Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 @ 16:10 PM

Kiké Hernández's dream postseason continues for Red Sox: 10 things we  learned from ALDS-clinching walk-off win - masslive.com

Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times!

For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify.

How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

If your company is not the brand leader, market leader, or price leader; if you have a complex sale, a story to tell, a new technology, a new brand, a new product, a much higher price or a much tougher sale, then you are an underdog too.

Brand leaders, Market leaders and price leaders have it easy.  There is no true selling involved.  They show up, write proposals, provide quotes, conduct demos and take orders. They get what they get.

Underdogs must not only sell their way in, but they must also sell their value to justify the higher prices, differentiate themselves to prove their value, and use a consultative approach that supports selling value.  On top of that, they must follow a proper milestone-centric sales process that supports a consultative approach for selling value.

Most salespeople simply can't do this.  The data in the table below, from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2 million salespeople, shows the percentage of salespeople who are strong in the three competencies I just mentioned.  

It's not very difficult to grasp the takeaways from this data.  Even some of the best salespeople struggle to take a consultative approach to sales but compensate with their adherence to sales process and their ability to sell value.  The worst salespeople aren't capable of much more than a transactional sale described earlier in the article.  The best salespeople score, on average, 4823% stronger in these three competencies.  There are actually a total of 21 Sales Core Competencies and you can see the data for all of them right here, play with the data a bit, and filter by industry and company!

The top 5% and the bottom 5% represent only the extreme examples of 10% of all salespeople.  The other 90% are represented in the "All Salespeople" column.  We can filter the numbers some more if we break down the other 90%.  Wait until you see these numbers!

As you can see, there is a significant drop off from the top 5% to the next 15% and an even greater drop off to the 30% after that.  The big takeaway is that in these three competencies  the bottom 50% are nearly as weak as the bottom 5%. They all suck.  As a matter of fact, once you get past the top 20%, the picture is bleak.

What can you do about this? 

Use OMG to Evaluate your sales force so you can see what the capabilities are at your company.

Use OMG to Assess your sales candidates so that you can be assured of hiring only those who will succeed in the role.  

Train, train, train, coach, coach, coach, drill, drill, drill, role-play, role-play, role-play.

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright MassLive.com 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales training, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, value selling,

8-Year Old Houston Astros Fan Demonstrates a Huge Secret of Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 11, 2021 @ 09:06 AM

kid at baseball game

Walter and I attended a recent Boston Red Sox / Houston Astros game at Fenway Park.  It was my first visit to Fenway Park since 2019 and it was exciting to see most of the seats filled. It was exciting to hear all of the fan noise that has been missing for so long but there was one fan in particular that I heard louder than all of the others.  Starting in the fourth inning, Timmy, the eight-year-old Astros fan sitting next to me, didn't stop chatting with me for the remainder of the game. When Timmy said he hated the Red Sox I had to ask him why. His answer is the focus of this article on selling!  "Why do you hate the Red Sox so much Timmy?"  

He said, "Because their faces are ugly."  Wow.  I asked how they were ugly and he said "They have zits - and they pick them in the dugout."

That might not sound like the basis of an article on selling to you, but it certainly does to me! 

Timmy's grandfather flew him to Boston to watch his favorite team play the Red Sox in the absolute best ballpark to watch a game. He loves his Astros the way I loved my Red Sox when I was that age (OK, I love them at this age too) and as much as Ethan Bryan loves his Royals.  Ethan still wants to throw out the first pitch at a Royals game this year....

Timmy was not able to provide talking points, data, facts, bullet points, or even anecdotal evidence of why his team, which cheated to win the 2017 and 2019 World Series, was the best and the Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2018, was not.  He has an unexplainable emotional connection to the Astros.  

Salespeople don't understand this phenomenon.

Customers often have unexplainable emotional connections to the salespeople, account managers and companies they do business with and it doesn't matter how much better your company is, how much more responsive you are, how much more capable your product is, how much lower your price is, or how much more motivated you are to win their business.  Their emotional connection to their account manager and company will determine the winner every single time.

Don't let that deter you!

If you know that this happens, it should be your number one goal, with each and every customer, to build that kind of an emotional connection so that your customer will refuse to even consider moving their business to anyone else.  This isn't easy, won't happen overnight, requires making every customer a much bigger priority than ever before, and is not for the salesperson who loves to hunt.  But you can do this!

It is also important to know that most of the salespeople working for your competitors aren't good enough for their customers to have these emotional connections.  Most salespeople can't and won't accomplish this.  The salespeople who do accomplish this aren't particularly good salespeople but they are fantastic at nurturing and developing relationships and have probably been working closely with those customers for over a decade.

Remember, whether it's zits or chits, unbreakable relationships can't be undone by better pricing or specifications.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, Relationship Selling, Baseball, account management, sales effectiveness

How to Become More Successful One Day at a Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 @ 07:04 AM

You can find inspiration anywhere.  Even in a book called, A Year of Playing Catch.  Tom Schaff was nice enough to send me a copy of this book and there was the inspiration, right there on page 128.  Why would someone from the world of sales care about a page out of a baseball book?  I'll give you fourteen really good reasons.  You see, the book is much less about baseball and much more about the following fourteen integral competencies of sales success:

  1. Relationships 
  2. Goal setting, planning and execution 
  3. Story Telling
  4. Commitment
  5. Rejection
  6. Persistence
  7. Listening and Asking Questions
  8. Being of Value
  9. Presentation Skills
  10. Outlook
  11. Controlling Emotions
  12. Messaging and Posturing
  13. Being Coachable
  14. Developing Supportive Beliefs

With that said, this is what author Ethan D. Bryan wrote on page 128 and I quote:

It is hard to admit that I am not good enough, that my sheer passion for the game doesn't translate to on-field ability and seven-figure success.  That's the fear anyone faces when they try out for a team, when they take a test, when they apply for a job--that they will be judged and deemed not good enough.  Life is filled with "not good enough" moments.

Unrequited affection.
Seeking a promotion.
Implementing new diet and exercise routines.

"Baseball is life," Mary said.  "Anything you learn from or about baseball can be applied to your daily life, to any relationship you have.  When I observe ballplayers, those who succeed are the ones who absorb the lessons in front of them instead of getting angry.  Anger prevents them from being successful.  That's the difference.  It's not about talent, really, but harnessing the energy and not allowing their emotions to master them.  They know how to make their emotions work for them, so the result is what they want."

How are you supposed to reply to being told you're not good enough?

You don't throw hard enough to play varsity.
Your grades aren't good enough for the scholarship.
There are better applicants for the position.

Those moments I have sat with my not-good-enoughness are initially met with a melancholic disappointment.  I console myself with the simple, honest truth:  At least I tried.  I held nothing back and gave it my best effort. I poured my heart into it and have no regrets.  Those words, often accompanied by a Dr. Pepper and a donut, are usually sufficient encouragement to short-circuit my pity party and keep me dreaming. 

How are you supposed to reply when you know you're good enough but life prevents you from getting a chance?

End quote. Pivoting back to Dave Kurlan now.

Ethan set out on a quest to play catch with someone different every day for a year.  He wrote about every one of those 365 days in his blog here.

Each time a salesperson fails to schedule a meeting, reach the decision maker, uncover a compelling reason to buy, create urgency, qualify the opportunity and win the business, the reality is that in that moment, on that day, during that sales cycle, with that prospect, against their competition, for whatever reason, they were not good enough.  Accepting not good enough is taking responsibility.  Accepting not good enough means there is room for improvement.  Accepting not good enough suggests there is an opportunity for growth.  Accepting not good enough opens the door for coaching.

If Ethan could play a game of catch with somebody every single day of the year, can't you take the same amount of time to improve your sales, sales management or sales leadership skills every day of the year?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, Baseball, storytelling, sales success, sales inspiration, ethan bryan

How Pitchers Fielding Practice is Exactly the Same as Salespeople Role-Playing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 @ 06:02 AM

It's short article Friday.  Less is more.

My Twitter feed had the funniest 1-minute baseball video I have ever seen.  It was pitcher fielding practice (PFP) and the coach was miked up. It illustrated just how bad most professional major league pitchers are at fielding their position and how a coach can keep it light - even make it funny - when the pitchers are struggling so badly.

Watch the video here.  It's only 1-minute and you don't have to like or even understand baseball to enjoy this.  Even cricket fans from across the pond, soccer enthusiasts from around the world and hockey nuts from up north of the border will understand and love this video.

When professional salespeople are asked to role-play the salesperson's part of a sales conversation they sound every bit as awful as these pitchers look when attempting to field their position.  Role-playing is the sales equivalent of fielding practice in baseball. 

When salespeople role play they skip ahead, think only of the next question they want to ask; miss openings to ask questions because they aren't actively listening; talk only about what's on their own agenda; make it all about themselves; and they rush in an attempt to get it over with.  PFP provides a sneak preview of how a pitcher is likely to field a ball hit to him (yes, HIM is the correct reference) during a game, and role-playing provides a preview of how a salesperson is likely to perform on an actual face-to-face or virtual sales call.

Here's an example of a salesperson being coached (by me) in a 26-minute role-play.  Yes, it's 26 minutes but it's worth it because you'll learn SO MUCH!

It's OK when salespeople are not good when they role-play.  They will improve but only if they continue to role-play.  Pitchers don't stop taking batted balls in practice; they take more and they do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.  Salespeople can't stop role-playing either!  They must role-play again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.  But the other thing that is so important is that their sales managers must keep it light.  It is so easy for constructive criticism to be taken personally when sales managers aren't careful to make sure that their salespeople are OK throughout the process.  It's OK to offer lots of constructive criticism but when it's all over they must be sure to put their salespeople back together again.

Don't avoid role-playing.  Seek it out!

Tom Schaff, a big baseball guy who is also a sales expert, shared this about the pitchers in the video: "A big point of this exercise is no matter how good you are, there's a need to work on your fundamentals. When you look closer, the guys in the clip aren't just ordinary pitchers who fell off a truck. #50, the second guy in the video, is Adam Wainwright, a TWO TIME Golden Glove pitcher, 3x All Star and multiple time top 3 Cy Young Finalist, #22 is Jack Flaherty, and finally, 2x All Star and AL Reliever of the Year, #21 Andrew Miller, not to be confused with OMG's Andy Miller. If that's what happens with All Stars, imagine what it would be like for average major league roster pitchers, college pitchers or high school pitchers!"

I teach sales leaders to coach their salespeople using role-plays like this as well as when they must role-play the sales part.  My next Sales Leadership Intensive is virtual so you can participate on May 19-21.  Learn more here.  It's $1,495 to attend but as a regular reader you can save $100 when you register using this special link.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, role play, Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Selling Strategies That are More Effective Than Facts and Figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 as 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

Image Copyright 123RF

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

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

How Getting Feedback and Making Adjustments are the Keys to Sales Improvement

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 04, 2018 @ 22:12 PM

feedback

Becoming great at selling - or anything else for that matter - is about making adjustments. In order to make an adjustment you need feedback - something you see, hear or feel that informs your ability to adjust.  Take Baseball for example.  When I watch my son hit he receives instant feedback from every swing of the bat.  He usually crushes the ball and that suggests that no adjustment is needed.  If he tops the ball or pops it up it is probably an issue with timing.  If he peels the ball to the right, he probably opened his front shoulder too early. If he squares the ball up but doesn't drive it he probably failed to use his legs. He also has 5 private coaches who coach him or, in other words, provide feedback. 

That brings us back to selling.  Salespeople need feedback too.

Suppose a salesperson completes a sales call and the prospect says, "Thank you for your time" or "It was nice meeting you" or "We'll let you know."  Those are examples of lack of feedback.

What would it sound like if they did get feedback?  A prospect who is not responding or reacting might be providing tremendous feedback.  While it is surely negative feedback, it is very useful feedback.  It suggests that the salesperson failed to get the prospect engaged and the required adjustment would be to ask more effective questions. 

An engaged prospect is also a form of feedback, suggesting that the questions were effective and the prospect is interested.  A prospect who says, "We're not interested" is providing feedback too.  Again, it's negative feedback but a salesperson can work with that.  The adjustment requires changing the questions that are being asked.  A prospect who is very interested is also providing feedback - that the salesperson got close but isn't quite there yet.  Perhaps some additional questions are required.  A prospect who asks, "What are the next steps?" is providing feedback that they are ready to do business and the salesperson was effective in their call or meeting.

The feedback above is positive.  Compare that with a meeting that you think went well because you had a nice conversation.  If you didn't get specific positive feedback, then there aren't any positives to take away from that meeting.  For example, in the last 3 months my son has been showcasing his baseball talent at colleges.In the first 4 showcases he didn't get any specific feedback.  No feedback is negative feedback. In the 4 most recent events, coaches have taken time to tell him how much they liked his skills and how well he performed.  Positive feedback.  

Another powerful form of feedback happens when salespeople record their phone calls and listen to the recordings.  They'll hear several coaching moments as they identify openings where they could have asked great questions, where they failed to listen, where they jumped ahead with their own agenda,  or where they simply said stuff that sounded stupid.  Salespeople tend to respond more effectively to self-identified coaching moments because they own those moments.

This is an example of a salesperson getting coached (feedback) by me.  It's 26 minutes but it will be 26 minutes of coaching that you will definitely learn from and will be well worth your time.

Only 10% of all sales managers are both consistent and effective with their coaching.  For salespeople who wish to improve and become great, most of them will need to accomplish some or all of that work on their own, either by recording calls, signing up for training or getting a sales coach.

Salespeople will go through several transitions if they pay attention to feedback: 

  • They aren't very good.
  • They are just like everyone else
  • They are a vendor
  • They are adding value
  • They are a resource
  • They are a trusted advisor

What is your feedback on article?  Join the discussion and leave your comment here on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, Baseball, debriefing sales calls

How to Simplify Coaching Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 19, 2017 @ 11:05 AM

baseball.jpg
Image Copyright ColorCarnival

We just completed a two-day Sales Leadership Intensive and that's always a great experience for the sales leaders who attend.  The focus is on coaching salespeople for impact and everyone learns what it takes to become so effective at coaching salespeople that they ask for more. 

It's been a long time since I have written an article that mentioned our son, the baseball player.  He's really good, and we have dozens of video clips of him performing at a high level. But baseball doesn't always produce highlights.  Failure is a part of baseball too and if he struggles at the plate, the very first thing he does is watch the video to see what he did wrong.  We study the video together and when that isn't enough to fix the issue, we head outside and I pitch to him until he makes the necessary adjustments to get back on track.  

When you take sales coaching, baseball, watching video and put it all together, what do you get?

You get the post-call debrief - the most powerful tool for great sales coaching.

The post-call debrief is a structured coaching conversation where we compare the outcome to the goal and work backwards to determine when the call or meeting went off the tracks and why.  We identify the skill gaps and/or weaknesses that were responsible, and capture lessons learned.  Next we strategize getting the opportunity back on track, if possible,  and role play what the next conversation should sound like.

When Michael and I review video together it is very much like the post-call debrief.  We slow down the at-bat, analyze his approach, pick apart the swing, identify the thing or things that caused an undesirable outcome, and determine what must change so that it doesn't happen again.  Then we go out and practice it.  This is a good swing

When I review a sales call with a salesperson, it is the same as studying baseball video.  We slow down the call or meeting, analyze the approach, pick apart the conversation, identify the thing or things that caused the undesirable outcome, and determine what must change so that it doesn't happen again.  Then we role-play it, or in other words, practice it.  

The problem is that most sales managers do not really coach and those who do, don't do it often enough or well enough.  Shouldn't professional salespeople get the same quality and frequency of coaching that amateur and professional athletes get?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, Baseball

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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