Keys to Successful Sales Negotiations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 22:07 PM

mlbIn the United States, Major League Baseball's trading deadline passed today with some noteworthy moves by teams other than my Boston Red Sox.  Aside from my disappointment that the Red Sox failed to make an impact trade to help the team, I recognized something else...

First-year General Manager Ben Cherington has made some interesting trades this year, most where he seemed to give up more than he received in return.  (See Appendix A below for examples.)

In contrast (bad, free-agent signings aside), most of the trades orchestrated by former GM Theo Epstein seemed to yield more in return than whom he gave up.  (See Appendix B below for examples.)

Assuming that I'm right, what are the reasons for the differences?  

  • Was Theo dealing from a position of strength while Ben dealt from a position of weakness?  
  • Was Theo a better negotiator?  
  • Was Ben more desperate?  
  • Did Theo hold out for a better deal?  
  • Did Ben concede too quickly?  
  • Was Theo more willing to walk away?  
  • Was Ben afraid of leaving the table with nothing to show for it?

Very often, the final stages of many sales cycles, especially those to large companies with procurement people, are negotiations.  Assuming that your salespeople have developed some compelling reasons to buy, and buy from you, then YOU have leverage.  They want what you have.  However, when your salespeople fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy from you, then YOUR PROSPECTS have leverage.  You want their business.

Your outcome from a negotiation or competitive sales situation is in direct disproportion to how badly you want the business.

Appendix A - Examples of Cherington Trades

He gave up top Sox prospect, Josh Reddick, and in return received Andrew Bailey, who has been on the Disabled List (DL) all year, and Ryan Sweeney, who has been on the disabled list three times already this year.

He gave up 3-time All-Star Kevin Youkilis for a minor league pitcher and a utility player whom they have already traded away.

He gave up a good hitter, Jed Lowrie, for Mark Melancon, a relief pitcher who has just plain sucked for the Red Sox this year.

As compensation for letting Theo Epstein move to the Cubs, he received an injured minor league pitcher, Chris Carpenter, in return.

Appendix B - Examples of Epstein Trades

He gave up 3 talented minor leaguers and got All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzales in return.

He gave up a talented minor leaguer and got All-Stars Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in return.  Beckett and Lowell, along with Curt Schilling below, helped them win the 2007 World Series.

He gave up 4 young pitchers, none of whom panned out, for Curt Schilling.  Schilling helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded disgruntled All-Star Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, both who helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded clubhouse cancer and multiple performance-enhancing drug offender Manny Ramirez in a three team deal for Jason Bay. 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales personality, ben cherington, Boston Red Sox, theo epstein, trades, competitive sales call

3 Types of Salespeople - Which are Best at Growing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 @ 14:07 PM

sailsYesterday, we were in a small seaside village and in a nautical gift shop, I read this sailing quote:

"The pessimist complains about the wind.  The optimist expects it to change.  The realist adjusts the sails."

Translated for selling:

"The pessimist complains about the prospect.  The optimist expects him to buy.  The realist adjusts the sales strategy."

Let's look at these three points a little more closely, shall we?

The pessimist: Sure, the pessimist will complain about the prospect, but more specifically, that the prospect wasn't open, was hostile, talking with competitors, wouldn't share a budget, wanted only a proposal, wouldn't commit to anything, blocked him from reaching a decision-maker, etc.  If this is normal buyer behavior, then this calls for a salesperson!  All salespeople must be able to navigate around and push through these common issues or we really can't call them salespeople.

The optimist:  The optimist has happy ears.  The bigger the opportunity, the better the opportunity.  The better they got along, the better the chance of a sale.  The longer they talked, the shorter the sales cycle.  Optimists are just as much of a liability as pessimists because they don't inspect or question what they hear.  They assume that everything will be okay.  While a positive attitude is good, it can be terribly frustrating!

The realist:  This is exactly who you need on your sales force.  Salespeople must be optimistic about their outcomes, but pessimistic about the things that could go wrong to derail the opportunity and prepared to overcome them.  The realist is flexible enough to be both pessimistic and optimistic at the appropriate times.

So, sailing, selling - the approach is the same except that while wind helps to expand your sails, having salespeople who are full of air doesn't help to expand your sales.

Most salespeople are good at talking and presenting - they are full of air - but 74% of them are ineffective when it comes to listening and asking good questions.  How about your sales force?  

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales personality, increase sales, sales strategy

Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 @ 07:07 AM

The first problem with today's title is the "5" in "Top 5."

They are not the 5 on which most sales managers spend their time, so let's begin with the sales management practices on which most sales managers actually spend their time.  By the way, that's how so many "best practices" (that aren't) actually get published.  Authors ask (in this case sales managers) how they spend their time.  The answers that are most often reported become best practices.  So I repeat, the first list does not contain best practices, but includes those activities on which most sales managers spend their time.  

The 5 practices, which aren't best practices, on which sales managers spend their time:

  1. Selling
  2. Putting out fires
  3. Creating, reading and distributing reports
  4. Closing deals for salespeople
  5. Teaching (not coaching, but lecturing)
Let's see how those actually compare with the Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices - not the things sales managers necessarily do, but the things sales managers should  do:
 
  1. Coaching (should account for 50% of a sales manager's time)
  2. Accountability (to KPI's, pipeline and sales process)
  3. Recruiting (on-going process of upgrading the sales team)
  4. Motivating (more and more salespeople are not money-motivated, so this is more important)
  5. Development (grooming a replacement)
When you compare the best practices with the standard practices, you'll see that there isn't any overlap!  I'm describing two completely different sets of responsibilities, even though the role - sales management - is identical.
If you are a sales manager, how difficult will it be to change what you currently do in your role to follow best practices rather than existing practices?
If sales managers report to you, how difficult will it be to get your sales managers to make that change?
The biggest challenge to adopting these best practices is that while coaching and accountability sound familiar, Objective Management Group's data shows that 86% of all sales managers aren't effective at either.
You can learn more about these 5 sales management best practices in this free, archived Webinar.  Click here to view and listen.
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Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, Top 5 Sales Management Best Practices, SMM Connect, Sales & Marketing Management, Top Sales Functions

Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 20, 2012 @ 13:07 PM

I was asked to comment on an article called The End of Solution Selling, which appeared in Harvard Business Review.  The article was generally right on, but it also included several things that irritated me enough to question them and the article.

"The End of Traditional Solution Selling" - The ineffective selling model described by the authors is more aligned with transactional selling than solution selling.  The real issue is that the authors were describing ineffective salespeople who, because of their ineffectiveness when attempting to use solution selling, have sales cycles that are more transactional, an approach that simply doesn't work anymore.

"Reps" - It was difficult for me to accept the authors' use of the word "reps" 81 agonizing times.  They were writing about solution selling being dead and how successful reps use "insight selling".  We don't call salespeople "reps" anymore unless they are independent manufacturers' reps.  They referred to solution selling as a methodology from the 80's, but the term "rep" probably came into use right after the term salesman - probably back in the 50's!

Mobilizers - The article discussed the different people inside an organization who used to coach salespeople on how to get the business.  The authors wrote that a successful salesperson would now coach these people on how to get the company to buy from them.  The authors settled on the term "mobilizers" to refer to a group of skeptics, go-getters and teachers with whom salespeople should align themselves.  I wrote an article about this around 4 years ago and believe it's a much better approach to utilizing people inside the prospect's organization.

Complex Solutions - This article is based on selling complex technology solutions and you and your company are probably outside the boundaries of that focus. 

Major Accounts - As usual, this article is based on research of big company sales forces, selling to other big companies, and has little to do with what most sales forces look like or face.  As a matter of fact, our data on 600,000 salespeople and 8,500 sales forces, significantly larger and more comprehensive than the Corporate Executive Board research data, shows that big company salespeople are among the least effective salespeople anywhere.  They aren't underdogs, they have the welcome mat laid out for them, have the resources to heavily discount the deal to buy the business, and don't face the resistance of smaller, newer or more expensive competition.  

Summary - My first take away from this article is that the "superstars" (the best of all big company, ineffective salespeople) are simply selling the way that modern day salespeople are being taught to sell.  I didn't read anything in that article that was different, controversial, eye-opening or even new.  Everything about which they wrote was simply well-executed consultative selling strategies and tactics and any sales training company worth its fees will teach their own version of that.  Some will do it a lot better than others. 

My final take away from this article is to reinforce this warning, which I issued just two months ago.  If your salespeople aren't effectively utilizing a consultative sales model, you must move to the 2nd decade of the 21st Century or you will continue to climb an uphill battle to win your share of new business.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales model, sales methodology, sales training, harvard business review, solution selling, hbr blog

Prospecting Trends for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 @ 23:07 PM

inmail

Three salespeople left voice-mail messages for me today.  They were all cold calls, they were all bad, and they were all following up on brochures they dropped off last week.  Nothing out of the ordinary here, as one of the callers wanted to know when our copier leases expire, one wanted to know when our commercial real estate lease expires and two wanted to introduce themselves as our new reps.

There are several reasons why they were so bad:  

  • They sounded bad on the phone - not like someone with whom you would choose to speak;
  • They were reading scripts - the first tip-off that you wouldn't want to speak with them;
  • They talked about what they wanted for outcomes from their calls instead of about what I might have been interested.  

I have always had a problem with the concept of dialing for expiration dates (think commercial insurance, commercial real estate and copiers) and following up behind brochure drops (think office supplies, hotels and copiers).  Distributing literature is not selling!

I also received 4 InMails through LinkedIn.  I responded to all of the InMails, but ignored the voice-mails.  

The voice-mails were easy to ignore - they were bad and the salespeople told me just enough to know that I didn't want to call them back.  The InMails were about me, I didn't get a chance to hear how bad they were and I was interested in what they had to say.

Salespeople should not use LinkedIn InMails to replace phone calls, as much as they shouldn't be ignoring the power of that social media tool either.  Sending well-written InMails to carefully-targeted prospects might help salespeople stand out and have a better chance of getting a response and/or meeting.  These days I get so few cold calls that anyone who is even borderline effective will stand out in good way.  In the end, these salespeople - both the callers and the writers - are being proactive, so at least they're actually doing something to drive new business!

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, business development, prospecting, Social Media, inbound leads, hunting, cold call

Disagreement Over Sales Leadership Best Practices?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

disagreementI read this recent article from the Harvard Business Review Blog about CEO's and the need for them to get serious about Sales.  Then there was this question from Focus.com wanting to know how to deal with a negative sales rep.

The article and the question are both quite benign.  My frustration is with the comments, where both the best and worst that social media has to offer grows.  Everyone becomes Rush Limbaugh - an expert in their own opinions - and many of those opinions are flat out wrong.  It's not just with the two examples above, it's with nearly every question that gets asked on LinkedIn.com, Focus.com, Task.fm, and other sites where, in many cases, the subject matter experts are the ones initiating the questions just to call attention to themselves.  And when sales leaders initiate the questions, how do they differentiate best practices from stupid practices?  

The problem is that they can't!  If they knew the best approach, they wouldn't ask the question in the first place.  And because they don't know the best approach, they align themselves with the answer that makes them feel the most comfortable - not necessarily the answer that provides the best results.

Experts don't always agree on best practices for the sales force.  Some don't have best practice success in multiple industries/markets.  Others lack expertise in all discliplines of optimizing a sales force.  Others are one-trick ponies - their expertise is limited to a single discipline. Other experts are laid-off or retired sales & marketing executives.  To whom should you listen?  Whose Blog should you read?  Whom should you believe?  Whom should you hire to help?

There are so many sites to visit for content.  I suggest that you use those sites as a means to identify experts who make you think, consistently provide good, solid, relevant, applicable, advice, and then follow them on their own blogs.  

When it comes to Sales Leadership Best Practices, here are two opportunities which could help:

Sales & Marketing Management

I presented the 5 Sales Management Best Practices for this Sales & Marketing Management Webinar.  Click here to view/listen to the archive.

Sales Leadership TrainingIf you want something a more comprehensive than a one-hour Webinar, join me in October for my renowned Sales Leadership Intensive - two days of comprehensive, interactive, entertaining, applicable, non-stop, unforgettable leadership training.  Click here to learn more and if you would like to attend, email me directly and I'll get you special pricing.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, HBR, best practices

What Leads to Salespeople Underperforming?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 08:07 AM

focusAs a baseball fan, it drives me mad when underperforming players don't play because of one nagging injury after another.  It makes me wonder whether their injuries are causing them to underperform or their "injuries" are convenient excuses for their lack of performance.  We usually don't know, but it sets up my next question.

Doesn't it drive you mad when terrific, yet underperforming salespeople, take time off for their car to be serviced, to bring their pets to the vet, to spend time with visiting family members, to work out of the house, when they feel under the weather, to meet a with a contractor, for the dentist, for their annual physical, etc?  Take a vacation - no problem - but if you're not on vacation, then work for crying out loud!  

The funny thing is that your overachievers may include these same things in their very busy schedules.  The difference is that you either don't know about it, because they only spend the hour it actually takes to get it done instead of the entire day, or they don't do these things during their selling time.

Why do you suppose your underperformers are always coming up with things that cause them to take time off?  Are those distractions the very reasons why they are underperforming or are they merely symptoms of their lack of focus, discipline, commitment, or work ethic?

I know from personal experience that when I am focused on results, I never have time for golf.  Can't justify it.  However, when I have focused on golf, I didn't get the business results which I'd expected.  That's just the way it works.  People will get results, not by accident, but only when they are completely focused on the activities, behaviors, work, flow and relationships that lead to results and when they are disciplined enough to remain focused and active for as long as it takes to achieve those results.

How do you keep a salesperson focused and disciplined?  Those are the very salespeople who must be micro-managed, but don't be surprised if those same salespeople resist your efforts.  They may not want to be so focused and disciplined, meaning that you aren't on the same page.  When that's the case, it just might be time for a change of scenery.  They do that with ballplayers....

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales performance, sales evaluation, sales personality, underachieving, underperformance, overachiever

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

sales motivationThis was the question posed at Focus.com. 

When I reviewed the page, there were 18 other answers to the question.  There was nothing particularly wrong with them, but they just weren't transferable or scalable.  They didn't answer the question of how sales professionals stay motivated as much as they answered how certain salespeople motivate themselves and how certain sales managers motivate others.

The most important thing to understand is that when someone must ask how to motivate their salespeople, they may not have the right salespeople!

The best salespeople don't have to be motivated - they just are - and it not something they have to do.  Sure, they are goal-orientated.  Sure, they are disciplined.  Sure, they love praise and recognition.  But salespeople who love what they do and love either the thrill of success or the sight of their growing bank account are pre-motivated.  Think pre-washed or pre-faded jeans. They come to the table wired for it.

The real issue is what to do about those who aren't wired for it.  The easy answer is to evaluate the sales force and, as part of that process, look for the data which will tell you who is motivated; not in general terms, but specifically for success in sales.  Who can be developed and how much improvement are they likely to show?  You may learn that you don't have the right salespeople in the right roles and may need to make some changes.

You'll also see this problem with veteran salespeople who have made a lot of money and have become complacent.  Just because they have succeeded in the past, doesn't mean they will continue to succeed in the future.  And did they really succeed in the past or did they make a bunch of money because they inherited lucrative accounts?

Change is the best way to motivate a complacent sales force.  Send a message that they can all be replaced and that you are willing to make those changes.

Read more of my articles on sales force motivation.

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales development

When Should You Use a Telemarketing Firm to Schedule Sales Calls?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 10, 2012 @ 15:07 PM

Dave Kurlan CoverIf you have no desire to find a lot of new business from new accounts, you don't need telemarketing (and you can stop reading this article).  

If you would like to establish new accounts and generate a significant increase in revenue, there are several things you can do:  

  1. You can hire hunters - salespeople who will find and close those new accounts.  While we are on the subject of hiring hunters, you can view the Webinar, The Magic Behind the OMG Sales Candidate Assessment to understand why companies use our assessments to hire all of their sales staff.
  2. You can hire telemarketers - inside salespeople who will make calls and schedule appointments for your account managers.
  3. You can hire a telemarketing firm - an outside agency that will basically perform the same services described in option #2, but for more money.  The difference is that option #2 is under your control and option #3 is not.  However, while option #3 may yield more scheduled meetings, the quality of the meetings may be stronger with option #2.
  4. You can step up your inbound/outbound marketing efforts and generate leads but you'll need either salespeople or telemarketers to follow-up and qualify those leads as they come in.
  5. You can hire a hybrid company - Companies like ConnectLeader have their own people who do the dialing and get your salespeople through to decision-makers so that they can spend their valuable time actually talking with prospects.  However, if you use this option, you'll need salespeople or telemarketers on staff.
Inbound and outbound marketing include your public relations and social media efforts too.  When those efforts are consistent over a long period of time, they generate more than enough leads.  For example, I was featured on the cover of the July Issue of Top Sales Associates Magazine and was interviewed by Linda Richardson.  You can visit Top Sales World to register and download the magazine or if you are already a member, you received an email with a downloading link.  Top Sales World is a great site with resources for all things sales, so if you haven't been there yet, it's worth a visit.
Top Sales World - the global sales community - free magazine

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, omg, telemarketing, sales hunter

Are (Lack of) Results Due to the Salesperson or the Company?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 09, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

resultsI'll open with a baseball analogy:  A few weeks ago, the Boston Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis - a disgruntled, underperforming, 3-time all-star - to the Chicago White Sox AND the Red Sox paid most of his remaining 2012 salary.  In return, they received a couple of unspectacular spare parts.  What has happened since?  Youkilis reverted to form and quickly became a fan favorite in Chicago.  The Red Sox continue to lose games and underperform.  So, the question is: Was it Youkilis or the team that caused him, and just about everyone not named David Ortiz, to underperform this year?

Now the sales connection:  Whether your salespeople are underperforming or doing well, are they responsible or is it your company, culture, advertising or offerings that's responsible?

Using data from the 600,000+ salespeople and sales managers whom OMG assessed, we know that salespeople, who work for industry leaders, do well because of their company's reputation, advertising and offerings.  We know that in underdog companies (pricier than competition, high-ticket, new company, new technology, story to tell, pioneer, etc.), when salespeople are underperforming, it is usually because of the salespeople, not the company.

Sales is not like other roles.  A salesperson's successful performance at one company does not necessarily translate to success in a different role or at another company, much like certain baseball players don't perform well in the Boston or New York markets, despite having the ability to perform at a high level for smaller market teams.

As selling continues to be more challenging, companies must make dramatic improvements at sales selection and development.  Specifically, sales leaders at all levels must follow best practices for the sales selection process, on-boarding and ongoing development.  OMG's data also shows that 86% of all sales managers don't perform any of those three roles very well. 

When sales managers are ineffective at selecting the right salespeople, they compound the problem by being equally ineffective at coaching - the foundation of ongoing development.

Training salespeople is nice, but a waste of time and money when the wrong salespeople are trained and sales managers aren't prepared to coach to and hold salespeople accountable to the training.

It's time to fix these problems, not turn a blind eye.  

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales evaluation, omg, sales personality

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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