There is More Than One Type of Bias in Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 04, 2020 @ 10:12 AM

bias

Biases drive decision making.  You have them.  I have them.  We all have them.  Most of the time those biases are fine but when it comes to hiring, and specifically sales hiring, bias can get you in a heap of trouble.

While some biases simply cause bad hiring decisions, others have led to the growth of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) role in companies. This article attempts to explain and make sense of the various biases, how they affect selection, and how that correlates to sales success.

Assumptions - In the hiring process, when we make broad, sweeping assumptions about groups of people, including their gender, religion, ethnicity, age, or disabilities, those assumptions violate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.  The EEOC states that employers may not discriminate against any protected minorities whose members include:

  • anyone who isn't male
  • anyone who isn't white
  • anyone who is over 40

When it comes to hiring decisions, women, people of color, and people over 40 are protected minorities.  That's basically everyone except white men under 40!  These guidelines were originally intended to prevent hiring bias against these groups but as you probably know, these guidelines haven't changed for decades and we have progressed to the point where the protected groups are a huge part of our workforce. I believe that today, members of the protected class would be hired regardless of whether or not these guidelines remained in place.

Some companies proactively seek to hire specifically for diversity and inclusion.  Reaching beyond the protected group, they seek out those who are different as they attempt to create a wonderfully diverse culture. Our company, Objective Management Group (OMG), has a history of hiring a very diverse workforce.   

Biases in Sales Hiring - Is diversity and inclusion a good strategy when hiring salespeople?  It's complicated because it depends on who the diverse group of salespeople will be selling to as much as it depends on how they will be selling.  For example, if your salespeople will be selling face-to-face, including virtually via video, to the C Suite of corporations, your salespeople must be able to present themselves and your brand as professionally as possible, without allowing their personal preferences (their own bias) to sabotage their success.  And even though our biases may have been removed, it doesn't mean that the executives they'll be selling to in the C-Suite are without biases towards the diverse group of salespeople. In other words, it's risky to make "more diverse" more important than the larger mission to grow revenue.

If your same diverse group of salespeople were to sell only by phone and target business users or middle managers they would likely have far greater success.  You must put all salespeople in a position (a selling role), that provides them with the greatest chance of success.  You should not confuse hiring bias with a thoughtful understanding of what it takes to succeed in a specific selling role and which salespeople would best fit that selling role.

Types of Personal Biases in Sales Hiring - Sales managers regularly commit two types of hiring bias. They sometimes fall in love with the idea of a particular candidate from experiences listed on resumes.  Sales managers sometimes fall in love with candidates after a particularly wonderful interview where the candidate said all the right things, was very likable, and the sales manager's gut instinct was saying, "perfect!"  In feeling this way, sales leaders develop bias for certain candidates and this bias is what leads to so many sales hiring mistakes.  Sales managers get it wrong at least half of the time!

An example of bias against a sales candidate occurs when sales leaders refuse to hire salespeople from outside their industry.  They might have a valid reason, they might have had a succession of failures, and the bias might seem important for this particular sales leader.  That said, a negative experience from a very limited sample size does not make it fact.  This is simply another form of hiring bias that we must better understand.

In 2017, I wrote an article on hiring biases where I said that some sales hiring biases are good.  Has that stood the test of time?

Eliminating Biases from Sales Hiring - As much as a company might attempt to eliminate biases from their hiring practices, the reality is that it is extremely difficult unless you use the right assessments.  For example, personality assessments, like Caliper, and behavioral styles assessments, like DiSC, are not role specific and have been challenged in court.  Personality assessments that claim to assess sales traits are not only inaccurate and not predictive, they too can be challenged in court.  The one sales assessment that is not personality based measures every sales candidate equally across 21 Sales Core Competencies.  OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment is customizable for each selling role, extremely accurate and distinguished by meeting the requirements for predictive validity.  It also meets the requirements for having no adverse impact on protected minorities. By utilizing the OMG assessment early in the sales process, it completely eliminates bias, recommends only those candidates who have the selling capabilities required for the role while rejecting those who do not.  In essence, it helps you to become blind and deaf while creating a candidate pool of extremely qualified candidates, regardless of what they look like or sound like, where they come from, or their status in life.

In summary, when it comes to hiring salespeople there are four types of bias in play:

  1. Biases in favor of certain candidates 
  2. Biases against certain candidates 
  3. Biases that your salespeople have against their prospects and customers
  4. Biases that your prospects and customers have against your salespeople.

Eliminating bias from hiring is a game changer but helping your new sales hires succeed takes more than getting unbiased sales selection right.  Comprehensive on boarding is just as important and after that, regular, consistent and effective guidance, direction, coaching and accountability are the components that will lead to sales success.

Read this article on how to get your new salespeople to take off like a rocket ship!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Personality Tests, sales assessements, sales selelction

Found! The Caliper vs OMG Comparison: Which Sales Candidate Assessment is More Predictive?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 01, 2020 @ 09:12 AM

lost-and-found

When are you most likely to find the item you lost or misplaced?  Immediately after you purchase its replacement, of course! 

I just found an article that I wrote in 2012 but forgot to click the publish button!  Almost nine years in the making, this article compares OMG with Caliper and I did update it so that the information on both assessments is current.

I compared two assessments for the same candidate: one from Objective Management Group (OMG) and one from Caliper.  Not being one to pass up opportunities like this, I conducted another comparison where OMG recommended this person for the role and Caliper did not. 

OMG's assessment is sales specific - built for sales.  Caliper is a personality assessment adapted for sales.  Caliper asks the same questions as in their traditional personality assessment, but modifies the findings based on the personality traits they believe are associated with sales.  Some of Herbert Greenberg's (Caliper founder) earliest research on salespeople appears in my classic white paper, The Science of Salesperson Selection.

It is not unusual for OMG's findings to contradict the findings of even the most reputable of all personality assessments because OMG measures different things than everyone else.  Most of the sales-specific competencies and attributes that OMG measures are not measured by personality assessments, including Caliper.  OMG measures 21 Sales specific Core Competencies that no personality assessment - even Caliper, can touch.

Additionally, personality tests are not able to provide insight into other important areas like:

  • Longevity - likelihood that the candidate will stick to produce 5x ROI,
  • Skill Gaps - the sales-specific skills that have not yet been developed,
  • How the Candidate Thinks about Selling - their specific beliefs that support or sabotage the sales process,
  • Ramp up - whether they will achieve success more quickly than other candidates,
  • Selling Skills - the specific skills they have learned and actually execute to fill their pipeline, close business, manage accounts, and sell to major accounts.
  • Will to Sell - the combination of sales-specific competencies that determine whether the salesperson has the grit to succeed.  This is the difference between can sell versus will sell.
  • Sales DNA - the combination of strengths that support sales process, sales strategy, sales methodology and sales tactics.
A large insurance company recently stopped using Caliper for pre-employment assessments because it failed to differentiate between successful and unsuccessful salespeople.  For comparison, 75% of the candidates that OMG does NOT recommend, but who are hired anyway, fail within 6 months; 92% of the candidates that OMG recommends, who are eventually hired, rise to the top half of their sales forces within 12 months.
 
These are some of the personality traits that Caliper measures and reports on.  How many of them sound sales-specific? How many of them have anything to do with sales success?
 
One could argue that assertiveness, empathy, gregariousness, level-headedness, skepticism, sociability, thoroughness and urgency are useful traits for a salesperson to have - and they are.  The problem is that they don't differentiate strong salespeople from weak salespeople.
 
By contrast, OMG reports on 21 Sales Core Competencies as well as an additional 8 sales competencies not considered to be core.  Each of the competencies have an average of 10 attributes that make it easy to see what is being measured, and what a competency is all about.  Notice the ten tactical selling competencies that are blocked in red below.  I'll share the attributes for two competencies so you can see that the attributes are selling attributes, not personality traits. 
 
 
In a previous article I compared OMG to Extended DiSC and showed the attributes in the Hunting and Qualifying competencies.  This time around, let's look at the attributes from the competencies, Selling Value and Reaching Decision Makers to show how different this is from what a personality assessment like Caliper measures.
.

As you can see, these attributes define and complete each competency.  You may have also noticed that we show the percentage of attributes as well as the weighted score as some attributes are more important to the competency than others. That made a huge difference for this candidate when it came to the Reaching Decision Makers competency where despite having 57% of the attributes, he was missing the most important attribute. When you compare sales-specific competencies that drive sales performance and success, to personality traits that are not specific to sales and which fail to differentiate strong from weak salespeople, it's clear that OMG is both miles and decades ahead of any and all other assessments.

So which assessment - OMG or Caliper - is more predictive?  That answer is so obvious that it doesn't even require me to answer it!

Sales Candidate Assessments are extremely important because they prevent hiring mistakes and remove bias from your hiring process.  However, if you don't choose the right assessment, configure it correctly for each role, use it at the right time in the process, or heed its advice, don't count on any assessment to make a meaningful difference!

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Candidate, omg, caliper, sales assessment test, personality test, pre-employment test

2020's Ten Must Read Sales and Sales Leadership Articles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 @ 11:11 AM

TopTen

The year was 2020 and it was an unpredictable year.  There were surprises galore. For example, instead of only bank robbers and anarchists from ANTIFA wearing masks, we were all told to always wear masks.  Instead of forcing myself to be social among extroverts, I was given permission to be socially distant, a not so awful turn of events for an acute introvert like myself.  The stock market lost and gained more than 10,000 points in the same year.  Most companies pushed hard for the last six months attempting to generate enough revenue to offset their lackluster second quarter sales.  All because of the pandemic.  But there was one thing that didn't change.  I still managed to churn out around fifty articles and after 15 years of blogging and almost 1,900 articles to date, I feel like most of the articles from this year were among my best ever.  As has been the custom each December, today we name the top ten articles of 2020 and I hope you'll read every one of them.

The articles from 2020 fell mostly into three categories with some overlap to an obvious fourth category; the pandemic:

Category 1: Research, Data Mining and Assessments (19 articles including 6 that were pandemic-related)
Category 2: Sales and Selling (9 articles including 1 that was pandemic-related)
Category 3: Sales Leadership (17 articles including 8 that were pandemic-related)

There are many ways to vote the top ten articles including:

  • views
  • comments
  • likes
  • engagement
  • personal favorites
  • award nominations/wins
  • appearances on top-10 lists

It's difficult to assign weightings to the list because more views doesn't necessarily mean that people liked or engaged with it, engagement doesn't mean people liked it, lack of comments doesn't mean people didn't like it, awards and top-10 lists are dependent on the people making such designations actually seeing and considering an article, and my favorites won't necessarily be your favorites.  As this is partly scientific and partly subjective I introduce:

The Top 10 Articles of 2020

Best article on How to Conduct an Opportunity Review - This was a fun article to write because I was able to use the political divisiveness as a metaphor to demonstrate the correct and incorrect ways to conduct opportunity reviews.

Best Take-Down of a competitive assessment - Most competitive assessments don't stand a chance against OMG and I simply obliterated Extended Disc in this take-down!  This article was even more fun because you can't make this stuff up! 

Best article on the difficulty explaining the differences between salespeople - Most people can't explain or justify how one salesperson is better than another and are left to rely on revenue as the differentiator.  But revenue is actually the single worst way to compare or differentiate salespeople and sales capabilities.  This article explains why revenue comparisons don't work and presents a better way to make these comparisons.

Best article showing how sales effectiveness changed before, during and after the first recovery from the pandemic - Sales capabilities are sales capabilities, right?  Not when it comes to a Pandemic.  Some scores actually changed throughout the pandemic and into the summer recovery.  This article shows what changed, what stayed the same and why.

Best article on how to be your best selling virtually over video - 6 upgrades that you must make to your virtual/video sales efforts to improve prospects' impressions of you.

Best use of an analogy to explain sales team effectiveness - Regular readers know I love to use analogies and I can turn almost anything into a sales analogy. This was not only one of my best analogies, LinkedIn readers piled on with more examples from this analogy.

Best article on explaining how metrics are used and their importance to sales  - In yet another analogy article, I used pandemic metrics - many that aren't reported - to drive home the importance of having and identifying the correct sales metrics.

Best article showing correlation between a finding and sales success - There are dozens of OMG findings that correlate to Sales Percentile and ultimately, sales success, but the correlation to this finding hadn't been noticed prior to the publication of this article.

Best article on why sales managers are so bad at sales coaching - The data doesn't lie and this article is packed with data about what sales managers do and don't do, as well as how poorly they do it when it comes to coaching.

Best article on what you can do to have a great fourth quarter - While it's too late to impact the fourth quarter of 2020, this article has fifteen specific things you can do which, given the date on the calendar, will impact your first quarter of 2021.

Honorable Mention - these are some of my personal favorites

Most Controversial Article - Trump.

Best use of politics in an article - The first day of the Senate Confirmation Hearing on Amy Coney Barrett was chocked full of examples of how not to convince people to do what you want them to do.

Best article dealing with the Pandemic - How to lead your team in times of crisis.

Best article using historical figures - I wasn't much of a history buff but I did find a way to include FDR and Sir Isaac Newton in this article about fear.

Which article did you like the most?  Which article was most helpfuil?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, top sales articles, top sales blog, sales hiring assessment, sales effectiveness, Donald Trump, pandemic

Why I Can't Talk About This form of Rejection Anymore

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 @ 09:11 AM

I want to ask for your help.  Please read these two rants and then comment - I really need your comments, inbound links and outrage to support my position.

Rant #1: How many of your salespeople are immune to rejection?  

How would you react if I told you that I just violated somebody's trademark by asking that question?

Last week I received an email from some guy who said just that.  He owns a trademark on the term "rejectionproof".  I don't know about you, but I felt something boiling up from way, deep down inside of me - outrage - at the possibility of this being true.  My companies own trademarks and copyrights and everything I write on this blog is copyrighted.  B U T - if someone can simply be awarded a trademark for a commonly used expression, one that was surely being used prior to the award, one that Objective Management has been using in all of its assssments since the early 1990's, and then use that mark to extort money from people who are simply using the term in conversation....

He may have gotten lucky and had a computer determine that "rejectionproof" as a word was unique. To have the nerve to go after everyone who has ever used the common phrase "rejection proof" and tell them to stop using it (as in remove it from everything you've ever written.  Remove it from my books?) and send him money...well I think that is extortion!  [Update - according to my attorneys, this guy CAN do this]

What do you think?  Please comment below.

Rant #2 - Sales 2.0 Stupidity

I mentioned in yesterday's article that senior executives still aren't getting the sales pipeline.

At the same talk in DC, I asked the audience if they were familiar with the term Sales 2.0.  Same response. Nobody.  It seems that outside the blogosphere, and especially the more marketing focused sites, business people have no clue what Sales 2.0 is, and even fewer have heard of Customer 2.0.  The bloggers and readers at CustomerThink.com and SalesEdgeOne.com will be outraged over this but let's face it.  Except for a small percentage of sales experts, Selling Power, who hosts the Sales 2.0 Conference, and most of the inbound, customer focused marketing experts, the terms Sales 2.0 and Customer 2.0 have no legs.  They aren't catching on.  They don't matter.  And we should stop forcing it down the throats of business.  While Sales 2.0 is about getting found, it's really the art of using the new social marketing and sales tools.  They're tools!  Selling, even with the tools, is still selling so let's stop confusing people and talking about stuff they don't care about.

What do you think?  Please comment below but indicate whether you are a sales or marketing expert, or a sales or business leader at your company.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales 2.0, rejection, conference, trademark infringement, selling power

Data Shows That Your Sales Team is No Different Than Your Lawn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 20, 2020 @ 07:11 AM

I just love it when our lawn looks gorgeous - thick, lush, and green, green, green.  Getting it looking that good requires fertilizing, aerating, thatching, over seeding, and frequent mowing, all things better suited to the landscaping company than me. Of course, some sun and water help too. And even with an irrigation system, by the middle of the summer, areas of our lawn begin to look like crap. Not to worry though. By mid fall, the lawn looks its absolute best.  Yup, my lawn never looks better than it does on November 1. Right before it snows and turns brown for the winter!  You have to admit, that's a lot of work and expense for a lawn that looks perfect for all of 6 weeks - 3 weeks in the spring and 3 weeks in the fall!

nice-lawnDead-Lawn-1024x675

                                                Great looking spring lawn.                                                                                           Crappy looking summer lawn

Because my lawn looks its worst on August 1 and its best on November 1, it has a lot in common with most sales organizations.  A sales team looks its best on January 1, when every opportunity in the pipeline is a possibility and forecasts predict a banner year.  It looks its worst just a week earlier, when on December 23, sales leaders defend the team's sub-par performance to the CEO and explain why 57% of their salespeople failed to hit quota - again!  It's easy to explain why the lawn fails, as dry, hot summers will do that.  But why do sales teams continue to fail, year after year, regardless of industry, and in every economy?  Why don't the numbers improve?  Why don't more salespeople jump from C's to B's?  From B's to A's?  From D's to C's?  The answers - and there are plenty - are evasive.  But let's try!

We can certainly pin some of the blame on sales managers.  My last two articles explain many of the problems contributing to ineffective sales management.  Read about crappy sales managers and then read the follow-up article about crappy coaching.

We can certainly pin some of the blame on salespeople.  Why don't they try to improve?  Why don't they invest in sales self-development?  Why don't they read more books and articles, watch more videos, listen to more audio and push themselves out from their comfort zone?   Why don't they practice?

After 35 years in this business, I still don't understand why sales, as a profession, includes so many ineffective salespeople.  Based on data from Objective Management Group (OMG), who has evaluated and assessed 2,033,688 salespeople, 50% of all salespeople suck.  Take a look at the image below where I have isolated the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  This screen shot represents the percentage of those weak salespeople who have the ten tactical selling competencies as strengths:

After seeing these percentages is it any wonder why half of your salespeople fail to hit quota?  Don't think it could get any worse?  Take a look at what happens when we look at the bottom 10% where it's clear that the only thing some of them are capable of is making friends and presentations:

These ten selling competencies are ten of the twenty-one sales competencies that OMG measures.  You can see them all, filter by industry and sales percentile, and even see how your salespeople compare.  Data on OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies.

We can pin some of the blame on history. To a certain degree, C Suite executives are conditioned to accept these year-end results and when they are disappointed yet again, they don't raise hell, don't fire the sales leaders, and don't storm out the door.  They simply aren't surprised any more.  Failure is baked in.

You know what it takes to make a lawn look great and from experience I know what it takes for a sales team to become great.  Companies that evaluate their sales teams, provide effective sales training, embrace sales process, train their sales managers to coach, get sales selection right and improve their sales cultures, yield huge gains in sales and profits. Yes, margins increase too. That's what happens when salespeople learn to sell value instead of price.

With that in mind, we can certainly assign a lot of blame on company owners, CEO's and senior sales leaders who don't take those steps and/or don't take those steps seriously. 

The conversation on the LinkedIn post for this article has some fantastic additional reasons why and took my lawn analogy even further.  The best one so far is from Rocky LaGrone who said, "...Don't forget about pesticides for those pesky insects, pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, over watering, and fungus. Those are the same in sales as mediocre sales leaders and salespeople. It's the equivalent to making excuses and accepting them. Add lack of understanding of how to bring value and premature presentation and you have a baron landscape in sales. With zero effective coaching you might as well not mow! The layman landscaper cant see the early warning signs of root damage or infestations of grubs no more than the layman sales executive can't see their rotting sales foundation without measuring the right metrics at the right frequency. Most people react to their grass and don't pay attention to the roots. Healthy roots produce healthy plants and the same is true for sales. The fundamentals never change. It's the application of the fundamentals that make the difference. A professional landscaper will start with a soil sample and analysis. Why wouldn't a sales executive start with an analysis of their salesforce?"

There are a lot more great comments like this on at the LinkedIn post.

There's no excuse for not weaponizing your sales teams and equipping them with every appropriate sales strategy and tool to leverage their ability to close opportunities they have routinely allowed your competitors to retain, steal or close.

As Michael Jackson famously sung in his timeless 1980's hit, Man in the Mirror,  Make a change.  Start with the [person] in the mirror.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales performance, CEO, sales quotas, sales assessments, sales managerment, increase profit

Selling Over Video - The Six Things You Must Do Next to Improve Your Look

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 17, 2020 @ 09:11 AM

green-screen

At this point, most salespeople have accepted that the majority of their sales "calls" will take place over Zoom or similar video platform.  However, accepting the reality of video selling, and maximizing that video selling for effectiveness, are two completely different things.  In today's article, we'll discuss the next set of steps you should take so that selling over video can be as effective as possible.

I don't really care what your video looks like for internal meetings, but I care a lot about what it looks like when you are selling, selling your company and selling yourself.  There are six additional things to consider beyond the platform you choose to use and how to master that platform.  In this article we'll cover all six!

Virtual Backgrounds - Do you remember what you learned about making a good first impression back in Sales 101?  Good, because I don't ever again want to see your bedroom, kitchen, living room, basement, loft, deck, closet, office cubicle, boat, the default beach image, or any of the standard backgrounds that Zoom and others make available.  They are all unprofessional.  You can upload any image to Zoom, so upload your logo, a trade show background, the front of your building with the logo showing, or a professional photo of the product you sell.  Anything except what is actually behind you!  If you don't know how to do this, find someone who does and do it.  

Green Screen - The problem with virtual backgrounds is that because they're virtual, they tend to bleed, causing your head to look funny, your hands to disappear, and maybe your hair and ears too.  You can easily fix that with a green screen.  But don't get just any green screen.  Make sure that you seek out one that easily sets up, collapses, and is easy to move around and store.  I like this one.  Warning, you have to set up green screens immediately behind you and right up against your chair so if you choose to leave it set up I guarantee it will be in your way

Lighting - So you have your virtual background and green screen but you still don't look professional because there isn't enough lighting in enough of the right places. I get so frustrated with salespeople whose faces I can't see because there is a window behind them causing them to look as if they are in the dark, or they really are in the dark (figuratively and literally).  Instead of messing around with shades and lamps, invest in an inexpensive clip on USB LED light.  Lighting will make all the difference in the world, but once you have good lighting, you'll want to pay more attention to getting camera ready in the morning!

Camera - Your built-in camera might be fine, but if you're using a Mac, the camera is only 720p and isn't full HD.  Not only that, your built-in Mac camera lacks the settings to make adjustments.  To solve this problem you can either purchase a clip-on 1080p USB HD web camera, or download iGlasses, which works in conjunction with your cameras and allows you to adjust focus, zoom, color, brightness and more.  Stay away from the dozens of cheap Chinese-made webcams that are promoted for half the price. Connection, compatibility and quality need to be brainless.  The last thing you want to do is spend hours getting your camera to work!  

Microphone - Your built-in microphone is not fine.  Invest in a USB broadcast microphone and you'll sound better than if you were there!  This is especially important if you are going to record a video and post it, send it, or reuse it.  I like the Blue Yeti.  Just a warning, these high quality microphones pick up everything, especially the sound of you typing on your keyboards, but also barking dogs, crying babies, landscapers running their mowers and blowers, and dishes!

Wardrobe - Most of us are not locked down and we are free to leave our homes and return to our offices.  That said, there are no more excuses for how we all look when hopping on a video call.  At least from the waste up, look professional!  You don't have to wear a shirt and tie, but no more tee shirts!  In the northeast US, it's late-fall and winter is knocking on the door so a long-sleeve collared shirt and nice sweaters are good options for men, while business blouses and conservative sweaters and tops are good choices for women.  Guys - shave!  Everyone - fix your hair! 

Colors and textures are important too.  According to Jordan Stolch, Wardrobe consultant at ThriveGlobal, "Neutrals such as blue, grey, charcoal, off-white/cream, khaki and navy are your best choices for on-screen colors as they consistently register with the camera and ensure you look professional, trustworthy, and experienced."  I don't recommend that you wear solid black or white as cameras do not like those two colors.

Here are two examples:

See the difference?  On the left, long sleeve crew shirt and distractions galore but the lighting is OK.  On the right, all as it should be with green screen, virtual corporate background, good lighting, and a nice sweater.

It's time to up your game on video.  With every moment you spend on video, your prospects are judging you! 

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, video, zoom, selling over video, video tools, dressing for business video, microphone for video, lighting for video, green screen

The Problem With Having Crappy Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 11, 2020 @ 15:11 PM

lg-electronics-front-load-washers-wm8100hva-64_1000

The lettering above the dials of our LG washing machine (pictured above when new) have worn off.  I went online believing I could get a replacement decal and while LG does not provide replacements,  they will replace the entire front panel for $125.  While I was researching this stupid, preventable issue, I found that many LG owners have the same problem.  You see, the letters come right off if you are stupid enough to drape a stained baseball uniform (or any stained clothing) over the front of the washer and spray it with a stain remover like Shout.  How can the product managers for this machine be so bad?

They're not the only professionals who are quite bad at what they do.  Sales Managers underperform at a mind boggling level.  Let me show you the degree to which most sales managers are unqualified.

Let's begin our story with sales management candidates - those candidates looking for a sales management gig.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) recommendation rate for sales management candidates is only 14.8% with another 14.1% on the fringes leaving 71% of all candidates not recommended!  More than two out of three candidates for sales management roles don't qualify!

The next question is why not?

One third of all candidates are knocked out for having low scores in Will to Manage Sales.  This group of five sales management competencies includes Desire for Sales Management Success, Commitment to achieving greater sales management success, Outlook, Responsibility and Motivation.

42% of all candidates are knocked out for having Sales Management DNA scores that are too low.  Sales Management DNA consists of five competencies which together are a combination of strengths that support a sales manager's ability to coach to and enforce sales process, sales strategies, sales tactics, sales methodology, sales pipeline and CRM compliance.  When the score dips below a certain point, those competencies become weaknesses.

16% of all candidates are knocked out for scoring too low on the Sales Coaching competency and another 61% are on the fringes.  That's another way of saying that only 23% of all candidates have the Sales Coaching competency as a strength and when sales managers are supposed to be spending half of their time on coaching, that's seriously useless.

Ugh.

There are a couple of different ways to look at this.  Companies that are serious about building strong sales cultures and following best practices use OMG's sales management candidate assessments and say, "No big deal.  That's why we use OMG to assess sales and sales management candidates!"  Companies that don't use OMG probably don't even notice because the candidates are probably no worse than most of the sales managers already working there.

That brings us to the bigger problem.  Six out of every seven sales managers SUCK!

What does that mean for you?

Most sales managers don't coach enough, don't coach consistently, don't coach the right way, don't impact their salespeople's opportunities, don't grow their salespeople, don't inspire their salespeople, don't hold their salespeople accountable, suck at recruiting new salespeople, spend too much time on personal sales and compiling reports, and not nearly enough time developing the talent on their teams.  More on this topic.

I spoke with the two senior-most executives of a national company who admitted that they've been trying to build a sales organization for ten years.  They said they "don't know what they don't know."  That doesn't actually differentiate them from most executives.  What does differentiate them is that they admitted it!  Unfortunately, admitting that they don't know what they don't know doesn't solve anything.  They must also be willing to follow advice, follow through and stick with it and that's easier said than done. Building a sales culture that rocks means starting with the right sales manager in place.  Always.

The challenge is to understand the importance of having the right sales managers.  If you run a company with a small sales team, you're lying to yourself if you think that you can manage salespeople in your spare time.  Just. Not. True.  If you run a larger company with a larger sales team, you're lying to yourself if you think that as long as you hire the right sales talent any sales manager will do.  Right up until the good salespeople quit.  If you have multiple sales teams, with more layers between the C Suite and the salespeople, sales managers receive less scrutiny, are more independent, and play an even more important role in executing the company's strategy.  You're lying to yourself if you think that having any sales manager with industry experience will get the job done.

Sales Managers are the LG washing machines of the sales profession and the people they report to are the enablers that allow that inferior product to exist.

Time to towel off.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, sales management, sales performance, sales team, sales management test

First Steps to Generate More Sales Opportunities Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Nov 05, 2020 @ 18:11 PM

buses

I experienced a number of firsts this week!

I saw school buses for the first time since early March and with the buses, came traffic congestion!

Some of the television networks began announcing that new episodes will return in January.  I don't know how much longer I can wait to learn what happened after all of those season finales.  Come to think of it, I don't even remember the season finales.  Whatever, finally something new to watch!

My office phone rang for the first time all year. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration but it is the first time it rang since I returned to the office in mid-August.  Not only did it ring, it was a cold call!  I ran a complicated set of analyses on all the pertinent data, and with some comprehensive deductive reasoning, I concluded that it was the first cold call received since mid-August.

According to Objective Management Group (OMG), only 3% of all salespeople prefer to prospect by phone, so it's no surprise that this call was an aberration.  More about that in a moment.

Unfortunately, there were several things I experienced this week that were not firsts.

On LinkedIn, 13 more of the people who asked me to join their networks immediately attempted to schedule calls to sell me something.  In Microsoft Outlook, my email inbox received 17 fairly awful unsolicited emails, 16 from companies who do various forms of lead generation promising more customers and sales.  Why would anyone hire a lead-generation company that demonstrates how poorly they will actually perform this service for you, while lying about which mediums *plural* they will use?  None of them ever reach out by phone!

Using the above data, if you have 17 competitors sending completely delete-worthy emails from the workflows in their email marketing applications, 13 more reaching out with equally woeful LinkedIn messages, with almost nobody reaching out by phone, why in the world would you prospect using anything other than the phone, unless wasting your time sending delete-worthy emails is less painful than using the phone?

In 2015 I wrote this article about the power of the phone.    

This article has a boatload of prospecting tips.

This article has suggestions on how to improve your emails.

This 2014 article has great tips for both phone and email.

Luckily for you, this is the end of today's article, but if you want to watch a 2-minute video rant from yesterday, you can find my rant about the problem with Value Propositions and Elevator pitches here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, prospecting, scheduling sales appointments

The Correlation Between Milestones, Sales Process and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

process

The shit show known as 2020.  Many of us have heard that term used to describe this uniquely strange year.  Despite everything unusual about 2020, there have been some normalcies too.  We celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's and Father's Days, and we will all celebrate the upcoming holidays.  The gatherings might be smaller and more localized, but the holiday won't pass by without us.  These are all Milestones.

Objective Management Group (OMG) celebrated some milestones this year too.  In January we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, in August we processed our 2 millionth sales assessment and in September we updated the industry standard 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Milestones are important.  How are they important to sales success?

Milestones are also the most important components of a strong, reliable, predictive sales process. 

Without specific milestones that must be reached in each stage of the sales process, there is no sales process!

Back in the early 90's, in the very early days of OMG, only 9% of all salespeople had and/or followed a sales process.  While that has improved dramatically in the last 30 years, to 45%, it is still way too low.  Check out these findings.

Sales Process is only one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies yet it correlates perfectly with sales percentile.  As you can see, the best salespeople are 94% more likely to have and follow a sales process while 83% of weak salespeople, the bottom half of all salespeople, are out there winging it!  And when it comes to all salespeople, 55% are winging it.  Hmmm.  That's pretty close to the 57% who don't hit quota, isn't it?

Consider that salespeople who are just winging it usually have milestones.  For example, most lousy salespeople have conceptual milestones for things like:

  • Getting on an approved vendor list
  • Quoting
  • Submitting a Proposal
  • Scheduling a Demo
  • Getting a Prospect to Agree to a Trial

There is nothing wrong with these milestones unless they are the only milestones in a company's or salesperson's sales process. Unfortunately, that's what we usually see, with salespeople looking to achieve late stage milestones without meeting the ten to fifteen crucial milestones that must be achieved PRIOR to the five listed above. A best-practices sales process has at least four stages (think in terms of stages like suspect, prospect, qualified, closable) with each stage having between three and eight measurable milestones.  

Skipping a single milestone can have devastating consequences.  Imagine what can happen when salespeople skip ten to fifteen milestones! 

Very often, companies lacking the appropriate milestones in its sales process have win rates below 15%.  Companies that get their sales processes customized and optimized with predictive scorecards get their win rates up to near 80%!  If yours isn't that high, there's a good chance that sales process is at the top of the list of root causes. 

To get a better sense for what a sales process should look like, and how popular sales processes compare, check out this 11--minute video that I recorded four years ago.

Milestones are important.  One of your milestones should be to make your sales process as structured and predictive as your accounting, operations, manufacturing, programming, legal, shipping or engineering processes.  It is irresponsible for your sales process to not be as solid and well-thought out as each of your other processes. Sales success drives revenue and profit. Why would you allow the single process that drives revenue and profit to suffer from lack of professional attention. 

Sales is not some fluffy art-form that can be molded to the whims of each salesperson!  Sales is more like a software application where the science lies under the hood in its code and the art or personality is infused into the look, feel and easy-to-navigate user interface.  Sales science lies in the sales process and methodology and the art or personality is infused by the salesperson to have a friendly, easy and enticing conversation with the prospect.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales effectiveness, sales success, sales milestones, sales software

The Keys to Fourth Quarter Sales Success in 2020

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

You're probably going to hate this article!  I'm going to show you that much of what is transpiring with the Pandemic could be having a greater impact than you realize relative to the future state of your business and you might not like what I have to say.  As always, if you can hang in through some of the preliminary analysis, I'll make the pivot to sales and business.

Each day, the Boston Globe sends an update with metrics that the state of Massachusetts is monitoring with regard to the Pandemic.  The update for October 19, 2020, is shown below:

Notice that the death toll rose by 15. 

Also notice that under "Related" the link to the article warning about gloom and doom over the next 6-12 weeks.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer tweeted this out today:

Back in May, when Massachusetts began reopening, there were between 10-20 deaths per day, and 100-200 new cases per day.  Over the past 5 months, the number of new cases has risen by more than 100 each month to the 827 new cases reported today.  However, during this entire 5 month period, the daily death toll has not exceeded 10-20, the same as it was back in May.  See the two graphs in the next paragraph on media reporting.

Media Reporting - Unfortunately, most media outlets insist on reporting only the number of new cases, but don't tell you that hospitalizations are down  *dramatically*  and deaths have remained steady after dropping to their current low levels.  Check out the CDC's own graph on hospitalization rates between week 10 (early March) and week 40 (early October):

You are reading this graph correctly.  Even among those over 65, hospitalizations are down to just over 5% of those infected with Covid. 

This is the latest graph of US deaths from Covid.

That's right.  Cases way up.  Deaths way down.  You should also check out this data on death counts - click on the graph to see the entire graph.

You read this table correctly too.  The actual number of deaths did not significantly exceed the expected (normal) number of deaths.  Does this mean that the largely elderly population with comorbidity, who died, might have died anyway?  This video shows that the CDC's own data shows that more than 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were not COVID deaths!

If deaths and hospitalization rates are so low, despite cases continuing to increase, why isn't the media sharing this great news? 

After all, we all want good news, we all want to be more optimistic, and we all want the economy to thrive.  What's going on? 

There can be only one answer.  The media wants to continue making President Trump the villain so that he does not win reelection.  If you don't agree with that explanation then please explain why the media never shared any of these graphs and tables with you.  Do you have a better explanation?

Impact on Business - The same media that is misleading you about the Pandemic is also telling us that we are in the midst of the worst economic recession in history, with more jobs lost than ever before, and it will become much worse.  Of course, that's not the case.  Unemployment is down to just 7.9% and that's with most of the travel, tourism and restaurant industries still shutdown or operating at very reduced capacity! 

I participated in a government survey on the impact the Pandemic had on my small business and last week they sent a link to view the results. You can see the results for yourself here but I can save you a tremendous amount of time.  I played around with the variables on the site, recorded my results and one thing became crystal clear.  When I didn't include states like California and Michigan, whose Governors are still trying to keep small businesses shuttered, and I didn't include the two NAIC codes from the industries that were devastated, the rest of us have fared pretty well through the past 7 months!  We're doing OK!  It's important for us to know this fact in order to drive home a fantastic 4th quarter to salvage 2020.

Metrics - The pandemic has called attention to the fact that on a daily basis we are surrounded by key metrics for COVID-19. I can't believe how many companies have still not identified the key metrics that will drive their sales results.  There are either no metrics, the metrics are irrelevant or the metrics are backwards looking.  It's 2020.  Forward looking metrics rule the day.  Get with the program!

Tools - I read this article about the best Chrome Extensions for sellers.  I don't want to criticize the article because it's an accurate list of great applications that you can start from within Chrome.  However, the last thing your salespeople need right now is more tools.  It's noise. A distraction.  Technology for the sake of technology.  There are basic tools that every salesperson should be equipped with and everything else is completely unnecessary.

We're trying to grow the economy all the way back and most of the information being pushed at us isn't helping. We've come a long way since March and we can make even more progress in the fourth quarter if we keep our eye on the ball and don't allow the fear-mongering, agenda-driven media to have their way, negatively influence the masses, and cause another slowdown or worse, shutdown.  Here's what the same Boston Globe sent out today, October 20, 2020.

In summary, Simplify.  Focus.  Metrics. Optimism. Hire Salespeople. Sell. Train. Drive. Fight. Engage.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales effectiveness, sales tools, revenue growth, covid-19, pandemic

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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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