How Closing a Tough Sale is Nearly Identical to Hitting a Home Run

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 25, 2022 @ 18:08 PM

home run

While you don't need to know a single thing about Baseball to read this, it is another article with a baseball analogy. If you don't enjoy reading my baseball analogies, you can ignore this but I must warn you that today's analogy will reveal the two underlying causes for sales opportunities getting stuck in the pipeline and not reaching a close.  If you don't care about that then bye-bye until the next article.

You're watching a baseball game on television and the announcer says, "And here's the pitch and there's a long drive hit deep to left field and it's deep, it's up, it's way back and GONE!!!!!  Home Run Dave Kurlan!"  OK, the announcer never said the Dave Kurlan part. Not even close. I was a singles hitter.  And I never played at a level that had announcers.  So there's that.  For entertainment sake, watch this classic 2-minute clip of Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs hitting the magical home run at the end of the movie, The Natural, one of my all-time favorite baseball movies right up there with The Sandlot and Field of Dreams.

Back to the home run.  A home run is the outcome of a perfect swing but what led to that swing being so perfect?  If we conduct a backwards looking analysis, an upper cut connected with the baseball and drove it at a speed of 110 MPH with a 30 degree launch angle.  The swing was perfectly timed.  The batter waited and exploded, getting every bit of torque into his rotation while using the full power of his legs.  He stayed back and had a nice, short, swing. Those moving parts working to perfection were important to the outcome but the most important thing was that he recognized the pitch, saw the ball and hit it.  All of the mechanics I just described were the result of practice.  He recognized the pitch, made the split-second decision to swing, his mechanics fired up on-demand, and he crushed the ball.

Pivot to selling.  If salespeople had announcers - and that would be so cool - the announcer would say, "And here's the pitch, it's a good one, it's both needs and cost appropriate, and the prospect had already agreed in principal to the price. It's been emailed and reviewed, the prospect liked it, it's signed it and it's SOLD!!! Half a Million dollar sale for Dave Kurlan!"  Like I said, I never had a play-by-play announcer but there is always one talking in my head...

Back to the sale.  The sale was the outcome of that particular opportunity but what led to that opportunity closing so easily?  Deconstructing the sale, we recognized that there was a real opportunity there, quickly built a relationship, uncovered a compelling reason for them to buy from us, developed credibility, created urgency, fully qualified the opportunity and developed a needs and cost appropriate solution.  As with baseball, those were the mechanics of the sales process but the key was creating urgency.

Urgency is the torque that moves an opportunity from nice-to-have to must-have and finally to taking action.  But urgency is also an outcome.  It requires advanced listening and questioning skills, something most salespeople struggle to develop.  But even listening and questioning skills require 2 supporting Sales DNA competencies.

1) You must be able to Stay in the Moment in order to truly listen and formulate the next question.  Staying in the moment or being fully present requires that we do not become emotional.  According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,244,094 assessments of salespeople, only 37% of all salespeople have "Able to Stay in the Moment" as a strength and only 19% of the bottom half of all salespeople are able to do this. 

Last week, Dan Millman, author of more than a dozen spiritual self-help books and novels and best known for his book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, wrote this message in his latest newsletter:

"In this brief newsletter we return to a core life skill — how we perceive and process our emotions. Having previously explored how small changes in the words we use can change our attitudes,  let’s now observe a nearly universal tendency to identify with our emotions when we say (or think or feel) “I’m angry;I’m sad; I’m afraid…”
Instead, given the reality that emotions arise and pass like the weather, and that we have no more control over arising emotions than we do over passing weather, what if we replaced the “I am” with the observation, “Angry weather, sad weather, fearful weather passing through…” 
Noting our changing emotional weather patterns (as we might in meditation) enables us to observe them from a distance. We can acknowledge, even accept and embrace emotional weather without clinging to it.
This emotional skill — this wording and thinking change — is simple but not easy. Old habits die hard until we replace them with new habits as this practice becomes natural. Try it and see."

2) If staying in the moment is crucial for listening, then equally critical for asking questions is  not NEEDING to be liked.  It's OK and even desirable to be likable, but you shouldn't NEED people to like you.  When you need to be liked it will make you uncomfortable or even fearful of asking a lot of questions, asking tough question, or having the difficult conversation with your prospect that nobody else has had with them.  According to OMG, only 40% of all salespeople have "Doesn't Need Approval" and only 15% of the bottom half have this as a strength.

Staying in the Moment and Not Needing to be Liked are 2 out of the 21 Sales Core Competencies required for Sales Success.  If we look at the data differently, and filter on just the top 5% of all salespeople,  the results are quite different. The best salespeople (the top 5%) don't usually have nearly this much difficulty as 65% of them are able to stay in the moment making the top salespeople 342% better at this than the bottom half!  And when it comes to not needing to be liked, 79% of the best salespeople have this as a strength making the top salespeople 527% better at this than the bottom half.

Do you want to hit more home runs and close more sales?  Work to overcome your need to be liked and become more effective staying in the moment.  The Sales DNA Modifier is an inexpensive online course that uses powerful affirmations to help you make dramatic changes and overcome a sales weakness in just 3 weeks. Start with the lesson on Need to be Liked, spend 5-minutes with it twice per day for 3 weeks and then move on to the other weaknesses as needed.

The Sales DNA Modifier is a home run for salespeople.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, Sales DNA, closing tips, objective management group

The Top 12 Factors that Cause Delayed Closings and What to Do About Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 @ 09:09 AM

delays

Over the past 3 months, my wife and I have been up and down the east coast driving our son to and from baseball tournaments and college showcases.  Invariably, each drive back home has taken twice the time it should have because of road construction.  On Sunday, Waze, my favorite navigation app, said that the drive would take just 2 hours and 32 minutes. 4 traffic delays because of road construction delayed us for another 2 and 1/2 hours.  Delays, delays, delays.  Nearly every coaching call with a salesperson is about a delayed closing.  Nearly every coaching call with a sales manager is about a salesperson with a delayed closing.  Everyone wants to know what to do about the delayed closing but that's the wrong question.  Everyone should be asking these two questions instead.

  1. Was it really delayed or were we overly optimistic about if and when this opportunity would close?
  2. What steps can we take to prevent delayed closings?

When I begin working with companies, most delayed closings are simply a case of the salesperson and sales manager deciding that the opportunity was closable and would close on a certain date.  This assertion was most often made up out of thin air with little to no facts to back it up.  Upon further inspection it was clear that these were not closable opportunities so the delays were not based in reality.

How can we prevent delayed closings?  I will list the 12 most important factors for preventing delays at closing time along with some links that further explain what I mean, how to do it more effectively, and/or provide statistics.  Please keep in mind that the list of factors is not a menu.  You can't choose the factor that seems easiest enough to fix and believe that anything will change.  You must fix all of them!  For example, suppose you need to loose 30 pounds, and are told to avoid breads, pastas, processed foods, snacks and pastries. If you decide to eliminate only bread, not much will change.  However, if you eliminate all of the processed foods the weight will come off quickly and easily.  The same is true with selling.  If you fix all 12 of the factors below, you will not only shorten your sales cycle, you will quickly and easily improve your win rate too.  Here they are:

  1. Not consistently executing a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process 
  2. Failing to get the prospect to "must have" or beginning the process with a demo, but failing to get beyond "nice to have"
  3. Not reaching the decision maker early enough in the sales process
  4. Failing to create urgency because compelling reasons to buy were not uncovered
  5. Failing to differentiate by not having the difficult conversation
  6. Needing prospects to like you.
  7. Failing to build a case and sell value instead of price
  8. Failing to uncover the actual budget
  9. Failing to thoroughly qualify the prospect's ability to buy from you
  10. Not bringing up potential objections earlier in the sales process
  11. Not learning about the competition and how you compare
  12. Not pushing back or challenging conventional or out-dated thinking

You probably noticed at least 3 common factors missing from the list above:

  1. Closing - closing is overrated
  2. Presentation skills - you already know how to do that well.
  3. Relationships - you are probably pretty good at this too.

We shouldn't be talking about delayed closings at all.  Instead, we should be talking about 2 things:

  1. How to shorten the sales cycle and improve the win rate by consistently executing these 12 factors to achieve greater success than ever before and how to coach salespeople up so that they can sell this way.
  2. How to select new salespeople that already have the ability to sell this way!

Image Copyright iStock Photos 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing tips, selling skills

Did You Lose a Deal You Had Already Closed? This is Why!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 14:01 PM

lost-customer

You closed a nice deal, you shared the news with everyone else at the office, you entered it into your CRM, you provided the information to get the deal invoiced, you went home and calculated your commission and before you could collect the money, it got taken away.  Ouch!  This story should explain exactly what actually happens nearly every time you take business away from another company.

I made a decision to follow my banker to his new bank.  I hate having to reeducate new bankers so it was an easy decision, especially after the new banker at the old bank started emailing his questions.  Yesterday, I called to get the payoff for our line of credit and that caused me to receive calls from three of the bankers at the old bank.

First I heard from the new loan officer.  He wanted to know what they could do to keep our business.

Then I heard from his new boss.  He told me he was brought there after 30 years with Bank of America to stabilize the turnover in the department and that he assures me that, moving forward, there would be stability.  He wanted to know when he could meet me to begin to develop our relationship.

Then I got a call from the underwriter who approved our line 5 years ago.  He asked, "if we can sweeten the pot and match the deal you got at the new bank, can we get you to stay?"  I told him that I didn't leave because of a better rate, but I got a better rate when I left.  I explained that matching the rate was a nice gesture, but it wasn't the reason I left.  I thought he was going to cry.  Then came the guilt trip.  "After all we did for you when you needed us, how can you leave us like that?  I thought there would be more loyalty than what you are showing us."  I expected the guilt trip but I didn't expect him to make stuff up!  I told him again it wasn't about the rate.  I was being loyal - to my banker - and thanked him for trying.  After he sent a few parting shots the way of my old banker, he hung up and I think he was actually crying.

When you close a deal to replace an incumbent, for any reason, you must expect that the incumbent will attempt to retain that customer and pull out all the stops to succeed.  If your new customer is moving their business to you only because you were able to beat the price they were paying, you will certainly be hanging over the cliff, ready to fall, because they will match or beat your price to keep their customer.  It costs a lot of money to acquire and replace a lost customer.  On the other hand, if this customer is moving to you because you uncovered their compelling reason to buy from you and you are uniquely qualified to solve their problem, all the begging and pleading in the world won't cause your customer to return to their old vendor, the one that was not able to solve their problem.

If you know that the incumbent will be calling to undo what just got done, what can you do to prevent an unhappy ending?  Prepare your new customer for the call!  Ask, "So what will you say when ABC calls and offers to match our price?"  "What if they lay a guilt trip on you?"  "What if they start to beg?"

What can you learn from this beyond the importance of selling the value instead of selling on price?

You had better be sure that all of your customers are happy with you or you may find yourself in the same position as my old bank.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, closing tips, selling value, lost a deal, after the close

Specific Words are So Crucial to a Sales Conversation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 @ 07:08 AM

I just returned from a speaking engagement in Athens and had to stop at passport control several times during this trip. They always ask, "What kind of business?" and over the years I've used them all: consulting, speaking, training, business adviser, author, coaching, etc.  I've learned that if I want to be interrogated, "speaker" would be the answer of choice.  If I simply want to answer a few questions, "consultant" will do the trick.  But to elicit the desired yawn from the officers, I only need to say "attend a conference."  Words make a huge difference and if you like scripts, you'll be disappointed.  But a well-chosen word or phrase at just the right time can be the difference between a resistant prospect and an intrigued one.  Do you pay enough attention to the things you do and say as well as how you say them just before a prospect becomes resistant or more engaged?  Well, you should!

Selling is about having a conversation.  Not just any conversation, but one where a prospect recognizes that you are different from everyone else.  You ask better questions.  You aren't afraid of difficult topics.  You can gently push back and challenge.  You know your stuff as evidenced by the questions you're asking.  Make no mistake.  It's a conversation, not 50 questions.  And it's a good conversation, with you encouraging your prospect to share their opportunities, issues and feelings until you've identified something compelling, something that will create urgency, something that would cause them to not only spend their money, but spend it with you. 

When we train sales organizations, there may be only 6 times in the entire sales process when we want salespeople to use specific words or phrases, but they occur at times when the use of less desirable words simply won't obtain the desired result:

  1. The positioning statement and examples you provide to a cold prospect to get them engaged,
  2. Quantifying and justifying questions,
  3. The powerful price-busting question that gets your prospect to buy from you even when your competition has lower prices,
  4. The powerful timeline question that shortens your sales cycle,
  5. The navigation question that short circuits the decision making process, and
  6. The comfortable close where it isn't obvious to your prospect that you are closing them.

On your next sales call, pay more attention to what engages, encourages and comforts your prospects, along with what causes them to clam up, become resistant and lose interest.  That can be very effective self-training.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales consulting, closing tips, sales scripts, the power of words

This One Tip Helps Salespeople Close More Business

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 @ 07:07 AM

doors optionsWhen attempting to close sales most salespeople have a tendency to use either a good/better/best, option A/option B, or price 1/price 2 method of proposing and/or presenting.  Everyone likes options, right?  Yes, people love options.  The only problem is that options prevent most people from being able to make decisions.  In their new book, Switch - How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Dan and Chip Heath provide statistical evidence that people, when presented with options, go into paralysis.  And the paralysis gets worse as the number of options increase.

Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball (2005), points to the importance of identifying the compelling reasons why someone, or some group, or some company would buy and buy from you.  It points to the importance of demonstrating your expertise and differentiating yourself from your competition by asking good, tough, timely questions.  It points to the importance of identifying whether the prospect is able to spend the money that solving their problem requires.  Those accomplishments provide the information for you to present a single, ideal, needs and cost appropriate solution.  If you are indeed an expert and you did ask the right questions and listened effectively, then there is only one possible ideal solution.  Present more than one and you cause a prospect to question your expertise.  Worse, you provide them with something to think about. 

Make your solution ideal, both in terms of it being needs and cost appropriate, with no options, and if you did what you were supposed to do throughout the sales process you will make it easy for your prospect to make a quick decision.

Speaking of books, Driven - A How to Strategy for Realizing Your Potential, written by my friend and the founder of Landslide, Razi Imam, was released today. I thought the book was really worth reading for some new perspectives on how you can improve performance and have a greater level of success.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, closing tips, driven, switch, heath, salespeople

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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.

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