Magazine Rack for the Best Sales Advice on the Web

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 11, 2008 @ 14:06 PM

Guy Kawasaki is at it again. This time he is behind Alltop, a magazine rack that points us to the best reading on the internet.  This week, debuted, pointing us to the best sales blogs on the web.  To make it even more interesting, to get people more engaged and undoubtedly to generate some buzz, they are running a contest

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it may just force me to change the name of my Blog.  You see, the sales blogs at are listed alphabetically and Understanding the Sales Force will always be at or near the bottom of the page.  For the three of you on the planet who start with Z and work backwards, this could be a good thing.  But for the rest... Oh wait!  An email from Guy!  He moved Understanding the Sales Force to the third position.  Guy writes a column for Entrepreneur Magazine called Wise Guy but today, he's Nice Guy!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Obama and McCain - Competing Salespeople Fighting for the Big Sale

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 10, 2008 @ 16:06 PM

This afternoon, Chris Mott and I were discussing Obama and McCain. Since I don't like either candidate, I feel somewhat protected and free to provide my political sales correlation.  I've never dared to venture into a political editorial and I don't mean for this to be one either.  Please read the following thoughts as they would apply to competing salespeople fighting for the same big account.

McCain wasn't exposed too much during the primaries, jumping to an early lead and not facing much competition.  He'll finally go head to head against Obama this summer and fall while millions of people watch, listen and form opinions.  What they'll likely do, regardless of which candidate they initially preferred, is perform a side by side comparison, akin to what many companies do with their vendors.

They'll say that next to Obama, McCain seems really old, sometimes unsure of what he wants to say, supports the war in Iraq, and doesn't speak with nearly as much passion.  They'll also say that he has a lot of experience, both domestically and in foreign affairs, that could serve the country quite well.

They'll say that next to McCain, Obama has energy, charisma, ideas for change, the ability to shine either one-on-one or from the podium, and great leadership qualities.  They'll also cite his affiliation with Reverend Wright, lack of experience and the negative campaign he ran against Hillary.

This is a classic RFP "opportunity".  If you simply look at their response to the RFP's, they are similar humans, available at the same price, both able to step into the role of President and assume the duties. They are commodities.

If we look beyond the RFP's and interview the two candidates, Obama will likely come across as the more likable, memorable, dynamic and even quick on his feet.

If we look beyond the interviews, check their background, history and references, we may find that McCain has a better track record, better references, makes no empty promises and even brings up issues we may not want to address.

So the sales question is, as voters (prospects), do we simply compare their proposals (commodities), factor in the interviews (value added) or check references, background history and track record (trusted partner)? If we only choose to compare their proposals, the decision will be made based on where the candidates stand with regard to the issues (pick).  If we go to the interview stage, the decision may be to go with the candidate who interviews the best (Obama?).  If we go as far as references, background history and track record, we'll get to understand the candidates' character, ability to perform under pressure, reliability and likelihood of success in the job (McCain?).

Now the question for you and your sales force is, do your salespeople provide you and your company the opportunity to get to the third level described above, or are they taking the easy way out, submitting their proposals and allowing their prospects to commoditize you?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 


Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Another of My Keys to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 06, 2008 @ 00:06 AM

These aren't generally discussed, written about or analyzed, but they are there, getting in the way, sometimes for months at a time.  Most of your salespeople aren't very effective dealing with them.  At the least they interfere with business and at their worst they dominate your salespeople's lives. I'm talking about distractions.

Distractions can take many forms, from the call that takes them off their game, to the illness or death of a loved one that stops their game cold.  Distractions can last a few minutes or they can linger for months.  You can even understand why some, especially the really bad distractions, can interfere for so long.

In the end, it's your salespeople's ability to cope and stay focused in the face of distractions that will determine what kind of year they have.  Everyone, including you and me, has distracting events in their lives.  When one event goes away you can be sure that another will follow.  I know a salesperson who generates a year's worth of business in just 6-9 months, while he is distracted the other 3-6 months - every year! I know another salesperson who was distracted for two years.

You know they'll have distractions so it's your job to know your salespeople well enough to recognize when they are being affected.  Helpd help them cope, focus and work through them in order to get from each as close to 12 months worth of effectiveness as you can.

Don't let this article distract you, go help somebody!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, accountability, Motivation

Maximum Effort is the Key to Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 04, 2008 @ 07:06 AM

When companies attempt to improve sales they often look first to sales skills. If you've been reading this Blog for a while, you know that I believe skills are important, but only to a certain degree.  The problem with putting an emphasis on developing only the skills is that without the proper combination of strengths and incentive to support the use of those skills, the skills alone don't get it done.

Given a choice between a salesperson with all the skills, but deficient in strengths and incentive, and a salesperson with great strengths and incentive, but lacking in the skills, the second salesperson will usually have greater success.

My team had its weekly sales meeting yesterday and we watched a scene from 12 O'Clock High for the 85th time.  This particular scene explores the question, "what is maximum effort?" In sales, maximum effort is demonstrated by the salesperson who finds a way to get through to the prospect that can't be reached; who gets a decision from the prospect who won't make a decision; who gets the business even after it appears the business can't be had; who wins while others lose.  It's the second, third, fourth and fifth efforts. It's their persistence in the face of stalls and put-offs, objections and excuses.  While skills are very helpful in these moments, most salespeople don't possess enough confidence to use those skills while others, who may not have the skills, have the confidence to continue the process, even if it isn't elegant.

How many of your salespeople give maximum effort on every call, in every meeting, with every prospect, and in every sales process?  How many of your salespeople have the skills but don't use what they have?  How many are lacking in skills but over achieve anyway? Chronic over achievers put forth maximum effort on a consistent basis. You should be able to answer those questions and a sales force evaluation will provide the answers to the more important questions like, what it will take to grow sales, who can improve, by how much, whether they can execute your strategies, the effectiveness of sales management,  who can have success selling value,and selling more consultatively, and the steps you must take to get maximum effort, more opportunities and increased revenue from all.

 (c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Jon Lester No-Hitter Like Sale of a Lifetime?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 19, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

Tonight, Jon Lester, of the Boston Red Sox, pitched a no-hitter. It was the first no-hitter by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher in more than 30 years. It was the second no-hitter by a young, promising Red Sox pitcher in eight months. I attempted to find the probability of pitching a no-hitter but all I could find was a scientifc formula that one would have to understand in order to get the answer. So I took another route, estimating that there are approximately 3820 games played per season and, maybe 1 or 2 no-hitters per year. So that would make the odds of hurling one about 1 in 1900 or a mere .05% chance.

So, I wondered, what would the sales equivalent of a no-hitter be?

a. Landing the Biggest Account of Your Life?
b. Closing the Biggest Sale of Your Life?
c. Beating out the Biggest Competition?
d. Getting the Business Everyone Said You Couldn't Get?
e. Having your first million dollar income year?
f. Winning the sales contest?
g. Being named top salesperson out of hundreds or thousands?
h. Closing 43 in a row?
i. Bringing in your first sale?
j. Landing the $50 million contract after a 2 year sale cycle?
k. other

Leave your comment below and let us know whether it's one of the examples above or you had another experience that was the thrill of a lifeteime.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

More on Leads, Referrals and Introductions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 19, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

First, make sure you read this post from several days ago. 

Rick Roberge had this great post today.  I loved it because, as my comment said, I thought it was comical, I knew the sales manager and his style, I could picture the whole thing so vividly, and the advice was fantastic!

 (c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Motivating Your Unmotivated Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 14, 2008 @ 22:05 PM

When your compensation and incentive programs aren't getting the job done, it's time to look beyond the traditional motivational programs and get creative. There are a number of other ways to motivate salespeople and I'll discuss three of them here.  I'd love to have you comment with your personal favorites.

1) Nothing is more motivational than when a salesperson closes a sale - not any sale - a first sale, their biggest sale, their most challenging sale, their fastest sale, their slump breaking sale, their "I beat the competition" sale, or even their contest winning sale.  Immediately following that success, is when your salespeople are most likely to have another success.  Their confidence is at an all time high, their courage is strong too, and as a result, they'll take the greatest risks within 24 hours of that success.  By risks I mean that these are the times when they are most likely to do the things they have the greatest difficulty doing.

2) A surprising motivator is anger.  Getting your salespeople just pissed off enough to ratchet it up as much as it takes to get the job done, but not so pissed off that they walk out on you.  This method is a little more difficult than example number one, but in many cases, salespeople won't do the things they haven't been able to do until they get angry.

3) I have discussed fear as a motivator before. When your salespeople are afraid of losing their job, losing a residual commission, losing part of their territory, losing a client or losing your respect, they will often perform in a more inspired manner.

What have you tried to motivate your salespeople?  Leave your comments below.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Sales Compensation Plans - How to Make Them Work

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 02, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

Frank Aubuchon of Aubuchon Associates, an HR Consulting Firm, wrote an article about Compensation to incent salespeople. With his permission, I have taken an excerpt from his article to share with you.

Adopt the philosophy that "the more sales my people bring in the more money the company makes. Everyone wins!  Arbitrary earning caps are killers for your very best people and demotivating.  Naturally the plan must direct sales efforts to the most profitable products and services and perhaps the plan should more richly reward new sales verses repeat business.  Also, be careful of monthly or quarterly targets that may encourage salespeople to hold off on writing a sale.  "If it doesn't help me now, I might as well wait until next month or next quarter" so an incentive can be earned.  Finally, avoid setting unrealistic targets which breed the "why even try?" attitude.

The Plan 

The bottom line is that the plan should be easily understood; how incentives are earned, what are the qualifiers, when they are paid.  The type of sales that are more important to the company's strategic direction should be clear and those should be highly incentivized.  The plan should also have some legs.  Year to year tweaks are expected.  Wholesale scrapping and rework sends the wrong message and causes confusion and mistrust.


As stated above, scheduled dates for incentive payments should be part of the plan and must be strictly followed.  In a very real sense it is the salesperson's pay check and pay checks should never be late.  It also helps to explain how the payment was calculated so that discrepancies can be readily addressed.  A salesperson should never be asked to just trust the system.  Your best people know exactly how much money they are making and if your figure is different they shouldn't have to ask why.


Topics: Motivation

May 11 Came Early - What Else Can We Change?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 @ 09:04 AM

One of the things I pay attention to is the day each year that leaves appear on the trees.  In Central Massachusetts, where I live, it usually occurs right around May 11.  This year, thanks to some unusually prolonged warm weather, the buds have popped, the fruit trees have flowered and there are leaves appearing on the trees.  They're not full-size yet but will be in a matter of days.  May 11 came early.

If we can get mother nature to make an exception, then we can change all kinds of beliefs about how long a sale cycle must take, what does and doesn't work in our industry, who, by title, we can call on, our position in the marketplace, and the way our prospects respond to our products and services. We can change our beliefs as to what our salespeople are capable of, who can lead the team in sales, and how effective they are at finding and closing business.

If we can change the day that May 11 arrives, we can change the world.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

Singing the Sales Blues

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 @ 15:03 PM

I received an email today that describes How to Sing and Play the Blues. It was very funny but unfortunately, I don't know who wrote it so I can't give proper credit.  I forwarded it to a few music lovers and musicians and one of them, Ken Stark, Owner of Stark & Associates, a St. Louis sales development firm, replied back in less than five minutes with his original lyrics to "Too Much Pretendin' Blues". Next time your salespeople are singin' the blues, have them sing this instead!

The Too Much Pretendin' Blues

Woke up this mornin
was way before dawn.
Woke up this mornin
my pipeline was gone.
Don't know how it happened.
Got dem not enuf doin
And too much pretendin blues.


Was king of my world
bout a year ago.
Then things out there
they got really slow.
The man don't pay me
when the cash don't flow.
Got dem not enuf doin
and too much pretendin blues.


When nobody's buyin
ain't much I can do
Cep sit around cryin
just thinkin bout who


Would take someone on
who wakes up each dawn
With dem
Not enough doin
and too much pretendin blues.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Motivation

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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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