Evaluating the Sales Force - Reasonable Expectations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 @ 18:12 PM

In most companies where we evaluate a sales force, executives seriously dislike hearing about the salespeople who should be considered for different roles, those who don't have the incentive to improve, and those who can't prospect or hunt.  Most executives would prefer that we kept that little bit of information to ourselves.  I think they're more than happy with the rest of the information they take away from this process.

With that said, it makes this next scenario even more surprising.  The HR director at one large company is insisting that we provide enough information in our evaluation of his sales force to indicate whether or not the people should have been hired in the first place.  Of course, that's like saying to the photographer, take their picture, but make sure you show them as they were six years ago.

The point of evaluating a sales force is to see what you have today and figure out what you can do to make it better. It's to learn how management impacts the sales force and what needs to change.  It's to see if today's group can execute the strategies and, if not, what has to change.  It's to determine what realistic expectations should be.  It's to determine how much better they can become and how to accomplish that.  It's to determine whether the existing systems and processes can support the sales effort.  It's to take a real look under the hood of the sales pipeline and determine its quality.  It's to uncover hidden problems that prevent the sales force from achieving its potential and so much more.  It's to provide more important, relevant information than "did we screw up five years ago?"

© Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Expectations, assessment

When Salespeople Think the Deal is Closed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 11, 2006 @ 08:04 AM

How often does this happen? A salesperson predicts that an opportunity 'will close' or, they do close an opportunity only to have the prospect delay or back out. What causes prospects to change their minds? More importantly, how do your salespeople respond when this happens? Do they follow up at the time suggested by the prospect? Do they wish their prospect luck? Do they walk away with their tails between their legs? Or do they recognize that this is merely another challenge to be overcome?

Yesterday I changed my mind on a project where a consultant would do an analysis to tell us the best way to bring elearning content on line. Why? The consultant sent over a list of issues prior to our first meeting and it was obvious to me that the only issues he wanted to focus on were to build justification and ROI for the project. That's not what I was paying him for so I cancelled. If he had just showed up at 2PM like he was supposed to, he may have still asked the wrong questions, but I wouldn't have kicked him out. I would have set him straight. But when he advertised his intentions ahead of time, I provided myself with a couple of hours that I could redeploy.

It got me wondering how often prospects change their minds because of something the salespeople do. Are they too anxious? Do they become unprofessional? I saw an email from a salesperson to a client who had just agreed to do business. The first line of the salesperson's thank you letter was, 'I'm looking forward to getting to know you better.' That might have scared his female client. She cancelled the next day.

Lesson - Question everything your salespeople do and try to identify every possible way in which they can improve. Even if you don't know how to make them more effective, recognize that standing pat should not be an option.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

5 Sales Management Best Practices

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 04, 2006 @ 20:04 PM

Yesterday, I received Selling Power Magazine's online sales management newsletter and, as usual, they failed to distinguish between sales and sales management. One of the features was the 5 Sales Management Best Practices. I'm always interested when this is a topic because I've been one of the only sales development experts talking about this for the last 15 years. The article featured Steve Gielda, partner at Advantage Performance Group, and his report, 'World Class Sales Force Best Practices'. Was this a joke?

First, the article asks, 'Which techniques are truly best practices and which are merely recommendations by a self-proclaimed expert?'

Well, I'm one of the experts although I haven't had to proclaim myself one for more than a decade. Then, Gielda exposes himself as a self-proclaimed expert by his choice of the top 5 sales management best practice. According to Gielda they are:

1. Understand and develop customer needs.

2. Develop trust in the client relationship

3. Know your customer

4. Full knowledge of capabilities and customer applications and the ability to bring to bear internal or external resources in service to the customer

5. Manage competitive threat over the course of an opportunity pursuit

So what are we to make of this list? The first thing you'll notice is that none of the five 'practices' are sales management practices. And while they're all sales and/or marketing practices, I wouldn't even place them in the top 5 sales best practices. As a matter of fact, if you want to see my list of sales best practices, you can find them at my Lens, The World of Sales and Selling. What are the real five sales management best practices?

1. Accountability

2. Coaching

3. Motivating

4. Recruiting

5. Growing the Sales Force

Personally, I found the Selling Power article to be akin to naming passing, receiving, blocking, tackling and kicking as the five baseball best practices.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

Spamelot and Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Apr 01, 2006 @ 10:04 AM

Last night my wife and I saw Spamelot, a very funny and enteratining show. Spamelot does very well what so many salespeople fail to do. In the first minute, the cast reaches out, grabs you by the throat, gets your attention and holds it for the entire performance. If your salespeople could do that effectively, what would happen to their performance? How do you accomplish this feat?

I'm not a proponent of canned presentations - they're boring. I hate it when prospects ask salespeople to make a capabilities presentation. Your salespeople are expected to do this and as a result of agreeing to do this, they bore their prospects to death.

My research from evaluating 250,000 salespeople shows that close to 80% of them are making inappropriate presentations. If you think about the salespeople that have attempted to sell you something, you can certainly understand what I mean. Four out of five times, the first several minutes of the meetings tend to be lifeless, boring and irrelevent .

Get your salespeople to talk for only about 30 seconds, quickly highlighting the issues your company can address rather than the products and services you sell. Next have your salespeople ask their prospects what their biggest challenge is. If they can learn to do this they can reach out and get their prospect's attention in the first minute. They'll need to be able to ask great questions once they get there though. Which questions should they ask? Get a copy of Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball. Read the whole book and then turn your attention to the chapter on getting to 2nd Base and developing your S.O.B. Quality. That will do the trick.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc..

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

Shorten the Sell Cycle by Slowing Down the Selling Process

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Mar 03, 2006 @ 05:03 AM

One of the things that most companies have in common is their desire to shorten the sales cycle. In pursuit of this goal, it's easy to overlook the impact of rushing a call - which often leads to lengthening the sales cycle or losing the business.



From my experience, salespeople, on the way to second base (refer to the Baseline Selling web site for the requirements to be on second base - http://www.baselineselling.com), begin to hear the first examples of what they believe are compelling reasons to buy, they get excited, and skip the most important part of the sales call, rushing into a trial close. Well, the salespeople might be ready to close, but the prospect isn't! Let me give you an example:



The prospect has told a salesperson that their faulty widget causes them to shut down for 3-4 hours at a time and each time they shut down it costs them millions of dollars. The salesperson, hearing this says, 'if I could solve your problem...' While the salesperson has A compelling reason, he may not have THE compelling reason but more importantly, the prospect is not yet at the point where he is thinking, 'Yeah. This is THE expert. This is the person I want to help me.'



So the salesperson needs to SLOW DOWN, not rush to the close. The salesperson could learn so much more important information by asking additional questions like:



  • When you say millions, is that a few millions or tens of millions? ($10 million)
  • How long have you been losing millions? (6 months)
  • Who sold you this widget? (XYZ)
  • What happened when they came to replace it? (They wouldn't replace it)
  • When do you absolutely, positively need it working properly? (yesterday)
  • Who else have you spoken to? (MNO and PDQ)
  • What did they say? (They weren't interested in helping)
  • Who cares about this problem? (I do)
  • Why do you care so much? (It's costing me $5,000 a week in personal bonuses)

So this has already cost you $120,000 - out of your own pocket - and you're saying that the company has lost $200 million dollars over this and nobody has offered to help. Why is that?

If you add up the additional pieces we have collected, you can see that the salesperson has much more effectively quantified the cost of this problem, collected competitive intelligence, found the most compelling reason to buy, and stayed with it long enough for the prospect, after answering all of these questions, to conclude that the salesperson just might be the one.

So if you want your salespeople to shorten the selling cycle, slow them down on the way to second base!

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

Sales Meetings - How Should They be Conducted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 15, 2006 @ 11:02 AM

I just got off the phone with a client who wished to know how they should run their sales meetings. Currently, they read off the inventory that needs to be sold, berate the salespeople for their chronic lack of performance, and provide updates. Doesn't that sound awful? Here's what I suggest for a one-hour, concise, controlled, formatted, results-orientated sales meeting:

  1. Intro and Today’s Theme
  2. Success Stories – Limit to 5 stories, each under 2 minutes, about new account, new product, and HOW they accomplished it with a lesson learned.
  3. Call for Help – Limit to 5 calls for help, state their challenge and ask if anyone can help them.
  4. Unfinished business – info share: requests, changes, updates, new. No more than 15 minutes.
  5. Training – 10 minutes on something specific.
  6. Motivation – motivational message and weekly contest. Contest should be “new” focused as in most new products, accounts, appointments, line items, etc. Limit to 15 minutes.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Expectations, Lessons

When Coaching Salespeople Isn't Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 07, 2006 @ 07:02 AM

There are many executives who spend time with their salespeople, either face to face or on the phone, and believe they are providing valuable coaching. It's likely that any time manager and salesperson spend together is valuable however, let's not assume that it's really coaching that is taking place.

One of the professionals I coach enjoys providing me with the details of accounts, calls, pipeline and schedule. He wants me to know how much he has going on. I call this activity 'off loading'. Some salespeople need to off load and want your input. But let's not fool each other. This is not coaching. It's more like horrible debriefing. It would be effective debriefing if you were asking the questions and your salesperson was answering them. But to spend time listening to the salesperson provide details that are important only to him is not effective coaching or debriefing.

So what should happen instead? While your salesperson needs to off load, it must be separate from the coaching that takes place. The coaching session qualifies as coaching only when you help the salesperson improve, grow, become stronger and more effective. It should culminate with a lesson learned, an epiphany, and some action to be taken by the salesperson.

Don't allow valuable coaching time to be monopolized by off loading. If you're going to coach someone, make sure that actual coaching takes place.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

Salespeople - The Urgency of Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 03, 2006 @ 20:02 PM

Recently I wrote about salespeople and their inability to question, listen and discover the one compelling reason that would cause a prospect to spend their money. But that's only one of the many challenges facing salespeople. Today I'll give you one more: Lack of urgency. No, not their inability to create urgency for the prospect to take action - we'll cover that another time. I'm writing about their own lack of urgency. Many salespeople lack the urgency to make the next call, ask the next question, move the process forward, follow up on a timely basis, do something proactive, close today, make a second attempt to close today, get an introduction, etc. This lack of urgency drives me nuts!
'John, what happened when you followed up with ABC Company?'
'I left a message a couple of days ago. Haven't heard from them yet.'
'Did you call them back?'
'Well, no.'
'Then call them back!'
'I don't want to bother them.'
This drives me crazy. There must be enough urgency to perform proper follow up. If the prospect at ABC agreed that you would next speak on Monday, your salespeople should be setting an exact time to speak so that it's an appointment rather than a tentative time to touch base. Then, if the prospect isn't available to take the 10 AM call, it's appropriate to phone back several times if necessary because the appointment was broken. The urgency to do what's necessary is a necessary trait.
Q: If you have salespeople that don't feel that urgency what can you do?
A: You can trait them in for new ones!
Seriously, if this condition doesn't change after putting them through professional goal setting, the problem could be chronic. If you or a sales manager coaches them for a few weeks and attempts to convey what urgency feels like, consistently pushes them to behave with a greater sense of urgency, and that fails to change anytihing, you may have to cut your losses and start with someone new.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Expectations, Lessons, Performance

When Sales Expectations Aren't Communicated

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Oct 16, 2005 @ 23:10 PM

The president of an architectural design firm wanted to know how to hold the professionals in his firm more accountable for bringing in business. While this is not an unusual question, one has to dig a little deeper to uncover the real issue. The professionals in most service firms rarely see themselves as salespeople, rarely believe they are expected to generate business and therein lies the problem. Presidents wonder how to get more out of them while they don't even know that they're expected to perform in that function. So before they can be held accountable, they have to be told about your expectations. And guess what? They probably won't like it.

If you are the president of such a firm, your best best is to evaluate the professionals in the firm with the purpose of learning who would be suitable for doing some business development, as well as the type of help they'll need in order to be successful. Then, you can communicate your expectations only to those professionals who are well suited to performing this kind of work. OMG's Evaluation of a Professional Service Firm does just that and identifies any future rainmakers in the firm. In addition, the evaluation identifies those who, while not suitable for bringing in new business, could be utilized in some other area of business development.

(c) Copyright 2005 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Expectations, Lessons

I Want Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 12, 2005 @ 23:09 PM

It's not unusual for an Executive to ask for Sales Training as a means to improve performance. After all, the executive knows the salespeople should be performing better. It's also not unusual for the executive to be disappointed with the training. Why? Below are my Top Ten reasons:

  1. Some people aren't trainable and won't show any improvement
  2. Individual weaknesses that would prevent execution of learned skills were not identified in advance
  3. Sales Management weaknesses were not identified in advance
  4. Faulty Strategies and Processes were not flagged for modification or replacement
  5. Right people are not in the right seats (Jim Collins - Good to Great)
  6. Sales Training is a long-term process - some people will get better over time but it doesn't fix anything in the short term
  7. If activity doesn't improve, salespeople won't have prospects on which to practice
  8. If salespeople aren't being held accountable, changes will be slow to materialize
  9. The trainer may not be effective at creating change
  10. The system or process may not be consistent with your goals, culture, or business

Evaluate your sales force FIRST to determine exactly what needs to be fixed and keep in mind that sales training may be just one of several things that need to be addressed. You may be able to train while you are fixing the other problems or training may come after your infrastructure has been repaired.

(c) Copyright 2005 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Expectations, assessment, Lessons

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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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