3 Tweaks to Your Sales Approach Are Steps Toward Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 @ 06:03 AM


Consider how frustrating it is to approach a traffic circle, or as we call them in Massachusetts, a rotary, during rush hour.  You very slowly make your way towards the circle in a long line of traffic, attempt to merge into a congested circle, travel around to the other side of the circle, and finally exit the other end.  Being a bit impatient, I'm usually screaming to myself, "Come on - don't stop! - let's get moving - let's go!"

Hold that thought.

I believe that role-playing is the single most important thing I can do with salespeople to help them to become great.  There are three kinds of role-plays:

  1. I play the salesperson's part and the salesperson plays the prospect. This is my preferred method as it demonstrates exactly what the conversation should sound like.
  2. I play the prospect and the salesperson plays the salesperson.  This approach works best when conducting pre-call strategy and usually serves to show me how ill-equipped the salesperson is to have the desired conversation.
  3. The salesperson plays the salesperson and another salesperson plays the prospect.  This type of role-play occurs later in training when the salesperson has the foundational skills to execute the sales process correctly and to play the sales part with some confidence.

When I finally reach scenario 3 with salespeople playing their own part, it seems a lot like approaching the traffic circle. Let me explain.

When there is a question they need to ask or they need to summarize what they heard, the traffic circle scenario comes to life.  They slowly approach the circle, and when they finally reach the circle, travel around it a couple of times before exiting and finishing their comments.  In other words, they talk in circles, confusing, distracting and boring their prospect.  Take a step toward greatness: Be direct and concise because less is more memorable and powerful while being less confusing and boring.

Consider how a professional baseball or golf coach may break down swing.  Take a practice swing or two, get in your stance, use the proper grip, bend at the knees, open some at the waste and shoulders, eye on the ball, smooth, extend, hold your follow through, etc.  If you want to hit the ball solidly you must do those things in that order, but you can't be saying those things to yourself as you get ready to swing or bad things will surely happen.

Hold that thought.

You may have several talking points.  You may have rehearsed or even memorized those points; what you want to say about them and the order in which you want to say them.  But if you use your talking points and sequence, your prospect will be totally bored by the logic and mind-numbing time it takes for you to go through them.  A step toward greatness: Abandon the formality and sequence and simply have a conversation.  If there is a question or comment that makes it appropriate to introduce one of those talking points, then fine, but keep it conversational and do not become presentational.

Don't you hate it when a good prospect derails your momentum by asking for references?  This is truly a combustion point in selling.  (There is a great Disney book on combustion points called Be our Guest) You don't know if the prospects really want to talk with people or are using the reference requests to get rid of you.  You don't know whether to provide references, which ones to provide, whether they'll follow up with a call, or what your customers will say to them.

Hold that thought.

Today, it's helpful to have video on your smart phone, of several happy customers that can speak to any concerns your prospects might have.  No delays.  No wondering.  On demand references and testimonials.  Take a step toward greatness:  Everyone on the sales team must record a couple of great 1-minute videos from their best and happiest customers. The videos can be shared across the sales team so that everyone has a robust library of customers who can do the selling for you.  Third-party testimonials are much more powerful than the promises of a salesperson any day of the week. 

Speaking of testimonials, many of you have read my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Since writing that book, I have written, shared (complimentary) and given you the opportunity to read more than 1,700 articles on sales and sales leadership right here on my Blog.  I would be most grateful if you would return the favor by writing a review of my book at Amazon.com.  

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales conversation, sales presentation, listening skills, talking points

Should a Salesperson be Punished after a Huge Sale?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 04, 2015 @ 11:05 AM


My wife and I watched with a combination of fascination, sadness and shock as the coach of our son's 12 and under AAU baseball team made them run suicides after the double header they won on Saturday, and again after the double header they won on Sunday.  Why would he punish them after winning four games this weekend?  And how does this apply to sales?  You'll be amazed by what you read.On Saturday, the team had a chance to win both games by the mercy rule (the game ends if one team is ahead by 10 runs or more after 4 innings), but let the other team back into the game both times.  The coach didn't like their effort and execution and taught them a lesson by making them run suicides for 20 minutes after the second game.

On Sunday, the team won the first game, but allowed the other team to tie the second game forcing extra innings.  They eventually had a walk-off win, but once again, he thought they were flat, didn't like their effort, pointed to mental mistakes, and made them run suicides for 30 minutes after the second game.

As his parents, this punishment overshadowed a very impressive ball-crushing performance by our son.  But for the coach, the team's performance comes first.  The coach is paying more attention to behavior, attitude, and effort, than he is to the score.  He believes that by focusing on these three things, he will drive home the lessons he wants them to learn from this.

Shouldn't sales leaders be applying these lessons with their sales organizations?  While the best sales leaders do, in fact, follow this strategy, many sales leaders pay too much attention to sales results - the numbers - while ignoring the significance of metrics and conversion ratios that lead to revenue.

For example, Bob leads the team in sales this quarter with $500,000 in sales and he is praised, recognized, and presented with an award for his outstanding performance.  But it's a sham.  Bob landed one deal the entire quarter instead of the 6 he should have closed.  Although his quota for the quarter was only $300,000 and he killed it, if this deal hadn't come through, he would have been dead last.  Additionally, this deal was forecast for the previous quarter, so he really had nothing going on this quarter.  Had sales management looked more closely, they would have seen that he did not add any new opportunities to the pipeline in the quarter, and had only 6 conversations on just 12 outbound attempts.  Where was his effort?  What's with his attitude?  And where was the behavior?  Should Bob have been the hero or should it have been pointed out that he sucked all quarter and happened to get lucky once?

Clearly, it benefits the entire sales organization to call attention to a big deal and a quota-buster.  We want to make sure that everyone knows that these results can be achieved and should be achieved.  At the same time, if the other salespeople approach Bob and ask how he did it, the opposite effect will occur.  They would learn that it is OK not to make calls, not to have many conversations, and not to convert those conversations to meetings.  Additionally, they would learn that ineffective qualifying and forecasting can pay off, and letting prospects off the hook, not closing the door, and being passive and mentally lazy can work as well.

The scenario with the Bobs of the world is no different than what happened last weekend with the baseball coach.  We can't reward results unless the attitude, effort and execution that led to the results was consistent with those results.  In addition, we shouldn't punish salespeople who put forth the proper effort, attitude, behaviors and execution, only to come up short.  When we identify the most meaningful KPI's, and recognize salespeople for achieving those, the results will come.

[Update - Stick around and read the comments to this article, add one of your own, share it on LInkedIn or Twitter (buttons above the photo) and read this follow-up article.]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales conversation, Baseball, sales behaviors, sales KPI, sales effort, sales forecast, sales execution

Why Doesn't Sales Methodology Get More Attention?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 @ 04:01 AM

conversationAccording to FreeDictionary.com, the original definition of Methodology is, "the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge."  Over time, the definition has changed and one present day version is, "A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline."

I've written about Sales Methodology before.  One of my favorites (at least the title) was Sales Process is to Religion as Sales Methodology is to Prayer.  Another Sales Methodology article that I wrote was, Baseball's Huge Impact on Sales Performance.  This also had a math equation within it: Sports is to Selling as Baseball is to Consultative Selling as Pitching and Defense are to Baseline Selling.

If a modern-day sales process is milestone-centric (key outcomes that must be achieved during a sales cycle), then a modern-day sales methodology must support those milestones.

Let's discuss a few possibilities.

As sales processes go, the steps could be as simple as the following:

  1. Appointment
  2. Demo
  3. Qualification                      
  4. Proposal
  5. Close

Watch Dennis Connelly's 3-minute video on this topic:



The methodology required to convert that process to a productive and effective conversation would be challenging to say the least.  It's safe to assume that when a company goes to market with such a simple sales process, there isn't a methodology to drive the conversation.  To be sure, the key in this process is the demo and the qualification is probably equally simple.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's really two questions around decision-making and timeline.

I once helped a company whose sales process was the opposite of too simple.  It was so complicated that none of their salespeople could remember all the steps!  It went like this:

  1. Inventory of existing components
  2. Size of components
  3. Total capacity
  4. Current usage to capacity
  5. # Users
  6. Reporting Structure
  7. Age of equipment
  8. Budget
  9. Current Vendor
  10. Current Services Provided
  11. Current Fees Paid
  12. Needs Analysis
  13. Estimated of Value of the Opportunity
  14. Technical Fit
  15. Technical Teams Meet
  16. Specifications
  17. Timeline
  18. Credit Worthiness
  19. Trial
  20. Proposal
  21. Negotiation
  22. Contract
  23. Close
  24. Installation
  25. Negotiation
  26. Invoice

This is a horribly designed sales process!  Watch Chris Mott's 1-minute video on this topic:

I will resist going down the sales process path and stick to our discussion of sales methodology.

What methodology would turn that process into a productive and effective conversation?  In a best-case scenario, a salesperson would turn this into 50 questions that a prospect will not want to answer because the prospects don't have the slightest reason to spend their time answering all of these qualifying questions!  Indeed, it would take a very sophisticated methodology to turn this sales process into a conversation.

At this point, you should begin to see two clear themes:

  1. Sales Methodology is all about the conversation between the salesperson and the prospect.  It's how to make it a conversation, how to make the conversation mutually productive and how to guide that conversation to the next milestone.
  2. Sales Methodology and Sales Process are intertwined.  One is not a substitute for the other and one will not work very well without the other.  

    Salespeople that sell by the seat of their pants? - a methodology without a process - Watch my 1-minute video on this topic.

    Salespeople that move from question to question to question? - a process without a methodology - Watch Frank Belzer's 1-minute video on this topic.

[Last week, Dennis Connelly wrote a good article on another important conversation, the one between the sales manager and the salesperson.  And Frank Belzer wrote an important article on the Architecture of a Sales Force.]

This brings me to my original question, "Why doesn't sales methodology get more attention from authors, writers and bloggers, and why does sales process get most of the coverage?" 

In my opinion, it's an educational problem.  Unless executives are able to differentiate between process and methodology, they can't know that one is almost always missing!  If you've been exposed to one of these trainings (SPIN, Sandler, Solution Selling and Strategic Selling), then you know that they're all good.  You also know that there's just something missing!  They are methodologies without processes (even though they might tell you otherwise). 

In other cases, you're getting processes that lack methodologies.  That's why, when I wrote Baseline Selling, I made sure that it had the best of sales process and the best of sales methodology.  It's both, wrapped up in a single title.

Sales Methodology is extremely important today.  Without it, your salespeople lack the ability to have consistent conversations.  Without the right methodology, those conversations may not be as effective or productive as either party would like.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour webinar that will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: huntstock / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales conversation

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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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