going to show you some data that most people never get to see.  Take a look at these wild numbers!

In the first graph, you can see the overall recommendation rate from 2014 through mid-November of 2018 from OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.  

recommendation-rates-overall

While the overall rate varies by no more than 4 percentage points over the past 5 years, from a low of 37% to a high of 41% the overall rate is very deceiving.

OMG has 5 levels of difficulty and the criteria for a recommendation becomes more rigorous as the difficulty of the role increases.  There are as many as 11 second-level customizations that could cause a candidate to be not recommended if their sales DNA doesn't support a required selling activity.  And there is a third-level  of customization that can override the criteria and customizations above to alter a recommendation.

Between the sliding scale and two additional levels of customization, it's very impressive that the overall rate hasn't varied by more than 4% over the past 5 years.  Let's review the recommendation rates for all 5 difficulty levels.

recommend-rates

The first two columns on the left show the overall recommendation rates that appeared in the graph above.  The overall rates are the averages across all ten columns for each year.  There are 2 types of recommendations - recommended (continue with the interview process) and worthy of consideration (continue if there aren't enough candidates that were recommended) - for each difficulty level.  So that's 10 ratios to track per year.  These are some of the ratios that stand out for me:

  • Notice the low recommendation rates for the last three years for the roles with the least difficulty (columns 3-4).  You would think that it should be like the 2014 rate when 47% or nearly half of the candidates for those easy roles were recommended.  Why is it so different now?  One possible reason is that in the past 4 years, thousands of BDR (top of the funnel) roles were filled with recent college graduates and a much smaller percentage of them qualify for any sales role than experienced salespeople.  It's not their lack of skills; it's their unsuitable Sales DNA and/or their unsuitable Desire and Commitment for sales success.  
  • The recommended rate for the most difficult roles has increased by 5% over the past 5 years and the biggest increase has occurred in 2018.  With our help, companies have become more effective at targeting the caliber of salespeople that are required to perform in the most difficult roles.  Their candidate pool is filled with many more top tier candidates than you would expect given the overall shortage of salespeople and the even more acute lack of great salespeople.
  • Most companies seek salespeople for roles of moderate difficulty yet only 19% of the candidates are recommended. When the company lacks the required number of recommended candidates, they dip into the bucket of worthies, thereby doubling the size of the candidate pool from which they can interview.  The problem is that with sales candidates in such short supply, companies who aren't using OMG's sales candidate assessments are actually hiring the other 60% who, as you should be aware by now, are all weak, score in the lowest 50 percentile, and under the best of circumstances, will not hit quota.

Most companies are unhappy that half of their salespeople suck but to a certain extent, they have accepted it as fact - the new normal.  They look at the recommendation rates shown above and rationalize their situation by saying to themselves, "There aren't many candidates out there and most of them won't be recommended anyway so we'll just keep doing what we've always done."  The definition of stupidity.

Sure, it takes patience and discipline to attract, assess, interview, select and on board salespeople who will succeed in their roles.  But patience and discipline aren't strangers to finance, manufacturing, operations, marketing, R & D, engineering, design, fulfillment, quality control, IT, IS, or most of the other functions and departments in a successful business.  So isn't it time that we stop fooling ourselves and continuing to believe that sales is different and we have to accept the hand we are dealt?  That thinking causes executives to have Cause a Rationalization for Aggravating Performance.  CRAP.  You can read more about CRAP in sales. More importantly, you can have access to the most accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment on the planet.  Named Top Sales Assessment Tool for 7 consecutive years, you can be as confident about the salespeople you select as all of our clients are.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Candidate, sales assessment tool, hiring, sales assessment tests

The Wrong Salespeople are Hired 77% of the Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 @ 07:11 AM

fired

94% of sales managers are optimistic about their salespeople.  That's a very surprising statistic for a couple of reasons:

  1. 50% or more of their salespeople won't hit their quotas this year and haven't since at least 2008.
  2. Objective Management Group's (OMG's) findings from the evaluations and assessments of 1.8 million salespeople show that 50% of all salespeople are weak.

Sales managers believe that 50% of their salespeople are good and 44% of their salespeople have potential.  Of course, they are using subjective, rather than objective approaches to measuring what "good" is.

How do you measure good?

  • Salespeople consistently meet or exceed quota or expectations
  • You like your salespeople, they work hard, don't give you any trouble, are positive, don't miss quota by too much, sometimes bring in good customers, are advocates of the company and brand, and are good influences, etc.

Unfortunately, a lot of sales managers choose the second option.

Why? Many sales managers aren't very good at what they do!  Only 10% of all sales managers are effective at  both coaching and coaching consistently and when it comes to holding salespeople accountable, they aren't much better.  Review the table below: 


wrong-hires

  •   60% of all salespeople make excuses for their lack of performance
  •   37% of all salespeople lack commitment for sales success
  •   20% of all salespeople are not motivated to achieve sales success
  •   67% of all salespeople lack the minimum required Sales DNA for success in their roles

It's no wonder that sales managers are ineffective.  While there is clearly work to be done in the area of coaching, the real problem is that they begin with the wrong salespeople!  [Note - Michael Lang asked me to insert a table below with the same data - but for sales managers - so here it is]

mgr

Between sales management and HR, the wrong salespeople are selected as often as 77% of the time!  And then we wonder why their salespeople don't hit quota, why sales managers can't coach them up and why sales managers aren't quicker to terminate and replace under performing salespeople.  There's a fantastic chance that they'll replace them with someone even worse!

The first set of numbers above are for all salespeople.  When we focus on the bottom 50% - the ones that don't hit quota, the ones who make up the majority in all sales organizations, it looks even worse:

  •   67% of weak salespeople make excuses
  •   53% of weak salespeople lack commitment for sales success
  •   30% of weak salespeople are not motivated to achieve sales success
  •   97% of weak salespeople lack the minimum required Sales DNA for success in their roles

Obviously, the biggest difference between all salespeople and the bottom 50% is their Sales DNA.  And the difference between weak and the elite top 5% is 4850%!  That's why when good and bad salespeople interview for sales positions they appear to be essentially the same.  Their Sales DNA, or lack thereof, rarely surfaces unless you know which questions to ask and how to ask them.  So if you're wondering whether you can be fooled when interviewing salespeople, the data would suggest that if half of all salespeople are weak, and 97% of that group have inadequate Sales DNA, then you are being fooled at least half the time.

There are also two huge gaps, one that shows the elite top 5% are highly motivated 2,000% more often and have strong commitment 1766% more often than their weak counterparts.  This amazing article shows the correlation between motivation and performance.

That's the primary reason why more and more companies have turned to assessments. According to CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study, companies that use assessments have 61% quota attainment and 14.6% attrition, versus 49% quota attainment and 19.8% attrition for those who don't use assessments.  Companies that use assessments are 25% more successful at quota achievement and that data is not even for any particular assessment.  Imagine how much better the results are for the companies that use OMG's accurate and predictive sales-specific candidate assessments. Data from companies who have hired salespeople that were recommended by OMG shows an attrition rate of only 8% and quota attainment of 88%.  

If you use OMG's sales-specific candidate assessments to filter and select your salespeople, you are less likely to make a hiring mistake than if you use an assessment that lacks predictive capabilities, and far less likely to make a mistake than if you don't use any assessment.

Assessments are main stream - there are hundreds of them - and companies that ignore them are knowingly adding unnecessary risk and stunted growth to their revenue streams.  According to Forbes, the cost of a bad hire is $240,000.  But that's not for a sales hiring mistake - that's a generic hiring mistake.  Factor in lost opportunities, lost customers and lost revenue and that number can quickly and easily exceed $1 million per salesperson!

Why wouldn't you invest a tiny fraction of that to avoid costly mistakes?  It's not like there's any risk.  Take OMG for instance.  As you can see from the screenshot below, it's been used on more than 1.8 million salespeople to hire more than 76,000 salespeople in more than 26,000 companies in 200 industries from 43 countries since 1990.  That says proven and time tested. 

2018-11-09_12-42-25

As for the accurate and predictive part, consider that of the candidates who are not recommended by OMG, but get hired anyway because the company is either desperate or stubborn, 75% fail within 6 months.  And of the candidates who are recommended and eventually hired, 92% rise to the top half of their sales organizations within 12 moths.  Very accurate and predictive. 

Check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments here.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, hiring sales candidates, sales recruiting, sales assessment tool

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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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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