Sales and Sales Leadership Lessons from Lou Piniella and the Umpire

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 @ 06:06 AM

Last night on the MLB Network, I heard Don Denkinger, a former major league baseball umpire, tell a very funny story about former Yankee player and current Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

The pitch came across the plate and Denkinger called strike one.

Piniella thought the pitch was low, turned, and asked, "where was that pitch at?"

Denkinger responded, "Lou, don't you know that you can't end a question with a preposition?"

Piniella steamed for a moment and called time out.  "OK, where was that pitch at, ass hole?"

There are some great sales and sales leadership lessons embedded in this funny story.  Can you extract any of them?

I'll identify the winners later this week.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, lou piniella, don denkinger, Lessons

Entering Sales - a Ten-Year Old's Perspective

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 11, 2006 @ 18:12 PM

I'm going a little off topic today, but not way off topic.  I received an email from Tom Schaff, president of Exponentia Growth Systems.  He sent along an email he received from one of his clients, Dave Kruse, who attached his Ten-Year Old daughter Karissa's Halloween Wish.

It reads:

"I wish I could be a salesperson.  I would love going to work daily.  Every day someone new would come into my life.  I would have a partner who would be my dad.  Money would come easy.  People would know I could help them.  They could help me by buying more stuff and I would make more money.  I could help them by giving them beautiful molding."

The reason I passed this on is because Karissa's dad, Dave, has such a healthy concept of what it means to be successful in selling.  He must talk with her often about his day and those conversations must include his mentions of loving what he does, and helping people who come into his life.  It's so easy to talk about prospects in a negative way and we hear many salespeople do just that. What if all of your salespeople believed that money would come easily and that people knew your salespeople could help them?  How much more successful do you think they would become?

The collection of beliefs, possessed by your salespeople, is what we call Record Collection.  This collection can either support or sabotage their outcomes.  It's important to know and understand their records or beliefs so that you can better understand why they get the outcomes they get.  Objective Management Group, in its analysis of each salesperson ,uncovers up to 64 self-limiting records.

Thanks Karissa, for putting into words what most salespeople are unable to write.

© Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: selling, Management, Lessons

Lights Out Sales Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 05, 2006 @ 21:06 PM

I noticed that a red traffic light in town was out so I called the town, got connected to the department in charge of lights and let them know.

'You said this was on Computer Drive? That's the state's responsibility.'

'You want to let them know?'

'I said it's the state's responsibility. You'll have to call them yourself.'

'Don't you live in this town too? Don't you care?'


When you ask your salespeople how a call went and they say good;

When you ask if you'll be getting the business and they say no;

When you ask why and they give you one of the following reasons:

  • relationship with the competition;
  • price;
  • not ready;
  • not the right person;
  • no money;

it's just like the person who says it's not their problem, but someone else's. Oh yeah? Well go back and build a great relationship. Sell value. Create some urgency. Get to the right person. Help them find the money. Don't let your salespeople behave like government employees. Make them take some responsibility or tell them they can go and work for the government where their behavior will be appreciated.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

Sales and Sales Management One Liners

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jun 04, 2006 @ 11:06 AM

When you think of one-liners, you probably expect one-liners that help you close a deal or handle objections. In this article, my one-liners are exactly that. MY ONE LINERS - favorite originals I challenge my audiences with. Here are my top then:


  • How many salespeople would you hire if you knew they would all succeed?
  • The concept of reaching goals is outdated. We should be striving for overachievement.
  • The Pipeline, if managed properly with the right tool should be the single most accurate predictor of future sales revenue. Do you have gold bullions or lumps of coal in yours?
  • Most top performers are mislabled. They may be managing more revenue than anyone else but that makes them good account managers not top performers. Take their accounts away, accounts they may have inherited, ask them to go out and sell something and see what happens.
  • Companies with a stable sales organization have a turnover problem - not enough turnover.
  • Are your sales managers doing everything they should be doing to grow your company? Most CEO's can't answer this because they don't know what their sales managers should be doing.
  • The best sales development in the world won't work if you don't have the right people in the right roles.
  • The best sales specific pre-employment assessment in the world (mine) won't help if you don't have the right pool of candidates.
  • How to Upgrade Your Sales Force? Take the 80/20 rule, the rule that says 80% of your sales force will suck, and get rid of it. Replace it with the 100/0 rule. This rule says that 100% of your sales force will be overachievers.
  • You learned how important empathy is in selling? Yeah, it's important that your salespeople don't have it.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

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Topics: Management, Lessons

First Impressions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jun 03, 2006 @ 08:06 AM

I was being introduced to a crowd recently where the speaker wrote his own introduction of me rather than reading the bio I supplied him with. He chose one word, just one word, that inappropriately tied both of us to a brand we had nothing to do with. In doing so, rather than effectively differentiating himself from the crowded market he was in, taking advantage of my appearance in his city and leveraging the venue he had chosen, he commoditized himself.

Then he chose, a single, unspectacular work experience from my career, from 33 years ago, and spoke of it as if it was the defining moment in my sales development career. It could have been embarrassing but I know that once I get up to speak, the crowd will forget anything the and everything the host chose to say about me.

But it got me thinking. We prepare our salespeople to say certain things, talk about certain topics, and present certain products and services in certain ways. But do they? You've been on the road with them but what do they say when you aren't with them? How do they flavor things when they're on their own? If one word can forever reposition a company, how many times do they choose a word that would make you cringe? And if one experience can change someone's opinion of your company, product or service, target market, quality, integrity or mission, how many topics do they choose that would make you wring their necks?

Management must do a better job reviewing what is said by their salespeople to ensure consistency, impact, the integrity of the value proposition and revenue.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

Put Offs that Sound OK

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, May 13, 2006 @ 12:05 PM

Your salespeople come back with good news and tell you that they spoke with the decision maker of the big opportunity they've been working on. They report that the decision maker told them they're very interested in moving forward but want to wait until the close of their fiscal year (90 days away) or want to first complete a project they're currently working on (60 days) before discussing further. Your salespeople are psyched. They try to get you psyched. You get psyched.

The problem is that you shouldn't be the least bit happy about this. Assuming that this was a properly qualified opportunity, your salespeople took the easiest put-off in the business. This is the put-off that promises future business - much more exciting than the put-off where prospects need to compare your proposal with that of the competition.

As many as five variables are at play here:

  • Honesty - is the prospect truly interested in moving forward or are they just letting the salesperson down easily?
  • Recognition - did the salesperson hear a buying signal or recognize a put-off?
  • Skills - if the salesperson recognized the put-off, did they know what to do about it and how to do it?
  • Need for Approval - if recognized and equipped with skills, was the salesperson's need for approval a dominant factor in allowing the put-off to go unchallenged?
  • Buy Cycle - as above, was the salesperson's M.O. for buying services similar enough to his prospect's so as to make their delay understandable?

Chances are, you don't know the answers to these variables, putting you in very good company. Most in management can't objectively evaluate these issues but would love to know the answers. The answers are available as part of Objective Management Group's evaluation of your sales force. You can also learn more about these dynamics at play in Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Closing - Overcoming Objections

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 11, 2006 @ 20:05 PM

Yesterday, 50 salespeople gave me their biggest closing obstacles - about 25 - when we combined them all. I showed them the four bases in Baseline Selling and defined what must happen for the salesperson to reach each base. Then I asked them to identify the specific base paths where the closing obstacles should have been dealt with. Closing takes place at home plate and sure enough, all 25 of those closing obstacles actually should have been dealt with either between 1st and 2nd base or between 2nd and 3rd base. The moral of the story is your salespeople haven't even earned the right to close until there are not issues that would prevent them from getting the business.

Try this with your salespeople. Have them write their biggest closing obstacles on a piece of paper. Then hand each of them a copy of the four bases. Next, review the criteria for each base and then have them identify where in the baseball diamond their issues should have been dealt with. Were they uncomfortable? Have your sales force evaluated to find out why they get uncomfortable dealing with these issues prior to closing time.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Two Kinds of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 11, 2006 @ 20:05 PM

A successful serial entrepreneur who attended my seminar for CEO's in Montreal today, suggested that there were two kinds of salespeople; those who prospected and went through the motions, only to not close, and those who asked for the business.

Give me a break!

The most common type of salesperson is the one who doesn't prospect enough, followed closely by the one who does it, albeit it ineffectively. Then there are those who have the following problems:

  • they don't have a process to follow
  • they don't determine whether the prospect needs what they have
  • they don't find the prospects' compelling reasons to buy something
  • they don't find the prospects' compelling reasons to buy from them
  • they don't get enough face time
  • they don't effectively differentiate themselves
  • they don't build a stronger relationship
  • they don't effectively demonstrate their superior expertise by asking better questions
  • they don't qualify the opportunity
  • they don't make a compelling case to buy from them
  • they don't present the solution in a clear, concise and compelling way
  • they don't present a needs appropriate or price appropriate solution
  • they ask for business (not closing) but don't close the business
  • they don't ask for the business
  • they create too much pressure to buy
  • they don't create enough pressure to buy
  • they take stalls and put-offs

You can learn more about how to solve most of these problems in Baseline Selling. For each one of those 'types of salespeople' there are many more. Many salespeople exhibit multiple symptoms. The most obvious issue to most CEO's is that the salespeople know what they're supposed to do but they don't do it. Our sales force evaluations clearly and consistently show why your salespeople are unable to execute what they already know - hidden weaknesses.

Topics: selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

So You Want to Be a Sales Manager

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, May 07, 2006 @ 22:05 PM

Joe and Mike, of Sales Roundup Fame, have posted their latest podcast at In their latest installment, they invited me to join them on their show to talk about What it Takes to be a Sales Manager. Barbara Clifford and Karen Chapman of the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce and Paul McGrath and Bob Hokinson, co-hosts of the WTAG's WPI Venture Forum Radio Show. We talked about Baseline Selling and the upcoming Corridor Nine seminar, Closing the Sale - Scoring, on May 10 at David Kurlan & Associates, Inc. in Westboro MA. Thanks for having me on your shows!

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Lessons

Sales Management Woes - Depression over Impression

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 26, 2006 @ 22:04 PM

You want all of your salespeople to make a good first impression but even more, you want them to make a lasting impression. It's difficult, if not impossible to recover from a bad first impression but what happens when your salespeople are making a less than impressive lasting impression?

There's nothing more depressing than getting feedback on one of your own and hearing that he /she made not a great impression, not a good impression, but was unimpressive. Depression over an impression.

How does this happen? Failure to meet expectations? Sitting like a bump on a log? Failure to reach out and grab the prospect's attention? Too much talking? Boring too? Lack of good, tough, timely questions? Not breaking new ground? Not likeable? Offensive? Doesn't present him/herself well? Ineffective opening remarks? Vague positioning statement?

Your first step is to determine whether you want this salesperson to represent you any longer. If you do, identify which of these possible issues are the problems. Then, you must present the issue to the salesperson, get acknowledgement of the problem and commitment to change. Finally, it's coaching, coaching, coaching until the problem has been rectified.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, 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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