How Many of Your Salespeople are Addicted to This?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 @ 09:12 AM

hopiumI was working with a client's sales team yesterday and one salesperson shared that he had given up his "hopium" addiction.  Hopium?

It's a new term - I couldn't find any documented use of the word prior to 2008 and most references are from the past couple of months.  It's in the urban dictionary but not the traditional dictionary.  Hopium is defined as a combination of Hope and Optimism.  Okay, that makes sense.

But the salesperson who used it didn't mean he had given up his addiction to hope and optimism.  He meant to say that he had given up his addiction to Happy Ears.

I've written four prior articles about Happy Ears.  

Happy Ears - 2nd of the 10 Competencie that are Key to Building a Sales Culture 

5 Steps to Coaching Your Salespeople Beyond Happy Ears 

When Agreement is Really Disagreement - Happy Ears for Salespeople 

Happy Ears or an Empty Pipeline?

Your salespeople must have a formal, structured sales process that they follow religiously so that they know exactly where they are and what they must accomplish next.

They must master the more challenging competency of advanced listening and questioning skills -required for selling consultatively and achieving trusted advisor status.  

They must be able to identify a prospect/customer's compelling reason(s) to buy from them.  

Prospects have little incentive to answer qualifying questions and continue a discussion with a salesperson if they lack a compelling reason to buy from them.  Salespeople intuitively know this and when unable to identify a compelling reason to buy, quickly skip ahead to the presentation.  When prospects react positively to the presentation or demo, happy ears kick in.  They like it.  They're interested.  It's cool.  They could use it.  Salespeople hear what they were hoping to hear and then make the mistake of drawing conclusions like, "Good opportunity for this quarter."  "Qualified".  "Closable".  And then they chase.

The antidote to happy ears is to develop the ability to ask the questions that most salespeople are afraid of.  One example is, "You already have a relationship with XYZ, so why would you leave them to work with us?"  That's a scary question if you haven't identified their  compelling reason to buy from you but if you know the answer, the question is powerful.

Hopium.  The salesperson was able to give up his hopium addiction - addiction to hoping he would get the business - because he can now ask all of the tough questions that didn't occur to him or scared him before.  Why was he scared?  Lack of sales process didn't make it apparent that he was in a bad neighborhood.  Lack of methodology meant that he was not taking a consultative approach.  Lack of consultative selling skills meant that he didn't have the listening and questioning skills needed to ask the tough questions.  Now he knows exactly where he stands, how it's really going, and whether he will close an opportunity - or not!

Do your salespeople have a hopium addiction?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Advice

Embarassed by This Sales Article in The Economist?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

On October 22, The Economist published an article called, The Art of Selling - The Death of the Salesman Has been Greatly Exaggerated.  Is the Economist really that far out of touch?  I wrote the last of my 5-part Death of Selling Has Been Exaggerated articles 5 years ago!  And how long has it been since anyone referred to salespeople at "salesmen"?  

I was embarassed by the article. And who did the author cite as experts?  Among others, consultants from McKinsey, who despite not being sales experts, wrote a new book about Sales Growth.   For additional credibility with mainstream businesses like yours and mine, the author also cites Avon, Mary Kay, auto car salespeople, Apple stores, Google, and - all whose models are just like the one your business uses, right?

Wurth, the first company mentioned in the article, has credibiliy with me because they are not only a traditional, mainstream company, but have also used Objective Management Group  to evaluate their worldwide sales force.

Looking forward, what are the most important things for you to know about what will happen with salespeople?

1) They will continue to play a major role in finding and growing your business as long as you have them focus on finding and growing your business!

2) They have more tools available to aid them in this quest then ever before.  It's your responsibility to bring the tools to them, train them and make sure they use them when and where appropriate.

3) They must learn to sell more consultatively if you wish to differentiate your company from your competition and gain more market share.  The days of salespeople who present and quote aren't over, but the days where that can translate into consistent business are over.

4) A Formal, structured, customized, optimized sales process must replace seat of the pants selling.  They will fail without it.

5) More, not less sales managment coaching and accountability must be part of their daily routine.

[This article was picked up by SalesEdgeOne and there is a very in-depth discussion, mostly from other sales experts, taking place over there.  The article here is really just the tip of the iceberg and you should continue over there and contribute to the discussion.]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Advice

The Longest Sales Cycle Ever - How They Closed the Deal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 02, 2011 @ 23:05 PM

$25 MillionToday I heard a true story about one of the longest sales cycles ever.  This particular team attempted to reach their target but couldn't get through to the decision maker.  Rejected, they didn't give up,  and they didn't take 'no' for an answer either.  They stayed with it in the face of failure and adversity.  As a matter of fact, this committed team did whatever they had to in order to connect with their targeted decision maker. Finally, they identified a center of inluence who could connect them with their target.  When they finally reached the decision maker they closed him on the first call.  That's right, after all that time, their killer instinct surfaced, they took advantage of their short window of opportunity, and executed a one-call close. Over and done. A $25 million opportunity!  Yes, they finally killed Osama Bin Laden.

If only your salespeople had that kind of commitment and staying power.  If only they were able to somehow get connected to their target prospects.  If only they could close the big ones on the first call.  It's OK to dream big.  It's OK to think about possibilities like this. It's OK to want your salespeople to do more, more quickly, more often, and with more success.  Until your desires become expectations, you won't do anything to change the behaviors that lead to results.

Speaking of "no's", I wrote an article about 4 years ago that was nominated for Article of the Month for May 2011.  There must have been a delayed reaction!  It was called "12 Reasons that People Say No". If you weren't reading my Blog four years ago or don't remember it, you can read that article here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, reaching decision makers, overcoming rejection, Sales Advice, one call close, killer instinct

Salespeople Failing to Get Prospects to the Phone

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 @ 12:04 PM

Yesterday's article discussed the problems that occur when you leave things up to your salespeople.  We also discussed some of the problems that salespeople have simply getting prospects to the phone.  It isn't as simple as it should be.  Here is a real example from this morning:

A salesperson from a client company wrote in with this request:


What would your recommendation be on handling objections or stalls like this?

So I need to be incredibly rude again and cancel today.   I have meetings scheduled on top of ours today that I can't miss.  At this time I do not want to continue to disrespect your schedules.  While I do want to learn more about [your company] I need to place this on a lower priority right now as many unexpected issues have crept up. 

Let's touch base in a couple of months and see if the timing is better.

Apparently, this was the second time this prospect cancelled.  The dialog between the salesperson and me follows:

ME: Why was Chris going to chat with you in the first place?

There isn’t any mention of the issue that needs to be resolved, only an opportunity to learn more about what [company] does.  From [prospect’s] perspective, that’s not a priority….

Assuming that you did learn of an issue in an earlier conversation, you would simply reply, “[prospect], this isn’t about me, it’s about you.  In an earlier call, you shared that you are having an issue with _______________ and we were going to discuss that problem and figure out whether we can help.  Has that problem gone away?”

SALESPERSON: Ok – Advice well received.  Have identified the issue and will use the coaching to respond.

ME: And the issue is?

SALESPERSON: Current system for the creation and distribution of [their competency] content is a time suck on key [competency] staff. 2 areas:

1.       fielding calls from sales reps to locate most up to date version of [their competency] materials. This also results in loss of sales rep productivity

2.       dealer sales channel request ability to [their competency]. Current system requires manual creation of “custom” [their competency] materials

ME:  Thanks – like we talked about yesterday, these are only issues and you’ll need to uncover compelling reasons when/if you get [prospect] on the phone.  That would be the impact – on the business as well as personally and professionally – of the time suck on key [competency] staff.

SALESPERSON:   Ok. In this situation, the compelling reason would be this…. I think:

Without freeing up the time that her [competency] is spending on administrative tasks, she will fail to reach her two primary goals for 2011: [Goals 1 & 2 omitted]. The cost of not fixing the problem is that she does not meet those goals & revenues for new sales are impacted.  Is this where I need to be or still deeper? The plan for the call was to validate that compelling reason & quantify it. Then move into demo… 

ME: Still deeper…but the first step is to regain her interest and to do that you must go back to the issues she is facing and whether those issues have disappeared.

SALESPERSON: Ok… Thank you.

.......End of email thread........

This is a great example of why so many salespeople waste so much time chasing down their prospects and why prospects do such a fantastic job of avoiding these calls and emails.  They don't have time to hear product pitches and demos (their perception of what will happen next), but they will make time to learn if your salespeople can solve their problems.

How are your salespeople doing with that? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Advice

Is it Good to Have Perfectionists on Your Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 @ 05:04 AM

perfectionistThe best thing about perfectionists on your sales force is that you don't usually have to worry about their administrative accuracy. Their emails, letters, proposals and quotes are well done and not prone to typos. The information they input into your CRM or SFA is accurate and done on a timely basis. Their call reports are meticulous and submitted on time. What's not to like about that?

The downside of course. And what's that?

Well, perfectionists won't do anything unless they believe they can do it perfectly. So when you're attempting to get them to do something different, they usually won't do it until they perfect it and they won't perfect until they start doing it. So rather than change, they'll develop a paralysis of sorts and you'll think you're getting resistance when in fact it is really fear! Some of the changes you'll be looking for where perfectionists will have trouble are when you are attempting to get them to:

  • hunt instead of manage existing accounts, 
  • sell in a more consultative way, 
  • ask more questions, 
  • push back and challenge prospects, 
  • sell your newest products or services when that is not their area of expertise or comfort
So, can you do anything to help them get started? Yes. Give them permission to screw it up. Provide a safe environment for them to practice. Be sure they understand that you support them and will protect them if something goes wrong. Understand how your perfectionists operate and you can help them develop the courage to try new things!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Advice

Sales Advice Hits the Spot in April Inc. Magazine

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 @ 05:04 AM

I wouldn't normally recommend Inc. for your Sales Force but the April 2010 issue actually has some helpful articles.

Their Trio of stories, beginning on page 83, have some good quotes.  The first story is about a nuclear power plant salesperson who sells the right way.  Here's a great quote from him that your salespeople can use if they're selling something complex or very expensive:

"I never ask for money. I ask for an emotional commitment.  I let someone else nail down the details of the contract.  Then I come back in to get everyone feeling good again."

 Here's another one that all of your salespeople can use:

"Never worry about how you're doing in a meeting.  Focus on the other guy.  Otherwise, it's like watching your feet while you're running.  And be emotionally prepared to be slaughtered - it helps make you bulletproof."

Quotes don't get any better than that!

Their second story has advice from a psychoanalyst.  He identified the best salespeople as happy losers! He said "A Sad loser goes down and never comes back.  A happy loser comes back.  The first no stimulates them."  Here's a good quote from him:

"We've had regular meetings with salespeople and asked them, 'how many nos did you get this week?'  The ones that got nos got points.  Then, after a month, we made the correlation: The more nos they had, the more sales they had made.  Because they were trying more things, taking more chances. The response was almost Pavlovian.  The more mistakes, the greater the reward."

 The third article in the trilogy contains sales tips from the world's toughest customers. While some of it is common sense and some of it is nonsense, there are some good points.  Here's one quote I liked from the director of supplier diversity from UPS:

"People will say, 'I've got this really exciting proposal I want you to look at.'  I'll say, 'send it to me.' Then they send it to me by FedEx. It happens every day. Just be smart. Know the company you are pitching to and know their likes and dislikes.  You get such brownie points with me when you come in with a UPS envelope and have an account all set up.  It's just the little things like that, the icing on the cake."

The common theme among all three articles is that there wasn't any mention of low pricing.  Isn't that exciting? Here are some call-outs to a few of my friends and clients:

Joe, UPS is looking for printing services...
Matt, Coca-Cola is looking for packaging materials...
Deborah, Intuit is looking for Marketing Services...
Phil, Dell, Northrup Grumman and Intuit are looking for IT services...
Chris, Dell is looking for staffing services...
Howard, let our friends know that Valero Energy is looking for beverages...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Inc. Magazine, Sales Advice

What Should You Tell Your Salespeople in this Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 06, 2009 @ 09:05 AM

From time to time I have written about what you must do with your salespeople in this economy.  Would you like to hear what that actually sounds like?

I was recently interviewed on a morning talk show and you can hear my stream of thought, as I would tell you live, right here. It's less than five minutes and it might give you a better sense of what to do than reading it on the page.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, Sales Coaching, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales motivation, sales tips, Economy, Sales Advice

Media is to Fuel as the Recession is to Fire - How Does it Impact the Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 @ 08:03 AM

The media - they didn't cause the banking crisis but they have surely capitalized on it, dramatized it, chronically reported every devastating development and turned a serious but contained fire into a wildfire.

I don't want to hear how many jobs have been lost.  Who does that help?  I don't want to hear what happened to the Dow - I can look it up if I want to know how much money I lost.  I don't want to hear who is going into bankruptcy.  It doesn't affect me.  I don't want to know the latest store closings, whose sales are off for the quarter, how lousy the auto makers are doing or whose house is being foreclosed.  The point is, it doesn't help me, it doesn't help you and it doesn't help anybody, anywhere, to listen to this never-ending, negative drama.  In fact, it hurts.  It depresses people, it scares people and it causes people to stop buying things. It is causing businesses to lay-off employees, not because they have to, but because they have an excuse to, and it's causing people to wonder if it's ever going to improve.

I don't want to know who was murdered last night either.  And I don't want to know who got killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This doesn't impact me either.

In fact, let's roll the news back to just 30 minutes, let's give the meteorologist and sports anchor a few more minutes, and let's hear some news that is really news.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average isn't news.  A company's earnings shouldn't be news.

Let's hear about the good that companies are doing. Let's hear about the good that people are doing.  Let's hear about the things organizations are doing to improve our economy.  Let's hear about the things being done to improve health care, the environment, our lives, our world, our universe.

Tell us about the latest developments in space, under water, in remote places.  Tell us something good.  Tell us something positive.  Tell us something to take our minds OFF of what's going on and help us to put some normalcy back into our lives.

For those of us who consult, train, coach, evaluate and motivate executive teams and sales organizations, this would surely help us to help them.  We need to get people buying and nothing gets people buying like good salespeople who aren't selling into the most resistant marketplace in the history of selling.

I will tell 250 sales development experts, 10,000 subscribers to Baseline Selling, and the thousands who visit this blog to boycott the news.  And if they each tell someone, who tells someone, who tells someone we could actually have an impact. How about calling this initiative something like 3M2P -  Media Motivating the Masses 2 Prosper?  Seriously, it's not an initiative, it's not an organization, it's not more than one person's frustration. But what if it was?

I've never asked for my articles to be forwarded but I think this is the one I have been saving that request for.  Please forward the link to anyone you think will agree with this.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Salesforce, sales motivation, economic crisis, Sales Advice, sales development

Topgrading Pros, Cons and Sales Assessments

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Feb 22, 2009 @ 23:02 PM

Somehow, I got thrown into the middle of an internet disagreement between Brad Smart, author of Topgrading, and Bob Corlett, a blogger who calls himself The Staffing Adviser.

The best way to follow this interesting blogersation on two separate websites is on Jonathan Davis' blog, An Insider's Guide to Recruiting on the American Workforce web site.

I think very highly of Topgrading.  The Proprietary Recruiting Process (STAR) that we help companies build and develop for hiring top salespeople is very compatible with Topgrading.  One of the differences in our two approaches is that Brad didn't suggest incorporating assessments, including our world-class highly predictive sales assessments, into the Topgrading process.  So naturally, our process includes the assessment.

Verne Harnish, Founder and CEO of Gazelles, is a big Topgrading fan.  He's also a big fan of OMG's Assessments, so much so that we've partnered with Gazelles International and developed a Gazelles version of our Sales Force Evaluation.  In this version, all of our insights are delivered in the jargon of Rockefeller Habits.  I love this version!

So when it comes to recruiting salespeople, what can we learn from all of the back and forth and pros and cons and structure versus gut and discipline versus experience?

I can tell you this.  If you hire the right salespeople in the first place, you'll save time, money, aggravation, and reverse flat or declining revenue.  If you hire the right salespeople you'll motivate the rest of your team. If you hire the right salespeople you'll raise the bar.  If you hire the right salespeople you'll grow revenue.  And to hire the right salespeople you need an effective process,  a predictive sales specific assessment, sales managers that have been trained to interview salespeople, and an effective, comprehensive, 90 Day On Boarding Process.  Without them, you're back to hoping for the best and as we know by now, hope is not a strategy.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, hiring salespeople, topgrading, sales tests, sales assessments, Sales Advice, objective management group

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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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