Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 @ 08:06 AM

first-impression

Most salespeople don't take first impressions seriously enough. If they did, their first impressions would be much more favorable.

I can still remember my first (unintentional) lesson about first impressions.  My family was gathered at my grandfather's house to watch the debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show.  It was February 9, 1964 and at 8 years old, I was one of seventy-three million people watching the show that night.  I was as excited about this show as I would be later that same year when I attended my first Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park.  That is pretty excited! 

Sitting on the carpet, I was completely focused on seeing and hearing The Beatles play five of their hit songs, but my mother was doing color commentary from the plastic covered sofa behind me.

She said, "He's cleaner than the other 3", referring to Paul McCartney, who had straighter teeth, and a face more suitable for the mop top hair style shared by the four of them.

There it was, my first lesson in judging people by how they looked, and more specifically, what "clean" did and did not look like.

We were all exposed to unintentional lessons like that when we were young and those lessons stay with us today.  My father was an optometrist and around a quarter of his patients were on welfare.  While they were entitled to the same eye examination as everyone else, they were not allowed to choose from the same selection of eye glasses  and were not allowed to wear contact lenses - unless they could pay the difference.  Therefore, I assumed that anyone I saw wearing "those glasses" must be on welfare.

15 years later, when I was in the music business, a man who looked like he spent the night sleeping on the side of the road, bought the most expensive guitar I had in stock.  He paid cash.

Enough for the trip down memory lane.

When you are in sales, your first impression has been made the moment a prospect sets eyes on you, and based on how that prospect reacts, you, in turn, create a first impression of them.

Objective Management Group (OMG), which has evaluated or assessed 1,869,505 salespeople, has a finding I haven't written much about called Sales Posturing.  In a nutshell, Posturing measures first impressions, how memorable you are, and how effectively you differentiate yourself from the competition. In the table below, you'll see scores for Posturing,  as well as Relationship Building which is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies. 

posturing-relationships

While there is a correlation between both sets of scores and the overall effectiveness level of salespeople, the difference in scores is minuscule in comparison to creating urgency, The 21 Sales Core Competencies, Closing, and 5 Scores Related to Money.  This proves my point that most salespeople, even the great ones, do not pay enough attention to the quality of their first impressions.

How much focus have you given to how you make your first impression?  Here are 10 things you can control to assure that you make a great first impression.  For a lot of these, Goldilocks and  the Three Bears will be a good guide.  Not too much, not too little, but just right:

  1. Your smile
  2. Your handshake
  3. Your confidence
  4. Your outfit
  5. Your hair
  6. Your first words
  7. Your tonality
  8. Your trustworthiness
  9. Your approach
  10. Your authenticity

Thirty-three years ago, when I was far less experienced in the sales development space, my first impressions were not very good and it was represented by the quality of my clients at the time.  Fortunately, thirty-three years provides a nice, long runway for improvement!

Selling, and especially consultative selling, is difficult enough without having to dig out of the hole created by first impressions gone wrong.  You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression so remember, every encounter provides you with your last chance to make a good first impression.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, relationship building, assessment, omg, the beatles, objective management group, Ed Sullivan

When Sales Leaders Don't Lead With Their Strengths

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 05, 2012 @ 14:11 PM

Today I received a request for all of my articles to date which reference Objective Management Group's Sales VP/Director Assessment.  I conducted a quick search and found - what?  None!  Out of nearly 1,000 articles, I hadn't referenced OMG's Sales VP/Director Assessment even once!  I'll fix that right now.

Unlike our sales and sales management assessments, which are usually performed as part of a sales force evaluation at the request of an executive, most VP assessments are requested by the VP's themselves.  There are some pretty interesting components to it, so I'll discuss some of the more intriguing ones here.

Compared with a sales management assessment, where the sales manager must be tactical, the VP must be more strategic, so we have a Strategic Thinking dimension.  Our VP assessment also integrates a component of our Leadership Assessment, the Key Management Dynamics, where we can determine how well the VP has developed the Strategy Style, one of the nine Leadership Styles which we measure.

We also measure and identify the sales VP's tendency to default to any of eight competencies over the others when they need to grow revenue.  It becomes interesting when a VP scores high in one competency but defaults instead to a different competency (one where they scored lower) to drive revenue.  And isn't it powerful to finally be aware of that, learn why, and change?  When sales leaders default to a competency that isn't their best, they can become frustrated when the desired changes and revenue do not occur.  Not only that, when they aren't aware of a skill gap in the competency they chose, it can alienate sales managers and salespeople.  For instance, when a sales leader scores high in Coaching and low in Motivation and chooses to fire up the sales team to grow sales, it will not work as effectively as if coaching had been chosen.

When VP's request this assessment, they can use it as a self-coaching tool or as a coaching road map by an outside sales leader.  But more than a self-development tool, it explains the strengths which are supporting sales leadership excellence, points out the weaknesses which may be responsible for not driving sales and growing salespeople (at their current or prior companies) to achieve their fullest potential.

If you are interested in getting yourself evaluated as a Sales VP or Director, just send me an email and I'll make sure that one of my experts contacts you ASAP.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales leaders, assessment, people problems, sales issues

How Soon Should You Make Changes to Your Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 @ 09:06 AM

The First 90 DaysThis month's newsletter from IDC's Sales Advisory Group lists 5 things which a new Sales VP should do.  Some of them are good, but others not so much.  Among their points were some that have nothing to do with being new, plus one with which I am in complete disagreement.  Consider 4 of their 5 bullet points below:

  1. They said: Tap into your organization's resources to get up the learning curve, fast.
    I say: You should tap into your resources whether you are new or not!  There is more to learn than your own business.  You should be learning about your competition, your customers, new verticals into which you can sell, and your team's capabilities.
  2. They said: Upgrade your sales operations team ASAP and lean on them to develop and drive the strategic agenda to improve sales productivity and effectiveness.  
    I say: If you don't have a large company, then you don't have a sales operations team.  You must go outside for that help.  But wherever you turn, you should follow this point whether you are new or not.  Sales operations includes systems and processes and most companies aren't even aware of the systems and processes which they should have, never mind the companies whose systems and processes are completely ineffective and don't support the sales force.
  3. They said: Leverage your strategy, operations and finance teams to quantify and assess your sales investment levels, resource allocations and future areas for investment to drive productivity improvements.
    I say: Once again, if you aren't in a large company, these teams don't exist and you must go outside for this help, but you don't have to be new to do this.
  4. They said: Assess your team and rapidly make changes.
    I say: You should absolutely assess your team, new or not.  But here is where I strongly disagree with IDC's suggestion.  If you are new, you should not change anything during the first 90 days.  The fastest way to alienate your entire team is to make changes too quickly.  In the first 90 days, you must build relationships, gain their trust, establish your credibility, lower their resistance and work on your strategy and sales plan.  Then, with the intelligence and action items, which come as a result of  the sales force evaluation, you can begin making the recommended changes based on science and data, not knee-jerk reactions or worse, historical numbers from spreadsheets and reports.  The goal is to determine who should be part of the sales force going forward, not who has performed in the past.  Watch this video about why you should evaluate your sales team.
Why You Should Evaluate Your Sales Force

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales management, sales competency, assessment, IDC, new sales manager, new sales vp, Sales Advisory Group

The Sales Force with Over Achievers That Don't

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 @ 22:03 PM

Huh?

That's right. Today I heard about a CEO who told one of my colleagues that all of his salespeople over achieve.  In the same phone conversation he mentioned that sales are down 20%.  Can you imagine where sales would be if his salespeople under achieved?  

I think that many CEO's are in a time warp.

Despite the struggles of their sales force in this economy, they still view the sales force as they remember them when times were good. 

The problem with this is that even the good times did not accurately define these salespeople.  Salespeople who succeed when times are good but struggle when times get tough are not over achievers.  They are mediocre salespeople who simply don't get in their own way.  Over achievers find ways to succeed in all conditions, good and bad.

I think that many CEO's are in denial.

Despite the struggles of their sales force, they continue to look at the pipeline and say to themselves, we'll be okay as soon as these deals close.  But the deals aren't closing and with each passing day companies are less okay then they were the day before.

I think that many CEO's are scared shitless (the only truly accurate word I could type there).

Because of the struggles of their sales force, they look at the numbers, down 90%, down 75%, down 50%, down 25% and wonder how they can turn it around.  It can be turned around but they have to be proactive, not reactive.  They have to be aggressive, not passive.  They have to work on the right end of the problem - revenue - not just costs.

Truth is, our data shows that only 6% of all salespeople over achieve.  And another 20% can become over achievers.  Who do you want on your sales force and what are you willing to do to develop them or recruit them?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, assessments, selling, Management, Sales Force, leadership, over achievement, declining sales, improve sales, assessment, sales candidates, over achieve, Under achievers, hiring salespeople, mediocrity, overachievers, sales increase, Performance, Economy, sales assessments, declining revenue

The Secret - The Ancient Scrolls and its Impact on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:03 PM

Al Turrisi was kind enough to give me a book called the Power of the Kabbalah.  Its ancient scrolls originated around 4,000 years ago, inspired The Secret and predates Moses and the Bible!  Since this book is not the Kabbalah itself, rather a Cliff Notes version, it tends to read more like a self-help book. It is far more powerful than a self-help book though as it points to a number of rules that will cause a transformation in one's life.

Seven of the desired behaviors are consistent with the philosophies in Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball as well as Objective Management Group's Sales Assessments:

The importance of Desire. Read the Top 10 Factors for Salespeople to Overachieve.

It's not about you.  Over the past several months I have found myself telling an awful lot of salespeople and sales managers that it's not about them.  It's even become a finding in Objective Management Group's Sales Manager's Evaluation - The It's All About Me finding.

Need for Approval or what happens when you need people to like you.  This is the second most powerful weakness in all of selling. Here's an article about that.

Becoming Emotionally Involvedor reacting instead of proacting.This is the third most powerful weakness in all of selling. I wrote an article about this.

Resistance or the great challenge that presents itself rather than an obstacle.  I wrote a an article about this earlier this month and another one a couple of years ago.

Certainty or having faith that what you say, ask, or do will get the desired outcome.

Doing What's Uncomfortable.  I wrote an article about this a while back too.

Many of the articles I linked to were Baseline Selling Tips.  Speaking of Baseline Selling, this is the third anniversary of the publish date of the book, a good reason to reread or order it.

So in summary, simply by having your salespeople overcome their sales weaknesses, doing the very things they are uncomfortable doing, having faith in their abilities and having a strong desire for success will cause those very same people to experience life changing experiences.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Baseline Selling, assessments, sales skills, Salesforce, Sales Force, Changing_Behavior, over achievement, sales weaknesses, Motivation, sales core competencies, assessment, sales evaluation, over achieve, improve sales performance, sales winners, overachievers, sales assessment test, Baseline_Selling, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

10 Steps for your Sales Force to Survive and Thrive in The Recession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jan 04, 2009 @ 21:01 PM

Like many of you, I'm back from a much needed vacation where I met a guy who could have been one of the sorry CEO's I have met over the past several months.

I was in the pool, playing catch with our six-year old son, when Henry began a "dialog" with me. He said, "You can't play catch in the pool.  It's against the rules."

I was stunned, but apologized, said I wasn't aware of that rule and removed the football from the pool.

There was another guy in the pool and he mentioned to me that the pool rules did not include an exclusion about playing catch.  I mentioned that to Henry and he became irate because he owns one of the resort's units, wrote the rules himself, and said, "It better be on that sign!"

So what's wrong with this picture?

  • Doesn't "resort" make you think fun, water and sun?
  • He and his friends were at the water's very edge but didn't want to get wet, so he didn't want any splashing which leads to no playing catch.
  • He and his friends were at the pool but in the shade.
  • It was 80 degrees but he was dressed for winter.
  • He was at a resort but wanted the quiet of a senior community. 

How is Henry any different from Bernie?

Bernie is the President of a company that had experienced flat sales for the three strong economic years leading up to the recession. He had been looking for a VP of sales for two years but hadn't found the right candidate or failed to pull the trigger.

He attended an event where he heard me speak and asked me to contact him. He asked for my advice and I recommended that if he was serious about finding the ideal VP, then he should:

  • Evaluate his sales force to better understand its real capabilities and identify the challenges a new VP would have to deal with;
  • Identify the changes that the sales force needed to make to be more effective;
  • Save the new VP at least a year by providing him with a comprehensive understanding of each salesperson's strengths,  weaknesses and coaching requirements. 
  • Identifythe salespeople that could make the transition to being more aggressive at finding and closing new business;
  • Identify the salespeople that could not be developed and plan to replace the under performers;
  • Use this intelligence to find the ideal VP of Sales Candidate.

Once in a while, CEO's and Presidents don't take my advice and Bernie, who was comfortable (hired gun, not an owner), over confident (he thought he knew better), and not afraid of failure (sales were flat, not declining), promoted one of his existing salespeople to take the VP of Sales position.

Ordinarily, this is not a particularly smart move but in this case, it was really dumb. His new VP had never managed a sales force, had no experience selling in a recession, had never reversed a flat sales trend and had never assessed a sales force.  What made Bernie think he could do all this effectively without experience?  Six months later, how do you think he's doing?  Last I heard from Bernie, George was "trying some things."

Bernie and Henry could be the same guy.  Henry was probably an arrogant, over confident president who didn't fear failure just like Bernie. They both know better than everyone else.

Compare Bernie's story with Jack, president of another manufacturer with flat year over year sales at around the same time.  Jack already had a new VP in place, knew there was complacency, knew he needed change, and despite having the expertise to do it himself, knew that it had to come from outside, not within.

Just seven months after evaluating and training, Jack's sales force is accomplishing things today that they couldn't even imagine last spring.  They transitioned from account managers to hunters; they transitioned from making proposals and presentations to conducting quality sales calls where they do nothing except ask great questions; they've gone from selling on price to selling value; they've moved from believing they had to have the best price to selling at their price; and they're closing business at a much higher rate than at this time last year - despite the economic crisis.

Which type of leader are you - Bernie or Jack?

Here are ten steps that you can take to not only survive, but thrive in this recession:

  1. Size up your sales team - we have some free tools like the Sales Force Grader, the Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator and the Sales Achievement Grader; and fee based tools like our world-class Sales Force Evaluation
  2. Get the right people in the right sales/sales management roles.  Our Sales Force Evaluation will provide these insights.
  3. Talk honestly with your sales force about the tough times ahead. Tell them the truth!
  4. Gain their commitment and buy in to work harder, be tougher and do what it takes in these more difficult times.
  5. Perform a pipeline analysis and work the pipeline.  My sales development firm offers EPACS - Emergency Pipeline Analysis and Coaching Strategies where we properly stage, strategize and coach on every opportunity.
  6. Create the necessary infrastructure. This includes an appropriate sales process, recruiting process, sales management systems, and software.
  7. Develop Sales Management on accountability, coaching, recruiting, leadership and motivation.
  8. Develop the salespeople on process, skills and overcoming their weaknesses.
  9. Sales Execution - just do it.
  10. Sales Management Execution - make sure they do it and help them do it.

Ultimately, you must focus on the machine that generates revenue, not costs.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, coaching, sales management, selling, Salesforce, accountability, assessment, recession, objective management group

Sales Competencies and Case Histories from Using Sales Assessments - The Series

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 @ 10:08 AM

This series of articles describes the various case histories, findings and entertaining stories from assessments used on sales candidates and evaluations of sales forces.

Learn How We Discovered They Had the Wrong Salespeople

Will This Candidate Really Fail if I Hire Him? 

Case History - Achieve the Lowest Turnover in the Entire Sales Force

What Would You Do? Sales Force Attempts to Maintain Status Quo

Do Chain Reactions Like This Really Occur When Selling?

Are Women Less Trainable?

Every Sales Assessment Tells a Story - This is Fred's Story

After Accepting the Job Will Your Sales Candidate Back Out?

The Unusual Case of Arturo - How He Sabotaged His Own Sales

The Sales Assessment Client Who Didn't Renew After All These Years

Sales Assessment Findings - Another Preview of the Interview

10 Lessons from the Sales Candidate Who Smelled Like He Peed on Himself

Recruiters Fear Assessments

Sales Manager Resigns After Reading Sales Assessment

Sales Assessments Come to Life Part 2

The Top 10 Steps to Recruit Top Salespeople

Management Resistance to Topgrading the Sales Force

How Are Assessments Used?

When Management Gets Push Back

A Sales Management Candidate Shows His True Colors

Managing Salespeople that Work in a Remote Location

Can Sales Assessments Actually Predict On the Job Performance?

Sales Candidate Doesn't Qualify

It's a Misunderstanding

Latest and Greatest

Rejected

Sales Candidates - How to Get the Ones You Want Part 2

Sales Candidates - How to Get the Ones You Want Part 1

How Do You Find the Right Sales Candidates?

Hiring Salespeople - Phone Interview Comes to Life Part 3

Hiring Salespeople - Phone Interview Comes to Life Part 2

Hiring Salespeople - Phone Interview Comes to Life Part 1

I Don't Believe This Stuff

More Hirable Sales Candidates

This Salesperson Was A Great Employee But I Wouldn't Hire Him Again

They Couldn't All Be Bad

Why Isn't This Salesperson Hirable?

Denial Over a Sales Force Evaluation

Personality Tests - Are They Worth the Risk?

The Correlation Between the Findings and Performance

Sales Assessment More Accurate Than Management Thinks

10 Reasons for HR to Hire Winning Salespeople Using Assessments

Will This Candidate Really Fail if I Hire Him? 

The Phony Baloney Sales Superstar

Case History - Another Pitiful Sales Cold Call Exposed

A Good Look at Bad Salespeople - Companies Don't Get This!

Analogies for Boosting Sales

Why You Must Understand This about Desire for Sales Success

Sales Selection Experiment - Part 2 - It's Back!

Topics: sales force evaluation, recruiting, sales core competencies, assessment

The Lost Gospels - Most Sales Candidates Really Suck!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 06, 2008 @ 17:08 PM

You know how this works.  You're looking for one thing that you can't find and come across another thing that you couldn't find - in this case, three years ago!

I located some lost statistics relating to some of the more than 350,000 salespeople we have assessed, as it applies to sales candidates.  While you (not me) like to look at industry experience, and who they know, and how sharp and friendly they are, I like to look at more objective data points.  Try these on for size:

24% of all candidates will not prospect - at all!
Only 1% of all hunters have the complete Hunter Skill Set.
Only 8% of all candidates could be considered Hunters.  And how many of you want your new salespeople to hunt for new business? 
The typical candidate will have between 27% and 52% of the attributes of a hunter.

Why?  Salespeople who dislike prospecting dislike it for a reason.  They have beliefs and fears that cause anxiety and physical reactions to even the thought of prospecting. So some won't do it at all, some will have difficulty getting started and some will have difficulty finishing.

45% of all candidates will not close - at all!
Less than 1% of all candidates have the complete Closer Skill Set.
The typical candidate will possess less than 23% of the attributes of a closer.

Why? Salespeople confuse asking with getting.  Most salespeople know how to ask for the business but very few salespeople know how to get the business when prospects resist.  As with hunting, there are beliefs and fears that impact their behavior and when salespeople aren't comfortable saying the words you've taught them, they substitute words that make them more comfortable.  What makes them comfortable?  Presenting features and benefits, actions that don't put their prospects on the spot, that don't create stalls, put-offs, objections and excuses, that they absolutely don't want to deal with.

What does all this mean?  You must have a structured, world-class, sales recruiting process that features a world-class sales specific assessment to consistently identify the sales candidates that will prosper at your company.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: recruiting, assessment

The Former Car Salesman That Didn't Know Why He Failed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 18, 2008 @ 16:07 PM

George was at the house today, reinstalling our home theater projector.  He asked what kind of work I did and when he learned I was a sales expert he told me two things.  First, he said that his company needed some help. It seems that their salespeople were great when people were spending money but now that people have stopped spending money they're not really so great after all.  He said, "they were great at being near the phone when it rang!"

Then he said, "I tried selling cars once - I wasn't very good at it so I quit. I went to the same training as everyone else, sold the same products as everyone else, had the same management as everyone else, but got different results.  I don't know why I sucked, but I knew enough to get out."

I said, "I can tell you why you struggled.  You're a nice guy and you want pepole to like you, right?"

"Yup."

"So you couldn't say, do or ask the things they taught you to do because it didn't feel right, right?

"Exactly!" 

"You probably shop around and think things over when you buy things for yourself, right?"

"Yup."

"So none of the techniques to stop them from shopping or to stop them from thinking it over came from conviction, right?"

"Exactly!"

"You're a pretty trusting guy, right?"

"Yup."

"So when they told you they'd be back on Monday to buy the car, you believed them, right?"

"Exactly!" 

"And you never handled rejection real well, did you?"

"Nope."

"So that's why you weren't any good as a car salesman, George."

"Thank you SO MUCH.  I feel so much better knowing why."

"You're welcome."

Don't make the mistake of believing that this conversation only relates to selling cars.  These are a handful of the common reasons why salespeople struggle and what's worse, is that many of the salespeople who are IN sales today and struggling have these among dozens of other issues getting in their way.

Recognize any of this in any of your salespeople? 

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: coaching, assessment

Sales Manager Resigns After Reading Assessment Results

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 02, 2008 @ 00:07 AM

This blog began several years ago as a way for me to share real-world case histories from the world of sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments.  Questions from readers often sent it off in other directions, covering development and leadership issues as well.  Today's post is a throw back - anecdotes from the field...

Yesterday, one of our sales development experts delivered the findings from the evaluation of a company's sales force. We looked at their people, strategies, systems and processes.  Two of the many findings we reported to the CEO were that 1) their Sales Manager was untrainable (won't change) and 2) he would agree with most of the findings relative to his sales management ineffectiveness.

The sales manager did agree with the findings and offered his resignation immediately after he completed reading his personal assessment.  He said, "It says I need to set goals and I did that once and am not doing it again!"

You can't get better, faster feedback on the accuracy of the findings! He's not willing to change.

Our sales development expert told the CEO to accept the resignation and the CEO was thrilled with how quickly the situation sorted itself out.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

 

Topics: assessment

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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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