A Good Look at Bad Salespeople - Companies Don't Get This!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

goodv.bad

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

This week I received a cold call from one of the worst salespeople ever.  

I get to see the Sales DNA and Sales Competencies of more bad salespeople than anyone on the planet so I know bad when I see it or hear it.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has assessed salespeople and when I compare percentages between the beginning and end of the last ten year period, not much has changed.  74% of all salespeople still suck and I get to see just how bad they suck.  Once in a while I get to experience sucky salespeople up close and personal.  What I am about to share is just such a story.

The caller said she was from [ABC Systems] and asked if I was the person that handled such things.  

Yes, the very first thing she said, did or ask was to qualify me as the decision maker.  No pleasantries, no preliminaries, no questions to see if we had any issues, not anything except, WAS-I-THE-PERSON?  BANT is an ancient qualifying acronym with A standing for authority.  But it shouldn't be used THAT soon in the call!  Even if they were using the ancient BANT method, I was only 25% qualified at that point. That didn't seem to matter to her though because upon learning that she had a decision maker, she stated that she would like to send a rep over to talk with me about it.  I guess she believed that if I'm the guy, then I must be qualified enough to meet with a salesperson.    I said I was happy with our current system and thanked her for trying.  In an effort to salvage the call, she said, "I can assure you that we can save you 40-50% off of what you are currently paying."  So much for credibility.  She didn't know what I was paying for my current system.  For all she knew I might have even been using her system. I do know this:  40-50% savings is a promise she simply can't make.

She was working the top of the funnel as an appointment setter. Those roles are important in a company but if she does make an appointment, can you imagine the poor outside salesperson who shows up for that meeting?  It doesn't matter that it's with the decision maker.  If the field sales rep can't save the decision maker that 40-50% he was promised, the salesperson will fail to meet expectations!  And what other expectations can there be after a cold call like that?  The decision maker will not care how it works, how it's different, or how it's better.  The expectations were set:  How much will this cost?  A sale cannot be any more transactional than that!

So what did she do well?  She made the dial, got me on the phone and got me a tiny bit qualified.  

What did she do poorly?  Everything else.  If she had been evaluated or assessed by OMG, she would have scored OK only as a Hunter, but horribly as a Consultative Seller, a Qualifier, a Closer, an Account Manager or a Farmer.  She wasn't even fun to talk with.  She didn't have any intangibles whatsoever.  She shouldn't have been in this role.

Everyone has sucky salespeople - it's just a matter of how sucky they are.  Companies tend to put these junior/inexperienced/ultra sucky people on the phones to do lead generation/inbound/appointment setting/top of the funnel work and this is a great example of everything that is wrong with that.  Why do companies do this?  It costs too much and is too distracting for their highly paid salespeople to be making these calls.  But salespeople are the very ones who can convert these conversations.  Salespeople are the very ones who want to schedule a quality call, as opposed to an awful call.  Salespeople have a vested interest in the outcomes of these calls.  If only there was a way to have salespeople in the conversations, but not waste their time trying to reach decision makers perhaps once or twice every few hours.

Oh wait.  There is a way!  ConnectAndSell has an amazing service that does exactly that.  As of this morning, the dashboard at the top of their website showed that they had delivered nearly 3 million conversations for their clients.  It really works.  Check them out here.

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, prospecting, Sales DNA, cold calling, lead generation

Can These 5 Keys Determine the Fate of Cold Calling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 07, 2014 @ 05:05 AM

phoneThe May issue of Top Sales Magazine is now available and in addition to my monthly article, this month's issue is loaded with important reading on sales and selling.

Bob Terson posted my article, Are Your Salespeople Still Cold Calling - The Ugly Truth over at the Selling Fearlessly Blog.

When marketers and writers tell us that cold calling is dead, they never remember to qualify what they are trying to sell us.  The amount of death in cold calling is dependent on a number of variables that never seem to be discussed.  If we take a good hard look at these variables, we can see that taking a broad brush stroke to cold calling is a mistake:

  • New Salespeople - Even this needs clarification.  New to selling?  New to the industry?  New to the vertical?  New to the company?  New to the role?  Unless brand new salespeople are fed an endless number of leads, there may be no other way to establish themselves other than making cold calls.  On the other end of the argument, veteran salespeople who come from the industry, territory, or vertical, and are simply new to the company, may not ever need to make a single cold call to reestablish themselves.
  • Size of the customer pool - If the company has 12 potential customers in the entire world, cold calling is not in the salesperson's future.  On the other hand, if everyone is a prospect, there may be no other way of reaching them all without using cold calling to target the most elusive of them.
  • Size of your online network - If a salesperson has a large and influential online network, that individual might be able to generate enough introductions to keep a full pipeline.  But the key word is "might", and when it isn't happening, cold calls will be required to supplement.
  • Expectations - If a salesperson's role requires 20 new meetings to be scheduled each week and there aren't 60 leads flowing in to support that outcome, the salesperson will need to cold call.  On the other hand, if the salesperson is only expected to schedule 5 new meetings each week, it's possible that a combination of leads, customer referrals and online networking can support that goal.
  • Skills - This is clearly the biggest variable of them all.  IF cold calling will be necessary, then the amount of cold calling is in direct disproportion to the salesperson's skills at performing this.  I know this was true for me as I started 3 businesses in the 70's and 80's.  I hated it, but was willing to do it.  I vowed to get so good at it that I wouldn't have to spend a minute more doing it than was absolutely necessary.  While others spent their entire days making cold calls, I scheduled the meetings I needed to schedule in less than an hour.

As long as we are discussing the variables that must be considered before we say cold calling is dead, you might be interested in these additional 15 articles on the death of various aspects of selling.  These have all been written over the past 8 years or so.  Has my thinking changed?

The Latest Fiction for the Sales Force - No More Hunters and Farmers 

Double Article Friday and the Death of All Selling Forever 

Sales Candidate Shortage - More Proof That Sales Isn't Dead Yet 

Could it Really be The Death of SPIN Selling? 

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

Sales Management Best Practices - Are Top Salespeople Challengers? 

Is There a Lack of Clarity on the Current State of Selling?

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

Has the Death of Selling Finally Arrived? 

The Death of Selling Revisited 

Seth Godin - Sales Expert or Marketing Genius? 

The Death of the Sales Force is Greatly Exaggerated 

Sales, Sales Force, Sales Call - More Death 

The Death of Selling Part 4 

The Death of the Sales Force Part 5 - Will Selling Live On?

 

Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, prospecting, death of selling, appointment setting

Friday - Finding New Business & Sales Part 2 - How it's Done

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 07, 2014 @ 13:02 PM

This is the second weekly installment of Finding New Business and Sales.  You can read Part 1 here.

This week I was interviewed by Jason Kanigan and he asked some great questions about using the phone for prospecting. The interview is a terrific listen if for no other reason than it has MY RECIPE FOR GETTING VOICE MAIL MESSAGES RETURNED, ALONG WITH HOW THE MESSAGES SHOULD SOUND!  

Here is a link to Wednesday's terrific Webinar on Leading the Ideal Sales Force Part 1 in case you missed it.  Register for Part 2, on March 12 at 11 AM ET.

WEBINAR SERIES - Baseline Selling Open Enrollment
Begins February 20 for 12 Weeks
More Information: http://hub.am/1fhbMvv 
WEBINAR - How to Get the Most from OMG's Sales Candidate Analyzer Tool
February 26, 11 AM ET
Register 
SALES 2.0 CONFERENCE IN PHILADELPHIA - What to Ask To Determine If You Need to Implement Sales Force Transformation
March 10 
Register
ECSELL SALES COACHING SUMMIT IN CHARLOTTE NC - What Does Commitment to Sales Success Mean?
April 15
Register
EO AUSTIN TX - How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Close More Sales
April 23
Email me 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, business development, prospecting, getting voice mail messages returned

My Top 14 Articles on More Effective Sales Cold Calling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 @ 22:11 PM

cold callerYesterday, I posted this article about why sales cold calling is so bad.  One of my readers asked what I would recommend to make the calls more effective.  I've written a lot of articles about cold calling more effectively, so I have linked to fourteen of those articles below.

A new book on sales, How to Close Deals Like Warren Buffett, was launched today.  Highly successful dealmakers themselves, authors Tom Searcy and Henry DeVries, have been studying Buffett’s unique approach for many years. Now they reveal the deal-making secrets of the Oracle of Omaha including 101 top deal-making maxims from a legend in his own time.

They round it all out with an abundance of their own experience – approaches that, added up, have generated billions of dollars in new sales.  When you order today (and today only), you’ll get more than $300 in game-changing bonus material from some of America’s TOP business authors (I’m honored to be one of them).

As long as we are talking about books on selling, these are links to articles on my Baseline Selling site which provide instructions for making more effective cold calls :

Saying Hello

Getting Through 

Getting Your Prospects' Attention

First Impressions

Getting More Appointments

The Five Biggest Phone Selling Traps

Obstacles to Scheduling Appointments 

Overcoming Negative or No Response

What it Takes to Get Appointments Scheduled 

Sales is Like an Obstacle Course 

Getting Your Calls Returned  

These blog links are to articles right here about cold calling:

Are Your People Still Cold Calling? The Ugly Truth

Best and Worst Cold Call in a Single Call 

The 9 Million Dollar Cold Call - Do Salespeople Still Sell That Way? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, new business development, prospecting, cold calls, sales book, sales cold calling, warren buffett

Prospecting Trends for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 @ 23:07 PM

inmail

Three salespeople left voice-mail messages for me today.  They were all cold calls, they were all bad, and they were all following up on brochures they dropped off last week.  Nothing out of the ordinary here, as one of the callers wanted to know when our copier leases expire, one wanted to know when our commercial real estate lease expires and two wanted to introduce themselves as our new reps.

There are several reasons why they were so bad:  

  • They sounded bad on the phone - not like someone with whom you would choose to speak;
  • They were reading scripts - the first tip-off that you wouldn't want to speak with them;
  • They talked about what they wanted for outcomes from their calls instead of about what I might have been interested.  

I have always had a problem with the concept of dialing for expiration dates (think commercial insurance, commercial real estate and copiers) and following up behind brochure drops (think office supplies, hotels and copiers).  Distributing literature is not selling!

I also received 4 InMails through LinkedIn.  I responded to all of the InMails, but ignored the voice-mails.  

The voice-mails were easy to ignore - they were bad and the salespeople told me just enough to know that I didn't want to call them back.  The InMails were about me, I didn't get a chance to hear how bad they were and I was interested in what they had to say.

Salespeople should not use LinkedIn InMails to replace phone calls, as much as they shouldn't be ignoring the power of that social media tool either.  Sending well-written InMails to carefully-targeted prospects might help salespeople stand out and have a better chance of getting a response and/or meeting.  These days I get so few cold calls that anyone who is even borderline effective will stand out in good way.  In the end, these salespeople - both the callers and the writers - are being proactive, so at least they're actually doing something to drive new business!

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, business development, prospecting, Social Media, inbound leads, hunting, cold call

Are Your Salespeople Still Cold Calling? The Ugly Truth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

cold callCold calling.  It sounds so...20th Century.

Some industries still break-in their salespeople by putting them on the phone and having them dial - more than one hundred times a day - and attempt to schedule appointments.  You still receive calls like this from new, and sometimes not so new salespeople selling insurance, investments, copiers, office supplies, commercial real estate and long distance phone services.

Today, more salespeople are using the Social Network to find opportunities.  Whether it's incoming leads from Blogs, researching and requesting introductions on LinkedIn, or simply finding the target audience from a Google search, salespeople are using these tools to connect more and more often.

Of course, one thing that will never change is word of mouth.  Referrals and introductions from happy customers and clients will always be the finest method for generating new business.

Given all of the options, which salespeople are smartest?  Is it those that are cold calling, those who are getting introductions or those that are using the Social Network?  The answer depends on how you decide to measure what being smart means.  

If smart is measured by the easiest method, with less work, and no human contact, then those using the social network are as smart as they come.  

If smart is measured by following the path that most often leads to success, then those who ask their customers for introductions and get them are even smarter.  

If smart means making sure that no matter what else happens during the course of the month, the salesperson adds the required number of new opportunities to their pipeline, then those who are cold calling are the smartest salespeople on the planet.

Cold calling isn't enjoyable (for those salespeople who are truthful about it). Cold calling isn't effective except for the most brilliant of callers.  Cold calling isn't efficient anymore.  One thing that cold calling will always be is controllable and manageable.  

You can't control the number of inbound leads your salespeople will get.  Of course, if you are generating more leads than necessary to keep the pipeline full of quality opportunities my argument doesn't work.  But most companies aren't accomplishing that - yet.  

You can't control the number of introductions you will receive from your clients and customers.  

You can't control the number of introductions your social network will make on your behalf, even if you are asking for them.  

You can control the number of cold calls your salespeople make.  Even if the numbers are as ugly as this:

Attempts - 100
Connects -   10
Meeting Scheduled - 1
 

At least you can control that.

I don't think cold calling should still be the default approach for new business development.  However, if a salesperson needs to add 20 new opportunities to their pipeline each month, and the other methods deliver only 7, then cold calling becomes a necessary method to secure the remaining 13 opportunities required.

Cold calling is slowly but surely declining in use but some salespeople have discarded it before its time.

Reevaluate what your salespeople are doing, how they are doing it, and make sure that the emphasis is on the result, not the method.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, business development, prospecting, cold calling, in bound leads, introductions

Top 11 Reasons Why Salespeople Fail to Close Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 @ 12:09 PM

stop sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I coached a salesperson who thought he had call reluctance - but I didn't agree.  He was pushing through, making calls - although not as many as he should.  He has some need for approval - but since he needs approval from his boss he needs to make the calls in order to get it.  He needs some approval from his prospects but can't earn that unless he gets prospects on the phone and impresses them. So he actually has reason to pick up the phone and make calls.

I wondered whether he loved selling - enough.

I wondered whether he was committed - fully and unconditionally.

I wondered whether it was something else entirely...

The reason I'm bringing this up is that in most companies, when certain stages of the sales process are not being exectued as they should, executives often don't know why.  That's one of the many reasons why we evaluate Sales Forces - to identify root causes of the known (and unknown) problems.  The second reason is that problems are often misidentified.  For example, half of the calls and emails we receive each day ask us to conduct workshops/coaching/training/seminars on closing skills, even though closing skills are almost never the reason why salespeople fail to close sales.  With sales and salespeople, you need to work backwards from what you know, and ask many "could it be?" questions to identify the real problem and more importantly, the reason for the problem.

For instance, problems with closing (delays, put-offs, losses to the competition, pricing, etc.) happen for any or all of the following reasons:

  1. not a qualified opportunity
  2. salesperson did not present an ideal solution
  3. lack of urgency
  4. salesperson did not create/build value
  5. no compelling reasons to buy
  6. lack of posturing
  7. timeline misunderstood
  8. not selling to the correct person
  9. salespeople lack opportunities so they continue to work the lousy ones too
  10. salesperson presented too early in the process and then went into chase mode
  11. prospect never agreed to spend the money required
Even if you identify which of the reasons are responsible for the closing problem or challenge, you must go through that same process and identify 10 more possible causes for each reason - and go through that process repeatedly until you have identified the root problem.  The root problem will probably have nothing to do with selling skills!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, closing, prospecting, cold calls, presenting, sales assessments

Most Salespeople Suck at Selling - Is it Worse Than Ever?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 @ 06:08 AM

vacuumLast year I wrote this short article on the difficulty that salespeople have getting their voice mail messages returned.  In May, this article addressed the subject in a different way. Two years ago I posted a related and very powerful and popular post about Lance Armstrong and how he uses metrics.  Last month, a member of a LinkedIn group, Sales Management Executives, posted this question:

"What is your approach to get people to call you back after you have left 2 or 3 messages?"

In the past month, there have been 47 comments, one of the most popular topics I've seen there.  Some of the replies have been on target but most are embarrassing to read.  These are sales management executives and this is a "what salespeople must learn to do in their 1st week in sales" topic.  Most salespeople do not have the skills to consistently get new prospects to the phone!

Yesterday I met with a national sales manager from India and we reviewed the sales candidate assessment he would be using to recruit a national sales force there.  We were talking about skill sets and I pointed out that it might not be realistic for him to expect the candidates in India to have well developed consultative skills.  He asked why and I explained that even here in the US, it's not realistic to see it.  Companies and their sales forces are able to talk about the concept, they say they are doing it, but the data suggests they are not.  Objective Management Group's data from 100,000 salespeople assessed most recently, shows that on average, salespeople possess only 22% of the attributes of consultative sellers.  They aren't doing it.  When I observe salespeople who are supposedly selling consultatively, they ask one or two questions before jumping into a presentation.  If performed correctly, a salesperson who is selling consultatively should spend the first 60-90 minutes of a sales call asking questions to completely understand the issues, problems, impact, cost, and compelling reasons to invest in a solution.  Most salespeople are only asking for 30 minutes time and since it's what they are most comfortable doing, they want to make sure they have enough time to present something.

So most salespeople aren't reaching prospects, aren't selling consultatively and, as you could tell from last week's post about qualified presentations, they aren't qualifying either.

So the two questions are:

  1. Why?
  2. What Can be Done?
The why is simple.  It's not really a complete lack of skills as much as it is a combination of weaknesses that prevents salespeople from doing things they need to do.  As a result they resort to what's comfortable for them, even though what's comfortable is rarely effective.
In order to solve the problem, you must evaluate your sales force, identify which weaknesses are causing the problems, determine on a salesperson by salesperson basis who can be saved, what it is required from a training, development and coaching perspective, what your ROI will be, and provide the 8-12 months of development required to get them doing things consistently and effectively.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, closing, prospecting, cold calls, presenting, sales assessments

Sales 2.0 Tools Have Their Place, But Where is It?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 @ 06:11 AM

I am so fed up with the Sales 2.0 hysteria.

Sales 2.0  - it's about getting found and using the social networking tools to make connections - and that's all good.

But none of it replaces good old fashioned Sales 0.0 or 1.0 and to believe it does is a dangerous thing.

Whether you are performing SEO to help you get found, using LinkedIn, Facebook, Google or Twitter to let people know you are here, or using any one of the array of cool new tools to determine how best to connect, make the connection or continue the dialog, all of these tools are used as a means of getting your new prospect to the phone and/or a face to face meeting.

What you can't do with Sales 2.0 tools is use them to sell.  You can't take short cuts, you can't sell or have a conversation via email and you can't express yourself effectively in print unless you are an award winning novelist; and most prospects don't have the attention span to read that many words.

If by using all of these tools, your salespeople still have an empty or weak pipeline, they must pick up the phone and make calls the way salespeople have been doing for decades. Of course it's more difficult to reach people today, but that is not a reason to stop calling.  If you need to schedule meetings, they surely won't happen by themselves! 

Sales 2.0 tools, just like the face-to-face networking that came before it, are supplements to phone calls, not the other way around.  If you can't control it, you can't depend on it.  If your salespeople must have 12 appointments per month, then they must plan to make calls to schedule 12 appointments per month.  If along the way they happen to receive 4 introductions from customers, clients, their social networking or their local network, then great!  Then they'll only need to make calls to schedule 8 appointments this month.

Sales 2.0 - I love the tools, but they don't replace the basics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, prospecting, cold calling, social networking, getting appointments

Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow Could be Your Veteran Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 @ 05:09 AM

manilowStewartAdmit it - you're intrigued imagining how I'll connect this post to selling.

Barry Manilow dominated the 70's with hits like "I Write the Songs" and "Copacabana".  Rod Stewart dominated the 70's and 80's with hits like "Tonight's the Night" and "Hot Legs".  But they are far more alike than that.  They are both skinny 65 year-olds with coiffed blond hair and in the last few years received horrible face lifts. Oh yeah, women love them. Could they be the same guy?  Were they separated at birth?

And they both behave like veteran salespeople!  

Instead of continuing to churn out hits in the past decade, both have played it safe.  Rather than risk recording new songs and having a new generation reject their music, they both recorded songs that others had hits with.  Manilow recorded albums of Broadway Hits, Love Songs, and four albums of Greatest Hits covering the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.  Stewart recorded four volumes of the Great American Songbook as well as the Greatest Rock Classics.  They already had a huge fan base. Rather than attempt to expand it, appeal to a new audience, and sell their original style of music to a younger generation, they simply continued to generate renewal business from their existing customers.

Isn't that just like so many of your veteran salespeople?  There isn't a single complaint that I hear any more often than this one:  "My veteran salespeople are living off of their existing customers and I can't get them to go and find new business."  Just like Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart!

Yesterday I spoke with a client who had questions about a Sales Candidate we assessed.  He wanted to recruit this candidate who had built a nice territory from scratch in the 80's and turned it into a #1 territory. The client wanted to bring this candidate to a new city and recreate that success. But the assessment didn't provide any indication that the candidate would succeed.  The client demanded an explanation.  Why did this superstar assess so poorly?

The answer is very simple.  While he may have been motivated to build that territory 30 years ago when he was a lot younger, he is not motivated to do it again today.  Think about it.  If you're a 30 year veteran of the sales business, would you be motivated to start from scratch in a new territory?  Our assessment simply showed that this candidate no longer had the Desire or Commitment he once had. He lacked Money Motivation and didn't have the required skills. What?  How could the skills have gone away?  They didn't.  He never had them to begin with.  In the 80's he may not have needed the skills.  It was much easier to build relationships and provide a quality product to take business away from competitors. It turns out that this sales candidate has been living off of the client base he developed back in the 80's and hasn't sold any new customers in years. In the current challenging economy, with all of the resistance prospects have for buying, salespeople and change, without skills, he would simply get killed. 

Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart would likely get killed today too.  Their songs wouldn't appeal to today's kids and I would guess that neither are very motivated to change their styles and start from scratch just to risk alienating their existing fan base.  They could be selling for you! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, prospecting, veteran salespeople, finding new business

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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 nine 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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