When Your Sales Opportunity Stalls, Do You Call Roadside Assistance?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 18, 2021 @ 14:10 PM

flat-tire

We were driving on the highway when the dashboard indicated low pressure in the left rear tire.  That can't be good!  As we exited the highway eight miles later, the tire was flat and we were able to drive another mile to a safe location and call roadside assistance.  Until that moment, I wasn't aware that the car did not have a spare tire but was equipped with a tire inflation repair kit instead.  Roadside assistance told us that the lack of a spare tire meant the car would be towed to their nearest dealer.

There are typically three possibilities when you have a flat tire:

  1. Change the tire if you have a spare and know how to do it or have roadside do it for you
  2. Use the tire inflation repair kit and keep the tire inflated long enough to get to your mechanic
  3. Get towed.

In my opinion, getting towed is the worst possible option and the last thing we want to deal with and in the waning days of a pandemic, they'll take your car but not you, so that doesn't solve anything.  Your car is still broken, you are still stranded, and you are temporarily separated from your beloved vehicle.

When salespeople get into trouble and an opportunity stalls out or goes off the rails, their sales managers are the sales version of roadside assistance.  In the context of a sales opportunity, there are typically three possibilities:

  1. Change the tire - put another salesperson on the opportunity
  2. Repair the tire - the salesperson does enough damage control to keep the opportunity alive until they can get coaching from their sales manager
  3. Call Roadside and the sales manager calls or shows up to get the opportunity back on track if possible

If you agree that a tow would be your last possible option, then it should follow that a rescue from a sales manager would be equally bad.  The prospect loses respect for the salesperson and will only speak with the sales manager after the rescue. Salespeople learn to lean on and use their sales managers as crutches, salespeople never become strong enough to handle these situations on their own, and sales managers fail to develop strong teams.

According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments on more than two million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders, only 18% of all sales managers are well-suited for the role and only 7% are actually good at coaching. We know from this article on being an underdog in sales that the bottom half of all salespeople totally suck.

When you combine those three pathetic data points, there are a few insights that pop to the surface.

Most sales managers are a lot better at selling than they are at managing and coaching and are at their best when salespeople call for roadside assistance.  That explains their universal desire to accept those calls without pushing back, coaching and challenging their salespeople to do better.  Salespeople improve when they have no choice but to improve!

Most sales managers actually believe it's their job to be the hero and that is one of the biggest impediments to developing strong salespeople.

There are far more salespeople whose opportunities go off the rails and need help but who end up following one of three even worse scenarios than calling their sales managers:

  1. At the time, they lacked the situational awareness to realize the opportunity went sideways on them so they follow up as if nothing bad happened.
  2. They realized the opportunity was going sideways but chose to use the tire repair kit instead of calling for roadside assistance
  3. They knew it went sideways but lacked the commitment to call for roadside or use the tire repair kit and simply gave up.

These scenarios play out every day, on every sales team, at every company, all over the world.  Isn't it time to raise the bar on both sales mangers and salespeople, train them up, coach them up, and stop accepting so much mediocrity?

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales managers, ineffective salespeople, ineffective sales manager, OMG Assessment

Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 @ 16:10 PM

Kiké Hernández's dream postseason continues for Red Sox: 10 things we  learned from ALDS-clinching walk-off win - masslive.com

Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times!

For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify.

How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

If your company is not the brand leader, market leader, or price leader; if you have a complex sale, a story to tell, a new technology, a new brand, a new product, a much higher price or a much tougher sale, then you are an underdog too.

Brand leaders, Market leaders and price leaders have it easy.  There is no true selling involved.  They show up, write proposals, provide quotes, conduct demos and take orders. They get what they get.

Underdogs must not only sell their way in, but they must also sell their value to justify the higher prices, differentiate themselves to prove their value, and use a consultative approach that supports selling value.  On top of that, they must follow a proper milestone-centric sales process that supports a consultative approach for selling value.

Most salespeople simply can't do this.  The data in the table below, from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2 million salespeople, shows the percentage of salespeople who are strong in the three competencies I just mentioned.  

It's not very difficult to grasp the takeaways from this data.  Even some of the best salespeople struggle to take a consultative approach to sales but compensate with their adherence to sales process and their ability to sell value.  The worst salespeople aren't capable of much more than a transactional sale described earlier in the article.  The best salespeople score, on average, 4823% stronger in these three competencies.  There are actually a total of 21 Sales Core Competencies and you can see the data for all of them right here, play with the data a bit, and filter by industry and company!

The top 5% and the bottom 5% represent only the extreme examples of 10% of all salespeople.  The other 90% are represented in the "All Salespeople" column.  We can filter the numbers some more if we break down the other 90%.  Wait until you see these numbers!

As you can see, there is a significant drop off from the top 5% to the next 15% and an even greater drop off to the 30% after that.  The big takeaway is that in these three competencies  the bottom 50% are nearly as weak as the bottom 5%. They all suck.  As a matter of fact, once you get past the top 20%, the picture is bleak.

What can you do about this? 

Use OMG to Evaluate your sales force so you can see what the capabilities are at your company.

Use OMG to Assess your sales candidates so that you can be assured of hiring only those who will succeed in the role.  

Train, train, train, coach, coach, coach, drill, drill, drill, role-play, role-play, role-play.

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright MassLive.com 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales training, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, value selling,

Most Sales Processes, Funnels and Pipelines are How Old?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 29, 2021 @ 16:09 PM

Have you ever conducted a Google or Amazon search for one thing only to be presented with search results that were completely different than what you were looking for?

I was looking for an image of a sales funnel and couldn't believe what I found!  My search results can be found here.  Can you believe all of those images of sales funnels?  Look them over and see if you can recognize the  problem with all of them.

There were a number of marketing funnels included on the page but I wanted to see the images for sales funnels. 

The first one I found had the title, "Sales Funnel Stages."  It had six stages and none of the stages were sufficiently defined so as to determine where a prospect is in the sales process or for forecasting whether the opportunity will close and when it will close.  The six stages were:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interest
        3. Consideration
        4. Intent
        5. Evaluation
        6. Purchase

I'm sorry, but that is not a predictive sales funnel.  Awareness is a marketing stage.  Purchase is post-pipeline.  Evaluation is just like consideration.  Intent - is that intent with us or intent in general?  This funnel is for an optimistic sales leader who wants things to look good but I guarantee that the win rate out of this funnel is brutal.

I found a variation of that funnel without the evaluation stage and with intent replaced by decision.  In other words, they are evaluating!

The second funnel I found had the title, "Sales Funnel."  It was four stages so that seemed promising until I saw the stages:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interaction
        3. Interest
        4. Action

More awareness.  Interaction - you mean like a conversation to get them interested?  And once they were interested they were going to take action?  Wow.  I'm sure that has a high win-rate.  Not.

Then there was a variation of that funnel where Interest is replaced by Decision.  So we go from a conversation to a decision.  It's very transactional, isn't it?

Then I found a "Detailed Guide to Building a Sales Funnel" and it even had descriptions of its five stages:

        1. Unaware
        2. Lead
        3. Prospect
        4. Customer
        5. Fan

In this funnel, they go from lead to prospect to customer so the only part of the sales funnel that has anything to do with selling is stage 3 - prospect!  Guess what their win rate must be?  This is an incorrectly named marketing funnel!

Then I found a three-stage six-part funnel that had:

        1. Awareness
          1. Visit
          2. Lead
        2. Consideration
          1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
          2. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
          3. Opportunity
        3. Decision
          1. Customer

It appears more complex than the funnel before this one but it is essentially the same thing with the same problem.  The entire sales part of the sales funnel was 2.3 - opportunity.

It was only a matter of time before I found a graphically modern and pleasing version of the original sales process, AIDA:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interest
        3. Decision
        4. Action

Now it should make sense to you.  Nearly every single pipeline, funnel and sales process shown on that page full of funnel images is based on this old, antiquated AIDA process that was developed by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.  That's right. In the 19th century, five years before Henry Ford rolled out the first Model A from his plant in 1903, St. Elmo Lewis gave the world a sales process that is still being used by most companies.

So what should a modern funnel look like?

It should have just four stages.  Any additional stages would be for marketing and if it's marketing-related it doesn't belong in the sales funnel!

The funnel should mimmic the sales process.  The stages don't necessarily need to have the same names but the stages should represent the same milestones.

The funnel or pipeline should trace the evolution of a sales opportunity as it moves from suspect to prospect to qualified opportunity to closable opportunity.

          1. Suspect - you have a first meeting, call, or video scheduled (3 milestones) based on discovering that they have issues that you can address
          2. Prospect - they have a compelling reason to buy what you sell and buy it from you (5 milestones)
          3. Qualified - they are thoroughly qualified to do business with you (7 milestones)
          4. Closable - they have given you a verbal and you are waiting to formalize the agreement (3 milestones)

If you want to see what a funnel should look like when you bring it to life, in the context of a full and comprehensive sales process, then watch this video.  It has a run-time of ten minutes.  I have shared this video before so if you have seen it and don't need to see it in the context of this article, feel free to skip past.

You heard and saw in the video that the only complete sales process with a built-in methodology is Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is pre-integrated and easy to further customize in the Baseline Selling edition of Membrain, simply the best sales-specific CRM application on the planet.  Check it out here

The danger of having your funnel rooted in 120-year-old theory becomes even more troublesome when your sales training and coaching is based on this and it is this which is integrated into your CRM.

It should be crystal clear by now that most of what you learn about sales today, is no more relevant, thorough, fresh, on-point or correct than the sales process served up by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, crm, sales funnel

Hidden Sales Competition and Why it Could Happen to You

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 27, 2021 @ 14:09 PM

I recently took these pictures of mushrooms on our property that I had not seen prior to this year.  Bright reds, bright oranges, whites and more.  After living on this property for the past twenty years, it really surprised me that these bright colored mushrooms appeared out of nowhere.  Then again, my wife and I have cut down a lot of trees and cleared a lot of brush in the last twelve months.  Could they have been growing there right along and we simply didn't see them?

Can you guess where this is going?

Have you ever had a sales opportunity that was completely under control, you were following your sales process, everything was looking great, and then, from out of nowhere and without warning, surprise competitors appeared?  

Yes, the magic mushroom competitors! 

Were those competitors competing for the business the entire time and the prospect didn't share that important piece of information?  Did you neglect to ask if they were talking with or looking at anyone else? Or, and this is important, were they eleventh hour additions to the game?  

The late-to-the-game addition is the easiest to deal with because we have the most clarity on this scenario.  Prospects invite additional competition when they are not 100% sold on one or more of the following 15 possibilities:

  1. your offering
  2. your price
  3. your company
  4. your timing
  5. your delivery
  6. your options
  7. your responsiveness
  8. your testimonials
  9. your quality
  10. your track record
  11. your politics
  12. your sense of humor
  13. your location
  14. your customer service
  15. your technical service

Prospects generally don't want to compromise so it only takes one thing that was either not covered, not explained, not handled, not offered, or not included and they may look elsewhere.  So what can you do to make sure that never happens to you (again)?

You need to more thoroughly qualify your opportunities!!! 

EVERYTHING that could go wrong must be anticipated and discussed during your qualification stage. That's why you should never, ever, ever rely on a proposal or a quote or a Scope of Work to explain your offering, prices or fees.  Those documents merely formalize in writing what you have already agreed to!  YOU close and if they want to move forward WITH YOU, then you can send it. 

Prior to that you should discuss EVERYTHING from fees, to terms, to timelines, to alignment, to expectations, to fit, to yes, competition.  And if there is competition, discuss it, ask why, ask how they feel about them, who they are leaning towards, why, and what you can do about it?  And when it comes to what you can do about it, DO NOT EVER LET IT BE ABOUT LOWERING YOUR PRICE.  NEVER.  If they ask you to match or lower your fees, ask, "other than pricing, what can I do?"

Qualifying is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that Objective Management Group measures in both its sales force evaluations and its accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessments.

When it comes to hidden competition, don't act like you've been taking the magic mushrooms and developing happy ears.  ASK QUESTIONS!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, sales qualifying, selling against competition

How to Prepare for the Coming Sales Team Super Storm

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 22, 2021 @ 16:09 PM

LittlePawz - Freak summer snowstorm blanketing red maples

What would you do if, in the middle of summer, a big box store said you would really need a snowblower in preparation for the summer snowstorms we were about to get?  Crazy, right?

What if Staples sent out a promo to buy all the printer paper you can in preparation for a printing explosion as we move away from digital?  Wouldn't that be nuts?

What if a professional sports team reached out to your really good 12-year-old and offered them a professional contract?  Is that even possible?

So when a promotion for an upcoming webinar appeared in my Twitter feed last week I was equally astounded by the lack of anticipatory awareness of the sales training firm and online publication promoting it.  It said:

My first reaction was that this must have been something from 2016 - right before the boom that lasted until the pandemic slammed the economy to the ground.  Or, from the 4th quarter of 2020, when we expected the economy to come roaring back.  But it simply can't be something that is remotely relevant to what we are about to experience.  Here's what we know, and how that will impact companies and their sales teams in 2022.  

I'm not an economist, but I can read, seek out trustworthy sources, and have 46 years of business experience. On top of that I am street smart, have good common sense and  can do the math.  

Inflation.  According to Trading Economics, the current inflation rate is running at over 5% compared to 1.2% just a year ago.  That is bound to lead to higher interest rates and a drop in consumer confidence, followed by layoffs, spending freezes and more price increases.

Federal Debt.  According to Statista, the federal debt is over 28 trillion dollars, more than four times what it was 20 years ago.  On top of that, Congress is debating on two bills, which together, would add another 5 trillion dollars to the debt. Regardless of what anyone in the US government says, it can only lead to higher taxes. One of the bills being debated right now has provisions for significant tax hikes.  According to the NY Times, the corporate tax rate could increase by more than 30% and the rate for the wealthiest Americans could double! According to Tax Policy Center, senior fellow, Howard Gleckman, "95% of all federal taxes are paid by households in the top two quintiles — those making about $98,000 or more." 

No matter how you cut it, higher taxes lead to layoffs and spending freezes. The wealthy will have less disposable income to inject into the economy and the businesses they run must layoff staff to compensate for profits being redirected to pay additional corporate income taxes.

Don't get me wrong. If multi-billion dollar companies aren't paying any taxes they should pay their share but this won't affect them.  According to the US Treasury30 million SMEs account for nearly two-thirds of net new private sector jobs. This will affect them and their employees.

Immigration.  You don't have to live in a cave to see what's happening on the southern border and with the Afghanistan immigrants.  Millions of people streaming into the US means millions more low wage workers.  According to George Borjas, professor of Economics at Harvard University, "Immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants—from the employee to the employer." 

As wages go down, disposable income vanishes and that negatively impacts the economy.

Stock Market.  Wall Street has the jitters right now because they don't like what they are seeing.  According to Morgan Stanley's Chief Investment Officer, Mike Wilson, stocks could be in for a 20% correction. 

That's a devaluation of 20%! 

According to BTIG's Juilian Emanuel, the markets are mimicking 1999 and for those of us who were around back then, it's not good news.  As a matter of fact, that's the kind of news that causes companies to stop spending money in a hurry.

If you've been reading anything in the news, you know there's a lot more going on but these four issues directly impact our economy.  And you don't have to live in the US to be affected by the US Economy because according to the NY Times, as the USA goes, so goes the global economy.  

These four issues don't suggest a coming boom, they warn of a serious recession, with high inflation, high interest rates, and high taxes, coming soon to a city near you.  In other words, an economic disaster.  Not as bad as the complete shutdown we saw in 2020, but probably as bad as the economic crisis we faced in 2009.

So how will that impact companies and their sales teams?

When large companies enact spending freezes, it has a trickle down effect.  For B2B, think cancellations, PO's that aren't issued, layoffs, fear and most especially, real challenges to getting products and services sold unless companies can't do without them.  And even then, there will be more competition and a race to the bottom as companies demand lower prices. Salespeople are ill-equipped and will be scared, while the companies they work for will be too risk-averse to rely on order takers to suddenly sell value in hopes of maintaining margins. 

"Selling value will be the key to survival but
selling value does not occur in a vacuum".
 

It requires strong consultative selling skills (listening and questioning) in the context of a sales process that supports a consultative approach.

Selling value assumes that your salespeople actually got themselves a meeting!  While getting meetings aren't that difficult with good lead generation efforts, meeting with a decision maker is.  46% of all salespeople believe they are reaching decision makers while Objective Management Group's (OMG) data shows that only 13% are actually doing that.  And if the economy tanks the way I expect it to, watch what will happen to those lead generation efforts!

From 2017 to the pandemic, most salespeople were successful in spite of themselves because there was more business than capacity to deliver.  Yet 50% of reps still failed to meet quota.  What will happen to the bottom half of your sales team when there will no longer be orders to take and each opportunity will need to be found and properly sold?  It doesn't sound very exciting.

Now is the time to take control of what lurks ahead.

The. Single. Most. Important. Thing. You. Can. Do. Right. Now. is to have your sales team professionally evaluated.  You must:

  • Learn who is part of your future and who was part of your past
  • Whether sales management is up to the task of coaching up your salespeople
  • Who has the ability to become effective taking a consultative rather than transactional approach to sales?
  • Who has the ability to sell value instead of price?
  • Is your sales process ready to support a consultative, value based approach?
  • How effective are your salespeople at reaching actual decision makers?
  • How effective is your team at gettin prospects past nice-to-have and getting them to must-have?
  • How much better can your salespeople become?
  • How long will it take?
  • What is required?

Those are the first ten things that came to mind but there are hundreds of other questions that could be and should be answered as part of a sales force evaluation.  What do you need to know about your sales team to navigate what I expect will be a very difficult 2022?

Learn more about a sales team evaluation here.

Explore OMG's data from more than 2 million salespeople in the 21 Sales Core Competencies we measure.

Request a sample from a sales team evaluation. Check off the following boxes on your sample request:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, sales performance, economic crisis, recession, closing deals, 2022

The Sales Compensation Plan from Hell and How to Improve It

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 17, 2021 @ 11:09 AM

Challenge Yourself with a Puzzle That's All the Same Color - Nerdist

Have you ever attempted to complete a jigsaw puzzle when the entire puzzle is a solid color?  You dump all the pieces on the table and say to yourself, WTF?

 

Have you ever come to a strange intersection and the signs are pointing in every possible direction?  You sit there with drivers leaning on their horns, urging you to move and you're looking at the signs and wondering, WTF?

Frankenstein: Shelley, Mary: 9781512308051: Amazon.com: Books

And the perfect analogy, Frankenstein. The monster was not at all what its creator, Victor Frankenstein had intended or hoped. Victor, a scientist, looked at his creation and said to himself, WTF?  If you are familiar with the book, then you know that at birth his creation was not a monster on the inside but Victor was so horrified by what his creation looked like that his abusive behavior towards the creature forced him to morph into a monster.

Have you ever seen a compensation plan so complicated, so illogical and so detailed that all you could do was stare at it and wonder, WTF?

I did.  This week.  Couldn't make heads or tails of it. There were several sales groups selling different services to different audiences, several roles in each group, different plans for each role, different percentages, some of the compensation was guaranteed but some was variable and had to be earned by achieving quantitative and qualitative goals consisting of variable weighted goals, some of which were based on revenue while others were based on percentage achievement of goal.  The only way to figure it all out was to draw a table on the white board and start filling it in.  When we were done it looked like the monstrosity below:

It was worse than the solid color jigsaw puzzle and crazy street sign!

A good sales compensation plan is one that is so simple that salespeople can look at it and in about twenty seconds, understand exactly what their base salary will be, how much they can earn in commissions, what they must do to earn it, and when they can expect to be paid.  Period.  The plan I saw required two calls and one meeting with half of my team to get to the point where we understood what was in it and how it worked.  It was so complicated that I thought I would have to go back to school to decipher it!

A good sales compensation plan is motivational.  Salespeople must know that if they outperform the budget then there are commissions and bonuses to earn.  This plan was capped with no commissions or bonuses for over-performing the budget.

A good sales compensation plan should guide salespeople's behavior and incentivize them to focus on the things they will be compensated for.  This plan had a weighted variable for retained business but offered almost no incentive to spend any time on retention.

A good sales compensation plan should have a single number.  That number is the average percentage of revenue on which all salespeople in a particular group/role are paid.  This plan had to be reverse engineered to come up with the number of 3.4%.  On average, total comp was 3.4% of revenue.  So that becomes the number salespeople can expect to be paid in commission for over-performing their budget.

Find the number, go for simple, motivational, and behavioral and your salespeople will run with it.  Otherwise, you'll be proud as heck of the monster you created and left wondering why you have so much turnover, sales aren't growing, and what you have to do to fix it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Motivation, sales compensation

The Chainsaw Massacre and Building Sales Teams

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 @ 09:09 AM

chainsaw

I was on the back of our property with my chain saw and I was ready to take down the third tree of the afternoon.  I determined where the tree needed to fall, made the two front cuts to create a hinge and made the final cut in the back to take it down.  Only it didn't go according to plan.  Somehow, the tree began to drop right where I was standing, ninety degrees from where I intended.  If cutting down trees is a hit or miss proposition, this was definitely a miss - as long as I could get out of its path quickly enough.  There is a science and a process for taking down trees and obviously, I didn't follow it properly!

Despite the existence of both a science and a process for hiring salespeople, most efforts also tend to be hit or miss and the emphasis always seems to be on miss.  There are plenty of reasons why, and we can discuss some of them, but the biggest and most insane reason is...

There are processes, websites and tools and plenty of help is available every step of the way. With all of those resources, why is hiring salespeople still such a hit or miss proposition? 

The answer is: Stubbornness.

HR professionals are stubborn because they think hiring salespeople is the same as hiring everyone else in the company.  It isn't.  Salespeople have three additional challenges which no other employee has to face:

  1. Competition - competitors will try to prevent your new salespeople from succeeding. Who other than salespeople in the company have to overcome that?
  2. Resistant and Disinterested Prospects - they hide from your new salespeople and when your salespeople do manage to get them to the phone they are resistant and disinterested.  Who other than salespeople in the company have to overcome that?
  3. Fear - salespeople have a lot of self-limiting beliefs, discomforts and fears that prevent them from doing some of the things required to be successful in sales even after they have learned to do them.  Is there any other role in the company where demons interfere with getting the work done?

Sales Managers are stubborn when they insist that their years of hiring salespeople validates their gut instinct and because of their experience they will get it right.  Yes - they can get it right as often as 50% of the time.  With only 50% of salespeople hitting quota each year, sales is the only profession where employees can fail dramatically and still have a job.  Unfortunately, as Elton John sang, "I'm still standing" is not a KPI for sales success.  Meeting or exceeding quota each year is.

CEOs are stubborn because they refuse to hold their Sales Leaders accountable for eliminating mediocrity. That mediocrity includes not just the horrible quota achievement, but failing to meet forecasts and sales hiring results.  How long would it take the CEO to fire the CFO if the CFO could only account for 50% of the company's money?

Recruiters - both internal and external - are stubborn because they don't want to change the way they do things.  As such they attempt to prevent companies from using Objective Management Group's (OMG) very accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments because it makes their job so much more difficult when they have to present quality candidates instead of any old candidates.

When Sales Leadership, HR, Recruiters and CEOs break through the stubbornness barrier, they are rewarded with the benefits of using OMG's sales candidate assessments - the equivalent of a sales hiring crystal ball.  OMG is incredibly accurate and predictive, as well as customizable down to the specific selling role so HR, sales leadership and recruiters can all see into the future and determine in advance whether or not each sales candidate is ideal for the selling role the company is attempting to fill.  As a result:

  • Recruiters deliver and recommend candidates with confidence!
  • HR saves dozens of hours they would have spent pouring over applications and resumes as well as making calls and can focus on reaching out to only those who will succeed in the role.
  • Sales Leadership interviews only those candidates who have the sales capabilities to succeed.
  • New salespeople hit quota, forecasts are finally realized and CEOs celebrate.

Best of all, executives can hire the salespeople they need and then move on to the other important aspects of their job.  it doesn't have to be hit or miss and it doesn't have to be difficult.  If it wasn't for stubbornness, hiring salespeople would not be a year-round proposition!

Speaking of resources, here are some I can point you to:

Free sample of OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment 
Free trial of OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment 
Free White Paper on the Science of Salesperson Selection

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, hiring salespeople, sales hiring assessment, sales candidate assessments

Data: The Top 10% of All Salespeople are 4200% Better at This

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 07, 2021 @ 11:09 AM

dont-care

My wife and I entered the small jewelry shop and were greeted - not with a warm welcome - but with a matter of fact "my name is...and I'm the owner...and I created everything in the store" which was followed by fifteen minutes of non-stop presentation of everything she created.  

You've been in a store like this and you know exactly how you have reacted to that.  It includes thinking all of the following:

  • Stop!
  • Shut Up!
  • I don't care!
  • Go away!
  • Oh wait, I can go away!
  • Please stop so I can leave!
  • Your stuff is not even that good!
  • Has anyone ever listened to this?
  • You've got to be kidding me!
  • There's more?
  • OMG make it stop!!!

When it was over my wife said "thank you" and we walked across the street to a gallery where we were quickly greeted - no greeted is totally the wrong word - instructed to "put on a mask!"  The mask thing again.  About ten minutes later he caught us staring at one particular painting for several minutes and asked, "Are you familiar with her work?"  We said, "No" and he took the opposite approach of the Queen of all Jewelry and walked away!

So in one store we weren't the least bit interested, she didn't notice, didn't care and kept on keepin' on.  In the other store we would have bought that painting and he abandoned us.

I don't usually write about retail selling and today's article is not about retail selling except to make a couple of important points.

If we all know how boring, irrelevant and agonizing it is to be presented to when we aren't interested, then why do salespeople, who have surely been on the receiving end of the scenario described above, insist on presenting before they have a qualified, interested prospect?  It's stupid, irresponsible, and a huge waste of time.  But they persist.

Salespeople aren't great at taking a consultative approach.  According to the data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments on more than two million salespeople around the globe, only 14% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.  Only 42% of the top 10% have it as a strength and as you might guess, 0% of the bottom 10% have it as a strength.  You wouldn't think that anything could be worse than that, right?  But if you look at the bottom 50% - the bottom million salespeople, only 1% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength. The top 10% are 4200% better at taking a consultative approach than the bottom 50%!

The Consultative Seller is one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG and each competency has between six and twelve attributes or an average of around nine.  In addition, there are 10 additional competencies with attributes combining for around 450 data points per salesperson and approximately 945 million data points in total.  You can see some of the data here and compare industries too.

Back to the story.

When salespeople have been trained to listen and ask questions first some still choose to tell their prospects everything they know up front.  Why?

I can think of ten potential reasons and none of them are very good:

  1. They lack experience and all they know is what they learned in orientation training
  2. They need to be liked and fear that if they ask questions their prospects will become angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their sales manager is not holding them accountable for taking the consultative approach
  5. Their sales manager is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced and lack confidence
  9. They think that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Everything on my list is symptomatic of numbers four and five. With reinforcement coaching and accountability, every other reason goes away.  That brings us to the next point/question.  Why aren't sales managers doing numbers four and five?

I can think of ten more potential reasons and none of them are any good either:

  1. They are spending too much of their time on personal sales
  2. They need to be liked and fear that holding their salespeople accountable will make them angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their boss is not holding them accountable for implementing the consultative approach
  5. Their boss is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask their salespeople
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like either and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced role-playing and lack confidence
  9. They agree that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Most of these reasons are essentially the same.

It's a top down problem and the folks at the top just hope the folks at the bottom take care of business and don't really care how. And therein lies the problem.  Ambivalence from the C-Suite basically suggests that they just don't care.

What can we do about that?  Rocky LaGrone had a great answer to that question!

Rocky said:

"You could take a stick and beat the C-suite over the head repeatedly until they cry Uncle and then start to listen.


Their biggest problem however is not their ambivalence. It's the fact they don't even know it's a problem. They rely on the sales leader because most of them (C-suite) don't understand sales. Sales is some fuzzy, hard to grip, intangible thing that is a bother but still necessary. The sales leader tells them, "all is good, numbers are coming, next quarter will be better, we are working on it, we need better pricing, we can't produce the product and deliver on time anyway, if we only had the Glen Gary, Glen Ross leads!" Or some other solid excuse...

Then they (C-Suite) play chase and try to fix everything except the cause. For example: Let's get a new CRM, new compensation plan, new marketing, new website, new brand, or something else that exacerbates and hides the real problem. Real problem - wrong sales people, wrong skills, wrong Sales Manager."
 
Thanks Rocky!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, listening skills, questioning skills

How To Stop Sucking by Understanding and Changing Your Sales Metrics

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 30, 2021 @ 09:08 AM

metrics

The CDC is back to focusing on COVID case numbers.  Earlier this summer, Massachusetts was reporting fewer than 100 new cases each day but more 1,000 new cases per day have been reported for the past two weeks.  That particular metric supports the narrative that the Delta variant is spreading but it does not tell the real story that allows us to assess our risk.  

 

 

For the real story to materialize, we should know how many of those 1,000 cases occurred in vaccinated people, how many vaccinated people with COVID have symptoms, and how many of those cases required hospitalization.  Case numbers support that there is new spread, but a detailed breakdown would help us to understand our reality.

The exact same thing is happening with the sales numbers reported by most companies.

Suppose a company reports that its win rate is 24%.  Does that tell you anything other than they suck?  It doesn't tell us how badly they suck, why they suck, how long they've sucked, who sucks, or whether there is any hope for them to stop sucking.  And even if their win rate is double the 24%, the same questions apply. Let me explain.

How badly they suck depends entirely on the stage in the sales process from which the conversion is being measured.  Win rates are not calculated consistently so a 24% win rate could mean five different things:

  • Proposals to closed - if they are only closing 24% of their proposals they are demonstrating the highest possible degree of suck.
  • Qualified to closed - if they are closing 24% of their qualified opportunities they suck at qualifying!
  • Prospects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the opportunities that move past a first meeting, that could be an acceptable rate.
  • Suspects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the prospects they get first meetings with that is something to brag about.
  • Leads to closed - if they are closing 24% of their leads they are freaking awesome!

Every company handles this conversion differently but in my opinion, proposals to closed provides incomplete information because we don't know how many companies they were competing against.  Prospects to closed, suspects to closed and leads to closed are inferior because we don't yet know if the opportunities are thoroughly qualified. Therefore, only qualified to closed provides us the intelligence to determine how badly they suck.

Knowing why they suck requires that a sales process includes all of the required milestones and the milestones have also been integrated into their CRM.  We need to know how many qualified opportunities failed to meet all of the company's milestones for qualified.  If you want to know which milestones should be included, watch this ten-minute video on the most popular sales processes and methodologies.


In order to know how long they've sucked, look at win rates over time using the exact same criteria that is being used today for comparison.  What was the win rate last quarter, and each quarter before that?  Are we trending up or down or is it the same as it was earlier in the timeline?

Who sucks? Unless your reporting includes win rates by salesperson, you won't have the ability to see how you arrived at 24%.  You probably have someone who is closing closer to 50% and there is probably someone closing closer to 10%.  Why is that?  What are they each doing that is so different?  

Is there any hope that they can improve?  This is the most important question of all.  The other metrics we were discussing report lagging data and won't be of much help.  Improvement must be forward looking and the best forward looking metrics have nothing to do with win rate and everything to do with the pipeline.  Is it larger than last quarter, prior quarters and prior years?  Do the opportunities in the pipeline have a larger value than over the same period of time last year?  Is the quality of opportunities in the pipeline higher than it was over the same period of time last year? 24% of 200 opportunities is better than 24% of 100 opportunities.  24% of $2 million is better than 24% of $1 million.  And if the quality is better that would suggest that the win rate will be better than 24%.  That is one way to answer the hope question. 

The other way to measure hope is to conduct an OMG (Objective Management Group) evaluation of your sales team. OMG's evaluation is unique in that it will very clearly show why salespeople aren't selling more, the specific sales competencies where the gaps are, who could be selling more, how much more, the required coaching and training to get them there, how long it will take to get them there, and so much more. Most companies feel that the money spent on an OMG Sales Force Evaluation is the best money they ever invested in sales.

You can get a sample of an OMG Sales Team Evaluation here (checkmark next to sales force eval).

You can see data on the 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

You can learn more about a sales team evaluation here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales backed by science, sales metrics, sales milestones, sales team evaluation

Follow This Advice to Schedule More Meetings and Spend Less Time Doing It

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 25, 2021 @ 13:08 PM

toadYesterday I watched a toad walk across the outdoor side of our kitchen window.  Picture it!  I wish I had video but it ran so counter to what I have observed toads doing over the past 65 years that I froze.  I performed a google search and found exactly one image of a toad on a window. Please understand that the dirty window and sill are not mine - I found the image via a Google search.

Regular readers know that I'm all about the data and I have written nearly two thousand articles based on data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) assessments of more than two million salespeople.  Occasionally however, I see data where incorrect conclusions have been reached and like the toad on the window, my conclusions run counter to theirs.  One such example is a beautiful infographic from sales playbook company Xant. I am going to share some of their data, graphics and conclusions and I'll provide my counter argument to their conclusions.

I'm not challenging the data, only their conclusions.

They cited data from tens of millions of outbound follow up calls to leads showing call conversion rates being significantly better on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Their conclusion was that salespeople should make their outbound calls on those three days.

I see it a bit differently.  Wednesday is hump day and Friday is the beginning of the long weekend.  Both days are notorious for being slacker days so it's not that prospects are less likely to schedule meetings when you call them on Wednesdays and Fridays as much as salespeople tend to be far less effective on Wednesdays and Fridays.  So if Xant is suggesting that salespeople focus their calls on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays you should absolutely make your outbound calls on Wednesdays and Fridays when there is less noise and competition but while being as effective as you would on the other three days.

The data also showed that contact rates were best in the morning and they suggested that you make your calls then. Of course, I see it differently!  I have always suggested that outbound calling be performed for no more than 4 hours per day because salespeople become exhausted and less effective as the day goes on.  I believe the poorer afternoon contact rates are due to salesperson fatigue; not prospect behavior!  Therefore, if Xant is suggesting that you call in the morning, begin making your calls in the afternoon when fewer salespeople are calling!

There was one conclusion that I wholeheartedly agreed with and that is the time elapsed from lead to follow up call.  Five minutes does seem to be magical with a conversion rate that is 8X better than waiting even ten minutes before your call!  FOLLOW UP IMMEDIATELY!!

Their data shows that most salespeople - 81% - make fewer than 5 follow up attempts but the data isn't filtered by title. Calling the C Suite requires more attempts than calling a manager but salespeople suck at reaching decision makers.  Read these articles.  Despite that, it is very clear that you must be persistent! The reality is that the contact rate for between two and six attempts is much better than for one attempt and more than eight attempts.  My advice, call every day until you reach the person that generated the lead.

When it comes to lead follow up, I have a few suggestions.

Do it quickly and you won't have to do it a lot.

Do it effectively and you'll have a better conversion ratio.

Do it a lot to become more effective.

Let's pivot to a baseball analogy.  If the batter fails to get a hit, one of three things have occurred:

  1. They made solid contact but hit it right at a fielder - bad luck.
  2. The pitcher got them out with good pitching.
  3. They got themselves out with lack of plate discipline.

Don't get yourself out with lack of outbound calling expertise.  Practice every day and become awesome.  When I first began selling I hated cold-calling with a passion.  Since I was spending 6 hours per day doing what I hated I vowed to become good enough at it so that I could do it in one hour.  Remember, the better you are, the less calling you'll have to do!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, prospecting, cold call, outbound

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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 medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine 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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