What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 @ 06:07 AM

sales process

If you were on vacation the past two weeks, this is what we were discussing:

June 30: The Top 10 Reasons Your Great New Salesperson Could Fail 
July 1: The One Sales Question I've Been Wrong About for Years 
July 2: The One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling Part 2 
July 7: Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers 
July 8: Top 21 Keys to Making Your Sales Force Dominate Today 
July 10: The New 21 Core Sales Competencies for Modern Selling   

The following article first appeared in the July Issue of TopSales Magazine.

I’m a baseball lover, die-hard Red Sox fan, and proud father of a 12-year-old baseball star.  Having founded Kurlan & Associates in 1985 and Objective Management Group in 1990, the only surprise should be that it took so long to combine the two passions and write Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, in 2005.

Baseline Selling

Companies have terrific results when they implement Baseline Selling, and last week a well-known expert asked, “What is the big secret that makes Baseline Selling so powerful?"  He thought it would make for a great article discussion, so let’s attempt to answer that question by starting with a few questions of my own.

Is it the sales process that makes it so powerful?  The big difference between the sales process in Baseline Selling and other sales processes is that rather than having outcome-based steps, time-based steps or task-oriented steps, it has customizable milestone-centric steps.  You might think that a step is a step, but there are huge differences.  With time-based steps, you may have achieved a certain number of calls or meetings, but you may not have actually achieved the desired outcomes.  With task-oriented steps, you may have completed the tasks, but you may not know whether you are any closer to having a new customer or client.  With outcome-based steps, you may have achieved the desired outcomes, but as with time and task-based steps, you may not know what will actually happen next.  With a milestone-centric process, the sequence of steps is extremely important because the steps build off of each other, and as each milestone is achieved, a salesperson gains more evidence, thus leverage and confidence that they are closer to the sale.

Sales Process Grader

Is it the methodology that makes it so powerful?  Nothing is more important in today’s selling than the conversation that takes place between the salesperson and the prospect.  While other methodologies are based on relationship-building, strategy or tactics, the Baseline Selling methodology is based on the conversation that continues across each stage.  Milestones are known only to the salesperson, achieved within the conversation, and invisible to prospects.  The methodology then, is consistent with the conversation that moves the process from step to step and stage to stage.

Is it because of uncovering compelling reasons to buy?  Unlike needs-based, buyer-journey, or pain-based approaches, the compelling reasons as to why a prospect would move their business to you, or buy this product, service or program in the first place, provides the salesperson with leverage.  It allows the salesperson to build a case using the prospect’s reasons, and helps the salesperson to position the solution in such a way that resonates with what is most important to the prospect.  On the other hand, a need may not be reason enough to change.  The buyer journey includes the salesperson at a point where it is difficult to move backward to gather the necessary information, and pain only works when there is a known problem and a desire to fix it.  While pain could be the source of a compelling reason, the desire to take advantage of an opportunity could just as often be compelling enough for a prospect.  In that scenario, the salesperson seeking to find pain would conclude that in the absence of pain, the prospect should be disqualified.

Is it the concept of SOB Quality?  Before we can discuss SOB Quality, you really need to know how that concept was developed, what it refers to in baseball, and how it translates to selling.  Watch this impromptu 3-minute video for my complete explanation of SOB Quality. 

Now you should understand just how accomplishing SOB allows salespeople to differentiate themselves from their competitors, internal adversaries, and become trusted advisors.  SOB does not exist in other processes, methodologies, sales strategies or tactics.  The closest anyone has come, since this was introduced in 2005, is The Challenger Sale; however, that describes a certain type of salesperson, whereas in Baseline Selling, achieving SOB Quality is simply a milestone that any type of salesperson can achieve.

So what is the big secret that powers Baseline Selling?  While all four of these concepts are important to Baseline Selling, SOB brings selling to a whole new level.  It causes prospects to think, “We need to work with Dave.  He gets it better than anyone else, he asked great questions, he got us on the right track, he helped us realize that we were approaching this the wrong way and we’ve never had a conversation like before that with anyone else!”

There are hundreds of experts offering dozens of processes, methodologies, approaches, strategies, styles and advice.  It’s all good.  All you have to do is choose one that meets the following 10 criteria: 

  1. It resonates with you.
  2. It’s easy to understand, teach and learn.
  3. It’s easy to customize and apply.
  4. It works today and will work tomorrow.
  5. It’s time-tested and proven.
  6. The methodology was designed for the process.
  7. The process is intended to be integrated into your CRM or pipeline management application.
  8. The process and methodology are rich enough to offer layered or stepped learning and application.
  9. The trainer has lived and breathed the process and methodology.
  10. The trainer understands your goto market strategy.

 Most of the executives, who reach out to us for help, tend to incorrectly believe two things:

  1. They already have a sales process - They have some steps, but steps don't make an effective sales process.  It's effective when it's predictive of outcomes, every salesperson follows it, and every sales manager coaches to it.
  2. They have good salespeople, but just need some tips - They may have some good salespeople and some of them can be coached up.  A company has good salespeople when they all overachieve stretch goals.
Image Copyright: sirikul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales methodology, solution selling, Relationship Selling, customer focused selling, buyer journey

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 06:06 AM

one thing missingI subscribe to several newsletters written by medical doctors who practice natural medicine.  They not only provide healthy nutritional advice and natural cures, but also expose the mainstream media, doctors, FDA and pharma for pulling the wool over our eyes and publishing so much misinformation.  And the misinformation is killing people!

I read most of the other sales blogs too.  Some of them are from companies within the Inside Sales community which, in an attempt to sell their services, are also publishing misinformation.  And the misinformation is killing sales forces.

I'm all for the new way of selling:

Migration to Inside Salesgreen checkIt's more efficient, less costly and more practical.  And it will work in most industries!

Social Selling green checkIt's one more way to get found, make connections and get introduced.

Sales Tools green checkI'm for any tool that will help salespeople to be more productive and effective.  These tools include gamification, call technology, email marketing and analytics.

Sales Automation green checkThis category includes lead nurturing, pipeline management and CRM.

Customers Already Have the Information They Need green checkSo what must salespeople do?  They must differentiate themselves and their companies by being the value. It's no longer adding value or talking about their value proposition or adding in something.  It's being of value to the customer.  The best way to be of value to the customer is to have the conversation that nobody else has had with them.

The Buyer Journey Instead of Sales Process red x  Understanding the buyer journey is fine, but without a milestone-centric sales process, salespeople cannot confidently move forward the sales process.

Customer-Centric/Customer-Focused Selling red x  Of course salespeople must be more focused on the customer and prospect.  However, that missive is being incorrectly interpreted and morphed into an epidemic of facilitation.  "Tell me what you want and I'll give it to you."  That's just plain stupid!  Anyone can do that.  And companies currently have anyone and everyone doing just that.  Veteran salespeople who have not adapted.  New salespeople who have not learned to sell.  This results in demos galore!  And that's one of the reasons that sales cycles are getting longer and win rates are decreasing so rapidly.  Customer-Centric Selling is the current catchphrase, but it's really consultative selling that makes the big difference.  Consultative Selling, when executed correctly, is a sophisticated form of listening and asking questions.  But's it's about asking the right questions, at the right time, and listening for the right information and following that up with more of the right questions.  Why?  To uncover and be able to discuss their compelling reasons to buy and/or move their business to you!  Anything other than that makes the salesperson appear incompetent. Objective Management Group (OMG) has statistics on this that are just plain ugly.  When it comes to selling consultatively, most salespeople, including the entire bottom 74%, are either not doing this at all or not doing it anywhere near how it should be done.   Of the salespeople evaluated and assessed to date, salespeople possess, on average, just 22% of the attributes of a consultative seller.

Prospects are Further Along in their Buying Process Before Meeting Salespeople red x

That is the perception and that is what we are being told, but if this is really true, then why are sales cycles increasing in length and win rates decreasing?  It's not really later in the buying process as much as it's later in the research process.  And because of the customer-centric approach, salespeople are acting more like facilitators, gathering even less information than they did a decade ago.  Prospects aren't ready to buy at this point in their process, they're just getting finished with looking at their options!  Salespeople don't have qualified or closable opportunities at this point, but they're acting as if they did, creating and sending unqualified proposals, making assumptions, and hoping for the best.

What's Missing?

So with all that's new and all that's the same, what is missing?  If you have read some of the other articles being pushed and shared, you might notice that they are leaving out the single most important fact about sales.  It's the same misinformation that would have you believe that cold calling is dead, SPIN Selling is dead, Solution Selling is dead, Relationship Selling is dead, Consultative Selling is dead, Baseline Selling is dead, and Salespeople are doomed.  They are completely leaving out the one thing that you need salespeople to do and do well. Without it you will lose, lose hard and lose often.  Someone must change people's minds and persuade them to buy from you and feel good about paying your price.  Salespeople must Sell!

It's probably not you.

Face it.  Only one company can have the lowest price.  Only one company can have the best product or service.  Only one company can provide the best customer service.  Only one company can have the most recognizable brand.  Only one company can have the best and longest track record of success.  Only one company can have the largest and/or happiest installed user base.  If you aren't that company on that day with that customer, you will have to change their mind!  Marketing can't do it.  Inbound can't do it.  Best pricing could do it, but you might be out of business before you get a chance to find out if it worked.  

What to do?

The only way to change people's minds is with very effective, highly-trained, relevant, up-to-date, consultative salespeople [read this article for more on that].  You can't change minds by forcing information, arm wrestling or lecturing.  Demos and presentations don't change minds either.  You can change minds by using gradual perception, asking good, tough, timely questions, and helping prospects come to the realization that buying from you will be the best decision they can make.

Image Copyright: lianna2013 / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, solution selling, customer focused selling

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About Dave

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

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