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

2021 Challenge:  Put a Little Beatles Into Your Selling!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

beatles2

Although it's been more than 50 years since Paul McCartney announced the break up of The Beatles, I am fairly certain that regardless of your age and geographic location, you know who The Beatles were and have heard at least one of their songs, even if the one you listened to was recorded by another artist.  Most of you probably know dozens of Beatles tunes!

During the holiday break I was listening to the Beatles channel (18) on SiriusXM radio and it helped me to realize just how similar the Beatles are to selling!

Their songs were timeless. In the last decade alone, Beatles songs were covered by 186 artists!

Their song-writing system was repeatable as they focused on their titles, beats per minute (BPM), choruses, rhythms and rhymes.

They were memorable.  Everyone knows John, Paul, George and Ringo - in that order.  And most people knew the words to their favorite Beatles songs.

They were incredibly likable!

You only needed to hear a song once to love it, like, "She Loves You."

Their songs told stories, like, "In My Life."

Their songs had calls-to-action, like, "Get Back."

Their songs asked questions, like, "Do you want to know a secret?"

The only thing that would make the Beatles different today is technology.  The sound quality would be SO much better.  It wouldn't change their songs but the songs would sound better.  It wouldn't eliminate the work they did to write the songs but they would get the songs transcribed and notated more quickly.  They would still have to record their music but the recording would be digital which would make mixing much easier.

Isn't this all pretty much the same as sales?  Let's take a run-through.

People have been selling for centuries - it's timeless.

Only since the time of the Beatles have more formal selling approaches, systems and processes been developed.

The best sales processes are repeatable and deliver repeatable results.  See Baseline Selling.

The best salespeople are memorable.

The best salespeople are very likable.

The best salespeople are great story-tellers.

The best salespeople have calls-to-action.

The best salespeople ask great questions.

And that brings us to technology.  All that technology that the best salespeople use, like video, CRM, document signing, calendar applications, email, social selling, and more make salespeople more efficient.  The technology doesn't do the selling or make anyone a better salesperson, but it does replace the rolodex, index cards, printed agreements, paper calendars and literature.

As I completed writing this article I was overcome with a feeling of Deja Vu.  Sure enough, I have tackled the Beatles before!  I'm embarrassed to say that my search revealed that I wrote a very comprehensive article on how The Beatles taught us to sell as recently as August of 2019!  Back in 2010 I included The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones in an article about differentiation as a way to close big deals.

One thing that mediocre salespeople seem so unwilling to do is practice.  Malcom Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, wrote that The Beatles had performed for 10,000 hours prior to becoming an overnight sensation.  As a result, The Beatles gave one the sense that performing their songs was effortless.  Great salespeople have seemingly effortless yet consequential conversations with their prospects but that ease and comfort also come from more than 10,000 hours of practice as they attempt to fine tune and improve their performance.

A challenge for 2021?  Put a little Beatles into your selling!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, selling tips, Malcom Gladwell, the beatles

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

Win a Free Coaching Call with Dave Kurlan and 4 More Prizes

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 12, 2019 @ 14:06 PM

contest

By the middle of June each year, we tend to know who the best of the best are.  Super Bowl Champion, NBA Champion, Stanley Cup Winner, Masters Winner, and in baseball, MLB all-stars are being selected.  It's as good a time as any to recognize the best readers of Understanding the Sales Force!

While there are several approaches that can be taken, we will have a competitive, yet winnable contest.

Challenge: Review any 1 or more of the articles that have been published so far this year.   

In the comment section below, enter your best lesson or takeaway from the article(s) you have chosen.  There will be five winners based on the quality of the lessons submitted:

5th place: Complimentary signed copy of Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.   $18.49 value

4th place: Complimentary subscription to the Sales DNA Modifier  $119 value

3rd place: Complimentary subscription to the Baseline Selling self-directed course $795 value

Runner Up: Complimentary subscription to the Baseline Selling Advanced course $795 value

Grand Prize: Complimentary coaching call  with Dave Kurlan $1,000 value

What are you waiting for?  Let's get started!

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, best sales blog, dka

I'm Sorry But Your Sales Process Sucks

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 01, 2019 @ 11:02 AM

sucky-process

Perhaps you saw this too.  Yesterday, a post appeared in my LinkedIn feed that talked about the power of sales process.  The article was clearly written to support the author's technology application, which helps track sales KPI's; so they should know a little about the topic of sales process.

Towards the end of the article, they provided a sample of what an effective sales process should look like.  The following text is exactly what they wrote:

If you don't have a sales process or aren’t sure what is meant by that, we can help. Start by thinking about your most successful clients. (Or, if you’re new, some of your team’s most successful clients.) What were the different steps that client went through before they became a client?

It might look something like:
Current Customer Referral
Initial Contact
Follow-up Appointment
First Sale
Upsell/subscription

5 Steps?  Yikes!  

I expect clients to have skimpy, lame, thin sales processes but this was from someone attempting to demonstrate their expertise in sales process!

Their recommended process was basically: get a meeting, sell something and follow up for more.  That's not a process, that's simply 3 outcomes.

In addition to initial contact, a solid, customized, formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric, optimized sales process should include all of the milestones that must be reached to get from that initial contact to the first sale.  In my experience with sales process best practices, that would include between 4 and 6 stages, each having between 4 and 8 milestones for a total of somewhere between 16 and 24 milestones.

The video below is a fast, enjoyable walk-through of sales process and methodology.

 

Let's not forget that a solid, customized, formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric, optimized sales process should also have a predictive scorecard built in.  Your win rates will go up and your sales cycle lengths will go down.

If you don't have these things in place, I'm sorry to say that your sales process sucks.

Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales best practices

The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 @ 06:01 AM

remember

If you're young enough, some of the questions in the first few paragraphs won't apply because you haven't experienced the world without the innovations mentioned below.  Don't let that prevent you from reading this because after the milestones, we'll get to the good selling stuff.

For those of you who are my age or older, do you remember the first time you saw color TV?  For me it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early 1960's. Or the first time you watched Cable with more than 6 channels and without snow? Wireless remote controls?  OK, that was all in the 1960's.  Let's skip to the 1980's.

Do you remember the first version of Microsoft Windows?  Computers with more than words and numbers - how cool!  Do you remember what came before Windows?  MS/DOS or CP/M and the commands you needed to know to get the computer to do what you wanted?  How about the 5 1/4" floppy disks that stored a whopping 160KB of data?  

Let's skip to the 90's.  Do you remember the first time you connected to the internet?  I connected through a now defunct service called Prodigy.  AOL had its infancy around that time as well.

Do you remember sending and receiving your first emails?  I remember the pushback I got from OMG Partners who, at the time, didn't want to abandon fax machines to send and receive information.  My first email address was salesguru@prodigy.net.  That was almost 30 years ago!  Do you remember earth's biggest bookstore?  How cool was it when you placed your first Amazon.com order, or later on, read your first book on a Kindle?  Your first look at early HD TV?

Now the turn of the century.  Do you remember when LinkedIn got started?  Most of the people I invited to join my network didn't have LinkedIn accounts yet. You can follow me at linkedin.com/in/davekurlan.

Do you remember reading your first Blog article?  I read one by Seth Godin, became an early subscriber, and in 2005, became one of the very first sales experts to Blog.  This article will be somewhere around #1,750 in the series and since that time my Blog has won 27 awards.

Each of these innovations had the cool effect, as in, "cool! Let's do that again!"  Now we can transition to the same kind of coolness, but in sales.

Do you remember the moment you became a Salesperson?  Not a presenter, Not an order taker, but a true consultative sales professional?

Here are some guidelines to identify the moment you turned professional. 

Do you remember the first time you asked that difficult, frightening, risky question that earned you the business on the spot?  It surprised you.  It wasn't a closing question, discovery question or qualifying question, but a question that changed how your prospect thought of you, completely changed the conversation, and differentiated you from everyone else that prospect had spoken with.

Did you ignore it at the time or can you remember having some awareness of what had just happened, how powerful it was, knowing it was a game changer and looking for opportunities to repeat that experience?

When you consciously began asking these types of questions on every first sales call, you became a bonafide professional salesperson.  Anyone can present.  Anyone can quote.  Anyone can take orders.  Anyone can rattle off specs.  Most can maintain relationships. But taking on the difficult task of becoming truly consultative?  Only the top 5% have mastered that and the next 15% work at it pretty effectively.  The rest?  Not yet.

If you are among the top 5% who have mastered this, congratulations!  If you are working on it as you read this, that's terrific too.  But if you aren't there yet, what must you do to become a master at consultative selling?

Here are the top 8 requirements - selling skills and sales DNA - to become the best

  1. Listening Skills - this goes beyond hearing and focusing.  We're talking about active listening, identifying specific words and phrases that if questioned, will take you wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy.
  2. Questioning Skills - this isn't about having 50 prepared questions.  This is about phrasing your follow up questions to go wider, deeper and closer to a prospect's compelling reasons to buy because you listened effectively.
  3. Tonality - Everyone is capable of asking questions, but not everyone can ask them in such a way so as to not offend.  You need to slow down, get softer, add pauses after each key phrase, smile, and most importantly, your inflection must drop down on the last syllable so that it doesn't sound like a question.
  4. Business and Finance - Behind every problem you uncover, there is usually a financial implication.  You must be savvy enough to help your prospect make that calculation, including hard and soft costs, amortized over the full term of the problem, and agreed to.
  5. You Don't Need to be Liked - There is a difference between being likable, getting people to like you and the 58% of all salespeople that NEED to be liked.  The first two are good while the second prevents you from being able to execute #2 above.  When we look only at elite salespeople, only 18% need to be liked and their average score in this competency is 89% compared with 76% for all salespeople.
  6. You control your emotions - when you are in the moment, and not distracted by your own thoughts, you can listen more effectively as mentioned in #1 above.  63% of all salespeople aren't able to do this, while only  31% of Elite salespeople struggle with this.  Elite salespeople score an average of 86% in this competency while all salespeople score 80% and weak salespeople score 76%.
  7. You are Comfortable Talking about Money - Weak salespeople score just 41%, all salespeople score 58% and elite salespeople score 91%.  60% of all salespeople aren't comfortable with the financial discussion making #4 impossible.  Only 8% of Elite salespeople struggle with this discussion, and 85% of weak salespeople are uncomfortable this.
  8. You follow an effective sales process.  Period.  Consultative Selling is much more difficult than relationship selling which takes forever with no guarantees, or transactional selling which takes no time at all and rarely produces results.  It requires a formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process which incomplete methodologies like Challenger and SPIN don't provide.  Baseline Selling is complete consultative sales process and methodology in one.

Statistics courtesy of Objective Management Group, Inc. which has evaluated and assessed 1,833,093 salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders from  companies, in  industries and  in  countries.  Interested in seeing the results?  See how salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.  Want to identify new salespeople who can sell like this?  Check out this accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment here.

Comment?  Join the discussion of this article on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, consultative, transactional sales, Relationship Selling

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 I Realized That Selling is Just a Bunch of Crap

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

crap

Those are strong words and probably quite surprising coming out of my mouth but I'll explain it all.  Earlier this week I was leading another Sales Leadership Intensive and during a break it came to me.  

I was emphasizing how important it is to role-play as part of every coaching conversation and that's when I realized that what I was sharing was a bunch of crap.  I even looked up the quantity required to qualify as "a bunch" and I stick by my use of the word.  Selling is just crap and here is what I mean by a bunch of it.

Consultative approach, strong RelationshipsActive listening, and follow the sales Process. CRAP.

But for it to be a bunch of crap, we need more crap, so:

Keep your prospects Comfortable, lower their Resistance, Ask lots of good questions, and use Positioning statements. CRAP.

Challenge your prospects, help them Reveal their problems, speak with Authority, and be Prepared for anything. CRAP.

Establish Credibility, be Rejection-proof, and don't seek their Approval when asking Probing questions.  CRAP.

Uncover their Compelling reasons to buy, Remain unemotional, be Animated and sell value instead of Price.  CRAP.

Discover Consequences, Relax, and help them Articulate how it impacts them PersonallyCRAP.

Calculate ROI, and Anticipate their Pushback.  CRAP.

A big bunch of CRAP.

Don't worry - I'm not going to write a new book on selling called CRAP Selling.  There are already two well-known sales methodologies that use 4-letter acronyms, like Neil Rackham's SPIN Selling, and Jill Konrath's SNAP selling.  But if you want a popular sales solution that features both sales process and sales methodology rolled into one, then order my best-selling book on modern selling, Baseline Selling. I promise that there isn't a single reference to CRAP and after 13 years, it's still ranked #15 on Amazon.

baselineThis video compares Baseline Selling to SPIN Selling, the Challenger Sale, Solution Selling and Sandler.  If you've heard about Baseline Selling over the past 13 years and haven't read the book, listened to the audio book or attended Baseline Selling training, what the heck are you waiting for?  If you aren't familiar with Baseline Selling, the book is a simple way to start.  And if you're in sales and you like baseball, you have found a match made in heaven.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales methodology, SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling

3 Tweaks to Your Sales Approach Are Steps Toward Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 @ 06:03 AM

traffic-circle.jpg

Consider how frustrating it is to approach a traffic circle, or as we call them in Massachusetts, a rotary, during rush hour.  You very slowly make your way towards the circle in a long line of traffic, attempt to merge into a congested circle, travel around to the other side of the circle, and finally exit the other end.  Being a bit impatient, I'm usually screaming to myself, "Come on - don't stop! - let's get moving - let's go!"

Hold that thought.

I believe that role-playing is the single most important thing I can do with salespeople to help them to become great.  There are three kinds of role-plays:

  1. I play the salesperson's part and the salesperson plays the prospect. This is my preferred method as it demonstrates exactly what the conversation should sound like.
  2. I play the prospect and the salesperson plays the salesperson.  This approach works best when conducting pre-call strategy and usually serves to show me how ill-equipped the salesperson is to have the desired conversation.
  3. The salesperson plays the salesperson and another salesperson plays the prospect.  This type of role-play occurs later in training when the salesperson has the foundational skills to execute the sales process correctly and to play the sales part with some confidence.

When I finally reach scenario 3 with salespeople playing their own part, it seems a lot like approaching the traffic circle. Let me explain.

When there is a question they need to ask or they need to summarize what they heard, the traffic circle scenario comes to life.  They slowly approach the circle, and when they finally reach the circle, travel around it a couple of times before exiting and finishing their comments.  In other words, they talk in circles, confusing, distracting and boring their prospect.  Take a step toward greatness: Be direct and concise because less is more memorable and powerful while being less confusing and boring.

Consider how a professional baseball or golf coach may break down swing.  Take a practice swing or two, get in your stance, use the proper grip, bend at the knees, open some at the waste and shoulders, eye on the ball, smooth, extend, hold your follow through, etc.  If you want to hit the ball solidly you must do those things in that order, but you can't be saying those things to yourself as you get ready to swing or bad things will surely happen.

Hold that thought.

You may have several talking points.  You may have rehearsed or even memorized those points; what you want to say about them and the order in which you want to say them.  But if you use your talking points and sequence, your prospect will be totally bored by the logic and mind-numbing time it takes for you to go through them.  A step toward greatness: Abandon the formality and sequence and simply have a conversation.  If there is a question or comment that makes it appropriate to introduce one of those talking points, then fine, but keep it conversational and do not become presentational.

Don't you hate it when a good prospect derails your momentum by asking for references?  This is truly a combustion point in selling.  (There is a great Disney book on combustion points called Be our Guest) You don't know if the prospects really want to talk with people or are using the reference requests to get rid of you.  You don't know whether to provide references, which ones to provide, whether they'll follow up with a call, or what your customers will say to them.

Hold that thought.

Today, it's helpful to have video on your smart phone, of several happy customers that can speak to any concerns your prospects might have.  No delays.  No wondering.  On demand references and testimonials.  Take a step toward greatness:  Everyone on the sales team must record a couple of great 1-minute videos from their best and happiest customers. The videos can be shared across the sales team so that everyone has a robust library of customers who can do the selling for you.  Third-party testimonials are much more powerful than the promises of a salesperson any day of the week. 

Speaking of testimonials, many of you have read my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Since writing that book, I have written, shared (complimentary) and given you the opportunity to read more than 1,700 articles on sales and sales leadership right here on my Blog.  I would be most grateful if you would return the favor by writing a review of my book at Amazon.com.  

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales conversation, sales presentation, listening skills, talking points

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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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