Top 10 Articles for Growing Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 28, 2007 @ 21:11 PM

I thought it would be a good idea to point you to my top articles for growing sales.  Some of you haven't been reading this Blog since the beginning, and the best articles are not necessarily the most recent nor the most popular, so it's pretty difficult to identify them from the 400 plus posts I've compiled in the last four years.

You'll also see that my top 10 consist of more like 30 - I couldn't narrow it down any further!

I categorized them as follows:


The Bagel Post (a Recent Favorite)
The 90 Day Ramp-Up Post (a Must Read)
The Sales Process Post
The Sales Force Development Post (a Must Read)
The Over Achievement Post (a Must Read)
The Impact of Sales Training Post
Management's Guide to the Top 10 Differences Between Winners and Losers

Sales Process - What Have You Gotten Away From?


The Sales Management Functions Post
The Post on Creating More of a Sales Culture
The CEO Alert Post
The Italy Post (My Favorite)
The 80/20 Rule Post (a Reader Favorite)
The Push Back Post (a Reader Favorite)

Over Achieving on the Sales Force - We Have it Wrong 
10 Steps for Your Salespeople to Survive and Thrive in the Recession


The How are Assessments Used Post
The Dave F'd Up Post Part I and II (click the link in part 2 to read part 1) 
The Can Sales Assessments Predict Performance Post

Data Points Tell a Story - Prospects Buy Happy Endings

Tale of Two Assessments - Comparing Value 

Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study

Exposed - Personality Tests Disguised as Sales Assessments

The Make it Simple Post 
The Listening Skills Post
The Lexus Post 
The How to Coach a Salesperson Post

The Original Salespeople are Like Children Post


The High Turnover Post
The Hiring Efficiency Post
The 10 Tips for Hiring Stronger Salespeople Post
Fact Based Reasons Why New Salespeople Fail - Data Points

Hiring Salespeople is Like Baseball Expansion

Misleading Statistics and Hiring the Wrong Salespeople



The What to Do When You Get Push Back Post
The Time Management Post 
The Shake Up Calls Post

 Sales Pipeline Can Provide Sight for Blind Executives


Do you have a favorite?

© Copyright 2007-2009 Objective Management Group, Inc.


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Topics: Baseline Selling, coaching, recruiting, accountability, leadership, Motivation, assessment, Featured

ARod, Lowell and Schilling Signings Have Additional Implications for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 19, 2007 @ 14:11 PM

Curt Schilling negotiated his own contract, took incentives over guaranteed money, and took less money than he could get on the open market to remain with the Boston Red Sox.  Alex Rodriguez went against agent Scott Boras' advice and negotiated his own deal to stay with the New York Yankees for $50 Million less than Boras believed ARod could get on the open market.  And today, Mike Lowell may have ignored his agents' wishes for a four year $60 million deal and accepted the three year $38 million deal to stay with the Red Sox.

There's a trend here and it's a good one.  Greed is being replaced with Sanity.  Shopping for price is being replaced by looking for value and as people with plenty of money can tell you, there is nothing more valuable than happiness.   Money never seems to make people happy.

If we take this trend and project it out further, we can imagine companies like GM, WalMart and others starting to reconsider the demands it makes on its vendors as the vendors simultaneously look to find customers to replace their demanding, anti-profit, give-us-all-you-can-or-you're-out elephants.  There is little difference between WalMart demanding that their vendors sell at just over cost, or Scott Boras demanding that the bidding for ARod starts at $350 million.  It's greed, not value.  And while WalMart states that the purpose of their strategy is to bring low prices to their customers, there's a price to pay for that too.

Someone I know just went to one of those super-discount-bargain-outlets offering prices at a fraction of what they're supposed to be.  She was going to donate the products to a charity but the money she saved made it so very unworthwhile.  She is accustomed to shopping at stores that cater to people who like to be catered to.  She pays more for this attention.  She was appalled at the flimsy plastic bags that broke, the price tags that couldn't be removed from the items, the lack of help when she needed to order 20 more, and the lack of walking and browsing space as she negotiated the store.

Sanity is returning. 

How many Chinese-made toys were recalled in the last 60 days?

How long did it take Dell to reverse its decision to outsource customer service to India?

Sanity is returning.

Jobs are returning to the USA.

Value is a condition is returning.

Selling value becomes more important as people become more aware of the consequences of making decisions based on price.  Some people will always make purchases based only on price, but don't make the mistake of believing that the majority of the population buys that way.  Value is becoming more important than ever and if your company and your salespeople focus on finding the compelling reasons for your prospects to buy from you, your salespeople will be able to sell based on value.

It's important to know which of your salespeople have the ability to sell value.  Since so many of them shop for price themselves, it isn't realistic to believe that those salespeople can sell value.  But some salespeople can be trained to sell value. So the real questions today are these: 

Does your company's success depend on your salespeople's ability to sell value or price? 
Do you know which of your salespeople can actually execute the principles of selling value and be successful at it? 
Do you know which factors influence the answer?

Open Forum - post away and see if you can identify the factors...

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: assessment, Featured

Changes in Selling Require Changes in the Way You Sell

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 05, 2007 @ 09:11 AM

I turned 52 years old last week and noticed that some things have changed since the last time I took inventory.

  • the (green!) leaves are still on the trees west of Boston and it's November 5
  • I'm heavier than I used to be
  • my hair turned grey
  • I ache in the morning
  • days, weeks, months and years go zipping by
  • when I look in the mirror, a different guy looks back at me
  • I play golf instead of baseball

Selling has changed too.  Have your systems, strategies, processes and people changed along with it?

  • has the internet impacted the way you or your competitors do business?
  • is yore approach more solution orientated?
  • how many of your people can truly sell that way?
  • how many of them are capable of selling value?
  • has your sales cycle gotten longer or shorter?
  • is there more competition?
  • are there fewer customers?
  • has there been consolidation among either your customers or competitors?
  • is it harder to find new customers?
  • is it more difficult to find good salespeople?

While change is certain, many companies still attemp to sell and manage their sales forces the way they did just ten years ago.  That's so 20th century.  What are you modifying so that your company can take advantage of, rather than resist the changes that are taking place almost daily?

Feel free to comment on this one.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Featured

A Toasted Bagel and 5 Minutes to Understanding the Impact of Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Oct 27, 2007 @ 10:10 AM

This morning I placed a bagel in the oven, turned on the oven light, and experienced an epipheny.  This is one exercise you'll want to try at home - really.

1. Cut Bagel in Half
2. Place Bagel on Cookie Sheet in the oven.
3. Turn on oven and set to Broil.
4. Don't leave the oven.
5. Turn on the oven light.
6. Watch the bagel through the window.

Here's what you'll see:

The oven heats up and hot air is blown in the bagel's direction but nothing happens.
This continues for about three minutes.
Then, all of a sudden, the bagel starts to turn brown, slowly at first, and then really quickly, and finally, a moment later, it's done.

Now apply the following translation:

Oven=Sales Trainer
1 Minute=45 Days

Translated Story:

Sales Trainer provides sales training to salespeople and for the first four to five months nothing happens.  The salespeople remain in the training and all of a sudden, after about 6 months, the salespeople appear to understand the training.  And then, very rapidly, after just a couple of more months, they're complete.

Salespeople may be like children, but in training they're more like bagels in an oven.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Featured

10 Steps to Create More of a Sales Culture

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 18, 2007 @ 19:10 PM

I spoke to a very lively group of 130 CEO's in Cincinnati today and the question about creating more of a sales culture came up.  There are several steps to accomplishing this:

1. You must realize that the very people you would like to change chose to do what they currently do and probably won't choose to do what you would like them to do - sell.

2. Only a small percentage of those people are suitable for taking on any part of a sales or business development role.

3. You must be able to identify that small percentage of people.  Using an appropriate Objective Management Group Assessment Tool will help.

4. You must clearly communicate your desire to create more of a sales culture to the people that you'd like to be more sales aware.  Explain.  Perhaps you want branch managers at a bank to go out and find local business customers, order takers to become proactive by making outgoing calls, or professionals to bring new clients into your firm.  In any of these cases, the biggest mistake is that management usually fails to communicate this expectation to the very people they would like to change.

5. Someone who understands what needs to be accomplished as well as how to accomplish it must be in charge of this initiative.

6. You must provide the chosen people with the training they'll need to succeed in this strange new world of selling and business development.  The assessment tool from item 3 will help you with this step too.

7. You must clearly define what it is they should do and how often they should do it.

8. You must get buy-in from the people that will participate.

9. You must be clear as to how their success will be measured.

10. The person from item 5 above must hold the participants accountable to doing what they agreed to do in the context of item 9 above.

Topics: Motivation, Featured

The Comprehensive 90 Day Orientation for New Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 16, 2007 @ 22:08 PM

Yesterday I spoke to the Distributors for Billington Wines in Washington DC.  One attendee asked about my comprehensive guidelines for on boarding new salespeople during the first 90 Days.  I believe that most companies set their new salespeople up for failure.  I believe you should prepare your new salespeople for success.  While I have probably posted about this subject on various occasions, I'll try to get it all in here.

Answer These Questions for your New Salespeople:

What are all of the problems we solve?
How many applications are there for our products/services?
Why are we better?
How are we different?
What is our brand promise?
How do we position ourselves in the marketplace?
Who are our customers?
What are their titles?
How do we get to them?
Why will they see me?
What does the first call sound like?
What is our sales process?
How do I navigate the process?
What are the questions I should be asking?
What kind of resistance should I expect?
How should I handle the resistance?
What kind of objections will I hear?
How do I handle those objections?
What does our competition say about us?
How do we sell against our competitors?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
How do they sell against us?
How do you want me presenting our solutions?
How are our prices compared with the competition?
How do we justify our prices?

What are the expectations for me during the first week, month, quarter, year?
How will I be measured?
How will I be held accountable?
What if I don't measure up?
What if I over achieve?

What is our organizational structure?
Who can I go to for help?
What kind of help can I expect?
How do I get the help?

Can you build a 90 Day Orientation Program for New Salespeople?

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Featured

Sales Force Development - Is it Training?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 30, 2007 @ 20:05 PM

What is Sales Force Development all about? Sales training? Coaching? Sales Force Automation? Sales Selection? Sales Assessments? Compensation? Incentives? Performance? Sales Management Effectiveness? Mapping the Sales Process? Documentation? Having a Play Book? More?

While it's all of those things and more, its primary focus is the company's strategies for growing sales, whether they are the right strategies, whether sales management is aligned on those strategies, and whether the sales force can execute those strategies.

A sales force evaluation that looks at the people, systems, processes and strategies, provides the answer to those questions and a whole lot more. In addition to identifying the issues to be addressed, it can provide the lion’s share of the content for a sales plan.


Development begins with mapping out an effective sales process. That is followed by the development of the sales management team so they can support the salespeople who must execute the strategies.


In most companies, a third of the sales force is less than desirable so an improved sales selection process comes next, utilized to hire salespeople who will more effectively execute the strategies.


Sales Training, the most popular component of an integrated sales force development initiative, is used to develop those salespeople who can't yet execute the strategies. Sales managers, a few months ahead of the curve, should now be able to effectively coach their salespeople to reinforce the training.


Compensation and Incentives can be used to target the behaviors and activities that must change, influencing salespeople to execute the strategies. Then, the appropriate systems and processes must be put in place to support the sales force's mission. Finally, the most important component and the one that most companies do poorly, is accountability: holding every salesperson accountable to something measurable, every day of the week.

Sales Force Development is an integrated approach to organically and systematically growing sales, by improving the people, systems and strategies that impact sales performance.

Many companies fail to work on any of the components of sales force development. Some companies see strategy as key and continue to change their strategies when one after another fails. Ironically, the strategies fail only when there isn't alignment and the people can't execute the new strategy. Many companies provide sales training but fail to provide it in the context of the strategies, and before the strategies, sales management, systems and processes have been fortified. Some companies see compensation as the key, failing to provide their people with the skills and tools to take advantage.


When integrated Sales Force Development is utilized, companies will see a dramatic improvement in effort, urgency, consistency and results. When integrated Sales Force Development is embraced, companies will see an improvement in morale, retention and selection. When Integrated Sales Force Development has been made a part of the company’s culture, sales and profits will sky rocket.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, recruiting, accountability, Motivation, assessment, Featured

When Management Gets Push Back

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 10, 2007 @ 11:05 AM

It's not unusual for management to get push back during the sales development process.  Whether it's during the evaluation of the sales force, raising expectations, initiating accountability, when coaching, modifying compensation or during training, push back is the one thing you can count on. 

There are two underlying factors surrounding push back. First but not foremost, are the reasons for it.  If you've already evaluated your sales force, the push back is another example of the assessments coming to life.  The excuse makers start giving you reasons why what you're doing won't work or why they can't do what you want them to do.  Those with Need for Approval will respond in ways that show they're afraid you might not like them anymore and they'll overcompensate in their comments.  Those who don't have Need for Approval will tell you exactly how they feel about the new initiatives. Those who have difficulty with Rejection issues will show their fear.  Those with lack of Commitment won't play, and those with an Outlook problem will develop an even deeper level of concern. 

The biggest underlying reason is that you're asking people to leave their comfort zones and many of them won't want to leave!  And this is the good news!

Here's where the second factor comes into play and that's your response.  If you take their push back seriously and give in to them at any point, you've instantly defeated your goal for improvement and growth.  If you don't get them to leave their comfort zone, nothing will ever change.  If not caving in to the push back causes you to collide with leaving your own comfort zone, so be it.

You have a choice.  Resist the temptation to make it go away, leave your comfort zone and you'll cause everyone to leave their comfort zone too.  Give in to your temptation to make it all better and everything stays the way it was before.  Complacency and stagnation abound and flat sales and profit continue. Which way would you prefer to have it?

So how do you resist the temptation?  I'll give you one example and you can leave your suggestions by clicking the comment link.

"I understand it's uncomfortable for you but this is the direction we're going in, I'm committed to it and if you aren't committed to being part of this, you'll have to look somewhere else for a new job."

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation, Featured

Salespeople - The Difference Between Over Achievers and Under Achievers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 08, 2007 @ 23:03 PM

I often post about overachieving and posted a comprehensive article on over achieving a few weeks back.  I've also written about under achieving and, for the first time, want to draw some comparisons between over and under achieving.

Underachievers make excuses for why they didn't get enough appointments while over achievers not only book more appointments than they need, but make sure that they're top quality appointments too.

Under achievers turn quality appointments into think-it-overs and maybes while over achievers close their closable opportunities.

Over achievers can't wait to update their pipelines, turn in their reports, and mentor others while under achievers need to be hounded to do even the most simple of these tasks because they're embarrassed about their performance.

You can depend on over achievers to hit their numbers month in and month out while you never know what you can expect from underachievers.

Over achievers have larger average sales, higher margins, better account retention, cleaner receivables and stronger relationships with their customers and clients.  Underachievers give price breaks, sell smaller accounts and orders, don't sell people what they really need, have deals fall through and cancel and think they have strong relationships with their customers and clients.

Over achievers set stretch goals and reach them while under achievers set safe goals and fail to reach them.

Over achievers allow you to feel confident and content, you must scramble to keep up with them but it's good scrambling.  Under achievers stress you out, tend to be high maintenance and don't provide a return on your investment of emotions and time.

I also posted recently about sales frauds.  Perhaps this explanation will help you identify the real producers from the sales frauds, the over achievers from the under achievers.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, accountability, Motivation, Performance, Featured

Top 10 Factors for Getting Salespeople to Overachieve

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Feb 04, 2007 @ 15:02 PM

Here is a video where I discuss creating a culture of overachievers.


There isn't a single key to overachieving, so I'll list my top 10 factors for helping salespeople overachieve.  I'm sure I've written about each of these topics at some point in the past, but I'll put them all together here:

Goals - I'm talking "raise the bar, stretch, out of the comfort zone, more than the typical 15% increase in sales" type goals here.  You must raise expectations in order to celebrate superior performance.  Don't forget two things: (1) that a forecast and plan come from the goals; not the other way around; and (2) goals are derived, not from the company, but from the individual's income requirements, based on the bills that accompany life's obligations and desires.

Incentives - including compensation, contests, commissions, awards and prizes.  Incentives bridge the gap between corporate carrots and the personal goals we just discussed.  If an individual has the goals but the company's compensation isn't designed to reward superior achievement, the incentive to perform can not be maintained.  If the company has a rock-solid compensation plan but the goals are wouldn't excite Dr Phil, the personal incentive to perform will be AWOL.

Managing the Pipeline - a Visual Pipeline makes it significantly easier to manage the pipeline but the key to managing the pipeline effectively is working with your critical ratios.  Think monthly goal, closing percentage, average sale and length of the sell cycle. Let's say that your salesperson has a six month sell cycle, a $100,000 monthly goal, a $20,000 average sale and a 25% closing percentage. Effectively managing the pipeline requires that your salesperson places 20 (5 $20,000 sales x 4 at 25% closing) new opportunities worth of total of $400,000 (25% of $100,000) into the pipeline 6 months in advance of the monthly goal (if the goal is for July then the opportunities must enter the pipeline in February).  Get that to work and the outcomes are all but guaranteed.

Accountability - This is such an important factor in over achievement.  You must hold each salesperson accountable to something measurable (like the number of conversations required to book the number of sales calls required to identify those 20 new opportunities) every day.  Even more importantly, you must have consequences for failure to meet those requirements and consistently follow-through whenever necessary.  Develop the nerve for full accountability and you're nearly there!

Motivation - This is the combination of Goals and Incentives. In essence, does the salesperson have a strong enough Desire and Commitment to do whatever it takes - every day - to reach the goals?  When they don't, it's your job to motivate them by knowing what each salesperson's goals are. I'm not talking income requirements or gross sales here, I'm talking planes, boats and cars; big houses, vacation homes, golf trips, world travel, home theaters, fantasy camps, exclusive events, etc.

Self Starter - Last week I posted an article that discussed what it takes for salespeople to succeed in a remote location.  Those factors, whether salespeople are more effective when working independently or as part of a team; and whether they require supervision or can work without it; help to determine whether they are self-starters.  If not, you must start them up every day, twice daily or as often as it takes.  If you have self-starters, you are one lucky manager.

Skills - The more the better, but let's focus on the most important skill sets for overachieving.  Your salespeople must be able to hunt for new opportunities, identify the most qualified and be able to close them.  Anything else they can do is a bonus!

Urgency -  I wrote about Closing Urgency in January.  Your salespeople must have enough urgency to get their opportunities closed, when they become closable, even when their prospects are trying to put them off.

Weaknesses - Unfortunately, there are weaknesses that will neutralize all of the previous 8 factors.  There can be dozens of weaknesses that could impact performance but none are so powerful as these five:  Non Supportive Buy Cycle, Need for Approval, Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved, Money Issues, Self-Limiting Record Collection.

Coaching and Training - Your coaching must support any training initiative and help salespeople overcome their weaknesses, develop skills and master the selling process.  While most training will be conducted by sales development experts from outside your firm, the coaching absolutely takes place from within.  Pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefing, with every salesperson, every day.

This list of factors is not all inclusive but it's a good start.  You can build a sales force of over achievers if you incorporate not some, but all of these factors.

© Copyright 2007 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: selling, accountability, Motivation, Pipeline, Performance, Compensation, Featured

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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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