Hold Your Sales Management Horses

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Feb 11, 2019 @ 14:02 PM


Todays video blog discusses some of the things which prevent sales leaders from having maximum impact on their sales force. In the Pogo cartoon script, the phrase "We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us" teases the problem.


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Topics: Sales Coaching, sales development, sales productivity, reps making quota, sales management effectiveness, sales skills

The Wisdom of Baseball in the Context of Selling

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Jan 28, 2019 @ 21:01 PM


Since September, I have conducted eight multi-day sales intensives for about three hundred salespeople. The vast majority of attendees had 5-25 years of tenure. When shown the graphic below virtually all agree they regularly skip steps between first and second base and run to third.


There are two reasons why this happens:

The first reason is that in the internet age, prospects believe they are experts after a few searches. So they push salespeople to present their company's services without having much of a conversation. They want to engage at third base.

The second reason is the capabilities of the sales force. The table below shows the average competency scores for all salespeople excluding elite and strong or the top 20%. These scores represent the remaining eighty percent of salespeople. We see strengths in account management, presentation approach and relationship building but weakness in reaching decision makers, consultative selling and qualifying.


The average score for the top three competencies is 56% while the average score for the bottom three competencies is 44%, a 22% variance.

When asked why they begin their sales process at third base, most answered in one of three ways:

  1. They thought they would lose the deal if they pushed back on the prospect
  2. They felt personally compelled to talk about products or services
  3. They didn’t know there was another way. 
So much for the notion that salespeople don’t show up and throw up!

You might assume that after salespeople become aware of this, they can change. Unfortunately, this is not true. The reason why occurs in sales DNA. Most in the group above have Need for Approval, Become Emotional, have difficulty talking about money, and possess Non-Supportive Beliefs. It takes time to overcome these weaknesses and very proactive sales coaching. Sales manager should spend 50% of their time on coaching. Most of this should be scheduled, not on demand.

This is where a staged, milestone-centric sales process is so critical. Managers must coach to the sales process showing salespeople when and where they skip steps, why this happens and how to get prospects to slow down and move back to first base so they can have stage appropriate conversation(s). Consultative selling occurs between first and second base, not between second and third base. If you have not identified the business need, quantified its impact, identified the compelling reason to act and created a high value relationship (SOB) you set yourself up as another commodity seller who generates too many proposals and spends lots of time chasing prospects.

Would you like to become a better coach? Attend our March Sales Leadership Intensive and learn how to accelerate the develop of your salespeople and have greater impact on your sales force.

Learn more at http://www.kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event/# and receive a $100 discount when you register here

Topics: sales process, sales management coaching, Consultative Selling, low closing percentage, delayed closings, sales force excellence, sales leadership effectiveness

New Years, Commitment and the Sales Force

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Jan 07, 2019 @ 17:01 PM


A significant percentage of the annual revenue for gyms occurs in January. By late February or March, you can stroll into most health club without lines and work out without interruption.

We all know why. People’s desire for fitness spikes with a New Year resolution but their commitment fades rapidly when the “pain” of doing the work becomes reality. 

Salespeople suffer from the same problem. Whether it’s prospecting for new business, social selling, nurturing centers of influence or walking away from low probability opportunities, the majority of salespeople quickly slide back to their old ways.

While 70% of the lower half of salespeople have strong motivation, fewer than fifty-percent of that group have strong commitment. The next 35% see their commitment scores jump to 80%, but unfortunately, the percentage of salespeople who take full responsibility for any lack of performance is only 34% and 46% respectively.

This morning I spoke with a CEO who lamented this very challenge. In his case, a high percentage of new hires had failed to become productive. When I asked about sales leadership, he said they’re good at motivation but weak on accountability and managing behavior. In my experience, it is an absolute requirement to close the commitment and responsibility gaps.  

Creating sustainable change in a sales force requires sales leaders to change what they do, how they do it and the frequency and cadence of the interactions with their salespeople. To accomplish this, CEO’s and presidents must hold their sales leaders accountable and provide them with weekly coaching.

Resistance occurs because change makes people uncomfortable. Doing what’s normal regardless of whether or not it is effective, feels right. This applies to everyone, executives included.

January is the preferred time to assess and reset.

Whatever your role, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What should I stop doing in 2019? This is possibly something you enjoy or feel productive doing.
  • How can I get others to hold me accountable?
  • How do we I / we raise our prices?
  • How do I spend my time now? This must be as detailed as analyzing your credit card statement.
  • How should I be spending my time?
  • What specific metrics must I / we be held accountable to?
  • What do I / can I do that has the most positive impact on the business?
  • How do I spend more time doing this?
  • Why did I / we not achieve more in 2018?  Don.'t rationalize
  • Which opportunities currently in the pipeline should be removed?
  • In what areas do I need coaching?
  • Am I committed to getting a coach, if not why?

We are all going to have good days and bad days. Our desire and commitment will vary depending on circumstances. Change will always feel uncomfortable at first.

I think we should ask ourselves, "am I really committed to being a better salesperson, sales leader or executive and what must I change to hold myself more accountable?"

Topics: coaching culture, sales and sales management tips, sales productivity, sell more

Why Speed on Base Wins in Baseball and Sales

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Nov 05, 2018 @ 18:11 PM



Dave Roberts' stolen base in game four of the 2004 American League Championship started the Red Sox historic comeback against the Yankees that resulted in them winning the 2004 World Series.

The mental battle between a runner and the pitcher (the runners who are threats to steal are often referred to as “Speed on the Bases” by broadcasters) perfectly describes what salespeople must accomplish to create a high-value relationship with a prospect. When the runner gets into the head of the pitcher, a base stealing opportunity is created. When you get your prospect to pay more attention to you than anyone else a sale becomes exponentially more likely. 

In OMG's Relationship Building competency, 65% of Elite, 58% of Strong and 55% of the Serviceable salespeople are strong compared to only 36% of the bottom 10%.

Over the last five weeks I have conducted seven sales and sales leadership intensives for about 150 sales professionals. A high percentage of them viewed relationship creation as creating rapport and finding common interests. Virtually all of the Account Managers saw their job as keeping people happy at all costs. As a result, they tend to posture themselves as vendors instead of advisors.

To create Speed-on-Bases (SOB) in sales you must take a different approach. It not about making people feel comfortable, it’s about creating equality, trust, value and intimacy. 

In OMG's Doesn't Need to be Liked Competency, part of Sales DNA, 54% of the top half of salespeople are strong compared to just 20% of the bottom half. 92% of the top 20% have this as a strength.

When we at Kurlan begin a sales development project, we generally conduct sales and sales management intensives. These are typically our first encounters with the entire team. These are cold groups and analogous to an early meeting with a prospect. The attendees can be skeptical, reluctant, uneasy, wary and in some cases on a mission to undermine our efforts. We are in the truest sense of the word just another vendor.

To achieve a positive outcome requires us to quickly develop Speed-on-Bases with the group and the individual members. 

SOB quality is comprised of Relationship, Honesty, Credibility, Value-Add and Posture. Salespeople tend to focus on the first element most frequently without intention.

Relationship is primarily about warming people up and creating rapport. Getting people to laugh, having some fun and being a little vulnerable. After all, we are all people trying to help each other. Honesty requires speaking the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, acknowledging the elephant in the room, “many of you are skeptical about me and what we are doing here”.

Credibility is using their language or speaking from the perspective of the audience in my case. With prospects you must know what it’s like to be them. How they think, what their day looks like, the politics of the organization, communication challenges and the problems they face including those that have nothing to do with you. 

Value-Add is by far the most important. It cannot be created without the first three SOB elements. In short you must challenge and poke holes in their thinking. Presenting, talking about solutions, features, benefits and your value proposition do not add value. They make you sounds like all the other ineffective salespeople they have met.

Finally, there’s Posturing. At its core, posturing is being the advisor instead of a salesperson, as the table below shows. 

Weak Posture

Strong Posture


Asking tough questions

I / We can help

I don’t know if you will be a good customer

I will do whatever it takes to win your business

I don’t need your business

Help me with how to sell to you

This Is how I do business

Tell me about the challenges you face

What is your part in these challenges?

If you are not comfortable sharing your budget that’s OK

I can’t help if you don’t trust me

What are you trying to fix?

What is the business driver?

Most salespeople are conditioned to accept the inequality prospects want when they buy. It’s considered OK for prospects to spin the truth, lie by omission, string salespeople along and cancel meetings without notice. Weaker salespeople accept this as the norm and don’t push back. From an objective, non-emotional perspective, this is crazy. Salespeople need to toughen up, stand their ground, stop seeking approval and stand up for the noble profession we all embody.

Want to learn more, click on image. evals.

Topics: sales advisors, advanced selling skills, elite salespeople, selling value, differentiate our company, differentiating yourself

What Happens When Sales Leaders Properly Use CRM

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 @ 14:09 PM

Sherlock Holmes PIpe and Hat

Most companies design and execute sales process backwards. The problem is exacerbated by salespeople’s usage and adherence to process. Only 49% of salespeople in the 51st - 83rd percentile are strong in the Sales Process competency. Most of the A and B players are found in this group.

Having evaluated hundreds of company sales processes, one of the common big gaps is the lack of a key milestone for common fit.  That milestone should focus on what must happen in order for the company to do business with the prospect and what needs to occur for the prospect to want to do business with them.

In a recent client conversation about customizing their sales process I asked them to enter data for an in-process opportunity where the executives were on the call with the salesperson.

Before I summarize what they learned from this a little context is necessary. The opportunity was an introduction from someone the salesperson had done significant business with. The ultimate decision maker was the VP of HR. The company president, the salesperson, my client and the person who made the introduction were all in the meeting.

Here is the summary of lessons:

• The expectations for the meeting did not include potential outcomes;
• The President opened up about issues and challenges;
• They had apparent frustration;
• They failed to quantify the impact and frequency of the problems;
• The referrer shared openly;
• Little attention was paid to the real impact of the issues discussed;
• A relationship was created but only on a vendor level;
• They failed to discuss any compelling reasons to move forward;
• They did not discuss whether there was a commitment to solve the problems they uncovered;
• It was agreed the referrer would introduce my client to HR.

During post meeting follow-up, the referrer backed away from being an advocate because HR either does not think there is a reason talk or had limited information over what transpired.

The value from this exercise is not what the next step strategy should be, although defining this is critical and much easier having gone through the process. The value is in identifying what might have happened if the correct sales process was executed.

While the ultimate outcome can’t be predicted, following the right process could have resulting in the following:

• An agreement in advance that if there was a productive discussion either the President would introduce my client to the VP of HR or a meeting with them would be scheduled;
• By discussing the impact of the issues discussed the President could have built a case for about why they needed to make a change.
• If the President supported looking at new options, the referrer would have felt less exposed expressing their opinion post meeting;
• By having the President arrange the meeting with HR, the likelihood of HR feeling threatened could have been discussed in advance with the President and challenges dealt with in advance;
• A deeper and wider discussion with the President could have created a higher value relationship.

You are probably thinking, "I do this!" and I’m sure that sometimes you do. The question is, how frequently, how thoroughly, and most importantly, does your defined sales process force you into these kinds of conversations when you debrief yourself and your salespeople?

If you want to learn more about the most effective way to debrief and coach your salespeople, attend our best in class Sales leadership Intensive. This two-day program will help you improve your sales process, make you a better coach and help you build a team of higher performing salespeople. More information can be found here.

Topics: CRM Application, salespeople won't comply with CRM, sales process, effective sales coaching, shorten the sales cycle, sales productivity

The Science of Developing Salespeople - Data Makes The Difference

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 19:08 PM


Objective Management Group has tested 1.8M salespeople since 1988. Of this, 6% are elite and 11% are strong. The remaining 33% who assess in the top-half represent the majority of most companies’ salespeople. Not surprisingly, half of the salespeople in the bottom lack good development potential, meaning they are not highly motivated to improve.

 Applying this data to a sales force of ten, two are strong, three are in the middle, two plus are weak, and two plus are very weak. Most CEO and Sales Executives agree with this breakdown.

This means the best salespeople (most return) to develop are the five in the middle. 

On the sales side there are four primary obstacles to accomplishing this:

  1. Poor Sales DNA
  2. Excuse Making
  3. Weak Selling Competencies 
  4. Low Figure It Out Factor.

For sales managers, the limitations are:

  1. Ineffective coaching,
  2. Not enough time spent developing salespeople,
  3. Ineffective sales process,
  4. Lack of holding salespeople accountable
  5. Impatience

                 The table below shows where you should focus the development for people on the bottom.

Skill / Conceptual Obstacle

Top Three Salespeople

Bottom Two Salespeople

Difference Between the Top and Bottom

Follows Sales Process




CRM Savvy




Reached Decision Makers




Qualifier Competency




Consultative Seller Competency




Has No Need for Approval




Able to Control Emotions




Comfortable Talking About Money




                 This table compares the remaining three salespeople to the strong group.

Skill / Conceptual Obstacle

Two Strong

Top Three

Diff Top/Bot

Follows Sales Process




CRM Savvy




Reached Decision Makers




Qualifier Competency




Consultative Seller




Has No Need for Approval




Able to Control Emotions




Comfortable Talking About $




Improving people’s adherence to a well-designed milestone-based sales process is strongly correlated with positive development outcomes. Weaker salespeople need both skill development and coaching to overcome their DNA gaps while stronger salespeople benefit most from continuing to overcome their DNA challenges.

Additionally, the development effort required to move someone from the bottom to the middle is different from moving someone from the middle to the strong category. Sales managers need to be flexible and patience enough to accomplish this.

While the notion of coaching salespeople differently is not new, using accurate time-tested data to help achieve this makes a huge difference in the results.

Consider the following reasons why starting with science is crucial.

  • Managers usually know what their salespeople’s gaps are but not why they exist
  • Mastering a new skill is easier when salespeople also fix their DNA challenges
  • Good data focuses development in the right areas
  • Makes it easier to improve time allocation for development
  • There are more high-return conversations
  • Talking about the underlying issues can increase trust and value

Sales Managers can more easily coach their salespeople up with data.  If you want to know more about your salespeople click here.

Topics: sales data, 21 sales core competencies, improving your sales team, How should I coach?, qualities of great salespeople, coaching culture

Make a Few Small Changes And You'll See Big Sales Results

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 14:08 PM

Kangaroos Jump

New data shows there is a meaningful relationship between the quality of your pipeline and your effectiveness in the qualifier and value selling competencies. By making a few small changes you will see a big impact. Watch this two minute video post to learn more.


 If you are committed to improvement sign up for our Live On-Line Sales Training Series. Click Here   

Topics: sales data, closing percentage, sales pipeline, Sales Coaching, sales training, steps in a sales process

New Data Shows Why Above Average Salespeople Need Significant Development

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Jul 09, 2018 @ 15:07 PM


Please watch my 2-minute video that summarizes recent research on salespeople in the 60-80% percentile range. Under-estimating how much help they need is a mistake and my video explains why.


You can get a snapshot of your sales force's capabilities by clicking here. 

Topics: 21 sales core competencies, joint sales call, need to be liked, sales management role, sellingpower, science of selling

Why Sales Processes Fail to Work

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 @ 16:04 PM

Old Dog

A well-defined milestone-based Sales Process doesn’t work for most salespeople. Hearing this comment coming from a sales development expert probably sounds like heresy. However, if you peel back the onion I believe most of you will agree.

For example, here are two actual sales processes from companies I am familiar with. While they could be updated, they are thoughtful, clear and logical.


Example One
Step1: Cold call, or lead follow up call
Step2: Engage
Step3: Schedule meeting
Step4: Needs analysis, ID problem, opportunity or pain
Step5: Identify a need
Step6: Interested
Step7: Tour
Step8: Evaluate the opportunity
Step9: Determine fit
Step10: Who is decision maker
Step11: Timeline for decision
Step12: Ask about money or budget
Step13: Decision making process/criteria
Step14: Qualified
Step15: Present/demo
Step16: Sell value
Step17: Differentiate yourself
Step18: Value proposition
Step19: Proposal or Quote
Step20: Handle Objections
Step21: Negotiate
Step22: Close

Example Two
Step1: Cold call, or lead follow up call
Step2: Research lead
Step3: Evaluate the opportunity
Step4: Schedule meeting
Step5: Find compelling reason to buy from you
Step6: Quantify the problem
Step7: Value proposition
Step8: Talk about capabilities
Step9: Determine fit
Step10: Who is decision maker
Step11: Meet technical team
Step12: Meet decision maker
Step13: Ask about money or budget
Step14: Proposal or Quote
Step15: Handle Objections
Step16: Negotiate
Step17: Close
Step18: Sign contract

So, what is the problem? When I debrief salespeople and sales managers on opportunities and ask about the specific needs, compelling reasons, pain or quantification their answers are too often about what their prospects need to buy and not why they need to buy it.  For example, perhaps they need to change suppliers due to underperformance, buy something different because what they usually buy no suits their needs, or change what they are doing because it is no longer working.

Although most salespeople and their sales managers believe they sell consultatively, few actually do. Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed more than 1.7 million salespeople. Not even half of the top 10% of all salespeople are strong Consultative Sellers. Take this simple challenge: Define and/or have your salespeople define consultative selling. Here are some things you likely won’t hear.

• Helping prospects to identify and quantify the impact of problems they don’t know about
• Helping prospects to connect their personal risk with not changing the status quo
• Getting people to express their feelings about the problems they face

This brings us to the primary reason why Sales Process doesn’t work: It is because salespeople don’t follow the process. Unfortunately, most managers either underestimate this problem or don’t hold their salespeople accountable enough. Yes, many companies need to better define their process. Many need to build the process into CRM so people are forced to evaluate whether the strategy is correct and next steps have been executed. But, the truth is that most salespeople will not consistently execute a defined process unless they are held accountable for it. Let’s consider why.

Consider this list of self-limiting sales traits that many salespeople share.  They tend to be:

• Overly optimistic
• Too trusting
• Great at rationalizing
• Likely to interpret situations positively
• Following the path of least resistance
• Not detail oriented
• Have little patience

Is it reasonable to expect “self-motivated” people with these traits to hold themselves accountable for following a structured process, particularly when their prospects want to end the sales call as quickly as possible? This is a rhetorical question.

So, wha is a salesperson or sales manager to do? My advice is to slow down, get feedback from other people, ask yourself a lot more second and third level questions, assume you need to dig deeper, walk away more often and stop doing what you have always done.

Do you want to be more effective? Click on the image below.



Topics: customer engagement, sales and sales management tips, data on salespeople, managing patience, sales process

The Yin and Yang of Great Sales Calls

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Apr 03, 2018 @ 12:04 PM

Yin Yang

When you underestimate the bias of your prospects you do so at great risk. 

Last night I watched a commercial bashing car salespeople with the tag line “we are not like that”. You are probable saying I don’t sell cars so why is this relevant.

Take a step back and honestly answer yourself these questions.

• How do I really feel about salespeople?
• What words describe salespeople for me?
• How do I feel when I am the prospect?
Over the years I have asked roomfuls of salespeople these questions. I have never had more that 50% answer in a positive way. This means salespeople don’t want to be seen as salespeople. So how do they want to be seen? The words trustworthy, honest, high-integrity, not pushy, likeable, helpful and valuable come to mind.

If 50% or more of salespeople are negatively biased against salespeople, what percentage of your prospects do you think feel the same way? This does not mean they can’t become trusting and open. It means the “relationship” begins on rocky ground and is greatly influenced by their experiences, perceived or real, which are usually negative.

Back to the commercial. It’s based on the premise that viewers emotionally connect to a negative car buying experience and that telling them this won’t happen will persuade people to give them a try. Unfortunately, people’s general response to being told what they believe is “not true” is BS or, at a minimum, results in a high degree of skepticism.

A quick teaching moment. When prospects ask your opinion what they are almost always asking is for you to validate what they already think. At best you have a 50/50 shot of answering correctly. The correct response is some form of validation, thanks for asking, followed by a question, what are your thoughts.

The risk I spoke about earlier is not just yours. The guarded, cautious approach you see from prospects also hurts them. If you don’t break down the barriers to the relationship you can’t be of maximum service to people, something I believe most salespeople desire and prospects deserve. In a roundabout way the negative bias exhibited by prospects makes it harder for them to make great buying decisions and effectively solve the problems they face.

Who must bear responsibility for this? Salespeople. Yet, while trying not to appear as the salesperson we don’t want to be, we ultimately reinforce the biases of our prospects. When we message, "trust me," without allowing them to talk about their distrust, we make things worse. Relationships are emotional, not intellectual. Unfortunately, to compensate for the dis-ease prospects feel, they approach us intellectually. You must help your prospects let go of these defenses and open up emotionally. If you don’t, you are and always will be a commodity and/or transactional salesperson.

Let’s look at some of the things that salespeople believe or do that reinforces the problem:

• "I need to close this deal" can make me appear desperate
• "I’m not like that" so I need to honestly explain why
• "They seem very guarded" and I would be as well
• "When they ask for my thoughts I must provide the answer" so I talk but they don’t
• "That sounds inconsistent" but If I push back I may upset them
• "It’s OK when they think it over because prospects who think it over will eventually buy from me" so I extend the sales cycle and risk losing the business.
• "I know they are not the decision maker" but if I push back or go around them I could lose the business
• "I want to create a comfortable selling environment" because challenging prospects is risky
• "They won’t share their budget" and in this situation I wouldn’t either 

This list goes on and on and varies by salesperson, but the impact remains the same, we look just like every other salesperson.

Great salespeople ask difficult, tough questions, remain OK if they lose, confront bias when they see it, and are acutely aware of managing the anxiety that their prospects feel. They believe selling relationships must be equal, demand to be treated well and speak the truth even when it may be uncomfortable for the prospect. Most of all, they tenaciously focus on momentum. This means asking about changes as soon as they occur.

Want to learn more and become a better salesperson? Click Below.

Baseline Selling

Topics: sales efficiency, how to sell, communication skills, comparison of top versus bottom salespeople, difficult customers,

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