Sales and Sales Management Advice

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 24, 2006 @ 00:04 AM

I recently discovered Joe and Mike's Sales Roundup podcast, targeting the IT industry. You can subscribe to Sales Roundup and have each one-hour show delivered right to your desktop or handheld. It's entertaining and packed with good advice. Check it out.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: selling, Management, Lessons

Reasons Why Prospects Don't Buy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 19, 2006 @ 21:04 PM

There are many reasons why prospects don’t buy:

They didn’t need it;

There were no compelling reasons for the prospects to buy;

Your salespeople didn’t have the best solution;

Your salespeople didn’t have the best relationship;

Your salespeople didn’t differentiate themselves from the competition;

The prospects couldn’t afford the solution;

It was more than their prospects wanted to spend;

It cost more than the price for what the prospects perceived was a similar solution;

The prospects weren’t sold;

The prospects weren’t ready.

Regardless of the reasons your salespeople didn’t get the sale, the issues listed above could have all been dealt with earlier in the selling process. Your job, should you decide to accept a true sales management assignment, is to make sure your salespeople recognize these issues before presenting or proposing a solution.

In Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball, your salespeople don’t reach 2nd base unless the prospect needs what you sell, has compelling reasons to buy, and your salesperson has developed a good relationship while differentiating himself and your company from the competition.

They don’t reach 3rd base until they have completely qualified the prospect to do business with your company and completely qualified your company to do business with the them. So all of the issues listed above would have been covered early enough in the process to proceed with confidence or exit gracefully.

Coaching calls for both pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefing. While most sales managers are very ineffective at coaching, you can excel at it if you know when in the selling process these issues need to be addressed and your salespeople are properly prepared to address them.

For more information about Baseline Selling visit

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

Developing Weak Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 18, 2006 @ 23:04 PM

Some of your salespeople are chronically weak - they just under perform and you don't quite know where to begin to help them. Perhaps, you don't even know how to help them so you just tell them to do more, try harder or keep at it. Maybe you give them your best 'moves' and hope they take. More often than not, you won't be able to help but you will develop a closer relationship in the process, making it more difficult to terminate them when you give up.

Then there are some who will actually do what you say and if you begin in the right place by helping them secure quality appointments they will begin to succeed. Beware. You were not surprised when the salesperson who couldn't get good appointments last week had lousy outcomes on those weak appointments. Now that the quality of the appointments is better, isn't it normal to expect better results from the meetings or calls? Not really.

Your salespeople will be experiencing new ground. Their first quality meetings, qualifying quality prospects, actual competitive situations and then closing. With each new success comes a point in the selling process that your previously ineffective salesperson has yet to experience. You'll have to provide the same help that allowed them to book quality appointments at each of these subsequent stages of the selling process. And with each passing stage, it becomes more, not less, difficult.

Is there an easier way? Yes. You could evaluate your sales force; the people, systems and strategies, and identify those who can and will improve, along with the specific help they'll need in order to get there. Don't know how to provide the specific help they'll need? No problem. The sales force development experts who explain the results of the evaluation are qualified to provide the help you can't provide. See

Objective Management Group's web site for more information on evaluating your sales force.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, Management, Lessons, Performance

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

Not Closing Sales - Sales Management Problem Solving Strategies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 07, 2006 @ 03:04 AM

When some of your salespeople aren't closing sales of certain products or services what does it mean? First it helps to identify the possible causes:

  • are you losing sales to competitors?
  • is your pricing strategy wrong?
  • are your salespeople failing to sell value?
  • are the wrong prospects being targeted?
  • are the offerings being positioned incorrectly?
  • are your salespeople doing something differently than before?
  • are they asking the right questions?
  • are they moving too quickly through the process?
  • are they getting enough appointments?
  • are salespeople ineffective at closing?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, the next question has to be why? And don't feel bad if you can't answer the 'why' question. Most executives can't.

All too often, sales management identifies the problem too quickly - in this case they decide it is a closing problem - and determines that some skills training focusing on closing would be helpful. But so often, the problem they identify isn't the true cause and while the training can't hurt, it won't fix the problem.

Ask enough questions to get to the root cause. It's OK if you don't have the answers. Having the right questions can be more helpful than guessing at the answers. Once you have the questions, a sales force evaluation can provide the answers to all of your questions. To learn more about evaluating your sales force visit Objective Management Group's web site or Dave Kurlan's Lens.

(c) 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, 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

The Sales Force - A Year in Review

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 29, 2006 @ 15:03 PM

April marks the 1st Anniversary of this Blog. 65 Posts later, I'd like to highlight some of the more memorable posts from the first 12 months:


Closing the Sale from March 4

Shorten the Sell Cycle by Slowing Down the Selling Process from March 3

When Coaching Salespeople isn't Coaching from February 7

Salespeople - The Urgency of Selling from February 3

Salespeople - Beyond Listening Skills from January 24

Salespeople are Like Children from December 13

Evaluating and Assessing:

How Are Assessments Used from November 15

Two Salespeople That Aren't Performing from October 25

Where are All the Hunters and Farmers from June 24

Retooling the Sales Force from May 3

Let's Start with the Sales Managers from April 23


Some People Aren't Motivated by Money from October 22

Money Motivated Salespeople from October 22

Slump Busters from June 7


More on the Pipeline from September 4

Pay Attention to the Pipeline from August 30

Consistently Inconsistent from May 24

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: Management, Lessons

When Salespeople are Struggling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 21, 2006 @ 07:03 AM

Some of your salespeople are struggling. Nothing new. What should you do? Where should you look?

Usually, when sales aren't coming in, the problem is not one of ineffective closing as much as it is ineffective prospecting. There are three areas you should explore and you'll usually identify the problem without looking any further:

  1. Your salespeople are making ineffective prospecting calls - this can include a number of problems but you should always determine if they sound likeable - if they called you would you want to talk with them or get rid of them? Is the call compelling - are they identifying, early in the call, one or two potential problems the prospect might have that would provide a reason for them to engage in the call? Are they being direct - if they identify a potential issue, are they attempting to book an appointment or are they wasting the prospect's time with unnecessary conversation?
  2. Your salespeople are setting lousy appointments - this too can include a number of problems but you should determine if the prospects have issues your company can help with or if the salespeople are just stopping by to shake hands or get acquainted? Have your salespeople set an appointment with a person who cares enough about the issue to do something or is it someone that was safe - easy for your salespeople to reach? Are their clear mutual expectations for the calls or are your salespeople leaving the outcomes to good luck?
  3. Your salespeople aren't really making the calls - this issue comes back to you. I don't care whether your salespeople are inclined to make the calls or not. They must know it is a condition of continued employment and if they don't secure the required number of quality appointments each week you'll replace them. Are you afraid of that condition? Then perhaps the problem lies within you, not your salespeople.

There are dozens of reasons why performance among salespeople falls short of requirements or expectations. Your salespeople should over achieve, not under achieve. You can identify all the obstacles, issues, road blocks and problems by evaluating your sales force. Click on the links to your right for more information.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, Management, Lessons, Performance

What Salespeople Can Learn From Dogs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Mar 11, 2006 @ 23:03 PM

We called her Bloomie the Dog. She was in my office every day for the last 14 years except on those occasions when she was in the hospital for a ruptured intestine, abscess on the brain, lymphoma, old dog syndrome, and other medical maladies. On more than one occassion, my wife, Deborah, lived in the hospital cage with Bloomie and literally willed her back to life. Bloomie passed away today and we are quite sad and distressed.

This evening, memories of Bloomie, most from her younger days, flooded my mind. We laughed about the day she wandered onto a construction site and returned, covered in hardened cement. We chuckled over her multiple extreme weather escapes, including a blizzard and a hurricane. We smiled when we recalled her puppy days when she would join us at the kitchen table, seated in a chair like a human, eating from her bowl. We couldn't stop laughing about the weed block she dug up from our neighbor's perfectly manicured flower beds. He traced the shredded and torn weed block all the way back to her dog house. But the memories that returned to me, over and over tonight, were those of her salesmanship.

Many salespeople could learn the art of timing from Bloomie. Back in the days when I was the primary producer for my company, Bloomie would join me in the conference room for every sales call. At the point in time where I had my prospects feeling most uncomfortable with their situations, Bloomie would awaken from her slumber, wiggle her butt in the air, make some hilarious sounds, wait for the prospect to laugh, and then lay down and go back to sleep.

Bloomie had learned, at a fairly young age, how to take the edge off of a sales call. She was also really good at developing relationships and making prospects comfortable. She helped me to appear more down to earth than the sales expert that could be so intimidating. And she wouldn't let anyone leave unless they did business. (OK, I made up that last line.) She mastered the art of sensing and reducing pressure in a sales call, a skill at which most salespeople could improve. Not many salespeople understand how to create pressure or urgency without making it seem like they caused it. Most of them also don't know when or how to relieve that pressure so the prospect will be comfortable enough to buy. It's an incredible talent and Bloomie did it better than anyone.

I'll miss taking you out. You helped me break up my day and made me more patient. I'll miss you begging for popcorn. It was great to see which clients would give it up for you. I'll miss lifting you into the SUV. It reminded me how dependent you were despite your tremendous independence. I'll miss feeding you each morning. Your wagging tail and morning kiss made it worth waking up early for you. Rest in peace Bloomie.

(c) Copyright Objective Management Group, Inc.

Topics: coaching, selling, 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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