How Better Accountability Causes Sales Performance to Increase

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2016 @ 06:01 AM

record-breakers.jpg

This is a perfect topic to begin the New Year!  While others will be talking and writing about goals and resolutions, we'll be discussing the things that really make a difference.  Sure, having goals is important, but having them in writing, with an achieve by date and a plan is exponentially more likely to have an actionable outcome than only having goals.  And if you really want results, accountability is to goals as the accelerator is to the automobile.  They both cause immediate action.  Here's what I mean.

Let's assume that the salespeople who read this blog are a little smarter and more dedicated to sales success.  If that resonates with you, then let's also assume that they have a strong will to succeed in sales.  If you're still with me, then it's safe to assume that they gave their all and tried to get 2015 off to a good start in the first quarter of last year.

We are going to compare the year over year results of 5 randomly selected salespeople with the only difference being that in 2016 they will be accountable, whereby in 2015, they were not.  Oh sure - they worked for someone, but that is not the same thing as being accountable.

To begin, I'll need 5 volunteers.  Here are the requirements:

  • You must be willing to have me use your real name and company.
  • You must have and provide your goals and actual metrics/results from the 1st quarter of 2015.
  • You must be willing to provide me with your 2016 metrics/results every day during the 1st quarter of 2016.
  • You must be willing to allow me to periodically write about your progress and results here in my blog.
  • You must be willing to take part in a video interview before we begin and after we finish.
  • You must allow the videos to be shown online.

I guarantee that the five people who are selected for this program, despite not getting coached, will experience their best years in 2016.  We know how powerful good coaching is, but I want to show how powerful effective accountability can be all by itself - especially when there is positive peer pressure.

Will it be you?

Will it be someone who reports to you?

If you or someone you care about would like to apply, just send me an email, state that you are willing and able to abide by the 6 requirements listed in the January 4 blog article, and I'll be in touch.

What are some of the things we can compare to last year?  They include, but aren't limited to:

  • Pipeline Quantity
  • Pipeline Quality
  • Pipeline Acceleration
  • Sales Cycle Length
  • Call to Meeting Rate
  • Attempt to Conversation Rate
  • Milestones Achieved in Sales Cycle
  • Suspect to Prospect Conversion Rate
  • Prospect to Qualified Conversion Rate
  • Qualified to Closable Rate
  • Win Rate
  • Average Sale
  • Average Margin
  • Number of Referrals
  • Percentage of Leads Converted
  • Archived Opportunities
  • Percentage of Decision Makers Reached
  • Demos Scheduled
  • Demo to Win Rate
  • Compelling Reasons Uncovered
  • Compelling Reasons to Win Rate

Of course, if we don't have the specific metric from last year at this time, we can't run a comparison on that metric.  So how many of these metrics are you tracking?  Most companies track no more than 5 of these!  What would happen if you started to track all of them?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, KPI

Social Selling - I'm a Proponent, Not a Detractor - Look at The Stats

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 08:11 AM

The battle that I inadvertently started with this post moved here where it took on a life of its own.  As of this writing, there were 36 comments, some more pointed than others.  Gerhard Gschwandtner added this post to the ongoing discussion.  Earlier this week, I wrote this post to address most of the confusion that's out there.  Yesterday, this post appeared on the Sales Thought Leaders Blog to add fuel to the fire.

I think it's all quite funny that so many have so much difficulty letting go of their positions and take things so personally.

I'm actually a proponent of social selling, not a detractor.  I proactively and consistently use LinkedIn, ToutApp, Hubspot, YouTube, Wistia, Postwire, HootSuite, MeetMe, Eventbrite and more.  Both of my companies have Twitter accounts that tweet Blog posts, news and retweet many of the tweets from other sales thought leaders.  

Bob Thompson left several comments on the article at the CustomerThink site.  In his last comment, he asked what the stats would look like if we only reported on what the best salespeople did with social media.  I think that's a terrific idea, Bob, and while it's much more difficult to isolate those statistics, I did the research and report on it here.

One important thing to remember when making these comparisons is that the most successful reps don't make cold calls, so we need to compare their social media successes to the alternative which, for them, is referral/introduction selling.

I looked at 1,921 leads that were assigned to a group of top salespeople.

They closed 69% of the leads that were customer/client referrals/introductions.

On the other hand, they closed only 5% of the leads from social selling.  WOW!!

However, I looked more closely and found that we can identify something different altogether.

If we isolate the leads that were either call-ins or emails generated from Blog Posts or videos, the closing rate shot up to 29%.  It's not the 69% of referrals, but it sure beats the hell out of cold calls and the rest of the social selling leads.  How did the top salespeople fare on those?

They closed only 3% of the "leads" that were from White Paper downloads, Sample Requests, Webinar views, and the like.

In summary, top salespeople closed less than half as many quality social selling leads as they did with all referral/introduction leads.  That's not bad.  But the 3% suggests that the "leads" from other sources should never go to salespeople.  Those leads waste time and should remain with marketing.

One question this leaves me with is who would have been better at following up on the quality social selling leads?  The top salespeople (who never cold call and rarely get resistance) or the newer and/or less successful salespeople who regularly deal with such annoyances?

Are these findings more encouraging?

I believe they are.  They suggest that with the existance of two variables, social selling can be effective.  

We must be able to differentiate between quality and other leads.

We must have a method for getting only the best quality leads directly to the salespeople.

We must funnel those leads to the salespeople who are most capable of closing them.  That last statement is different from traditional lead distribution at most companies.  Aren't you sick and tired of giving leads to salespeople who don't follow up on a timely basis?  Who don't convert them?  Who don't close them?  I believe that leads should go only to the salespeople who prove they can be effective with them and follow up on a timely basis.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, Gerhard Gschwandtner, lead follow up, lead conversion, KPI, social selling, statistics

Insider Opinion - Why Sales Experts Can't Agree on Anything

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:11 PM

debateI recently published, Increase in Social Selling Yields No Improvement in KPI's.  In addition to my blog, this article appeared on at least 5 other websites leading to many interesting comments and very strong opinions.  The discussions, comments and opinions, especially at CustomerThink.com, helped me realize why so many experts are arguing - not only about the future of selling, but about what's taking place today, right now.  Among the things being debated are:

  • The migration from outside to inside sales - Yes, it's happening and it's good; but, it won't happen in every company, to every salesperson or necessarily soon.
  • The rise of inbound marketing - Yes, it's happening, and yes, it helps generate leads; but, it's not the be-all, end-all that inbound marketing folks make it out to be.  Salespeople are not being replaced.
  • The integration of social selling tools (the topic of the aforementioned article) - Yes, it's happening and it's helpful; but, it hasn't changed the results  - no measurable change in KPI's at all.
  • The death of selling - Yes, marketing people are predictably predicting this; and no, it's not going to happen.
  • The change in how selling will be conducted - Yes, it's changing; but, some of that change is for the wrong reasons and could be change for the sake of inbound marketing.

I wrote the following response to 12 conflicting comments on my article on CustomerThink.com:

Thank you all for contributing to the discussion and in both challenging and adding your own results and evidence for and against. I'm sure we're not done yet...
It's clear that everyone is approaching this from their own perspective, using their own experience, anecdotal evidence, surveys, studies, clients and subscribers, in the industries in which they work and the marketing and/or sales teams with whom they communicate.
I'll repeat the essence of the article because it already seems to be getting lost or twisted.
The data I used was a selection of around 10,000 Objective Management Group sales assessments (not a survey) completed in the month of June 2013. The results show us that usage of these tools is way up. The companies that these salespeople worked for were reporting no change, or worsening of KPI's. The conclusion is what you had the problem with: Lack of correlation between use of the tools and key sales metrics. That's it - nothing more and nothing less. How could you conclude anything else from this particular set of data?
The 10,000 assessments were taken in a cross-section of industries (companies in more than 200 industries use our assessments) so that is part of the problem. Most of you who are surprised with these results are working with companies and industries that are more likely to see results than the overall population of 15 million plus salespeople.

To summarize, most of the disagreements, arguments, challenges, and strong opinions occur when experts feel threatened by an opposing viewpoint or simply aren't in a position to have a similar viewpoint.  Many of the viewpoints, that are in opposition to what I write about, are from people who just don't have as broad a vantage point .  I am very fortunate to have unique access to data, science and business that isn't available to anyone else:

  • 200 Industries!  That's industries, not companies.  Most of the survey data being used out there is extremely limited by comparison.  Only big companies, only small companies, only SaaS companies, only companies that use inbound marketing, only marketing people responding, etc.
  • 700,000 salespeople!  That's a huge sample size and I can mine it for anything I need to find.  Not only that; but, the population has grown over the years so we can track changes to the data.
  • Salespeople!  We only look at three roles - sales, sales management and sales leadership.  Our data is validated, relevant and impressive.
  • Companies with sales organizations!  Due to the way we go to market, I have access, through our partners, to almost any company, anywhere; and as such, trends across those 200 industries, not just the companies I might personally be working with.
  • Manufacturing!  My colleagues, that limit themselves to technology companies or financial institutions or insurance companies, don't know what they're missing.  When I work with the executives of manufacturing companies, I get to see things before they happen.  Manufacturers are the first to experience increases, decreases and even global spending freezes (these occurred prior to November 2008), allowing me to see the trends before they happen.  These are forward-looking indicators and when the same things happen to multiple companies at the same time, we can predict shifts and changes in the economy.
  • Evaluations and Assessments!  Not surveys.  Anyone can use SurveyMonkey to ask questions, populate drop-down lists and incorporate radio buttons, send the survey to some companies and collect the data.  Surveys are typically a collection of questions and answers gathering opinions, aren't validated, and typically aren't representative of all people reading the results.  The data, that comes from our evaluations and assessments, is always based on science.  Validated.  Accurate.  Predictive.

Today there are a tremendous number of blogs on sales.  There are 85 of them featured on AllTop.com.  TopSalesWorld.com lists the top 50 sales blogs.  I counted 240 different people writing on the subject of sales at EvanCarmichael.com.  You should always consider the author's context, industry, background, experience and bias when reading their sales articles.  Ask yourself, "For this author to have this opinion, are they pushing an agenda, reporting on a trend within a particular industry, expressing an opinion formed only from their personal experience, selling something (I'm sometimes guilty of this), sharing the results of a skewed survey, talking about something that isn't globally applicable, suggesting something that isn't scalable, promoting something that isn't duplicable, talking about something that isn't even sound?"  Some would suggest that if someone causes someone to adopt something so outdated and ineffective in today's world, that they should be found guilty of malpractice.  And finally, the best of all; the experts that only post-attack comments on other experts' blogs.  Do I love them...

As with any industry, ours has some pretty smart, forward-thinking experts who can help any company with any challenge.  I know most of them.  Some of them partner with Objective Management Group.  But the number of really good ones is not 240 or 85 or even 50. Remember, that was the top 50 blogs - not the top 50 sales experts.  Some of the really good experts are included there and some aren't.  Some of the really good blogs are written by people you may not want helping you.  A blog does not make the top 50 list because the author is a brilliant sales mind.  Most of those rankings are based on number of posts, consistency in their posting, and number of readers.  I know a few great sales minds that don't have blogs and vice versa.

I've gone a bit off the track and probably pissed off a lot of people.  But what else is new?  I apologize.

Good things are happening in the world of sales and some of those things are coming your way.  Just keep both eyes open, your nose to the ground and your antenna up.  You'll intuitively know whether or not what you are reading is a bunch of bunk or the real deal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales consulting, top sales blog, sales results, top sales expert, KPI, social selling

Increase in Social Selling Yields No Improvement in KPI's

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 05, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

Yeah, just in case you didn't get that, I'll lay it out for you.

In a recent mining of Objective Management Group's data from June of 2013, there was a huge increase in the number of salespeople using social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Spoke, Plaxo and Reachable for selling.  The graph looked like this:

Social Selling Stats

I was impressed with this development...but...there is a huge problem with this.  For all the attention that these sites get, for all the salespeople who now spend their evenings perfecting their profile, adding people to their networks and asking for introductions, what hasn't changed for the better are these key metrics:

  • Calls-to-contact ratio is now over 10:1 - worse than ever before.
  • Contact-to-meeting ratio is worse, not better.
  • Sales cycle length is longer, not shorter.
  • Closing percentages are lower, not higher.

Weren't the social sites supposed to help with those metrics?

Not really.  These sites help salespeople connect - in the slightest of ways.  Do you even know half of the people in your network?  

Your network is like your neighborhood.  You know that they are there, you recognize them as they go by, in their cars, on their bikes or while walking their dogs.  But, you are only friendly with a small percentage of them.  How likely is it that salespeople could improve their effectiveness because of their neighborhood?  Well, the same is true of their networks.  And the online networks don't work any better than the real networks that they belong to in their home towns.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The chamber, the business networking groups, the peer groups, the resource groups, etc.  In theory, they're all great, but in reality, how often do they produce measurable business from people who aren't your friends?

Networks provide the framework to connect, but nothing happens automatically.  Salespeople must still be effective enough, when reaching out, to convert that connection to a call, meeting, opportunity and sale.  And sadly, we just aren't seeing any improvement in the selling capabilities of the global sales population.  It's almost exactly the same as it was 10 years ago!

It's time that we stop expecting sales to increase as a result of CRM, social selling tools and email.  They are great tools, but none of them replace actual selling, and even worse, all of them serve as distractions, false safety nets and busy work that must be completed before salespeople are caught up and can get on the phone.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales 2.0, twitter, sales metrics, linkedin, KPI, social selling

Tighter Sales Metrics at New Year Leads to Improved Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 07, 2013 @ 12:01 PM

targeted opportunitiesIf you are like most executives, you start the new year asking for everyone's goals, plans and forecasts.  Terrific start.  But then what?

You'll need to modify the pipeline requirements for each salesperson.  If the goals change, the requirements in each stage must change with them.  And if any of your salespeople's critical ratios for closing have changed in the past 12 months, those new percentages also must be factored into your new pipeline requirements.

That leads to your KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) or metrics which drive revenue.  If you collect these now via a daily huddle, that's terrific; let's tighten them up.  If you don't currently have your sales team calling in every morning for 10 minutes, you're missing out on a critical piece of accountability, team-building and intelligence.

How can you tighten up your metrics?

Suppose for example that you currently have your salespeople report the number of new conversations, newly-scheduled meetings and qualified opportunities.  You can tighten them up by inserting the word "targeted".  Your salespeople are able to call on a wide range of potential customers, but a much smaller group is in the sweet spot.  It's the sweet spot which will lead them to their goals for revenue and profitability, but any old customer will count as a new sale.  Suppose you have them report only those conversations with sweet spot or targeted opportunities, new meetings scheduled with targeted opportunities and qualified targeted opportunities.  There will be more pipeline movement, improved closing ratios and your revenue and profit goals will be achieved earlier in the year.

A benefit to this change is that those salespeople who struggle with the sweet spot, but who have hidden behind their numbers, will be exposed.  Your job is to determine why they struggle with the target opportunities.  The best way to quickly identify, understand and solve these and other similar struggles is with a sales force evaluation.

Tighter is sweeter as in the tighter the targeting, the sweeter the opportunity.

What if you fail to emphasize metrics, have daily huddles or manage your salespeople very closely?  No problem.  Those salespeople will simply leave and you can start all over again.  Seriously, why would you ignore a best practice?  The old metrics which we preached in the 70's and 80's (dials, contacts, conversations, appointments, etc.) may have gone the way of the dinosaur, but metrics in general have not.  Sure, you still may use those old metrics for a salesperson whose job is only cold calls and set appointments.  But for most salespeople, the job has changed - dramatically - in the last five years and technology has a lot to do with it.  That's an article for another day, but for today, if you focus on the metrics, remove the wiggle room, and increase compliance, every capable salesperson on your team will perform more effectively.

Harder is Easier.  Read this post for more on oximoronic metrics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, KPI, sales targets

#1 Sales Presentation Tip from October 16 US Presidential Debate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 @ 08:10 AM

presidential debatePolitical analysts say that the 2nd presidential debate was the best in history.  Why?  Was it because they actually confronted each other?  Got in each other's face?  Went toe-to-toe?  Maybe.  The analysts also have been saying that most people had long ago decided which candidate they liked and the race is really about persuading the uncommitted voters.  This means that if you are pro-Obama, then you rooted for Joe Biden and loved his passionate performance last week.  It means that if you are pro-Romney, then you couldn't believe how condescending Biden was and you loved Ryan's steadiness and calm.  We root for the people we love!  From that perspective, it's very much like rooting for your favorite sports teams.  For better or worse, they're your team and you'll support them through thick and thin.

Hold on to that thought as we transition to sales.  

Let's discuss sales presentations.  When your salespeople are invited back to be one of several to present capabilities, value propositions and solutions, the exact same scenario as described above is sure to be played out.  If the prospect liked you going in, they'll look for opportunities to support your presentation.  If the prospect liked your competitor going in, they'll look for opportunities to discredit you in any way they can.  That's just how it works and that's why it is so darn important to differentiate yourself up front - earlier in the sales process - instead of hoping to accomplish that during the presentation.  Your presentation will certainly differentiate your personal presentation skills, but it won't differentiate your company, value proposition or capabilities.  

That's why Consultative Selling is so important.  Executed properly, your salespeople will finally differentiate themselves upfront (early) and by the time they present, the prospects will already be on your side.  The problem is that you can't say simply that going forward your salespeople shall sell Consultatively.  It's a major change.  It requires special skills, strengths and disciplines to execute, and it routinely takes 8-12 months of training and coaching to make the complete transition.  Further complicating matters is that not all salespeople can make this all-important transition.

One of the questions which Objective Management Group answers, when we evaluate a sales force, is just that.  Who from among all of your salespeople are capable of making the transition from presenters and order-takers, to effective, Consultative Sellers.  We can answer hundreds of other questions too.

Make the transition.  Improve your KPI's.  Close more business.  Block out your competition.  It requires a Consultative Selling methodology and process.

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales management, KPI, sales presentations

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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