Top 20 Reasons Why Data May Not be the Key to Boosting Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 @ 16:06 PM

DataI read somewhere that data was the key to boosting sales.  Really?  Says who?

When you look into the "who", it should come as no surprise that it's the companies that provide data analytics that say so.  Don't get me wrong; data (and especially the right data) can be very useful.  But data, by itself, doesn't boost anything.

If you are getting the right data...

  • where opportunities stall in your sales process,
  • why they stall,
  • conversion ratios from first contact to closing,
  • win rates by salesperson and opportunity type,
  • length of sales cycle by salesperson and opportunity type,
  • % of opportunities where there is true traction,
  • % of opportunities that are fully qualified,
  • % of opportunities that get demos, proposals, quotes,

...and you know what to look for, you can discover what and/or who needs to be fixed.  But you still have to fix it.  The data won't do that for you.  And you need to know more than what and who.  You must know why.  And the why could be different for each and every salesperson.

Data can help you identify bottlenecks, trends and problems.  The importance of those cannot be understated.  However, can you actually fix the problem once you know what it is?

For example, one of the common trends, being illuminated by data, is the dropping win rate.  So you know you aren't closing enough business to hit plan.  Why is the win rate so low?

It could be:

  1. Poor sales selection,
  2. Ineffective sales coaching,
  3. Lack of accountability,
  4. Unqualified proposals or quotes,
  5. Unqualified demos,
  6. Inconsistent messaging,
  7. Lack of onboarding,
  8. Skill gap,
  9. Poor consultative selling skills,
  10. Lack of listening and questioning skills,
  11. Lack of effort,
  12. Follow-up,
  13. Pricing,
  14. Inability to sell value,
  15. Rushing through the sales process,
  16. Ineffective sales process,
  17. Poor sales DNA,
  18. Poor closing skills,
  19. Lack of relationships, and/or
  20. Failure to reach decision makers.
Hint:  It's probably not #18 - poor closing skills.  Closing skills aren't required when the earlier stages of the sales process are effectively executed.  The only time when closing skills should come into play is when a properly qualified, closable prospect isn't able to make a decision at closing time.  
Of course there are many, many more possibilities, but these are simply the first 20 that come to mind!  And in case you forgot, these were some of the reasons as to why the win rate is so low.
After you have identified the reason(s), then you must determine how to fix the problem.  If it's simply a single issue, coaching is probably the best course of action, but the salesperson must be coachable and you must be better at this particular issue than your salesperson.  If it's multiple issues affecting multiple salespeople, then training is a better way to go.
The fastest and easiest way to identify all of the issues on your sales force is to have your sales force evaluated.  You can learn more about that by watching this 2-minute video:

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, omg, evaluate the sales force, objective management group

Sales Blogging - Do As I Say, Not as I Do

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

hipocriteIt's a big problem with many of the sales blogs you read.  One-person sales consulting firms, self-appointed experts, telling, but not doing, what they say.

If you were to read through each of the 1,150 articles I have posted on this blog since 2006, and organize, sort, create a flow and edit it all into a Sales Management Bible, we would have one enormous how-to guide.  Although that was the original plan in 2006, it is no longer on my radar.  I have introduced, questioned, preached, urged, and forced a lot of issues, but I always check myself to make sure that my words do not fall into the "do as I say, but not as I do" trap of many consultants.

Keeping that in mind, Objective Management Group (OMG) held its quarterly Rockefeller Habits meeting this week.  We go to market through a global network of certified partners - our channel - and we spent considerable meeting time talking about them.  As we always do, we further refined our criteria for what constitutes a good partner, redefined our cut-offs and set the wheels in motion to say our goodbyes to those who don't make the cut.  OMG is not a company that has tolerance for non-performers.

We also spent some time identifying where our best Partners come from and I was surprised to learn that most of them had been reading this blog and either decided to add our suite of world-class Sales Force Evaluation and Candidate Assessment tools to their offerings, or start their own sales consulting businesses.  

If that describes you, please send me an email!

The rest of you should be doing the following at least on an annual basis:

  • Evaluate your sales force.
  • Identify the differences between top and bottom performers - request a sample Sales Force Evaluation.
  • Replace bottom performers who can't be coached up.
  • Commit to hiring people who are better than your current top performers - request a sales candidate assessment sample too.  Register for this free June 5, 2014,  11 AM ET, webinar on the Magic of OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment.
  • Constantly refine your onboarding process, expectations and execution.
  • Improve your sales coaching capabilities.
  • Get tougher about accountability.
  • Develop and refine strategies and tactics for improved effectiveness.
  • Train, coach, train and coach some more.

It's not very difficult to upgrade the quality of your sales force or channel.  But many find it difficult to start - to take action - to take the steps listed above that properly position them to upgrade the sales force or channel.  That's because most people find it difficult to have the tough conversations, deliver the tough messages and put the tougher policies in place.  Accountability.  Execution.  Not what most people are best at.  But it's never too late to start...

But before you can start, you need information - you need answers - you need to evaluate your sales force so that you know where your sales force could be more effective, how much more effective they could be, and what must change.  It means knowing whether you truly have the right people in the right roles, whether they are going about things in the right way, and whether the right things are in place to support a high-performing sales force.

Evaluate and thrive!

Image credit: photoman / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, evaluate the sales force, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

The Biggest Mistake Executives Make about their Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:03 PM

Blood Test or Sales Force EvaluationYesterday, I had my annual physical and my doctor ordered the usual array of blood tests.  It didn't matter that I felt terrific.  It didn't matter that he observed my blood pressure, throat, eyes and ears to be perfect.  It didn't change his mind when he listened to my heart and lungs.  And he was still ordering those tests after he felt for things and didn't find anything.  The tests he can do in his office - basically the eye test - are observations.  How I report to be feeling is my version of the eye test - it's based on my own observations.  And the reason for the blood and urine tests is that we don't know what we don't know.  

Clearly, if you or I don't feel well and that feeling persists for a long enough period of time, we would seek out a doctor.  There would be symptoms.  The doctor's job would be to learn enough, from observations and tests, to identify the cause and make a diagnosis, recommend a treatment and provide a prognosis.

That is pretty much what we do at Objective Management Group (OMG).  In some cases, CEO's, Presidents, HR Directors and Sales VP's seek us out, complain about their symptoms (observations and eye test), we ask some questions and then conduct our sales force evaluation.  They know things aren't right, but they don't know why.  Our job would be to learn enough from the observations, tests and analyses, to identify the causes (diagnosis), recommend a plan of action (treatment), and provide a projected return (prognosis).

In some cases, an executive does not seek us out.  They may have stumbled upon us through what they found on the internet.  They may have read one of my thousands of articles or watched me on a video.  They may have been looking for something else and OMG came up in the search results.  They may have been introduced by a friend or colleague.  Regardless of how they found us, this plays more like the annual physical where they believe that their sales force is fine.  They are happy to talk with an expert, but don't have any symptoms that they can identify or report.  Sales are fine.  

And that, right there, is the single biggest mistake that companies make every single day.  They use revenue as the metric to determine whether their sales force is healthy. 

Sales are fine.  Compared with what?  Sales that aren't fine?  Others in the industry?  Other industries?  What they expected sales to be?  What they needed sales to be?  Their nut?  What sales could have been?  What was forecast?

Sales is always relative to an expectation and is never an accurate barometer of sales effectiveness.  One large sale or account can mask missed metrics, poor conversions, elongated sales cycles and lousy win rates.  Two large sales or accounts can mask a weak pipeline and an entire sales force of underachievers.  Renewals and residuals can similarly skew the numbers in such a way that executives have no idea how ineffective and inefficient their salespeople really are.  And today, with most companies generating inbound leads at a record clip, salespeople don't even have enough time to follow up on all of them.  That too masks the numbers because they certainly have a lot of activity taking place, don't they?

When sales are fine, there is no better time, because there is no pressure or urgency, to evaluate the sales force because it is at that very time that executives don't know what they don't know.

Use our complimentary Sales Force Grader.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation.  Read about a Sales Force Evaluation Case Study.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, evaluate the sales force, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

Top 10 Tips for Hiring Salespeople for Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 24, 2010 @ 06:05 AM

sales hiringToday, we will discuss hiring for the sales force but not so much the "how" of it as much as the importance of doing it for the right reasons, at the right time and in the right manner.

We have more clients in the middle of a sales recruiting initiative than at any time in the 25 years I've been in the sales development business. In addition to the nearly 10,000 companies that use Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments, several of my personal clients are in the midst of hiring too.

One client is hiring a new salesperson but wants an A Player instead of the mediocre salespeople he inherited.

Another client is hiring two salespeople - hunters - as opposed to the product expert/account manager types they have typically employed.

Another client is hiring as many as 15 inside salespeople to replace the prior group that turned over as a result of ineffective sales management, and a complete lack of selling abilities.

Yet another client is hiring 40 salespeople - because of turnover - and we are still waiting for the results of their sales force evaluation to determine the underlying reasons for the turnover.  We will use what we learn to help them hire the right people going forward.

There is another organization (not a client yet), with 50+ inside salespeople, suffering from inconsistency and under performance, looking to improve their ability to select the right people.  We would follow the same strategy as in the previous example to better understand what is causing the inconsistency.

I can easily add ten more current examples but this is plenty for my conclusions and lessons.  The 10 tips that follow are in no particular order:

  1. This is a perfect time to be hiring - the economy is quickly turning around - heading into an upswing - and you must have excellent salespeople to find opportunities and get them closed by outselling your competitors.  
  2. Hiring is not an experiment. Trial and error will set you back the length of your sales cycle and learning curve plus the cost of your salaries and draws.
  3. You absolutely must know whether you have been hiring the right people or not, why, and what you must change to get it right.  This is where the sales force evaluation comes in.  Accurate answers to all of the possible "could it be...?" questions.  It's not unusual to have 10-20 of them that must be answered in order to be certain about what must change.
  4. You must know what it will take for a salesperson to be successful in your business, calling on your market, against your competition, and with your pricing and product, and it goes WAY beyond industry knowledge and experience.
  5. Job descriptions are for employees - the people you hire - they aren't for posting your jobs.  You provide the new salesperson with the job description when they report for their first day of work.  The job posting is a description of the person you're seeking to hire.
  6. Jettison or redeploy your under performers. Everyone is a role model for your new salespeople so you must be certain that everyone is modeling the right kind of behaviors and competencies.  It's similar to the hopes you have for your children when you hope they meet and become friendly with good kids from good families. The problem is that some of your salespeople aren't and won't ever be able to model what you want and you'll need to know whether they can be developed to do this or not.  The Sales Force Evaluation provides the insight to make these decisions too.
  7. You must let go of old beliefs, guidelines, methods and processes.  The organization that isn't yet a client (and might not become one) from the last example above made a broad statement that will absolutely kill any attempts to improve their ability to select successful salespeople.  One of their leaders said, "your hiring recommendation (hirable, not hirable) will be a deal stopper for us".  They want the option to hire the people who don't have a chance of being successful.  This despite the fact that they haven't had consistency from the people they've previously selected.  Why are they taking this stance?  They had a problem with some other assessment - not a sales assessment - so they believe that if the mini-van of assessments wasn't predictive, then the Mercedes of assessments won't be either.
  8. You must have patience.  I know you want those new people in place in two weeks but let's be realistic.  Six months from now, would you rather be saying, "Sure glad we waited to hire the right candidates!" or, "I wish we waited to make the right hires - this isn't working out and we'll have to do it all again..."
  9. Success in sales has little correlation to college education, degrees, years in sales, or even industry experience. Stop putting so much weight on these criteria and instead, make sure the candidate can outsell your competition.
  10. Success in sales has much less to do with who your new salespeople know than is thought to be true.  I've seen more examples of this myth than you can believe.  If your company is the one everyone wants to do business with - the industry leader, price leader, or technology leader, then salespeople with a book of business will thrive because the customers will follow them to your door.  On the other hand, if you are the new kid on the block, have new (different and not yet accepted as the standard) technology, higher pricing, are value challenged, or have decent but not great products/services, then the books of business your new salespeople bring along may not follow them to your door.
Do it now, do it right, and do it objectively.  Get help, use an accurate, predictive, sales specific assessment, and make sure your process has been optimized to attract enough of the target high quality candidates into the pool as you'll require.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, hiring salespeople, sales force evaluations, evaluate the sales force, sales mangagment functions, sales assessments

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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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