How to Eliminate the Need for Sales Motivation, Accountability and More!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

Image Copyright Sezer66

Sales Management is challenging.  With coaching accounting for 50% of the role, it doesn't leave much time for anything else.  Yet pipeline management, along with the ability to motivate, recruit and hold salespeople accountable are also required.  For many sales managers, those four activities simply aren't much fun.  But what if I told you there was a way to completely eliminate the need to manage the pipeline, motivate, recruit and hold salespeople accountable?  There is and I'm going to share it with you!

When 100% of your sales force is comprised of salespeople from the top 23% of the sales population, you won't have to motivate them because they are all self-motivated.  You won't have to hold them accountable either because they'll hold themselves to a higher standard than you would.  And because they will all perform, they will meet and exceed quota, goals and expectations so they won't need to be replaced.  That means you won't have to spend any time recruiting.

So how do you develop a sales force made up of only the top 23 percent?

Coaching.  Very easy for me to say but siginificantly more difficult to execute.

In this article I wrote about why sales coaching is so scary.

In this article I discussed why sales coaching is so difficult.

And this article explains why great salespeople struggle with becoming great sales managers.

Please read read those three articles.

Done? Then you probably know how you compare in the area of being able to utilize role-playing as a primary means to effective coaching salespeople.  Fewer than 10% of sales leaders can do this effectively.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, sales management training, sales leadership training, Sales Accountability

How Better Accountability Causes Sales Performance to Increase

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2016 @ 06:01 AM


This is a perfect topic to begin the New Year!  While others will be talking and writing about goals and resolutions, we'll be discussing the things that really make a difference.  Sure, having goals is important, but having them in writing, with an achieve by date and a plan is exponentially more likely to have an actionable outcome than only having goals.  And if you really want results, accountability is to goals as the accelerator is to the automobile.  They both cause immediate action.  Here's what I mean.

Let's assume that the salespeople who read this blog are a little smarter and more dedicated to sales success.  If that resonates with you, then let's also assume that they have a strong will to succeed in sales.  If you're still with me, then it's safe to assume that they gave their all and tried to get 2015 off to a good start in the first quarter of last year.

We are going to compare the year over year results of 5 randomly selected salespeople with the only difference being that in 2016 they will be accountable, whereby in 2015, they were not.  Oh sure - they worked for someone, but that is not the same thing as being accountable.

To begin, I'll need 5 volunteers.  Here are the requirements:

  • You must be willing to have me use your real name and company.
  • You must have and provide your goals and actual metrics/results from the 1st quarter of 2015.
  • You must be willing to provide me with your 2016 metrics/results every day during the 1st quarter of 2016.
  • You must be willing to allow me to periodically write about your progress and results here in my blog.
  • You must be willing to take part in a video interview before we begin and after we finish.
  • You must allow the videos to be shown online.

I guarantee that the five people who are selected for this program, despite not getting coached, will experience their best years in 2016.  We know how powerful good coaching is, but I want to show how powerful effective accountability can be all by itself - especially when there is positive peer pressure.

Will it be you?

Will it be someone who reports to you?

If you or someone you care about would like to apply, just send me an email, state that you are willing and able to abide by the 6 requirements listed in the January 4 blog article, and I'll be in touch.

What are some of the things we can compare to last year?  They include, but aren't limited to:

  • Pipeline Quantity
  • Pipeline Quality
  • Pipeline Acceleration
  • Sales Cycle Length
  • Call to Meeting Rate
  • Attempt to Conversation Rate
  • Milestones Achieved in Sales Cycle
  • Suspect to Prospect Conversion Rate
  • Prospect to Qualified Conversion Rate
  • Qualified to Closable Rate
  • Win Rate
  • Average Sale
  • Average Margin
  • Number of Referrals
  • Percentage of Leads Converted
  • Archived Opportunities
  • Percentage of Decision Makers Reached
  • Demos Scheduled
  • Demo to Win Rate
  • Compelling Reasons Uncovered
  • Compelling Reasons to Win Rate

Of course, if we don't have the specific metric from last year at this time, we can't run a comparison on that metric.  So how many of these metrics are you tracking?  Most companies track no more than 5 of these!  What would happen if you started to track all of them?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, KPI

Can Salespeople Really Double Their Revenue by Solving This One Challenge?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 @ 23:10 PM

I've written about our son around 30 times over the past 10 years and in those articles where I mentioned sports, the sport was always baseball. For the last three years, his fall sport has been cross-country and in the past two months he has won 6 meets. This year, he transitioned from participating in to winning his events.

While there are several sales analogies I could point to for this turn of events, there is one in particular that is crucial if your company sells more than one product or service.

Over the years, one of the common frustrations that executives have shared with me is that so many of their salespeople - even their good ones - were one dimensional.  They sell only one product or product line out of many. They sell to only one type of account. They thrive in only one vertical. They excel with only one particular level of decision maker. And the rhetoric is always similar too. "If these salespeople could just go from being good at one thing, to being good at two things, then we would double revenue!" So maybe they wouldn't double revenue, but certainly they could achieve a sizable increase.

Why is it so difficult for salespeople to go from master of one discipline to master of multiple disciplines?

They get comfortable.

Here's another analogy. Restaurants. You wouldn't go to an Italian Restaurant to order a burger, any more than you would go to a Chinese Restaurant and order shepherd's pie. And if you have some favorite restaurants, you probably don't vary much from the dish you always order there because it's what you like that they make so well.

We get comfortable.

So what caused our son to suddenly perform so well in cross-country? He loves to win even more than he likes competition. And when he sensed that he could actually succeed, he committed.

How do you accomplish the same thing with salespeople?

There are five things you can do:

  1. Stop complaining about it and make it a requirement for continued employment.
  2. Support the change by helping them get some early wins.
  3. Learn why the alternative sales target is so difficult or scary and coach to overcome the barriers.
  4. Offer them better direction and guidance on their approach, positioning, questioning and tactics.
  5. Raise your own expectations and those of your salespeople.

Over at Top Sales Magazine, there is a brand new look and they have gone to a larger, monthly magazine. I have a feature article about Mastery of Sales on page 16 of the November issue and you can download it here.

And speaking of competition, the SellingPower Blog has a terrific article about how Motivation is not usually the problem when it appears that salespeople aren't motivated! 

Finally, join me today (October 28, 2015) at 11 AM ET for a discussion on the role of Benchmarking and the Perfect Fit Analysis when it comes to effective Sales Selection.  Register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Accountability, how to increase revenue, Baseball, sales increase, cross country

Tighter Sales Metrics at New Year Leads to Improved Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 07, 2013 @ 12:01 PM

targeted opportunitiesIf you are like most executives, you start the new year asking for everyone's goals, plans and forecasts.  Terrific start.  But then what?

You'll need to modify the pipeline requirements for each salesperson.  If the goals change, the requirements in each stage must change with them.  And if any of your salespeople's critical ratios for closing have changed in the past 12 months, those new percentages also must be factored into your new pipeline requirements.

That leads to your KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) or metrics which drive revenue.  If you collect these now via a daily huddle, that's terrific; let's tighten them up.  If you don't currently have your sales team calling in every morning for 10 minutes, you're missing out on a critical piece of accountability, team-building and intelligence.

How can you tighten up your metrics?

Suppose for example that you currently have your salespeople report the number of new conversations, newly-scheduled meetings and qualified opportunities.  You can tighten them up by inserting the word "targeted".  Your salespeople are able to call on a wide range of potential customers, but a much smaller group is in the sweet spot.  It's the sweet spot which will lead them to their goals for revenue and profitability, but any old customer will count as a new sale.  Suppose you have them report only those conversations with sweet spot or targeted opportunities, new meetings scheduled with targeted opportunities and qualified targeted opportunities.  There will be more pipeline movement, improved closing ratios and your revenue and profit goals will be achieved earlier in the year.

A benefit to this change is that those salespeople who struggle with the sweet spot, but who have hidden behind their numbers, will be exposed.  Your job is to determine why they struggle with the target opportunities.  The best way to quickly identify, understand and solve these and other similar struggles is with a sales force evaluation.

Tighter is sweeter as in the tighter the targeting, the sweeter the opportunity.

What if you fail to emphasize metrics, have daily huddles or manage your salespeople very closely?  No problem.  Those salespeople will simply leave and you can start all over again.  Seriously, why would you ignore a best practice?  The old metrics which we preached in the 70's and 80's (dials, contacts, conversations, appointments, etc.) may have gone the way of the dinosaur, but metrics in general have not.  Sure, you still may use those old metrics for a salesperson whose job is only cold calls and set appointments.  But for most salespeople, the job has changed - dramatically - in the last five years and technology has a lot to do with it.  That's an article for another day, but for today, if you focus on the metrics, remove the wiggle room, and increase compliance, every capable salesperson on your team will perform more effectively.

Harder is Easier.  Read this post for more on oximoronic metrics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, KPI, sales targets

Controversial "Best Time" For Salespeople To Fill Their Pipeline

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 @ 15:06 PM

empty sales pipelineThe obvious answer is to make sure that they fill the pipeline when it begins to empty or is getting close to being empty, right?  


If the pipeline is nearly empty today, your salespeople are feeling scared, stressed, discouraged and demotivated.  If awful is how your salespeople feel, then do you really believe that NOW is the ideal time to get them prospecting?  I understand how badly you need them to get the pipeline filled, but from their perspective, and in the state they are in, are they capable?  Will they do it?

If their pipeline runs dry and that isn't the time to ask them to fill it up, then when would be the right time?

You won't like this answer, but it's correct.

Have them fill the pipeline, or in this case, add to it, when their pipeline is already full.  That's when they feel the most motivated, excited, confident, positive, relaxed and successful.  That's when they should look for more opportunities.  That's when they will be most effective and successful.  And adding opportunities to the pipeline is what will prevent them from ever having an empty pipeline.

This works just like the saying, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person."

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, sales pipeline, sales competency, sales funnel, Sales Accountability, sales metrics, sales forecast

Red Sox and the Sales Force - Winning and Losing is Contagious

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 @ 09:09 AM

redsoxThe Red Sox began the 2011 baseball season by losing 10 of their first 12 games.  So what?  Before the season began most experts predicted that the 2011 Red Sox could be the best team ever!  Yet despite all of their star power, they just couldn't seem to win during those first two weeks of April.  Losing is contagious.

And then they turned it around and it only took one team win to do that.  They proceeded to win so many games during May through August that they were the best team in baseball for those 4 months. Winning is contagious.

Then came September.  I think they won something like 5 games this month while dropping around 15.  They are playing badly, performing badly, and losing badly as a team. It has been embarrassingly bad. Losing is contagious.

In sales winning and losing is contagious too.  When salespeople are scheduling a lot of new meetings it raises the bar, creates enthusiasm and nobody - even those for whom prospecting is a challenge - wants to be left out.  When salespeople are closing sales, deals and accounts it creates optimism, enthusiasm and confidence; and nobody - even those for whom closing is a challenge - wants to be left out.  Success sends a sales force wide message:  

"We are doing this, it is working, we can see the difference between the winners and the wannabes (won-a-bees), and if you aren't one of the wannabes very soon you'll be on the street looking for a new position."

Of course you can coach, train and develop SOME of the wannabes, but only if they are Committed, Motivated wannabes, that you can hold accountable.

Either way, winning is contageous  and you must do everything in your power to create a winning environment where success is expected and anything less is not acceptable.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, Sales Accountability, sales winners

Bad Things That Happen When You Leave it Up to Your Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 @ 08:04 AM

path of least resistance smallHere are the 10 most common things that your salespeople will do when they aren't managed effectively, or, in many cases, when they are only managed on an as needed basis.

  1. They target who you want but call who they're comfortable with.
  2. They say they will ask questions but begin by presenting instead.
  3. They say they need help closing but they don't have enough quality opportunities in their pipeline.
  4. They say they're on top of everything but the information in their CRM is three weeks old.
  5. They agree to sell your complete line of products/services but continue to sell only what they're most comfortable selling.
  6. They tell you they understand and can leverage your value proposition but their strategy nearly always results in trying to win on price.
  7. Their forecast is what you wanted but the actual revenue always falls considerably short of the goal.
  8. They talk about finding new business but don't make any new calls.
  9. They talk about selling more consultatively but their idea of consultative is a list of 50 unrelated questions.
  10. They tell you they are out making calls when, in fact, they were out looking for a job!

How many of these 10 do you observe on your sales force?

We observe most of these - and more - when we begin working with companies.  The scenario that never ceases to amaze me though, is all of the veteran salespeople who put the following challenge on the top of their "I need help" list:

"Getting prospects to return my phone calls"

This particular challenge raises two thoughts.  

On the one hand, of course, I'll always help.

On the other hand, I'm thinking, "Are you kidding me?  Of all the things we could help you with, you want help getting phone calls returned?  How lame!  And how long have you been selling?"

It's just one more example of just how much selling has changed in the last five years while most salespeople haven't adapted to the change.  Most are still selling exactly as they were five and ten years ago, with the exception that they are relying more and more on email instead of the phone.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Email is great.  But you can't have a real-time, meaningful conversation, with both parties understanding each other, via email.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales challenges, Sales Accountability, selling via email, sales problems

How to Achieve Consistency on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 07, 2010 @ 09:09 AM







I was reconciling my Amex statement and found these charges:


I have always believed that in sales, the three most important attributes (not skills) are the willingness to do what it takes to succeed (commitment) the passion for being the best (desire), and the discipline to repeat the required behaviors and activities (consistency).  Those numbers?  My gasoline charges for last month.  They are certainly consistent - no matter how I got there.

  • I could have waited until my fuel guage reached a certain point and pulled into the nearest service station - but that wasn' t it.
  • I could have stopped the pump before it approached $58.00 - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have refueled whenever I passed a certain station I liked based on my schedule - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have refueled on the same day and time each week - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have driven a certain number of miles before refueling - but that wasn't it.
  • It could have been a huge coincidence - but it wasn't.

I am a very consistent individual.  Consistency simply happens because I expect it to happen.  It's in my demeanor, which doesn't change much regardless of what might be taking place.

  • If I am managing salespeople, that consistency applies to coaching and accountability.
  • When I am coaching clients, the consistency applies to the format and outcomes of the call.
  • If I am prospecting, my consistency applies to call quantity and quality.
  • When I am selling, my questions are very consistent.
  • I am consistent in the number of hours I work each day, as well as the time I wake up and begin work.
  • If you checked, you would find that most of the articles on this Blog are posted between 5:30AM and 6:30 AM. That time indicates when they are completed, not when they are started.  I usually begin them at 5:30 and some get done sooner than others.

You probably know some salespeople who are consistent too, but unfortunately, most of them are consistently bad!

Do you feel like fixing something on your sales force today?  Figure out what/who could be more consistent, determine what behaviors must change, identify something measurable, set better expectations, and drive the change home!

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

How You Can Get Your Salespeople to Do What They Don't

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 @ 08:07 AM

describe the imageI always said to myself that if I could apply the same discipline I applied at work to my eating and my golfing I would be a thin scratch golfer.  One down...

Please read this article the way I intended to write it.  First, what it is not.

It is not an article about how I lost 40 pounds. Nor is it an article about why I lost 40 pounds.  Instead, please read this as an article about how to get people to change.

Awareness?  I knew I was forty pounds overweight and your salespeople know they are under performing. I also knew I wasn't very healthy.  Awareness alone is not enough and when you continue to tell people what they already know, it makes them more, not less resistant.

Reasons?  I had one reason for not changing and it went like this:  "I don't have any other vices.  I don't smoke, drink, gamble or carouse. Just let me have my food!"  I found a way to justify my weight, health and eating, but in the end, it was just one, big excuse.  Your salespeople have excuses too.  "Prospecting is a waste of time" and "I'm too busy doing that CRM stuff you want me to do" and "I'm working on a proposal".  Just excuses.

What changed?  I was ready, but I had been ready before.  I was committed, and a few times in the past I had committed to diets.  This time, it had to be permanent.  This time it had to be for the right reasons.  This time it had to be lifestyle, not diet.  What must change with your salespeople?  They have to be ready.  They must be committed.  They must be committed for the right reasons.  It has to be permanent.  It has to be a work style change, not an exercise or experiment.

A number of things made my transition successful:

  • I was inspired this time - by my wife - who assured me that I could do this.
  • I knew what had to change - not my 40 pounds of excess - that was too overwhelming.  I had to change what I ate.  So I simply eliminated processed food, specifically sugar and flour.  I could manage that every day, three times per day, with no problem.  Even though the staples of my diet were ice cream and bread, when I eliminated them, everything else tasted spectacular.  You know what your salespeople have to change and it begins with their prospecting behaviors.  The revenue part is overwhelming to them.  Change what they have to do each day and it becomes simpler.  Clear the path!
  • I knew how to measure the change.  This part was easy because I could measure how I felt and what I weighed each day.  You know exactly which forward looking indicators you must measure for sales performance and they are all at the front end of the funnel.
  • I know how to hold myself accountable.  I performed a daily huddle with myself and held myself accountable for what I ate and what I weighed each day.  Do the same with your salespeople.  Hold them accountable to what they do each day relative to building their pipeline.
  • I committed.  And with no exceptions.  Exceptions ruin everything so I don't make them. That "no exception" rule leads to discipline and consistency.
  • I tracked my progress and today, exactly one year later, I am 40 pounds lighter, I don't take any medications, and I'm really healthy. (I did this without exercising, too)  Track the progress your salespeople are making and show them how much healthier their pipeline becomes and how much better their bank account looks.

Speaking of your salespeople, EcSELL Institute is conducting a national research project that looks at sales management through the eyes of a sales rep.  It is asking sales reps, from across the US and Canada, what they want and need from their sales managers.  The research project is trying to define a wish list that sales managers can use to guide their own sales management behavior.  It takes 3 minutes to complete.  Have your salespeople visit

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, changing behavior, Sales Accountability, salespeople

With Blown Call, Jim Joyce Succeeds at a Sales Core Competency

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 03, 2010 @ 15:06 PM

Jim Joyce and Armando GalarragaIf you're a baseball fan, you've probably heard all about Jim Joyce's horrendous call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.  It would have been just the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  The worst part about this baseball tragedy was that the perfect game was a sure thing!  There were two outs in the ninth inning when Galarraga induced a ground ball to first and everyone in the park and watching on television knew that would represent the final out of a perfect game.  And that's when Joyce became the  focus of the game by calling the runner, Jason Donald, safe.

The certain perfect game is just like the sure things that your salespeople report. "We're gonna get this business - it's a slam dunk."  Or, "Everything has been agreed to - just waiting for final approval."  Or, "We're the only ones they're talking to - it's ours for the taking!"  And isn't.

What hasn't been talked about quite as much is what Jim Joyce did after the game.  In the rarest of all events, he apologized.  Are you kidding?  Umpires never admit they made a bad call or got a call wrong.  But Joyce said, "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it, I just cost that kid a perfect game."  Wow.

How many of your salespeople take responsibility when they screw up?  When they don't learn about a competitor's involvement?  When they don't learn how little their prospect will actually spend?  When they don't realize they're being used simply to justify staying with the incumbent?  When they didn't uncover the compelling reasons to buy?  When they didn't question a put-off?  When they didn't close a closable opportunity?  When they lost the business?

Taking responsibility is the start to changing behaviors and outcomes.  As long as your salespeople are allowed to make excuses nothing will ever change.  When you get your salespeople to say, "My fault - I wasn't effective enough", things will change because they'll be forced to ask the next question, "So what could I have done differently?"

We know what Jim Joyce could have done differently.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales Accountability, excuse making, Jim Joyce, Blown Call, blown sale, lost sale

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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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