Filling the Sales Pipeline - Who's to Blame?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 12, 2008 @ 21:08 PM

You've installed the latest and greatest application to track, monitor and review your pipeline. You've provided them with training to assist them in adding new opportunities to the pipeline. You've let the sales force know that they must add new opportunities to the pipeline now. There are individual goals and quotas that support the team's goals and quotas and it's now or never.

In one company, the entire sales force followed through and they added nearly 30 new opportunities to the pipeline in just a week. 

In another company, some of the people followed through and some didn't.  Of those that didn't fill their pipelines, some were more than capable. So I have three questions for you:

  1. If they are capable of adding new opportunities to the pipeline but they don't, what must you do in order to not lose credibility, potency and momentum with the rest of your team? 
  2. With those who aren't yet capable of filling their pipeline, how can you excuse them when the initiative applied to everyone?
  3. Whose responsibility is it that not everyone filled their pipeline?

Add your comments below and we'll what you all come up with.  The best response wins an autographed copy of Baseline Selling.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: accountability

Technology, Software, and Tools for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 29, 2008 @ 23:07 PM

[7-30 Update to this article: Inside CRM published its comparison guide to Sales Force Automation and did not even include Landslide among the 12 applications it compared.  Goes to show how little the software engineers, writers and editors know about selling.  Traditional CRM is difficult for salespeople to embrace!]

[2nd 7-30 Update to the update - see the comment below from Chris Bucholtz, Inside CRM, and follow this link to the article he posted later today.] 

I love Landslide and I'm proud to say it.

I use Landslide myself.

All of my salespeople at both of my companies use Landslide
I believe that all of our clients should use it.

What is Landslide?  Sorry.  Landslide is in the CRM space without actually being a CRM application.  Landslide is a hosted web application but with their robust dashboard you would swear you were looking at an application loaded on your computer.  Landslide actually helps you sell, train and hold your salespeople accountable.  

I said I use Landslide but that's not accurate. I work from within Landslide.  When I'm in selling mode everything begins there.  When I'm in sales manager mode, Landslide is where I go for an instant, accurate visual picture of the company's pipeline by stage, by team, and by rep.  It's also where I look to get a real time forecast and track activities, and results.

Landslide does the CRM stuff that you need but because it has your company's customized sales process built-in, it forces your salespeople to sell the way they've been taught, without skipping steps along the way.  They just released their newest version and I love it. A click here and a click there and you're done.  And the biggest reason that companies resist installing CRM (most of which suck) is that they know their salespeople will resist using it.  No problem.  Landslide includes VIP services so that your salespeople don't have to touch their computer if they don't want to.  They can just call it in! I know I'm gushing about it but it's simply the most  helpful application I've ever used for sales and sales management.

There are several other applications that I use to make my life easy.  CatalogChoice.com eliminates all of the unwanted catalogs I get in the mail each day; Hubspot.com hosts this Blog and provides unbelievable support, analytics and SEO; SurveyMonkey.com is great for designing surveys and collecting, analyzing and sharing the results;  AudioGenerator.com is ideal for placing quick playing audio testimonials on our web sites; WebEx.com  provides a robust platform for webinars, meetings and on line training; SeatGuru.com and FlightAware.com for travel; and LinkedIn.com helps me stay connected with other professionals and their networks.

Why not comment and tell us about some of your can't live without applications...

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: accountability

Manny Being Manny - When to Terminate Top Producers on your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 28, 2008 @ 07:07 AM

Our Boston Baseball team is having an acute case of Manny being Manny.  For the past seven years, when Manny felt like being Manny, it was sometimes comical, like when he recently made a great catch, high fived a fan in the middle of the play and then threw a runner out to complete a double play.  There were the two times when he entered the left-field wall to use the facilities and to talk on his cell phone.  But there have been other occasions when he wasn't so comical.  There were serious, but not career-ending moments like when he failed to run out ground balls or, during a pinch-hitting appearance, when he failed to take the bat off his shoulders. This year Manny has been the aggressor in two well documented shoving matches and there were two important games where he asked out of the lineup.  Now, for the 8th time in 8 years, he is asking out of Boston again.  It used to be that Manny being Manny was harmless fun, but when Manny has become a serious distraction to the entire team, all the home runs and RBI's in the world won't compensate for his behavior.

Most sales forces have a person - a maverick - like Manny; a top producer who marches to the beat of his own drummer.  We have a different set of rules for these producers and as long as they're not causing difficulties for anyone else we tend to tolerate what they do and don't do.  They don't attend all the meetings, aren't held to the same standards, regularly give us a load of crap and we tolerate it as long as they continue to produce.

Can you imagine Manny on your sales force?  He pushes your HR VP to the floor, slaps your hardest working salesperson, refuses to listen to your coaching, tells everyone he hates the company, doesn't attend company events or sales meetings, but comes through and brings in the business you need, just when you need it.

But when Mavericks become serious problems I usually get a phone call.  "I don't know what to do!" is the typical comment.  And it makes sense, right?  If this person didn't outperform everyone else in the company, the decision to put them on the first plane out of town would be an easy one.  Nobody would miss the antics and aggravation.  But all that revenue - the thought of losing it and the possibility of a competitor getting it - is too much for most executives to handle so they inevitably call and ask me what they should do.

I'm fairly consistent on matters like these.  As Bill Murray says when Walter Peck is being kicked out of the Mayor's office in Ghostbusters, "Bye."

Most companies do more with less.  After two basketball players are encouraged to quit the team in a disciplinary move, team members yell, "they were our top two scorers last year!" Coach Carter, in the movie by the same name, says, "then we'll have new top scorers this year!" 

If you were to interview the salespeople who are impacted by the behavior of your top producers, you would learn that they would be quite happy to see your Maverick depart.  It's not like they thought they could outsell him...and guess what will happen to their sales when they finally believe  that they can become the top producers!

Bye.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation

Fact Based Reasons Why New Salespeople Fail - Data Points

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jun 28, 2008 @ 12:06 PM

Did you ever have a new salesperson fail?  Did you ever have one who was highly recommended fail?

Depending on how effective your recruiting, selection and on boarding processes are, you may experience new salespeople that don't work out.  Let's explore some of the factors that impact short-term success.

  • Ramp-Up Time - an important factor in determining whether a new salesperson is succeeding or failing is your baseline ramp-up time.  When you don't know what your ramp-up time should be, you will be guilty of either not giving a salesperson enough time to succeed, or being overly patient, allowing too much time to pass before calling the newbie a failure.  My formula for calculating ramp-up time is to add your sale cycle in months to your learning curve in months and then add an additional 30 days.  So, if you have a six month sale cycle and a three month learning curve, your baseline ramp-up time will be 10 months.  Complicating the matter even more is the fact that some salespeople will not ramp up exactly as the formula suggests, based on three additional factors:
       So we can modify the formula like this: add 2 more months if sales experience is less than five years, add 2 more months if industry experience is less than 2 years, and add 3 more months if compatibility is less than 75%.  Depending on these 3 factors, ramp-up could take as much as an additional 7 months!
  • The Assignment - The assignment is a huge part of this equation.  If your new salesperson is assigned existing accounts, you'll probably be happy with his work unless he quickly loses some accounts.  On the other hand, if 80% or more of the assignment is hunting for new business, you may conclude that the salesperson is failing unless the pipeline gets filled rather quickly with new opportunities.
  • The Assessment - Clues abound here.  As long as you are using Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessment (92% of recommended candidates that are hired wind up in the top half of their sales force within a year, while 75% of those who were not recommended but hired anyway fail within 6 months), the answers are at your finger tips.  Review these four sections:
    • Hunter Skill set - which attributes are missing? 
    • Conditions for Hiring - what are the conditions listed and did you follow them?
    • Likely Problems - are the issues your struggling salesperson is running into listed among the likely problems?
    • Skills - how many are there and are they representative of the entire selling process or just the front end, middle or back-end?
  • The Sales Manager - The sales manager is usually the biggest determining factor of sales success and the first place to look when it appears that salespeople aren't working out. 
    • Supervision - Are new salespeople being micro managed or at least closely managed?  They should be.  Are any of your new salespeople in a remote territory?   A sure fire formula for disaster is a remote salesperson that is not being closely managed. 
    • Expectations - Have expectations been set?  Do your new salespeople know what is expected of them in the first 30/60/90 days, how they will be measured and how they will be held accountable?
    • Support - When two seemingly identical salespeople with identical assignments and territories have opposite results, it's usually because neither of them got the attention, direction, guidance, coaching, support, motivation and accountability that was needed, but one of them was better when it came to figuring out what it would take to succeed (see The Salesperson). 
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) - Sales Managers that manage results (history) are months behind when it comes to being able to impact a salesperson using coaching and accountability.  Sales Managers that manage activity (today) can see into the future and change it.
  • The Salesperson - New salespeople can figure it out when the right mix of these next 14 factors, all found in OMG's Assessment, are in place - The "Figure it Out" Factor:
    • 5+ years in sales
    • 5+ years in the industry
    • Strong Desire
    • Strong Commitment
    • No Excuse Making
    • Self Starter
    • Works well independently
    • Works without supervision
    • Will Prospect
    • Prospects Consistently
    • No Need for Approval
    • Recovers from Rejection
    • Greater than 75% Compatibility
    • Effective Time Management
  • High Turnover Factors - Depending upon these three additional factors, turnover could approach 150%.
    • Compensation - Turnover is higher in straight comission environments.  Straight commission with a long sale cycle will be even worse.  Straight commission with a long sale cycle and a salesperson without the financial stability to stick it out will exceed 100%.
    • Industry - Turnover in insurance (personal lines), telecommunications (long distance phone service) and automotive (car dealers) is very high because many companies in these industries don't have a selection criteria that extends beyond "breathing and willing" and don't invest time and money on development. 
    • Mindset - Companies that are resigned to high turnover and that are making a lot of money despite the turnover don't do anything to change it.
  • Psychological Factors - Every once in a while you'll get a new salesperson who is emotionally unstable and you won't know it until it's too late.  There is no better reason to use a psychological assessment at the time of hiring that to uncover this!
  • Liars - I've even seen salespeople who took one base plus commission sales job while holding down another.  The only thing better than getting paid for not performing one job is getting paid for not performing in two jobs!
(c)  Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, recruiting, accountability, leadership, assessment

Top 10 Ways to Drive Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 25, 2008 @ 07:06 AM

Let's assume that you have the right people, compensation, incentives, systems and processes in place.  Are you all set?  Hardly.  You still have to drive sales because in most companies sales don't happen by themselves. The companies that do that the best follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate their sales force 
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Identify necessary behaviors required for the results
  4. Get buy-in and commitment from their salespeople and managers
  5. Support the effort with training, development and coaching
  6. Hold their people accountable for behaviors and results
  7. Frequently and clearly communicate the expectations
  8. Demonstrate top management's commitment to the expectations, behaviors, training, development and coaching through participation and communication.
  9. Replace non-performers
  10. Hire A players

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, recruiting, accountability, leadership, assessment

Another of My Keys to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 06, 2008 @ 00:06 AM

These aren't generally discussed, written about or analyzed, but they are there, getting in the way, sometimes for months at a time.  Most of your salespeople aren't very effective dealing with them.  At the least they interfere with business and at their worst they dominate your salespeople's lives. I'm talking about distractions.

Distractions can take many forms, from the call that takes them off their game, to the illness or death of a loved one that stops their game cold.  Distractions can last a few minutes or they can linger for months.  You can even understand why some, especially the really bad distractions, can interfere for so long.

In the end, it's your salespeople's ability to cope and stay focused in the face of distractions that will determine what kind of year they have.  Everyone, including you and me, has distracting events in their lives.  When one event goes away you can be sure that another will follow.  I know a salesperson who generates a year's worth of business in just 6-9 months, while he is distracted the other 3-6 months - every year! I know another salesperson who was distracted for two years.

You know they'll have distractions so it's your job to know your salespeople well enough to recognize when they are being affected.  Helpd help them cope, focus and work through them in order to get from each as close to 12 months worth of effectiveness as you can.

Don't let this article distract you, go help somebody!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, Motivation

Should Your Salespeople Belong to Networking Groups?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 29, 2008 @ 07:04 AM

Rick Roberge had an interesting post about the BNI group, including his own cost justification and the kind of salespeople who do and should belong.

What he doesn't say is that networking groups, however helpful or useless they may be, are great for salespeople who:

  • can't or won't make cold calls but will make calls if they have a referral;
  • are great at developing relationships and can parlay their membership into 27 great relationships;
  • are great networkers and can make the most out of whatever quality of salespeople make up the membership;

So while the average return from a group like this may be quite unattractive, if the salesperson meets the three criteria above, it should be required.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: accountability

Top 15 Ways to Grow Sales When Sales are Down

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 @ 07:04 AM

When sales at your company have stalled, what do you do?

  1. Do you perform more coaching and training?
  2. Do you provide some additional incentives?
  3. Do you get angry, go on a tirade and push them to produce?
  4. Do you ignore it all and hope it will go away?
  5. Do you dig into the pipeline to see what's coming and determine if it's real?
  6. Do you fire the worst offenders?
  7. Do you hire new people to bring some life to the organization?
  8. Do you go out and close opportunities yourself?
  9. Do you go on joint calls and help your salespeople close?
  10. Do you give a motivational speech and create some urgency?
  11. Do you threaten consequences if something doesn't change?
  12. Do you evaluate the sales force to learn why things are off track?
  13. Do you look for a new position?
  14. Do you offer discounts to get things going?
  15. Do you run a promotion?

What do you do and why do you do it?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, motivating

When the Weak Economy Collides with Ineffective Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 25, 2008 @ 21:03 PM

This is a post on which you must comment after reading it - really.

As the daily stories of economic woes continue to be featured in the headlines, most companies have their own version of the current economy and its affect on them.  From the perspective of the sales force, we help overhear your salespeople returning from calls with objections like:

  • there's a spending freeze
  • it's no longer a priority
  • they're going out of business
  • they're laying people off
  • they're postponing the initiative
  • they're only going to do half of what we spoke about
  • they're too busy putting out fires

There are more but I don't need to list them here.

Chronic mediocrity, excuse making, under achievement, complacency and a selling skill set adequate only for better times are colliding head-on with a recession and possible depression.  What could be worse?  Lots could be worse.  That's the reality but there are many things you can do about it.

  • This is the best time to evaluate and identify the real issues
  • This is the best time to train
  • The strong sales force in a weak economy is the killer sales force in a strong economy
  • This is the best time to coach
  • This is the best time for incentive programs
  • This is the best time for motivational programs
  • This is the perfect time for new accountability initiatives
  • This is the perfect time to install CRM

There are so many more things you can be doing.  Here is the part where you get to comment.  What are you doing in your company to motivate your salespeople and make them more effective when it's most important for them to be more effective?  And if you're not doing anything special right now, why not?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation, assessment

Focused Sales Efforts Temporarily Improve Sales Competencies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Mar 09, 2008 @ 23:03 PM

Every company has people whose sales competencies are not fully developed. Perhaps their salespeople don't find enough new opportunities.  Maybe they don't ask for referrals often enough.  It's possible that opportunities languish in the pipeline for too long.  There are a number of reasons for results like these, from weaknesses that prevent your salespeople from performing as desired, to sales management's ineffective motivation, setting of expectations, coaching and accountability.

There are short periods of time when you can cause those underdeveloped competencies to temporarily appear developed. Al Williams, author of All You Can Do is All You Can Do, said, "You can do anything for 30 Days".  For instance, if you are frustrated over the lack of new business, a focused new business effort can  serve as a band-aid and cause a temporary change in behavior and results.  Let's assume that you want to significantly increase the number of new opportunities in the pipeline.  Schedule a one, two, three, or five-day blitz where the only activities that will take place are those that will generate new opportunities.  Have all of your salespeople come in off the road and pretend they are on vacation but instead of hitting the beaches on some warm, sunny island, put them on the phones.  Have them call prospects they failed to sell, prospects with whom they failed to get appointments, prospects they never called on before, and customers/clients who can refer them to new prospects, etc.

Micro manage this blitz, give out awards if you see fit, and make sure the entire company is focused on the goal.  Make sure that all of your employees support the focused sales effort by not distracting the salespeople from what they need to do over this short period of time.

Remember, this strategy is only a band-aid, it doesn't solve the underlying problems and, like any rubber band, will return to it's original state as soon as the pressure is released. 

My company, Objective Management Group, is running such a blitz this week as our coaches focus their efforts on identifying potential, quality resellers for our assessments.  If you know a sales expert, trainer, guru or author; or someone whose expertise is in HR, assessments or management consulting, and you think we should talk to them, drop me an email with their contact information or have them fill out this form.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: accountability, leadership, Motivation

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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 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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