3 Selling Characteristics for the Age of Covid, Politics and Recession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 08, 2020 @ 06:09 AM

poliltics

This is a longer article than usual and includes many links to related articles so grab a snack and a beverage, settle in, and stay with me.  It will be worth it because I know I'm going to get you fired up.

In the first 1,825 of articles from my fourteen years of Blogging, only 21, or less than 1%, mentioned politics.  When I do use political examples I refrain from lecturing, don't take sides, and use what is taking place as a metaphor for sales.  I found that by remaining objective and using current political events as examples of effective and ineffective selling, I receive minimal negative feedback and most come in the form of emails taking a side and lecturing me about what they think are my political views.  They are usually wrong but they won't be wrong after this article!

These are the articles I have written which mentioned politics and/or politicians:

Articles from Before and Inclusive of the 2012 Election

Two Fantastic Examples of Handling Objections  (Links to the next 5 articles also appear in that article so you can skip them here or there)

Sales Force Lessons from Gates, Crowley and Obama  

Obama and McCain - Competing Salespeople Fighting for the Big Sale 

Obama and Friends on Stage - Implications for the Sales Force 

Did President Obama Do More Damage to the Image of Salespeople? 

Two Keys to Selling Success from Ann Romney and Chris Christie 

Articles from Before and Inclusive of the 2016 Election

Best Non-Sales Video Ever on Handling Objections  

A Great Way to Handle Objections, Challenges and Push Back   

Latest Debate Had Some Great Sales Leadership Examples   

A Sales Expert's Take on Who is the Most Deplorable  

The Benefits of Completely Bashing Your Competition  

The Rise of Trump   (article appeared on LinkedIn)

Articles Leading up to the 2020 Election

What Sales Organizations Must Learn from the Impeachment Hearings

Examples of How Salespeople Lose Credibility With Their Prospects   

Managing and Overcoming Resistance is a Key to Sales Success   

It's OK For Salespeople to Lie When This Happens   

Perhaps Hope is a Selling Strategy After All   

How Sales Coaching Utilizes a Quid Pro Quo     

Sales is Like Baseball and Baseball Can Save Law and Order, Capitalism and Liberty  (I took a side!)

FOX News and CNN Can Help You Conduct Better Sales Opportunity Reviews  

5 Keys to Get Your Prospects to Trust You and Then Buy From You  

Thanks to the non-stop political news cycle, I went from averaging just over one article that mentioned politics per year to two!

This article will be different.  For the first time in fourteen years of blogging, I am going to share what I think, uncensored, and despite some concern for what you think, not quite enough concern to stop me from writing about it.  There will still be a sales tie-in so stay with me as I build the case for 3 powerful sales characteristics.

I didn't pay much attention to politics prior to the 2016 election cycle. I'm a registered Independent and never voted based on party.  For example, I voted for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012.  Now Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans all have reasons to hate me!

I have clients all over the world but most of them are in the United States of America. 80% of the partners who represent Objective Management Group (OMG) are also in the USA.  Despite warnings to stay away from Politics, I'm curious as to which side of the political spectrum people are on.  When I think it's safe, I'll sometimes ask a sports question like, Indians or Reds if they're in Ohio, Yankees or Mets in if they're in New York, or Dodgers or Angels in Los Angeles.  Then I might say something like, "Are you in Trump country or Biden country?"  Depending on whether they answer enthusiastically or disappointingly, I can tell which side of center they are on.  When I tell them that I share their sentiments we can talk about it - especially about how the next election will affect our businesses and lives as we know it.

My clients are mostly CEO's, COO's Presidents and Sr. Sales Leaders and they are representative of most of the leaders of the four million B2B companies in the US.   While the personal feelings of the leaders of B2C companies could be similar, they must first and foremost protect their brands from being cancelled by the mob.

One paragraph on where I stand.

I'm for the safety and security that results from law and order, not rioting, looting, violence and shooting.  I'm for democracy, the flag and freedom of speech, not the cancel culture.  I'm for low taxes, limited government and limited regulations, not economy killing tax increases, regulations and a government that controls everything but can't get anything right.  And you and I need a robust economy.  I'm for all that way more than I'm for a particular candidate or politician. 

One paragraph on Trump.

Like him or not, embrace him or puke, however you may feel about his tweets, believe most of what he says or call him a liar, think he's hilarious or a clown, think he's fighting for Americans or his own personal glory, think he's a narcissist or self-proclaimed King, he fights for the issues that I care about and as a result, Trump will get my vote despite his many character flaws.  

One paragraph on Biden.

I like Joe Biden. He's more likable than Trump, but thanks to his alignment with socialists like Bernie and AOC, he stands on the opposite side of these issues or on both sides depending on when he last stated his position.  If you're on that side of the issues, it's fine with me, I respect you for it, and won't try to change your position and certainly won't attack you.  I believe that it is critical to hear both sides of every issue whereas the cancel culture will aggressively act to cancel me if they don't agree with me.

Now let's get to selling and for that, let's use 3 of Trump's characteristics.

Trump does have three desirable selling characteristics but before I share them, keep in mind that I am singling out these three characteristics, isolated, from his more undesirable characteristics.  I apologize for having to state this 5 times but I do.  Remember, isolated, without the undesirable characteristics which, as some insist in their comments, would come along with Trump as salesperson.  Yes, they would come along with Trump, but we don't want Trump on our sales force, only the 3 characteristics described below.  Just the 3, OK?  No more, "But Trump this" and "Trump that" comments.  Just these 3 characteristics.

Trump is a fighter.  Whether or not you agree with his position on an issue or like him, you have to agree that he is a fighter.  If he is attacked he fights back, even if the attack is justified.  If he wants something he fights for it.  He may piss off some people along the way but that's unavoidable today.  I wish more salespeople could fight for what they want the way that Trump does.

Trump is persistent.  To fight for your beliefs is one thing, but if you aren't persistent you won't win too many of your fights.  I wish salespeople were more persistent.  Not annoying, but persistent.  There is a huge difference between annoying and persistent.  While many find Trump's tweets annoying, he is persistent.

Trump is entertaining.  He engages people with humor and shock, and by getting them riled up or angry with him. Whether positive or negative, people get emotional when it comes to Trump.  I wish salespeople were more entertaining and could get their prospects and customers more emotional.

Objective Management Group (OMG) does not measure fighter, persistency or entertaining.  Perhaps we should.  Or perhaps they would be a distraction from the 21 Sales Core Competencies which, by the way, will be the recipient of an update this month.

We are introducing a new Sales Technology Competency which will include Video/Virtual Selling, CRM and Social Selling. Reaches Decision Makers, already a full blown competency, gets promoted to one of the 21 Core Competencies, and Remote Seller, an important finding for the last 10 years, will be more prominently featured.

Should we add these three selling characteristics?  Let me know!

Do you agree with my political position?  Let me know. I understand that just because I showed you mine you might not be comfortable showing me yours.  I won't have a problem with it but I know there are others who will.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales competenices, Obama, romney, Donald Trump, joe biden

The Best Solutions for Hiring Great Salespeople for Your Company

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 28, 2020 @ 12:08 PM

plane

Would you fly on a huge jet from Minneapolis, Minnesota to St. Paul, Minnesota, usually a 15-minute drive?

Would you take a train between intersections of the same city block, usually a 2-minute walk?

Would you take a bus to the bottom of your driveway - usually a 1-minute walk or less?

Would you walk from Boston to Miami - a 3-hour plus plane flight?

These are all examples of inappropriate solutions to the simple question, "What is the best way to get there from here?"

How about the simple question, "What is the best way to assure that the salespeople I am about to hire will succeed in the chosen role?"

An OMG Partner pointed me to this article which has 7 assessment solutions. 6 of the recommendations are every bit as inappropriate as the solutions to my travel questions.

There are three additional questions that must be asked in order to answer the primary question that asks the best way to hire the right salespeople:

Are assessments in general good enough to identify those salespeople?  There are many types of assessments, including intelligence, honesty and integrity (illegal in some US states), personality (challenged in the courts), behavioral styles, cognitive ability and of course, skill-specific tests.  Because most of these assessments can be provided to any potential employee and are not specific to sales, the answer is a loud and resounding NO.

Are personality assessments good enough to identify those salespeople?  Personality assessments are not role-specific so they have been challenged in the court.  The dimensions and findings in Personality assessments are not predictive of anything and there is no specific personality type (including Meyers-Briggs, 16PF, DiSC, and Caliper which were all mentioned in the article) that indicates that one is a better salesperson than another.  Again, the answer is a loud and resounding NO.

Is OMG's sales-specific assessment a personality test?  Despite its inclusion in the article's list of 7 assessment solutions, Objective Management Group (OMG) is NOT a personality assessment. OMG provides a sales-specific assessment that measures a sales candidate's capabilities in all 21 Sales Core Competencies as well as several additional sales-specific competencies. Does it help identify the right salespeople because it is sales specific?  That is part of the reason but the more important reason is that OMG is validated using Predictive Validity.  Predictive. Validity.  Most validations show that an assessment is properly constructed and will provide consistent and reliable results. That is Construct Validity. On the other hand, Predictive Validity correlates the findings to on-the-job performance.  It is not enough though to simply identify good salespeople; you must identify the right salespeople for the role or roles in question.  Configurations for each role are customized so that the ideal salespeople are recommended for the company's specific role(s).  Right people in the right seats.  It's about getting sales selection right.  OMG has proven its accuracy and track record in sales selection having just passed 2 million sales assessments in 30,000 companies.  In the case of OMG, the answer is a loud and resounding YES.

Here's another question.  Why only 30,000 companies?  If OMG is that predictive and accurate, shouldn't it be used in 3 million companies?  I don't think there are 3 million B2B companies that qualify but certainly there are 300,000.  So again, why only 30,000?

There are 3 answers that deserve consideration.

Ego.  Far too many sales leaders believe that their gut instinct is more accurate than some assessment.  Given that the overall success rate for hiring salespeople is hit or miss with an emphasis on miss, they couldn't be more wrong.  Of the candidates who were not recommended, but clients hired them despite OMG's warning, 75% failed inside of 6 months.  Of the candidates who were recommended and eventually hired, 92% rose to the top half of the sales force within 12 months.

Knowledge.  Far too many HR leaders believe that their expertise is in hiring and either don't need an assessment or they choose one they are familiar with, like DiSC, Caliper, Predictive Index or Myers-Briggs.   The reality is that only 14% of all HR professionals understand how assessments work.

Stupidity.  At some large companies, in-house counsel has banned the use of assessments.  While they often justify their own existence, this stupid practice occurs out of ignorance.  While attorneys are protecting their clients from law-suits alleging discriminatory hiring practices, only personality assessments have been successfully challenged in court.  Remember, OMG is not a personality assessment - it's sales-specific, or in other words, a role-specific assessment which is perfectly legal to use, has never been challenged in court, and shows no adverse impact on protected minorities.

If you aren't already using them, check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.  You'll improve your sales hiring success rate immediately!

If you aren't familiar with all 21 Sales Core Competencies, check out some of the data here.

Image Copyright

Topics: sales assessment, sales hiring, assessments, hiring salespeople, sales testing, sales hiring process, hiring mistake, sales hiring tools, predictive sales test

FDR and Sir Isaac Newton on Why Salespeople Fail

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 25, 2020 @ 07:08 AM

fire

There we were, in the dark, in the middle of a hotel parking lot, at 3:45 AM.  Why?  The hotel fire alarm went off and we didn't want to ignore the warning that was so loud my wife and I couldn't hear each other speak.  Why was every other guest in the hotel parking lot with us?  Well, what if the hotel was on fire?  What if our lives were truly in danger?  

Unlike the made up fears that prevent salespeople from asking tough questions, qualifying more thoroughly, or picking up the phone and making a cold call, the fear of burning alive in a hotel fire seemed like a pretty justifiable one.

What are salespeople so fearful of?  Rejection?  Not being liked?  Not getting a meeting?  Not closing a sale?  Oh yes, incredibly scary.  If I had those fears I might not want to leave the house.  Oh wait, most salespeople aren't leaving their houses.  Is it because they're afraid of the virus?  No.  It's more likely that they're home because their companies have asked them to work remotely.  But make no mistake.  Even if they won't admit to it they are afraid of the things I wrote a few sentences back. And today, more than ever, they are loving their convenient excuses for hiding behind their laptop screens, churning out emails instead of making phone calls, and hoping that as Ray Kinsella's daughter, from Field of Dreams said, "People will come."

Why are these imagined fears so debilitating? 

Because we allow them to be.

I'm guilty of having debilitating, imagined fears.  When my son got his driver's license, my wife and I worried endlessly. Where is he? Do you think he's OK? Could he have gotten in an accident? Do you think he is paying attention? I hope he's not playing his music too loud. Could his friends be distracting him? Why isn't he home yet?  Did I ask, "Where is he?"

Turning back to salespeople, suppose the things they worry about were to actually happen?  Who would care?  How would life change?  The only ramification would be their inadequate pipelines.  The only ripple effect would be in the size of their commission checks. Their inaction is the only thing that can hurt them.  Remaining in their comfort zone hurts them.  Failing to change hurts them. 

In his 1933 inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." 

Sir Isaac Newton's third law of Physics states that for every action there is an opposite reaction.  What would the opposite reaction be to the action of not taking action? 

NOT taking action, and that includes not asking the tough question, IS an action against your pipeline, your income and your success. 

NOT taking action due to fear IS an action against your self-worth. 

NOT taking action, whether due to laziness or complacency, IS an action against what your company and your customer expect and deserve from you.

I'm sounding the alarm.  This is why salespeople fail.

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, closing, prospecting, sales fears, fear of rejection

FOX News and CNN Can Help You Conduct Better Sales Opportunity Reviews

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 17, 2020 @ 13:08 PM

cnn-fox-news_list

I don't really care whether or not you like, approve of, tolerate, or agree with President Trump and/or the issues he stands for.  Doesn't matter to me.  And you shouldn't care what I think of him or which side of that invisible center line I am on.  Shouldn't matter to you.  While this is an article about coaching salespeople, I am going to use the current divisiveness as an analogy to help you better understand how sales leaders can have a huge impact on your salespeople.

If you're on the side that hates the President and can't wait for him to leave office when Biden gets elected, you might be watching CNN.  They will report on and amplify anything that Trump does that can possibly be ripe for attack.  They will rarely, if ever, share any of his accomplishments, wins or achievements and even lie to make sure he is constantly vilified.  What fun for his critics!

If you're on the side that loves, likes or tolerates the President and you prefer that he be reelected instead of Biden, you might be watching FOX.  They will report on and amplify anything that Trump does that can possibly be ripe for praise.  They will rarely, if ever, share his disappointments, defeats or mistakes and even lie to make sure he is praised (except on their hard news shows which do tend to go right down the middle).  What fun for his fans!

OK, so that should have been detached and objective enough to prevent anyone getting upset with me so far.  Hooray for me because that isn't easy these days.  But you ask, what does all this have to do with coaching salespeople through an opportunity review?

There are two sides to every story.  Trump is rarely as horrific as CNN makes him out to be and rarely as awesome as FOX makes him out to be.  The truth is always somewhere in the middle. The same holds true for your salespeople when you ask them to tell you about a current opportunity and why it might be in a stage of the pipeline that it's been stalled in for weeks or months.

Your salesperson might explain what a great opportunity this is, how well they have connected with their contact, the good feedback they have received from their conversations, why they expect movement in a week or two, how this is just the tip of the iceberg because there's more where this came from, and they are extremely confident.  Like FOX talking about Trump.

You look in your CRM application and observe that critical milestones have not been met, it's been stuck in stage 2 for 60 days, the salesperson still has not met with the decision maker, doesn't know the compelling reason why they would switch to your company, and noted that their company has been buying from the same incumbent for 8 years yet the salesperson hasn't uncovered a single negative issue about that incumbent.  You begin to think that this is about getting a lower price from you to keep the incumbent honest.  You conclude that this is a terrible opportunity.  Like CNN talking about Trump.

As with the coverage of Trump, an opportunity review with a salesperson is often two tales about the same prospect.  The salesperson's version compared with yours.  FOX compared with CNN.

This is very important!  If you begin to review an opportunity without that difference in mind, without looking for holes, without looking to challenge them, without looking to invalidate or dismiss their optimism, it will be a wasted review.  Your job is to help your salespeople to better understand their own next steps to either move the opportunity forward, justify leaving it where it is, or abort the opportunity altogether.  Often times, your salespeople are way too close to the opportunity to see it clearly and objectively.  This will be especially true when your salespeople don't have enough opportunities in their pipeline, causing them to be even more attached to and hopeful for the few opportunities they do have.

Your salespeople don't know what they don't know and can't do what they can't do.  That's why you're there!

Politics is the business of where different parties stand on various issues.  It's supposed to be about healthy debate.  It's not supposed to be as divisive and nasty as it has become.  Similarly, a solid, thoughtful, helpful opportunity review should be a healthy debate about the opportunity.  The salesperson should not be attacked or made to feel bad.  All criticism should be constructive.

Are you conducting productive and effective opportunity reviews with every salesperson every day?  If not, then today is a great day to start!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales pipeline, crm, sales opportunities, fox

15 Things Salespeople Must Do to Make up for a Lackluster 2nd Quarter

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 12, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

risk

Last week we moved our son into his dorm to begin his freshman year of college. The college President's opening remarks were virtual, so we joined the Zoom stream from our hotel room and listened in.  He had some really useful things to share with the new freshmen and while his thoughts were targeted to the students, they apply quite equally to salespeople.

Among the points he made, these seemed to be just as applicable to salespeople:

  • Show up
  • Do the Work
  • Try approaches that you haven't previously attempted
  • You will be uncomfortable but do it anyway
  • Ask for help
  • Ask lots of questions
  • The effort is even more important than the results
  • You will be pushed
  • Push yourself
  • Take responsibility
  • Show tolerance of people whose beliefs and opinions are different than yours
  • Wear your mask and socially distance

Translating his hopes and expectations to sales, here are 15 things salespeople could do that they may not have been doing, comfortable with or effective:

  • Proactively prospect - push yourself - 34% of salespeople do not prospect consistently
  • Live in CRM - be considerate of those in management who need to see what's in there in real time - 90% of salespeople do not live in their CRM applications
  • Fill the pipeline - the more that's in there the more will close - only 35% of salespeople maintain a full pipeline
  • Follow the sales process - it's there for a reason - only 30% of salespeople have and follow a sales process
  • Be more consultative, listen more and ask more good, tough, timely, effective questions - this is how you differentiate - - only 27% of salespeople listen and only 25% ask enough questions
  • Thoroughly qualify - stop wasting your time - only 30% of all salespeople do this
  • Work harder to build solid relationships - get past rapport and be authentic - Only 52% of salespeople succeed at this
  • Learn your video platform inside and out - stop being so ignorant - only 30% have done this
  • Attempt to schedule all of your sales calls virtually over video - what are you waiting for?  Only 49% prefer video to phones
  • Have a more tidy and professional background or use a non-distracting virtual background for virtual selling - get with the program - 40% are using virtual backgrounds
  • Take an interest and show that you care - don't be so transactional 
  • Be a problem solver - not a presenter
  • Stop focusing on price and sell value - it's time - Only 40% are strong at selling value
  • Stop giving yourself a pass because you aren't comfortable - suck it up.

Baseball, basketball and hockey recently restarted  - with changes.  The changes affect the players, coaches and fans but that's the way it is right now.

We must adapt! 

You might feel that there is risk associated with doing something you haven't done before.  None of these things will get you killed or even hurt, so unless you believe there is risk in having better quality sales conversations with your prospects, there isn't any risk.

There should be a greater urgency to get our products and services sold to make up for the lackluster second quarter that many companies experienced.  There should be even more urgency to make up for the personal dip in commissions from the same time period.  And if you took your foot off the gas during March through May because you were uncomfortable asking people to buy and pay then you have only 4 months to make up for your self-inflicted second quarter disaster.

Take responsibility.  

Show the world what you are capable of, stretch, do the one thing you've never done before in sales, and start right now!

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, Relationship Selling, selling value

Data Shows Sales Commitment and Motivation Changed During Quarantine

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 @ 16:07 PM

quarantine

Steve Taback and I started our respective sales training firms at the same time back in 1985.  We became great friends and he became the second licensee of Objective Management Group (OMG) in 1990.  He emailed me asking if I had seen a change in any of the scores of the 21 Sales Core Competencies since the Pandemic had hit.  Specifically, he was wondering if there was an increase in the number of salespeople who lacked Commitment or whose Outlook wasn't good.

OMG! (the other version of OMG this time)  Was he asking me to do some research on sales assessment statistics?  God, I love that!

Damn that Steve is good.  Turns out he was right.  Below I'll share the changes in Commitment, Outlook and Motivation, all of which fluctuated during the past several months.

Take a look at these three screen shots which tell one part of the story.

Pre-Pandemic

pandemic-before

Mid-Pandemic

pendemic-mid

Pandemic-Recovery Period

pandemic-after

You'll notice that scores for Desire, Commitment and Motivation all dropped while we were in world-wide quarantine, while surprisingly, Outlook scores remained steady.  In the period of May 15 - July 15, scores returned to their pre-pandemic levels.

[Update: Wouldn't you have thought that scores for Outlook (how they feel about themselves and what they are doing) would have crashed during Quarantine?  And wouldn't you have thought that scores for Responsibility (whether or not they take responsibility for their results or make excuses like the pandemic or the economy) would have taken a nose dive too?  Well, ]those who made excuses prior to lockdown continued to make them while those who didn't make excuses didn't use the lockdown as an excuse.  As for Outlook, the positive salespeople remained positive and the negative salespeople remained negative.

Another strange change occurred within the Motivation competency.  During Quarantine, there was a decline in the percentage of salespeople who were intrinsically motivated while the percentage of extrinsically motivated and altruistically motivated salespeople increased.  Intrinsics want to make the world a better place, love being part of something bigger than themselves, and love mastery.  Extrinsically motivated salespeople are after the financial rewards and Altruistically motivated salespeople want to be of service.  We certainly saw salespeople preferring NOT to sell during late March and early April, offering to be of service instead.  And we certainly saw salespeople scrambling for business during those weeks to make sure that their commissions continued to flow.

There was another change that occurred within Sales DNA.  In the competency Comfortable Talking about Money, the average pre-pandemic score was 53%.  During Quarantine, that score dropped to 49%, and during the recovery phase it only improved to 51%.]

These scores were for employed salespeople only.  If we dive deeper into those scores, they tell a different story.  Something completely different occurred to the top 10% of salespeople.  Commitment and Outlook scores went up, not down.  The best salespeople saw an opportunity to distance themselves from everyone  else!

The story is different for sales candidates too.  Their scores prior to the pandemic did not change during quarantine.  But when we started the recovery phase between mid-May and mid-July, their scores for Desire, Commitment and Motivation went down!  That's right.  Those salespeople who were candidates prior to the pandemic, were still candidates during quarantine, so conditions didn't really change for them.  But when jobs began to be filled again, and they were still candidates, it negatively affected them, thus the drop in scores.

But there's an even bigger story here.

OMG clients are seeing a huge increase in the number of candidates competing for open sales positions.  Check out this table!

HIRING-PANDEMIC

Everything has turned in your favor.  If you can find the money, hire good salespeople now - even if you don't need them!  Upgrade the quality of your sales teams!  Better yet, evaluate your sales force and learn which of your under performers aren't going to get any better and replace them!

Image copyright RF123

Sales is Like Baseball and Baseball Can Save Capitalism and Liberty

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jul 18, 2020 @ 09:07 AM

capitalism Unless you've been living in a cave, not paying attention to the news, or watching stations that are glorifying what is taking place in major US cities, we are in trouble - again. Cities continue to be overrun by rioters and looters, police have not been able to stop the epidemic of assaults, robberies and murders, some police departments have been defunded and there are plans to dismantle others.  If it becomes unsafe to drive into cities like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, LA, Portland, Seattle, Detroit, and others, the supply chain will be disrupted.  Truckers will choose not to drive into those cities, retailers will close - for good, restaurants will lose even more business, and tourism will continue to suffer as it did during the shutdown months of March, April and May.

There may not be much we can do except to vote responsibly in November, and make sure that socialism and mob rule do not replace law and order, liberty and capitalism. It's not about the candidates themselves as much it's about which side of the issues they are on. Of course there are other issues, and they are important too, but they will have to take a back seat to the three issues that could drastically change our country, kill our economy, ruin our way of life, and devalue our homes and businesses.

I'm sure my opening two paragraphs will ruffle the feathers of those who don't agree with me and I apologize for that.  If you're upset, stop reading my sales and business articles and unsubscribe from notifications.

Pivot.

We're at a baseball tournament outside of Richmond Virginia.  It's a last hoorah for our 18-year-old son, playing in his last major tournament prior to heading to college in early August.  Like my home state of Massachusetts, Virginia is in phase 3 of reopening and there are many restrictions in place.  But unlike central Massachusetts, where everyone wears a mask when going inside a store or public place, mask wearing is not taken nearly as seriously here - even though the rules require it.  The lack of mask-wearing scares me!

With my son continuing his baseball career at college, this month marks the official end to his youth baseball era.  I've been around youth baseball for 11 years, the first 5 as a coach and the last 6 as a dad.  One of the cool things that I observed, and if you've been around baseball at all, you'll probably agree that every team had the same 8 kids:

  • The twin. The 9-year old all-star team I coached a decade ago had 5 sets of twins.  That's 10 twins between them and 4 of the twins were on the roster!
  • The fat kid playing first base.  That kid could pitch or catch but he always played first base.
  • The little kid playing second base.  And most of them had a chip on their shoulders that was far bigger than their physical size.
  • The kid with the hair.  There always seems to be one with what my son would call a nice flow.
  • The Jokester - There is always one kid who is hysterical.
  • The tall left-handed pitcher.  Always.
  • The kid with the annoying voice.  I've never seen a team that didn't have that kid who rooted his team on from the dugout with the loud, annoying, raspy, cheer-leading voice
  • The skinny kid - This is the kid who doesn't get wet when it rains.

Unless something changes - and it could - opening day for Major League Baseball happens this week!  I miss baseball. 

Pivot.

Before you think that this applies only to youth baseball teams, I want to be clear.  Sales teams are like this too.  In the past 35 years I have personally trained hundreds of sales teams and tens of thousands of salespeople and sales teams always have the same 8 salespeople:

  • The know-it-all
  • The crusty veteran
  • The one who is resistant to change
  • The puppy dog - who will do whatever you tell them to do
  • The role player - the one who you have to role play with to demonstrate how it should sound
  • The attention seeking missile - who wants the focus to always be on them
  • The dummy - who just can't seem to get it
  • The early adopter - who leads the way on application and execution

I started this article with the threat to our economy and way of life, transitioned to baseball, and then to sales teams.  Now I have to tie this rambling multi-topic article together with a brilliant summary.  It's not very brilliant.

Rarely are there any surprises, we usually know what we are getting, and the options are usually quite clear.  I usually know what a baseball team will look like, as much as I know what every sales team will look like.  The same premise applies to the actual selling.

You know where you need to end up, you just have to help your prospect admit to the problem you believe they have and help them articulate how it impacts them.  The conversation isn't dramatically different from one prospect to the next, you just have to ask the right questions, get them talking, and get out of the way.  There are usually no more than 8 possible issues to begin with, and not more than 1 or 2 that are critical to any specific prospect. While you can usually predict where you will end up, you have to pay attention, listen well, and respond with great questions.

As I've written dozens of times in the past 15 years, sales is like baseball and baseball can save our country.  Baseball is a sport of traditions that we don't want to part with.  We should feel the same way about law and order, liberty, and capitalism.

Speaking of capitalism, check out this screen shot from Amazon where you can get Baseline Selling for Kindle for as little as $0, or where one reseller is offering my book for $902.81.  You can buy the paperback on Amazon for $17.95.

baseline-1

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Baseball, capitalism, law and order

Why it is so Difficult to Compare Sales Effectiveness from One Salesperson to Another

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 @ 20:07 PM

Tvariables

Today we'll discuss how to measure sales effectiveness of different salespeople despite there being so many variables to confuse the matter.  You can scroll directly to that topic or, if you don't mind, please read my 3 paragraphs of context.

In 1990, I founded Objective Management Group (OMG), and now, thirty years later, we are on the verge of evaluating our two millionth salesperson.  When my leadership team planned for 2020, we predicted that we would reach the two million mark sometime in June. But then the pandemic hit, companies weren't assessing many sales candidates for most of March, April and May, so our celebration will likely be delayed until early August.

Whether we measure our success in units, currency, rows of data, experiences, visibility, or reams of paper used (pre pandemic), achieving two million sales assessments is quite an accomplishment.  On the other hand, if we compare it to where we had hoped to be at this point, (the BHAG we set in 2007 was 14 million) it was a failure of epic proportions.

But there is a more important part to this story than the number of salespeople assessed or whether that number is an achievement or a failure. How can we measure sales success on sales teams, across companies and, most importantly, in sales candidates?

To answer those questions, it's helpful to  know that we built the finest, sales-specific assessment on planet earth.  Our sales force evaluations are amazing and our sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments are incredibly accurate and predictive.  I'm extremely proud of what we built and how we continue to improve it every single day.  That's more important to me than whether or not we hit our BHAG. And that brings us to the question of how to measure sales effectiveness.  It's like the 2 million versus 14 million comparison only different.  

Let's review a few examples:

Compensation varies wildly by industry.  A top industrial salesperson earns close to $100,000 but a mediocre technology salesperson earns $135,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A mediocre regional territory salesperson might inherit a territory generating $15 million per year and watch it contract to $14 million per year while a salesperson building a new local territory might generate $750,000 his first year.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A salesperson makes one huge sale for $1 million while in the same company, one of her colleagues closes 14 sales totaling $650,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable? 

An account manager manages 87 accounts that generate $4 million while in the same company, a sales development rep makes 56 dials a day, books 5 new appointments per week, builds a pipeline worth $2 million and closes 2 new accounts per month.   Who is better?  Who is more valuable?  

We see these contradictions all the time when we evaluate sales forces.  The company judges performance and effectiveness by the amount of revenue next to the salesperson's name but that's only a measure of who is responsible for the most revenue.  It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a measure of who is the better salesperson, who is contributing most to growing the company, or who is having the most impact.

Let's review some differences that become important when you are recruiting salespeople.  Suppose that all of your candidates claimed to have been the #1 salesperson in their prior companies.  Being #1 has different meanings depending on whether they sold:

  • Snacks - to convenience store managers, grocery chain buyers or Walmart
  • Nuts and bolts - to manufacturing engineers, auto repair shops technicians, or Granger
  • Janitorial supplies -  to small retailer owners, property managers, or Microsoft's facilities VP
  • Windows - to homeowners, builders, lumber dealers or Home Depot
  • Furniture - to consumers, furniture store owners or the Marriott
  • Generators - to power an RV, an entire house, a grocery store or Mass General Hospital
  • Engines - to lawn mower manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers or GMC
  • Software - to a doctor's office, a clinic, a hospital or the Federal Government
  • Audit services - to the owner of a small professional firm, the president of a medium size company or the CFO of Apple

I could go on and on with examples like these where even the same product becomes a very different sale depending on who it's being sold to.  

Fortunately, OMG has a Sales Percentile score which is based on the combined weighted scores of 21 Sales Core Competencies before being compared to those two million other salespeople.  It's the single factor that neutralizes the differences between industries, competition, territories, pricing, complex and simple sales cycles, difficult (cold-calling) and easy (account management) roles, and targeted decision makers.  Sales Percentile allows you  to compare and/or rank sales capabilities!

This is useful when you're trying to rank sales candidates who come from varying backgrounds because let's face it - you're just guessing!  Sales Percentile is your answer.  In the sample sales candidate assessment below, this salesperson's sales percentile score of 100 means that this salesperson is better than 100% of the salespeople in the world!  And even with a 100, he still has a weakness!

dashboard

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales cycle, sales effectiveness, #1 salesperson, sales percentile

How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Thoughts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 06, 2020 @ 15:07 PM

baseball flag

During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.

I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles.   The five topics I have written most about are:

    1. The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.  
    2. Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized 
    3. Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach 
    4. Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue 
    5. Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales 

Baseball?  There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one.  My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level.  During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.

My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery.  While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite. 

As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments.  This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.

That brought me to memorable salespeople.  While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses.  After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable?  I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business.  Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling.  There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable.  In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business.  They were indispensable salespeople

Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend.  Baseball is back!  Sort of.  Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound.  They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach.  Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop.  But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy.  The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading.  That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.  

While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales.  How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify.  That.Will.Not.Change.  You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you.  That.Will.Not.Change.  However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed: 

  • Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
  • The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
  • Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
  • Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
  • Video Conferencing like Zoom.
  • File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
  • Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
  • Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
  • Organizational tools like ToDo.
  • Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
  • If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.

These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier.  None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done.  For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign.  This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts.  But you still have to do the selling!

I've been in the sales development space since 1985.  I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales.  From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet.  As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points!  You can see some of that data here.  

Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball.  You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson.  While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson.  Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know.  Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee.  They progress from there.

Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson.  The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, crm, Baseball, membrain, mastery

New Data Reveals Interesting Differences in Salespeople's Ability to Work From Home

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

remote-worker

You wake up, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, you open the door and it's freezing cold outside.  Or there is the opposite of that, when there are thick clouds, it's drizzling, you open the door and it's hot and humid as hell!  Things aren't always what they appear to be.   

In early April, during the earlier stages of the virus-required lockdown, I wrote this article about some of the remote selling challenges that companies were experiencing.  Since then, things have improved, especially around the use of video.

However, things are far from perfect, especially around how suitable salespeople are for working from home.  John Pattison, COO of Objective Management Group (OMG), dug into OMG's remote seller data, and learned that similar to the weather, things aren't always what they appear to be.  The table below shows how this data changes according to sales experience.

Remote-Suitability-by-Years-1

As you can see, those with 20-24 years of experience are 32% more suitable for working from home in a sales role than those with 0-3 years of experience.  There are two possible reasons for this:

  1. Inexperienced salespeople need more direction and guidance and don't get it when they are working at home.
  2. Inexperienced salespeople are millennials and aren't as responsible as older and wiser salespeople.

Of course, the real reason may have nothing to do with experience or age, but more to do with the two most important things we measure for remote sellers:

  1. Ability to self-start
  2. Ability to work independently

However, even that can be called into question when we look at the data by geography.  While the differences aren't significant, there are variations by country.

For example, salespeople in North America are 35% more suitable for selling from home than salespeople in northern Europe (think Sweden, Denmark, Norway), !  How do you explain that?  Coincidence?  Hours of daylight in the summer can't keep them out of their swimming pools and off the golf courses?  

In the end, the score matters little but we absolutely must know the score.  Sales managers are the difference-makers when it comes to selling remotely.  If they are proactive and closely manage salespeople who aren't well-suited for it, those salespeople can still succeed working from home.

You should be hiring salespeople right now.  Job postings are getting 400 applications right now!  To find out whether your candidates can sell remotely and whether they will succeed in the role you are filling, use OMG's highly accurate, customizable and predictive sales-specific candidate assessment to help you select your ideal candidates.

Finally, OMG measures salespeople in 21 Sales Core Competencies.  See the competencies and the data here.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales competenices, sales best practices, sales hiring assessment, remote selling

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About Dave

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