What You Should Measure to Grow Your Sales Pipeline

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

Black Hole

Every CEO, President, GM or sales leader I speak to complains about delayed closing and inaccurate forecasts. This video post discusses why your sales pipeline may be a black hole. Opportunities are entered never to be seen again. Objective Management Groups data warehouse provides deep insight into solving this fundamental problem.

 

If you want to learn more about pipeline management and building a world class sales organization Kurlan Associates is hosting our raved about Sales leadership Intensive on June 4-5 at our office in the Boston area.

   

Topics: sales process, predictive pipeline, best salespeople, inaccurate forcasts

The Wisdom of Baseball in the Context of Selling

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

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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.

Picture1

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.

2019-01-28_11-36-14

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

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

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.

evals

 

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

Creating Urgency Without Using Price

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @ 22:03 PM

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If you see yourself as a transactional seller don’t waste your time reading this article.

Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. In this case insanity means using price to close end of month or quarter business. Why is this insane you may ask? Because you already know what going to happen. You will very likely be chasing your prospects as the deadline passes. What’s worse, some prospects want “the deal” you offered at the end of the month, only later, when they're ready.

Let me be more specific about the downside.

  • You wasted your time getting special pricing approved.
  • You taught your prospect that you will cave on price.
  • You stopped selling consultatively and became transactional
  • You convinced yourself that the prospect was ready to buy.
  • You set yourself up for disappointment.

Prospects don’t buy when you want them to for a few simple reasons. You did not uncover compelling reasons to buy or create urgency, your contact was not the decision maker, you were being played, you rushed the process, or something changed on their end without you knowing.

Prospects act when the pressure or perceived risk of inaction is unacceptable. This connects directly to fear of failure, exposure, job security or advancement or other personal reasons. We don’t buy things because we want them; we buy when we convince ourselves we need them now, even when we don’t. 

The question is not what do you need to buy, but why do you need to buy it. Price concessions assume the prospect is actually ready to buy and needs to act now.

Creating urgency requires you to take a methodical, milestone-based approach. You can’t properly learn what makes it compelling to fix a problem(s) until after you have a clear understanding of what the problem is and the current or future impact.

Here is a sequence of questions you can ask which will expose or create urgency or show you that there isn’t any or not enough. When you don’t find any or enough urgency I suggest you focus on other opportunities. Insanity is just around the corner. 

  • What’s not working or needs to work better?
  • Why is it not working?
  • What is the impact of this?
  • How long has this being going on?
  • What have they done to address it?
  • What happened as a result?
  • Who else cares about this and why?
  • How does it affect them?
  • What is the cost (money, time, emotion, opportunity, etc.) ?
  • How does this impact your contact(s)
  • Are they committed to do something about it?
  • When does it have to be fixed?
  • What makes it compelling to act now?

Some of you are telling yourselves that you already know all of this.

The second instance of insanity occurs when we convince ourselves that what we think we heard is always what the prospect said. In truth, it’s not. In virtually every role-play or post-call debriefing I do, I hear words and phrases that expose the assumptions salespeople make. We are sure we heard them say something when, in actuality, we inferred what they said. This is because we are listening to two voices, ours and theirs. We hear our own voice first and loudest.

If you choose to use price as an incentive that’s your choice, but as a professional salesperson, you are likely selling yourself short. Patterns and habits are hard to break, the first step is being fully transparent with yourself.

If you want more transparency click on the image below and grade your  sales process.

Sales Process Grader 

Topics: Consultative Selling, sales process, closing deals

Seven Tips for Simplified Selling

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

Keep_it_Simple.png

Have you ever gone to buy something, asked a salesperson for help, and left completely confused?   

Why is it that we (salespeople) make simple things so complicated?

I believe that in a desire to sound intellegent, cover all the bases, and educate our prospects, we often confuse, put-off, and alienate the very people we are trying to help.

In my post today, I discuss this problem, and offer some simple solutions:


 

If you are committed to improving sales productivity by recruiting salespeople who "Will Sell", click on the icon below for a free trial of our Sales Candidate Assessment.

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial
  

Topics: Consultative Selling, sales process, coaching salespeople, questioning and listening

Traffic Jams, Ice Flows and Sales Process

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 @ 11:04 AM

traffic jam, sales processOn a recent trip for the Inbound Marketing Summit, getting out of New York City was a painful process.  We left by 3pm expecting to beat the traffic, but had an entirely different experience on the return trip to Boston.

You may be wondering how traffic and ice relate to sales process.  Before I discuss this, I want to comment on the Summit.  If you haven’t been paying attention to “Inbound Marketing”, I suggest that you do.  Consider what I heard: 80% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years.  Assuming this number is off by 30%, it’s still a head-popping statistic.  Recent research shows that prospects have made up to 60% of their buying decisions prior to speaking with a salesperson.

Consider the implications of these data points and the profound impact which they have on the sales profession.   I ask sales and sales leadership professionals this question:  When they first begin talking to a prospect, “How often do their prospects have incomplete and or inaccurate opinions about the best way to solve their problems?”  The answer is always, “Very frequently.” 

If 60% of the buying decision has been made prior to the salesperson entering the conversation and the prospect's planned solution is lacking, salespeople must first help prospects to understand what they missed in their research.  Said differently, they need to unsell them prior to helping them determine what the best solution is.

How many of your salespeople, even the most productive ones, can do this consistently and effectively?

Now back to ice, traffic and sales process.  What frustrated us the most was how one minute we were whizzing along at 70mph only to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic the next minute.  This continued for close to 100 miles.

Several years ago, there was a study which reported that ice freezing in streams is a good model for predicting traffic congestion.  Ice forms first in the slow moving, shallower pools along the banks.  A small disruption in the flow of water there changes the main current and causes it to cycle through, slowing down and accelerating.

Back to the sales process.  Many of the delays experienced when attempting to close a sale can be attributed to 2 things: 

  • The prospect lacked a compelling reason to buy and
  • Something changed.

The most impactful elements which we can control are:

  • A properly defined sales process,
  • Consistent execution of the process,
  • Great sales coaching in the context of the process and
  • Improved recruiting and onboarding of new salespeople.

The best way to determine how effective your salespeople really are, is to accompany them on random, unplanned sales calls and only observe.  Experience shows the following will happen.

  • If there was a call strategy, it will be only partially executed.
  • Major milestones will be skip or missed.
  • Your sales process will not be executed consistently.
  • Your salespeople will begin presenting much too early.
  • Follow-up questions will go unasked or will be ineffective.
  • The prospect will control the process.

The biggest problem will be how the salespeople interpret the results when the call ends.  In virtually all cases, their perspective of how the call went will be overly optimistic.

Selling has changed and sales organizations must adapt.  Science and process need to become the new norm.  Sales leaders must be excellent coaches and embrace sales infrastructure with an operational mindset and your sales organizations must move toward a more process-oriented approach.

We have a few upcoming events targeted toward CEO's, VP's and Managers.  At a minimum, they will be great events to learn about the services which we offer.  The first one is our Annual Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, MA on May 14-15.  Contact me if you have questions about getting registered.

The second is our Annual Boston Area Executive Luncheon on May 21st.  If you are going to be in the Boston area, please plan on joining us.  Contact me and I'll work on getting you a discount code for free registration.

 

Topics: sales management best practices, sales process, sales training, sales force development, effective sales coaching

Why CRM Systems Don’t Ensure Consistent Sales Process

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

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Implementing and improving the use of CRM systems is a high priority for most C-Level and Sales Leadership executives.  Many believe, often mistakenly, that CRM ensures the consistent application of a structured sales process.  The assumption, that by defining the opportunity milestones and weighting their values, translates into consistent sales process execution.  While there is great value in using CRM systems, there are two problems which undercut their impact.

First, most sales processes are defined using business-specific criteria.  These functional milestones include getting a signed non-discloser or conducting a technical webinar.  They're important, but don’t force salespeople to accomplish nor defend whether they've met critical sales-specific milestones.  For example, has the prospect articulated the business need, not the application need, to the salesperson?

If your CRM system traps too many company milestones at the expense of sales process criteria, many opportunities, which are forecasted as "late stage" in your pipeline, are likely poorly-unqualified.

To illustrate this, when we evaluate a sales organization, we have the salespeople report on proposal-ready opportunities.  We ask them questions to determine if they are indeed proposal-ready.

What a funnel of proposal-ready opportunities should look like:

sales funnel 

What most sales organizations' funnels look like:

  sales funnel

 

I challenge you to test this by asking your salespeople to describe the decision process and criteria, which decision-maker can squelch the deal and how they know that the prospect will leave their existing supplier.  Ask them to describe the specific expectations for an upcoming meeting, why this is the strategy and what the prospect is expecting to happen - not what their plan is.

The second problem with CRM systems and sales process is how sales leaders manage opportunities.  They focus on the current month's “closable opportunities”.  The result is a short-term, purely tactical approach, focused almost exclusively on how to close the deal.  Process is pushed aside and, in many cases, the sales manager takes over.  This results in sales process execution accountability and commitment becoming less important than revenue.  Salespeople continue to execute the process steps improperly, get bailed out by their sales leaders, reinforce bad behavior and learn little.

If other company departments, the challenges of inconsistent process adherence and/or execution makes it unlikely that change could come quickly.  Why do companies and its leaders tolerate this?  In many cases, they seem to encourage it.  Are you committed to finding ways to address this challenge?

Take our sales process grader and see what you need to work on.

 

 

 

Topics: Baseline Selling, sales process, growing a sales team, best sales leadership training, convert more sales, crm, Pipeline

Fostering Magic Moments on Sales Calls

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 14:12 PM

Closing Skills, Listening, Awareness, Sales Process, sales culture, sales assessment, sales competencies, grow salesIn the movie “Ghostbusters”, Bill Murray’s character closes a deal when he says to the New York City mayor, “You will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.”  After a long pause, the mayor agrees to work with the Ghostbusters to save the city.  If you haven’t seen this movie clip, be sure to watch it.  

Being intentional in sales allows us to create “magical moments” where everything changes thereafter.   In this clip, the Ghostbusters first explain the consequences of the problem.  Bill Murray then puts the solution in a context about which the mayor cares (registered voters) and then goes silent to let the moment happen.  How often do your salespeople trample their work with too much dialogue?

Magical moments can’t necessarily be planned; they must just happen.  They’re caused by chemistry, emotion, process awareness and the willingness to take a risk.  

So what are magical moments?  They’re points in the process when bonding happens, insight occurs, prospects get emotionally connected to the issue, trust is demonstrated and prospects know you “get it”.  

Intuition helps a lot.  For example, how is the person likely to feel when you first meet?  What can you do to improve the connection?  When you sell to a friend, “your relationship” is the elephant in the room, so acknowledge it, validate its importance and ask if you can agree to put it aside during conversations.  

In a recent meeting, we heard an SVP demonstrate his intimate understanding of the business and how it works.   It was comprehensive, succinct, passionately articulated and offered a vision with enough detail to bring it alive.   My colleague recognized this and commented that his description was the most clearly-articulated message that he’d ever heard.  You could see how much positive impact this had on the SVP physically and it was a magical moment.  Afterward, his peers said that they too were blown away by what he’d said and thanked us for recognizing and acknowledging this.  

Salespeople often go too fast on sales calls.  Sometimes they need to slow down to speed up.   Intuition and the universe talk to us all the time but we don’t always listen well.   When someone says something that impacts us, we know it.  The challenge is do we take a risk and respond.   Risk is a funny thing.  In sales, it’s virtually nonexistent since we typically haven’t closed the deal yet and therefore have nothing to lose.  However, our fear convinces us that we’re in danger and then provides a crazy rationalization for not acting.

Magical moments are always around us.  Your salespeople need to learn to see them and act on them.  The irony is that when we do so, it’s frequently by accident.  Then we’re awed by what happened!  The key is to be intentional.  

Being intentional can be taught and fostered through role-playing and coaching.  To learn more about growing in this area, feel free to contact me.

Click me

 

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, grow sales, sales process, Closing Skills, Listening, Awareness

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