A Rare Paragraph or Two About Making Successful Sales Presentations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 14:07 PM

Geoffrey James contributed a terrific piece to Inc.com in May.  I've criticized some of Geoffrey's articles in the past, but this one, 3 Reasons Why Most Presentations Fail, is really good.

Basically, Geoffrey says that salespeople wrongly:

  1. Provide too many details about too many things,
  2. Talk about their history and clients instead of their prospects' issues, and
  3. Fail to differentiate themselves.

Of the 1,000+ articles I have written for Understanding the Sales Force, exactly 2 have been about presentations and presenting.  Why?  I want to help companies and their salespeople move from presenting (which anyone can do) to selling (which only some people can do well). 

When everyone presents, salespeople and companies are perceived as commodities and the sale is driven by price.  When salespeople take a customer-focused, consultative approach and actually become the value added, salespeople and companies are able to effectively differentiate, solve problems, and get paid accordingly.

There is a time and place for a presentation and/or demo and it should be much later in the sales process than when most companies and salespeople choose to do it.  When that time does come, we can all do a much better job of articulating the solution to our prospects in a more compelling way.  However, if we skip the selling part (listening and asking good, tough timely questions), there simply won't be any leverage when it is time to present, and consequently, our attempts to convert those presentations to sales will result in very poor success rates.

So, yes, present more effectively, but do it at the right time - after you have reached the required milestones that justify a presentation to a qualified opportunity.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, geoffrey james, sales presentations, Inc. Magazine

Inc Magazine Gets it Wrong on Consultative Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 08, 2013 @ 08:04 AM

wrongInc. Magazine ran an article on its website that I just can't ignore.  It's making my blood boil.

Why Consultative Doesn't Work is irresponsible writing.  Forget for a minute that those of us in the sales development space (he calls us pundits) have been trying to help companies and their sales teams transition from a transactional to a consultative approach for years.  Transactional selling no longer works unless you are content to be the low-cost leader.  The article's author, Geoffrey James, says that consultative sellers strive to become trusted advisors and companies don't need "some smart**s who kibbitzes from the sidelines."

James does not tell the entire story.

He fails to mention that the top 26% of all salespeople rank that high because they do sell consultatively.  The smartasses are some of the remaining 74% who think they are selling that way but simply ask a few lame questions prior to plunging ahead with their ill-timed demos and presentations.  They are still selling transactionally.  They are the ones that appear to be smartasses because they are making the claims and recommendations without benefit of having had a meaningful conversation with their prospects.

James is guilty of one of the most common misunderstanding in all of sales - that consultative selling requires salespeople to act like a consultant.  Not true.  Consultative selling, when taught, practiced and applied correctly, is primarily about listening, responding with thoughtful, intelligent questions, helping a prospect to recognize their compelling reason to buy, and in the process, differentiating yourself from the competition.  If the customer/client then trusts you enough to seek your advice on matters in which you are an expert, all the better.

The other problem I have with this article is that rather than propose an alternative selling approach, James suggests that salespeople should be able to fill the function that a manager would have served if the product or service was being handled in-house.  Are you kidding me?  Granted, some services that are outsourced could be done in-house but 95% of the time this is simply impossible. Think about some of the core services and products that nearly every business, your business, purchases:

  • Health Insurance and 401K
  • Business, Auto and Professional Liability Insurance
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Office Supplies and Furnitute
  • Copiers, Printers, Computers and Business Equipment
  • Telecommunications and Internet
  • Business Software and Applications
  • Postage and Shipping
  • Janitorial 
  • Security
  • Utilities
  • Legal and Accounting
  • Vehicles
  • Memberships
  • Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations
  • Payroll
Out of the many products and services listed above, the last two are the only ones that some companies attempt to do internally - and they tend to do both ineffectively and inefficiently.  So salespeople, positioning themselves as experts that could manage the above functions, makes no sense.  However, salespeople positioning themselves as experts who could help companies better understand what they really need, based on more effectively understanding why they need it, can make better recommendations and further differentiate themselves.
Geoffrey, you have written some tremendous articles over the last several years but you should unpublish this one.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, geoffrey james, Inc. Magazine

Sales Advice Hits the Spot in April Inc. Magazine

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 @ 05:04 AM

I wouldn't normally recommend Inc. for your Sales Force but the April 2010 issue actually has some helpful articles.

Their Trio of stories, beginning on page 83, have some good quotes.  The first story is about a nuclear power plant salesperson who sells the right way.  Here's a great quote from him that your salespeople can use if they're selling something complex or very expensive:

"I never ask for money. I ask for an emotional commitment.  I let someone else nail down the details of the contract.  Then I come back in to get everyone feeling good again."

 Here's another one that all of your salespeople can use:

"Never worry about how you're doing in a meeting.  Focus on the other guy.  Otherwise, it's like watching your feet while you're running.  And be emotionally prepared to be slaughtered - it helps make you bulletproof."

Quotes don't get any better than that!

Their second story has advice from a psychoanalyst.  He identified the best salespeople as happy losers! He said "A Sad loser goes down and never comes back.  A happy loser comes back.  The first no stimulates them."  Here's a good quote from him:

"We've had regular meetings with salespeople and asked them, 'how many nos did you get this week?'  The ones that got nos got points.  Then, after a month, we made the correlation: The more nos they had, the more sales they had made.  Because they were trying more things, taking more chances. The response was almost Pavlovian.  The more mistakes, the greater the reward."

 The third article in the trilogy contains sales tips from the world's toughest customers. While some of it is common sense and some of it is nonsense, there are some good points.  Here's one quote I liked from the director of supplier diversity from UPS:

"People will say, 'I've got this really exciting proposal I want you to look at.'  I'll say, 'send it to me.' Then they send it to me by FedEx. It happens every day. Just be smart. Know the company you are pitching to and know their likes and dislikes.  You get such brownie points with me when you come in with a UPS envelope and have an account all set up.  It's just the little things like that, the icing on the cake."

The common theme among all three articles is that there wasn't any mention of low pricing.  Isn't that exciting? Here are some call-outs to a few of my friends and clients:

Joe, UPS is looking for printing services...
Matt, Coca-Cola is looking for packaging materials...
Deborah, Intuit is looking for Marketing Services...
Phil, Dell, Northrup Grumman and Intuit are looking for IT services...
Chris, Dell is looking for staffing services...
Howard, let our friends know that Valero Energy is looking for beverages...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Inc. Magazine, Sales Advice

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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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