Dave Kurlan

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How to Use Buckets to Improve Sales Performance and Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 19, 2021 @ 07:02 AM

buckets

When it rains it pours, especially when it's coming down in buckets!

Buckets are important, especially when you're attempting to coach up a salesperson or even improve your own sales performance.  If you don't have the OMG evaluation at your fingertips and can't lookup the scores in 21 Sales Core Competencies, or see which attributes need to be improved, you'll need to think in terms of buckets.

When salespeople are struggling, there are five primary buckets to consider:

  1. Pipeline - Their pipeline sucks
  2. Urgency - they haven't been successful uncovering compelling reasons to buy so that urgency can be created
  3. Qualifying - they haven't been able to get their good prospects fully qualified
  4. Closing - they aren't converting their qualified opportunities
  5. Attitude - they lack a positive outlook.

All other issues you might identify should appear in one of those five buckets.

Now let's place the three traditional groups of salespeople into buckets:

  1. A players:  They are the best salespeople in your company and exceed quota and/or expectations, but outside of your company and industry they might not be A or even B players.  Everything is relative.
  2. B players: They're not as good as your A players but they do meet quota and/or expectations.
  3. C players: They are chronic under achievers who fail to meet quota.

Next, let's integrate the buckets of salespeople with the buckets of challenges.

Salesperson to Coach Up Likely Issue(s)
A Player Urgency
B Player Urgency and Qualifying
C Player Pipeline

Let's pretend we're dealing with a C player who has an inadequate pipeline.  We have five more buckets to explore:

  1. Effort - they aren't making enough calls or attempts
  2. Engagement - they aren't getting their contacts engaged in the conversation
  3. Messaging - they aren't using proven, time-tested, positioning statements to get contacts engaged
  4. Delivery - they don't sound very good delivering the message
  5. Conversions - they aren't converting their calls to meetings

In this scenario, you may not be able to identify a single bucket to blame but you have to start somewhere.  If effort is an issue and you don't fix the effort, the other four buckets don't matter. If effort is lacking due to discouragement from past ineffectiveness, you may need to work on the other four buckets before you can return to effort.

It can be overwhelming to identify exactly what you need to work on to improve sales performance.  If you can learn to think in terms of buckets, you'll have a better chance of working on the right end of the problem.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, coaching, Sales Coaching, sales performance, sales excellence

How Overthinking the Turnover Problem Impacts Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 12, 2021 @ 13:02 PM

diversity

When I was growing up in the hilly areas of central Massachusetts, snowstorms meant that unless cars had chains or studs on their snow tires, cars would not get enough traction to drive up a slippery hill. You could get out of the car and walk up the hill and after abandoning their cars, many people actually did that. When executives running tire and auto manufacturers grew tired of people complaining about this, they finally came up with the perfect solution.  They reasoned that since people wearing snow shoes could walk up snowy hills, they would make cars that utilized auxiliary snow shoes to augment traditional tires for snowy hills.   

The story about the snow shoes didn't really happen but automakers did invent front wheel drive and finally all-wheel drive while tire manufacturers developed all weather radials.  Together, those two solutions eventually solved the problem of slippery, snowy hills.

What my snow shoe story points out is just how easy it is for people to go way off the rails in coming up with stupid solutions to common problems when perfectly good solutions already exist.

This week I experienced a scenario with a large company whose executives thought they had it all figured out and were looking for solutions that were so poorly thought out that it was hard for me to keep a straight face.  Curious?

Coming off a year where revenue dropped by several billion dollars, the company had 1,000 salespeople and a major turnover problem. They were certain that sales selection was to blame because they already partnered with a consultant to work on KPI's, sales management and coaching.  I challenged them and asked how that could possibly be helping given their negative revenue and profit performance last year.   Since I was speaking with the very same trio that implemented and owned those changes, they were preaching from the mountain tops about what a top notch strategy they put in place. They weren't going there with me.

I asked why so many new salespeople were turning over and was told that they weren't selling enough, weren't earning enough money, and could not hold out any longer. Voluntary turnover usually means that onboarding is to blame but not at this company as they pounded their chests and explained their fantastic new onboarding program.  They weren't going there either.

They claimed that they were already doing competency-based selection (they are only measuring drive) so the only thing they need to add is experience-based selection.  But instead of identifying experiences that contribute to success, like examples and proof of prior hunting success, they want biodata

Biodata?  Are you kidding me?  Insurance underwriters use biodata to run a risk analysis before quoting your car insurance but your zip code, interests, hobbies, preferences, commute and other brilliant questions are more suitable for a Tuesday night family trivia game.  There is no way in hell that biodata could ever be predictive of sales success.  I have no doubt that this pile of dog stupidity was introduced to them by an industrial psychologist whose membership knows so little about what it takes to succeed in sales that they are largely responsible for the practices that have led to the sales hiring disasters we continue to observe in large companies.  

What about selecting sales candidates based on their sales specific competencies?  The misinformed and over-confident trio don't want to look at sales competencies until after they've selected, hired and onboarded the new salespeople.  Brilliant! 

How could their approach possibly solve the turnover problem? 

You read it here first.  Biodata - the new model for predicting sales success.  Not.

When companies emphasize stupidity over revenue, habits over competencies, and preferences over talent, they will force square pegs into round holes because selecting salespeople must always be about talent and fit.

Image copyright 123RF

The Baseball Experience That Continues to Generate a 28% Increases in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 09, 2021 @ 19:02 PM

32 years ago, back in the winter of 1989, I experienced one of the most memorable weeks of my life.  I attended Red Sox Fantasy Camp where campers like me, all greater than 30 years old and most a LOT older than that, were treated to an incredible baseball experience. The way we were treated, what we experienced, the uniforms we wore, the schedules we kept, the baseball games we played, the coaching, the practicing, the work, the game against the former Red Sox players, and the off hours camaraderie were all supposed to mirror the life of a professional ballplayer.  The fact that we were not professional baseball players, and some weren't baseball players at all, made it even more enjoyable. Relationships were forged, unforgettable memories were made, and the week was a source for endless, hilarious stories!  And this was fifteen years before I wrote the best-selling book Baseline Selling!

My regular readers are probably thinking, "Huh - a baseball post about Dave instead of Dave's son!"

I brought up the Fantasy Camp experience because it's not all that different from what participants experience when they attend my Sales Leadership Intensive (SLI).  For example, last week I led a private SLI for a company with around a dozen sales leaders.  In their follow-up comments they used words like, "enjoyable," "challenging," "informative," "great sessions," "looking forward to more," "enjoyed tremendously," "lot to absorb," "great content," "good investment," "great examples," "great techniques to adopt," and "very valuable."  Those comments were extracted from their very first sentences and they all had trouble limiting their takeaways to just the ten I requested.

The enthusiasm for the training was not unusual because I used my own Fantasy Camp experience as the model for content creation.  I wondered, "Why can't sales and sales leadership training be just as enjoyable, stimulating, challenging and memorable as my camp experience was?"

The comments I shared were their post-training comments.  The challenge isn't whether or not they'll enjoy and benefit greatly from the training.  The challenge is getting sales leaders to attend the training!  There's a little matter of ego.  Most successful sales leaders have fairly large egos and while their egos helped spur them on to their current roles, now that they're in their current roles, their egos sometimes obstruct their ability to improve, ask for help, and bring professional training into their companies.  The voice in their head whispers thoughts like:

  • "They hired me to do this"
  • "I should be able to do this myself"
  • "I'll look weak if I bring in help"

Many sales leaders also possess a false sense of knowledge. They mistakenly believe they are already doing everything correctly, know everything there is to know about how to optimize their sales process, get salespeople to change, motivate and coach up their salespeople, hold their salespeople accountable, and grow revenue. 

Sales leaders don't always have the proper sense for how much effective training should cost, often worrying that it might too expensive while often discounting the benefits. Those who attend our Sales Leadership Intensives report an average increase in sales of 28% after applying the strategies and tactics they learn.

As one attendee from last week wrote, "TOP 10 (11) TAKE-AWAYS (other than coaching, then more coaching, then coaching again…):"

I can't promise that you'll enjoy a Fantasy Camp experience as much as I did 32 years ago, but I can promise that if you can overcome your skepticism, ego and fear, you'll love my Sales Leadership Intensive.  I offer one public SLI each year and the next one is a three-day virtual coaching extravaganza on May 19-21.  You can learn more here and register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales leadership, sales management training, sales leadership training, coaching salespeople, Baseball, fantasy camp

Good Bob, Bad Bob, The Stockdale Paradox, and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 02, 2021 @ 09:02 AM

Navy Legend Vice Adm. Stockdale Led POW Resistance | The Sextant

I read that Admiral James Stockdale, a Vietnam War veteran and former POW at the Hanoi Hilton, said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

His combination of faith and brutal reality was the difference between surviving long enough to be released from captivity, and being one of those unfortunate souls who died in captivity.  In Jim Collins' best-selling business book, Good to Great, he refers to that quote as the Stockdale Paradox.  

It's also consistent with what Jack Reacher, the lead character in the Lee Child series by the same name, would say.  In 2015, I wrote this article about Jack Reacher and I have always taught that "you must be eternally optimistic about your outcomes but completely skeptical about everything you hear along the way."

Why is that important?

Happy Ears is a Big Problem for most salespeople.  When it's a strength, Objective Management Group (OMG) calls it Healthy Skepticism.  The challenge is that Healthy Skepticism is unlike the other selling strengths and weaknesses measured by OMG, where great salespeople have them as strengths and weak salespeople have them as weaknesses.  With Healthy Skepticism there is little differentiation between strong and weak salespeople.

While the strongest 5% are 35% less likely to have Happy Ears than the weakest salespeople, Happy Ears affect all salespeople, even the best ones.  For example, this article tells the story of a very talented salesperson (good Bob) who was thrown off his game because of Happy Ears.  Read the story about bad Bob and his $225,000 selling mistake.  Bad Bob has happy ears. 

This short article points out how Happy Ears plays a part in weak/empty pipelines.  And this article explains how to coach your salespeople beyond Happy Ears.

This famous clip from Dumb and Dumber demonstrates Happy Ears better than anything I can write.

Whether it's a good salesperson being thrown off his game, a weak salesperson always having happy ears, James Stockdale, Jack Reacher or the rest of us.  It's important to be optimistic about your outcomes, but you must confront the brutal reality of your situation.  Listen closely to what you're hearing.  Challenge and push back by asking questions, even if you're uncomfortable doing so.  Especially if you're uncomfortable doing so!

OMG has assessed 2,059,200 salespeople and you can see that data and compare by industry here.

Image from US Navy archive

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, happy ears, james stockdale, stockdale paradox

Two Selling Strategies That are More Effective Than Facts and Figures

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 28, 2021 @ 22:01 PM

Famous Scouting Reports of Hall of Fame Baseball Players - HowTheyPlay -  Sports

I hope this is one of my more entertaining articles, although most of the enjoyment will come from the links within.

Each year around this time I start thinking about Baseball because I miss it so much.  Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron just passed away becoming the 9th baseball HOFer to pass in the last 12 months.  Today there were multiple videos showing wild triple plays in my Twitter feed. I've been a lifelong Red Sox fan, but I miss the Red Sox a lot less than I miss watching my son play baseball.  He's at college now, where as of today, baseball is on hold - again - still - because of COVID-19.

In 2005 I took my passion for sales development and my passion for baseball and married them together to write the best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.  Today, fifteen years later, that book is still #16 on Amazon. 

In addition to the corporate training that Kurlan & Associates provides, there are also 3 self-directed Baseline Selling online courses.

I thought I was pretty unique when it came to combining selling and baseball but I was wrong.  Meet Tom Schaff, the Sales Commissioner of Major League Sales.  While his company name and his title were both modeled after baseball, you haven't heard anything yet.  Tom is the owner of the largest baseball bobblehead collection in the world!  Check out this article.

So why should any of this be important to you?  Because I'm going to share two secrets of my success.

Most of my articles begin with a Story and despite not writing about story telling very often, it is a very important part of selling.

When faced with a strong objection, most salespeople become defensive and respond with facts, figures, data, logic and talking points.  That accomplishes only one thing.  It raises a prospect's resistance and it's extremely difficult to help someone buy from you when their resistance is high.  You can lower their resistance and at the same time deal with their objection by telling a story.  You can share a story about someone like them, about another customer, about another salesperson, about you, about an application, a success, a failure, a sport, or even a vacation.  I've done all of that and more. 

This month, I started articles with short stories about a fox, crappy movies, and The Beatles. And in December, I told the story of my dog, Dinger, who has better listening skills than most salespeople.

I think there is something even more powerful than a story and that's the analogy.  I use analogies more frequently than stories because it's even more effective to use an analogy.  It will come as no surprise that some of my best analogies use baseball.  Check out Salespeople are Like Little Leaguers, or Coaching Lessons from the Baseball Files, or What Sales Managers Do That Make Them So Ineffective. I've used dozens upon dozens of non-Baseball analogies as well and many of them can be found on this list.  Some of the best and most controversial analogies I have used were based on politics.  Check out this article about conducting opportunity reviews, and this article about the most recent Supreme Court Nomination hearings.

The bottom line is that stories and analogies will always work more effectively than logic, talking points, facts or figures. Consider the things you love and or know a lot about, how they relate to what you need your audience (your prospects and customers) to do, and how you can weave those two topics together.  You and your customers will both have a lot more fun if you learn to sell that way.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales tips, sales analogies, Baseball, storytelling

Data - Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople (The Bob Chronicles - Part 3)

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 26, 2021 @ 15:01 PM

Creature Feature: Red Fox | Natural Resources Council of Maine

Just before dark each day a Fox visits our property and drives our dog, Dinger, crazy.  If you don't know Dinger, you can learn about his listening skills in this article.

Last week, the Fox stole Dinger's green ball, brought it home to his own family, and that really pissed off Dinger!  My wife and I have both scared the Fox away but he's a creature of habit and he continues to appear at the same time each day.

Speaking of creatures of habit, there's Bob, and he's up to his old tricks.  If you don't know who Bob is, you can learn about his sales misadventures in this article on not properly selling a trial, and this article about not selling value.  Both articles are of the must-read variety.

So what did Bob do to piss me off this week? 

Bob has a great opportunity with a large tech firm that is prepared to spend around $200,000 over two years.  He was given permission to offer a 10% discount if they prepay the total, bringing their investment down to only $180,000.  Most big companies that are flush with cash have a mandate to take discounts so it's highly unlikely that they would pass up a $20,000 discount.  So Bob should be able to close this deal, right?  Right?  Ah, not really.  This is Bob we're talking about!

Bob pushed back on his VP of Sales suggesting that if it's a two-year deal, the client should be able to make a $90,000 payment in 2021 and another $90,000 payment in 2022.  In demanding this concession, Bob creates two new problems for himself and his company:

  1. He wants to provide them with payment terms over two years AND offer the pre-payment discount.  This would eliminate the option to compromise and drop back to two-year terms if they don't want to pay for the entire deal up front.  Why would Bob do that with a multi-billion dollar company?  The answer is, Money Tolerance.  According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their evaluations and assessments of 2,056,067 salespeople, it's a weakness that 32% of all salespeople have. See the table below.

    If we look more closely at this weakness, we can see that the majority of salespeople that have Money Tolerance as a weakness fall into the category of salespeople who are weak - those who make up the bottom 50% - where half of that group have Money Tolerance as a weakness.  That occurs when the amount of money being discussed seems like an awful lot of money.

  2. If the client wants to cancel after the first year, all they have to do is refuse to make the second payment, in which case this becomes a one-year $90,000 deal instead of a two-year $180,000-$200,000 deal.  Why would Bob allow that to happen?  He's uncomfortable having any discussion at all about money.  Look at that table above again and you can see that only 40% of all salespeople are comfortable having a financial conversation and when it comes to the bottom half of all salespeople - and Bob is clearly in the bottom half - 85% are uncomfortable!  

It is worth noting that more than 90% of elite salespeople - those who make up the top 5% - are both comfortable talking about money and have high money tolerance.  It's no wonder they're in the top 5%!  They are 631% more effective than weak salespeople when it comes to talking about money!

Even strong salespeople - the next 15% - have their challenges when it comes to talking about money.  Comfortable Talking About Money is one of six sales core competencies that make up a salesperson's Sales DNA and one of twenty-one sales core competencies that OMG measures.  You can see some of the data for all twenty-one competencies here, as well as sort them by industry and see how your own salespeople compare!

Bob can be coached on what to ask, what to say, and how to say it, but we all know what will happen when Bob has the next conversation with this client.  If the client pushes back even a little, Bob will cave and offer what HE feels is reasonable instead of what his sales manager expects from him.   That brings us to the next obvious issue.  Bob's sales manager sucks!  You can read about sucky sales managers here and the follow up to that article here.

Bob's sales manager hasn't been effective coaching - no surprise - and has been equally ineffective at holding Bob accountable for doing things the right way, upholding terms, becoming more effective, and implementing the coaching.  Bob. Doesn't. Change.  If Bob's sales manager has accepted that and/or given up, then he is guilty of failing to terminate Bob so that he can upgrade his sales team.

When both the salesperson and the sales manager are equally weak, it is a formula for significant under-performance.  It doesn't have to be that way though.  Sales Managers who aren't as sucky as Bob's sales manager can attend my annual public (virtual) Sales Leadership Intensive, make themselves better, become more effective at coaching, and learn how to coach up and fix the Bobs of the world.  Learn more here.  Register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assesments, Sales DNA, sales evaluation, Low Money Tolerence, comfort talking about money

Why Sales Transformation Achieves Better Results Than Sales Training Alone

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 @ 19:01 PM

The Best 65-Inch TVs for 2021 | PCMag

You finally have that big new 4K flat screen mounted on your wall but now the movie you are streaming isn't sharp because your inconsistent internet connection negatively affects the resolution and the big screen makes it even more obvious.

Bringing it closer to sales, you invested in the CRM application you needed but your salespeople aren't using it the way you had hoped. As a result, you don't have realtime data to populate your dashboard and still don't know what's really going on with your sales organization, their pipeline and the forecast.

You brought in sales training but it didn't achieve the expected change because the training didn't address the bigger problems that went beyond selling skills.  You may not have realized that companies really need sales transformation and while sales training can be part of that transformation, on its own, it usually underperforms.

Why?

Sales training can provide Kay with the skills she needs but if you lack a customized, optimized sales process that Kay is required to follow, those skills can't be applied at the right time, for the right reason and in the right context. Sales managers, who are especially challenged when coaching salespeople, have even more difficulty when the coaching takes place outside of the sales process. Kay needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

If Lee still wants to do everything his way and his sales manager isn't strong enough to make him do things the company's way, Lee will continue to perform inconsistently. Lee needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Bill continues to make promises, exceptions and claims that are inconsistent with what your product or services really do.  This causes problems and creates a lack of credibility.  Bill needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

You can give Don the skills he needs but you lack a proper sales culture and Don has been allowed to whine and complain and act entitled.  If Don continues to engage in backstabbing, blaming others and fails to take responsibility when there are customer issues, that affects the company's brand and reputation which indirectly affects everyone else on the sales team.  Don needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Greg has self-limiting beliefs about the kind of conversation he can have with his prospects and doesn't believe the strategies and tactics in the sales training will work with his customers. Helping him requires a combination of advanced sales management coaching, stronger accountability, and being replaced could be in his future.  Greg needs to be part of a sales transformation.

If the team is struggling to get meetings with new prospects, that requires training in how to schedule new meetings, but may also require new messaging for those calls.  The customized messaging that is used throughout a sales cycle is part of a sales transformation.

The team is participating in training but still resisting putting those skills and strategies into practice. If your sales managers are part of that resistance, and/or ineffective at overcoming the resistance, it calls for sales transformation.

On its own, sales training is nice to have but doesn't change much and wastes time and money.  As part of a sales transformation effort, targeted, customized, sales training provides salespeople with the tools they need to more effectively do their part.

The key to identifying the parts of a sales transformation that need to be addressed is the OMG sales force evaluation.

I've written about sales force evaluations before and always find it extremely interesting to learn about the various challenges holding companies back.  Here are two must-read examples:

Did you read them?

Both articles should help you recognize that while sales training needed to be part of the solutions at each company, sales training alone would not have addressed the serious issues we uncovered.  If you think in terms of sales transformation then your sales organization, people, systems, processes and results will be transformed.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales transformation

New Movie Has 3 Great Lessons for Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

The Trial of the Chicago 7' is as timely as ever - The Stanford Daily

Among all the product shortages we have experienced in the past ten months, there has been no shortage of crappy movies.  It's almost like the movie studios decided to release all the movies filmed in the past several years that weren't ready for prime time and hope that people would stream them at home during the pandemic because we had watched everything else.

One exception to the crappiness of 2020 movies is The Trial of the Chicago 7.  This article is not a review of the movie but it was a terrific film and worth the time to watch it.  As good as this movie is, it comes with a bonus because it also provides three exceptional lessons for salespeople and sales managers.  Let's take a look!

It's Decided

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity when at some point late in the process you finally determined that the decision had already been made and it wasn't you? The prospect invited several competitors to engage, went through the motions, and led them to believe they had a chance. You may have been a better overall fit, had a better solution, more of the needed capabilities, a better warranty, been able to deliver more quickly, had better pricing and terms, better references and more. Despite all that, none of it was going to make a bit of difference because the key decision maker, who they wouldn't let you meet, had a relationship with someone at one of your competitors and for optics, your contact was tasked to involve three other companies.  Another version of this occurs when your contact is the decision maker but engages competitors so that the process has the appearances of being fair and objective to anyone who might be checking in on them.  In either scenario, the decision was made before you got involved and nothing that you said or did was going to change that decision.  In the movie, the judge went through the motions of the months-long trial but it didn't matter how much proof of innocence the defense provided because the judge refused to let any of it be heard.  Someone above him had already decided what the outcome of this trial would be. 

The lesson is that if you are going to fail, you must fail early!  That requires thorough qualifying and inspection as to where you stand versus your competitors, questions and statements that most salespeople fail to ask,  like:

  • In my experience, when a potential customer won't let me meet the decision maker it's usually a pretty good indicator that I won't be getting the business
  • Decision makers for our solutions usually have a strong existing relationship with companies like mine, and Jim (the decision-maker) doesn't have a relationship with us, so who does he have a relationship with?
  • I'm getting the feeling that even if we can prove that we have a superior solution, you won't be working with us

According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and the 2,051,794 salespeople they have assessed, 59% of all salespeople can't ask those questions because their need to be liked prevents them from asking a question that could cause their prospect to no longer like them.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare.

You're a Pawn

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity where your prospect was so interested that they requested a proposal or quote earlier than you expected?  You probably believed that you had a really strong opportunity, thought this would be an easy one and forecast it to close within 30 days.  Unfortunately, your prospect had an incumbent vendor that they planned to retain but needed the extra quotes to either make it appear that they collected three quotes or they were trying to keep the incumbent honest.  Had you quoted the lowest price, the business wouldn't have gone to you; they would have shown the quote to the incumbent and demanded that they match it if they wanted to keep the business.  In this scenario, you were being exploited. In the movie, the first two jurors that were sympathetic to the defense were removed under false pretenses.

The lesson is that when a prospect moves too quickly to a quote or proposal, you need to ask better qualifying questions, like:

  • Who do you usually buy this from? (XYZ)
  • Why didn't you call them?  (We wanted to explore our options)
  • In my experience, companies that are happy with who they are using don't usually take the time to look for options.  (They get defensive)
  • Why did you call us? (You were on the list)

They will probably tell you that yes, they are happy, but if you come in with a better price they would consider moving the business to you.  THAT'S YOUR CUE CARD!  It's not a sign that they're about to buy from you; it's a sign that they're NOT going to buy from you.  You should immediately say, "Based on experience, it sounds like you just need a quote to keep the other guys honest."  If you're face to face I suggest writing a random number on a napkin and handing the napkin to them.  If you are virtual, you can email them the same thing.  The point is, don't take the time to work up a quote, and don't take the time to produce a proposal. Just say, "No thank you." 

According to more of OMG's data, only 30% of salespeople have selling value as a strength.  Additionally, only 36% are able to control their emotions and at this point the sales conversation calls for staying calm and selling value.  Most salespeople lose the business because of the value selling skill gap and weakness controlling emotions.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

For Sales Managers - The Expert Debrief

In one scene of the movie, the defense attorney was cross-examining the assistant to the mayor, a witness who said he was offered $100,000 to issue a permit to protest, and the request was a bribe, not a joke as the attorney suggested.  The attorney asked a bunch of questions that sounded something like this (it's from memory so the words that come after "when you called" might not all be exactly what was said):

  • When you called the US Attorney General what did he say?  (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the FBI what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Attorney General of Illinois what did he say? (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the State Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Chicago Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you told the mayor what did he say? (I didn't tell him)
  • So if you didn't tell anyone then you must have believed the offer to be a joke.

This is absolutely the most powerful way to debrief salespeople.  Assume they did what they were supposed to do by asking, "When you asked what it was about their current vendor that they were unhappy with what did they say?" Continue to ask questions using, "When you asked..." about everything they should have asked until your salesperson says, "I didn't ask that."  Then you can learn whether it's because the salesperson didn't know to ask that question or knew to ask but was uncomfortable asking.  And finally, why was the salesperson uncomfortable.  Then, and only then, does the coaching actually begin and it begins with a role play! 

More of OMG's data says that only 7% of all sales managers can debrief, coach and role play effectively.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

If you want to learn to coach like that - and there are so many examples of how to properly debrief and coach, join me for my annual public (virtual this year) 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive from May 19-21.  Register here. You'll be glad you did!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, asking questions, selling tips, sales lessons, chicago 7

Are Sales Managers Coaching More Frequently Now That Everyone is at Their Desks?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 @ 06:01 AM

coach

Nearly a year into the Pandemic, most salespeople have adapted to selling over video.  But how are sales managers doing at adapting to coaching their sales force over video?  Inquiring minds want to know.

We know how sales managers were doing before the pandemic.  It wasn't very good and I wrote about it here.  The data in that November article was for the last 10 years.  What do you think would be different if I filtered the data to show only the last six months of 2020, the time during which sales managers should have already made changes?  Do you think it got better, worse, or stayed the same?

Let's find out.

I won't even show you the data.  It remained the same.  But why?

The data doesn't answer the "why" question but observation can.  I still work with clients so I have some anecdotal observations I can share.  As recently as November, most sales managers were still making excuses for not coaching their salespeople more often despite coaching conditions being better than ever.

When salespeople were out in the field, sales leaders used that as an excuse as to why they didn't coach more frequently. "They are not in the office and I'm not in the field with them this week so it's really hard to coach them."  Last year that changed to, "They are making calls and having Zoom meetings so it's really hard to coach them."

How difficult is it to join a phone call or a Zoom meeting and then debrief it?  And with coaching platforms like Refract, calls can be made from the platform, recorded into the platform, and sales managers can coach to it later. With sales leaders at their desks too these conditions make it easier than ever to create coaching time! 

Clearly, the time and location excuse no longer works and was never the real issue.  So what is the real issue?

There is no actual data to back up what I'm going to say but I believe that the real issue is that sales managers are petrified of actual coaching.  Oh they'll have conversations about opportunities and suggest strategies but that isn't coaching.  Coaching is when they conduct opportunity reviews as described here.  Or when they role play as described here.  Both scenarios require sales leaders to challenge themselves and their salespeople and the combination of discomfort and ignorance around those two topics is daunting.

I can help.  My annual Sales Leadership Intensive will be held virtually on May 19-21, 2021- three five-hour days - and we focus on one major topic.  Coaching. How to do it correctly, how often, for how long, how to impact deals, how to coach up salespeople, how to role-play effectively, how to get salespeople wanting more, how to pre-call strategize, how to post-call debrief, how to use technology, and more.  Attendees LOVE this training - especially the time we spend listening and dissecting actual coaching conversations!  You can learn more here.  Register here.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales coaching summit, sales managerment, sales management course

My Prediction - What's in Store for Sales Teams in 2021?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 08, 2021 @ 11:01 AM

prediction2021

When I made my predictions for 2020 I'm pretty sure I didn't predict a pandemic.  Making predictions isn't easy. 

In the US, sales teams are coming off three robust years of sales growth and while revenue was up during that time, the percentage of salespeople hitting quotas was not.  That means the top 20% were not only carrying the load, they carried more of the load.

That dynamic growth hit an iron barrier last spring when COVID became the unexpected economic disrupter, but the second half comeback was quite impressive.  What does 2021 have in store for those of us in the sales world?  In the US, how will Democrat control of all three branches of government affect sales and selling?  And how long before that kicks in?

Americans can't be certain that threats to pack the supreme court, make DC a state, and change the rules will come to fruition, but the incoming administration has been very clear about their intent to quickly increase taxes, especially on corporations and people with annual income of more than $400,000.  Given the ambitious progressive agenda they wish to implement and the enormous cost - trillions of dollars we don't have - it's likely that the tax increase will include the middle class too.  How will that affect our ability to sell stuff for at least the next two years?

Their progressive agenda, some anti-capitalist cabinet appointments, and Biden's history of coziness with China suggest that the next two years will not be very business-friendly.  Tax increases lead to reduced spending by corporations, small businesses, and consumers.  Lay-offs come next as companies scramble to do more with less.  Sound familiar?  That was the new normal from 2008-2016 so what's old is new again.

That said, we can be sure of three things thanks to the ripple effect of a China-friendly administration, a massive tax increase and lay-offs: 

  1. Imports from China will be on the rise and that means increased competition from low-cost competitors. 
  2. There will be increased pressure on sales teams to boost revenue and profit to compensate for the cost of the tax increases.
  3. Companies will be significantly more restrained about what they purchase from sellers.

See the challenge?  While sellers will be under tremendous pressure to generate additional revenue, the very companies on which they rely for revenue will be more resistant to buying and more price conscious than ever!  

There's more.

With Democrats in control, fear about the new strain of COVID, and the vaccine still months away for most people, it's likely that many more states besides California will be back in a lockdown.  If the new lockdown is anything like the last year's lockdown, the shit show known as 2020 will be back for an encore performance.

You can't endure lockdowns, tax increases, lay-offs and Chinese imports and expect selling to resemble anything routine or easy.

Salespeople will fail.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,050,385 salespeople shows that the bottom 50% lack the selling skills to handle resistance, competition, and price sensitivity.  This screen shot represents the percentage of salespeople who have these ten tactical selling competencies as strengths.  See all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

Mastery of these 10 selling competencies is required for times like these but as mentioned above, fewer than half of all salespeople have them as strengths.  We know that the top 20% of all salespeople generate 80% of the revenue so if the bottom 50% are going to fail, that will either reduce revenue by 20%, or place even more pressure on top producers to compensate for the shortfall.  Neither option is a winning strategy.

That leaves two viable strategies:

  1. Evaluate and train the ever living crap out of them.  OMG's sales force evaluation will identify the areas in which each salesperson needs help in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and then training and coaching can be targeted.  Typically, around 65% will improve but it may take 8-16 months! 
  2. Replace them with top performers. OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments will help you identify and select those who will succeed in your roles but it won't eliminate the need for on-boarding and you still have to allow for ramp-up time (the length of your learning curve plus the length of your sales cycle plus 30 days).

There is always one more option.  Hide under your desk, hope that things work themselves out, and that you won't have to do anything different.  We already know from last year how that option worked out!  Companies that asked for help during March, April and May of 2020 had absolutely rocking, kick-ass fourth quarters.  By the time the US began reopening during the middle of the year, those who didn't ask for help earlier were so far behind the 8-ball, they were no longer in a position to even pay for the help they so desperately needed.

What will you do to make sure that 2021 is a growth year?

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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales predictions, 2021, democrats in control

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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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