Insider Opinion - Why Sales Experts Can't Agree on Anything

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:11 PM

debateI recently published, Increase in Social Selling Yields No Improvement in KPI's.  In addition to my blog, this article appeared on at least 5 other websites leading to many interesting comments and very strong opinions.  The discussions, comments and opinions, especially at CustomerThink.com, helped me realize why so many experts are arguing - not only about the future of selling, but about what's taking place today, right now.  Among the things being debated are:

  • The migration from outside to inside sales - Yes, it's happening and it's good; but, it won't happen in every company, to every salesperson or necessarily soon.
  • The rise of inbound marketing - Yes, it's happening, and yes, it helps generate leads; but, it's not the be-all, end-all that inbound marketing folks make it out to be.  Salespeople are not being replaced.
  • The integration of social selling tools (the topic of the aforementioned article) - Yes, it's happening and it's helpful; but, it hasn't changed the results  - no measurable change in KPI's at all.
  • The death of selling - Yes, marketing people are predictably predicting this; and no, it's not going to happen.
  • The change in how selling will be conducted - Yes, it's changing; but, some of that change is for the wrong reasons and could be change for the sake of inbound marketing.

I wrote the following response to 12 conflicting comments on my article on CustomerThink.com:

Thank you all for contributing to the discussion and in both challenging and adding your own results and evidence for and against. I'm sure we're not done yet...
It's clear that everyone is approaching this from their own perspective, using their own experience, anecdotal evidence, surveys, studies, clients and subscribers, in the industries in which they work and the marketing and/or sales teams with whom they communicate.
I'll repeat the essence of the article because it already seems to be getting lost or twisted.
The data I used was a selection of around 10,000 Objective Management Group sales assessments (not a survey) completed in the month of June 2013. The results show us that usage of these tools is way up. The companies that these salespeople worked for were reporting no change, or worsening of KPI's. The conclusion is what you had the problem with: Lack of correlation between use of the tools and key sales metrics. That's it - nothing more and nothing less. How could you conclude anything else from this particular set of data?
The 10,000 assessments were taken in a cross-section of industries (companies in more than 200 industries use our assessments) so that is part of the problem. Most of you who are surprised with these results are working with companies and industries that are more likely to see results than the overall population of 15 million plus salespeople.

To summarize, most of the disagreements, arguments, challenges, and strong opinions occur when experts feel threatened by an opposing viewpoint or simply aren't in a position to have a similar viewpoint.  Many of the viewpoints, that are in opposition to what I write about, are from people who just don't have as broad a vantage point .  I am very fortunate to have unique access to data, science and business that isn't available to anyone else:

  • 200 Industries!  That's industries, not companies.  Most of the survey data being used out there is extremely limited by comparison.  Only big companies, only small companies, only SaaS companies, only companies that use inbound marketing, only marketing people responding, etc.
  • 700,000 salespeople!  That's a huge sample size and I can mine it for anything I need to find.  Not only that; but, the population has grown over the years so we can track changes to the data.
  • Salespeople!  We only look at three roles - sales, sales management and sales leadership.  Our data is validated, relevant and impressive.
  • Companies with sales organizations!  Due to the way we go to market, I have access, through our partners, to almost any company, anywhere; and as such, trends across those 200 industries, not just the companies I might personally be working with.
  • Manufacturing!  My colleagues, that limit themselves to technology companies or financial institutions or insurance companies, don't know what they're missing.  When I work with the executives of manufacturing companies, I get to see things before they happen.  Manufacturers are the first to experience increases, decreases and even global spending freezes (these occurred prior to November 2008), allowing me to see the trends before they happen.  These are forward-looking indicators and when the same things happen to multiple companies at the same time, we can predict shifts and changes in the economy.
  • Evaluations and Assessments!  Not surveys.  Anyone can use SurveyMonkey to ask questions, populate drop-down lists and incorporate radio buttons, send the survey to some companies and collect the data.  Surveys are typically a collection of questions and answers gathering opinions, aren't validated, and typically aren't representative of all people reading the results.  The data, that comes from our evaluations and assessments, is always based on science.  Validated.  Accurate.  Predictive.

Today there are a tremendous number of blogs on sales.  There are 85 of them featured on AllTop.com.  TopSalesWorld.com lists the top 50 sales blogs.  I counted 240 different people writing on the subject of sales at EvanCarmichael.com.  You should always consider the author's context, industry, background, experience and bias when reading their sales articles.  Ask yourself, "For this author to have this opinion, are they pushing an agenda, reporting on a trend within a particular industry, expressing an opinion formed only from their personal experience, selling something (I'm sometimes guilty of this), sharing the results of a skewed survey, talking about something that isn't globally applicable, suggesting something that isn't scalable, promoting something that isn't duplicable, talking about something that isn't even sound?"  Some would suggest that if someone causes someone to adopt something so outdated and ineffective in today's world, that they should be found guilty of malpractice.  And finally, the best of all; the experts that only post-attack comments on other experts' blogs.  Do I love them...

As with any industry, ours has some pretty smart, forward-thinking experts who can help any company with any challenge.  I know most of them.  Some of them partner with Objective Management Group.  But the number of really good ones is not 240 or 85 or even 50. Remember, that was the top 50 blogs - not the top 50 sales experts.  Some of the really good experts are included there and some aren't.  Some of the really good blogs are written by people you may not want helping you.  A blog does not make the top 50 list because the author is a brilliant sales mind.  Most of those rankings are based on number of posts, consistency in their posting, and number of readers.  I know a few great sales minds that don't have blogs and vice versa.

I've gone a bit off the track and probably pissed off a lot of people.  But what else is new?  I apologize.

Good things are happening in the world of sales and some of those things are coming your way.  Just keep both eyes open, your nose to the ground and your antenna up.  You'll intuitively know whether or not what you are reading is a bunch of bunk or the real deal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales consulting, top sales blog, sales results, top sales expert, KPI, social selling

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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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