"Spirited" Has So Much in Common with Most Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 29, 2022 @ 07:11 AM

Watch new trailer for holiday comedy 'Spirited,' starring Will Ferrell and  Ryan Reynolds - Good Morning America

Last week we watched Spirited, the new Apple TV Plus take on the old Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.  In this lighthearted film, Will Ferrell is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Ryan Reynolds is the 2022 version of Scrooge.  This Scrooge is a funny, selfish, materialistic, song and dance man, who is irredeemable. Can Will Farrell's character redeem Ryan Reynolds' character?

As usual, the movie got me thinking about salespeople and Understanding the Sales Force.

Ryan Reynold's character, Clint Briggs, is a fabulous showman, salesperson, and marketing consultant rolled into one.  The problem is that he never considers anyone or anything other than himself and his personal success..

There is a correlation between Clint Briggs and salespeople, many of whom are also irredeemable, but for different reasons. 

Most salespeople - 87% - still sell like it's 1975 and fall into one of three buckets:

  1. They sell transactionally. In other words, they talk about their company, their products and services, themselves, their features and benefits, and try to leverage that for a sale.
  2. They rely on demos to generate interest and then try to close.
  3. They rely on having the lowest price and take orders.

Only 13% of all salespeople take a consultative approach to selling and almost none of them can be found in the bottom 50% - the group that fails to meet quota each year.  A coincidence? On the other end of the spectrum, the top 10% of all salespeople are 4300% more likely to have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength!

Are the 87% redeemable?  Can they make the transition from transactional sellers, demo-focused presenters, and price focused order takers to professional, consultative sellers?  Only an OMG (Objective Management Group) sales team evaluation (SEIA) can answer that questionDownload free samples of the sales team evaluation here.

Spirited does have three things in common with prior versions of A Christmas Story and those are the ghosts of Christmas' past, present and future.  That got me thinking about the articles I wrote in 2022, the articles you'll see in December, and what you can look forward to in 2023.

Our ghost of articles past reminds us that we began 2022 talking about whether buying has changed and if salespeople have adapted.  We followed that up with our 6th installment in the popular Bob Chronicles about salespeople who make things your problem.  Then came an article about the 10 Unwritten Rules of Prospects and how to break them.  

February began with an article on how hiring salespeople the right way yields 62% less turnover and 80% higher quotas.  We followed that up with the similarities between cyber thieves, hackers and most salespeople.  No kidding!  Then came this favorite, the 7th installment of the Bob Chronicles about salespeople who can't close closable business.  I love the Bob articles!  Then I provided 10 steps to crush your sales forecasts.  Finally, our last article in February was my review of a prospecting email with some elements that could actually work for salespeople.

March started with an article explaining how salespeople with a high tolerance for money are 4,000 percent better than those with a low tolerance for money.  That's a huge differentiator!  Next was the comparison between great baseball coaches and great sales coaches.  Then I began a new series of my most popular videos and rants.  It started with the top 10 but there are now nearly 2 dozen popular videos and rants to watch! 

April started with another baseball analogy - this one about how the philosophy of great pitching coaches can improve your sales team.  Then I explained how to identify the accurate reason for a salesperson who is not performing.  

May's first article had my 5 simple steps to grow sales by 33%.  Really!  May ended with an article about how to prepare your sales team to thrive in a recession.

In June, I explained how salespeople like to go fast but good salespeople actually go slow and followed that up with an article on the benefits of competency-based assessments.   

In July, I wrote about why you can't afford to lose customers or salespeople right now.  Then I wrote about big company strategies that small and medium businesses can emulate.  The last article of July explained the differences in requirements for success in different selling roles

August began with one of my trademark takedowns of a junk-science article with 20 attributes of successful salespeople. Not. That was followed with an article about how to stop account churn.  Then I explained how my car's qualifying ability is a great example of how salespeople should qualify. Then came the article that explained how salespeople would be impacted by the 15% minimum corporate tax and how difficult it would be for the IRS to hire 80,000 agents.  Sorry if reporting on an actual news story offended some of you.  The post that should have gotten people upset but didn't was when I compared the sorry and pathetic Boston Red Sox to most sales teams.  Not a single complaint about that one!  My final article in August was another baseball analogy where I compared closing a tough sale to hitting a home run.

In September I found and shared an article with a doctor's testimonial about the importance of his salespeople.  Awesome!  Then I wrote about 10 attributes that do not differentiate top from bottom salespeople.  Next up was my tortured message to the masses wondering why more companies don't use OMG.  Then came another takedown of a Harvard Business Review article that appeared online.  The last article in September talked about how you can double your revenue in a recession.  

October began with my personal life comparison of Jeeps and Infinities and how that analogy holds up when interpreting an OMG sales candidate assessment for hiring salespeople.  My 8th installment of the Bob Chronicles looked at the difference between selling skills and effectiveness.  Then I compared alleged criminals who are released under cashless bail to underperforming salespeople who are released back into the field.   My final October article explored the correlation between motivation and sales compensation.

In November I wondered if salespeople will sell more effectively when sales managers sell and coach and if new sales managers can be difference makers.  Then I wrote a take-down of a Wall Street Journal article about selling to millennials.  My most recent article compared my failing wiper blades to why executives fail to take action when they have underperforming sales teams.

Which of these articles will make the list of the top 10 articles of the year?  Stay tuned for the December reveal as well as my annual Nutcracker post.  In 2023 I'll be focusing even more on how you can use OMG's data to improve sales performance.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales performance, sales tips, sales effectiveness, sales assessments, sales team

How Many Authors Does it Take to Screw in a LightBulb Highlighting Selling Skills?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 22, 2022 @ 15:09 PM

Indeed - Home | Facebook

A few years had passed since the last time I wrecked an hbr.com (Harvard Business Review online) article about sales.  If you haven't been reading the Blog for the last sixteen years you may have missed my previous fourteen take downs.

Why Do You Think Harvard Business Review Does This When it Comes to Sales?
The Challenge of the Challenger Sales Model - The Facts
Harvard Business Review Blog Off Target on Sales Greatness
Harvard Business Review Blog Post Gets Salespeople Wrong
Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on Sales
How Wrong is the Harvard Business Review Article on How to Hire Salespeople?
Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR
Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings
Top 10 Questions for Salespeople to Ask and Stay Away From
What Customers Expect From Your Salespeople and More
HBR or OMG - Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople?
More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog
Now That You Have a Sales Process, Never Mind
I
s SELLING an Afterthought in Today's Sales Model?  

Dan Caramanico alerted me to this dubious September 19, hbr.com article that explains their 5 Skills Every Salesperson Needs to Succeed.  It took three consultants to screw in the lightbulb that illuminates their five stupid-as-shit skills so let's take a look:

The five skills they claim everyone should have are not sales skills at all.  In their defense, their title doesn't state they are sales skills, but instead, skills that salespeople need to have.  As you read these, ask yourself, does EVERY salesperson need these skills, do certain salespeople need these skills, or do any salespeople need these skills?

  1. Anticipating the Customer's Tomorrow
  2. Collaborating Inside and Out
  3. Leveraging Digital and Virtual Channels
  4. Ability to Get Power from Data
  5. Capacity to Adapt

The three authors looked at sales job postings on Indeed and extracted their five skills of choice by looking at some of the requirements listed by enterprise companies, like Apple, Grainger, Microsoft, Pfizer, Bank of America and 3M.

Enterprise companies are rarely representative of small, medium and mid-market companies.  If we study industries that are considered old-school, like industrial distribution or building materials, they wouldn't even consider skills like these being associated with sales.  They're just learning what CRM is!

Let's look more closely at #3, digital and virtual.  This requirement simply states that salespeople must be able to use the tools that all salespeople have learned to use, like Zoom, LinkedIn, MS Office, and CRM.  In this day and age, those requirements are no different than twenty years ago when it was a requirement for a salesperson to have typing skills!

If we look at the top five sales skills that every salesperson - EVERY SALESPERSON IN EVERY ROLE - needs to have in order to succeed, I would choose these (data courtesy of Objective Management Group (OMG):

  1. Reaches Decision Makers - you can have all five of the skills listed in the hbr.com article but if a salesperson can't reach and meet with the decision maker, the skills listed above and below cannot be leveraged.  Salespeople who reach decision makers are 341% more likely to close the business.
  2. Consultative Seller - Salespeople must uniquely differentiate themselves and provide the prospect with an ideal solution that is both cost and needs appropriate.  The best way to do that is with a consultative approach based on excellent listening and questioning skills, attributes of the Consultative Seller competency at which only 11% of all salespeople are strong
  3. Value Selling - The ability to sell at a profitable margin is very important to most companies.  Selling Value is the skill that drives profit but it requires a set of beliefs, strategies and tactics to support the effort.  Simply spouting off a company's value proposition will not get the job done.  Only 31% of all salespeople have Selling Value as a strength.
  4. Qualifying - The win rate is driven by a salesperson's ability to thoroughly qualify an opportunity and there is a direct correlation between unqualified and lost, and fully qualified and won.  Only 21% of all salespeople have the Qualifying Competency as a strength.
  5. Sales Process - A custom staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process will support and enhance a salesperson's ability to use a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify a decision maker's ability to buy.  Only 34% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.

These five skills are Sales Core Competencies at which all salespeople must be good.  Compare these five competencies to the five skills in the hbr.com article and you will easily see that their five skills, without my five competencies, won't get a deal done.  On the flip side, I would argue that my five competencies, even without their five skills, will still get a deal done.

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies with an average of 8 attributes per competency.  OMG measures all 21 of them and there is an online tool where you can see the data behind all 21 Sales Core Competencies and break it down by industry and Sales Percentile.  OMG has assessed 2,253,218 salespeople.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales CRM, reaching decision makers, selling value

Which is Worse - The Boston Red Sox or Your Sales Team?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 23, 2022 @ 07:08 AM

fenway

I wrote the best-seller, Baseline Selling, so it should come as no surprise that I'm a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan.  I'll be at Fenway Park for a game this week and I had some thoughts about how the Red Sox compare to many of the sales teams that get evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).

The Red Sox are not very good. They have become difficult to watch, and have morphed from a 2018 World Series champion, to a 2021 playoff team, and now to a last place team because their roster was so poorly constructed.  In the off-season and at the trading deadline, the Red Sox waited until the other teams made their big moves and the dust had settled. Then, from among the players that were still available (nobody wanted them), he made some bargain basement signings or traded players who will be due for big contracts and got little in return (again).  The result is a bad team with only a handful of stars and a supporting cast of broken parts, guys playing out of position, and minor leaguers filling in for injured players.  Do you know how bad a team has to be to score ten runs and still lose by five?

Most sales teams that go through the OMG evaluation process have a couple of stars but most of the salespeople are not very good (bargain basement hirings), not in an ideal role (out of position), and aren't contributing to the growth of their companies.

The construction of the Red Sox roster is simply a Stupid as Shit Strategy or SaSS. Use of the word strategy means that it's intentional and is a disservice to the word stupid!

Sales team construction usually lacks formal strategy and that suggests something accidental is at play. We tend to see the "we already had these salespeople" and then "these are the new salespeople who were willing to work for us." New is a relative term as the newest 30% of the team continues to churn when and if they find candidates.

In both examples, we have teams that appear to be underperforming when in fact, they suck because of poor selection.  I'm not letting managers off the hook as they are responsible for coaching up the people on their teams but let's face it.  If the right people were acquired in the first place, they wouldn't require much coaching!  

It's common knowledge that for the past several years, only around 50% of all salespeople meet or exceed quota. Are they underperforming or performing as they should based on their own capabilities?  I mined some data from the 2,242,971 salespeople that OMG has assessed. What follows helps to explains why:

OMG measures the difference between salespeople who can sell versus those who will.  Only 55% of all salespeople will sell.

Only 22% have the necessary Sales DNA (combination of strengths that supports the execution of sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics) to succeed in their roles.

Only 41% have Hunting as a strength and only 34% prospect consistently so pipelines fall short of target.

Only 43% have Relationship Building as a strength and only 29% are able to leverage their relationships to win business.

Only 34% follow an effective Sales Process so most salespeople are winging it while believing they are terrific.

Only 28% Reach Decision Makers but only 11% reach the final decision makers and only 1% of new salespeople reach those decision makers

Only 11% have Consultative Selling as a strength and only 7% get past nice to have.

Only 31% have Selling Value as a strength and only 25% of salespeople make purchases in a manner that support successful sales outcomes.

Finally, 50% of all salespeople are weak!!  Is it any wonder that only 50% of all reps hit quota?

More importantly, CEOs and Sales Leaders don't know what their salespeople are truly capable of because they read only what appears in the CRM application, hear only what their salespeople tell them and see only the monthly, quarterly and annual revenue numbers.  At most companies, the salesperson responsible for the most revenue is often among the worst salespeople on the team.  They might have the biggest and/or best accounts, or the most lucrative territory, decades of tenure in the industry, but they aren't selling as much as they are serving in the role of account manager and order taker.  Don't confuse revenue with sales effectiveness.

A professional sales team evaluation shows what prevents your team from achieving a higher win rate, higher margins, more new business and a shorter sales cycle.  Do you have the right salespeople in the right roles? How much better each can each salesperson become? What it will take to get them there and how long will it take?  Is your pipeline legit? Which of your salespeople can be trained or coached up to reach their potential?  Are your salespeople part of your future or part of your past?

You can guess or you can get the data.  Learn more about a sales team evaluation.  Request a sample.

This article began with poor sales team performance as a by-product of selection.  Start using OMG's sales candidate assessments - the most accurate and predictive sales selection tool in the world. Request a sample.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales assessments, objective management group, sales team evaluation

Can My Car Uncover Sales Qualification Criteria Better Than Most Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 08, 2022 @ 07:08 AM

If your car was manufactured in the last few years, you probably have a rear camera that helps you see your surroundings when you need to back up, back into a parking space, or drive backwards on the interstate at 65 MPH.  Okay, maybe not the last one.  Somehow, my Genesis GV80 always knows to display its rear and overhead cameras when I'm pulling into the garage.  Not backing into the garage, but driving forward into the garage.  That is helpful because I can pull in just far enough to leave the maximum amount of room in front of the car, but still clear the garage threshold enough for the garage door to close without hitting the back of the car.  If the car could speak, it would be saying, "Dave doesn't know what he can't see back there but he needs to see it right now.  So I'm going to turn off the map display and instead, give him the two-camera intelligence he needs."  It's crazy!

Pivot to sales.  Wouldn't it be great if salespeople had the equivalent of two camera intelligence to see what they don't know they need to see?

Two-camera intelligence for salespeople is probably science fiction - a pipe dream - but it would have a bigger impact for sales success than how the view of the garage threshold assists with my parking!

The two-camera rear view would allow salespeople to:

  • Inspect whether the answers provided by prospects truly answered their questions
  • Learn whether there is truly enough budget available and whether the prospect will spend more to do business with them
  • Learn who the real decision-makers are, why they are hiding, and how to get them engaged
  • Uncover the prospect's most compelling reasons to buy from them
  • Learn which of their competitors the prospect is talking with and how they compare
  • Discover the criteria (reasons) on which the prospect will make their decision
  • Discover the process (steps) by which the prospect will come to a decision
  • Uncover the timeline for a decision
  • Determine the prospect's level of commitment to solving their problem and moving forward
  • Understand exactly how they can be a perfect fit for the prospect
  • Determine how to improve their relationship with the prospect
  • Connect the dots to create a perfect needs and cost appropriate solution

Two-camera intelligence for salespeople would provide visibility into the 12 most important qualification criteria.  Interestingly, the best salespeople already have this intelligence in their tool bag.  87% of the top 5% of all salespeople - the very best salespeople - have visibility into these criteria because their high-quality, value-added conversations easily uncover this information. By comparison, only 1% of the bottom half of all salespeople have that visibility.  Just 1%.  The group in the 50th-80th percentile aren't much better as only 19% of them have the Qualifier competency as a strength. The Qualifier competency is just one of 21 Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG's sales candidate assessments and sales team evaluations.  You can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

All salespeople are told to qualify.  Some are trained to qualify.  Fewer are coached to qualify.  Most don't know how to properly qualify or they skip past it entirely because they fear that their opportunity won't qualify (they'll have to hunt for a new opportunity) or they fear that their prospect will become upset at them for asking the questions (their need to be liked).  If they plan to ask these questions like a survey, or like a game of 50 questions, then they should be afraid.  Qualifying doesn't work that way.  Salespeople must first build a case so that their prospects have an incentive to qualify themselves.  If the case hasn't been built, there isn't a prospect alive that would willingly subject themself to a dozen qualification questions.  The best salespeople know how to simply make this part of a wonderful two-way conversation that won't raise prospects' resistance.

Building a case is accomplished by taking a consultative approach to selling.  While weak salespeople are just as inept at consultative selling as they are at qualifying, only 49% of elite salespeople have mastered this competency.  Taking a consultative approach is clearly the achilles heal of the sales profession. 

Obviously, I won't send my car on my next sales call but most salespeople would fare better if they had my car's intelligence.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, comparison of top salespeople, sales core competencies, qualifying

Big Company Strategies That SMB Sales Teams Can Emulate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 11, 2022 @ 11:07 AM

apple-logo

On a recent Saturday I was running errands which took me through 3 local towns and a nearby city.  Even though I have traveled this route more than 5,000 times, it was the first time I noticed the difference in the various business signs along the road.

All of the national brands, chains, franchises, and well known businesses had professionally designed and recognizable logos.  All of the local, single-location, small businesses had signs that were crappy.  It would be a stretch to say their business signs displayed their logos because their signs, and probably their advertisements, just used different combinations of fonts that you have on your computer.  They were not professionally designed and they were definitely not attractive.  There was one exception.  The new BBQ/wings shop opening their second location has a very professional logo that makes them look like a national chain.  Not only does it draw ones eye to the store, it gives them instant credibility.  After all, isn't that one of the attractions of a franchise?  Even though you may operate a single location, you get to ride the coattails of their logo and reputation and instantly become a national or international business!

I know. The previous paragraph was about branding and marketing; not sales.  But there is a correlation to my theory that a slick, professionally designed logo, makes you look bigger and more successful. Give me a moment to explain how that applies to sales.

If a professionally designed logo makes you look bigger, more successful, and provides credibility, wouldn't the same theory apply to a professionally trained sales team?

Think about the last dozen or so B2B salespeople that have called on you.  From the cold emails, to the cold phone calls, to the demo where they read their own slides, to the unqualified proposal or quote and the agreement they want you to sign before you ever indicated you were interested in buying, 8 out of 10 salespeople suck at this.  These salespeople are basically throwing as much glue up in the air and just trying to see what sticks.  They close a deal here and there because of perfect timing and/or luck but missing from their arsenal are sales process, sales methodology and sales capabilities.

Data from Objective Management Group (OMG) backs this up.

The top 5% of all salespeople have elite selling skills.
The next 15% are very strong.
The next 30% are serviceable - at best. 
The bottom 50% are pretty crappy.

When a crappy salesperson calls on you and makes you wonder why you gave this salesperson any of your valuable time, isn't that the same as the boring font that doesn't stand out, isn't attractive, and screams unsuccessful? 

While I was composing this post, I received a voicemail from a crappy, bottom 50%er that was cold calling me.  I can't play the message but this is a word-for-word transcription:

Hi, this is Mary. I'm calling from [withheld] for [withheld] on a recorded line. I'm calling in today to show you a percent my business proposal in line with your phone system and for you to know more about our promotion, please contact me at [withheld] at extension [withheld]. Thank you. Have a great day. Bye.

Isn't that the same as the sign that suggests you might do better going elsewhere?

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge supporter of small business and over the past 50 years started four of my own.  But just as logos make a huge difference, professionally trained salespeople make a huge difference as well.

Big companies have an advantage.  They not only have the branding and marketing to create awareness, they also have the power to buy their customers through discounts, deals and incentives.  How can a small or medium business compete with that? 

Through better selling.  To show they are a better choice.  To prove that they are a better fit. By taking a consultative approach and selling value.  By building stronger relationships.  By taking the time to listen and empathize.  By qualifying.

Suppose you wanted custom built-in cabinets and you have some basic handyman skills allowing you to measure, cut, glue, hammer and paint.  You can probably build a functional cabinet.  But if you hire a professional cabinet maker, it will be more than functional.  It will also look amazing with exact miter joints, beautiful molding, perfect-fitting drawers and doors, and a silky smooth finish.  Hiring a professional matters if you care how it will look.  Professionally training your sales team matters if you care about win rates, efficiency, accurate forecasts, consistency, and landing the most profitable and leverage accounts.

In the fall of 2020, when our son was moving onto a college campus that would be 55% female after attending an all boys High School I said, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."  The same advice applies to CEOs and Sales Leaders who have some selling experience.  Just because you can sell doesn't mean you should be the one to create the sales process and train your salespeople.  There is way too much at stake to rely on a DIY sales approach.

Do you think there are large companies that don't professionally train their salespeople?  They all do it.  If you want to achieve large company results, do what large companies do.  Slick, professionally designed logos and professionally trained salespeople.

Image copyright ©viewapart/123RF.COM

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, accurate sales forecasts, win rates

Selling and the Need for Speed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 08, 2022 @ 08:06 AM

speed-limit

We had Chinese for dinner and my fortune said, "Speed is not as important as accuracy."

When you think of speed what are the first things that come to mind?

Fighter Jets? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to Mach 6.70 (5,140 MPH)

Racing Cars? The 6 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 304 MPH.

Motorcycles? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 273 MPH.

Power Boats?  The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 317 MPH.

Light travels at 186,270 miles per second!

And salespeople.  What?  That's right, salespeople speed.  Let me explain.

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to close - before an opportunity is even closable.  

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to present - before an opportunity is even qualified.  Most salespeople are in such a hurry that they completely skip things like qualifying and discovery.  And when salespeople do perform discovery they accept the very first indicator they hear and rush to explain how their product or service addresses that indicator,

Example. You tell the doctor about a stomach ache and the doc says, "No problem - I can help" and calls in a prescription for an antacid.  And while that example actually happens, a good, thorough doctor would ask questions like, "Where does it hurt?"  "Does it hurt to the touch?"  "Is it always sore or does it come and go?"  "Is it more frequent after a meal or when you're moving around?" "How long have you been experiencing this discomfort?"  "Can you show me the exact area of the pain?" "Have you been overly stressed or anxious?"  "Have you made any changes to your diet?" 

[I'd make a good doctor!] 

Then the doctor would say, "I want to make sure we aren't missing anything.  I would like to get you scheduled for X-Rays, and an MRI so that we can rule out a few things."

He's still in discovery.  A good doctor has no need for speed.

Back to salespeople who do have a need for speed.  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and how a company, team or individual salesperson scores on those competencies tells a story about how they sell, what they encounter, and how effectively they can turn those encounters into business.  Several competencies overlap with Discovery, the two most obvious being Consultative Seller and Value Seller.  However, those two competencies are much easier to complete when we include the competencies Reaches Decision Makers and Relationship Builder.  The numbers in the 3 images below show the percentage of 2.2 million salespeople who are strong in these four competencies.  All salespeople are on the left, the top 10% are in the middle and the bottom 50% are on the right.

Do you see the problem?  Even some of the top 10% struggle with the Consultative approach but they excel at Reaching Decision Makers and Selling Value.  Why do even the best salespeople struggle?  Because among the 10 or so attributes found in the Consultative Seller competency, the 2 most crucial are listens and asks great questions.  Most salespeople struggle mightily with listening and when one doesn't listen effectively, the next question isn't that obvious.

To execute the 4 competencies above, a certain amount of Sales DNA is required.  When strong, Sales DNA supports the execution of sales process and methodology.  When weak, Sales DNA sabotages those efforts.

Only 22% of all salespeople have strong Sales DNA.  Here are the average Sales DNA Scores for salespeople.

  • All salespeople have an average score of 65.
  • The top 10% have an average score of 81. 
  • The bottom 50% have an average score of 56.

More challenging selling roles require higher Sales DNA scores while less challenging selling roles require lower Sales DNA scores.  Here are three examples:

  • A salesperson who sells industrial batteries (for golf carts, truck fleets, wheelchairs) in a territory can get by with Sales DNA of 64.
  • A salesperson who sells payroll software to HR departments in a territory can succeed with Sales DNA of 72.
  • A salesperson who sells 7 to 8 figure capital equipment to the C Suite of the Fortune 500 against formidable competition in an 18 month sales cycle requires Sales DNA of over 82.

The salesperson the first example and those in similar roles to that salesperson have a need for speed.  It's a transactional sale.  They can move the sale and the relationship from transactional to consultative by S-L-O-W-I-N-G down.

The salesperson who is successful in the second example has slowed down.  Their biggest challenge is competition.  It's not a question of if the company will buy and use payroll software, the only question is whose software they will use and who they will purchase it from.  Slowing down even more will help to differentiate.

The salespeople in the third example have learned that if they are to have any success in this role, they must crawl through their sales process.  Slow is the name of the game.  I don't mean slow as in extend the sales cycle. I mean slow as in thorough.

[Update: One reader suggested that the crucial piece is having a variable speed where you move as fast or as slow as your customer.  I agree that you need variable speeds but many times the client wants to move fast and you need the ability to slow down the client or it will become a transactional sale.  So variable is OK but only when it provides an advantage to you.

They say speed kills and other than driving, nowhere is this more true than in sales.

Evaluate your Sales Team.

See scores for your industry in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

Talk with an expert.

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, selling value

The Recession is Here - How to Take Advantage and Prepare Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 31, 2022 @ 07:05 AM

crash-landing

You boarded your plane, got seated, the plane pulled away from the gate and you fell asleep.  Later, a hard landing woke you and you wondered, "Are we already there?"  Yes you are and you slept through the entire flight.

The same thing is happening with the economy.  While you were sleeping, distracted by Russia invading Ukraine, baby formula shortages, off-the-chart gas prices, a migrant surge across the southern border, mass shootings, supply-chain shortages, and runaway inflation, the recession crash-landed and it's here.   

The two biggest tell-tale signs are new home sales were 100,000 or so units below expectations for April, and the first of many interest rate hikes have been enacted. And the biggest sign is that government officials continue to tell us that there is nothing to see here, the economy is booming and there will be a soft landing from inflation.  Sure.

While I'm citing events in the United States, there is no doubt that this will be a global recession.

So what must you do to prepare your sales team and how can you leverage the effects of a recession?

You'll know the recession is real when in the next 90 days, sometime between now and the end of August 2022, the first domino falls and a major corporation announces they will layoff thousands of workers.  Others are sure to follow.  Then come the spending freezes.  This trickles down to mid-size and small businesses and while this is taking place, consumer confidence plunges, people stop buying things, which reinforces the decision to stop corporate spending and vindicates them for the layoffs.  We're gonna get clobbered!

You can leverage all of this by hiring salespeople.  That's right.  Resist the urge to layoff salespeople and instead, take advantage of what will finally be a surplus of good to great salespeople.  They have been in very short supply for several years and this will be one positive consequence of a recession.  Gobble them up, upgrade and smart-size your team and use OMG's Smart-Sizing tool as part of a sales team evaluation. Use OMG's sales candidate assessments to distinguish the sales winners from the imposters because past success is NOT a good predictor of future success in sales. You should already know that from experience otherwise your track record would be better and all of your salespeople would be meeting or exceeding quotas.

You must prepare your salespeople so they can convince people who are on a spending freeze to spend money despite the freeze.  This REQUIRES that they be effective at calling on, reaching and engaging actual decision makers as they are the only people who can override the spending freeze.  In addition to developing their skills at engaging decision makers, they must be equally effective at using a consultative approach, selling value and using a sales process optimized for a value-based, consultative approach.  Why consultative?  Selling value doesn't work well outside of a consultative approach.  Not only that, but salespeople struggle to achieve differentiation outside of a consultative approach.

What could go wrong?

OMG has evaluated and assessed more than 2.2 million salespeople and the data shows that taking a consultative approach is where salespeople are LEAST effective.

As you can see, only 11% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 28% have reaching decision makers as a strength and only 31% have selling value as a strength.  But it's worse than that.  Weak salespeople make up 50% of the sales population.  Weak salespeople don't sell this way!  The next graphic isolates weak salespeople - the bottom 50% - only.

Only 1% of weak salespeople (half of your sales team!) have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 10% have reaching decision makers as a strength, and only 4% have selling value as a strength.

This is why half of your salespeople don't hit quota!  But over the past several years they have gotten by because they have been in order-taking mode.  With demand dropping like a rock and order-taking going away what will you do?  These are the five steps you should take.

1) Evaluate Your Sales Team  to determine who will be part of your future and who was part of your past.  Determine the exact competencies in which they will require training and coaching.  Better understand where the bottlenecks are and what it will take to increase your win rate. 

2) Assess Sales Candidates as you hire better salespeople.

or Request Information

3) Customize and Optimize your Sales Process for a Consultative Approach

4) Get your sales managers trained and coached to be effective and consistent at coaching up their salespeople

5) Get your sales team trained to hunt decision makers, take a consultative approach, and sell value.

The economy might make a crash landing but there is no reason you or your sales team need to do the same.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling in the recession, sales candidate assessment, selling value, sales team evaluation

The Philosophy of a Pitching Coach Will Improve Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 04, 2022 @ 07:04 AM

pitching

I find ideas and material for this Blog everywhere, especially when I'm not looking for them. Yesterday I received a daily email from a Paul Reddick, a baseball coach who was drumming up some business for his baseball institute. It resonated - not for its baseball coaching - but as sales coaching.  Here's what it said:

If your coach is talking about any of the pitching flaws that you see listed above…

Run… Run Fast!

That Coach is working on “flaws” that will have no impact on your pitching.  He is working on symptoms… not the illness!  He is trying to fix things that are happening as a byproduct of incorrect movement early in your delivery. If you get the first second of your delivery right, almost all of these flaws get fixed instantly. 

Do you know how this applies to sales? 

I'll explain exactly how it applies and I promise you will be surprised!  Click here to read last year's fun article comparing pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) to role-playing in sales.

If a CEO, Sales Leader, Sales Manager, Sales Coach or Sales Expert suggests that closing or negotiating is a selling flaw, then that individual does not really understand what salespeople must do in order to win business.

Closing is over-rated. 

Always has been.

Except for the concept of when to close, closing shouldn't even be taught!

If a salesperson is effective adding opportunities to the pipeline, reaching decision makers, building relationships, taking a consultative approach and uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, qualifying, and doing that in the context of a effective and efficient sales process, they will earn the business and it will close at the appropriate time.

If they suck at any or all of the nine competencies referenced above, then the lack of wins will appear to be a closing issue, when it is actually symptomatic of something that wasn't properly executed earlier in the process.

Same goes for negotiating.  If an opportunity is properly qualified at the appropriate time, there should not be anything to negotiate.  However, if qualifying lacks thoroughness and is completed too early, it invites a negotiation at closing time.

Training and coaching should be targeted towards the competency in the sales process that has the lowest conversion ratio.  In other words, if salespeople struggle to get opportunities into the pipeline, focus on prospecting.  If salespeople are booking meetings but opportunities stagnate in the pipeline, the issue is with the consultative approach and/or value selling.  If opportunities get as far as qualified but fail to close, then the issue is probably with qualifying and/or consultative selling/value selling.

The most important thing to identify is where ALL of the skill gaps are.  How can salespeople leverage their strengths, sharpen existing skills, learn new skills and improve their conversion ratios?

The best way to do that is to know exactly what they are capable of, where their bottlenecks are, what their blindspots are, and what they need to do in order to improve.  This should never be a guess because most sales managers, sales leaders and CEOs guess wrong!  It sounds like most of the calls and emails I receive where the potential client says, "Yes, we're looking for someone to provide some sales training on closing and negotiating."

There are a couple of ways to find out what your team is really capable of and how much better they can become:

An OMG Sales Team Evaluation is the best solution and provides answers to every possible question you might have about your team.  In addition to the comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA), Executive Summary, and Visualizer (interactive tool to play with the data), you and your sales team will learn how everyone measures up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

Request Samples

Email for more information

OMG has a free self-serve solution as well.  You can see how your team collectively compares to other teams in your industry and to companies overall in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You won't get any reports or individual results but you'll see where the team-wide gaps are.

Check out the Free solution (or first step)

Companies that have their sales teams evaluated experience faster, quicker and greater growth than those who don't.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Closing Sales, sales assessments, sales team evaluation

Has Buying Changed and Has B2B Selling Adapted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

b2b

My articles begin with analogies so we'll start by asking, has baseball changed?  

Games take longer, there is role specialization, starting pitchers rarely complete games, hitters are stronger, pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90's and there is a trend towards either hitting a home run or striking out.  But it's still baseball.  It is still played the same way.  The changes are superficial.

And in the context of how it affects salespeople, has buying really changed?

If you believe what is so frequently written by digital marketing folks, then buying has changed dramatically.  But just because a digital marketing person wrote it, does that make it true?  

We must discuss buying in the context of buying from salespeople so we will begin by differentiating facts from claims. Let's begin with what we know for absolute certain.

B2B buying can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Point and Click Transactional Purchases (navigate to a website and buy it)
  • Talk and or Meet with an Expert (salespeople)

For transactional purchases, salespeople have been eliminated so to that extent, sales has changed dramatically!

For other B2B purchases, salespeople still have significant involvement - for now.  Prospects search Google, visit websites, learn about products and services, and even get a sense for pricing.  For their part, salespeople who regurgitate the same information that prospects can find online are simply redundant, fail to provide any value, and won't be around for long.  It is imperative that salespeople provide value by actually being the value and from that perspective, one of the salesperson's responsibilities has changed.

It is more difficult for salespeople to reach decision makers of larger organizations as they are better protected than before and tend to rely more on group decision making.

When the onset of the pandemic introduced virtual selling to the masses, more buying options than ever before became available because the business that is 3,000 miles away is suddenly no further away than the one down the street.

The way that buyers find salespeople has changed.  They may use the aforementioned Google search, but are just as likely to find a trusted source from an expert Blog, through LinkedIn, or Facebook.  While marketers will use that as proof that outbound selling is dead, that proclamation is propaganda, not fact.  Inbound marketers generate a lot of interest and leads on which to follow up but the quality of those leads is questionable and inconsistent and there are big problems when handing them off to salespeople.  Salespeople who still do their own prospecting by phone schedule plenty of quality meetings to keep their pipelines full.

So how buyers and sellers find each other has changed, decision makers are more effective insulating themselves, and there are more buying options.  What happens after that?

The digital marketing folks say that the buying journey is 57% complete when a buyer first reaches out to a salesperson.  Most ineffective and underperforming salespeople agree that prospects seem to know what they want and all they have to do is quote prices, prepare proposals and take orders.  Of course that's why they are ineffective and chronically underperform.

Today's buyers are self-educated and salespeople mistake that knowledge for readiness. Salespeople tend to take the path of least resistance and the knowledge they mistake for readiness lulls them into the quote, proposal and order taking mode.  As a result, they don't follow their company's sales process or worse, the company's sales process has been modified to reflect buyers being ready.  If the buyers were truly ready at this point they would actually buy but the additional options prolong instead of shorten the sales process.

The top 20% of all salespeople have not fallen victim to the false sense of security offered by poor quality inbound leads or the myth of the buyer journey being 57% complete.  They leverage new tools and technology to take a more consultative approach, follow their sales process, nicely challenge prospects who seem to be ready, uncover the reasons and consequences that led them to buy, get them to think differently and get prospects to see them as subject matter experts. They qualify more thoroughly than ever, talk with and/or meet decision makers, and close two to three times more business than their underperforming, order-taking colleagues.

Buying has changed to the extent that it's easier to start the process and reach out to potential vendors.  Selling has changed to the extent that most salespeople are less effective and top salespeople are closing a bigger percentage of the business than ever before.

This can all be fixed.  How?  

A Sales Team evaluation identifies the issues.

A Custom Sales Process helps salespeople to meet the correct milestones with the proper people at the optimal time for the right reasons.  Integration of the sales process into a CRM application that is designed for how you sell and who you sell to is crucial.

Sales Leadership Training and Coaching train your sales leaders to coach up their salespeople.

Sales Training that demonstrates a consultative approach, utilizes role-play and models what great selling looks and sounds like. 

An integrated approach to sales development changes everything.  Isn't it time?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, crm, inbound, buyer journey, outbound

My Most Popular Sales Article of the Last Ten Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 13, 2021 @ 07:12 AM

nutcracker2019

This is my annual nutcracker post.  I first wrote the article in 2011 and people loved the analogy between the Nutcracker and a sales call.  I make minor modifications to the article each year as current trends, best practices, and recent data dictate.

Last year, The Boston Ballet cancelled their performance of the Nutcracker but we will be in attendance next week and look forward to continuing the tradition.

Please enjoy the article and share it.  It's not only popular, it's one of my all-time favorites as well!

The Top 3  Lessons  from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"

If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've heard this song in advertisements and movies and television shows during  every Holiday season of your life, can you identify the four primary musical instruments being played at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you hear the glass harmonica (most performances feature the celesta), oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Listen again.  Can you hear them?

As with the familiarity of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions during their sales conversations.  While you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...," your salespeople might not have the ability to distinguish credible comments and questions from noise.

Suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and a timeline."

There are three important lessons that arise from this:

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data of more than 2 million salespeople) - Out of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 quickly begin working on a proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and eventually, they'll do both;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking a lot of additional good, tough, timely questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  Prospects' comments also have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or a VP - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker

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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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