Dave Kurlan

Recent Posts

Are You Using This New Technology to Generate New Opportunities?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 @ 13:11 PM

rainbow-flatware

Do you have Rainbow flatware?  Biomagnetic ear stickers? A diamond-shaped ice cube tray? Baby feather wings?  Yah, these things exist here.  You don't?  Me neither.

Have you signed up to use a company that uses AI to generate leads for you?  You haven't?  Me neither.

It seems to me that the only companies using AI to generate leads are the companies trying to sell you their services using AI to generate leads.  How ironic!

AI-generated emails make up the majority of the digital solicitations I receive and they are all from companies offering their lead generation services.  These emails are very easy to recognize.  The personalization is nearly non-existent, the formatting is awful, the message sucks, and they lack traditional signature panels.  But the easiest way to recognize that these are AI-generated emails is the workflow.  They never send one email.  There are usually five or six more that follow and they all seem to include some of the same requests to "bump" their email to the top of the inbox, to "take another look" at their offer, "acknowledge" how busy I am, and the one that drives me crazy, that they "hope" I'm doing well.

In addition to AI, some marketers and sellers utilize workflows from their Marketo, Hubspot and similar marketing/prospecting applications.  Emails and workflows from these applications are usually better composed and formatted.  I'm looking at one of those now, from a UK-based technology firm, attempting to sell outsourced IT consulting.  This particular workflow has sent me 9 emails in the last 5 weeks.  They all begin with "Hope you're doing well."  Then they follow with:

  • 1st email: I am getting in touch to make sure your fieldwork and data collection needs are met.
  • 2nd email: This is a quick note to make sure you received my previous email
  • 3rd email: In case my previous email was an educated stab in the dark,
  • 4th email: I am connecting with you to ask if you need additional support
  • 5th email: I hope you had a chance to review my previous email and hope it didn’t get buried in your inbox.
  • 6th email: I am sorry if I caught you at the wrong time with my previous email.
  • 7th email: see 1st email (back to the beginning)
  • 8th email: I am getting in touch today to see if there is a chance for us to collaborate on your current/upcoming projects.
  • 9th email: I was just curious to know if you received my previous email, and if you had all the information you need in order to get going!

She incorrectly assumes that after 9 emails, she has developed a relationship, participated in positive, constructive conversations with me, and that I have moved from cold prospect to closable prospect.  All this despite hearing nothing but crickets from me.  This is insane!  Why are people wasting their time on these "please delete me" emails?

Back to the AI-generated emails.  They are exponentially worse than what I just shared above!

My recommendation?  Use this powerful game-changer instead or use video conferencing.

Are you in?  Share your comments on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, prospecting, lead generation, email prospecting, AI

Video Conferencing for Salespeople - To Zoom or Not to Zoom?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 06, 2019 @ 14:11 PM

zoom

No data or statistics today.  No sales training or coaching either.  This won't be a lesson for sales managers or sales leaders.  This is my rant of the day.

Netflix?  √
Blue jeans? √ 
Tee shirt? √ 
Laptop? √ 
Smartphone? √ 
Zoom Meeting room? √

Lately it seems that everyone has a Zoom room so congratulations to Zoom!  They're adding telephony so they seem to be expanding their offerings.  The question is, if everyone is rushing to Zoom for their advanced meeting platform, why aren't salespeople taking advantage of it?

Selling has generally moved from outside to inside.  The advantage of selling from ones desk or home office is that it's much more efficient and far less costly.  The disadvantage is that people still want to meet the people they are doing business with.  Enter video.  Video conferencing allows prospects and customers to see us, without us having to travel.  It's better than audio-only, otherwise known as phones.  

If video enhances our ability to sell from the comfort of wherever we are, why is it that nearly every time I join a Zoom meeting the host's video is turned off?  Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

In my opinion, the appeal of the technology has caused everyone to jump on board but the availability has moved more quickly than our readiness to adopt the technology. Many salespeople are either too embarrassed or too uncomfortable being on camera to turn on their camera.  And then there's the group who turn it on but don't center the camera on their face!  Do us a favor - you're the ones who shouldn't be turning on the cameras!

Video meetings are the future.  Video meetings are important.  The technology to sell by video conference is easy-to-use, ready-to-use, requires no training, and can help you be a trusted advisor - a status you cannot achieve as quickly by phone or in a Zoom meeting without video.

When I'm being sold to I keep my camera off - but for some reason they don't turn theirs on.  When I'm doing the selling you can bet your bottom dollar that my camera is on, I'm looking at them, I'm animated, and behaving exactly as I would if I were sitting in that prospect's conference room or office.

 

Come on people - turn on your video!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, video, zoom

Good Sales Recruiting is Like Selecting Movies and TV Shows

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 05, 2019 @ 10:11 AM

prime-video-screen-shot-bb-alt-d1f4ae787d684f6bb141e35884e187de

Do you like movies and TV Shows?  I love them!

How do you go about selecting the next movie or show you will watch?  Do you look for a specific show, watch the trailer and if you like the trailer, watch it?  Or, do you look at all of the new releases, or everything in a particular genre, narrow down the selections, watch several trailers, and finally choose one?

Most people use the second scenario which, by the way, is a very good approach for selecting and hiring salespeople.  Unfortunately, that's not how most companies go about it.

You need to cast the net as far and wide as you can to generate a large candidate pool.  Then you need to assess all of the candidates in the pool.  Most companies either don't use assessments, don't use the right ones, or wait until the final interview to ask candidates to take the assessment.  Improper use affects quota attainment and attrition.  See the stats below:

quota-attrition-1

As you can see from the slide, companies that don't use assessments have a 49% quota attainment rate, compared to 61% for companies using assessments and 88% for companies using Objective Management Group's (OMG) accurate and predictive sales-specific assessment.  Isn't that compelling?

Consider these actual use results from an OMG user below:

use-graph

This global company, which hires around 30 salespeople per year, is not only the picture of consistency with the number of assessments used, but recommendation rates are within the normal range for roles considered to have significant difficulty.  More importantly, look at the number of candidates they had to assess in order to hire the 29 who had the sales capabilities to succeed in the company's various sales roles!  That's why you need to cast the net far and wide.  910 might seem like a large number but it's only 18 candidates per week spread among their many global locations.

if your typical candidate pool has many fewer candidates and you don't use an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment, it's no surprise as to why your sales recruiting efforts are hit or miss with an emphasis on miss.  When you hire salespeople, they are all supposed to meet or exceed expectations for pipeline building and revenue generation.  It shouldn't be cause for celebration when they do!

Assessing all of your candidates up front allows you to focus on only those candidates who are recommended for the role, saving time and money that would be wasted calling and interviewing candidates who don't have what it takes or wouldn't be a good fit for the role.

You can retool your sales recruiting process and the adoption of a sales-specific, accurate and predictive assessment is one of those changes you can quickly and easily make.

Share your comments in the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, recruiting salespeople, hiring salespeople, sales selection, sales assessments, OMG Assessment

New Data Reveals a Magical New Score for Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 31, 2019 @ 15:10 PM

110

Do you drive at the speed limit, the fastest speed you can get away with, the slowest speed you can get away with, or are you an 85th percentile driver?  The 85th percentile driver travels at the speed that 85% of the cars on that road are traveling, regardless of the posted speed limit.  Motorists.org has data, illustrated below, proving that the 85th percentile speed is the ideal speed for safe travel.

85th-percentile-speed-limits

Thanks to a new finding soon to be included in Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments, the sales equivalent of this data shows a correlation between spoken words per minute and sales effectiveness, identifying the safest speed or pace to deliver sales messaging.

During 2019, OMG began asking salespeople who were being evaluated to provide their value proposition and elevator pitch on video.  Prior to 2019 we simply asked them to type their elevator pitches and value propositions.  The change occurred because we believed we could learn more from audio and video.

Today, we reviewed data from the most recent 3,000 or so videos and we observed that salespeople who delivered their messages at 110 words per minute, had sales competency scores that were higher than 93% of all salespeople.  The ideal range - between 100 and 120 words per minute - places that group in the 85th percentile where their percentile score is better than 85% of the sales population.  The actual range for all salespeople was recored at between 40 (they probably had several seconds of empty recording at the beginning and/or end of their recording) to 230 (they were in a big hurry to get this over with!).

The magic of 110 words per minute is that it's easy to listen to.  A prospect is more likely to hear the entire message whereas a much slower pace is painful and a much faster pace will likely cause prospects to tune out.  The easy-to-take speed of 110 is also less threatening to a prospect, thereby lowering the risk of causing prospects to become resistant.

Pace isn't the only thing we discovered.  We've known from years of collecting value propositions and elevator pitches that the real problem is that most salespeople from most companies have horribly flawed messaging.  The messaging is often weak, rambling, off-target, vague, inconsistent and most importantly, not worded so as to differentiate.

Finally, when does pace matter?  When you're making your first call, when you're asking questions, and of course, when you're presenting!

Work on your messaging and moderate your pace to achieve performance worthy of the 85th percentile!

Share your thoughts about this in the comments for the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image Copyright iStock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, OMG Assessment, Value Proposition, messaging, elevator pitch

A Tale of 3 Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 28, 2019 @ 11:10 AM

squirrels2

It was rainy and cool so the leaves are dropping from the trees, the peak color has passed and it's time to focus on something else.

Speaking of focus, this morning I was watching 3 squirrels each doing their thing.

Squirrel #1, who I named Ernest, was finding lots of nuts and burying them.  His nest was full and he will reap the benefits of his hard work over the winter.

Squirrels #2 and #3, who I named MT and LayZ, were playing.  They were running up and down tree trunks, jumping from limb to limb, running in circles and generally chasing their tails.  They don't yet have nests and unless they make a commitment, become disciplined, and get to work, they will starve to death this winter.

Ernest, MT and LayZ are no different than their human counterparts who find themselves in sales roles.  The top salespeople are like Ernest and the bottom salespeople are like MT and LayZ.  For evidence of that claim, take a look at the table below with a sprinkling of data from Objective Management Group (OMG) which has evaluated 1,910,915 salespeople from  companies.

squirrels

Ernest would be an Elite salesperson.  Elites make up the top 5% of all salespeople.  MT and LayZ would be weak salespeople who make up the bottom 50% of all salespeople. As you can see from the 6 findings I included in the table, elite salespeople like Ernest are 208% stronger than weak salespeople like MT and LayZ.

The 2 findings most consistent with Ernest's focus and discipline are Commitment and Prospects Consistently, where Ernest is 92% and 82% stronger than MT and LayZ.

Even more importantly, Ernest is 326% stronger in the Hunter Competency.  The Hunter, and Commitment to Sales Success, are two of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures. The other four findings listed above are all attributes of the Hunter Competency.

No matter how much selling evolves and how many complimentary selling tools become available, one thing will always remain constant.  B2B sales requires a full pipeline and a pipeline that yields results is built from a consistent prospecting effort, born from commitment and discipline.

With or without leads, a BDR team, or outsourced appointment setting, it is a salesperson's responsibility to be sure that the pipeline always has the 3 F's:

  1. Full (consistent daily effort to keep the pipeline full)
  2. Filled (qualified opportunities in the pipeline, lesser ones out)
  3. Fluid (opportunities in, opportunities moving and opportunities closed or archived)

Most salespeople don't even know the threshold for a full pipeline.  It's the number of opportunities required to sell one multiplied by the number that must be closed.  It doesn't matter if it's one account, one order, or one contract as long as the same definition is applied universally throughout the pipeline.  Additionally, the number required to sell one is not the number of proposals required to sell one.  It's more like this (if you close 33% of your proposals):

  • Closed: 1
  • Proposals Required (Closable): 3
  • Qualified Opportunities: 4
  • Opportunities with Compelling Reasons to Buy (Prospects): 6
  • New Opportunities (Suspects): 8

You can see that the typical pipeline requires 21, not 3 opportunities to sell 1, .

Don't be MT or LayZ.  Be Ernest with your pipeline building efforts.

Share your comments in the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Images Copyright iStock Photos MT and LayZ, and Ernest

Topics: Dave Kurlan, closing, sales pipeline, prospecting, sales tips, discipline

How Sales Coaching Utilizes a Quid Pro Quo

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 23, 2019 @ 20:10 PM

quid-pro-quo

Quid pro quo is all the rage.  The news networks are pointing to and from quid pro quo and arguing whether it was or wasn't implied.  Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you're on, you've probably heard it plenty more than you need to. 

Could there be a sales coaching lesson here?

Last week, before I wrote the article about salespeople losing their way, I was in Chicago for a follow up training event with a team of Sales Managers.  It was immediately obvious to me that the group who received the most coaching from me was way ahead of the other sales managers in the room. 

Coaching works.  And the coaching they were providing was working too. I heard so many examples of how they were coaching their salespeople up!  Coaching them to lower resistance, ask better questions, slow down, follow the process, actively listen to their prospects, summarize effectively and hold their salespeople accountable for change.

At the heart of a coaching conversation where a sales manager is coaching a salesperson is a role-play with a lesson learned. In conversations where the coaching is effective, there will be two lessons: While a skill gap is often uncovered and addressed, a sales DNA weakness - the primary reason the salesperson wasn't able to execute a strategy or tactic - should be uncovered as well.

After the lesson learned, an action plan should emerge, so that the salesperson can execute the tactic or strategy, without being held back by the weakness, move the opportunity forward and close the business.

In other words, an effective coaching conversation has an implied quid pro quo.  I'll help you get better and in return, you'll bring me, our team and the company the business you were coached to close. Don't you love quid pro quo's?

You too can master the art of sales coaching.  This is the last chance to participate in 2019.  Our final public Sales Leadership Intensive of the year takes place November 13-14 in Jersey City and as of this writing there are only 2 seats left.

Learn more at here and register here to get a $100 discount.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, dka

Sales Process and Why So Many Salespeople Lose Their Way

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 @ 19:10 PM

driving-rain

Last night I was on Interstate 90, the MassPike, driving home from the airport in a wind-driven rainstorm.  It was so bad I couldn't see the white lines that divide the three lanes nor could I see the Jersey barriers dividing the eastbound from the westbound traffic.  It was almost as scary as the plane's rocky decent from 30,000 feet in gale-force winds last night or driving in a blizzard! 

The inability to see where I was and where I was going is what most salespeople experience when they sell.  Most salespeople don't have a formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process to follow so they can't possibly know where they are, and where they need to go.  

Consider the following alarming statistics from Objective Management Group's evaluations and assessments of 1,908,143 salespeople with regard to sales process:

sales-process-2

As you can see, only 45% of all salespeople are strong, and only 27% of the bottom 50% are strong.  The top 5% are 850% stronger than the bottom 10%.

Veteran salespeople should be - and are - nearly twice as strong as newer salespeople.  

Going back to my opening paragraphs, 55% of all salespeople fail to see where they are and where they are going during their sales calls, meetings, and sales cycles.  And since most companies do not have their sales processes properly integrated into their CRM applications, navigation is difficult even when there is a process.  And equally frustrating is that most existing processes are missing key stages and key milestones, and are not properly sequenced so that the process can build on itself.

Lighting and reflectors on the highway allow you to navigate with confidence, move more quickly, and maintain more control.  Shining the light on sales process will accomplish the same thing.

Contribute your comments to the LinkedIn discussion on this article.

 

Image copyright iStock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, omg, sales stats

What is the Sales Stack and Do You Need it?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 01, 2019 @ 20:10 PM

sales-stack-1

You bought a really nice, new, laptop computer and you thought to yourself, "Now I'm all set!"  But are you?  You needed a case to carry it around, a thumb drive for quickly moving files from your laptop to another, and a printer and if you have a Mac notebook, a port that will serve as adapters to your various cables.  These are your accessories.

You'll also need cloud storage, a broadband connection, email, a browser and 20 or so software applications so your computer can help you do the things you purchased it to do.  This is your technology stack.

But now there is a sales stack too.  What is the sales stack, and should you have one for your salespeople?

The sales stack consists of CRM, gamification, lead engagement, pricing and configuration, proposal generation, e-signature, content sharing, video conferencing, video production, video server, broadcast email, social selling tools, calendar scheduling, sales compensation, and more.  These tools, along with sales and sales management training and coaching, keep sales enablement folks busy.

And therein lies the problem.

You don't need all of these tools!  They are a distraction.  They create busy work.  They take time to learn and integrate.  Very few of them actually help you sell.  But you are told by the people that develop them that you must have these tools.  And you are told by sales enablement folks that you will be getting these tools.  After all, if you are the VP of sales enablement and you don't keep the flow of tools, applications, integration, training and implementation of these tools coming, there isn't much of a need for you to be there.  In order to justify your existence, you "keep 'em coming!"  Sales Enablement is the sales stack's best friend.

The question is, if we didn't have a sales enablement function, how many of these tools would we acquire based on the following criteria?

  • They help salespeople follow their sales process
  • They help salespeople stay organized in their efforts to close business
  • They provide sales leadership with important, realtime data
  • They provide insight and visualization into the sales pipeline
  • They give salespeople more time to sell and less time doing paperwork
  • They make salespeople more efficient

You would have CRM, but it probably wouldn't be Salesforce.com.  If you have a complex sale or a 1 month or longer sales cycle I would advise you to choose Membrain.

You would have an e-signature application to streamline getting your agreements signed.  I like AdobeSign.

If your salespeople aren't in the field or in a territory you would probably have video conferencing.  I like Zoom.

To avoid sending emails back and forth you would have a calendar scheduling application.  I like Youcanbook.me

If you run a company or lead the sales organization, those 4 tools would help your salespeople be more efficient, more effective and more focused.  Add anything else to that "stack" and you are taking away efficiency and effectiveness.

The stack won't sell for you.  The stack won't make your salespeople better.  You don't want the stack for the sake of having the stack.

That's my story and I'm "stacking" to it.  Leave your comments in the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, crm, sales effectiveness, sales stack

Elements of an Effective Elevator Pitch

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

messaging

Why is your favorite sports team better than my favorite team?

Why do you like your political party instead of mine?

Why are you so loyal to the make of car you drive instead of the make of car that I drive?

I bet you can make a passionate pitch for all three, and probably have them come out better than an elevator pitch or your unique value proposition.

At Objective Management Group (OMG), we ask salespeople to record their elevator pitches and value propositions as part of our sales force evaluation.  Some are OK, most are not, and for most companies, there are tremendous inconsistencies between each salesperson's messages.

Elevator pitches and UVP's are usually so poorly constructed that it makes me wonder if anyone in sales leadership puts any time at all into formalizing these messages.

That said, I thought it might be helpful to discuss the elements of a good elevator pitch and/or value proposition.

I believe that a good pitch or proposition has seven elements:

  1. Personable - When a likable salesperson launches into a pitch or proposition and recites a scripted message, it sticks out like a sore thumb and they are no longer perceived as personable.  It's imperative that they deliver the right message, without sacrificing their likability.

  2. Message - Whether it's an elevator pitch or value proposition, the essence of each is the message itself. Is the actual message consistent with what an elevator pitch (what we do) or value proposition (how we uniquely provide value) are expected to communicate?  In my experience, most are not.

  3. Context - Context is important as it's the backdrop for the message.  If the type and location of an event represent the context for how to dress, then the question that was asked or the type of call or meeting represents the context for the pitch or proposition.  Context helps us frame the elevator pitch or value proposition.
                                                    
  4. Who - Often times salespeople fail to include the company, product or brand in the elevator pitch or value proposition when it's the company that should be front and center.  Explaining how what we do, or how we are different, impacts the prospect is equally important.

  5. Breadth - Salespeople should communicate the breadth of the offering or differentiation but too often, they ramble through their value proposition and elevator pitches, something that is never very effective.

  6. Succinct - As important as it is to show breadth, it is even more important to be succinct. Fewer words communicate a value proposition or elevator pitch much more effectively.

  7. Expertise - The company and salesperson have expertise and if not for their expertise, why buy from this company?  Since so many salespeople suck, many buyers are making their decisions based on price instead of value. Good messaging is required to communicate and demonstrate a company's expertise, an element that can help neutralize a price-driven buyer and provide prospects with information they can use to justify buying from a company that doesn't have the best price.

Now that you've reviewed the elements of effective elevator pitches and value propositions, what must you do to improve yours?

Comment on the LinkedIn thread for this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling value, Value Proposition, messaging, elevator pitch

New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

current

Fish, rafts, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and swimmers all find much more success when they are moving with the wind or the current rather than going against it.

Unfortunately, the same isn't necessarily true in sales.

Most salespeople who are struggling with large companies and all of the meetings, procedures, stakeholders, vendor options and criteria, find it easier to just go with the flow - the current - and wait and see how it all shakes out.  Following the "current" results in a future outcome rather than a "current" outcome.  In other words, current = future.

On the other hand, when salespeople are confident enough to ask questions, challenge their process, and nicely push back, they will not only differentiate themselves from their competition,  they might be able to disrupt the current, move themselves to the top of the list, and get a current outcome instead of a future outcome.  In other words, anti-current=current.

There are three keys to succeed with this approach.

The first key to having success with this approach is whether or not you need to be liked.  This is not about whether you can get people to like you.  This is about whether you NEED people to like you.  They are two completely different things and NEEDING people to like you is a huge barrier to disrupting the flow. 

Consider that 79% of the top 10% of all salespeople DO NOT need to be liked, while only 8% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength.  

The second key to having success with this approach is whether or not you can stay in the moment.  The opposite of being able to stay in the moment is when you talk to yourself, worry, get excited, or strategize on the fly. 

66% of the top 10% of all salespeople are able to stay in the moment while only 10% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength. 

The third key to having success with this approach is whether or not you understand and agree with their buying process.  68% of the top 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process and therefore, don't understand why the prospect needs to comparison shop, look for a better price or think it over.  By contrast, only 2% of the bottom 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process as a strength.  

When we take the average of these three elements of Sales DNA, 71% of the top salespeople have these strengths and only 2.5% of the worst salespeople have these strengths. These three are huge differentiators between studs and duds! Top salespeople are twenty-eight times more likely to disrupt the flow and get a current outcome.

Those elements of Sales DNA are just three out of a total of twenty-one Sales Competencies that are measured by Objective Management Group. You can see them graphed here.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, objective management group

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six 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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