I find ideas and material for this Blog everywhere, especially when I'm not looking for them. Yesterday I received a daily email from a Paul Reddick, a baseball coach who was drumming up some business for his baseball institute. It resonated - not for its baseball coaching - but as sales coaching. Here's what it said:
If your coach is talking about any of the pitching flaws that you see listed above…
Run… Run Fast!
That Coach is working on “flaws” that will have no impact on your pitching. He is working on symptoms… not the illness! He is trying to fix things that are happening as a byproduct of incorrect movement early in your delivery. If you get the first second of your delivery right, almost all of these flaws get fixed instantly.
Do you know how this applies to sales?
I'll explain exactly how it applies and I promise you will be surprised! Click here to read last year's fun article comparing pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) to role-playing in sales.
If a CEO, Sales Leader, Sales Manager, Sales Coach or Sales Expert suggests that closing or negotiating is a selling flaw, then that individual does not really understand what salespeople must do in order to win business.
Closing is over-rated.
Always has been.
Except for the concept of when to close, closing shouldn't even be taught!
If a salesperson is effective adding opportunities to the pipeline, reaching decision makers, building relationships, taking a consultative approach and uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, qualifying, and doing that in the context of a effective and efficient sales process, they will earn the business and it will close at the appropriate time.
If they suck at any or all of the nine competencies referenced above, then the lack of wins will appear to be a closing issue, when it is actually symptomatic of something that wasn't properly executed earlier in the process.
Same goes for negotiating. If an opportunity is properly qualified at the appropriate time, there should not be anything to negotiate. However, if qualifying lacks thoroughness and is completed too early, it invites a negotiation at closing time.
Training and coaching should be targeted towards the competency in the sales process that has the lowest conversion ratio. In other words, if salespeople struggle to get opportunities into the pipeline, focus on prospecting. If salespeople are booking meetings but opportunities stagnate in the pipeline, the issue is with the consultative approach and/or value selling. If opportunities get as far as qualified but fail to close, then the issue is probably with qualifying and/or consultative selling/value selling.
The most important thing to identify is where ALL of the skill gaps are. How can salespeople leverage their strengths, sharpen existing skills, learn new skills and improve their conversion ratios?
The best way to do that is to know exactly what they are capable of, where their bottlenecks are, what their blindspots are, and what they need to do in order to improve. This should never be a guess because most sales managers, sales leaders and CEOs guess wrong! It sounds like most of the calls and emails I receive where the potential client says, "Yes, we're looking for someone to provide some sales training on closing and negotiating."
There are a couple of ways to find out what your team is really capable of and how much better they can become:
An OMG Sales Team Evaluation is the best solution and provides answers to every possible question you might have about your team. In addition to the comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA), Executive Summary, and Visualizer (interactive tool to play with the data), you and your sales team will learn how everyone measures up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.
OMG has a free self-serve solution as well. You can see how your team collectively compares to other teams in your industry and to companies overall in all 21 Sales Core Competencies. You won't get any reports or individual results but you'll see where the team-wide gaps are.
I heard from Bob last week and whenever I hear from him it usually means he got himself into a jam with another sales opportunity. Regular readers are familiar with Bob, one of the worst salespeople on the planet. New readers might want to catch up on the six prior articles about Bob.
It's a huge opportunity that Bob has been nurturing for years and several months ago his prospect, a top executive that has the influence and authority to make a decision, confided that he would like to find a way to do business and not only that, have this be part of his legacy.
Good salespeople would discuss the scope of work next but Bob sent samples, conducted demos and walk-throughs, and another two months passed. Then Bob's prospect said he is retiring and would introduce Bob to his replacement.
Bob's strategy was to keep the opportunity alive until the replacement is in the role. Is that what you would do?
If he keeps the opportunity alive, what would that actually involve? Staying in touch with the guy who is retiring? The guy who no longer has a need to do this because he's leaving and won't be around to see it through? And then what? Start from scratch? Make a cold call to the new person? Assume that his replacement will be equally interested? Assume that his replacement won't have his own established relationships who he could work with? What an awful strategy!
The proper strategy would be to help his current prospect get the initiative started so that his replacement can see it through. Helping his prospect get this started will help his prospect make this part of his legacy. There are only two months before his prospect retires so there is urgency that wasn't there before. Bob should leverage the urgency to get his prospect to pull the trigger - now - so that everything is in place before he leaves.
But Bob isn't comfortable with this strategy. Why?
Sales DNA. Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated 2,181,567 salespeople and has lots of data about the four Sales DNA issues below. While Bob's Sales DNA is sabotaging him, let's not forget that Bob is among the weakest salespeople in the world and he represents the bottom 50%.
Low Money Tolerance - as I mentioned, this is a huge opportunity - for Bob. It will easily reach six figures and for Bob, that's a lot of money. Even though it will be pocket change for this international conglomerate, Bob believes that it's a huge expense that requires many meetings and discussions to approve. Bob's apprehension over the money is responsible for why he hasn't closed anything in this account - EVER. The table below shows the percentage of salespeople, by proficiency, for Low Money Tolerance and Bob is in the weakest 1-25% where 92% of them have this weakness.
Need to be Liked - Bob is a nice guy and people find him very likable. But Bob needs people to like him and in the case of the top executive from this enterprise company, Bob very much needs to be liked and won't say or do anything that he thinks would get his prospect upset and undermine the opportunity. The table below shows the percentage of salespeople, by proficiency, for Needing to be Liked and Bob is in the weakest 1-25% where 82% of them have this weakness.
Unable to Stay in the Moment - Because Bob is uncomfortable with the potential deal size and is worried about not being liked if he introduces the topic of price, he is unable to stay in the moment and respond appropriately. Instead, he is worrying about next steps, what might go wrong, is reacting emotionally and is not in control of his thoughts or actions. The table below shows the percentage of salespeople, by proficiency, for Unable to Stay in the Moment and Bob is in the weakest 1-50% where 89% of them have this weakness.
Lack of Sales Urgency - Bob's prospect has enough urgency to get this project started but that is not matched by Bob's urgency. You can read more about that in part 4 above as this is not the first time that Bob's urgency has not been properly aligned with his prospect's. In the table below, note that the results are reported differently. The prior tables showed the percentage of salespeople that had the weakness. This table shows the percentage of salespeople that have the strength. The top row is the percentage of all salespeople with sales urgency. The remaining rows are in reverse order, with elite at the top and weak at the bottom. Bob is in the Weak group where 66% (34% strong) have the weakness.
Bob isn't very good but let's not forget that Bob is like 50% of salespeople in world who desperately require a tremendous amount of sales training and coaching, something their sales managers are not very adept at providing.
If you would like to see more OMG data, all 21 Sales Core Competencies can be viewed, and filtered by industry here.
We've gone from don't wear a mask, to wear a mask, to wear 2 masks, back to no need to be masked and now back to wear masks indoors, even if you have been vaccinated. CDC Guidelines change almost weekly, often lack the science to justify their recommendations, don't take local conditions into consideration and are usually very confusing to say the least. Is it any wonder that there is so much pushback over their latest (as of August 2) guidelines?
At Objective Management Group (OMG), one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies we measure and report on also tends to confuse salespeople, is the cause of frequent pushback, but has thirty-five years of cumulative science to support the finding and our conclusions. Allow me to introduce you the competency called Supportive BuyCycleTM.
BuyCycleTM represents how salespeople go about the process of making a major purchase and there is a 100% correlation between how they buy and the behavior they accept from their prospects. For example:
Salespeople who conduct research before they buy are more likely to provide their prospects with all the information they want early in the sales process, without first making sure they are a good, qualified prospect. This results in A LOT of unqualified quotes that will never be won!
Salespeople who shop for the lowest prices are more likely to understand and help prospects who want the lowest price. This results in low margin business that can't be retained because it will be lost to the next company to come in with the lowest price. It's a race to the bottom!
Salespeople who comparison shop are more likely to understand and tolerate prospects who want to talk with them along with 3-5 competitors. This makes it difficult for salespeople to stand out and differentiate themselves from the others.
Salespeople who think a relatively small amount of money is a lot of money are more likely to understand and cave to prospects who claim that the amount they are asking for is a lot. As a result, they find it difficult to advocate for themselves, their offering and the value it represents.
Salespeople who need to think things over at closing time allow their prospects to do the same thing, opening the door for other, more aggressive competitors to take the business. This results in a much lower win-rate.
A new, sixth attribute is about to join the five original attributes of BuyCycleTM. Salespeople who dislike being sold or dislike salespeople in general tend to overcompensate and are terribly ineffective, resulting in prospects being thoroughly unimpressed. These salespeople don't seem to want the business!
I mentioned that there is a lot of pushback to BuyCycleTM. Some salespeople, whose BuyCycleTM does not support ideal sales outcomes, become very upset and emphatically deny that the way they buy has any impact on the way they sell. It does. It always does. But it takes time before they allow themselves to see it.
And the most important fact is that salespeople who do change so that the way they buy supports ideal sales outcomes, close 50% more business!
There is some very compelling evidence to back this up. Consider the following science:
Top 5% Strong
Bottom 5% Strong
As you can see, the top 5% of all salespeople are 2200% more likely to have Supportive BuyCycleTM as a strength than the bottom 5% of all salespeople.
Now that I have unmasked the science behind BuyCycleTM, perhaps there should be a mandate that salespeople change the way they buy until their BuyCycleTM supports ideal sales outcomes.
Most of us have strong passion in support of our own beliefs and opinions and the degree to which we are willing to embrace the opinions of others varies wildly. Allow me to provide two examples where people tend not to change sides:
Boston Red Sox fans "argue" with New York Yankees Fans and in rare cases, the arguments can get nasty. Personally, I am friendly with a boat load of Yankees fans and have never argued with any of them because I'll never say the words "Yankees suck." For the rivalry between the two teams to be at its best, both teams need to be good and when one team sucks, the rivalry ceases to exist.
Democrats disagree with Republicans and it goes without saying that liberals disagree with conservatives. Over the past five years, those differences have become filled with hate. I don't understand why we can't simply agree to disagree but for some reason, liberals think that all conservatives are racists and conservatives think that all liberals are socialists. While there is probably some truth to both arguments on both far extremes, most people are much closer to the center than everyone thinks.
I use those two examples as a context for the "argument" I am most likely to have on a daily basis. As regular readers know, I am the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group. OMG has assessed more than 2 million salespeople and measures their sales capabilities in 21 Sales Core Competencies. While some might not like their scores, most salespeople agree with our findings because they are extremely accurate. However, there is one competency of the 21 that causes salespeople to dig in, disagree, and push back. Today I will explain the competency and share yesterday's conversation with Bob. For new readers, and those who don't remember, Bob tends to get himself into trouble and is representative of all weak salespeople.
The 21 Sales Core Competencies fall into three major categories:
Will to Sell (Grit) - it's the difference between Can sell and Will sell.
Sales DNA - Six major strengths that support the execution of sales process, sales methodology, sales strategies and sales tactics.
Tactical Selling Competencies - these include the things you know and have heard of, like Hunting, Relationship Building, Consultative Selling, Value Selling, Reaching Decision Makers, Qualifying, Presenting, Closing, Sales Process, and Sales Technology.
The pushback comes from within Sales DNA in a competency called Supportive Buy-Cycle. Buy-Cycle represents how a salesperson goes about the process of making a major purchase. Like most of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, it has several attributes:
At what amount of money does something become a major purchase?
Do you comparison shop or just go to one store/vendor/salesperson?
Do you shop for the lowest price, buy value or is price not a consideration?
Do you conduct research?
When you find what you want do you make a decision or think about it?
Do you like or dislike being sold? (coming soon)
The science shows that there is a 100% correlation between how salespeople buy and what they are willing to accept from their prospects. And that's where the disagreement occurs. Everyone agrees that yes, what we report about how they buy is how they actually buy. But a small number of salespeople disagree over whether or not it affects the way they sell. They usually make their point by saying something along the lines of, "In our business, our buyers must shop around" or "must go with the lowest price" or "won't spend more than x" or "never make decisions before this happens."
And when they say these things they are saying, "This is how I buy so it should be obvious that everyone else buys this way too."
Bob messaged me on LinkedIn yesterday and to his credit, it was not an argument. This is the short conversation we had:
Hi Dave, I’m not sure nor clear on Non Supportive Buy-Cycle? I believe it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully when making large purchases. I believe this for moderate purchases!!! I am not clear on how this would impact my ability to sell another human with the same characteristics? I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent and it’s NEW technology. However, part of my role is to also transcend this.
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 5:18 PM
Yup - you need to transcend and change your beliefs and your buying behavior. Your beliefs are totally non-supportive and you make the assumption that because you believe this then the people you are selling to must believe this. Sure, companies have processes, guidelines and rules for buying stuff. But those rules and guidelines are ignored all the time when a true decision maker has a compelling reason to buy from you, and some urgency that would allow for short cuts.
Bob sent the following message at 8:01 PM
Hummmm…..I can’t say I think like that or believe like that Dave, sincerely. My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be? We may part waters on this one respectfully and the entire Team is chatting about this topic
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 8:26 PM
Let me put it another way. The single biggest differentiator between the top 5% of all salespeople and the bottom 5% is Buy Cycle. Period. End of story. The top 5% (67% have it as a strength) are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 5% (only 1% are strong). And, those who have it as a weakness usually argue that "everyone buys this way." Don't know what else to tell you.
As I mentioned, I have this very conversation, albeit usually more heated, by phone, email, text, InMail, in the hallway, over Zoom, with at least one person EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
Bob revealed three self-limiting beliefs associated with Buy-Cycle.
You should have read:
"it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully"
"I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent" (Dave's note - prudent has nothing to do with Buy-Cycle. Bob thinks $580,000 is a lot of money. But that is NOT a lot of money for the company that is spending it. A company that spends $580,000 on capital equipment is generating at least tens and probably hundreds of millions or more in revenue and it's money they were going to spend with someone. It's not new money.)
"My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be?"
Let's compare Bob's beliefs with how great salespeople think. I don't usually do this but for this example I'll use myself.
I've never test-driven a car in my life. When I see a car on the road that I like I say to myself, "That's my next car." I call the dealer, order it, and ask when it can be delivered. I never shop dealers against each other, I never ask for additional discounts over what they offer me, I never think it over and get back to them, and I don't drag out the process. This is how I buy everything. Perhaps you can't imagine buying the way that I buy but it's worth noting that I've never had buyer's remorse, I've never felt like I paid too much, and I never felt like I wasn't being "prudent." For anything. Ever. I ordered my last two vehicles before they were even off the production lines! Not a single 2021 Genesis GV80 had been delivered to the USA when I ordered mine and not a single redesigned for 2019 Lincoln Navigator had been shipped to a dealer when I ordered that SUV. My process is order it, sign, and then wait for it to be delivered (months later) because shopping is a colossal waste of time unless you are doing it for entertainment, like, "Honey, would you like to go to the mall?"
I understand that MY opinion and behavior may very well be different from YOUR opinion and behavior but the science says that my opinion is shared by the best salespeople in the world. This buying behavior enables the best salespeople to push back, question, hang in, ask more questions and eventually influence or outright change buying criteria and processes so they can sell value, eliminate competitors, and reach decision makers who are typically protected from salespeople. Decision makers can change rules, take shortcuts, make decisions, and do it all very quickly.
Let's go back to the science. The top 5% of all salespeople are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 10% of all salespeople and the top 5% score 279% higher than the bottom 10% of all salespeople on this component of Sales DNA. The science backs me up. Check it out here.
Bob and other weak salespeople understand the stated buying process with the keyword being "stated." When Bob follows the stated buying process without questioning it, only buyers have control! Great salespeople DON'T understand why the prospect is going to talk with five vendors, look for the lowest price, take a month to have six internal meetings, narrow the list, negotiate, send it to legal, and all the other stupidity that takes place. That enables great salespeople to push back, ask more questions, and get processes changed. Supportive Buy-Cycles win more business than Non Supportive Buy-Cycles.
Not 30 minutes after this article was first published, I received this email from Bill, who wanted to prove my points above. Bill wrote:
Your analogy between buying capital equipment and how you buy cars makes no sense Dave. What if you liked a Yugo you saw while driving down the road and bought one in preproduction. How would you feel if you bought one of the worst cars ever manufactured without one second of research? Heck, you bought one of the most inefficient gas guzzling monster cars that will only ruin the environment for my children and my grandchildren. How do you sleep with that? I guess you don’t care about the future. You only live for ‘now’.
Shopping is a pain in the ass. The Internet has made a lot of that much easier. Buying capital equipment isn’t an Internet purchase in the half million dollar plus category. Getting past the first purchase with a new sales person is a challenge. Are they competent? Are they knowledgeable? Are they fair? Do you have a rapport with them? Can They meet your expectations?
I just put a fence around my horse pen. One guy wanted $13,000. The other guy wanted $8500. I looked at both quotes, materials, workmanship, referrals and completion dates. They were virtually the same. which one would you go for? Is shopping worth $4500? Or is it only worth it with personal money and not corporate money? When I put the next fence up I’ll probably have my guy for all my fence work. But the first purchase, in my estimation, takes research. All the other purchases are based on trust and relationship.
I did respond, as I usually do, with this note:
Thanks for taking the time to write, make your point and include the personal attack. That’s the point of my article. People get nasty.
You already know my opinion and while it’s different from yours, you’re entitled to your opinion as I’m entitled to mine. The only difference is that when it comes to selling, the science doesn’t lie and while you might not like it, I happen to be the expert on sales science.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying the horse fence the way you did but it does impact the way you sell. It was right there in your first sentence.
No worries. Thanks again for your kind note.
Bill wasn't finished. He felt the need to get the last words in:
Just adding - They get nasty in politics. If you get nasty in sales, you’re in the wrong business. Actually Dave, it doesn’t impact the way I sell at all. You are incorrect. Have I made mistakes in the past selling, absolutely. Will I make them again in the future, absolutely. You may be the expert in sales science. I’m the expert in sales. I do it every day, every week, every month every year for over 20 years and I’ve been exceptionally happy and successful. I like what I do. I like my clients. And I believe Sales is more than boxes in complex sales that I do. Your car is a box.
And by the way, I’m not nasty. I just pointed out a car analogy just like you wrote about a car analogy. Next time I’ll come to you for the $3500 difference when I buy my next fence. I look forward to you writing a check.
We attended last night's Red Sox Game. Unlike most games at Fenway Park, this contest was a pitcher's duel and the Red Sox held a fragile 1-0 lead over the Toronto Blue Jays heading into the top of the 9th inning. The Red Sox closer, Matt Barnes came in and quickly struck-out the first two batters and that brought up the best hitter in the major leagues, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Barnes quickly got ahead in the count and was only one strike away from ending the game when Guerrero absolutely crushed a rolling curve ball, blasting it into the light towers in left field to tie the game. The mood in the park immediately changed from celebratory to morbid. But the game wasn't over. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the first two hitters reached base for the Red Sox and then Raphael Devers smoked a long fly ball off the wall in left-center field to give the Red Sox a walk-off win. From morbid back to celebratory and beyond to euphoric. Such is the feeling of a walk-off win.
Regular readers know that right around this point in the article there should be a pivot to sales and I won't disappoint. The walk-off win in baseball, the buzzer beater in basketball and the field goal with no time on the clock in football are all terrific metaphors for certain types of wins in sales. Some deals are sure things from the get go and others stand no chance of going your way. However, some huge opportunities are truly nail-biters and could go either way. When those opportunities are finally decided and you win, they too are euphoric.
In today's article we'll use the walk-off win to show how a properly constructed sales process and scorecard will help you win the deals you are supposed to win, help you lose early on the deals you are guaranteed to lose, and give you a much better chance to win the nail biters that could go either way.
Coincidentally, today I will be working to improve a client's existing sales process. Their sales force evaluation results from Objective Management Group (OMG) pointed to three major reasons why they are losing business to their competition:
They aren't creating urgency,
They are failing to reach decision makers
Both crucial milestones are nowhere to be seen in their existing formal sales process.
Most companies don't have a formal sales process, so in that regard they are very much ahead of the game but let me be clear. Having a sales process does not mean that the process is any good, was well thought-out, properly staged, or sequenced so that it builds upon itself. Having a process does not necessarily mean that the process is predictive or effective. With or without a process, it's very likely that your salespeople don't follow the process and your sales managers aren't coaching to the process. In those cases your process has been neutered! You must have an optimized sales process which is formalized, staged, milestone-centric, customer focused and properly sequenced. That sales process must also have within it a properly built and tested scorecard that will accurately predict wins and losses. And, sales leadership must be diligent about four things:
The process and related pipeline must be fully integrated into the CRM application
This isn't optional. Every kick-ass sales team has this in place.
Every salesperson must follow it to the letter and keep it up-to-date in real time in CRM.
Every sales manager must coach to the sales process and conduct opportunity reviews in the context of sales process and pipeline.
An optimized sales process will all but guarantee that your salespeople don't miss anything when it comes to winning all the opportunities that should be won. An optimized/integrated sales process will sound the alarm to all but guarantee that your resources are not wasted on an opportunity that you have little chance of winning. And finally, to experience the euphoria of a walk-off win, you must rely on that optimized sales process integrated into your CRM application - and we love Membrain for this - to help you win the nail biters because nothing feels as good as a walk-off win.
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.
The year was 2020 and it was an unpredictable year. There were surprises galore. For example, instead of only bank robbers and anarchists from ANTIFA wearing masks, we were all told to always wear masks. Instead of forcing myself to be social among extroverts, I was given permission to be socially distant, a not so awful turn of events for an acute introvert like myself. The stock market lost and gained more than 10,000 points in the same year. Most companies pushed hard for the last six months attempting to generate enough revenue to offset their lackluster second quarter sales. All because of the pandemic. But there was one thing that didn't change. I still managed to churn out around fifty articles and after 15 years of blogging and almost 1,900 articles to date, I feel like most of the articles from this year were among my best ever. As has been the custom each December, today we name the top ten articles of 2020 and I hope you'll read every one of them.
The articles from 2020 fell mostly into three categories with some overlap to an obvious fourth category; the pandemic:
Category 1: Research, Data Mining and Assessments (19 articles including 6 that were pandemic-related) Category 2: Sales and Selling (9 articles including 1 that was pandemic-related) Category 3: Sales Leadership (17 articles including 8 that were pandemic-related)
There are many ways to vote the top ten articles including:
appearances on top-10 lists
It's difficult to assign weightings to the list because more views doesn't necessarily mean that people liked or engaged with it, engagement doesn't mean people liked it, lack of comments doesn't mean people didn't like it, awards and top-10 lists are dependent on the people making such designations actually seeing and considering an article, and my favorites won't necessarily be your favorites. As this is partly scientific and partly subjective I introduce:
Best Take-Down of a competitive assessment - Most competitive assessments don't stand a chance against OMG and I simply obliterated Extended Disc in this take-down! This article was even more fun because you can't make this stuff up!
Best article on the difficulty explaining the differences between salespeople - Most people can't explain or justify how one salesperson is better than another and are left to rely on revenue as the differentiator. But revenue is actually the single worst way to compare or differentiate salespeople and sales capabilities. This article explains why revenue comparisons don't work and presents a better way to make these comparisons.
You must have heard the joke that 73.6% of statistics are made up!
I have read and even reported that sales leaders who coach their salespeople see a boost in revenue of around 27%. It sounds like a realistic number but I have not seen any science to back it up. Until now. Check this out!
OMG has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople and sales managers from 30,000 companies. The data in the table below is from a subset of that data where we looked at around 16,000 salespeople who reported to approximately 4,000 sales managers. The title row shows the percentage of time the sales managers devoted to coaching their salespeople and the 6 rows below that show the average scores for the salespeople that report to those managers. Sales Percentile is the percentile that a salesperson scored in. Sales DNA is an overall score for 6 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures. Hunter, Consultative, Qualifier and Closer are 4 of the 7 Tactical selling competencies that OMG measures. If you're interested, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies and how salespeople score by industry and skill here.
Do you remember that 27% number? The first row reveals that sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching salespeople (last column on the right) have salespeople whose sales percentile score is 28% higher than those managers who devoted little to none of their time coaching. How is that for science to back up somebody's incredibly accurate wild-ass guess?
There's another interesting find in this data. Average scores for hunting were not further improved after a manager is devoting at least 20% of their time to coaching. This suggests that sales managers who coach more don't spend their coaching time helping salespeople work on their prospecting skills.
Another interesting takeaway can be seen in the Consultative scores. This competency shows the smallest gain in average score. Given how difficult it is to effectively take the consultative approach, this suggests that despite coaching more often, those sales managers lack the consultative skills needed to coach their salespeople on the consultative approach.
If Consultative scores show the smallest gain, where can the biggest gains be found? Qualifying and Closing. Sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching have salespeople who score 13% better in Qualifying and 24% better in closing than the salespeople whose sales managers rarely coach.
This data was not filtered by coaching effectiveness so there was no assumption that the coaching was good coaching; only that there was coaching. What would happen if in addition to the time these managers devote to coaching, they were also becoming more effective at coaching? The answer is revealed in this article by John Pattison. You can become better at coaching salespeople by attending my Annual Sales Leadership Intensive - The Virtual Edition. This top-rated event is happening in just two weeks, from June 16-18, 2020. Read more here. Use the discount code DKVIP to save 10% on your registration!
Have you ever noticed how happy people are when they are buying things? What about you? How did you feel the last time you took delivery of your new car? Was it the new car smell? The finish? The wheels? The look? The brand? What about the last time you bought a new smartphone, tablet or notebook computer? And how happy were you when you moved into your house or apartment? When you installed the swimming pool, bought the boat, renovated the kitchen, painted the house, bought new furniture, the flat screen TV, or a new wardrobe? Happy buying extends to vacations and even sporting goods. It never ends! The excitement from these purchases tends to last much longer than the moments themselves.
So if we all love buying stuff, why do salespeople struggle so much when they try to sell stuff? Why isn't it as friction-free as an abundance of happy buyers would suggest it should be?
There are at least 13 reasons for this:
Many salespeople try too hard to sell instead of helping people buy
Many salespeople try to sell stuff that some people don't want or need
The B2B buying experience is different from the B2C buying experience
Many salespeople and customers don't have the same goals
Many salespeople put their own interests ahead of those of their customers
Many salespeople don't know how to lower their customer's resistance
Most salespeople are predictable and obvious and their customers hate it
Most salespeople don't know how to have a real conversation about issues and the impact of those issues
Most B2B salespeople don't know how to make the B2B conversation personal and fail to get their business customers to the happy place that consumers get to
Most salespeople are absolute amateurs when it comes to the consultative approach to selling, the only approach that makes it personal
Most salespeople aren't able to sell value with any degree of effectiveness so the buyer-seller conversation ends up focused on price
Most salespeople don't take the time to develop relationships
Salespeople are ineffective at getting and setting realistic expectations
There are more reasons but I'm equally sure you get the gist of this. How can you make the B2B experience more pleasant, helpful, personal and value-based and less about your goals and needs, which raise resistance?
I am amazed by the sheer number of salespeople who believe they must respond to an RFP, RFQ or RFI. The resources, including people, time and money, required to respond to the specs from just one of these requests is daunting. Some companies have so many requests coming in that they spend all of their time responding to them. This is crazy! Do you respond to every email you receive? Every call you get? After all, it's a request, not a demand. So why the frenzy over responding and replying so quickly? You won't believe some of the reasons!
Top 10 Reasons Why Salespeople Respond to RFPs, RFQs and RFIs
We won't get future business if we don't respond
We can't get this business if we don't respond
We will appear unresponsive if we don't respond
We want to get a foot in the door
We want to impress them with our capabilities
We will win 10% of them and since we don't know which 10% we need to respond to all of them
We want this business
We need this business
We want to be a back-up option
We have always done it this way
If you and your company follow an effective sales process, proposing must be one of the final milestones prior to closing - it cannot and should not be one of the first milestones!
So not only is there the question of whether to respond, there is also the question of when.
Requests to propose come in one of four buckets:
They want to do business with you but need something formalized
They want to buy from your competitor but need to keep them honest
They want to drive down the price and they are initiating a bidding war
They want to buy from your competitor and need high bids to justify their decision.
That's it. There aren't any other reasons. And if you aren't in bucket #1, you should not be proposing!
Proposals are not selling tools, companies do not buy from you because of your proposals, and proposals don't differentiate you from your competition. Your sales ability - specifically your listening and questioning skills - will differentiate you from your competition. Look at any survey of buyers and they all point to the fact that differentiation takes place in the field!
Rather than responding to proposals, you should be doing your best to learn why they sent it to you, why they want you to propose on this particular solution, and why they want to solve their problem in that particular way. Get the specs of the proposal changed!
Prior to proposing, you must know that the business is yours and they want to buy from you. Period. If you don't already know that for a fact, you are not ready to propose. If you do know it for a fact, then the proposal is simply a formality.
Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader, Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.