Elite Salespeople are 200% Better in These 3 Sales Competencies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 @ 06:07 AM


Professional athletes have one trait in common - they are all very athletic and their skills are among the top several hundred in the world in their particular sport.  For example, in Major League Baseball, there are 30 teams with 25 players each, making those ball players the top 750 in the world.  Dig a little deeper and in each sport there is an even smaller subset of players who are all-stars. Among the top 750 baseball players in the world, just 34, or just a little shy of 5% of that group are named to the all-star team each year.

Professional salespeople have one trait in common - they are all professional salespeople.

Since there are 16 million of them in the USA alone, they are hardly a rare breed and everyone knows someone or a lot of someones who are in sales.  However, once we look at salespeople as a profession, much like sports, around 5% are all-stars.  The difference between an all-star baseball player and a bench player or substitute for one of the 30 teams is that the all-star hitter consistently crushes the ball, the all-star pitcher consistently dominates hitters, and the all-star closer consistently shuts down hitters in the final innings of play.  

In sales, we don't have substitutes, but we have lots of weak salespeople who are far less effective than subs.  First, there are so many of them it would be like including all 2,500 or so minor league players (A, AA, and AAA leagues), 1,110 or so independent league players who aren't good enough to play for a minor league team, all 50,000 or so college baseball players, and all 500,000 or so High School players and you still wouldn't come close to the 8 million inferior salespeople in the USA!

That said, there are some things that the elite salespeople do which weak salespeople aren't able to do and it doesn't involve hitting a baseball.

The table below which shows how comfortable salespeople are when it comes to money and related discussions with their prospects, including whether or not they are speaking with the actual decision maker.


There are so many take aways from this!

  1. Strong across the board correlation to Sales Percentile
  2. Elite salespeople are score 613% higher in the competency Comfortable Talking about Money
  3. Elite salespeople score 86% higher in Money Tolerance - their concept of how much is a lot of money
  4. Elite salespeople score 23% higher in the competency Buying Habits Support Selling Value - they buy value instead of buying based on price
  5. Elite salespeople score 74% higher at uncovering actual budgets
  6. Elite salespeople score 55% higher in the competency reaching actual decision makers.

When you put it all together, elite salespeople are 200% more likely than their weaker colleagues to succeed at selling value, while having a financial conversation, with a decision maker.  Put another way, a weak salesperson has very little chance of having any kind of financial discussion or even reaching a decision maker.

That begs the question, why do so many companies put up with having so many weak salespeople?

You can see data for hundreds of thousands of salespeople in more than 200 industries in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.  If you want to get serious about selecting and hiring better salespeople you can take OMG's accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessment for a test drive here.

Join the discussion of this data on LinkedIn.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, reaching decision makers, elite salespeople, talking about money, sales data

Distraction, Engagement, and Selling with Great Efficiency

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 @ 14:10 PM


What do you do when a call or meeting cancels unexpectedly?

The choices come from two categories:

  1. Distract
  2. Engage

Distract includes catching up on your reading, browsing the net, stepping out for a beverage and/or snack, making a social call, chatting with colleagues, relaxing, driving, or taking a nap.  It also includes getting things on your to-do list taken care of, administrative work, proposal writing, quotes, responding to email and other non-selling time work that could be done during the evening or the hours before the sun comes up.  Distract is the sales version of charcoal.  It's dirty.

Engage is phone specific.  It includes returning calls, diving into CRM and making calls to move opportunities forward, making calls to schedule new meetings, and making calls to get introductions. Engage is the sales version of Diamond.  It's crystal clear.

In other words, when you find yourself with engage time during business hours, that should translate to phone specific action.  Everything else must be done after hours.

Many salespeople are so busy getting the work done that they don't see how much selling time they waste doing administrative work that can be postponed until later.  Instead they do their administrative work and postpone their selling.  This Google search reveals that most salespeople spend between 3% and 35% of their time actually selling.  When we correlate these percentages with selling effectiveness, the top 23% of all salespeople spend double that amount while the bottom 77% are actually in the 3-25% range.  The bottom 77% are there only because they score poorly when measured on 21 Sales Core Competencies.  The fact that they don't manage their time well either simply compounds the problem.


Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, top salespeople, time management, elite salespeople

What it Takes to be an Elite (Top 7%) Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 @ 06:10 AM


Last week I received a call from a young, motivated salesperson - we'll call him Jim - who desperately wanted to be one of the elite 7% of all salespeople.  Despite being just 26 years old, he believed that he was already in the top 7%.  During our call, he asked me a great question.  He asked, "How many of the top 7% have you actually met and where are they today?"  I didn't have to think very long or hard to answer that question because it was one of the easiest questions I have ever been asked.

Most companies have mediocre salespeople and a small percentage - less than 10% - are strong.  But there is an exception.  Many of the greatest salespeople, following a necessary stint in sales leadership, become sales consultants.  Now you are probably familiar with the sales consultants who have best-selling books or who tweet and blog on social media.  But they aren't the only sales consultants and trainers by a long shot.  There are thousands more and some of them are really good at what they do.  The best and brightest of them partner with my company, Objective Management Group (OMG), and provide our award winning sales candidate assessments and sales force evaluations to their clients.  Without a doubt, the nearly 300 individuals that represent OMG around the world, are the single biggest collection of the top 7% anywhere.  And each year, when around 150 of them gather for our international sales experts conference, that is where you will find the single biggest gathering of elite salespeople.

Why did Jim ask how many of these top performers I had met?  Because to him, the top 7% are the celebrities of sales.  It's like asking someone if they have met any professional athletes, movie or TV stars, or Presidents.  He has the top 7% on a pedestal because he wants to be one.

The bigger question for me is why Jim?  Why aren't the other 93% of the sales population calling, writing and asking how they can become part of the top 7%?  Why isn't it more important to them?  

Part of the answer should be so, so obvious.  If it was more important to them they would already be part of the top 7%, certainly part of the next 16% and not one of the bottom 77%!

Much of this problem boils down to Commitment to success in sales.

  • All salespeople score, on average, only 59% for Commitment.
  • The top 7% (Sales Quotient over 139) average, 72%.
  • Strong salespeople (Sales Quotient between 130-139) Score, on average, 65%
  • Serviceable salespeople (Sales Quotient between 115-129) 60% - or borderline Commitment.
  • Weak salespeople (Sales Quotient between 91-115 and the largest group) score, on average 45%
  • The bottom 10% (Sales Quotient under 91) score, on average, 39%

Notice that the biggest drop-off (from 60% to 45%) occurs when you drop from serviceable to weak.

If I had to guess, Jim's commitment is consistent with the elite group.  And while the top group has the highest overall scores for Commitment, it doesn't necessarily hold true that if a salesperson has a high commitment score that they are or will become part of that group.  Commitment is only 1 of 250 data points and while it is the most important, it is only 1.  For example, a salesperson with strong commitment, but a low score for Desire for success in sales, Motivation, Excuse Making, or even Coachable, is less likely to make it to the top group.  

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competenceis and while I have mentioned 4 in this article, there are 17 others that will also have a great impact on whether a salesperson can make it to the top.  While 10 of those competenices are Tactical Selling competencies, 6 of them represent Sales DNA.  The top 7% have Sales DNA greater than 82% while weak Salespeople score 60% and the bottom 10% only 54%.  Sales DNA is a huge contributor to sales success and the lower the score on Commitment, the less likely it is that one could overcome a low Sales DNA.

Of course, when it comes to hiring salespeople, there is only one tool that can accurately predict whether you have an elite candidate, a strong candidate, or one of the others.

And if you were an elite salesperson, have put in your time in sales leadership, and are ready to bring OMG's great tools to your clients, you can learn more here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales excellence, sales commitment, Sales Experts, elite salespeople

Tech Buyer Explains Why He Has No Use for Salespeople - Must Read

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 @ 06:07 AM


I managed to develop a case of poison ivy that is so bad it is making my blood boil.  Earlier this year I wrote an article explaining why more salespeople suck than ever before.  (You'll need to read that article for the rest of this article to make any sense.)  Last week, a reader provided a comment that made my blood boil and I wrote a response to it. I think you'll get as riled up over his comment as I did and I hope you'll love my response, but first, read that article, return here and read his comment which I have included below, and then continue reading for my reply.  You won't be sorry!

I polished up his response a bit.  I corrected the typos but left his foul language and general attacks the way he wrote them.

"Allow me to give you some insight as a technology buyer why more sales people suck than ever before: Buyers don't need them. This may apply outside of the tech sector as well. There was a time when product information required someone to convey it. We needed specs, compatibility reassurance, negotiated service delivery along with a quote. Now we just want the damn quote. We can do our own homework comparing competitive products thanks to the majority of product details and specs being on-line. All this horsesh*t is just that... talk. Blah, blah...blah...: 1. Creating value and insight during the client conversation 2. Uncovering complete information regarding the decision making process 3. Exploring client issues and challenges This implies the customer is too stupid to know what they need and the esteemed sales person is there to guide them through the decision making process....whatever. We know what we need - freakin' sell it to us without the corporate phsyco sociology drabble. Believe it or not you don't need to know everything about our operations in Europe to sell me a damn network switch in North Carolina. I don't need to know what kind of bike you kid rides or where you are taking your next vacation. You are not my friend. Prepare the f'ing quote. Now, don't re-architect, re-engineer or include a bunch of unnecessary line items per your "best practices". Stop throwing in twelve kitchen sinks to force me to say no. And I will. And you will take it for an answer. When you don't like no for an answer don't circumvent a department by calling all the way up to the CFO for attention. The answer is still no and you've just lit a match on an already burning bridge. Sales people simply have a harder time now because they are not necessary. The pitch is just that... all pitch. We need ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVES. We need those who don't exit the stage when the contact ink is dry turning us over to customer "service". Isn't it a wonderful thing that the US is turning to a service sector economy considering how much we suck at it. Sign 'em up for contractual recurring revenue and bleed 'em dry. That should be the front line in the majority of new sales hire meetings. As buyers we know this. Sales people aren't there to provide service. They are not there to point customers to the right party to handle accounting issues. They aren't there for continuing product and customer support, nor should they be. So what purpose do they serve? Hype? Yawn. If American companies would fire or convert their commission "sales" staff for proper customer service and representation it would have a positive effect on the overall economy. The "sell 'em high, sign 'em up wet ink and off shore them to India" model is what buyers are rejecting. Change this. Replace the sales landscape with real customer service."

Here is my response to Todd.

Todd, thanks for taking the time to offer your opinion.  I could tell you are very passionate about this subject and you are certainly correct about one thing.  When you want to buy a switch you shouldn't have to answer all of those irrelevant questions!  That's a transactional sale and salespeople have been obsolete for years when it come to transactional sales.  You can buy those online - you don't need a salesperson!

Unfortunately, you have met far too many salespeople from the bottom 77% of the sales population, yet none of the elite 7%.  If you had met one of the good ones, you probably would have made that individual an exception to your rant.

You have a job to do - get what you need at the lowest price.  But salespeople have a job to do too.  And that's to change your mind, get you to consider value over price, influence your decision as to which company to do business with, and develop a long-term win-win relationship with you.  But you hate salespeople, which is your right.  I hate to break it to you but salespeople hate you too.  You make their lives even more miserable than you can imagine.  While they don't prevent you from doing your job, you sure make it impossible for them to do theirs.

Whether their companies call them account representatives, customer service representatives or salespeople, it won't change the quality of the rep that is calling on you.  77% of them suck, and the good ones have learned not to call on you!  That's because you sound like an uncooperative, close-minded, price-first buyer who is ineffective at developing a value-based relationship with salespeople.  And if the good ones aren't calling on you, they are probably calling on your CTO, CIO, or CFO.  Good for them!


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, bad salespeople, elite salespeople, tech buyers

Preppers - Who They are and What They Share with Elite Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 @ 08:03 AM


I just finished reading Ted Kopel's new book, Lights Out: A Cyber Attack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.  The book was incredibly well researched and written, but more than that, it scared the crap out of me!  While Kopel asked and thoroughly answered all the questions, it left me with a few questions that I just couldn't answer, and that created a sense of urgency in me.  As you know, urgency leads to action and that brings us to our topic.  Who are Preppers and what do they share with Elite Salespeople?

Preppers are those among us who are prepared to sustain themselves in the event of a natural or unnatural disaster.  They have food and water supplies to sustain them for an extended period of time, may have a local or remote shelter, self-sustaining utilities, and could even be armed.  In the context of the book, they are fully prepared and committed to survive an attack on our electrical grid, water supply, transportation system, nuclear attack or other disaster, as well as protect their home and family from looters and thugs.

One of the distinguishing qualities of elite salespeople is that they are fully prepared and committed to survive any attack against their company, product, offering, proposal, solution, price or existing customer.  If you are a fan of the Netflix series House of Cards, then you will see those same qualities in the President and First Lady, Frank and Claire Underwood.  While you should find them to be ruthless, manipulative, corrupt and unethical, they always seem to find a way to survive each and every attack against them.

Salespeople cannot be any of those things, and elite salespeople manage to fend off and survive attacks while selling with integrity.  They control their emotions, push back gently but with confidence, ask questions to uncover the truth, easily talk about money, are rejection proof, don't empathize with stalls, put-offs, excuses or bluffs, and have very healthy skepticism. Additionally, they have tremendous listening and questioning skills, a great sense of timing, follow a proven and effective sales process, and continually improve, practice and refine their selling skills.

You can find elite salespeople like that in the same way that you find mediocre salespeople!  They are usually among your pool of candidates, but are often eliminated early (for being too aggressive, having typos on their resumes, not having the background you are looking for, trying to reach a decision maker, asking too many questions, etc.).  One way to identify them early and not accidentally reject them is to use Objective Management Group's (OMG) incredibly accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments.

Elite salespeople make up 7% of the sales population and strong salespeople represent an additional 16%.  You don't have to put up with mediocrity and you can choose not to.  

Recently, Pete Caputa, VP at Hubspot, posted this terrific article on 7 bad actors on every sales team. It's appears on the Hubspot sales blog.

Stu Heincke, author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, interviewed me for his Chicago Radio Show.  Listen to the Podcast here. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, sales effectiveness, elite salespeople, ted koppel, qualities of great salespeople, lights out

Only Elite Salespeople Have This Challenge

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 11:02 AM


This morning I was coaching Mike, a very good salesperson, and it happened.  It also happened to Chip and Jim and Jeremy.  And in all four cases, it happened this week.  There are a litany of things that salespeople could do better, and topping the list would normally be things like, consultative selling, having better conversations, selling value, closing, filling the pipeline, and following a sales process.  Great salespeople like Mike are effective enough to deal with and close very difficult prospects and as a result, they often have very difficult customers who present challenges that lousy salespeople never, ever have to deal with! 

The biggest challenge with difficult customers is that they are often not happy - not because you and your company didn't do what you promised, but because their expectations were different from your expectations.  And if there was one thing that great salespeople selling to difficult prospects could do better, it would be to set very clear expectations about exactly who is responsible for what, and when, and how, and where, and why, and for good measure, "what" one more time.

The best way to do that is to ask the new customer if there is anything else they were expecting and if there isn't, to be clear that anything beyond what we just laid out is beyond the scope of the project or purchase and have them sign something that clearly states that.  This is when a concise, clearly worded scope of work agreement is very useful and necessary.

Of course this is about difficult customers, not great salespeople. Yet nearly every deal, sale, account, customer, or project that I have ever seen fall apart happened because of a misunderstanding. While those misunderstandings can be accidental, difficult customers usually seek to create chaos all around them by engaging in purposely unrealistic expectations and drama.  They love to see people cater to them, apologize, fix their imagined problems, and generally bow to their imagined royal powers and influence.

Lousy salespeople never get far enough to disappoint, but elite salespeople impress them enough to get their business - and that's when the problems begin.  Setting very clear expectations up front can be quite helpful, but it's equally important to level set the playing field at the first sign of trouble.  Rather than going into problem-solving mode, a difficult customer needs to be told that they might be able to get away with this behavior with everyone else, but they have met their match and they won't be able to walk all over you and your people. Then at renewal time, they won't be able to leverage their past problems and frustrations with your incompetence to demand better prices.

If you gain their respect, they will do business with you forever.  If you go into servant mode, they will eventually replace you and your company with the next salesperson that they can walk all over. 


Topics: Dave Kurlan, difficult customers,, elite salespeople, difficult sales

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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