How Dramatically Has Selling Changed?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 06:02 AM

dramatic-change

Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio promotion when they said, "Take a selfie with a standie and then, using your smartphone or tablet, upload it to Facebook, or tweet your image using hashtag [something I can't remember]."

Now, pretend it's 1995, and reread the quotation.  Twenty years ago, would you have recognized any of the words other than "take", "and", "then", "using", "your", "or" and "to?"  In 1995, selfie, standie, smartphone, tablet, tweet, hashtag, upload, and Facebook would have had you believing that you were listening to a foreign language.  That's just one example of how dramatically some things have changed in the past 20 years.

Let's take selling.  How dramatically has that changed in 20 years?

There are some obvious changes that most people in sales will recognize, like:

  • Salespeople are no longer sources of product knowledge or pricing, both of which are readily available online.
  • Salespeople enter the sales cycle only to find their prospects much further along in their buying cycle.
  • Salespeople utilize Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, email marketing, blogging, and the web for knowledge and to connect with prospects, before they speak for the first time.
  • Personal online networks, like Facebook, Google+, and LInkedIn are exponentially larger than the physical networks of twenty years ago.
  • Salespeople with transactional products and services, like tickets, travel, commodities and most retail items have found themselves being replaced by online sales.
  • Many salespeople who once worked in a territory or vertical, now find themselves doing the exact same thing by phone.
  • Video conferences and phone calls are replacing face-to-face visits.
  • Inbound, Lead-Gen, and Appointment Setting Teams are recent additions to Inside Sales.
  • Value Propositions and Added Value have given way to salespeople who must now be the value.
  • A vast array of productivity tools, especially those that sync between devices, make selling not only more efficient, but more fun.
  • National and global competitors are making it more difficult to win the business.
  • Demos can be easily conducted online.
  • There are vast amounts of free, online resources that individuals can use to improve themselves.

And then there are the changes which are not as obvious, like:

So my question is, are these changes good or bad?  Have you made any or all of these changes?  If you have ignored any of the changes, was it due to ignorance, discomfort, or arrogance?

What is the next change that will rock your world?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, close more sales, twitter, linkedin, selling value, long sales cycle, sales win rates, google plus

Selling Value - Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 23:12 PM

value

Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Some news stories just don't go away.  Today those stories include Ferguson, Bill Cosby, ISIS and The NFL's Domestic Abuse Problem.  There is also Obamacare, Immigration and Ebola.  They remain in the news more because the media continues to milk these stories then readers demand to know more.

When we look at the sales stories of the recent past, the topics that sales experts continue writing about are Social Selling, Inbound Marketing, LinkedIn, Twitter, CRM and Lead Nurturing.  They remain in the news more because the writers are attempting to sell their own services that happen to support those topics more than readers demanding to read more about it.  There's nothing wrong with these topics of course, but sales experts should be addressing topics more closely aligned with helping sellers sell, instead of so much space being devoted to what takes place at the top and above the top of the sales funnel.

So if not those topics, then what should we all be writing about - all the time - that would be a real difference maker for salespeople?

I believe that it's the importance of and ability to sell value.  Why, you ask? 

Selling value is the one thing that all salespeople, operating without benefit of the lowest price, absolutely, positively, must be able to do well in order to consistently earn the business.  

Despite the need to effectively sell value, it happens to be one of things that salespeople do very poorly. The importance of selling value isn't going away, but sales experts are not spending enough time talking about it, writing about it, explaining it, or providing training on it.  The most critical aspect of this topic is understanding the many factors that support a salesperson's ability to sell value.  Selling value isn't a specific thing that one says or does, as much as it's an outcome of several other things.  According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics (close to one million salespeople assessed), of the 6 most important factors required to sell value, most salespeople have, on average, only 2 of them as strengths or skills.

This is such an important topic that last week I hosted a broadcast on Selling Value in Modern Times.  If you would like to watch it, run time is 46 minutes.

According to a Google search on my blog, I've written about or mentioned selling value, in some way, shape or form, 766 times in the past 10 years.  Here are 10 of my favorite articles on selling value and when you extract the major points from each, it provides a very nice collection of guidelines for selling value:

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Closing and Negotiating Challenges - Symptoms of Another Selling Problem

Sales 102 - The Pitch Deck, the Price Reduction and the Data

This Simple Strategy Will Sell Your ROI and Value Proposition Every Time

Why This is Still a Great Selling Sales Book After 10 Years

Price Quotes and the Inability of Salespeople to Sell Value

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

Top 10 Outcomes When Salespeople Screw Up Selling "Value Added"

Top 5 Sales Issues Leaders Should Not Focus On

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

Do You/Should You Have a Complex Sale?

Top 10 Reasons Why Salespeople Let Price Drive the Sale

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering

New Metrics for the Sales Force - Unusual Thoughts for Unusual Times

Boston Ballet and Money Tolerance - What it Means to Your Sales Force

As I mentioned above, selling value does not stand on its own.  You should now understand that from the value selling broadcast and the articles above,  there are several other factors that contribute to selling value.  Unless salespeople are able to effectively integrate all of the necessary factors (Sales DNA, sales process, strategy and tactics), then the end result will always be salespeople that are only able to talk about value, instead of actually becoming the value.

I'll be hosting a webinar on December 10 at 11 AM Eastern Time.  We'll be discussing the 5 Hidden Factors that Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force.  Selling Value is certainly one of those factors!  It will run for about 45 minutes.  If you would like to attend you can register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, crm, twitter, Pipeline, linkedin, social selling, selling value, Lead Nurturing, top of the funnel, Bill Cosby, Value Proposition

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

How Four Variations Influence Sales and the Way People Make Decisions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 @ 08:01 AM

Over the past week or so there has been a terrific discussion on the Sales Management Executives Group on LinkedIn that drew an unusually spirited discussion on the use of sales assessment tools.  As of this writing, there were more than 7science0 comments, enough participation that I can easily break the comments into four types.

  • Opinions
  • Experiences
  • Gut instinct
  • Science

My regular readers know that I fall on the side of science, but the other three types of commenters feel so strongly about their positions that you would think they were talking science too.  It's great when many people chime in with their comments.  That's the beauty of a discussion forum or Blog - everyone gets to participate and weigh in.  But in the case of a question where its author expects an answer based on science, it becomes more difficult to separate opinions from experiences, gut instincts and facts.  Regardless of the type of comment offered, they all believe their comments to be factual.

Science shows that Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments are highly predictive - 95%.  But a very small group of clients may have experience that is inconsistent with that science, especially if they used it as a stand alone(without the process it was intended to be part of) tool, had a poor quality pool of candidates to use it on, if they failed to closely manage the people they did hire, if they ignored the warnings we provide on recommended candidates, or if there were non-performance issues (nut cases). Others could have an experience with assessments that aren't at all predictive of sales performance (personality and behavioral styles assessments) but used them with such a small sample size that luck led them to believe that those assessments were predictive.  OMG's sample size is 500,000 salespeople! 

Opinions about assessments, such as "they don't work", lumping dozens of brands, types, and results into a single category, is akin to making sweeping statements like, "cars aren't made very well",  "cell phones can only be used for talking", or "X-Rays aren't dangerous".  Opinions are often lacking in science and experience.  On the other hand, Gut Instinct is great -- when it's right -- and sometimes it is right!  But sometimes it's wrong and you can't make important business decisions on something as unreliable as gut, especially when you are more likely to try and force that kind of decision to be the right decision (in hindsight) by waiting too long to correct a mistake.

If you understand these four types of comments as they relate to a discussion on assessments, what happens if I suggest that prospects judge salespeople in the same four ways?  They subconciously sort whether they are being fed science, experience, opinion, somebody's gut, or some combination, as well as how it all impacts the way they make their decisions.  For simplicity, let's use the 4 traditional social styles - Amiable, Expressive, Analytic and Driver - as context. Analytics will only respond to science.  If they believe they are getting anything other than facts they won't buy.  Amiables need to trust the person they are buying from so when a relationship and trust have been established, Amiables could buy from someone who has strong opinions and good references and might even ignore the science-based salesperson who may not be a good relationship builder.  Expressives have many ideas to share so they may not want to learn that they are wrong from someone who is basing his solution on science.  Drivers want results - quickly - and may use all four - your science and the experience of others, and their own gut to form an opinion to quickly make a decision.

How much of today's article is science?

How much is opinion?

How much is gut?

How much is experience?

I always have an opinion and it's usually influenced by my considerable experience working with companies in more than 200 industries during the past 25 years.  I try extremely hard to make sure that my opinions can be backed by science and while I use gut instinct, I only use it to choose which subject to write about on any given day - I never use gut to make decisions about who to hire, recommend, or how to hire them!

 

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales management, sales candidates, sales assessment tools, linkedin, personality assessments

Sales 2.0 - The Answer to our Prayers or a Costly Distraction?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 04, 2010 @ 21:05 PM

Every day I read, hear and get asked about the various modern methods for salespeople to meet, engage and get in front of prospects.  Every day, the emphasis moves a little further toward the Sales 2.0 approach to getting found - LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, E-blasts, and Youtube.  As a result, the emphasis moves further away from traditional prospecting. It was just two years ago that everyone was writing - trumpeting - that Cold Calling was dead, that Selling was dead.

Let's take a look at this phenomenon from another perspective.  Sales 2.0 is simply a high-tech, 21st Century version of the low-tech, 20th Century method for approaching, engaging and getting in front of prospects.  You know what I'm referring to:

  • Networking events
  • Leads groups
  • Inner circles
  • Social circles
  • Religious groups
  • Country Clubs
  • Friends
Salespeople did it all with handshakes and telephones and it did for salespeople in the 20th Century what Sales 2.0 does for salespeople in the 21st Century - only slower and less superficially.  The bigger difference is that 20th Century Salespeople understood that those groups were supplements - albeit important ones - to the primary activity of prospecting.  For some reason, 21st Century salespeople think that prospecting is the supplement to Sales 2.0.  Well I have news for you...

Hear Ye, Hear Ye.

You can't control the number of quality opportunities that come your way from Sales 2.0 activities.  I'm not suggesting that salespeople abandon Sales 2.0.  Far from it.  I've posted 630+ articles on this Blog and they generate more leads than you could imagine.  However, they aren't all to our target market, they are often to the wrong person in the organization, very often of questionable quality, and in some cases, it would be difficult to even call them leads.  Despite that,  it is still a more effective method for generating leads than many alternatives.  The very important point is that we don't know what the quantity and quality of the leads will be on any given week so leads can only supplement traditional methods of attracting new business. They cannot replace them.

So Blog away my friends.  Connect to everyone you can.  Upload your videos.  Just do it at night because during the day - you have to prospect the old fashioned way.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, twitter, YouTube, Blogging, linkedin, lead generation

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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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