Has Buying Changed and Has B2B Selling Adapted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

b2b

My articles begin with analogies so we'll start by asking, has baseball changed?  

Games take longer, there is role specialization, starting pitchers rarely complete games, hitters are stronger, pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90's and there is a trend towards either hitting a home run or striking out.  But it's still baseball.  It is still played the same way.  The changes are superficial.

And in the context of how it affects salespeople, has buying really changed?

If you believe what is so frequently written by digital marketing folks, then buying has changed dramatically.  But just because a digital marketing person wrote it, does that make it true?  

We must discuss buying in the context of buying from salespeople so we will begin by differentiating facts from claims. Let's begin with what we know for absolute certain.

B2B buying can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Point and Click Transactional Purchases (navigate to a website and buy it)
  • Talk and or Meet with an Expert (salespeople)

For transactional purchases, salespeople have been eliminated so to that extent, sales has changed dramatically!

For other B2B purchases, salespeople still have significant involvement - for now.  Prospects search Google, visit websites, learn about products and services, and even get a sense for pricing.  For their part, salespeople who regurgitate the same information that prospects can find online are simply redundant, fail to provide any value, and won't be around for long.  It is imperative that salespeople provide value by actually being the value and from that perspective, one of the salesperson's responsibilities has changed.

It is more difficult for salespeople to reach decision makers of larger organizations as they are better protected than before and tend to rely more on group decision making.

When the onset of the pandemic introduced virtual selling to the masses, more buying options than ever before became available because the business that is 3,000 miles away is suddenly no further away than the one down the street.

The way that buyers find salespeople has changed.  They may use the aforementioned Google search, but are just as likely to find a trusted source from an expert Blog, through LinkedIn, or Facebook.  While marketers will use that as proof that outbound selling is dead, that proclamation is propaganda, not fact.  Inbound marketers generate a lot of interest and leads on which to follow up but the quality of those leads is questionable and inconsistent and there are big problems when handing them off to salespeople.  Salespeople who still do their own prospecting by phone schedule plenty of quality meetings to keep their pipelines full.

So how buyers and sellers find each other has changed, decision makers are more effective insulating themselves, and there are more buying options.  What happens after that?

The digital marketing folks say that the buying journey is 57% complete when a buyer first reaches out to a salesperson.  Most ineffective and underperforming salespeople agree that prospects seem to know what they want and all they have to do is quote prices, prepare proposals and take orders.  Of course that's why they are ineffective and chronically underperform.

Today's buyers are self-educated and salespeople mistake that knowledge for readiness. Salespeople tend to take the path of least resistance and the knowledge they mistake for readiness lulls them into the quote, proposal and order taking mode.  As a result, they don't follow their company's sales process or worse, the company's sales process has been modified to reflect buyers being ready.  If the buyers were truly ready at this point they would actually buy but the additional options prolong instead of shorten the sales process.

The top 20% of all salespeople have not fallen victim to the false sense of security offered by poor quality inbound leads or the myth of the buyer journey being 57% complete.  They leverage new tools and technology to take a more consultative approach, follow their sales process, nicely challenge prospects who seem to be ready, uncover the reasons and consequences that led them to buy, get them to think differently and get prospects to see them as subject matter experts. They qualify more thoroughly than ever, talk with and/or meet decision makers, and close two to three times more business than their underperforming, order-taking colleagues.

Buying has changed to the extent that it's easier to start the process and reach out to potential vendors.  Selling has changed to the extent that most salespeople are less effective and top salespeople are closing a bigger percentage of the business than ever before.

This can all be fixed.  How?  

A Sales Team evaluation identifies the issues.

A Custom Sales Process helps salespeople to meet the correct milestones with the proper people at the optimal time for the right reasons.  Integration of the sales process into a CRM application that is designed for how you sell and who you sell to is crucial.

Sales Leadership Training and Coaching train your sales leaders to coach up their salespeople.

Sales Training that demonstrates a consultative approach, utilizes role-play and models what great selling looks and sounds like. 

An integrated approach to sales development changes everything.  Isn't it time?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, crm, inbound, buyer journey, outbound

My Most Popular Sales Article of the Last Ten Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 13, 2021 @ 07:12 AM

nutcracker2019

This is my annual nutcracker post.  I first wrote the article in 2011 and people loved the analogy between the Nutcracker and a sales call.  I make minor modifications to the article each year as current trends, best practices, and recent data dictate.

Last year, The Boston Ballet cancelled their performance of the Nutcracker but we will be in attendance next week and look forward to continuing the tradition.

Please enjoy the article and share it.  It's not only popular, it's one of my all-time favorites as well!

The Top 3  Lessons  from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"

If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections 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 heard this song in advertisements and movies and television shows during  every Holiday season of your life, can you identify the four primary musical instruments being played at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you hear the glass harmonica (most performances feature the celesta), oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Listen again.  Can you hear them?

As with the familiarity of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions during their sales conversations.  While you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...," your salespeople might not have the ability to distinguish credible comments and questions from noise.

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 a timeline."

There are three important lessons that arise from this:

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data of more than 2 million salespeople) - Out of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 quickly begin working on a 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 eventually, they'll do both;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking a lot of additional good, tough, timely 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 played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  Prospects' comments also 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 a VP - 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.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker

Sales Selection Tools: Do You Get What You Pay For?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 09, 2021 @ 09:12 AM

fraud

Perhaps you've heard the advertisement while listening to a SiriusXM radio station.  It's for Home Title Lock.  They scare you by mentioning that some bad people can commit fraud by going online, claiming your home's title, taking ownership of your home, and borrowing against your home's equity without you knowing it.  Home Title Lock prevents this from happening.  Maybe.  I don't know enough to say whether this fraud actually happens and whether their service works.  But I do know this.  I've been trying to cancel my business internet with Verizon for two months and I can't prove to them that it's my account.  If the legitimate account holder, with credentials (account numbers, invoices, names and address), is unable to cancel my own business internet account, how can someone casually take over your title and suddenly own your home?  It doesn't make sense to me!

Here's another thing that doesn't make sense. 

If you have used Indeed to hire salespeople, they will offer to have your candidates take a free sales assessment.  Doesn't that sound great?  It is great if the assessment is helpful but it happens to be a useless piece of crap.  Why would anyone think, for even a moment, that there is any value in their lame, assessment-in-name-only test?

In this article we'll explore how Indeed's sales assessment compares to the gold standard in sales candidate assessments from Objective Management Group (OMG).

Indeed offers several conclusions about each candidate:

  • Expert
  • Highly Proficient
  • Proficient
  • Familiar
  • Completed

By comparison, OMG offers three recommendations:

  • Recommended
  • Worthy of Consideration
  • Not Recommended

Indeed measures what candidates know about selling but doesn't tell us what it is that they actually know!  Indeed measures their general knowledge of selling.  

This statement by Indeed is very telling:  "Indeed makes no statement as to the skill level of a candidate."

So they administer a sales skills assessment, provide one of five scoring ranges, but don't back it up:  

 

OMG measures a candidate's capabilities in 21 Sales Core Competencies, each consisting of 6-12 attributes, and then calculates whether they have the necessary attributes and competencies required to succeed in the selling role for which they are being considered, in that company's marketplace(s), against their competition, at their price point and with the challenges which their company and salespeople face. OMG factors in the difficulty of the sales role and measures how closely the candidate's capabilities fit that sales role. This is OMG's dashboard, which is followed by around twenty pages of scoring and details about the attributes from each competency.  You might notice that under the recommendation, this company used OMG's multi-role assessment where candidate are  evaluated for fit to multiple selling roles at the company.  This candidate was recommended for an Account Executive role and a Specialty role, but only worthy of consideration for a Senior Account Executive role which is more difficult than the other two roles:

Do you see the subtle difference between the two assessments?  You get what you pay for which, in Indeed's case, is nothing.

If you aren't using the Gold Standard in sales candidate assessments, why are you attempting to outsmart the world's most accurate and predictive sales selection tool

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales selection, sales test, indeed

Top 10 Sales and Sales Leadership Articles of 2021

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 07, 2021 @ 10:12 AM

top-10-articles

There are two articles that I post each and every December.  This is the first - the top articles of the year - and later this month I will post my annual Nutcracker edition which I have been doing since 2011.

There are several criteria for choosing the top articles of the year, including, but not limited to:

  • Views (Article)
  • Popularity (likes on LinkedIn and Twitter)
  • Engagement (comments to the article, via email, and on LinkedIn)
  • Personal (my favorites) 
  • Value (insights for the community)

Some of the criteria is subjective and some is measurable.  I believe value is most important, although it might not be reflected in views or likes, and then engagement.  I think views are less significant because people could read the article but not like it.  Popularity is a good barometer but not everyone sees what is posted on LinkedIn and Twitter and the time of day influences that.  So with all that said, here are the top 5 Sales Articles and the Top 5 Sales Leadership articles of the year.

Top 5 Sales Articles (in no particular order)

  1. 2 Questions That Will End Every Request for a Better Price
  2. Salespeople Will Close 50% More Business By Changing This One Thing They Do!
  3. Crappy Salespeople and Lack of Urgency Alignment  - The Bob Chronicles Part 4
  4. 31 Conditions That Predict Your Sales Opportunity is in Trouble  
  5. Data - Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople (Bob Chronicles - Part 3) 

Top 5 Sales Leadership Articles (in no particular order)

  1. How to Use Buckets to Improve Sales Performance and Coaching
  2. How Pitchers Fielding Practice is Exactly the Same as Salespeople Role-Playing 
  3. Startups Almost Always Get The Sales Thing Wrong 
  4. Why I Believe We Should Blow up the Business Development Rep (BDR) Role in Sales  
  5. MUST READ: Are Assessments as Evil as the Persona Movie Suggests? 

The Most Viewed and Commented article was "Salespeople will close 50% More..."

My personal selection was a tie between my favorite for pure fun - Pitchers Fielding Practice - and for insights - the article on Evil Assessments.

There you have it - the top ten articles from 2021.  Which one is your favorite?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales leadership, sales pipeline, sales tips, sales assessments, personality assessment, best sales management articles, best sales articles

Can You Find The Perfect Sales Candidates for Your Sales Team?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 01, 2021 @ 12:12 PM

recruiting

Have you tried recruiting salespeople lately?

It's a lot like it was in 2019, pre-pandemic, only different.

From time to time, I help clients recruit for key roles.  Unlike recruiters, I don't work on a contingency because I take responsibility for the entire recruiting process from soup to nuts and then the client makes the decisions on who to hire.  They pay a fee for services.  I specify the requirements, write the job postings, attract and source candidates, take the initial application, get them through Objective Management Group's (OMG) accurate and predictive candidate assessments, review resumes, conduct the first interview and then recommend candidates who are perfect fits for the roles.

With that for context, consider these two contradicting projects.   I am helping one company find a single needle-in-a-haystack sales leadership candidate and it has taken nearly six months.  I am helping another company find 3 sales leaders and received 3,765 applications.  What's the difference?

For the answer to be meaningful, we have to look at the entire job market, not just sales candidates.

According to this Reuters article, while the number of new US jobs ticked upwards in October, the US labor force has four million fewer workers than in 2019.  That could explain both the shortage of candidates and the skewed unemployment numbers.  [Update - US jobs report from November shows sharp decline in new jobs created.]

Yet, according to this article in TheBalance, there are still 7.4 million workers in the US who are unemployed.  7.4 unemployed plus 4 million fewer workers means that 11.4 million workers are at home despite there being reports of 10 million available jobs!

And according to this post from Statistica.com, the unemployment rate in the US has dropped by only 2.3% in the past 12 months.

The Wall St. Journal said that nearly 20 million US workers resigned during the spring and summer of 2021.

At the same time, this post from Statistica.com shows that there are nearly 2 million MORE workers in the US than in 2019!

And finally, this article from Verizon.com says that there are more than 91 million people in the US who are not working.

So if we combine all of these data points and place them in the context of hiring salespeople, we can draw some interesting conclusions:

The candidates may or may not be currently working.  They may have temporarily retired, be working but ready to leave for a better offer, or not looking to leave at all.

They are out there, but they are being flaky.  29% of the candidates who applied for the jobs I posted did not respond to calls, texts or emails, and 31% of the group that did respond would not take the time to complete online applications and assessments.

I looked at the variables for the two companies I was helping.  I was able to eliminate a lot of them because I was running both campaigns, used the same job sites, used similar job postings, engaged the same way, made the same two asks up front, and conducted similar video interviews.  The only two variables that were different were location and compensation.

There was MUCH more interest in the opportunity where remote or an hour from a major airport were the criteria, as compared to the requirements of a specific locale and in-office presence.

Base salaries were NOT factors but there was MUCH more interest when total compensation exceeded $200,000-$300,000 as compared with total compensation that would reach $100,000-$200,000.  

So sales, sales management and sales leadership candidates are fickle right now, will apply if the total compensation is a no-brainer, and if they don't have to commute to an office.  Otherwise, they'll stay where they are or stay home.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, HR, sales leadership, hiring salespeople, OMG Assessment

Salesenomics - Many Sales Organizations Are Stuck in the 1980's

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 22, 2021 @ 07:11 AM

1980s

Today is moving day for Objective Management Group.  When we first toured our new space, John Pattison, OMG's COO said, "It looks like something the 1980's barfed up!"  I'm happy to report that thanks to big-time help from PENTA Marketing CEO Deborah Penta, our new space is bright, cheery, modern, energetic, open and functional! 

Thinking about the 80's got me thinking...

When was the last time you saw a black and white television or even a console color TV?

How about an electric typewriter?

Or a car that didn't have anti-lock brakes?

You would have to return to the 1980's to see those things and when it comes to their operations, some sales organizations are still in the 1980's.

For example, check out these statistics from OMG's evaluations of 30,000 sales teams and more than two million salespeople.

31% of companies don't use CRM.

44% do not have a way to track the opportunities in their pipelines.

89% do not qualify their proposals.

39% do not track whether their salespeople are under/over quota.  

54% do not track win rates

51% do not know their average order size

74% do not track the length of their sales cycle

40% do not track the number of opportunities in the pipeline

65% do not track the quality of the opportunities in the pipeline

35% do not track margins!

90% do not track the number of meetings required to close

96% do not track the cost of a sale

Unfortunately, there is more, but these are the head turners and it makes me wonder...

It's been widely reported for years now, that fewer than 50% of salespeople are hitting quota.  From the data shown above, we know that 39% of companies don't even track that.  What percentage of their reps do you think are hitting quota?  My guess is less than 20% (think 80/20 rule) so how much worse would it be if those companies were included in the data?  I'm guessing we would learn that fewer than 33% of all salespeople are hitting quota.  That's much closer to what I from companies every day.

We are no longer in the early stages of the information era.  Data is king so how can companies operate without this crucial information?  Even prior to the dawn of the information age, companies found ways to track this information, so why would some choose to ignore this today?

I'm guessing that most of the companies in question are small with less than $20 Million in revenue and fewer than 8 salespeople.  I assume that they are not tech companies and more likely than not come from older industries, like building materials, small manufacturers and small industrial distributors.  But I'm just guessing.

You can easily track everything you should be tracking with the right CRM application.  OMG has an integration with what we believe is the best sales-specific CRM application in the world, Membrain.  It's user-friendly, ideal for complex sales, easy to customize, produces the most important data and reporting out of the box, and you won't have to nag your salespeople to use it. And for fans of Baseline Selling, there is a BLS specific edition of Membrain too.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, crm, omg, KPI's, objective management group, sales team evaluation

2 Questions That Will End Every Request for a Better Price

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 15, 2021 @ 16:11 PM

Pricing Optimization for Online Streaming Services | by Jordan Bean |  Towards Data Science

I was thinking about all the things we pay for that used to be free and are still free, yet we pay for them anyway.  How many can you think of?  I came up with the following:

Water - you can get an unlimited amount of drinking water from the tap but we not only buy bottled spring water, we buy FIJI, one of the most expensive brands, because it tastes so much better.  We pay around $1.25/pint-sized bottle.

Radio - you can listen to as much broadcast radio as you want, but all of our cars have SiriusXM subscriptions to the tune of around $600 annually.

Television - you can watch plenty of free broadcast TV and your local channel's streaming content, but we have five AppleTVs, and between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV plus, and others, we pay close to $75/month for various streaming services.

Software Applications - there are free versions of most of the cloud-based software we use but I pay for versions that have all the features I want.

I get more value when I pay for the features I want than I can get with free versions.  In other words, the pain of not having better tasting water, more listening and viewing options, and software that does everything I need, is exponentially greater than the savings I would realize from not paying a premium.

What's the point?  When prospects tell you that they're going with the lowest price, it's total crap.  They might be saying that, but are they required to do that?  If they have any bottled water in the kitchen, pay for any streaming, or software then it's simply not true.  Can you say bluffing?

I don't blame companies for trying to buy for less, but it doesn't mean you have to sell for less, or match or beat someone's price.  They're just saying the words and waiting to see if you'll bite.  Just about a year ago at this time, I wrote another article about selling value where I used Dunkin Donuts coffee as an example.

So what should you do when a prospect asks for a lower price?

You should ask two questions:

  1.  "Is that a must have or a nice to have?"
  2.   If they say "must have" ask, "And what if I can't do that?"

If you are in a transactional conversation (which isn't really a conversation at all), I guarantee that you haven't sold value and those two questions won't help you at all. 

However, if you've been in a consultative conversation, have uncovered their compelling reasons to buy, have properly differentiated yourself, quantified their problem, and created urgency, then they already want to work with you and those two questions will end the price negotiation right then and there, before it even begins.  Ending the negotiation before it begins is the only way to profitably win a negotiation on price.  You win by refusing to negotiate because once you open that negotiation window and the prospect learns that there is wiggle room they won't stop pushing for more.

Never negotiate price!

There are some salespeople who won't like that.  Salespeople who try to get the best price for their own purchases also believe they must provide the best prices to their customers.  These salespeople have non-supportive BuyCycleTM and this belief prevents them from being able to sell value, uphold margins, and compete based on the merits of their product or service.  According to Objective Management Group's data from the assessments of well over two million salespeople, 73% of all salespeople have a non-supportive BuyCycleTM and a good percentage of them have the belief that their prospects must receive the lowest price. Non-supportive BuyCycleTM is one of twenty-one Sales specific Core Competencies and you can see the data from all twenty-one competencies, sort by industry and even your company, here.  

Salespeople who win on price eventually lose on price because there will always be someone who comes a long with a better price.  Price-won business doesn't stick, isn't profitable, and is never representative of good selling skills.  There should be two columns alongside the revenue column for each salesperson indicating how much of a discount they provided, and whether the business was new, repeat, or inherited.

Never negotiate price!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, price shopping, sales strategy, lowest price, value selling,, price negotiation

Sales Forecasts Do Not Have to Be as Wrong as Fortune Cookies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 29, 2021 @ 12:10 PM

Forecast

There has been much talk in the news about forecasts - and while most have been wrong they are still more accurate than Fortune Cookies!

Thanks to satellites, computer modeling and doppler radar, weather forecasts are more reliable than ever before.  Yet despite those advances, they are still guessing - educated guesses to be sure - but guessing about what will happen, when it will happen, and where it will happen.  I live in central Massachusetts and between late November and early April, most winter storms track up the east coast and when a storm tracks a few miles east, west or south of the New England coastline it determines whether it will bring, rain, snow, ice or a combination, and if mostly snow, how much snow to a given city or town.  They get it right - a lot - but they get it wrong often enough too.

We have also seen 19 months of COVID-19 case, hospitalization and fatality predictions which have been totally and consistently wrong.  Two weeks to stop the spread has turned into vaccine and mask mandates that show no sign of going away, especially when they treat each new variant like the pandemic is starting anew.  

We get economic forecasts, employment forecasts, and of course the most famous of all forecasts during October, political polling.  We know the polls are are always off by enough points to get the results wrong.

With all of these forecasts having the chance to be completely wrong, it makes me wonder about the way sales leaders and CEOs react to sales forecasts.  After all, should we expect anything different when it comes to sales?

For the longest time, sales forecasts were expected to be wrong because the salespeople themselves were the ones making the predictions.  That's like us predicting the weather.  "Oh, we're scheduled to go to the beach tomorrow so it has to be nice outside."  It's the equivalent of, "I've had some great conversations and I need one more deal to come in this quarter so it's looking good!"

Then, CRM's began to include calculated predictions to make the forecasts more accurate.  The calculations were based on how much of the sales process had been covered to date instead of how a sales rep felt.  It was supposed to improve the accuracy of the forecasts but it didn't because the percentage of sales stages completed is only as good as the sales process itself. To this day, most of the sales processes I review are missing entire stages, missing key milestones, or sequenced so poorly that they aren't really processes at all but are more like a bunch of loosely connected ideas about selling.  

I have personally reviewing hundreds of sales processes and Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated the sales teams of more than two million salespeople.  From that experience, I can tell you a few things with authority:

Overall, only 33% of all salespeople have the competency Sales Process as a strength or, if we flip that around, 67% have it as a weakness for all the reasons I mentioned in the paragraph above.  The good news is that 83% of the best salespeople in the world have it as a strength while only 6% of the weakest salespeople in the world have it as a strength.  The best salespeople are 1383% more likely to have sales process as a strength!

Related to that, but even more problematic, is CRM.  OMG has a sales competency called Sales Technology and CRM is the primary component of that.  Only 18% of all salespeople have it as a strength, 51% of the best salespeople have it as a strength, and only 4% of the weakest Salespeople have it as a strength.  Even though it the scores are worse than Sales Process, the best salespeople are still 1275% more likely to have it as a strength.

THE SINGLE THING that has the highest predictive accuracy is a properly built sales scorecard.  Not a marketing scorecard where you score how close an opportunity is to your sweet spot, but a scorecard that objectively - not subjectively - scores the opportunity itself based on six to seven very specific conditions.  While the conditions are different for every company and can vary by sales team or offering within a company, they can usually be selected from a group of no more than thirty-five possible conditions.  Then they must be prioritized, weighted and tested before being rolled out to the sales team.

But even after building a scorecard, I still see companies with inaccurate forecasts because of inconsistent use of it.  Unless the scorecard becomes a required milestone in the qualification stage of the sales process, nothing will change.  Each opportunity must achieve a minimum score in order for a salesperson to proceed to a formal quotation or proposal and if it doesn't achieve that score, the opportunity should not be pursued.  That is a tall order for salespeople, frontline sales managers, and their sales leaders.  And when an opportunity does meet the required minimum score, it should be pursued with all available resources because that opportunity is winnable.

There is a time-tested and successful process for building a predictive sales scorecard and its success transcends industries, offerings, territories, audiences and verticals.  The question is, will you ask for help in getting a scorecard built, or will your forecasts continue to be as inconsistent as pandemic predictions have been?

Need help on this?  Send me an email or reach out over LinkedIn.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales forecast, pipeline review, sales scorecard

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,

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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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