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

Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 @ 16:10 PM

Kiké Hernández's dream postseason continues for Red Sox: 10 things we  learned from ALDS-clinching walk-off win - masslive.com

Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times!

For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify.

How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

If your company is not the brand leader, market leader, or price leader; if you have a complex sale, a story to tell, a new technology, a new brand, a new product, a much higher price or a much tougher sale, then you are an underdog too.

Brand leaders, Market leaders and price leaders have it easy.  There is no true selling involved.  They show up, write proposals, provide quotes, conduct demos and take orders. They get what they get.

Underdogs must not only sell their way in, but they must also sell their value to justify the higher prices, differentiate themselves to prove their value, and use a consultative approach that supports selling value.  On top of that, they must follow a proper milestone-centric sales process that supports a consultative approach for selling value.

Most salespeople simply can't do this.  The data in the table below, from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2 million salespeople, shows the percentage of salespeople who are strong in the three competencies I just mentioned.  

It's not very difficult to grasp the takeaways from this data.  Even some of the best salespeople struggle to take a consultative approach to sales but compensate with their adherence to sales process and their ability to sell value.  The worst salespeople aren't capable of much more than a transactional sale described earlier in the article.  The best salespeople score, on average, 4823% stronger in these three competencies.  There are actually a total of 21 Sales Core Competencies and you can see the data for all of them right here, play with the data a bit, and filter by industry and company!

The top 5% and the bottom 5% represent only the extreme examples of 10% of all salespeople.  The other 90% are represented in the "All Salespeople" column.  We can filter the numbers some more if we break down the other 90%.  Wait until you see these numbers!

As you can see, there is a significant drop off from the top 5% to the next 15% and an even greater drop off to the 30% after that.  The big takeaway is that in these three competencies  the bottom 50% are nearly as weak as the bottom 5%. They all suck.  As a matter of fact, once you get past the top 20%, the picture is bleak.

What can you do about this? 

Use OMG to Evaluate your sales force so you can see what the capabilities are at your company.

Use OMG to Assess your sales candidates so that you can be assured of hiring only those who will succeed in the role.  

Train, train, train, coach, coach, coach, drill, drill, drill, role-play, role-play, role-play.

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright MassLive.com 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales training, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, value selling,

Data: The Top 10% of All Salespeople are 4200% Better at This

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 07, 2021 @ 11:09 AM

dont-care

My wife and I entered the small jewelry shop and were greeted - not with a warm welcome - but with a matter of fact "my name is...and I'm the owner...and I created everything in the store" which was followed by fifteen minutes of non-stop presentation of everything she created.  

You've been in a store like this and you know exactly how you have reacted to that.  It includes thinking all of the following:

  • Stop!
  • Shut Up!
  • I don't care!
  • Go away!
  • Oh wait, I can go away!
  • Please stop so I can leave!
  • Your stuff is not even that good!
  • Has anyone ever listened to this?
  • You've got to be kidding me!
  • There's more?
  • OMG make it stop!!!

When it was over my wife said "thank you" and we walked across the street to a gallery where we were quickly greeted - no greeted is totally the wrong word - instructed to "put on a mask!"  The mask thing again.  About ten minutes later he caught us staring at one particular painting for several minutes and asked, "Are you familiar with her work?"  We said, "No" and he took the opposite approach of the Queen of all Jewelry and walked away!

So in one store we weren't the least bit interested, she didn't notice, didn't care and kept on keepin' on.  In the other store we would have bought that painting and he abandoned us.

I don't usually write about retail selling and today's article is not about retail selling except to make a couple of important points.

If we all know how boring, irrelevant and agonizing it is to be presented to when we aren't interested, then why do salespeople, who have surely been on the receiving end of the scenario described above, insist on presenting before they have a qualified, interested prospect?  It's stupid, irresponsible, and a huge waste of time.  But they persist.

Salespeople aren't great at taking a consultative approach.  According to the data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments on more than two million salespeople around the globe, only 14% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength.  Only 42% of the top 10% have it as a strength and as you might guess, 0% of the bottom 10% have it as a strength.  You wouldn't think that anything could be worse than that, right?  But if you look at the bottom 50% - the bottom million salespeople, only 1% have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength. The top 10% are 4200% better at taking a consultative approach than the bottom 50%!

The Consultative Seller is one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG and each competency has between six and twelve attributes or an average of around nine.  In addition, there are 10 additional competencies with attributes combining for around 450 data points per salesperson and approximately 945 million data points in total.  You can see some of the data here and compare industries too.

Back to the story.

When salespeople have been trained to listen and ask questions first some still choose to tell their prospects everything they know up front.  Why?

I can think of ten potential reasons and none of them are very good:

  1. They lack experience and all they know is what they learned in orientation training
  2. They need to be liked and fear that if they ask questions their prospects will become angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their sales manager is not holding them accountable for taking the consultative approach
  5. Their sales manager is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced and lack confidence
  9. They think that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Everything on my list is symptomatic of numbers four and five. With reinforcement coaching and accountability, every other reason goes away.  That brings us to the next point/question.  Why aren't sales managers doing numbers four and five?

I can think of ten more potential reasons and none of them are any good either:

  1. They are spending too much of their time on personal sales
  2. They need to be liked and fear that holding their salespeople accountable will make them angry
  3. They don't agree with the consultative approach
  4. Their boss is not holding them accountable for implementing the consultative approach
  5. Their boss is not reinforcing the consultative approach through coaching
  6. They don't listen very well and as a result, don't know which question to ask their salespeople
  7. They don't know what "good" sounds like either and can't replicate it
  8. They haven't practiced role-playing and lack confidence
  9. They agree that listening and asking questions delays getting to the demo
  10. They are doing fine doing it the way they are doing it

Most of these reasons are essentially the same.

It's a top down problem and the folks at the top just hope the folks at the bottom take care of business and don't really care how. And therein lies the problem.  Ambivalence from the C-Suite basically suggests that they just don't care.

What can we do about that?  Rocky LaGrone had a great answer to that question!

Rocky said:

"You could take a stick and beat the C-suite over the head repeatedly until they cry Uncle and then start to listen.


Their biggest problem however is not their ambivalence. It's the fact they don't even know it's a problem. They rely on the sales leader because most of them (C-suite) don't understand sales. Sales is some fuzzy, hard to grip, intangible thing that is a bother but still necessary. The sales leader tells them, "all is good, numbers are coming, next quarter will be better, we are working on it, we need better pricing, we can't produce the product and deliver on time anyway, if we only had the Glen Gary, Glen Ross leads!" Or some other solid excuse...

Then they (C-Suite) play chase and try to fix everything except the cause. For example: Let's get a new CRM, new compensation plan, new marketing, new website, new brand, or something else that exacerbates and hides the real problem. Real problem - wrong sales people, wrong skills, wrong Sales Manager."
 
Thanks Rocky!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, listening skills, questioning skills

A Key Competency That Differentiates Top Sales Performers From Posers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 @ 16:07 PM

Watch The Goldbergs TV Show - ABC.com

We were watching an episode of the hilarious comedy series The Goldbergs and one of the themes of episode 4 in season 3 was about authenticity.  In this episode, Barry and Erica, the two oldest children, accused each other of being posers.

The bottom 50% of all salespeople are posers too.  In an article last week we discussed how data can help you hire the ideal salespeople.

In that article I shared a top/bottom analysis where the top performers were 100% more effective reaching decision makers than the bottoms.  Below I've shared another top/bottom analysis with different findings. 

 

At every company there are always a combination of between 15 and 30 findings and scores (from among the 250 or so that Objective Management Group [OMG] measures) that differentiate the best top performers from the worst under-performers.   In this analysis, if we had to choose a single differentiating factor, it would be the top performers' ability to sell consultatively (column 10).  If we chose a second factor, it would be their ability to use their skills to reach decision makers (column 17). Column 18 shows that their top performers are also succeeding at uncovering the decision makers' compelling reasons to buy because in addition to their skills, they are also assertive (column 21), allowing them to push back and challenge their prospects.  This causes those decision makers to respect them, view them as trusted advisors instead of vendors, and develop a bias towards them.  

When a salesperson can effectively use a consultative approach and uncover the decision maker's compelling reasons to buy they will stand out, develop a relationship along the way, and usually get the business. 

It doesn't hurt that these top performers also score significantly higher on hunting and maintaining a full pipeline so that the opportunities they find will move through the pipeline and often close while their under performing colleagues find a much smaller number of opportunities which get stuck in the discovery stage of the pipeline and fail to close.

While the reasons for inconsistent sales performance are always different, the answers will always be found in the data.  The 21 Sales Core Competencies will always reveal where the real problems are and that allows companies to focus their training and coaching on the appropriate competencies.  An OMG Sales Force Evaluation provides all of that data and then some.

Request samples here.  (Be sure to check Sales Force Eval.)

See the 21 Sales Core Competencies along with average scores by industry and if you want, even for your own company here.

Hire the right salespeople for each selling role at your company using OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.  A company that began using OMG's sales candidate assessments two years ago reported that their retention had improved from 25% to 70%, diversity had improved from 90% white male to 51%, ramp up time was 40% faster, and 75% of their teams had exceed their annual quota after just six months.

The time for having posers selling for you has passed.  What will the future of your sales team look like?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, reaching prospects, reaching decision makers, improve my sales teams performance, OMG evaluation

Is Your Sales Process Backwards, Upside Down or Stupid?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 07, 2021 @ 07:07 AM

Here Today movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

My wife and I recently watched the new funny but sad movie, Here and Now, written and directed by Billy Crystal, who stars as comedy writer Charlie Burnz.  In one scene, Charlie recalled a happier time when his family used to have what they called "upside down day." On upside down day they started the day by eating dessert, had dinner for lunch, and finally ate breakfast for dinner.  

Speaking of meals, we recently dined in a restaurant which had its rules laminated and affixed to the table. Their very first rule read, "Food must be ordered with alcohol" instead of what it should have said, "Alcohol must be ordered with food."  Words are important and these words were backwards. (100 bonus points if you can guess the restaurant name.) 

In between the meal and the movie, we attempted to shop at a well-known French retailer.  Before entering, they required scanning a QR Code, registering on their website, and waiting to receive a call from an associate before being allowed to shop.  Also frustrating was the problem that most of their products were not on display so you needed to know exactly what you were looking for because browsing in this upscale retail store was not encouraged.  Retail is all about browsing and at this store, they forgot about making it easy to buy and replaced it with making it difficult to get started.  Brand stupidity. (100 bonus points if you can guess the French brand.) 

Last night I was pulled over by a Massachusetts State Police Officer for changing lanes when there are double solid white lines.  I don't think it was the first time I've done that in 50 years of driving, but I'm certain I've never been pulled over for that before. I broke the rules.

Let's take upside down, backwards, rule breaking and stupid and use those four conditions to dissect sales processes.

When we look at the sales processes that most companies have in place, there are usually elements of upside down, backwards and stupid.

Some companies have a dedicated team of BDR's that work the top of the funnel before they hand-off the opportunity to an account executive. The very poor conversation to meeting ratios are an example of a serious combustion point with this scenario. There are many reasons for these unacceptable ratios that companies invariably find ways to justify (see my article about Why We Should Blow up the BDR Role).  While inexperience and ineffectiveness are the two most obvious reasons, another significant reason is the use of BANT which stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing.  (See my article about Why BANT Can Kill Opportunities.) Put another way, BDR's are not only charged with reaching decision makers, engaging them in conversation and scheduling first meetings, but many of them are also supposed to qualify those opportunities so that account executives don't waste their time.  While it's smart to have account executives working qualified opportunities, it's upside down, backwards and stupid!  A decision maker has no incentive to answer qualifying questions this early in the sales process before there is some compelling reason for them to buy what you have.  In other words, while you want to start the sales process with a decision maker with authority, you start with whom you start and go from there.  You can't qualify a prospect's ability to buy or get to the actual decision maker  until there is enough urgency for them to take action!  At that point, they'll ask you what you need from them!  When it's done at the right time in the sales process, it's much easier!

Another problem with most of the sales processes is the sheer number of steps that have nothing to do with selling.  For example, Marketing has worked its way into the sales process and while the lead generation work flow is important, it does not belong in the sales process.  A signed contract is an acceptable final step in the final stage of the sales process but the steps that legal undertakes are part of the legal team's process, not sales. 

Sales processes tend to emphasize three major steps - prospecting, presenting and closing - but seriously lack the actual selling-based stages and milestones. If we wish to sell value and create urgency, a consultative approach is required.  Without it, the conversation will invariably turn to price and your attempts to sell value will go right down the drain.

In this case, the sales process is not upside down or backwards, it is inside out - the inner core is missing!  For a better explanation, watch this ten-minute video that explains the difference between sales process and sales methodology, the milestones a good sales process must include, and the differences between some well-known sales methodologies and processes.


 

Even when we have helped companies optimize their sales process, salespeople are multiple-time-offenders when it comes to following the new sequence of milestones in the sales process.  Salespeople LOVE to skip steps.  They break the rules!

The single best example of upside down, backwards and stupid occurs when considering the limitations of certain CRM applications and/or the limitations of the integrators who customize those applications.  Your sales process must be integrated into your CRM application so some companies, acknowledging the various limitations of their CRM/integrators, include only those simple steps that they can get into their CRM. You can't dumb down your sales process because of limitations in your CRM! 

For the complex sale, we recommend Membrain, a robust CRM that emphasizes opportunity and pipeline which is fairly easy and quick to  customize, add content, create complex playbook scenarios, create stages and milestones and produce the reports you want.  Despite the availability and recommendation of a perfect application like Membrain, some companies cite their accumulated investment and training, and refuse to give up Salesforce, MS Dynamics and others, despite the lack of user compliance, inability to make it user friendly, customization challenges and costs.  Lack of compliance means very little realtime data and inaccurate forecasts and that's the reason you bought CRM in the first place!  Upside down, backwards and stupid!

What are you doing that is Upside down, backwards and stupid? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, qualifying, account executive

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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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