How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Paths

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 2,000,000 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

10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 @ 12:04 PM

past or present

It's April 17 and nearly every salesperson is selling from home.  It's just temporary, right?

Maybe.  But what if it's not? According to the President, Vice-President, Scientists and some Governors, the economy will begin reopening in stages, perhaps as soon as May 1.  So it's back to the office and your territories, right?  Wrong.  You'll still be home.  Welcome to the future of selling where I'll share my top five reasons why.

Reason #1 - School: Your kids are still home from school, they probably won't be back this spring, they probably won't be going to summer camp, and may not even be at school in September.  And if they're home, then your salespeople are home too.

Reason #2 - Efficiency: Once your salespeople have begun to sell not only remotely, but virtually via video conferencing, you'll quickly realize that they can meet with 6-8 prospects and/or accounts per day, compared with 2-3 when they're traveling in a territory.  Think about how much more business they can generate and how many more touches your customers will get from your salespeople?

Reason #3 - Cost: Depending upon your business model, the cost of cars, gas and maintenance, parking, airfare and hotel, meals and entertainment can be drastically reduced or even eliminated when your salespeople are selling virtually. 

Reason #4 - Coverage: Many companies don't have enough coverage to blanket the entire region, country, or continent.  Their customers are spread out so they deploy salespeople where most of their customers are.  With virtual selling, your salespeople can reach every customer that's out there.

Reason #5 - CRM Compliance:  Your salespeople have great excuses for not keeping their CRM up-to-date.  They were "traveling", "on the road", "away from their computers", "unable to get to it", or they forgot.  But when they are selling via the very same piece of hardware that their CRM is in, there are no longer any excuses for lack of compliance.  It will finally be time for them to live in CRM and you'll finally have the visibility into real-time data that you wanted when you invested in your CRM platform.

Although those five reasons as to why selling from home will become the new normal, you should be forewarned.  Selling from home is not without its challenges.  Three primary challenges will make selling from home difficult:

Challenge #1 - Only 41% of all salespeople are well-suited for working from home.  This speaks to whether they are self-starters, can work independently from a team, and can work without supervision.

Challenge #2 - Sales Managers will need to coach more, not less, increasing the time they spend on coaching to as much as 75%.  Unfortunately, most don't spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Sales Managers will need to huddle with their team twice per day despite the fact that most haven't even begun leading daily huddles yet.  Only 7% of all sales managers have the coaching skills required to coach up a remote team.

Challenge #3 - The new world of selling will appear very much like it appears today, only everyone will get better at it.  They must!  Selling has been pretty easy the past three years and despite that, fewer than half of all salespeople were meeting or exceeding quota.  It won't become easy again for a quite a while.  Companies will either be on spending freezes, have money but not want to spend it on what you're selling, or if they are buying, will demand that you sell it for less than ever before.  All this at a time when it's more important than ever that you maintain your margins.  This will require your salespeople to master three competencies that most salespeople aren't very good at:

Competency #1 - Consultative Selling - only 15% of all salespeople effectively differentiate by listening and asking great questions

Competency #2 - Value Selling - only 41% of all salespeople have the ability to be the value

Competency #3 - Qualifying - only 31% of all salespeople can thoroughly qualify an opportunity

Good luck!

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, qualifying, value selling,, selling remotely, selling from home, selling virtually, video conferencing

Companies Surprised by Unexpected Remote Selling Challenges

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 09, 2020 @ 17:04 PM

roller-coaster

Forget Consultative Selling, Value Selling and Sales Process - the things I talk about most often.  The inability to sell that way is nothing - and I mean nothing compared with what I'm going to explain today!

For most salespeople and companies, the last three weeks has been an absolute roller coaster. Most companies expect their sales teams to be not only active, but proactive; to replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings; and to continue pipeline building so that there is business to close when we return to work.  But is that what's happening?  In today's article, I'll blend my usual mix of statistics with some personal observation from the clients I have been helping for the past three weeks.  I also included three videos that I extracted from a sales training session earlier this week.  You'll be surprised!

Yesterday, in a previously scheduled virtual training program to a global seller of test equipment, I learned that they weren't handling the "new" objections (we're not meeting with anyone now; we're not spending any money now) in a way that was consistent with how I trained them to handle objections just one month ago!  This helpful one-minute video about handling these objections was extracted from the training.

 

I was further surprised when I asked them if they had moved their face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.  Only 3 of their 18 salespeople were doing that!  This two-minute rant about their lack of virtual meetings was also extracted from that training.

 

I was surprised again when I asked if they were making outgoing calls and building pipeline on deals they couldn't close today.  Less than a third of them were doing so.  My final three-minute rant, extracted from that training, is about their lack of proactive calling.

 

Should I have been surprised?  Upset?

Kurlan & Associates had Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluate this company's sales force last summer and the following bullet points are among the things we learned about their sales team that are still very relevant today:

  • Their regional sales managers weren't coaching - ever.
  • Their sales managers weren't holding their salespeople accountable and  83% of their salespeople were making excuses.
  • 75% of their salespeople weren't motivated and 84% weren't goal orientated.
  • Nearly half of their salespeople are fishermen (they won't hunt but they'll follow up on an inbound lead), half were potential hunters (they would hunt if someone required them to but as I mentioned above, the sales managers aren't holding them accountable) and only one - one! was a pure hunter.
  • 75% of their salespeople had Closing as a weakness and their average score in the Closing competency was only 28!
  • Eleven out of twelve salespeople lacked commitment to achieve greater sales success
  • Half of their sales force was in the bottom 35 percentile of all salespeople
  • Only half of their salespeople were well-suited for working remotely.

Remember, these factors were discovered last summer and are still impacting their ability to get anything productive accomplished today.  In addition to these issues, they scored poorly in 9 selling Competencies other than Closing, 6 Sales DNA Competencies and 2 Will to Sell Competencies other than Commitment, Excuse Making and Motivation.  Click here if you want to see what the average scores are for nearly 2 million salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures, what they are in your industry, and what they are in your company.

Go back and review the last bullet point - suitable for working remotely.  In the old days - February 2020 - this finding only applied to salespeople who were covering a territory remotely from home office, and who worked for sales managers that didn't closely manage them.  Today it applies to every sales person on the planet that is not being closely managed by a sales manager.  With existing salespeople it's nice to know.  When you're hiring new remote salespeople, it's an important criteria of the recommendation to hire.  Under today's conditions, it could be the most important factor aside from selling capabilities.  Three of the key attributes of working remotely are:

  • Self-Starter
  • Works independently
  • Works without supervision

I looked at the data on the most recent 61,000 employed salespeople that OMG evaluated and found that only 41% overall were suitable for working remotely. 

Sales Percentile Percent Suitable
for Remote Selling
Elite (Top 5%) 67%
Strong (Next 15%) 61%
Serviceable 51%
Weak (Bottom 50%) 33%

As you can see in the table above, even a third of the best salespeople in the world aren't suitable for working remotely!  How will the bottom half perform?  And when two thirds of the bottom half can't effectively work from their homes, and most industrial salespeople fall into the bottom half, they're kind of screwed!

You can't make a salesperson who is not well-suited for working remotely suddenly suitable.  But as with the Pandemic, you can mitigate.  Have a conversation over video three times per day instead of once per week!

These times are different enough.  You shouldn't have any use for a salesperson who won't double down, work twice as hard, and find business wherever they can right now.  

Comments?  Leave them here on the LinkedIn discussion.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, overcoming objections, delayed closings, remote selling

Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 @ 23:03 PM

recession-1

Given the current circumstances - a Global Pandemic and an economy where so many industries have been shut down or compromised - selling value will be more important than ever.  

The result of selling value is that you are able to win the business despite not having the best price. But when we talk about selling value, what does it really mean?

One sales expert who reached out to me last week was worried that when we are focusing on the Value Selling Competency, uninformed salespeople interpret that as an invitation to present the company's value proposition.  They see it as an opportunity to show and tell and talk about capabilities.  He's right.  Most salespeople will seize on an opportunity to share what they know because it is so much easier than asking lots of tough, timely questions.  Let's take a look at the science.  

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated or assessed 1,961,459 salespeople.  In the table below, you can see the percentage of salespeople who are strong in 3 Sales Core Competencies, as well as Sales DNA (average score of the 6 competencies that make up Sales DNA).  All of these impact one's ability to Sell Value and are presented below sorted by various groups of salespeople. 

Group

Selling
Value

Sales
Process
Consultative
Selling
Sales DNA
All Salespeople 41% 45% 15% 28%
Top 5% of All Salespeople 97% 85% 60% 100%
Less Than 2 Years Experience 6% 29% 6% 11%
More Than 10 Years Experience 53% 53% 20% 37%
Bottom 50% of All Salespeople 11% 27% 3% 1%

This isn't a pretty picture because it basically shows that except for the top 5%, most salespeople suck at selling value.

There are four reasons for this:

  • They aren't following or using a sales process that supports Value Selling - only 45% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.
  • They aren't using a consultative approach and value selling won't work without one - only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.
  • Their Sales DNA doesn't support consultative or value selling - only 28% of all salespeople have Sales DNA as a strength
  • The company hasn't been decisive about not discounting - it sends conflicting messages.

You can't really get salespeople to properly and effectively sell value until they have been trained on sales process, consultative selling and been coached up on Sales DNA.

Circling back to the sales consultant who reached out last week, I suggested that selling value uses a consultative approach where:

  • The consequences of the problem are monetized or quantified and the solution is a fraction of the cost.
  • The salesperson, as a result of their care, concern and expertise, becomes the value.
  • The salesperson is valued as a trusted advisor compared to competitors who are mostly viewed as vendors.

Selling value will help your company navigate the economic ripple effect from the Coronavirus.  You'll not only continue to generate revenue,  you'll be able to maintain your margins too.

I've referenced only 3 (plus Sales DNA) of the 21 Sales Core Competencies in this article.  You can view the data on all 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your sales team compares here.

Comments?  Leave them in the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales force evaluation, selling in the recession, coronavirus

3 Steps You Must Take Today to Save Your Company From This Economic Downturn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

3-steps

You know the stories of the Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, and baseball fans have just heard about The Three Batter Minimum (how stupid!).  We're not going to discuss any of those threes today but we will talk about the three things companies must do, right now, in this quickly disintegrating economy, to drive revenue.

First, I'll share my Three Rants.

In the past couple of weeks, I recorded three, very powerful, very important and very relevant 2-minute video rants.

Rant #1 - Less is More So Don't Talk So Much

Rant #2 - What's Wrong with Value Propositions and Elevator Pitches

Rant #3 - Why You Can't Wait Another Day to Change the Way You Sell

With those three rants digested, let's discuss business  The economy is in trouble - not forever, but for now - and things will unravel in this order.

  • Large companies will enact spending freezes, stop issuing PO's and hold up payments on orders in progress
  • Those spending freezes will trickle down through the shipping industry, the suppliers that sell to large companies and those firms who sell to them
  • The consequences of bullets 1 and 2 will quickly hit consumers in the form of layoffs

Salespeople, who just yesterday were crushing their numbers, won't.  Those who were missing quotas will be unable to sell anything.  Transactional selling (why you should buy it from us/me instead of them) will stop working all together.  Consultative Selling (why you should buy this despite the lack of funding) is the only approach that will work at all.  

Here's the problem with that.  According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,958,990 salespeople, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  And that number is misleading because most of those 15% make up the top 5% of all salespeople.  60% of the top 5% have Consultative Selling as a strength but only 3% of the bottom half of all salespeople do.  And bad news, most of your salespeople are in the bottom 50%!

There are three things you must absolutely do, right now, today, to have any chance of getting out in front of what's coming.

1.  Have OMG evaluate your sales force.  While the findings and insights are incredible, the specific findings and insights that should be important today are:

  1. How to make the right decisions to right-size or down-size your sales organization.  Who is most well-suited to grow the business in each of your selling roles and who isn't?
  2. How big is the gap that your salespeople must overcome to become proficient at a sales process that supports both consultative and value based selling, who will be able to make the transition, how long will it take, and how much training and coaching will be required?
  3. How big is the gap that your sales managers must overcome to become proficient at sales coaching to support those salespeople?

There are dozens of other relevant, useful and important insights and findings but those are the three that you must have the answers for today.

2. Optimize your Sales Infrastructure. 

  1. Your sales process must be optimized to support this kind of selling
  2. The sales process must be milestone-centric and it must build upon itself. 
  3. Eliminate the dead wood on the sales force - less is more.  
  4. Replace them with great salespeople who will suddenly be available but make sure you use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment to select them.  Now is not the time to lose 8-12 months because you value gut instinct over science!
  5. Now is the time to dump the CRM tool your salespeople refuse to live in (bye-bye salesforce-dot-com) and replace it with one that integrates your optimized sales process and pipeline, has built-in playbooks and focuses on sales opportunities instead of data entry (hello Membrain.com.  
  6. Eliminate unnecessary layers of management and right-size the reporting structure.  Ideal=6-8 reps reporting to a sales manager and 3-5 sales managers reporting to a Regional sales manager.

3. Train, Train, Train, Drill, Drill, Drill, Coach, Coach, Coach

  1. Get the proper sales management training that will turn your sales managers into coaching machines
  2. Get the proper sales training that will turn your salespeople into consultative sellers
  3. Run daily drills so that they can practice on someone other than their prospects!

You really can get out in front of this and continue to drive revenue if your salespeople can effectively side-step the resistance, create urgency, properly differentiate, sell value instead of price, and not become discouraged over all of the rejection they will be facing in the coming months.

Or you can put your head in the sand, believe that what worked last month will work next month, and wait until your cash flow is upside down and by then it will be too late.

Your choice.

Comments?  Leave them on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, selling in the recession

Is Your Sales Force More Like a Dunkin', Starbucks or Panera Drive Thru?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 21, 2020 @ 06:01 AM

starbucks

On a frigid New England morning, I pulled into a Dunkin' drive thru and noticed that there were only ten cars ahead of me and that meant that it shouldn't take more than five minutes to get through the fast-moving line.  Contrast that to the Starbucks drive thru.  There were five cars ahead of me and that could take from ten to fifteen minutes because of how long it takes to prepare beverages at Starbucks.  That ten to fifteen minutes is a freakin' dream come true compared to Panera Bread.  I don't know if you have Panera Bread where you are but I love the food at Panera.  However, if there was ever a restaurant chain that shouldn't have a drive thru window, Panera, at least the one in my town, fits the bill.  When I pull into the Panera line, I see that there are two cars ahead of me and I know for certain that it's going to take twenty minutes to get through their line.  At lunch time I order ahead using their app but on that cold New England morning I'm not getting out of the car so I'm going to live or die by the drive thru.  Yet despite the intolerable wait times and ridiculously bad customer service, I return time and time again.  All it takes is to reset my expectations so that I no longer get upset with the twenty-minute wait.

This all begs the question, is the sales force at your company more like the Dunkin', Starbucks, or Panera drive-thru?  Today's article will explain how to answer that question.

If your sales force meets or exceeds budget and the revenue flows through the pipeline easily and consistently, then you have a Dunkin'-like sales force.  It only seems to take a couple of people to make a Dunkin' line zip right along so your sales force is mean and lean and gets the job done.

If your sales force meets budget, but it takes a lot of hand-holding, pressure, accountability, hard work and additional reps to do it, you have a Starbucks-like sales force.  It seems to take at least four baristas to move a Starbucks line along but they make it happen.

If you have to lower your expectations, and the sales force still fails to meet budget, then you have a Panera-like sales force.  You don't have enough reps, those you do have under-perform, most projected closes are delayed, and your win rate is very low.  It seems that Panera has a single employee taking drive thru orders, making the food, packaging the order, collecting the money and handing over the order before miserably taking the next order.

The reality is that those three drive thru lines perfectly describe most sales forces.  

Do you remember the old ads for the car rental companies?  Hertz advertised that "We're number one."  Avis marketed that because they were number two, "We try harder."

I would say the same is true for the Starbucks-like sales force.  While Dunkin' is like the Apple sales force selling iPhones, with people waiting in line to place their orders, the Starbucks-like sales force tries harder.  They have to work for every order and since their products are more expensive, they must utilize the more difficult consultative approach, and sell value to generate revenue.

Consultative selling is more difficult because it depends on the two skills that most salespeople have not come close to mastering; listening and questioning.

As you can see below from ten of the twenty-one selling competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) measures, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  Only the Closing competency has a smaller percentage of salespeople who are strong in the competency.  And this isn't from some small sample size.  This is data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,937,474

selling-competencies-1

Let's drill down into a few of the ten attributes of the Consultative Seller competency.  We find that only:

  • 27% of salespeople have listening skills as a strength
  • 24% have Asks Enough Questions as a strength
  • 41% have Asks Good Questions as a strength.

It's pretty ugly.

The Starbucks-like sales force has mastered the consultative approach but most sales forces have not.  What does it take to move from "have not" to "have mastered?"

Lots and lots of training and coaching on consultative selling in the context of a consultative sales process.  And you should have your sales force evaluated by an OMG-Certified sales expert to properly set expectations as to how long it will take, who can improve, how much improvement to expect, and how much more revenue you should expect.  And that's just on the Consultative competency.  You should want to know that about all twenty-one sales core competencies!

Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales, sales process, sales leadership, panera, dunkin, starbucks

The Most Successful Negotiation is The Negotiation That Isn't Needed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 09, 2019 @ 05:12 AM

driving-in-the-snow

The last few years it seems that each time it snows, even a little, they cancel school.  Are school officials convinced that parents and bus drivers will put kids' safety in jeopardy because snow is falling?  They weren't worried about such things when I was growing up  and back then, we didn't have cell-phones, all-wheel drive, anti-lock breaks, traction control, all-weather radials, blind spot warning, collision warning or lane assist!  Winter drivers are better equipped to deal with snow than at any time in history so cancelling school every time it snows doesn't make any sense.

Another thing that doesn't make any sense is the "Negotiate" step I see in the sales processes of most companies.  Why is it there?  Why are we negotiating?  What are we negotiating? How are we negotiating?  The only thing that's clear is when we are negotiating and apparently, it occurs just prior to closing.  Like cancelling school when it snows, it doesn't make any sense.

If we begin with the concept of why we are negotiating, it might answer the what and how questions too. If our salespeople are thoroughly qualifying, and they get their prospects to agree to share their budget, agree to a dollar amount or range, or better yet, that they'll spend more to do business with us, we should never have to negotiate prices, fees or cost.  Is that step in most sales processes?  It sure as sh*t should be!

So if we shouldn't be negotiating the price, are we negotiating terms?  In my experience, when salespeople qualifying properly, only terms need to sometimes be negotiated.  In the normal world, sellers set their terms; not buyers.  But in Bizarro sales world buyers (at most big companies) try to bully sellers into agreeing to their ridiculous terms. 

This week, one company said that their terms are Net 75.  I said, "I'm sorry, but we can't solve your problem and be your bank.  Our terms are due on receipt of invoice and it's non-negotiable." 

They said, "Oh, OK."

I could have said, "If you can get us 50% on receipt of invoice, we'll let you pay the balance net 30.  Would that have been a negotiation?  Of course it would.  But it would be the exception, not the rule, and it wouldn't require a negotiation step in the sales process!

The existence of a step in the sales process requires that we must always execute this step.  The belief that we must negotiate price, terms, deliverables or anything else puts salespeople in a situation where they are expected to sacrifice profitability.  And companies wonder why their margins are being squeezed.

According to data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments of 1,925,985 salespeople, only 13% of all salespeople have the Negotiator competency as a strength. Only 13%!!  If you force your salespeople to negotiate, most of them will give away the farm!  OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and while the Negotiator competency isn't one of the 21, you can see the data on the 21 Sales Competencies and how you and your salespeople compare here,

Instead of negotiating, your salespeople should be mastering selling value.  Selling value completely neutralizes the need for negotiating and while fewer than 50% of all salespeople have the Value Seller competency as a strength, that's a lot better than the percentage of salespeople who can negotiate.

Stop telling your salespeople to negotiate and get them the training and coaching they need to effectively sell value.  The most successful negotiation is one that never occurs.

What do you think?  Leave your comments on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, negotiating, selling value

The Top 15 Sales and Sales Leadership Articles of 2019

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 04, 2019 @ 13:12 PM

best-of-2019

Just when it seems that I don't have any more articles to write, another year has passed and I've now surpassed 1,800 articles on my Blog.  As with any other year, some are really good and some aren't as good but I try to inject my style of using analogies because everywhere I look I see a correlation to sales and sales leadership.

For example, as I look out the window, Dinger, our Golden Doodle, is trying to find a good place to do his business in the snow.  He picks a spot, rejects it, chooses another, rejects it, and circles around and gets distracted, and asks to come back inside without having done what he went out there to do.

To me, that sounds like a lot of salespeople!  They sit at their desk, open their list of prospects, come up with reasons not to call or follow up, finally choose a prospect they feel good about calling, get distracted by an incoming email, get a cup of coffee, go back to the computer, choose another contact, get distracted again, this time by social media, and leave for lunch without having done what they were supposed to do.

After reviewing the 50 or so 2019 articles, I have chosen the top 10 articles based on views, comments here and comments and likes on LinkedIn and Twitter..  Most of these articles rely on statistics from Objective Management Group and/or correlate to strong analogies.  Enjoy!

10 Most Popular Articles (Views, Comments and Likes)

1. The 14 Lies Preventing Salespeople from Getting Their Prospects into a Buying State of Mind

2. Change in Approach Leads to 304% Increase in Sales Effectiveness

3. The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

4. How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness

5. The Best Salespeople are 2733% More Likely to Have This Than the Worst Salespeople

6. How All Those Trucks ion the Road Can Help You Stop Discounting

7. New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

8. Sales Process and Why So Many Salespeople Lose Their Way

9. How to Transform Your Sales Pipeline Today

10. The Best Salespeople are 791% Better at This Than Weak Salespeople

The Red Sox are my favorite baseball team but they didn't make the playoffs this year.  It doesn't always work out that my favorite teams are champions!  Similarly, five of my favorite articles from 2019 failed to make it into this year's top 10.  

My Favorites from 2019

1. The New Salesenomics

2. Did You Know That the Beatles Taught us about Selling

3. Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

4. A Tale of Three Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

5. New Data Reveals a Powerful New Score for Sales Effectiveness 

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, sales performance, sales effectivnes

New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

current

Fish, rafts, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and swimmers all find much more success when they are moving with the wind or the current rather than going against it.

Unfortunately, the same isn't necessarily true in sales.

Most salespeople who are struggling with large companies and all of the meetings, procedures, stakeholders, vendor options and criteria, find it easier to just go with the flow - the current - and wait and see how it all shakes out.  Following the "current" results in a future outcome rather than a "current" outcome.  In other words, current = future.

On the other hand, when salespeople are confident enough to ask questions, challenge their process, and nicely push back, they will not only differentiate themselves from their competition,  they might be able to disrupt the current, move themselves to the top of the list, and get a current outcome instead of a future outcome.  In other words, anti-current=current.

There are three keys to succeed with this approach.

The first key to having success with this approach is whether or not you need to be liked.  This is not about whether you can get people to like you.  This is about whether you NEED people to like you.  They are two completely different things and NEEDING people to like you is a huge barrier to disrupting the flow. 

Consider that 79% of the top 10% of all salespeople DO NOT need to be liked, while only 8% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength.  

The second key to having success with this approach is whether or not you can stay in the moment.  The opposite of being able to stay in the moment is when you talk to yourself, worry, get excited, or strategize on the fly. 

66% of the top 10% of all salespeople are able to stay in the moment while only 10% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength. 

The third key to having success with this approach is whether or not you understand and agree with their buying process.  68% of the top 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process and therefore, don't understand why the prospect needs to comparison shop, look for a better price or think it over.  By contrast, only 2% of the bottom 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process as a strength.  

When we take the average of these three elements of Sales DNA, 71% of the top salespeople have these strengths and only 2.5% of the worst salespeople have these strengths. These three are huge differentiators between studs and duds! Top salespeople are twenty-eight times more likely to disrupt the flow and get a current outcome.

Those elements of Sales DNA are just three out of a total of twenty-one Sales Competencies that are measured by Objective Management Group. You can see them graphed here.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, objective management group

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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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