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When Good Prospects Can be Worse Than Tough Prospects

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ 17:01 PM

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I was on the way to a meeting and the traffic was stop and go - not moving for a minute, then back up to 30 MPH, and then back to a dead stop.  I've been driving since 1972 and have driven in all kinds of conditions.  Pitch black on a moonless night on a narrow winding road with no street lights; on a 4-lane highway in white-out conditions where you can't see where the sides of the road are, down-hill on black ice with zero control of breaking and steering; snow-covered, two-lane road with cars stranded all over the place during the height of a blizzard, torrential rain when the roadways were flooded, heavy fog when you can't see the hood of your own car; and over a bridge in a tropical storm where the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to keep the vehicle on the bridge.  I haven't driven off-road.  

Comparing the stop and go traffic to the other conditions I have driven in got me thinking about a sales analogy that you might find helpful.

As bad as those conditions may have been, they didn't surprise me, they didn't change, and other cars were not really factors in dealing with the conditions.  While it was challenging to drive in those conditions, I was prepared for those conditions.  The weather forecast called for those conditions. I knew about those conditions before I entered the vehicle.  It was as bad as I expected but not worse than I expected.

On the other hand, stop and go traffic, even on dry roads with sunlight, scares the crap out of me because I don't know what will happen next, when it will happen, or where it will happen.  As white as the knuckles get in the worst conditions, in stop and go traffic I can get lulled into complacency and then, BANG.  Someone slams on their brakes and it's time to brace for impact again.

Good salespeople can handle the toughest prospects because they are prepared for those prospects.  They know what they are walking into and those prospects are consistent.  They are as bad as expected but not worse than expected. 

On the other hand, stop and go prospects are extremely scary.  One minute everything is fine, they're a good prospect, and the next minute everything is wrong and they're a tough prospect.  You finally get them comfortable again, they're a good prospect again, and then BAM, they go off the rails again.  Their inconsistency can be unnerving and even the best salespeople get caught off guard, are truly surprised by the behavior and frankly, don't always know what to do.

So what should you do?

The same thing you should do in stop and go traffic.  Don't get lulled into complacency in the first place!  If the prospect goes off the rails, slow down, take a deep breath, ask them what just happened, back up and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COMPLETELY FINE BEFORE YOU SAY ANOTHER WORD.  Don't move forward if they aren't 100% OK because that's then they're most likely to go off the rails again.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, cold prospect

What You Should Know When Your Cold Prospect Suddenly Returns From the Dead

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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Last week I wrote about the deep freeze, why prospects suddenly go cold, and how you can prevent that from happening. That article was instantly as popular as any I have ever written.  I also posted a 6-minute  cold-calling rant on LinkedIn that had more than five-thousand views after just a couple of days. The video, like the article, was about mindset, not scripting and tactics.  And last week I also posted an article about writing a good prospecting email.  It seems that there was a theme to the week and it resonated really well with the readers.

Let's build on that theme and discuss the same prospect that went cold two months ago, and now he calls or sends you an email. 

Hopefully, you had archived the opportunity rather than hoping and praying for its revival.  The biggest mistake that salespeople make at this point is they get excited.  I don't know about you but for me, when a supposedly good prospect goes cold and then returns two months later, it's more like the return of the flu.  This prospect caused you a lot of anxiety, embarrassment with your manager, and wasted time.  Who wants more of that?  I raise that issue because the chances of your prospect going cold again are greater than the likelihood of a sale.

For that reason, skepticism should be your number one strategy.

Why has your prospect returned and why now?  A number of things happened with your prospect since your last conversation and you need to hear their story.  What they share could be predictive of what will happen next and what you should do.  For example:

What They Might Say What That Could Mean What You Should Do
We have one more question They will go cold again as soon as you answer the question Ask them a question.  Why did they call you back?  Do not accept "because we had a another question for an answer.  Instead, mention that they didn't return calls and emails for two months so why now?
We would like a proposal They are moving forward but at what speed and with whom? Ask how many proposals they are requesting.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you? 
We want to meet A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome.
We want you to present They are moving forward but at a snail's pace.   Ask how many companies they invited to present.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you?  
Our [top-ranking executive] wants to talk with you A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome. 

The reality is that in most cases, prospects go cold when you weren't talking with the right person.  When they return from their self-imposed ice age they are still the wrong person so don't expect anything different to happen unless the top executive decision maker is fully engaged.

You could even experience these issues if you are talking with a weak decision maker who needs to build consensus.  Decision makers go cold too if they don't get the consensus they are looking for.

If you maintain a healthy level of skepticism, ask plenty of questions and keep your discussion conversational you will get a much better sense of where you really are and whether you will get the business.

Although the prospect has returned, the opportunity can be reactivated in CRM and the odds are no longer zero, don't become too optimistic.  Your odds of closing the business are no greater than 49%.

Image Copyright 2018 iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales tips, dead prospect, cold prospect

7 Reasons Why Prospects Go Cold and How to Avoid it

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 05, 2018 @ 09:01 AM

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Outside of Boston, today is the day after the blizzard of 2018, it's a winter wonderland, and the deep freeze we have been experiencing is expected to get worse, with extended periods of sub-zero temperatures and wind chills approaching -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  What does that have to do with selling?  Plenty!

One of the biggest frustrations that salespeople and their sales leaders have is when good prospects go cold.  These include prospects that were projected to close soon yet, they aren't returning calls, emails, inmails or overnight deliveries.  Not only have the prospects gone cold; the salespeople have been frozen out.  But it's more like the weather than the two scenarios sharing common words.  

I finished reading Dan Brown's new book, Origins.  I think it's his best work since The DaVinci Code although I did correctly guess the ending...  Anyway, at one point they are reading the Roman Numerals XI + I and coming up with an answer of 12.  12 was not the answer required to decode the matter at hand.  Professor Langdon, the main character, changes his perspective.  He rotates the equation by 180 degrees, turning it upside down until the equation becomes I + IX.  The new answer is 10, exactly what they needed.

If you change your perspective about prospects going cold, you might discover that you caused them to go cold, rather than the myriad of other possibilities.  I'll explain.

The deep freeze didn't just suddenly arrive last week.  The weather has been working up to this since temperatures began to drop in mid November.  It's been getting cooler and cooler and then colder and colder until now.  There is a lead-up to the freeze and if we take a step back, it happens nearly every year around this time.

Your prospects don't suddenly go cold either.  There are signs. 

In half of the cases the salespeople had developed a case of happy ears earlier in the sales process and their belief that the prospects were interested or warm or even hot was entirely imagined.  Their prospects didn't go cold as much as they were already cold and couldn't find another way to tell the salesperson to go away!

In some instances, the prospects were actually hot but the salespeople complicated things and didn't get out of the way enough to allow their prospects buy.  The prospects became frustrated with their inept salespeople, bought from someone who could quickly help them, and didn't talk to the original salesperson again.

In many of the cases, the salespeople were moving more quickly than the prospects.  The salespeople were on their own timeline and the prospects didn't have the same urgency.  Feeling more pressure than they were comfortable with, the prospects decided not to talk with those salespeople anymore.

Many prospects go cold when they aren't the actual decision makers, they haven't engaged the decision makers, and have nothing to report.  These salespeople made two huge mistakes: 

  1. They achieved nice to have, but not must have.  If you aren't talking with the decision maker, nice to have will never be enough to empower a subordinate to ask the decision maker to participate or get the decision maker to approve the needed funds.
  2. They didn't start with the decision maker!  It's nearly impossible to sell up hill and while selling downhill isn't ideal, it doesn't cause your heart to beat as fast as trying to sell up hill.

The reality is that in most scenarios, salespeople caused their prospects to go cold.  When salespeople have been frozen out it's usually because they were talking with the wrong person, weren't moving at the correct speed, or didn't get their prospects to sense that they must have this product or service.

If you are wondering why salespeople find themselves in these scenarios so frequently you don't have to look any further than these 5 Sales Core Competencies:

  1. Sales Process - the freeze will nearly always happen when an effective sales process is not followed and presenting occurs too early.
  2. Doesn't Need to be Liked - when this competency appears as a weakness, salespeople won't ask the necessary questions to smoke this out.
  3. Consultative Seller - when the salesperson fails to take a consultative approach they will fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy and fail to get past nice to have.
  4. Value Seller- when salespeple fail to sell value, it can be difficult for prospects to justify spending the money
  5. Qualifier - when salespeople aren't thoroughly qualifying, they will often find themselves selling to the wrong person

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies in total and while they all play some part in the freeze, these five take center stage.

If you are a sales leader, one thing you can do to address this issue is to hire stronger salespeople who won't find themselves in the deep freeze.  It begins with an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

What can you improve upon to eliminate most instances of the deep freeze?  And equally important, if your prospect returns from the deep freeze, will you know why and will you do the right thing?  Read Part 2 here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

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

How to Write a Sales Email That Works

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 03, 2018 @ 14:01 PM

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I receive so many unsolicited emails each day that it makes my head spin.  Most of them, like the cold calls I get, are simply horrible.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Junk.  Block.  Unsubscribe.

This week I received the daily double - a cold call with an identical, corresponding email.  The email read like this:

Hi Dave, 

I hope this message finds you well.

We spoke in the past regarding the copier equipment in your office.  At the time you indicated that your existing contract will be ending just over a year from now.  Have you started to look into this yet?  Our company would love a shot to earn your business.

 

I'll go through this line by line and explain what's horrible, what's OK and how I would change it.

 

He began with "Hi Dave."  That's the best part of the email!  Seriously.  It was personalized, but not too much.  I would have cringed if it said Hi Dave Kurlan.  Or Hi Kurlan.  Or Hi DKurlan.  I also hate Good Day, Hello, Dear Dave, Sir, Dear Sir, Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Evening.  Greetings, Dear Reader, Dear Subscriber and Mr. Kurlan.

 

Then came, "I hope this message finds you well."  OMG!  That is completely inauthentic and way too typical.  You don't even say that to your friends!   Saying nothing at all is better that saying that.

 

He followed with, "We spoke in the past..."  Unfortunately for him, we didn't speak in the past so that makes him a liar.  Why say that?  And even if we had previously spoken, I wouldn't remember it so in my mind, that would still make him a liar.

 

Next came, "regarding copier equipment in your office."  That's right at the top of my list of exciting things to talk about.  Copier equipment.  Again?  Didn't we just do that for 3 years?  I have people for that.

 

"At the time, you indicated that your existing contract will be ending just over a year from now."  I don't know about you but I don't start looking at cars a year before my car lease ends so that certainly wouldn't be part of the plan for copiers.  It doesn't matter when my lease ends!!!  We could be two years out but if he could help me identify something that my current machines don't provide - that would help my business - I might make the switch today!  One year out might as well be 3 years out.  There isn't a good reason to talk about the timeline for a new lease because we don't yet have a reason to take any action.  He just skipped from reminding me that there is an alphabet all the way to the letter Q for qualifying in one sentence.

 

"Our company would love a shot at your business."  Isn't that a terrific incentive for me to meet with him?  Because he wants a shot at my business?  Geez!  

 

A better approach to the ingredients in this email that follow Hi Dave should be something more like what I wrote below.  I used CEO because he called and emailed me and that is my title.

 

A lot of CEO's tasked their last copier to staff and as a result of them paying more attention to lease terms instead of capabilities, companies can't leverage the capabilities of their machines to generate revenue, improve communications, and move away from paper.

 

It would be cool for me and powerful for you if we could help you with that.  Would you like to talk with me about how we have helped other CEO's?

 

If you must use email as a way to get prospects to raise their hands, wouldn't it make sense to consider your audience, understand what they would find offensive and useful, and take the time to compose a more effective email?

 

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales emails that work, email prospecting

3 Lessons that Apply to Every Sales Call No Matter What You Sell

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

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It's a family tradition that each December we attend the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker.  It's truly a magical show and even though the primary dancers change from year to year, the execution of the show's script and musical score is flawless.

Several years ago, during one of the performances, it dawned on me that the orchestra's role in the show correlated very nicely to an effective sales presentation.  There were 3 fantastic lessons that I presented then and as I have done each year since, will present again here.

If you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the orchestral suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to differentiate the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker, listening skills, sales put-offs

14 Sales Topics That Readers Cared About Most in 2017

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 @ 10:12 AM

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As 2017 comes to a close and we prepare for 2018, there are two things I do each year that have been very popular.  The first is to list the most popular articles of the year which I'll share below.  And the second is to republish the popular Nutcracker/Sales article for those who haven't read it and those who find value in a reread.  I'll republish the Nutcracker article early next week.  Now, the most popular articles of 2017 presented by most read (1pt ea), most engagement/commented (2 pts ea), most excitement/shares (5 pts ea), and my favorites that weren't listed in the other categories.

Top 5 Articles of 2017

1. New Analysis Shows the 5 Biggest Gaps Between Top and Bottom Sales Performers  
2. Top 10 Tips to Help You Sell More And Get More Done Than Anyone Else This Year Part 1  
3. How Your Salespeople Measure Up in the 21 Most Crucial Sales Competencies for Modern Selling  
4. 7 Reasons Why Salespeople Underperform and How Sales Leaders Can Coach Them Up 
5. Predict the Weather but Control the Sales Forecast and Revenue  

My favorites that don't appear above:

1. More Fake News in Sales Organizations Than on TV Networks!  
2. Why You Should Care That Sales Motivation Data Correlates Perfectly With Sales Effectiveness  
3. 21,000 People Agree That These are the Top 5 Traits of the Best Salespeople  
4. Sales Excellence: How to Close Anything and Everything in Any Vertical     
5. What B2B Companies Must Learn from the 10 Reasons Amazon is Destroying Retailers  

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, best sales blog, best sales articles, sales and sales management tips

More Fake News in Sales Organizations Than on TV Networks!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 21:12 PM

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Most of your salespeople are just like fake news and I will prove it.  I'm not talking about the elite top 5% or the next group of 15% who are very strong.  I am referring to the bottom 46% of the sales population who, if I am to be completely honest, totally suck. If yours is like most companies, then half of its salespeople fit this description.

I'm going to show you exactly how your salespeople report fake news but first, we need to break down how fake news happens so that I can demonstrate how your weak salespeople do the exact same thing, every chance they can get.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you couldn't wait to share the news?  Excitement is the key element to fake news.

The opportunity for fake news happens when a journalist has an agenda or bias that reflects their personal beliefs. It's true of democrats and republicans, as well as liberals and conservatives.  You've seen it happen on every major news network and in many major publications.  A news story comes along that supports the journalist's beliefs and the journalist - let's call him Happy - becomes so excited that he can't wait tell that story. In an effort to quickly get it out there, he might skip several steps of the editorial process.  Happy might proceed with an anonymous and/or unreliable source, fail to get a second source, not check the facts, report on a document he hasn't seen, take a quote out of context, twist the words, or simply make the story fit his narrative. I've seen more of this in the past eighteen months than in the rest of my lifetime combined.   

As I said before, your salespeople are doing the exact same thing.  It happens when they are talking with a prospect who shares information that the salesperson recognizes as a perfect fit for your product (or service). These salespeople believe that they must present and they become very excited to pitch their product. In an effort to quickly get to the presentation (or demo) they skip several steps in the sales process, don't ask if they are talking with a decision maker, recommend a solution without understanding the actual problem, and submit a quote without thoroughly qualifying the prospect's ability to pay. Later, in the CRM application, they check off the steps of the sales process as completed and later still, their sales manager reads the summary, contributing to an unreliable sales forecast.  And as I wrote here, this contributes to the 16,000 unqualified quotes and proposals being created and sent each day. Unfortunately, I've been seeing this kind of fake news for 32 years because so many salespeople either don't have or don't follow a formal sales process and as a result the sale usually doesn't close.

Getting excited is one of the six major weaknesses found in the Sales DNA of salespeople.  If there was such a thing as Reporting DNA I'm sure the same weakness would be found there too.  But there's a second weakness at play and that's Beliefs.  Reporters aren't the only ones with beliefs.  Salespeople have as many as 75 sales beliefs and the beliefs either support or sabotage their sales outcomes.  In the scenario above, the non-supportive belief that they must present was so strong that it was responsible for the excitement that caused the outcome to be sabotaged.

Fake news is killing our trust in the media, undermining our government and dividing our country.  What do you think happens when your salespeople provide fake news to their sales managers and don't give their prospects the benefit of having a thorough two-way conversation before they jump and present or demo and propose an out of context quote?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales DNA, fake news

The Perfect Day for a Salesperson - 10 Ways to be More Efficient and Effective in 2018

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 08, 2017 @ 09:12 AM

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Introduction

You can be more effective and more efficient selling in 2018, do every single thing I wrote about in this article, exactly as I wrote it, and without any difficulty, by making a conscious decision to follow this blueprint.  It's not hard. It's not scary.  It's not unusual.  It's not even thought-provoking.  It's simply a list of best practices that great salespeople (top 5%) do and that crappy (46%) salespeople either don't do consistently or don't do it at all.

Pre-Planning

The ideal sales day begins the previous evening.  Looking ahead to tomorrow, how many meetings do I have, which of those are sales related, how many items on the to-do list must be completed, how many proposals are due, and how many emails must I respond to before the day begins?  Based on all of that, how early do I need to set the alarm?  For me, most mornings it's for 5:30 AM.

CRM

Upon awakening, I like to begin the day inside CRM (we love Membrain) so that I can see all of my opportunities, the stage of the pipeline they are in, identify those I must move along, and who is waiting on me for something.

Calendar

Next, I need to identify my prospecting time for the day.  That's when I'll do the required work on those opportunities that need attention and schedule new meetings.  On most days, I have less than an hour of time for this so I need to be prepared to be ultra productive.  I can't afford to spend an hour attempting to reach potential new clients since even for me it will take 10-15 attempts to reach a CEO or Sales VP so it's crucial to actually connect with prospects during this time.  I begin with introductions, move to referrals, then to inbound leads from appropriately titled decision makers, and back-fill with LinkedIn connections and other inbound leads.  I only want to schedule future calls - not spend time talking with them today.  If you aren't fortunate enough to have a steady supply of introductions, referrals and inbound leads to call, you need a way to be more efficient than cold calling and I recommend that you use ConnectAndSell.  In an hour of calling they'll help you connect to an average of 7 prospects whereas attempting to reach prospects on your own might not yield 7 connections in an entire day.

Email

It's still early so this is the ideal time to respond to emails that I didn't get to yesterday, those that came in over night, and those where I need to be proactive.

Preparation

Finally, there are the scheduled sales calls.  For brand new opportunities, what do I need to know about them, their company, their industry and our common connections before we speak?  What is the desired outcome for each call?   What is the game plan to get there?

Sales Calls or Meetings

These days almost everything I do is by phone or video conference and that holds true for sales calls as well. If I want to achieve a predictable outcome then all I have to do is have a great conversation that faithfully follows our sales process, reaching the required milestones along the way.  One of the things that I love about Membrain is that the sales process, milestones, scorecards and playbooks for each milestone are on the screen during the call.  Companies that are in sales training, learning sales process and/or methodology, introducing playbooks, on boarding new salespeople, incorporating integrated CRM, or getting veteran salespeople to change the way they do things gain an additional benefit or 3 from these features.

What Can Go Wrong?

There is very little that can go wrong when you prepare like this.  Surely, some calls will cancel or reschedule, some prospects will be unqualified, some opportunities may be poor fits, and some prospects won't want to share answers to your questions.  You can't control any of that stuff but you can prepare for it.  Read this article to better understand how to use your unexpected free time.

Contrast

I receive a few incoming cold calls and schedule a few sales calls or meetings with salespeople calling on my companies each week and here's what I can tell you about them.  They.  All.  Suck.  No exceptions.  Here's why:

When salespeople are scheduled to have an actual sales call with me all they want to do is pitch, present and demo.  Does anyone, other than those salespeople that we train, actually use a consultative approach to sell?

Summary

Armed with an effective approach, appropriate planning, effective sales process and methodology, supportive sales tools and good scores in all 21 Sales Core Competencies, you will succeed.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, crm, sales best practices, membrain, time management, connectandsell

Which is Worse - Crappy Salespeople or Crappy Sales Managers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 05, 2017 @ 21:12 PM

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In his book, The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki said, "Don't Worry, Be Crappy."

That advice suggested that companies just get their early versions of software and tech products out there and they could make them better later.  

How are early versions of technology different from crappy salespeople and crappy sales managers?  For one thing, salespeople and sales managers tend to stay crappy unless professional training, coaching and interventions occur.  And unlike products, user feedback tends to be sketchy when it comes to salespeople because they refrain from giving it.  But what would happen if they did?

Prospects care about two things.  Are the salespeople calling on them likable and do they bring value?  Read that correctly.  I didn't type that they can recite the unique value proposition or talk about value.  I wrote that they actually bring value.  More specifically, strong, effective salespeople must be the value.  While it's great when salespeople receive product training to become more knowledgeable, they shouldn't be sharing their product knowledge on sales calls.  It's redundant because prospects and customers can find that information with 2 clicks on Google so they don't need to hear the same thing from salespeople. 

Most salespeople are crappy and I'll share 3 statistics to help you understand just how crappy they are.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has data on 1.6 million salespeople that have been assessed and evaluated. In the next 3 graphics I will share the Sales Quotient (the overall score for the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures) in 3 categories.  The sample size for this particular statistic is arond 417,000+ salespeople. 

This first graphic below shows the average Sales Quotient for all salespeople.   The average score is 116.

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The next graphic below shows the avarage Sales Quotient for elite salespeople who have a Sales Quotient of better than 140.  Only 6% of all salespeople are represented here.  Their average score is 144.

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The final graphic below shows the average Sales Quotient for weak salespeople who have a Sales Quotient below 115. Amazingly, 46% of all salespeople are represented in the weak group.  Their average score is just 103.

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Watch this 1-minute video for some thoughts on what you can work on first. 

Kurt Mortensen interviewed me for his sales podcast and you might find this 15-minute interview on sales process helpful.  As we approach year-end and my article in the December issue of Top Sales Magazine has a number of things that salespeople can work on in December to improve.

It's a different story altogether with sales managers.  Their salespeople need to be coached every day.  And it needs to be the kind of coaching that makes their salespeople want to come back for more.  Providing technical help, pricing, or discounts is not coaching.  Telling salespeople what to do is not coaching either.

Salespeople and sales managers can be trained but I can tell you this.  It's a lot easier to train crappy salespeople than it is to train crappy sales managers.  Selling is difficult but effective coaching brings difficult to a whole new level.

I've written a lot of articles on coaching salespeople and you can find 30 articles right here.  You can also register early to attend my annual Sales Leadership Intensive that is coming up in May.  It's simply the best training on how to master the art of coaching salespeople.

So don't worry if you're crappy - just do something to make yourself better and then instead of crappy you'll be happy.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Sales Coaching, kurt morensen

B2B Salespeople Send 16,000+ Unqualified Proposals Each Day!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 @ 21:11 PM

unqualified.jpg

If you have a role in sales or sales leadership then what could be better than knowing exactly how you and/or your salespeople REALLY compare with the other salespeople in your industry or in the world?  Could anything be more fascinating than a visual or infographic depicting how effective your sales force is at various aspects of selling?  And what if these visuals could demonstrate that B2B salespeople create and send more than 16,000 inappropriately timed proposals each day?  Cool, huh?  More on that data in a minute.

Earlier this year we introduced a free public site where you could actually see how your salespeople compared in each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Recently, we improved the site so that in addition to average scores and comparisons in each competency, you can see the percentage of salespeople that have each competency as a strength.  Check it out here!

I love some of the new infographics we have developed to show clients the capabilities of their sales force.  For example, check out this slide that visually tells the story of how their sales force sells.  The number in each pie chart is the average score in each competency and the colors indicate the percentage of salespeople that have that competency as a strength, weakness or in between.  For example, the highest average score for this sales force is for the value seller competency but only 1/3 of the sales force has value seller as a strength.

sales-story.png

This is a cool slide.  It shows the 8 sales leadership competencies that we measure in the outer ring and his tendency by rank outside the ring. When a tendency is not aligned with a strength we have a problem.  For example, in this slide, strategic thinking is green - a strength - but strategy is ranked 6th out of 8 as a tendency and recruiting - a weakness - is ranked 1st out of 8 in his tendencies.  Those are both problems!  Gene should be spending much more time on strategy and much less time on recruiting.

leadership-slide.png

We reevaluate a sales team after a year or so and this is how we show the change in a particular competency.  In this slide the average score increased from 39 to 47 in the Consultative Competency and there were improvements in most of the attributes and half of the salespeople now had this competency as a strength.

checkpoint-slide.png

My favorite slide is the one where we restage the company's pipeline according to what's real.  In the slide below,  we looked at 717 late stage proposal ready opportunities.  If they were all truly late stage, the visual would have looked like the umbrella stand in the middle image.  However, our analysis caused 36% of the opportunities to move back to the suspect stage and 33% of the opportunities back to the prospect stage.  Only 27% were actually closable and another 4% were qualified.  This company prematurely sent 494 unqualified proposals!

pipeline2.png

This company is not unusual.  If their 239 salespeople produced 494 unqualified proposals, then how many inappropriately timed proposals do 4.5 million B2B salespeople produce?  A little more half are in inside sales roles that handle the top of the funnel.  That leaves around 2 million B2B salespeople who are making 4,133,891 premature unqualified proposals per year or 16,535 per day!

We have around 50 more infographics like these that help to visually show how well equipped a sales force is to compete, win more business and grow revenue.  We identify all of the gaps and issues to be addressed and recommend a plan of action to accelerate sales effectiveness. 

 Most importantly, we provide answers to the questions that companies cannot answer on their own.  If this interests you, excites you or is something you want us to do at your company, just email me and I'll forward it to the appropriate person.

Image Copyright iStock

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales force evaluation, sales leadership, sales core competencies, OMG Assessment, sales proposal

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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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