Why the Relationship is So Important to the Sales Outcome

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 @ 09:09 AM

Many people have written extensively on the topic of relationships and selling.  One common topic is that people only buy from people they like and the other is how to develop strong relationships.  There is nothing wrong with either of those topics but they surely miss the mark in two important areas.

  1. Some people develop wonderful relationships but the relationships take much too long to develop. 
  2. How many times have you or one of your salespeople had a strong relationship only to discover it was still not enough to get the business?

People do have to like you but it's not enough.  Liking and trusting you has some value, but not enough to compensate for a price or quality gap.  The added value must come from understanding their compelling reasons for buying what you sell and for spending money, sometimes more money, to do business with you rather than your competitor.  When you have  conversations that lead to and uncover their personal, compelling reasons, you'll be seen as a trusted adviser, different from all the rest, and THEN they'll see the value in doing business with you.

Unfortunately, in order to ask those questions and have those discussions, a relationship must be established.  And this is where the double edged sword comes into play.  The discussion I'm talking about is a first meeting discussion.  But the relationship that requires is often a 2nd or 3rd meeting relationship.  So the problem I present is, how does one develop a late-stage relationship in an early stage meeting?

This is what the elite salespeople (top 6%) do so well.  It's what the mediocre (bottom 74%) do so poorly.  And it's what all of your salespeople must be able to do effectively and consistently in order to win more than they lose.

How do your salespeople stack up?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, closing, sales effectiveness, salespeople

How to Close the Deal that Your Salespeople Can't Close

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 10, 2010 @ 07:08 AM

stop signSometimes, when your salespeople are trying to close a sale, the deal stalls, gets put-off, or simply doesn't close.  This is followed by, well, follow up, leading to more put-offs.  There are many reasons why this happens but for the purpose of this article, let's simply assume that the prospect has every reason to buy and the salesperson did not do anything glaringly wrong along the way.  Simply a closable opportunity that hasn't closed yet.  In situations like this, there are usually two things going on:

  1. The prospect has some unresolved fear, discomfort or risk;
  2. The salesperson is trying too hard to close.

The fascinating thing about these two scenarios is that the harder the salesperson attempts to close, the more fear, discomfort and risk it creates for the prospect.  Their resistance gets stronger.

The solution?  Stop trying so hard!

The strategy?  Lower the resistance.

The tactic? Acknowledge their fear, let them know you understand it, and lower their resistance.  Get them to admit to it and then you can ask them why they are afraid, and what you can do to resolve it. 

This new information is not an objection or even a reason.  It is simply a new problem for you to solve and your solution should be revised to address this problem.  If you can do that, you'll close the sale.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, closing

Top 20 Requirements - How Salespeople Can be Better at Closing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 @ 07:06 AM

HandshakeIf you were to ask most executives for one thing that they would like their sales force to do better, you would likely get one of two answers:

  1. Close
  2. Prospect 

Nothing wrong with those two choices - or is there? 

While salespeople can get better at closing, closing is an outcome, and with the exception of real estate and banking, not really an event. When we evaluate sales forces and look at their ability to close, they may possess some of the strengths and skills that are part of the Sales Core Competency called Closing, but  most of those attributes are used prior to, not during, closing time. The ability to close depends on the following 20 variables (in no particular order) that a salesperson brings to the table - or not:

  • use of an optimized, formal, sales process
  • their severity of Need for Approval
  • whether their Buy Cycle (the way they buy things) supports or sabotages sales efforts
  • their Consultative Selling skill set
  • ability to identify the compelling reasons to buy
  • ability to quantify problems and build value
  • how thoroughly they qualify their prospect, competition and own company
  • whether they present early in the process or late in the process
  • ability to provide both a needs and cost appropriate solution
  • timing - whether they close when the opportunity is actually closable
  • ability to eliminate potential stalls, put-offs, objections and excuses prior to closing time
  • how much Fear of Rejection they have
  • ability to remain optimistic in the face of obstacles and pessimistic when things are going too smoothly
  • ability to develop a relationship early in the process 
  • ability to be realistic
  • ability to solve problems
  • exceptional questioning and listening skills
  • ability not to assume anything without validating their assumptions
  • ability to differentiate your company from all others through questioning
  • how trusting they are

When a sales manager asks for a seminar on closing, good sales experts push back and question the logic behind that, all the while knowing that a session on closing is a waste of time if the salespeople aren't doing these 20 other things effectively.  And of course, it's important to know whether they can and will do those 20 other things effectively. Inexperienced and somewhat less successful and/or effective colleagues might simply agree to provide the seminar without understanding or caring that it won't change a thing.

Is prospecting, or as executives see it, scheduling more appointments, any different? Is that a skill?   We'll explore prospecting next time.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, closing, sales evaluation

Why You Should be Scared When Your Salespeople are Closing Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 @ 09:02 AM

Most senior executives get excited when a lot of business starts to close all in a fairly short period of time.  They think:

  • Momentum
  • Cash Flow
  • Best Practices being executed
  • Processes being followed
  • Strategies being executed
  • Tactics being utilized
  • Salespeople becoming more effective
  • Retention
  • Focus on bigger opportunities now
  • etc.

What they should be thinking is more along the lines of:

  • uh-oh
  • is the pipeline emptying?
  • what's coming along behind this?
  • has anyone been filling the pipeline during all this closing frenzy?
  • how could I have not seen this coming?

Sales managers get caught up in the excitement of a closing frenzy when they should be taking a step back and asking themselves, what's wrong with this picture?

If you have a short sales cycle - less than 30 days - you won't feel the impact of this as much as a company with a longer sales cycle.  If you have a six month sales cycle and the pipeline just emptied in a closing frenzy, it could be six months before business begins to consistently close again!

You may see a similar phenomenon when salespeople are on an appointment scheduling frenzy - nothing seems to be closing - and opportunities are not moving through the stages of the sales process.

So what is the answer?  Balance.  Your job is to maintain balance - hold salespeople accountable for all three requirements:

  • filling the pipeline
  • moving opportunities through the pipeline
  • closing the closable opportunities in the pipeline
  • all at the same time
  • without breaks in the action
  • without excuses
  • without blinders on

How about at your company - is there balance?

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, closing, salespeople

The Latest Fiction for the Sales Force - No More Hunters and Farmers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 @ 10:09 AM

Today I received an email from Selling Power promoting their latest webinar, The Hunter/Farmer Paradigm is Dead

In 2007 we had to deal with writers proclaiming that sales and the sales force were dead.  The reality of all of that talk was that the people writing about it weren't close enough to sales to know what they were talking about.  Companies with transactional sales don't need salespeople selling their transactional items, but they do need salespeople persuading companies to choose them in the first place.  Then the transactions can be placed via Internet or an inside sales group. That's about the only scenario where the "dead" proclamation even comes close to being accurate.  

Companies selling complex products, design engineered, custom, capital intensive, and higher priced than competition absolutely need salespeople to find opportunities, develop the need, provide value, qualify the opportunity, present the right solution and close the business.  Companies that are underdogs, those that sell professional services, and those with a story to tell absolutely need salespeople.

And today we have more attention grabbing headlines.  While it is Selling Power that is hosting this promotional webinar, it's actually a sales training company that is conducting it.  They go on to say that, "today's economy demands that you leverage all of your available sales talent by helping your sales reps both farm and hunt productively."

That's fine in theory.  It's optimal.  But the reality is that Objective Management Group has statistics from evaluating 450,000 salespeople and it's just not possible.  Here are the facts:

You want all of your salespeople to find new business but 24% of them will never be able to do that.  All of the training that they can provide won't change those people.  They'll have new words and will learn new skills but they still won't actually do it.

You want all of your salespeople to farm but some of them will never be able to do that either.  22% of them can't be trained.  And 45% of them will not close.  Again, they can train them until they're blue in the face but aside from the new words they'll learn, nothing will change for that group of salespeople.

So in a perfect world, where we can be anything we want to be, athletes aren't wired to be scientists, artists aren't wired to be software programmers, and ballet dancers aren't wired to be weight lifters.  Some salespeople aren't wired to prospect - they should be account managers - and some people aren't wired to close - they should be account managers too!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, closing, prospecting, Action Selling, Personality Tests, sales evaluations, sales tests, sales assessments, objective management group, selling power

Seth Godin Reinforces the Proper Sales Process

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 05, 2009 @ 09:03 AM

Seth Godin posted this article last week.  Read it it's very short and a very good story.

He finished with, "Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.  Interact first, sell second"

When I help companies with their sales process it always leads to:

  • shorter sales cycles as a result of the process itself
  • higher average sales as a result of the value added to the process
  • higher margins due to selling at their price instead of selling on price
  • selling last instead of selling first.

It's the last point I want to talk about.  I use the Baseline Selling process with clients because (I wrote the book) it's the simplest, easiest to implement and apply, most memorable and  salespeople take to it the quickest.  There hasn't been a company to date where, once the salespeople reach 1st base (face to face or 1st phone meeting) that they aren't skipping over to third base and immediately running home (presenting the value proposition, the company story, a solution, etc.)  They skip all of the real estate between 1st and 3rd base where all the actual selling takes place!

You tell them Seth!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Salesforce, closing, Seth Godin, sales presentations

Your Salespeople Call on the Wrong People and Expect Them to Buy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 30, 2008 @ 10:10 AM

I speak quite often to groups comprised primarily of CEO's and Presidents.  Yesterday was a good example of that, with about 100 people in the audience.  There were 35 No-Shows, most of whom did not have the title of President or CEO. 

I speak about sales force issues that are meaningful to Presidents and CEO's.  At the end of these keynotes I learn who is interested in getting some help driving sales excellence in their company.  The historical data from about 14 years of these keynotes show that about 80% of the Presidents and CEO's say "yes" while about 80% of the sales managers and Sales VP's say "no".  Surprised? 

Let's translate this to your business. How many sales opportunities fail to convert because your salespeople failed to meet with the individual(s) in the company that:

  1. cared the most
  2. had the power to cause change;
  3. had the ability to spend money despite a spending freeze;
  4. had the ability to spend more in the face of "buy low" policies;
  5. was committed to solving the problem;
  6. didn't have to run your proposal UP the food chain.

Will you ever do business with some of the "wrong" people?  Yes. And that's the problem.  If it worked once, maybe it will work again so your salespeople continue to hope against hope when they should be doing whatever it takes to meet/speak with the right people, those who actually have the ability to do business with you.

I can count on one hand the number of sales managers or sales VP's that made the decision to do business with my company over the years.  In my world it always begins with a CEO or President and then, after we have evaluated their sales force, we work with the VP or sales manager.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the sales managers and VP's who felt it was THEIR job to provide the expertise for which CEO's and Presidents hire my company.  Their job is to manage the sales force.  They are not experts in sales force evaluation, sales candidate assessment and selection, sales training and coaching, development, leadership, and the development and deployment of sales systems and processes. If they were, that work wouldn't make up such a huge part of the work we do with them! 

Even after engagement with a CEO/President, most sales managers and VP's do their best to prevent us from helping although once they begin working with us they come to embrace our help.

Back to your world. Identify all of the ways in which the wrong people your salespeople call on can hinder, delay, stall, block, interfere or otherwise screw up your salespeople's ability to get the business.

Make your list here.

Got yourself a good list? Have five to ten items on it?  Good - Live by it!  It's very low percentage selling so don't allow your salespeople to sell to those people. 

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales, Baseline Selling, sales management, selling, Salesforce, closing, sales competenices, sales targeting, sales assessments

The Sales Process, Closing More Sales, Raising Expectations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 29, 2008 @ 17:09 PM

Today I was interviewed by Lee Salz, host of Secrets of Business Gurus, an internet radio talk show.  Today's topic was "Sales Process Home Runs".  (It's so nice whem my interviewers tie baseball into our interviews!) We talked about the importance of a sales process and what's involved in building one.  We also talked about hiring the right salespeople to sell within that process.  Click here to listen to this compelling 30-minute discussion.

Speaking of Lee, he's a very busy guy.  He also runs Business Expert Webinars and I'll be featured on 10/16/08 at 11:30 AM ET. I'll be explaining "How to Close More Sales by Shortening Your Sales Cycle".  If you would like to register for the webinar, simply click here.

And speaking of speaking, if you're in the New England area, I'll be keynoting at an Executive Luncheon in Waltham on October 29.  "Raising Expectations and Elevating Performance" is my topic.  If you would like to attend that event, I can even arrange for a complimentary ticket.  Simply click here for more information and to register.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales process, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, closing, sales candidates

Sales Statistics That Reveal Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 26, 2008 @ 06:09 AM

Jeff Angus, author of the Management by Baseball Blog, wrote this lengthy article in response to my Pitch Count post from last week. While Part I of his manifesto explores pitch count as it relates to injury and effectiveness, he brings up another important point. He talks about the best pitchers not learning how to win by not being expected or conditioned to finish the games they start.

There is certainly a correlation there.  We have four stereotypical groups of salespeople:

 Hunt Close
 1  Yes  No
 2  Yes  Yes
 3  No  No
 4  No  Yes

As you can see from the table above, the Type 1 salesperson also has difficulty finishing, not because of expectations and conditioning, but because of ineffective selling as the salesperson works through the sales cycle. You have salespeople like this! They have plenty of opportunities in the pipeline but very few of them get closed. Some of these salespeople are actually thought to be good closers because they close more new business than anyone else on your team.  But are they closing more new business because they're effective closers, effective salespeople or because they simply have more opportunities than anyone else?

This is one of those scenarios where salespeople are seriously misevaluated by management. The question is, if you place their performance under a microscope do you see your best salesperson or your worst salesperson?

If you lack metrics, then the only thing you will see is that salesperson type #1 closed 6 deals last month, double what everyone else closed.

On the other hand, if you have metrics, you can examine conversion ratios:

  • suspect to prospect,
  • prospect to qualified opportunity,
  • qualified to closable and
  • closable to closed 

The conversion ratios may reveal that Salesperson Type 4 closed only 1 - only one suspect that converted through each phase of the sales cycle.  These same ratios could reveal that Salesperson Type 1 may have closed 6, but he had 36 suspects. He appears to be a closer, but in reality, he is only a hunter and his ineffective selling causes him to waste time, screw up or fail to convert a whopping 86% of their opportunities. The salesperson who appears to be your best closer is probably your worst closer! This finding also supports my post from earlier this week on a possible reason why a "top salesperson" could perform poorly on OMG's Sales Assessment.

Referring back to the table at the top of this post, how many of your salespeople are truly type 2 salespeople who consistently find and close a lot of opportunities?

What would happen if all of your salespeople were type 2's?

Did you just experience an increase in sales?

So the question becomes, how do you get from where you are today with your type 1's, 3's and 4's, to where you need to be, with all type 2's?

If you evaluate your sales force, you'll get the answer to that important question! If you act on that answer and more, you'll build a sales organization that will really kick some butt.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales force evaluation, closing, prospecting, cold calls, Baseball, pitch count, sales core competency, sales effectiveness

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

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