12 Proven Sales Hacks to Increase Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 @ 07:06 AM

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It seems that these days, things are changing faster than we can recognize. Cosby is finally out of the news, but the Marathon Bomber is back in. The terrible winter weather is in our rear view mirror, but now we are dealing with droughts and tornadoes! And in our world, Sales 2.0, a term we haven't heard in a while, is making the rounds again. In today's article, we'll talk about the sales improvements that readers are most interested in.

Let's kick things off with the most popular article of the first 6 months of 2015, which talks about how dramatically things have changed in selling. Read this very popular article from earlier this year, which is all about the next change to take place in selling.

On LinkedIn, this article explains one simple change that salespeople and sales managers can make that will significantly improve the pipeline and win rate.

With all that has changed, no single characteristic is more important to selling than an individual's unconditional commitment for sales success. This article explains what committed salespeople do differently.

This popular article compares a bad sales email to a good one and a similar article exposes an ineffective cold call and includes a breakdown as to why it was so bad! This article completes the business development highlights with 3 keys to help convert more of those calls to meetings.

We've covered how to be more effective getting meetings scheduled, so let's move to another popular article that explored the possibility that with everything changing so quickly, consultative selling could already be dead.

One of the biggest challenges that companies are having right now is in attracting, assessing, interviewing and selecting new salespeople. Companies are hiring and it's more difficult than ever to hire a good salesperson. Accordingly, some of the most popular articles of the first 6 months of 2015 were written about hiring salespeople.  

This article explains why 1 million sales jobs will be lost, while this one explains why half of an entire sales force resigned in a single month. Could this happen at your company? Why is it that some great salespeople don't live up to your expectations while others are as good, or better than expected? This article explains how and when that can happen. On the other side of that story are the weak salespeople - those with poor Sales DNA and/or sales skills - who somehow find ways to succeed. This article talks about the intangibles they may possess and why they can't be taught or replicated. To round out the best of the sales selection articles, read this one about the phoney baloney sales candidate and how you can make sure that he doesn't fool you.

Finally, you won't want to click on this one right now. Instead, save it for when you have 30 minutes to read it in its entirety. The article began as a simple rebuttal to some junk science on sales selection and turned into a debate on the science of sales assessments and specifically, put Objective Management Group's (OMG) sales candidate assessments on trial. The people have spoken, but what did they say?

Was today's article helpful? Share it! Tweet it! Comment.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales 2.0, cold calling, sales selection, objective management group, sales emails that work, building the sales pipeline

Sales 2.0 Conference; The Huge Sales Blitz and Sales Processes

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

Yesterday, I spoke at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia.  More about that in a minute.  First, I would like to relate a story about the taxi ride from the airport to the Ritz Carlton.  No, the driver wasn't a maniac.  No, the ride didn't take hours.  And no, it was not eventful.  What was interesting though, was the driver's approach.  

In my experience, there have always been two kinds of taxi drivers. The first asks how long I'm planning to stay and when they learn I'm flying back out the same day, they offer to pick me up for the return trip to the airport.  This is the taxi-driver version of an account manager.

The second type ignores me, talks on his phone, gets me where I'm going and looks for his next fare.  A hunter.  Purely transactional.  Just like a salesperson who knocks on doors.

But yesterday, I met a third type.  He was a type 2, but with time management skills.  He was driving me on a flat fare and he leveraged that quite well.  Long before we reached the hotel, he asked how I would be paying and activated the payment screen so that I could pay by credit card and sign the receipt.  Then, instead of going around the block so that he could deliver me to the main entrance, he suggested that I could save 5 minutes by getting out across the street from the hotel.  He then sped ahead to another hotel where he could be first in line.  He was an optimized, opportunist hunter!

Speaking of hunting and Pennsylvania, last weekend we were dining in an historic Salem MA hotel where the framed pieces on the wall were not so much art, but more history of how the hotel came to be.  It was fascinating!  Apparently, back in the 1920's, the Salem Chamber of Commerce recruited dozens of business leaders to raise $500,000 in one week for the construction of the hotel.  They also hired a Harrisburg-based (there's the PA connection) sales training company to train the businessmen (they were all men in the 1920's) how to sell and then tracked their sales by the day, posting the results on a large billboard in front of the town hall.  In the 60's and 70's, we would have probably called this a sales blitz, where everyone is singularly-focused on finding new sales.  Of course today, some companies have lead generation or appointment setting teams that turn the blitz into a full-time operation.  But, if you have a smaller company or a business without a full-time lead generating team, there's nothing at all wrong with taking a concept from days gone by and repurposing it...

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...Back to Philadelphia and the Sales 2.0 Conference.  

In between sessions, I had a nice conversation with S. Anthony Iannorino, one of the top sales thought leaders in our space, and the author of The Sales Blog.  It was terrific to share our common beliefs and alignment on sales process.  We both believe that it all starts with sales process and that most companies, despite thinking that they have a sales process, have one that sucks.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) data shows that 91% of all salespeople are not following an effective process, so that supports the belief that the processes either don't exist, are completely ineffective, or that salespeople have not bought into them.  None of the 3 scenarios are acceptable, so you must address the sales process problem which, along with ineffective sales coaching, are the two single biggest reasons why sales cycles are getting longer and win rates are going down.

Finally, here's a nice comment from my session, "What to Ask Yourself to Determine Whether Your Sales Force Needs to Undergo a Sales Transformation":

"What a great talk at the Sales 2.0 conference today. You absolutely hit the nail on the head of all the things we need to be thinking about, and I particularly loved what you said about coaching needing to happen as 50% of the sales manager's job - yes!! Here's to a world with better sales processes, good-fit people and intelligent use of the tools available to us."

Join the discussion.  Email recipients, please click the link to the article and tell everyone what's on your mind!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, Sales 2.0, s. anthony iannarino, gerhad gschwandtner, sales blitz

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

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

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

cold callerI just completed an interview on behalf of a client and learned that this candidate landed $9 million in brand new business, from a brand new account over a period of 18 months from - are you ready - a cold call.

I'll be the first to admit that cold calling is more difficult than ever.  It's more frustrating than ever.  It's less productive than ever.  But that does not mean that your salespeople should stop making calls.  Hardly.  Finding new opportunities is more important than ever, but there are alternative methods so that calls are more productive, less frustrating and more effective.

Wasting time trying to reach prospects that never seem to be in?  There's a tool for that.

Trying to figure out how to get someone to take your call?  There's a tool for that.

Frustrated with going back and forth trying to find a mutually convenient time to meet or talk?  There's a tool for that.

Trying to generate more leads?  There is a tool for that.

Need a more salesperson-friendly, elegant CRM replacement/Pipeline Management solution to track progress?  There's a tool for that.

As a matter of fact, there are so many new tools available that it will make your head spin.  The key is to understand which tools will actually help you find/reach/connect/schedule/track new opportunities, as opposed to tools that are more versions of noise - novel or fun to play with but with little gain in productivity.

In the end, your salespeople still need to pick up a phone and make a call.  If the prospect isn't expecting the call, it's a COLD CALL.  Today, there are finally tools to make that a more enjoyable, productive and effective experience.  Is your sales force taking advantage?

Failure to take advantage of new tools, methods, and alternatives to cold calling is a combination of stubborness and sales obsolescence.   

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force development, Sales 2.0, crm, essential sales tools, leads

Enough Already with all the Sales 2.0 Talk!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 @ 23:08 PM

When fax machines were first introduced (I remember the day a salesperson cold-called me with an "opportunity" for me to own my own fax machine back around 1987), experts wrote (magazine articles) about the power of the new machine and the many innovative ways it could be used in business.

When email went mainstream, experts wrote about how to integrate and use it for their sales activities.

Today, some experts are making a business out of writing about and teaching only Sales 2.0.  The thing is that Sales 2.0 is not a new way to sell but it is similar to email and fax.

Where Sales 2.0 is the umbrella for the tools that help you get found, it's not really any more than those tools and how to best use them.  Using some of these tools will surely lead to improved effectiveness but it can only happen if the tools are integrated into a sound sales process, used at the right time and used in an appropriate way.

One blogger sent me three emails pestering me to read a Blog article she wrote about her favorite Sales 2.0 tools.  I'm not interested in sending readers to her article because the tools she selected are not essential tools.  They are more like some of the apps one would find for mobile devices that are merely apps for the sake of being an app.

So what are the essential Sales 2.0 tools?

Believe it or not, one that you use every day, that has been around for years, that is worth billions of dollars - Google - but only if you show up on the first page when someone looks for what you sell.  For instance, if you conduct a search for Sales Force Evaluation, Objective Management Group and one of my Blog articles appear in the first two non-sponsored results.  If you conduct a search for Sales Force Development Experts, Kurlan & Associates and another of my Blog articles appear in the first two non-sponsored results.

LinkedIn - but only if you use it.  You must connect to top quality people that you know as opposed to connecting to everyone you know and even those you don't know.  Identify the connections not of yours, but of your contacts, that are in your sweet spot, and get introduced to those people  Join appropriate groups and when possible, participate in the group discussions. Answer questions when you have either the expertise or a strong opinion on the topic.  But use LinkedIn!

People Maps - When you know who you want to be introduced to, People Maps shows a visual representation of the people you know and paths you can take to get introduced.

Blogging is a an activity, and there are many Blogging tools on the market.  I use and recommend Hubspot's incredible platform. For many, Blogging is the most useful of all the Sales 2.0 tools, but if you build it, will they come? Realistically, you must be able to write or contribute frequent, useful, original content, create an identity and set yourself apart or nobody will come.  This Blog?  It generates more than 20,000 visits per month and nearly 200 leads.  While many of those leads are not in our sweet spot, or not ready, there are plenty of quality leads to keep us hopping.

Companies also use Twitter and Facebook but I'm still not sure that they are essential unless you have very frequent (multiple each day) updates that people want to know about.

There are hundreds of other tools - most of them cool - but not necessarily essential.  I'm sure that some of you have your favorites but remember, to qualify as Sales 2.0, it must help you to get found or introduced.

CRM is essential, it reached its peak during the Sales 2.0 era, but it doesn't help you get found or introduced so although it is worthy, I won't devote space to it here.  There are proposal writing apps, slide show creating apps, apps for accessing your apps that are all good, but not really apps to help you get found.

The point is that Sales 2.0 is not new, and we shouldn't be seeing so many articles written about what is essentially the marketing or, more specifically, the inbound marketing side of selling.  That's right. It's marketing, but marketing that some of you can actually participate in.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, sales force evaluation, sales force development, Sales 2.0, crm, essential sales tools

Sales 3.0 - Time to Upgrade Your Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 @ 07:02 AM

Stay with me on this one.  I need to go through a couple of metaphors to take you where I want to go. 

I heard that Dallas, TX received more than 11 inches of snow, the most in the hundred years that records have been kept.  The mid-Atlantic states experienced similar record snows this past week and Central Florida continues to have a cold winter.  So if the US is experiencing conditions not experienced in the last 100 years, then how accurately can the computer models used by meteorologists predict weather patterns and provide accurate forecasts?

Our economy has experienced a similar record defying dip. How can we base an economic recovery on how the economy has recovered in the past?

How can we continue to approach selling to consumers and businesses as if nothing has changed?  Not too long ago, web developers and observers began touting Web 2.0. Shortly thereafter, some sales gurus began talking about Sales 2.0.  I wrote this article about Sales 2.0 only nine weeks ago and recently I've been thinking about Sales 3.0. But it's all nonsense.  What does this nomenclature do for us or tell us?  If you didn't know what constituted sales 1.0, and you don't know what sales 2.0 is all about, why would you care about Sales 3.0? 

Software developers do this.  Which version of Word do you run?  My Windows Registry shows that Word 2007 is actually Word 12.0  but aside from the developers, who cares?  The only thing the labeling can tell anyone is whether you are running the most up-to-date version of the program. 

Are you running the most up-to-date version of Sales? I'm sure you're not.  So there are a few things to consider.  An out-of-date software program will continue to work if you are still running it on the old operating system which is running on the old computer.  The environment and requirements haven't changed so why change the program?  

An out-of-date sales operation (software), attempting to run in a changing marketplace (operating system) and an uncertain economy (computer) is destined to fall behind, struggle and eventually fail.

So how can you determine whether it is time to upgrade?  It's fairly simple. 

If you find yourself having to compromise on your growth goals - I want to grow 30% but it isn't realistic so I'll settle for 8% -  it's time to upgrade.

If sales are flat or worse, they've declined, it's time to upgrade.

If your metrics show that any of your conversion ratios have declined, it's time to upgrade.

If your pipeline isn't as full as it once was, it's time to upgrade.

If you aren't attracting, recognizing, selecting or retaining A players, it's time to upgrade.

If you are frustrated with your company's progress, it's time to upgrade.

You don't need to know what's behind Sales 2.0 to determine whether it's right for you, all you need to do is honestly assess your progress and measure your level of frustration.  If it's any lower than jumping for joy over your unbelievable success, you need to upgrade your sales force.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, Sales 2.0, sales goals, sales 3.0

Sales 2.0 Competencies, Changes and Myths

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2009 @ 17:12 PM

There has been much talk about Sales 2.0 yet most sales experts can't agree on exactly what it is.  But before we can even discuss Sales 2.0, I must confess that most companies have yet to get on board with good old Sales 1.x!  Most companies are still selling without formalized sales processes, effective strategies and effective tactics.  Most companies still have their salespeople show up, present, demo, quote and wait for the business. 

Prior to working with them, most of my clients have said that they had a sales process, had worked with their salespeople on questioning and listening skills and just needed some tweaking. Just today, two companies emailed me saying pretty much the same thing. One "only" needed a sales playbook and the other "only" needed some negotiation skills.  The passing of time and a sales force evaluation have historically shown these claims to be mostly untrue!  The clients thought they had provided this guidance, thought their salespeople were executing and thought they only needed tweaking.  The reality was that their salespeople were nearly as ineffective as the companies that hadn't worked on these competencies at all.  Why? We can explore that in a future article.

So if Sales 1.x is grounded in sales process and consultative skills, what is  Sales 2.0?

While Sales 2.0 includes technology (sales force automation, CRM, Lead Generation and Tracking, Sales Enablement, etc.) at its core, most of this technology merely supports salespeople and provides coaching and accountability tools (via dashboards) for sales management.  In my opinion, the two biggest differentiators between Sales 1.x and Sales 2.0 are:

  1. The emphasis on being found by your prospects over you finding your prospects.  There is tremendous danger in this - much like being part of a networking group or attending networking events.  If you rely solely on networking for referrals that lead to getting you introduced to a potential new customer/client, you will starve unless you have a tremendous flow of quality referrals coming your way (By Referral-only Training). Similarly, with outbound and inbound marketing and advertising, if you don't have enough prospects finding you, then you'd better hit the phones and make up the difference with some good old Sales 0.0.
  2. Prospects are more educated than they used to be at your first point of contact so you must provide more value when you meet or speak with them.  How do you add value?  By asking good, tough timely questions. Isn't that part of Sales 1.x?  Yes!  It's just that now, prospects expect you to ask questions, not just sales experts.

So you still have to hunt and you still have to possess great listening and questioning skills.  That brings us back to the other factor in Sales 2.0, the use of technology.  In a recent survey, not yet released, CRM was more likely to have been integrated with the sales force than sales enablement tools, prospect/customer data and marketing/lead tracking. The survey indicated that the impact these products are having is fairly significant too, proportionate to the level of integration. 

What does it mean?  In the end it comes down to this;  These technologies are not going away and they are extremely helpful in how they support the sales effort.    They do not replace the sales effort, so it's a matter of having proper expectations, commitment and follow through

If your expectations are properly set (they will be a big help supporting the sales effort), your company is committed from the top down (we are committed to using these tools and anyone who isn't in compliance can leave) and you follow through (if you don't use them and keep them up to date you are gone), then you will have plenty of useful data to help with process, information, cycles, follow up, coaching, tracking, accountability, training, metrics, and forecasting.  On the other hand, if your expectations are lousy (Tom, this might give sales a boost), your commitment is weak (just give it a try Jeffrey - we can always pull the plug if they don't use it) and you fail to follow through (don't worry Zig, this doesn't apply to you), you'll get what you deserve.

With proper expectations, commitment and follow through, the actual applications you choose become a little less important, although it helps to use applications that take away most of the excuses. 

I have some favorites that I recommend:

Instead of CRM I strongly recommend Landslide.com.  One look at what they offer (VIP's will input the data by phone for your salespeople that don't want to! And, it gives you an opportunity-centric, rather than contact or account-centric, interface) and you'll understand why.

For getting found I strongly recommend Hubspot.com.  One look at what they offer (not just a platform for tracking data with analytics, but analytics that guide what you do) and you'll understand why.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether you're at Sales 1.x or Sales 2.0. What matters is that your salespeople are still out selling and not hiding behind technology hoping for things to happen.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, sales management functions, Sales 2.0, Sales Accountability

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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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