Sales Effectiveness - How to Win Every RFP That You Respond To

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 @ 14:06 PM

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Image Copyright Gustavofrazao

I am amazed by the sheer number of salespeople who believe they must respond to an RFP, RFQ or RFI.  The resources, including people, time and money, required to respond to the specs from just one of these requests is daunting.  Some companies have so many requests coming in that they spend all of their time responding to them.  This is crazy!  Do you respond to every email you receive? Every call you get?  After all, it's a request, not a demand.  So why the frenzy over responding and replying so quickly?  You won't believe some of the reasons!

Top 10 Reasons Why Salespeople Respond to RFPs, RFQs and RFIs

  1. We won't get future business if we don't respond
  2. We can't get this business if we don't respond
  3. We will appear unresponsive if we don't respond
  4. We want to get a foot in the door
  5. We want to impress them with our capabilities
  6. We will win 10% of them and since we don't know which 10% we need to respond to all of them
  7. We want this business
  8. We need this business
  9. We want to be a back-up option
  10. We have always done it this way

If you and your company follow an effective sales process, proposing must be one of the final milestones prior to closing - it cannot and should not be one of the first milestones!

So not only is there the question of whether to respond, there is also the question of when.

Requests to propose come in one of four buckets:

  1. They want to do business with you but need something formalized
  2. They want to buy from your competitor but need to keep them honest
  3. They want to drive down the price and they are initiating a bidding war
  4. They want to buy from your competitor and need high bids to justify their decision.

That's it.  There aren't any other reasons.  And if you aren't in bucket #1, you should not be proposing!

Proposals are not selling tools, companies do not buy from you because of your proposals, and proposals don't differentiate you from your competition.  Your sales ability - specifically your listening and questioning skills -  will differentiate you from your competition.  Look at any survey of buyers and they all point to the fact that differentiation takes place in the field!

Rather than responding to proposals, you should be doing your best to learn why they sent it to you, why they want you to propose on this particular solution, and why they want to solve their problem in that particular way.  Get the specs of the proposal changed!

Prior to proposing, you must know that the business is yours and they want to buy from you.  Period.  If you don't already know that for a fact, you are not ready to propose.  If you do know it for a fact, then the proposal is simply a formality.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, Winning Sales RFP's, RFQ's

Sales Science and Data Win the Day

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 @ 08:06 AM

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Image Copyright bowie15

As we close in on closing out the first half of 2017 (already!) this is when I share the best articles from the first six months.  Today, it's more difficult to read that article, watch that video, listen to that audio tip or pay attention to any of the great material that is being written by experts so this is a way to catch up and read the best of the best.

There were some really great articles from the first half of the year.  I'll share the top 3 by views, the top 3 by shares and the top 3 by engagement but you'll instantly notice that whether it's views, shares or engagement, sales science and data - stuff you can sink your teeth into - win the day.

Top 3 Articles sorted by most read:

The Official 2017 List of 21 Sales Core Competencies 
How Your Salespeople Measure Up in the 21 Most Crucial Sales Competencies for Modern Selling
New Analysis Shows the 5 Biggest Gaps Between Top and Bottom Sales Performers

Clearly, readers were most interested in science and data!

Top 3 Articles sorted by most shared:

How Your Salespeople Measure Up in the 21 Most Crucial Sales Competencies for Modern Selling

Top 10 Tips to Help You Sell More And Get More Done Than Anyone Else This Year Part 1

7 Reasons Why Salespeople Underperform and How Sales Leaders Can Coach Them Up

 

Top 3 Articles sorted by most engagement:

Top 10 Tips to Help You Sell More And Get More Done Than Anyone Else This Year Part 1

New Analysis Shows the 5 Biggest Gaps Between Top and Bottom Sales Performers

What B2B Companies Must Learn from 10 Reasons Why Amazon is Destroying Retailers

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales science

Perhaps Hope is a Selling Strategy After All!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 09, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

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Image Copyright 2Jenn

You've heard that hope is not a strategy - and it isn't a strategy if you're sitting there saying to yourself, "I hope I win this deal..."

As you know, hope was a big news topic this week when James Comey revealed that President Trump said, "I hope you can let this go."  All kinds of partisan and legal strategies will be discussed relative to the meaning, intent and context for the word hope.

Earlier this week, Brad Ferguson, a long-time OMG Partner in Arizona said, "They'll meet with you based on hope and buy from you based on belief."  You'll find three short paragraphs with links below to clarify the ideal way to strategize by utilizing hope and belief.

It should go without saying that for a prospect to schedule a meeting based on hope you must have the right kind of first phone conversation where you identified an issue with which you might be able to help.  See this article for more on how to have a successful first phone conversation.

For a prospect to buy based on belief they must find you credible, likable, caring, relatable, expert and trustworthy.  I call this SOB Quality and this short video explains what it is and how you can easily achieve it.

Hope, as a significant selling strategy, is when you intentionally abandon all hope of getting the business. To better understand how, and why you must accomplish that, read more here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Closing Sales, cold call, Donald Trump, james comey

Predict the Weather but Control the Sales Forecast and Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 06, 2017 @ 06:06 AM

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Image Copyright Mark_KA

It's June 6 in Westboro, Massachusetts, USA, and the temperature is 49 degrees Farenheight or 9 degrees Celsius. It's pouring rain and with the exception of 3 nice days in the middle of May, when the temperature was in the 80's, it's been like early April since, well, early April!   The weather sucks.  And in case you aren't familiar with what the weather should be like at this time of year, it should be 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius) and sunny.  

You may be more familiar when the rant sounds like: "It's almost the end of the quarter, we're only at 65% of forecast, the pipeline is half empty, and nothing is closing. With the exception of 3 nice deals that came in during May, our salespeople have sucked." 

While the crappy weather and your crappy 2nd quarter revenue have crappy in common, there is one huge difference that can help you hit your sales forecast even when the weather forecast is for rain.

As long as you know the monthly sales goal, closing percentage, average order size, and length of the sales cycle, I will guarantee that you will meet or exceed the sales goal.  Let's pretend:

  • The monthly goal is $100,000
  • The closing percentage is 20%
  • The average sale or account is $25,000
  • The sales cycle is 6 months.

If you do the math and nothing else but the math, then as long as 20 new opportunities, worth a total of $500,000, enter the pipeline each month, beginning 6 months ahead of the first monthly goal you intend to meet or exceed, you will never miss another sales goal ever again.

Let's walk through the Algebra.  If you close 1 of 5 then 5/1 x $100,000 is $500,000.  But you can't just have one or two big opportunities worth $500,000 in the pipeline because you close only 1 of 5.  Remember, your average sale is $25,000 so you'll need close 100,000/25,000 or 4 and at 20% that's 4 x 5 for 20 opportunities.  Finally, with your 6 month sales cycle, what you add to the pipeline in June represents December revenue, not June, so beginning this month you're working on next year's revenue.

As long as you manage what you can control - the new opportunities that enter the pipeline - then you will never miss another number again.

Back to the weather.  Consider my rule of puppies, which says that the harder it is raining, the more often the puppy will want to go outside and make sure that I get wet. And don't forget the rule of spring baseball, which states that the more games our son is scheduled to play during April, May and June, the colder and wetter the weather will be.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, closing, sales pipeline, sales forecast

Phone Prospecting - the Key to Scheduling Meetings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 23, 2017 @ 17:05 PM

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Cold calling is dead.  Not.

Cold calling doesn't work.  Untrue.

Cold calling is a waste of time.  True if you suck at it.  False if you're good at it.  

Even if you are following up on inbound leads your follow up call will be cold.  They don't know you and you don't know them.  Cold.

Back in the 20th century, when I first started cold calling, I hated it so much that I vowed to become so good at it that I could reach my new appointment goal in an hour instead of the 6 hours it was taking each day. It's about being effective, not dialing your brains out!

Today, a salesperson left a voicemail message and he didn't sound bad; but his strategy and script were awful.  Listen to the message below and try to identify what was wrong.  Then watch the video below to hear me talk getting your prospects to pay attention and engage with you on the phone.

Listen to the voicemail.

 

If you took the quiz then you know the right answers, right?

So why do salespeople have such a difficult time on the phone?

In addition to poor strategy, their scripts are awful, they usually sound awful, they fail to get their prospects' attention and rarely, if ever, get their prospects engaged.

Watch this video to get a better sense for what I mean.

 

Latest News -

Kurlan & Associates was named again in the 2017 Selling Power list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies.

The Salesman Podcast, with host Will Barron, just released this interviewwith me talking about Excuse Making.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, sales effectiveness

How to Simplify Coaching Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 19, 2017 @ 11:05 AM

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Image Copyright ColorCarnival

We just completed a two-day Sales Leadership Intensive and that's always a great experience for the sales leaders who attend.  The focus is on coaching salespeople for impact and everyone learns what it takes to become so effective at coaching salespeople that they ask for more. 

It's been a long time since I have written an article that mentioned our son, the baseball player.  He's really good, and we have dozens of video clips of him performing at a high level. But baseball doesn't always produce highlights.  Failure is a part of baseball too and if he struggles at the plate, the very first thing he does is watch the video to see what he did wrong.  We study the video together and when that isn't enough to fix the issue, we head outside and I pitch to him until he makes the necessary adjustments to get back on track.  

When you take sales coaching, baseball, watching video and put it all together, what do you get?

You get the post-call debrief - the most powerful tool for great sales coaching.

The post-call debrief is a structured coaching conversation where we compare the outcome to the goal and work backwards to determine when the call or meeting went off the tracks and why.  We identify the skill gaps and/or weaknesses that were responsible, and capture lessons learned.  Next we strategize getting the opportunity back on track, if possible,  and role play what the next conversation should sound like.

When Michael and I review video together it is very much like the post-call debrief.  We slow down the at-bat, analyze his approach, pick apart the swing, identify the thing or things that caused an undesirable outcome, and determine what must change so that it doesn't happen again.  Then we go out and practice it.  This is a good swing

When I review a sales call with a salesperson, it is the same as studying baseball video.  We slow down the call or meeting, analyze the approach, pick apart the conversation, identify the thing or things that caused the undesirable outcome, and determine what must change so that it doesn't happen again.  Then we role-play it, or in other words, practice it.  

The problem is that most sales managers do not really coach and those who do, don't do it often enough or well enough.  Shouldn't professional salespeople get the same quality and frequency of coaching that amateur and professional athletes get?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, Baseball

7 Powerful Exercises to Up Your Sales to the Next Level

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 08, 2017 @ 15:05 PM

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Image Copyright efks

Some things take a while to catch on.  In his book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell wrote about the years of work and at minimum, 10,000 hours, required for some, like The Beatles, to become "overnight sensations."

Shortly after I published my best-selling book, Baseline Selling, in 2005, I also published the Baseline Selling Field Guide. The Field Guide had specific exercises to help salespeople apply the concepts in the book to their business.  While the book was an instant success, the Field Guide wasn't until the last couple of years when, for no apparent reason, people began buying it.

Today, I received yet another request asking if I would recommend how to use the exercises in the Baseline Field Guide with the book, Baseline Selling.  In an effort to help everyone, and not just those who choose to write me, my recommendations on some powerful ways to correlate the two appear below.

The first thing to work on is Positioning Statements.  Your positioning statement is the first thing you will share with a brand new prospect in your very first phone conversation.  It is essential that you create the perfect positioning statement that conveys what you do and who you do it for, but in a way that gets your prospect to say, "that's me."  The field guide will help you get those positioning statements right and you can even send your completed statements to me for verification that they are good.  Use Exercise 5 of the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

The next thing to work on is your Cycle Statements.  The cycle statements will get a lot of use with your prospects who say, "We're all set" or "We're not interested" or "We're happy."  These statements, when used correctly, gives you an opportunity to turn these prospects around and get them engaged. Use Exercise 19 in the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

Of all the possible weaknesses, your Self-Limiting Beliefs will cause more trouble for you than anything else.  Use Exercise 23 to reprogram your beliefs so that they begin to support, rather than sabotage your outcomes.

Once you're finally meeting or talking with new prospects, you'll want to make sure that you can Uncover their Compelling Reasons to Buy from you.  Use Exercise 4 along with the section on Getting to 2nd Base to help you improve in this crucial milestone of the sales process.

Exercise 15 will help salespeople become more Comfortable Talking About Money - a crucial milestone in the Qualifying the Opportunity.  Use this exercise along with the section on getting to 3rd base in the book.

I've been writing a lot about Scorecards in the past year, but the origins for Scorecards in the sales process go back to 2005, where Exercise 16 will help you develop an appropriate scorecard for your opportunities.

I've written more than 30 articles about Sales Process and Exercise 2 will help you get yours customized and optimized.  The most important part is the sequence so make sure it's perfect.

Use the remaining 17 exercises to work on the things that represent gaps for you. 

Good luck!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales tips

New Analysis Shows the 5 Biggest Gaps Between Top and Bottom Sales Performers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 01, 2017 @ 06:05 AM

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Image Copyright Cybrain

It didn't take very long for this to happen.  When Objective Management Group (OMG) announced that it was making its findings data available to the public, we knew that it wouldn't take long for someone with a flair for analytics to dig in and come up with something cool.  Last week, John Cousineau, creator of Amacus, got me on a video conference and shared what he came up with.  Hint:  Another way to differentiate top performers.

He analyzed the average scores of OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies for the top 10% of salespeople and identified 5 that account for 36% of the gap between top and bottom performers.  The first image below shows the 36% gap in the 5 Competencies.  Each point represents a competency, the darker gray shows the average scores for the top 10% and the lighter gray has the scores for the bottom 10%.  The 5 competencies with the largest gaps are shown in blue for the bottom performers and brown represents the gaps between the two groups.

Abacus1.jpgThe next graphic below shows the 5 competencies John identified.

Abacus2.jpg

Translating just a bit, he says that the biggest gap in average scores between top performers and bottom performers - 36% - occurs in the sales core competencies where salespeople:

  1. are comfortable discussing money
  2. take responsibility for their results and don't make excuses or rationalize
  3. thoroughly qualify their opportunities
  4. are able to sell value instead of price
  5. are effective hunting for new business

We must also consider that there are approximately 10 attributes in each core competency and while the gaps certainly exist in those 5 competencies, are there specific skills where the gaps between top and bottom performers are even larger?

The following table shows the biggest gaps between top and bottom performers but instead of showing them by score, they are presented based on the percentage of salespeople who have the findings as strengths. Can you find anything in common between this table and the 5 competencies above?

abacus3.jpg

Hunting, Qualifying, Comfortable Talking about Money and Taking Responsibility appear on both lists, but instead of value selling, we see consultative selling.  

Did you notice the other gaps on this list?  Desire and Commitment are the two most important Sales Core Competencies of all.  They also represent 2 of the 5 competencies in Will to Sell.  All 6 Sales DNA Core Competencies appear on the list as well.  In addition to Comfortable Talking about Money, the list includes Not Needing to be Liked (Approval), Controlling Emotions, Rejection Proof, Supportive Buying Behaviors and Supportive Sales Beliefs.

OMG's data, based on the assessment of more than 1,100,000 salespeople from more than 11,000 companies definitively shows that there is an elite group of 7% - the best salespeople in the world.  These great salespeople are followed by another 16% that are strong.  And then there is the bottom 77%, who all suck.

You can access OMG's findings and compare them to your salespeople and other salespeople in your industry by visiting this page.

When you compare your salespeople to the rest of the sales population it looks like this example where the reader's sales force is worse than the bottom 10% at Taking Responsibility.

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You can also make sure you never make another sales hiring mistake by checking out OMG's accurate and predictive sales specific candidate assessments.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, sales excellence, accurate sales assessment

Closing and Negotiating Challenges - Symptoms of Another Selling Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

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I recently learned that one of OMG's clients in Europe purchased two goldfish. In keeping with their tradition, the client named the two fish, Recommended and Not Recommended.  Surprisingly, recruiting salespeople was not one of the topics addressed in this year's 2017 Selling Challenges Study.  Meghan Steiner, from Richardson, was nice enough to send me an advanced copy of the results.  There were a number of interesting findings and to learn what was covered and see my insights from the report, continue reading.

Consider the findings below that I pulled from the much larger report.  Respondents said the following issues are challenges for their companies:

  • 24% said gaining higher prices 
  • 20% said closing win/win deals
  • 17% said maintaining profitability
  • 24% said competing against a low cost provider
  • 16% said creating a compelling case for change
  • 19% said customers who continue to reopen the negotiation
  • 15% said positioning a competing value proposition

The 7 findings I listed above came from two different chapters of the report.  Higher prices, win/win deals and profitability came from the chapter on Negotiation.  Positioning, reopening negotiations, competing against low cost providers and the case for change came from the chapter on closing.  

"When I combined the 7 challenges, together they suggest that the
problem these companies really have is an inablity to sell value!"

The findings from the report came from a survey where most of the 300+ respondents were from companies larger than $500 million, with sales quotas generally running more than $1 million each.

How do the findings compare with OMG's scientific data from the evaluation of 1,100,000 salespeople from 12,000 companies?  Let's compare!

The average score for the Selling Value competency is 56 which means that the salespeople in the 370,000 rows of data in this query have, on average, 56% of the attributes in the Selling Value competency.  You can see that the top 10% are significantly more effective and the bottom 10% are significantly worse!

value2.jpgAnother way of looking at this competency is to determine the percentage of salespeople who have selling value as a weakness.  

"68% of the salespeople we looked at had Selling Value as a weakness.  

Our data shows that selling value is a much greater issue than the survey suggests.  The likely reason for this is that respondents from large companies may not understand why they are having the issues listed by the bullets above.  They only recongize the symptoms.

The Selling Value Competency is 1 of the 7 Tactical Selling Competencies that OMG measures, and 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured in all.  You can see the attributes for this competency in the screen shot from a sales force evaluation below.

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When companies continue to believe that their problems lie in negotiating and closing, they seek training on negotiating and closing!  When the real problem is selling value, you need to provide training on consultative selling, change your pricing strategy and provide training on selling value.

Here are four other things you should do:

1. See how your salespeople compare to others in your industry and to salespeople in general in any or all of the 21 Sales Core Competencies with OMG's complimentary stat finder tool.

2. Select only strong (16%) and elite (7%) salespeople with OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

3. Become more effective coaching your salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies by attending my annual Sales Leadership Intensive where coaching for impact is the focus during the two day training.  There were only 6 seats left for the May 17-18 event outside of Boston.

4. Download the 2017 Sales Challenges Study from Richardson.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, negotiating, objective management group, selling value, Richardson, OMG Assessment

Which Salespeople are Easier to Train - Millennials or Veteran Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 @ 06:04 AM

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We brought home a puppy and we had him completely housebroken in 4 days.  He's really smart and we've done this before, a combination that makes it nearly impossible to screw up.  To see him go to the door and touch it with his little paw, whimper when he is in his crate, go outside and do his business, and run back to the door is great. But it got me wondering, why is training a puppy relatively fast and easy while it is so much harder and takes so much longer to train salespeople?

The puppy only has to learn a handful of behaviors that he can repeat without the variables that affect salespeople.  There's no resistance, objections, competition, fear, rejection, budget or decision-making issues and the puppy is eager to learn and please.  Millennials are eager to learn and tend to be less resistant to change while veteran salespeople must first be sold on why they need to change.  Even then they may resist for a while.  And what they must learn in order to become more effective is quite comprehensive.

I was comparing the average scores in 6 Sales DNA Core Competencies and was very surprised to discover that the scores for sales candidates were a few points higher than the scores for salespeople at companies where we conducted a sales force evaluation.  Millennials make up a good portion of the candidates. Typically, they are recent college graduates with no sales experience and applying for BDR roles.  My first thought was that if sales candidates had higher scores and millennials were part of that group, then the non-millennials surely have scores that are even higher.

After considering that for a while another thought came to mind.

Most companies complain that there aren't enough sales candidates out there and most who are looking for sales positions suck.  The reality is that they aren't all bad and a large percentage of the salespeople who are applying for new positions are passive candidates. They were recruited. It seems that while there are a lot of crappy salespeople out there right now, they don't take the assessment when prompted, but the good sales candidates do!

An unintended benefit of having your sales candidates take OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment is that it is not only accurate and predictive, many of the the bottom 77% filter themselves out by not even completing it. And the millennials?  Many of those who apply for sales positions actually have Sales DNA that supports selling even though their scores in the 7 tactical Sales Core Competencies are low.  You can always teach the tactical competencies!

You can learn more about the sales candidate assessment here.  Once there you can check out samples, start a free trial and sign up.

If you're not hiring salespeople right now but you're interested in learning how your salespeople measure up in the 21 Sales Core Competencies, or you just want to see how salespeople score in each competency, you can check out our data here.  Warning:  The stats site is very cool and you might not want to leave.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales leadership, sales core competencies, accurate sales assessment

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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