New Movie Has 3 Great Lessons for Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

The Trial of the Chicago 7' is as timely as ever - The Stanford Daily

Among all the product shortages we have experienced in the past ten months, there has been no shortage of crappy movies.  It's almost like the movie studios decided to release all the movies filmed in the past several years that weren't ready for prime time and hope that people would stream them at home during the pandemic because we had watched everything else.

One exception to the crappiness of 2020 movies is The Trial of the Chicago 7.  This article is not a review of the movie but it was a terrific film and worth the time to watch it.  As good as this movie is, it comes with a bonus because it also provides three exceptional lessons for salespeople and sales managers.  Let's take a look!

It's Decided

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity when at some point late in the process you finally determined that the decision had already been made and it wasn't you? The prospect invited several competitors to engage, went through the motions, and led them to believe they had a chance. You may have been a better overall fit, had a better solution, more of the needed capabilities, a better warranty, been able to deliver more quickly, had better pricing and terms, better references and more. Despite all that, none of it was going to make a bit of difference because the key decision maker, who they wouldn't let you meet, had a relationship with someone at one of your competitors and for optics, your contact was tasked to involve three other companies.  Another version of this occurs when your contact is the decision maker but engages competitors so that the process has the appearances of being fair and objective to anyone who might be checking in on them.  In either scenario, the decision was made before you got involved and nothing that you said or did was going to change that decision.  In the movie, the judge went through the motions of the months-long trial but it didn't matter how much proof of innocence the defense provided because the judge refused to let any of it be heard.  Someone above him had already decided what the outcome of this trial would be. 

The lesson is that if you are going to fail, you must fail early!  That requires thorough qualifying and inspection as to where you stand versus your competitors, questions and statements that most salespeople fail to ask,  like:

  • In my experience, when a potential customer won't let me meet the decision maker it's usually a pretty good indicator that I won't be getting the business
  • Decision makers for our solutions usually have a strong existing relationship with companies like mine, and Jim (the decision-maker) doesn't have a relationship with us, so who does he have a relationship with?
  • I'm getting the feeling that even if we can prove that we have a superior solution, you won't be working with us

According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and the 2,051,794 salespeople they have assessed, 59% of all salespeople can't ask those questions because their need to be liked prevents them from asking a question that could cause their prospect to no longer like them.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare.

You're a Pawn

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity where your prospect was so interested that they requested a proposal or quote earlier than you expected?  You probably believed that you had a really strong opportunity, thought this would be an easy one and forecast it to close within 30 days.  Unfortunately, your prospect had an incumbent vendor that they planned to retain but needed the extra quotes to either make it appear that they collected three quotes or they were trying to keep the incumbent honest.  Had you quoted the lowest price, the business wouldn't have gone to you; they would have shown the quote to the incumbent and demanded that they match it if they wanted to keep the business.  In this scenario, you were being exploited. In the movie, the first two jurors that were sympathetic to the defense were removed under false pretenses.

The lesson is that when a prospect moves too quickly to a quote or proposal, you need to ask better qualifying questions, like:

  • Who do you usually buy this from? (XYZ)
  • Why didn't you call them?  (We wanted to explore our options)
  • In my experience, companies that are happy with who they are using don't usually take the time to look for options.  (They get defensive)
  • Why did you call us? (You were on the list)

They will probably tell you that yes, they are happy, but if you come in with a better price they would consider moving the business to you.  THAT'S YOUR CUE CARD!  It's not a sign that they're about to buy from you; it's a sign that they're NOT going to buy from you.  You should immediately say, "Based on experience, it sounds like you just need a quote to keep the other guys honest."  If you're face to face I suggest writing a random number on a napkin and handing the napkin to them.  If you are virtual, you can email them the same thing.  The point is, don't take the time to work up a quote, and don't take the time to produce a proposal. Just say, "No thank you." 

According to more of OMG's data, only 30% of salespeople have selling value as a strength.  Additionally, only 36% are able to control their emotions and at this point the sales conversation calls for staying calm and selling value.  Most salespeople lose the business because of the value selling skill gap and weakness controlling emotions.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

For Sales Managers - The Expert Debrief

In one scene of the movie, the defense attorney was cross-examining the assistant to the mayor, a witness who said he was offered $100,000 to issue a permit to protest, and the request was a bribe, not a joke as the attorney suggested.  The attorney asked a bunch of questions that sounded something like this (it's from memory so the words that come after "when you called" might not all be exactly what was said):

  • When you called the US Attorney General what did he say?  (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the FBI what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Attorney General of Illinois what did he say? (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the State Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Chicago Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you told the mayor what did he say? (I didn't tell him)
  • So if you didn't tell anyone then you must have believed the offer to be a joke.

This is absolutely the most powerful way to debrief salespeople.  Assume they did what they were supposed to do by asking, "When you asked what it was about their current vendor that they were unhappy with what did they say?" Continue to ask questions using, "When you asked..." about everything they should have asked until your salesperson says, "I didn't ask that."  Then you can learn whether it's because the salesperson didn't know to ask that question or knew to ask but was uncomfortable asking.  And finally, why was the salesperson uncomfortable.  Then, and only then, does the coaching actually begin and it begins with a role play! 

More of OMG's data says that only 7% of all sales managers can debrief, coach and role play effectively.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

If you want to learn to coach like that - and there are so many examples of how to properly debrief and coach, join me for my annual public (virtual this year) 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive from May 19-21.  Register here. You'll be glad you did!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, asking questions, selling tips, sales lessons, chicago 7

My Dog Has Better Listening Skills Than Most Salespeople and I'll Prove It

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 10, 2020 @ 06:12 AM

listening2

Short article today.  Prospects don't pay a lot of attention so the less you say the better.  It helps them listen and comprehend more of what you share with them when you use fewer words.  But prospects aren't the only ones who don't listen.  Salespeople don't listen very well either.  As a matter of fact, my dog has better listening skills than most salespeople because my dog knows what to listen for. Don't believe me?  I'll prove it in the video below.

For an overwhelming majority of salespeople, I can't even use "listening" and "salespeople" in the same sentence. That's because they either:

  • don't listen because they are so busy talking
  • hear but aren't really listening
  • listen but aren't listening for the right things
  • listen for the right things but don't ask the appropriate follow up questions to leverage what was said

According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on the evaluation and assessment of 2,040,738 salespeople, only 27% of all salespeople listen effectively.  Looking at the top 5% of all salespeople, only 57% of that elite group listens effectively. Only 10% of the bottom half and 0% of the bottom 10% listen effectively.

Listening is the one selling skill that salespeople find most difficult to understand and improve.  If you can't actively listen, then how can you ask the appropriate follow up question?  If you can't ask follow up questions because you don't know which question to ask next, then you'll find yourself explaining, educating, presenting, and wasting time because most prospects simply aren't interested in having salespeople regurgitate what they can find online in a couple of clicks.  And if that's what salespeople end up doing on sales calls, it becomes a transactional, price-driven conversation instead of a value-based, consultative conversation.

Watch how well my dog listens in this enjoyable one-minute video.

In the spring of 2017, we brought Dinger home as a puppy and I wrote this article explaining why he is so much easier to train than most salespeople. 

I don't understand why companies and their salespeople still claim to have competitive pricing.  It's a race to the bottom because no matter what you tell me, in your industry, vertical, territory, area of expertise, and product category, there can be only a single company that will have the lowest price and it's not going to be you!  How do I know?  If you had the lowest price you wouldn't be reading articles on how to become more effective.  Instead, you would be quite content taking orders from the buyers who only buy from the company with the lowest price

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, listening skills, questioning skills, dog

How a Mug of Dunkin Can Help You More Effectively Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 09, 2020 @ 08:12 AM

Amazon.com: In case of accident my blood type is dunkin donuts Cheap  lasunandsport Mug Coffee Mug Gift Coffee Mug 11OZ Coffee Mug: Kitchen &  Dining

I won't suggest that a cup of Dunkin coffee will make you more alert and more effective.  It's much more helpful than that.

This is another Bob story. Bob was on a sales call and the prospect told him that they were looking for the lowest price.  I hope you hate it when that happens.  It's a bad thing because while Bob was supposed to be selling value, a price-based conversation is transactional yet he's supposed to be taking a consultative approach to support the value he provides.  Would you like to guess what Bob did instead?  Yup, he got them his best price.  Ugh!

So what should Bob have done instead to turn this around and not waste everyone's time?

There are four things that Bob should have done and he must do them in the proper sequence:.

  • First, lower resistance - Bob needs to acknowledge that he heard them and say, "I understand."  Then he can leave it alone.  He has lowered their resistance and that was the goal.  He can come back to this topic later.
  • Uncover their compelling reason to buy - Bob can't sell value if he doesn't know their compelling reason to buy, buy now, and buy from him instead of his competitor.  This is the most important thing to focus on because if he doesn't uncover that reason and create urgency, he won't be able to provide and sell value, and neutralize their stated goal to buy at the lowest price.
  • Monetize their compelling reason - problems have consequences, including operational, functional, conceptual, emotional, economic, and perceived consequences.  These consequences must be monetized to include hard costs, cost of time lost, cost of not solving the problem, the gain from solving the problem, etc.  This is where value actually comes from! Bob must take the time to walk his prospect through what the problem really costs.
  • Sell Value - Bob must ask if, in order to solve the (cost that was calculated) problem the right way, they are willing to spend a little more with him.  If yes, he can ignore their lowest price comment because he successfully sold his value.  If not, he must learn whether they always buy this way or just this time.  For example, if they claim to always buy this way, he can find the weak link in that behavior.  Do they ever get coffee at Dunkin' Donuts? Really?  How often?  Why are they paying around $2 for a medium cup of coffee from Dunkin when It costs only 88 cents to make it using a DD K Cup in a Keurig machine, and only 30 cents to make a mug yourself using DD ground coffee that you buy for between $8-$10/pound.  They are paying as much as 650% more for the value of not having to make it themselves.  Now Bob has precedent that they don't always look for the lowest price.  He could also use a car analogy.  Most of the people you are selling to are not driving Kia's or low-end Fords, Chevy's and Chryslers.  They paid more for a better car! Analogies are great for changing perceptions.

Selling value has nothing to do with sharing value propositions, telling people why it's better to do business with you or trying to meet a competitors's price. Those approaches take away from value and make you sound just like everyone else.  Selling value is about being valuable to them!

Dunkin has made it into my Blog a lot, having written about them four previous times:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, sales tips, selling value, dunkin, lowering resistance

Senate Confirmation Hearings Shows Us What Salespeople Do Wrong Every Day

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 @ 18:10 PM

Day 1 on Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearing begin in  Senate

Oh no, another post on the political climate.  Don't worry, I'm not taking sides, I'll be right down the middle, and very critical of both sides.  And stay with me for the pivot to the good stuff - my sales analysis.  Here goes!

It was Columbus Day in the US so I had a chance to catch the first day of the Judiciary Committee's Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  It featured 10-minute opening statements by both Republican and Democrat Senators and finally, by Judge Barrett herself.

In my opinion, there weren't any winners today.  In 10-minute increments, both sides demonstrated everything that goes wrong when salespeople make presentations. Make no mistake, politicians are very much always selling and their performances usually give salespeople a bad name.

The Democrat messaging, although consistent, was extremely negative, with all of the senators regurgitating the same talking points: Covid-19 safety concerns, the process being a sham, and threatening that Americans will lose their health insurance if Judge Barrett is confirmed.  Although we want salespeople to articulate consistent messaging, especially with their value propositions, negative messaging turns people off, and if these presentations had been delivered by salespeople, most prospects would have responded with, "You guys are all the same!"  You don't want to be in a selling situation facing prospects who share that perception!

The Republican messaging was as inconsistent as the Democrats were consistent. Most addressed different topics from each other, but the real issue was that they were on the defensive the entire time as if they were handling objections.  When salespeople are in objection handling mode their prospects' resistance goes up making it very difficult to sell anything.

I understand why both groups chose the strategies they used. 

The Democrats could not risk leveling personal attacks on Judge Barrett the way they did on Justice Kavanagh so they attacked the process, the President, the Republicans, the timing, the rules, and claimed that the impact of having this judge on the supreme court would be catastrophic.

The Republicans were already under fire by Democrats and the media for moving forward to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg prior to the election so they defended themselves by citing precedent, constitutionality, qualifications, religious freedom, history, and unfair attacks.

Both sides were right to have strategies but the strategies were poorly executed. Strategies of attacking and playing defense are both losing strategies.

Salespeople must never go on the attack and must never go on the defensive.  

Instead of attacking the competition, salespeople can ask questions about their prospects' personal experiences, what they want and need, why it's important, how they feel about it, and what would make things better.  You can accomplish the very same things, only better, without ever mentioning the competition or saying anything bad about them.

Instead of getting defensive in response to objections, whether real or perceived, salespeople can - you guessed it - ask questions using the very same approach described above.

Elected officials suck as role models, especially when making self-serving politicized partisan presentations.

Learn from this debacle!  The key to sales success lies in listening and asking questions, not delivering cleverly worded presentations.  It's important to note that listening and asking questions are consultative selling skills and are attributes of both the Consultative Selling Competency and the Value Selling Competency.  Check out the 10 selling competencies in the screen shot below which shows the percentage of all salespeople who have that competency as a strength.  

You've probably heard that 80% of all revenue comes from 20% of all salespeople.  Here is how the top 10% of all salespeople fare in the same ten competencies:

Except for Hunting and Relationship building, the top salespeople are two to three times more likely to have these competencies as strengths.

I'll show you the same ten competencies, but this time for the bottom 50% of all salespeople:

You are reading this correctly.  Only 1% of the bottom half of all salespeople have Consultative Selling and Qualifying as strengths and none having Closing! So that's why more than 50% of all salespeople don't hit their quota each year!  Most salespeople suck at most selling competencies so perhaps they should all become politicians.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, selling value, sales and politics, amy coney barret

New: The 21 Sales Core Competencies for 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 27, 2020 @ 16:09 PM

Had an update lately?

I get an Office 365 update on Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote at least every week.  Yawn.  It seems half of them are to fix something that broke in the previous release.

Apple updates the operating systems of their various devices on a fairly regular basis.  The software for my Apple watch was updated twice in the past month.  IOS, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad was just updated as was the software for AppleTV.  OS x, the operating system for the Mac, was recently updated.  Most of these updates occur automatically and without fanfare but when an update advances to the next number - from 13.62 to 14.0 - it's a big deal and means significant updates to features, stability, security and usability are included.

Such is the case with Objective Management Group.  Like Apple, OMG updates its assessments on a non-stop basis but rolls out significant updates a couple of times per year.  Last week OMG introduced the latest revision to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There are thirty competencies in all, each with between six and twelve attributes but some are more important than others and OMG measures twenty-one of them in the following three categories:

  1. Will to Sell includes 5 sales competencies that differentiate between whether a salesperson CAN sell, versus whether they WILL sell. 
  2. Sales DNA includes 6 competencies which, when appearing as strengths, support a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.  However, when these competencies appear as weakness, they sabotage a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.
  3. Tactical Selling has 10 sales competencies that show the degree to which a salesperson has developed the required skills to effectively sell in today's ever-changing world of selling.

OMG's latest release includes several changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There is a new competency called Sales Technology which wraps three sales competencies into one:

  1. Video Proficient is a brand new competency that looks at a salesperson's use of video platforms, how well they have learned those platforms, and to what degree they have embraced video for virtual selling.
  2. CRM Savvy was previously included in the 21 sales competencies before being rolled into Sales Technology.
  3. Mastery of Social Selling was also included in the 21 sales competencies prior to being rolled into Sales Technology.

Sales Technology is a great example of how quickly OMG moves to not only remain current as selling evolves, but to lead the way and standardize the competencies which experts in the sales development space view as core to success.

OMG has had a finding called Reaches Decision Makers since 1990 and in recent years it became a full-blown competency that included eight attributes.  In the latest update, OMG moves Reaches Decision Makers into the primary group of 21 because our research shows that salespeople are 900% less likely to move the opportunity to closable if they are not talking directly with the actual decision maker. 

There is a very good reason that OMG has been named the Top Sales Assessment Tool in the World for nine consecutive years.  It is not only extremely accurate, it is also incredibly predictive and insightful. In the screen shot below, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as some of the other competencies OMG measures and reports on, as shown on the coaching dashboard of a sales evaluation.

Personality assessments (like Caliper) and behavioral styles assessments (like DiSC) ask their questions in a social context, measure personality traits and behavioral styles and then ADAPT (GUESS) those findings for sales.  This is crucial for understanding the differences!  OMG asks all of its questions in the context of sales, measures actual sales knowledge and capabilities in the context of the sales competencies above, and ACCURATELY REPORTS on those sales competency scores.

You can view and filter by industry some of OMG's data in 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your salespeople compare by clicking here.  You can check out OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Personality Tests, caliper, sales test, selling value, DISC

Most Companies Can Boost Sales From 30-100% in Just One to Two Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2020 @ 18:09 PM

maserati

Your teenage daughter, growing 4-6 inches per year, asks for two new pairs of sneakers.  She's already outgrowing 3 pairs each year and these two, which are completely unnecessary, would keep her in fashionable footwear for only a few months.  It would make total sense for you to say, "Let's wait a few months until you've stopped growing so fast."

An employee asks for a new car, believing that an SUV crossover (not the Maserati in the picture!) would be more practical than a mid-size sedan.  There are 8 months left on the lease so it would be completely reasonable for you to say, "Sounds good.  Let's make that change when the lease comes to an end in 8 months."

In both 2012 and 2016, companies everywhere were telling salespeople, "We're going to wait until after the election."  There was tremendous uncertainty surrounding those two elections and companies didn't want to commit to anything until they were sure who the next President of the USA would be.

Surprisingly, in the year of the pandemic, salespeople are not hearing the dreaded, "We're going to wait until after the election."   Despite the polling, pandemic, and incredible divisiveness, companies are not pushing the pause button.  But why?

It's not because salespeople have become so strong that they have obliterated that put-off!  89% of all salespeople accept stalls and put-offs and that's changed by only a quarter of a percent since before the start of the pandemic.  That's right.  There has barely been a change in salespeople's ability to overcome stalls and put-offs since before the pandemic.  Ugh.

Biden has promised to raise both the corporate income tax and the capital gains tax if he gets elected so it can't be fear of that.  

It's not because there's a vaccine on the way which will help stop the spread of the virus because when it comes to Covid-19, nothing is certain.

So what is it?

Many companies already experienced at least 3 to 6 months of uncertainty and they can not withstand even 2 more months of that.   As a result, companies are investing, streamlining, expanding, hiring and going all in to save their 2020s, and position their companies for historical growth in 2021.

As I review what our clients are hearing, what OMG's partners are sharing, and adding my own anecdotal experience, there has never been a better time to sell!

But seller beware. Favorable conditions do not equate to easy selling.  There is tremendous pressure on margins, competition is fierce, and the selling challenges are more difficult than ever before.

Current conditions require resistance proof sellers however only 54% of all salespeople fit that description and that's improved by only 1% since the start of the Pandemic.  Current conditions require salespeople to take a much more consultative approach and sell value.  Unfortunately, only 12% of all salespeople have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength and only 30% have the Value Seller competency as a strength.  Among the weakest of all salespeople - that's half the sales population - the percentages drop to 2% and 7% respectively.  As we begin to purge the virus, how can companies surge when half of their salespeople suck at selling?

Companies don't really look as I just described them.  We don't see many companies where half the people in the sales organization suck.  In many of the companies whose sales organizations we evaluate, most of the salespeople suck!

You don't think that applies to your company but you aren't really sure whether a quarter, a third, half, or all of your sales force sucks because some of your people sell more than others.  Don't be misled by distribution of revenue.  Keep in mind that distribution of revenue usually has more to do with quality of the territory, number of established accounts, size of the established accounts, length of time in the industry, repeat business and call-in business than sales capabilities.  There are only two ways to compare the relative sales capabilities of your salespeople:

  1. Have every salesperson look for new customers under the exact same conditions (calling on the same size accounts in the same vertical against the same competition in the same territory)
  2. Have us evaluate your sales force and from the more than 180 findings and 21 Sales Core Competencies, compare Sales Percentile scores.

The ability to compare the sales percentile scores of your salespeople is not the ideal reason to evaluate your sales force.  But identifying where your challenges lie and learning what it will take to significantly increase sales is. Large and small companies alike that evaluate their sales teams learn that with targeted training and coaching in the areas identified, sales increases of between 30-50% within one to two years are very achievable. Some companies are able to double sales in the same period of time.

This is not the time to purposefully do nothing, wait and see, or worse, hope for the best.  Improving sales effectiveness has a greater impact on your top and bottom lines than any other thing you can do, including cost-cutting, operational efficiencies and lay-offs.

When it comes to sales transformation, you don't say, "let's wait until things get better" because sales transformation is the very thing that makes things better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, objections, sales statistics, election, selling value

FDR and Sir Isaac Newton on Why Salespeople Fail

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 25, 2020 @ 07:08 AM

fire

There we were, in the dark, in the middle of a hotel parking lot, at 3:45 AM.  Why?  The hotel fire alarm went off and we didn't want to ignore the warning that was so loud my wife and I couldn't hear each other speak.  Why was every other guest in the hotel parking lot with us?  Well, what if the hotel was on fire?  What if our lives were truly in danger?  

Unlike the made up fears that prevent salespeople from asking tough questions, qualifying more thoroughly, or picking up the phone and making a cold call, the fear of burning alive in a hotel fire seemed like a pretty justifiable one.

What are salespeople so fearful of?  Rejection?  Not being liked?  Not getting a meeting?  Not closing a sale?  Oh yes, incredibly scary.  If I had those fears I might not want to leave the house.  Oh wait, most salespeople aren't leaving their houses.  Is it because they're afraid of the virus?  No.  It's more likely that they're home because their companies have asked them to work remotely.  But make no mistake.  Even if they won't admit to it they are afraid of the things I wrote a few sentences back. And today, more than ever, they are loving their convenient excuses for hiding behind their laptop screens, churning out emails instead of making phone calls, and hoping that as Ray Kinsella's daughter, from Field of Dreams said, "People will come."

Why are these imagined fears so debilitating? 

Because we allow them to be.

I'm guilty of having debilitating, imagined fears.  When my son got his driver's license, my wife and I worried endlessly. Where is he? Do you think he's OK? Could he have gotten in an accident? Do you think he is paying attention? I hope he's not playing his music too loud. Could his friends be distracting him? Why isn't he home yet?  Did I ask, "Where is he?"

Turning back to salespeople, suppose the things they worry about were to actually happen?  Who would care?  How would life change?  The only ramification would be their inadequate pipelines.  The only ripple effect would be in the size of their commission checks. Their inaction is the only thing that can hurt them.  Remaining in their comfort zone hurts them.  Failing to change hurts them. 

In his 1933 inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." 

Sir Isaac Newton's third law of Physics states that for every action there is an opposite reaction.  What would the opposite reaction be to the action of not taking action? 

NOT taking action, and that includes not asking the tough question, IS an action against your pipeline, your income and your success. 

NOT taking action due to fear IS an action against your self-worth. 

NOT taking action, whether due to laziness or complacency, IS an action against what your company and your customer expect and deserve from you.

I'm sounding the alarm.  This is why salespeople fail.

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, closing, prospecting, sales fears, fear of rejection

15 Things Salespeople Must Do to Make up for a Lackluster 2nd Quarter

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 12, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

risk

Last week we moved our son into his dorm to begin his freshman year of college. The college President's opening remarks were virtual, so we joined the Zoom stream from our hotel room and listened in.  He had some really useful things to share with the new freshmen and while his thoughts were targeted to the students, they apply quite equally to salespeople.

Among the points he made, these seemed to be just as applicable to salespeople:

  • Show up
  • Do the Work
  • Try approaches that you haven't previously attempted
  • You will be uncomfortable but do it anyway
  • Ask for help
  • Ask lots of questions
  • The effort is even more important than the results
  • You will be pushed
  • Push yourself
  • Take responsibility
  • Show tolerance of people whose beliefs and opinions are different than yours
  • Wear your mask and socially distance

Translating his hopes and expectations to sales, here are 15 things salespeople could do that they may not have been doing, comfortable with or effective:

  • Proactively prospect - push yourself - 34% of salespeople do not prospect consistently
  • Live in CRM - be considerate of those in management who need to see what's in there in real time - 90% of salespeople do not live in their CRM applications
  • Fill the pipeline - the more that's in there the more will close - only 35% of salespeople maintain a full pipeline
  • Follow the sales process - it's there for a reason - only 30% of salespeople have and follow a sales process
  • Be more consultative, listen more and ask more good, tough, timely, effective questions - this is how you differentiate - - only 27% of salespeople listen and only 25% ask enough questions
  • Thoroughly qualify - stop wasting your time - only 30% of all salespeople do this
  • Work harder to build solid relationships - get past rapport and be authentic - Only 52% of salespeople succeed at this
  • Learn your video platform inside and out - stop being so ignorant - only 30% have done this
  • Attempt to schedule all of your sales calls virtually over video - what are you waiting for?  Only 49% prefer video to phones
  • Have a more tidy and professional background or use a non-distracting virtual background for virtual selling - get with the program - 40% are using virtual backgrounds
  • Take an interest and show that you care - don't be so transactional 
  • Be a problem solver - not a presenter
  • Stop focusing on price and sell value - it's time - Only 40% are strong at selling value
  • Stop giving yourself a pass because you aren't comfortable - suck it up.

Baseball, basketball and hockey recently restarted  - with changes.  The changes affect the players, coaches and fans but that's the way it is right now.

We must adapt! 

You might feel that there is risk associated with doing something you haven't done before.  None of these things will get you killed or even hurt, so unless you believe there is risk in having better quality sales conversations with your prospects, there isn't any risk.

There should be a greater urgency to get our products and services sold to make up for the lackluster second quarter that many companies experienced.  There should be even more urgency to make up for the personal dip in commissions from the same time period.  And if you took your foot off the gas during March through May because you were uncomfortable asking people to buy and pay then you have only 4 months to make up for your self-inflicted second quarter disaster.

Take responsibility.  

Show the world what you are capable of, stretch, do the one thing you've never done before in sales, and start right now!

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, Relationship Selling, selling value

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

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 1,988,673 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

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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 nine 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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