I find ideas and material for this Blog everywhere, especially when I'm not looking for them. Yesterday I received a daily email from a Paul Reddick, a baseball coach who was drumming up some business for his baseball institute. It resonated - not for its baseball coaching - but as sales coaching. Here's what it said:
If your coach is talking about any of the pitching flaws that you see listed above…
Run… Run Fast!
That Coach is working on “flaws” that will have no impact on your pitching. He is working on symptoms… not the illness! He is trying to fix things that are happening as a byproduct of incorrect movement early in your delivery. If you get the first second of your delivery right, almost all of these flaws get fixed instantly.
Do you know how this applies to sales?
I'll explain exactly how it applies and I promise you will be surprised! Click here to read last year's fun article comparing pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) to role-playing in sales.
If a CEO, Sales Leader, Sales Manager, Sales Coach or Sales Expert suggests that closing or negotiating is a selling flaw, then that individual does not really understand what salespeople must do in order to win business.
Closing is over-rated.
Always has been.
Except for the concept of when to close, closing shouldn't even be taught!
If a salesperson is effective adding opportunities to the pipeline, reaching decision makers, building relationships, taking a consultative approach and uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, qualifying, and doing that in the context of a effective and efficient sales process, they will earn the business and it will close at the appropriate time.
If they suck at any or all of the nine competencies referenced above, then the lack of wins will appear to be a closing issue, when it is actually symptomatic of something that wasn't properly executed earlier in the process.
Same goes for negotiating. If an opportunity is properly qualified at the appropriate time, there should not be anything to negotiate. However, if qualifying lacks thoroughness and is completed too early, it invites a negotiation at closing time.
Training and coaching should be targeted towards the competency in the sales process that has the lowest conversion ratio. In other words, if salespeople struggle to get opportunities into the pipeline, focus on prospecting. If salespeople are booking meetings but opportunities stagnate in the pipeline, the issue is with the consultative approach and/or value selling. If opportunities get as far as qualified but fail to close, then the issue is probably with qualifying and/or consultative selling/value selling.
The most important thing to identify is where ALL of the skill gaps are. How can salespeople leverage their strengths, sharpen existing skills, learn new skills and improve their conversion ratios?
The best way to do that is to know exactly what they are capable of, where their bottlenecks are, what their blindspots are, and what they need to do in order to improve. This should never be a guess because most sales managers, sales leaders and CEOs guess wrong! It sounds like most of the calls and emails I receive where the potential client says, "Yes, we're looking for someone to provide some sales training on closing and negotiating."
There are a couple of ways to find out what your team is really capable of and how much better they can become:
An OMG Sales Team Evaluation is the best solution and provides answers to every possible question you might have about your team. In addition to the comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA), Executive Summary, and Visualizer (interactive tool to play with the data), you and your sales team will learn how everyone measures up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.
OMG has a free self-serve solution as well. You can see how your team collectively compares to other teams in your industry and to companies overall in all 21 Sales Core Competencies. You won't get any reports or individual results but you'll see where the team-wide gaps are.
This weekend, a deer ran across the highway and hit our car. The deer was injured but she did manage to run away so we were relieved that she wasn't killed. After we returned home, I couldn't find our dog, Dinger. Regular readers may remember Dinger from these posts:
I found Dinger with his nose glued to my front bumper where some of the deer's hair was still attached to my car. Dinger, who loves to bark at deer from the safety of our home, seemed to be saying, "Ohhhh, so THIS is what a deer smells like!"
The exact same thing happened to a salesperson I was training. It wasn't a deer or a dog, it was about Jim's sales aha moment.
His team was asked to send me an email with their five biggest lessons from their first six months of training. Among Jim's top five was this one:
Your own bias affects the selling process - Wow! I did not realize that my biases are affecting my sales process and approaches. For example, I have a money bias that was unknown to me until recently. I make a strange face (as if I am going to get punched in the face) whenever I tell the client the cost for a service or product. I started noticing my strange face recently on my zoom calls and I now know that my money bias was likely affecting my sales. I was not confident in my ask for the cost of the service or the product and thus it showed on my face as I waited for the client's rebuttal. (And usually their rebuttal would feel like they punched me in the face)
What a great lesson! Jim was referring to a sales competency found in his Sales DNA called Comfortable Discussing Money and an attribute called High Money Tolerance found in another competency, Supportive Buy Cycle.
Salespeople who don't have high money tolerance become very uncomfortable when the amount of money being discussed exceeds the amount they consider to be a lot of money. Jim believed that $500 is a lot of money yet he was asking companies for $500,000. No wonder he made a strange face - that's 1,000 times greater than his choking point! If the salesperson lacks confidence in how much money they are asking for, why in the world would we expect the prospect to have any confidence about buying from the salesperson?
The top 10% of all salespeople are 4,000% more comfortable discussing money than the weakest 10% - 4,000%! And the top 10% of all salespeople are 100% more likely to have a high money tolerance than the weakest 10%.
Finally, being comfortable discussing money and having a high money tolerance directly support a salesperson's ability to uncover the actual budget. Salespeople who do uncover the actual budget are 172% more likely to close the business - 172%!
Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and has assessed more than 2.2 million salespeople. You can view some of the data here, see how the data changes by industry, and how you and/or your sales team compares to other companies in your industry and overall.
Buying a snowblower? Pick one, have it delivered, wait for a snowstorm and blow some snow. What's the worst that can happen?
Planning to go out for dinner? Choose a restaurant, make a reservation, show up and enjoy. What's the worst that can happen?
Hiring salespeople? Spec the role(s), post your job descriptions, collect resumes, choose some candidates to interview and make some hires. What's the worst that can happen?
If you have a sales cycle of several months or more, subsidize your salespeople until they are self-sufficient, and in early 2022 it takes 3 months to find a suitable candidate, you are screwed before you start! Once you finally identify a decent candidate, you have hours, not days or weeks, to make a decision and pull the trigger and what's the worst that can happen? Six months or more pass before you realize that salesperson won't make it and you not only wasted a half year's salary, you lost six months, have an empty territory or vertical, and have to start over from the beginning!
It doesn't have to be that way and here's why.
There are several keys to getting sales selection right and we can discuss them here:
Compensation: Base salaries are in and while you would love to hire a salesperson who is willing to eat what they kill (straight commission), most salespeople are not well-suited for that kind of pressure. Your on plan total compensation for the first year must be appealing or in today's market good salespeople will ignore you.
Location: Many salespeople love working from home and leveraging video platforms to generate revenue. They can be MUCH more effective and should be much more successful. You'll need to offer a remote option to attract good salespeople.
Job posting: The job posting must stand out and describe your ideal candidate instead. Don't post a job description, post a candidate description, don't make it about your company, and you'll have a better chance to attract the best candidates.
Sales Candidate Assessment: In today's candidate market you MUST have a crystal ball to differentiate the duds from the studs and more importantly, identify the salespeople who are the best fit for the particular selling role you are hoping to fill.
Confidence: If you get the first four things right, then you will have the confidence to pull the trigger before you lose a good candidate to another company.
Today, I conducted a tailored fit for a company that will use Objective Management Group's (OMG) accurate and highly predictive sales candidate assessments. The tailored fit adds an additional layer of customization - in this case 30 additional criteria - to help identify the right salespeople. We also use tailored fits as a proof of concept, to show skeptical potential clients that our sales candidate assessment accurately differentiates their top producers from their worst under performers. Check this out:
So what are we looking at here?
We start with 185 or so findings inside 21 Sales Core Competencies. Then we identify the findings and scores that differentiate the tops from the bottoms. In the example above, eight of the differentiators we identified are actually selection criteria that the company wasn't aware of and was badly messing up. Four of the differentiators are related to motivation which is ironic because most executives believe they have a tremendous ability to identify and hire motivated salespeople. Two of the findings are related to Sales DNA, weaknesses that sabotage performance. Seven differentiators reside with traditional sales core competencies. Two identify salespeople's suitability for working remotely and their ability to self-start. And six of the differentiators represent specific selling skills.
Explained another way, the top producers prospect consistently, are extroverts and score high in the Hunting competency. They reach decision makers, take a consultative approach and uncover compelling reasons to buy, sell value and leverage sales technology. They can work remotely, and have experience calling on business users, asking for up to $25,000, selling conceptual services that are not top of the line, in a hunting role with high pressure to perform while working at a major corporation and a turbulent and ever changing culture. The bottom under performers do not.
This company was not using OMG's assessment and managed to hire some very ineffective salespeople. As long as they follow OMG's recommendations, they will never make mistakes like this again! The salespeople that OMG recommends move to the top half of the sales team within 12 months while 75% of the salespeople that are hired although they were not recommended by OMG, fail within 6 months. Read that again to make sure you read it right.
The 33,000 companies that have used this tool to assess more than 2.2 million salespeople, have hired nearly 100,000 salespeople. They have 62% less turnover, shorter paths to productivity, and 80% higher quota attainment.
You can be consistently successful hiring salespeople if you follow my 5 tips and use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.
Need to see a sample? Request one here. Choose Sales Candidate Assessment.
Forgive my cynicism, but how long have the airlines known about that?
They have probably had years to prepare for this deployment and update their own technology but didn't and now, at the eleventh hour, they sounded the alarm and tried to make it the carriers' problem.
Can you think of any selling scenarios for which this would be a good analogy? I can!
Scenario 1: Your salespeople were scheduled to begin using new technology or even to take an OMG Evaluation and the night before the deadline you start hearing all the reasons why they haven't been able to set it up, enter their data, get online, complete the project, turn it in, upload, download, unload, or do it correctly and all of a sudden it has become your problem.
Scenario 2: Bob was informed 2 weeks ago that an important customer proposal would be due by the end of business today. At 4pm, Bob was in a panic, screaming that he needed pricing in the next 10 minutes or you'll lose the business. Suddenly it has become your problem.
Scenario 3: Recently, an opportunity became closable and yesterday was the day to get it closed. Yesterday, for the first time, Bob learned there was another competitor who proposed an alternate solution that the customer liked and at a lower price. Bob must respond to this situation today and needs you to be on the call. Suddenly it has become your problem.
Scenario 4: A decent sized opportunity has been stuck in the pipeline for weeks and Bob has assured you that despite the lack of movement it is still good to go. Your Spidy-sense suggests that it's anything but good to go and you urge Bob to follow up and you share your strategy with him. Bob, who always knows the best way to proceed, resists and you know that if this opportunity sits another day it's as good as gone so if anyone is going to follow up it isn't going to be Bob. His resistance to following up has made this your problem.
Scenario 5: Bob tells you that he has a huge opportunity but needs references before they will meet with him. He doesn't have any good references of his own and wants to use your references so now this has become your problem. Watch this 2-minute video rant to see how I feel about premature requests for references.
We know Bob is a weak salesperson and he isn't alone as half of the entire population of salespeople are very Bob-like in their behavior. I'm sure you can think of a dozen more examples and I hope you will add them to the comments below. I've written about Bob before and you can "catch up" here:
Over the nearly 2,000 articles on this Blog we have discussed evaluations, assessments, sales performance data, consultative selling strategies, examples, closing, prospecting, qualifying, advanced selling tactics, coaching, recruiting, accountability, pipeline, sales process and more. However, we have rarely, if ever, talked about the importance of being organized, proactive, detailed, prepared, and ahead of schedule to avoid the problems that sabotage so many salespeople.
I mentioned that Bob is among the weakest 50% of all salespeople. You can see the data here.
You can avoid hiring salespeople like Bob by using the most accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment on planet earth. You can check that out here.
You can evaluate your existing sales team to learn whether you have a team full of Bobs or only some Bobs. You can learn more about that here.
Finally, if you want to see samples of our sales, sales management, sales leadership insight reports, sales team evaluations, or sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments, click here.
There are two articles that I post each and every December. This is the first - the top articles of the year - and later this month I will post my annual Nutcracker edition which I have been doing since 2011.
There are several criteria for choosing the top articles of the year, including, but not limited to:
Popularity (likes on LinkedIn and Twitter)
Engagement (comments to the article, via email, and on LinkedIn)
Personal (my favorites)
Value (insights for the community)
Some of the criteria is subjective and some is measurable. I believe value is most important, although it might not be reflected in views or likes, and then engagement. I think views are less significant because people could read the article but not like it. Popularity is a good barometer but not everyone sees what is posted on LinkedIn and Twitter and the time of day influences that. So with all that said, here are the top 5 Sales Articles and the Top 5 Sales Leadership articles of the year.
The "ABC's" is an alternate term for fundamentals.
Unless ABC stands for Afghanistan, the Border, and Crime. The US Government has seriously botched the ABC's in 2021 and there's no way to easily undo what's been done.
However, there are some misguided selling strategies that can be undone and in today's article we'll discuss the benefits of the single tool that is the real deal and a huge difference maker.
Email sucks for everything except sending links and attachments, confirming meetings, saying hello, catching up, and sending along meeting agendas. You should never sell over email and you know this. How many unsolicited emails do you delete each day with offers to generate leads, appointments, SEO, website design, IT help and more? Would you like to know what is always more effective than email?
The Phone is a much better way to have a conversation because you simply can not have a conversation over email. You lose context, tonality, meaning, timing, spontaneity, and all of the dynamics of a conversation! Please choose the phone for prospecting, following up on inbound leads, making outbound calls, and for follow up conversations. Would you like to know what is always more effective than the phone?
Video is best. While you can have an actual conversation over the phone, you can't see how your prospects and customers are reacting and for building trust, they can't look you in the eyes. Video solves that. I'm going to use my dog, Dinger, as an example. You may recall that last year I proved that Dinger has better listening skills than most salespeople.
This 14 second audio provides an example of what you might hear when asking a question over the phone.
Now listen to the audio - but WITH video and watch how vastly different it is from what you expected.
Seeing how they react, how they respond and what they do is even more important than hearing their words. I know, my example is with a dog. Would it be any different if you asked a person? Suppose you asked, "Is this something you would find useful?" and the human said, "yah, sure."
Let's assume you have the ability to observe them and you see them responding to email while they absentmindedly say, "yah, sure."
It's more important than ever that you choose video over phone if you can't meet face to face. You want to have every possible advantage, tool, weapon, strategy and tactic at your disposal and video is the closest you can get to the good old days of face to face.
One of the new competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) now measures is Video Proficiency.
When evaluating a sales team we also capture two videos of your salespeople delivering their elevator pitches and value propositions. When assessing sales candidates, the Video Proficient competency, while not one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, is still very nice to know. Check out our best-in-class, sales-specific, accurate and predictive sales candidates assessments here.
Most of us have strong passion in support of our own beliefs and opinions and the degree to which we are willing to embrace the opinions of others varies wildly. Allow me to provide two examples where people tend not to change sides:
Boston Red Sox fans "argue" with New York Yankees Fans and in rare cases, the arguments can get nasty. Personally, I am friendly with a boat load of Yankees fans and have never argued with any of them because I'll never say the words "Yankees suck." For the rivalry between the two teams to be at its best, both teams need to be good and when one team sucks, the rivalry ceases to exist.
Democrats disagree with Republicans and it goes without saying that liberals disagree with conservatives. Over the past five years, those differences have become filled with hate. I don't understand why we can't simply agree to disagree but for some reason, liberals think that all conservatives are racists and conservatives think that all liberals are socialists. While there is probably some truth to both arguments on both far extremes, most people are much closer to the center than everyone thinks.
I use those two examples as a context for the "argument" I am most likely to have on a daily basis. As regular readers know, I am the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group. OMG has assessed more than 2 million salespeople and measures their sales capabilities in 21 Sales Core Competencies. While some might not like their scores, most salespeople agree with our findings because they are extremely accurate. However, there is one competency of the 21 that causes salespeople to dig in, disagree, and push back. Today I will explain the competency and share yesterday's conversation with Bob. For new readers, and those who don't remember, Bob tends to get himself into trouble and is representative of all weak salespeople.
The 21 Sales Core Competencies fall into three major categories:
Will to Sell (Grit) - it's the difference between Can sell and Will sell.
Sales DNA - Six major strengths that support the execution of sales process, sales methodology, sales strategies and sales tactics.
Tactical Selling Competencies - these include the things you know and have heard of, like Hunting, Relationship Building, Consultative Selling, Value Selling, Reaching Decision Makers, Qualifying, Presenting, Closing, Sales Process, and Sales Technology.
The pushback comes from within Sales DNA in a competency called Supportive Buy-Cycle. Buy-Cycle represents how a salesperson goes about the process of making a major purchase. Like most of the 21 Sales Core Competencies, it has several attributes:
At what amount of money does something become a major purchase?
Do you comparison shop or just go to one store/vendor/salesperson?
Do you shop for the lowest price, buy value or is price not a consideration?
Do you conduct research?
When you find what you want do you make a decision or think about it?
Do you like or dislike being sold? (coming soon)
The science shows that there is a 100% correlation between how salespeople buy and what they are willing to accept from their prospects. And that's where the disagreement occurs. Everyone agrees that yes, what we report about how they buy is how they actually buy. But a small number of salespeople disagree over whether or not it affects the way they sell. They usually make their point by saying something along the lines of, "In our business, our buyers must shop around" or "must go with the lowest price" or "won't spend more than x" or "never make decisions before this happens."
And when they say these things they are saying, "This is how I buy so it should be obvious that everyone else buys this way too."
Bob messaged me on LinkedIn yesterday and to his credit, it was not an argument. This is the short conversation we had:
Hi Dave, I’m not sure nor clear on Non Supportive Buy-Cycle? I believe it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully when making large purchases. I believe this for moderate purchases!!! I am not clear on how this would impact my ability to sell another human with the same characteristics? I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent and it’s NEW technology. However, part of my role is to also transcend this.
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 5:18 PM
Yup - you need to transcend and change your beliefs and your buying behavior. Your beliefs are totally non-supportive and you make the assumption that because you believe this then the people you are selling to must believe this. Sure, companies have processes, guidelines and rules for buying stuff. But those rules and guidelines are ignored all the time when a true decision maker has a compelling reason to buy from you, and some urgency that would allow for short cuts.
Bob sent the following message at 8:01 PM
Hummmm…..I can’t say I think like that or believe like that Dave, sincerely. My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be? We may part waters on this one respectfully and the entire Team is chatting about this topic
Dave Kurlan sent the following message at 8:26 PM
Let me put it another way. The single biggest differentiator between the top 5% of all salespeople and the bottom 5% is Buy Cycle. Period. End of story. The top 5% (67% have it as a strength) are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 5% (only 1% are strong). And, those who have it as a weakness usually argue that "everyone buys this way." Don't know what else to tell you.
As I mentioned, I have this very conversation, albeit usually more heated, by phone, email, text, InMail, in the hallway, over Zoom, with at least one person EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
Bob revealed three self-limiting beliefs associated with Buy-Cycle.
You should have read:
"it is smart, normal, wise, fiscally prudent to shop carefully"
"I do not know ONE person that would spend $580K without being prudent" (Dave's note - prudent has nothing to do with Buy-Cycle. Bob thinks $580,000 is a lot of money. But that is NOT a lot of money for the company that is spending it. A company that spends $580,000 on capital equipment is generating at least tens and probably hundreds of millions or more in revenue and it's money they were going to spend with someone. It's not new money.)
"My buying behavior is to use caution and be a great steward with the money I make. How else is there to be?"
Let's compare Bob's beliefs with how great salespeople think. I don't usually do this but for this example I'll use myself.
I've never test-driven a car in my life. When I see a car on the road that I like I say to myself, "That's my next car." I call the dealer, order it, and ask when it can be delivered. I never shop dealers against each other, I never ask for additional discounts over what they offer me, I never think it over and get back to them, and I don't drag out the process. This is how I buy everything. Perhaps you can't imagine buying the way that I buy but it's worth noting that I've never had buyer's remorse, I've never felt like I paid too much, and I never felt like I wasn't being "prudent." For anything. Ever. I ordered my last two vehicles before they were even off the production lines! Not a single 2021 Genesis GV80 had been delivered to the USA when I ordered mine and not a single redesigned for 2019 Lincoln Navigator had been shipped to a dealer when I ordered that SUV. My process is order it, sign, and then wait for it to be delivered (months later) because shopping is a colossal waste of time unless you are doing it for entertainment, like, "Honey, would you like to go to the mall?"
I understand that MY opinion and behavior may very well be different from YOUR opinion and behavior but the science says that my opinion is shared by the best salespeople in the world. This buying behavior enables the best salespeople to push back, question, hang in, ask more questions and eventually influence or outright change buying criteria and processes so they can sell value, eliminate competitors, and reach decision makers who are typically protected from salespeople. Decision makers can change rules, take shortcuts, make decisions, and do it all very quickly.
Let's go back to the science. The top 5% of all salespeople are 6700% more likely to have Buy-Cycle as a strength than the bottom 10% of all salespeople and the top 5% score 279% higher than the bottom 10% of all salespeople on this component of Sales DNA. The science backs me up. Check it out here.
Bob and other weak salespeople understand the stated buying process with the keyword being "stated." When Bob follows the stated buying process without questioning it, only buyers have control! Great salespeople DON'T understand why the prospect is going to talk with five vendors, look for the lowest price, take a month to have six internal meetings, narrow the list, negotiate, send it to legal, and all the other stupidity that takes place. That enables great salespeople to push back, ask more questions, and get processes changed. Supportive Buy-Cycles win more business than Non Supportive Buy-Cycles.
Not 30 minutes after this article was first published, I received this email from Bill, who wanted to prove my points above. Bill wrote:
Your analogy between buying capital equipment and how you buy cars makes no sense Dave. What if you liked a Yugo you saw while driving down the road and bought one in preproduction. How would you feel if you bought one of the worst cars ever manufactured without one second of research? Heck, you bought one of the most inefficient gas guzzling monster cars that will only ruin the environment for my children and my grandchildren. How do you sleep with that? I guess you don’t care about the future. You only live for ‘now’.
Shopping is a pain in the ass. The Internet has made a lot of that much easier. Buying capital equipment isn’t an Internet purchase in the half million dollar plus category. Getting past the first purchase with a new sales person is a challenge. Are they competent? Are they knowledgeable? Are they fair? Do you have a rapport with them? Can They meet your expectations?
I just put a fence around my horse pen. One guy wanted $13,000. The other guy wanted $8500. I looked at both quotes, materials, workmanship, referrals and completion dates. They were virtually the same. which one would you go for? Is shopping worth $4500? Or is it only worth it with personal money and not corporate money? When I put the next fence up I’ll probably have my guy for all my fence work. But the first purchase, in my estimation, takes research. All the other purchases are based on trust and relationship.
I did respond, as I usually do, with this note:
Thanks for taking the time to write, make your point and include the personal attack. That’s the point of my article. People get nasty.
You already know my opinion and while it’s different from yours, you’re entitled to your opinion as I’m entitled to mine. The only difference is that when it comes to selling, the science doesn’t lie and while you might not like it, I happen to be the expert on sales science.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying the horse fence the way you did but it does impact the way you sell. It was right there in your first sentence.
No worries. Thanks again for your kind note.
Bill wasn't finished. He felt the need to get the last words in:
Just adding - They get nasty in politics. If you get nasty in sales, you’re in the wrong business. Actually Dave, it doesn’t impact the way I sell at all. You are incorrect. Have I made mistakes in the past selling, absolutely. Will I make them again in the future, absolutely. You may be the expert in sales science. I’m the expert in sales. I do it every day, every week, every month every year for over 20 years and I’ve been exceptionally happy and successful. I like what I do. I like my clients. And I believe Sales is more than boxes in complex sales that I do. Your car is a box.
And by the way, I’m not nasty. I just pointed out a car analogy just like you wrote about a car analogy. Next time I’ll come to you for the $3500 difference when I buy my next fence. I look forward to you writing a check.
By late last summer, we knew full well that our 2021 conference would also be virtual. The difference was that we would have 7 months to prepare and we wanted to optimize the conference specifically for a virtual event. How was it different from what we accomplished a year earlier? Let me share some of the things we did that worked so well.
Shorter Days - Last year we crammed four days into three days and with nobody having anywhere else they needed to be, we presented for 8-9 hours each day! We knew that was an awfully long time for everyone to stay engaged so this year we planned two four-hour days. Much better!
Shorter Presentations - In prior years, including last year, conference presentations were typically 45-90 minutes each. This year our average presentation ran just 8 minutes! That allowed us to present on 50 topics instead of 18!
Chat Q& A - At traditional conferences, questions come up throughout the duration of most presentations and the presenter must stop to answer both the good questions and the stupid questions, those that have already been asked as well as those that should have never been asked. Inevitably there is a person who wants to pound their chest and brag for a while. The questions and the posturing disturbs the natural flow of presentations and makes them unnecessarily long. This year we handled questions as they arose, in real-time, via chat and Q&A tools within Zoom. When there was a question that required a longer answer we answered it live at the end of each presentation. Result? Fast-paced, uninterrupted sessions that kept everyone engaged.
More Video - Last year we learned just how much everyone loved our choice of videos. So this year, we had PENTA Marketing produce a conference teaser, unique 5-minute openings for each day, two different versions of a 5-minute break video with product and company-specific trivia, and six segment-specific 10-second videos to introduce each session. On top of that we carefully chose inspiring videos to play at the top of each hour as we brought the audience back from their five-minute breaks. This is an example of a 10-second segment intro.
Better Video - Using video is one thing but getting video to play smoothly on the viewer's computer is quite another. In the end, we settled on three hacks to make the video play beautifully:
Zoom has a new video feature where you click share, then click the advanced tab, click video and select from your file folder the video you want to share. The video opens and you click the play icon. That's it. Regardless of the size of the window on your computer screen, it plays full screen for your audience. But the frame rate may still be too low to eliminate the choppiness which brings us to hack #2.
Zoom automatically places a checkmark in the "Optimize for Video" checkbox but OMG's COO, John Pattison, discovered that if you uncheck that box the video plays at a higher frame rate.
John contributed one more hack when he discovered that if you lower your screen resolution so it's the same as the standard 720p resolution Zoom uses to stream, the frame rates are higher.
Better Backgrounds - Not everyone had a green screen, enhanced lighting, and a high-end camera so our virtual backgrounds needed to be dark enough to eliminate the swimming and bleeding that occurs when the lighting isn't good and a green screen isn't present. In addition, we had PENTA create a common background for each presenter and they customized each background with the presenters's name, company and title as you can see below.
Better Slide Decks - To complete the professional, "optimized for virtual" look, each presenter was required to use the exact same professional slide templates that we asked PENTA to prepare for us. Our slides rocked!
Of course, OMG introduced new features and enhancements to our already best-in-class sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments and that's one of the main reasons for us having an annual conference.
Virtual events may be with us to stay as part of our new normal so we must step up our game and make virtual desirable, exciting and feature-rich instead of a compromise. You may not be able to offer face-to-face networking and dinners, but you can offer your clients, customers, users and prospects an unforgettable experience.
I just love it when our lawn looks gorgeous - thick, lush, and green, green, green. Getting it looking that good requires fertilizing, aerating, thatching, over seeding, and frequent mowing, all things better suited to the landscaping company than me. Of course, some sun and water help too. And even with an irrigation system, by the middle of the summer, areas of our lawn begin to look like crap. Not to worry though. By mid fall, the lawn looks its absolute best. Yup, my lawn never looks better than it does on November 1. Right before it snows and turns brown for the winter! You have to admit, that's a lot of work and expense for a lawn that looks perfect for all of 6 weeks - 3 weeks in the spring and 3 weeks in the fall!
Great looking spring lawn.
Crappy looking summer lawn
Because my lawn looks its worst on August 1 and its best on November 1, it has a lot in common with most sales organizations. A sales team looks its best on January 1, when every opportunity in the pipeline is a possibility and forecasts predict a banner year. It looks its worst just a week earlier, when on December 23, sales leaders defend the team's sub-par performance to the CEO and explain why 57% of their salespeople failed to hit quota - again! It's easy to explain why the lawn fails, as dry, hot summers will do that. But why do sales teams continue to fail, year after year, regardless of industry, and in every economy? Why don't the numbers improve? Why don't more salespeople jump from C's to B's? From B's to A's? From D's to C's? The answers - and there are plenty - are evasive. But let's try!
We can certainly pin some of the blame on sales managers. My last two articles explain many of the problems contributing to ineffective sales management. Read about crappy sales managers and then read the follow-up article about crappy coaching.
We can certainly pin some of the blame on salespeople. Why don't they try to improve? Why don't they invest in sales self-development? Why don't they read more books and articles, watch more videos, listen to more audio and push themselves out from their comfort zone? Why don't they practice?
After 35 years in this business, I still don't understand why sales, as a profession, includes so many ineffective salespeople. Based on data from Objective Management Group (OMG), who has evaluated and assessed 2,040,355 salespeople, 50% of all salespeople suck. Take a look at the image below where I have isolated the bottom 50% of all salespeople. This screen shot represents the percentage of those weak salespeople who have the ten tactical selling competencies as strengths:
After seeing these percentages is it any wonder why half of your salespeople fail to hit quota? Don't think it could get any worse? Take a look at what happens when we look at the bottom 10% where it's clear that the only thing some of them are capable of is making friends and presentations:
These ten selling competencies are ten of the twenty-one sales competencies that OMG measures. You can see them all, filter by industry and sales percentile, and even see how your salespeople compare. Data on OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies.
We can pin some of the blame on history. To a certain degree, C Suite executives are conditioned to accept these year-end results and when they are disappointed yet again, they don't raise hell, don't fire the sales leaders, and don't storm out the door. They simply aren't surprised any more. Failure is baked in.
You know what it takes to make a lawn look great and from experience I know what it takes for a sales team to become great. Companies that evaluate their sales teams, provide effective sales training, embrace sales process, train their sales managers to coach, get sales selection right and improve their sales cultures, yield huge gains in sales and profits. Yes, margins increase too. That's what happens when salespeople learn to sell value instead of price.
With that in mind, we can certainly assign a lot of blame on company owners, CEO's and senior sales leaders who don't take those steps and/or don't take those steps seriously.
The conversation on the LinkedIn post for this article has some fantastic additional reasons why and took my lawn analogy even further. The best one so far is from Rocky LaGrone who said, "...Don't forget about pesticides for those pesky insects, pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, over watering, and fungus. Those are the same in sales as mediocre sales leaders and salespeople. It's the equivalent to making excuses and accepting them. Add lack of understanding of how to bring value and premature presentation and you have a baron landscape in sales. With zero effective coaching you might as well not mow! The layman landscaper cant see the early warning signs of root damage or infestations of grubs no more than the layman sales executive can't see their rotting sales foundation without measuring the right metrics at the right frequency. Most people react to their grass and don't pay attention to the roots. Healthy roots produce healthy plants and the same is true for sales. The fundamentals never change. It's the application of the fundamentals that make the difference. A professional landscaper will start with a soil sample and analysis. Why wouldn't a sales executive start with an analysis of their salesforce?"
There are a lot more great comments like this one at the LinkedIn post.
There's no excuse for not weaponizing your sales teams and equipping them with every appropriate sales strategy and tool to leverage their ability to close opportunities they have routinely allowed your competitors to retain, steal or close.
As Michael Jackson famously sung in his timeless 1980's hit, Man in the Mirror, Make a change. Start with the [person] in the mirror.
We use remote deposit, a terrific convenience for depositing checks from the desktop without going to the bank. The only problem is that the software that runs the check scanner isn't compatible with the Mac OS. It only runs on Windows so we have to remotely connect to an old Dell that takes up unnecessary space. Oh, if only the software for the check scanner was compatible with the Mac.
My wife and I were friends with a couple that argued ALL the time. They argued when they were alone, they argued when they were with us, they argued when they were with their kids and they were just brutal to each other. If only they were more compatible.
Compatibility is not only important, it could be one of the most overlooked criteria in hiring sales candidates. Let's do a deep dive!
Most sales leaders think that industry experience is the most important criteria for evaluating the fit of a potential sales hire but they couldn't be more wrong. Compatibility with the selling environment is far more important. For example, if you sell payroll services, is it more important that the sales candidate came from the payroll industry or is it more important that they have great selling skills and called on the same HR professionals that a payroll salesperson would need to call on? In other words, is it more important that they know stuff, or is it more important that they have a built-in network of customers to sell to?
There's more to compatibility than who they sell to. Factors like the length of the sales cycle, how many calls/meetings that entails, your price point relative to the competition, the amount of money they'll be asking for, the quality of the competitor's offering, the effectiveness of the competition's marketing and sales, whether they've worked for a sales manager with a similar management style, how much pressure they'll be under, whether they'll get the coaching and training they require, if they've worked under a similar compensation plan, and more should be considered. There are nearly 30 variables that help to determine whether a salesperson is compatible for the role.
At my weekly meeting with Objective Management Group's (OMG) COO, John Pattison, we discussed compatibility in the context of another finding we call FIOF or "Figure it Out Factor." Candidates that have a FIOF score of 75 or better ramp up more quickly than other candidates. Compatibility is weighted pretty heavily in the FIOF finding because of how it influences the ramp-up time of new salespeople. The more compatible a salesperson is with your selling environment, the more quickly they should ramp up because they've "done this before."
OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies as well as 9 other competencies that are important but not core. An additional finding is a score for compatibility.
Out of curiosity, we wondered what the average score for compatibility was because we haven't looked at that before. He asked me to guess and I said "somewhere between 60 and 80." It turns out that the average compatibility score for all sales candidates is 70. Not bad! For kicks, we ran the analysis for the four levels of Sales Percentile which include Elite (top 5%), Strong (the next 15%), Serviceable (the next 30%), and Weak (everyone else - the bottom 50%). This is what the analysis showed:
Who knew that compatibility would correlate to Sales Percentile? I certainly didn't think that the distribution of scores would show this kind of correlation. After all, when we score compatibility, we aren't measuring any of the sales competencies that make up Sales Percentile; only prior selling environments. The top 5% of all salespeople are 41% more compatible with their selling roles than the bottom 50% and it left me wondering, "Why?"
Three theories came to mind and perhaps you can add some additional theories!
Theory 1: The best salespeople naturally identify good fits for themselves so that they can thrive. We could guess that elite salespeople seek out the greatest selling challenges - something beyond their comfort zone - but perhaps they are simply too smart to sabotage themselves.
Theory 2: The worst salespeople don't pay any attention to fit because to them, selling is just spouting off features and benefits, doing demos, generating quotes and proposals, and taking orders. Maybe they simply gravitate to wherever they are wanted?
Theory 3: The best sales leaders, in hiring only the best salespeople, are rewarded with salespeople that can handle their selling environment. It's worth noting that the best sales leaders hire salespeople who are more talented than they are while average and weak sales leaders hire salespeople who are weaker than they are.
I haven't written about compatibility before but it's worth spending a few minutes to understand the role it plays in sales success.
What plays an even more important role in sales success than compatibility? It's the 21 Sales Core Competencies and configuring OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment to recommend those candidates that score well in the competencies that are crucial to success in the role you are hiring for. Learn more about the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
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.