8-Year Old Houston Astros Fan Demonstrates a Huge Secret of Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 11, 2021 @ 09:06 AM

kid at baseball game

Walter and I attended a recent Boston Red Sox / Houston Astros game at Fenway Park.  It was my first visit to Fenway Park since 2019 and it was exciting to see most of the seats filled. It was exciting to hear all of the fan noise that has been missing for so long but there was one fan in particular that I heard louder than all of the others.  Starting in the fourth inning, Timmy, the eight-year-old Astros fan sitting next to me, didn't stop chatting with me for the remainder of the game. When Timmy said he hated the Red Sox I had to ask him why. His answer is the focus of this article on selling!  "Why do you hate the Red Sox so much Timmy?"  

He said, "Because their faces are ugly."  Wow.  I asked how they were ugly and he said "They have zits - and they pick them in the dugout."

That might not sound like the basis of an article on selling to you, but it certainly does to me! 

Timmy's grandfather flew him to Boston to watch his favorite team play the Red Sox in the absolute best ballpark to watch a game. He loves his Astros the way I loved my Red Sox when I was that age (OK, I love them at this age too) and as much as Ethan Bryan loves his Royals.  Ethan still wants to throw out the first pitch at a Royals game this year....

Timmy was not able to provide talking points, data, facts, bullet points, or even anecdotal evidence of why his team, which cheated to win the 2017 and 2019 World Series, was the best and the Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2018, was not.  He has an unexplainable emotional connection to the Astros.  

Salespeople don't understand this phenomenon.

Customers often have unexplainable emotional connections to the salespeople, account managers and companies they do business with and it doesn't matter how much better your company is, how much more responsive you are, how much more capable your product is, how much lower your price is, or how much more motivated you are to win their business.  Their emotional connection to their account manager and company will determine the winner every single time.

Don't let that deter you!

If you know that this happens, it should be your number one goal, with each and every customer, to build that kind of an emotional connection so that your customer will refuse to even consider moving their business to anyone else.  This isn't easy, won't happen overnight, requires making every customer a much bigger priority than ever before, and is not for the salesperson who loves to hunt.  But you can do this!

It is also important to know that most of the salespeople working for your competitors aren't good enough for their customers to have these emotional connections.  Most salespeople can't and won't accomplish this.  The salespeople who do accomplish this aren't particularly good salespeople but they are fantastic at nurturing and developing relationships and have probably been working closely with those customers for over a decade.

Remember, whether it's zits or chits, unbreakable relationships can't be undone by better pricing or specifications.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, Relationship Selling, Baseball, account management, sales effectiveness

How Gas Grills, Gardening, Masks, and Baseball Mimic Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 03, 2021 @ 13:05 PM

gasgrill

Some random thoughts from the weekend and its impact on sales teams...

We have a twenty-year old gas grill built-in to a stone wall on our back patio and this year I decided to replace all of the components.  New burners, new heat plates, new briquettes, new grates, new ignitor, and new wiring.  All told, it took three-hours of work, much of it with the ignitor and the wiring.  When I got it all reassembled, everything worked except the ignitor despite the fact that I smartly tested it prior to reassembly.  I opened it back up and discovered that the battery had become disconnected.  A tweak later, it was reassembled, the ignitor was sending sparks, but it was still failing to ignite the gas.  After all that work, and despite all the new components, I still must use a hand lighter to light the grill and will have to call a gas grill expert to get the sparks to ignite the gas.

My project corresponds so well with how many executives approach their sales teams. 

They do nothing for years, and then, after growing frustrated with complacency and inability to grow revenue, finally decide to make changes and rebuild their sales teams.  They quickly reassemble the team by terminating the obvious liabilities and hiring replacements.  Then, when the new salespeople don't perform to expectations, they make additional tweaks by adding hiring criteria, and try again.  Lacking a real sense of what good looks like, they continue to get it wrong and are back where they started, needing expert help to select the right salespeople to grow revenue.

We went to an outdoor garden center - outdoors means no masks if you're fully vaccinated so it should be an opportunity to shop mask free!  Not.  Everybody - young and old were masked up because we've learned that if you remove your mask people give you dirty looks and employees refuse to help you. So we must continue to mask up.  What does this have to do with selling?  

The discomfort with removing masks outdoors speaks directly to our discomfort with, resistance to, and fear of change.  After 14 months you would think that people would be excited for the opportunity to go maskless but it's not close to happening in Massachusetts.  You would also think that salespeople would be quick to embrace strategies, tactics and sales processes that will help them dramatically improve their effectiveness, and help them differentiate and close more business. That has great appeal, but most salespeople are typically slow to adapt for the very same reasons.  Discomfort with, resistance to, and fear of change.  It takes time.

Like most spring weekends, we were watching our son play baseball (2 games each day) only this year spectators aren't allowed on college campuses so we were watching live streams.  We wondered how we would handle not being present and cheering for him and his team, how disconnected we might feel watching him on a computer screen, and how much we would miss it.  It was especially difficult this year since it is his freshman, or as they now say, "first year" season.  We adapted.  We had to adapt. The seating and food were both exponentially better at home, we didn't have six hour round trips to campus and back, and the bathrooms were sparkling!  That said, we still missed being there for him and can't wait until we can return to watch him play in person.

This aligns with how sales teams pivoted to virtual selling in the spring of 2020.  It worked, but many of the same differences were in play.  The seating, food and bathrooms were better, but we missed being with our colleagues and customers.  We adapted, although in the case of virtual selling, we didn't adapt as well.  I am still very frustrated with the sales teams I personally train, who week after week, have failed to upgrade their physical appearance, wardrobe, and backgrounds.  I don't want to see bedrooms, closets, kitchens, dens, basements or bathrooms!  The lighting sucks!  You've had 14 months to upgrade how you present yourselves, so read my article on upgrading your virtual presence and get with the program.  Many of you will be selling this way, from home and/or office, for the foreseeable future.

It was a great weekend for gardening and when the baseball games weren't streaming we were in the gardens.  Pulling weeds, grooming the beds replacing perennial flowers and cutting down scrawny, ugly or dead trees were on the list.  It's what we do in May.

This is a great time for weeding out your under-performers and negative, whiny liabilities, upgrading your sales teams, and replacing them with better salespeople who are better fits for the role.  It's what we should do, not only in May but year-round.  A sales force evaluation should come first so that you know who is part of your future, how to develop them, and how much more revenue they can generate. You must also know who is part of your past and whether or not to move on from them.  You must understand why you get the results you get and what needs to change.  You should also use an accurate and predictive, customizable, sales-specific candidate assessment to help select your new salespeople. Ask your sales consultant about Objective Management Group (OMG) for help with both issues.  If you don't have a reliable, magical sales expert you can call, we can recommend one for you.  If you have one, but they don't offer OMG, insist that they either become OMG certified or find one who does offer OMG.  Just email me and I'll get you hooked up with someone who can help in a big way.

Image Copyright: arinahabich

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Salesforce, sales effectiveness, sales hiring tools, objective management group, sales team

Crappy Salespeople and Lack of Urgency Alignment  - The Bob Chronicles Part 4

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 27, 2021 @ 12:04 PM

urgency2

We shouldn't discuss that time you were in a meeting when, without warning, you had about 10 seconds to get yourself to the nearest restroom or you would need to drive home for a wardrobe change.  Fortunately, you were able to gracefully excuse yourself and run down the hall as fast as you possibly could.  THAT is urgency!

This is the fourth installment in the Bob Chronicles.  Bob is the weak salesperson who represents the bottom 50% of all salespeople. You can read previous installments about Bob below:

The $225,000 Mistake That Most Salespeople Make

Data - The Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople 

Good Bob, Bad Bob, The Stockdale Paradox and Sales Success

You're probably wondering, what did Bob screw up this time?  He screwed up urgency.  You might be asking how a salesperson could possibly screw up urgency but Bob and the rest of the weak salespeople screw up just about everything else so why not urgency too?

As usual, Bob was unaware that Mary, his prospect, was also talking with three other companies.  Mary asked for a proposal and Bob obliged, coming in well over the agreed upon budget and upsetting her in the process.  Mary reminded Bob that the proposal was nearly 25% higher than the budget they had all agreed to.  She asked Bob to stay within the budget and send a revised proposal.  Did Bob follow up appropriately?  No!

A couple of months had passed when Mary notified Bob that they were going with another company.  Bob was crazed and in a panic.  He reached out to Mary and requested a call.  She said she was sorry but had already made her decision.  Bob requested a call again and was told that she had signed a contract with another company.  In the middle of an acute panic attack, Bob decided to send a revised proposal and discounted the original offer by 35%.  Once again, Mary said, "This is too late - we already signed with another company."  Bob said, "But I offered you a 35% discount - that's even better than what you budgeted for!"  Mary disconnected the phone.

This is all about urgency.

Mary had a lot more urgency than Bob was aware of because Bob didn't ask the most important questions, like, "How big is the problem?" and "What is it costing?" and "How soon do you need it solved?" and "What happens if you don't have it solved by then?" and "Who else have you asked about this?"

Bob had a ton of urgency, but not until he realized he had lost the business.  If he had exhibited half the urgency earlier in the process, while uncovering Mary's urgency, their urgency would have been aligned.  Urgency alignment is crucial.  

If the salesperson has urgency but the prospect does not, the perception is that of a pushy salesperson.  If the prospect has urgency but the salesperson does not, the perception is that of an unresponsive salesperson.  When both the salesperson and the prospect have urgency, they will easily work collaboratively to solve a problem.  

Early in the process, Bob was perceived as being unresponsive.  Late in the process, Bob was perceived as being tone deaf and pushy.  However, when salespeople strike that perfect balance, magic happens.  Salespeople who are effective creating urgency AND having urgency are 35% more effective than salespeople who fail to get their prospects to "must have" and lack urgency themselves.

Finally, why did this happen?

Early in the process, Bob didn't listen, didn't ask enough questions and didn't push back on the budget.  By failing to push back, Mary believed that Bob would deliver a needs and cost appropriate solution. Then, when Mary pushed back, Bob was unresponsive.  These two events suggest that Bob wasn't controlling his Emotions and Needed to be Liked.  Those two weaknesses combine to make it difficult to listen, and too uncomfortable for him to push back and ask questions.  As you can see from the table below, the bottom 50% of all salespeople tend to be especially weak in both of these Sales DNA competencies.

When things spiraled out of control, Bob's emotions caused him to panic.  His non-supportive beliefs about pricing kicked in Bob always looks for the lowest price when he buys things for himself. Despite being too late to influence the decision, Bob believed that if he came back with an attractive offer, it would change the outcome.  As you can see in the table below, 26% of weak salespeople need to shop for the lowest price and they mistakenly believe that their prospects behave similarly.

There is so much more that goes into selling than following your sales process and having sales strategies and techniques.  There are 21 Sales Core Competencies and salespeople must be strong in all of them, not just some of them.  You can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies here and while you're there, view, filter and sort the data on nearly a third of the 2,091,766 salespeople that have been evaluated and assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG). If you want an easy-to-use, accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment to select and hire your new salespeople, check out OMG's award-winning sales candidate assessments here.

Rocky LaGrone added THE BEST COMMENT ever to this post on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright: Scott Betts

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales assessements, sales effectiveness, creating urgency, lost deals

31 Conditions That Predict Your Sales Opportunity is in Trouble

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 16, 2021 @ 14:04 PM

Photo Gallery: 2021 Genesis GV80 Luxury SUV - » AutoNXT

Long article for the weekend.

In December I took delivery on my all-time favorite new car and I've been driving my Genesis GV80 for four months now.  You probably saw video of the GV80 that Tiger Woods' destroyed and there wasn't a thing the car could have done to prevent him from crashing it because he had probably disabled the driver assist features and he may have been "disabled" when he got behind the wheel.

Last week, a crazy driver pulled out right in front of me and despite the fact that I anticipated his stupidity and would have been able to stop before smashing into this moron, my car wasn't as certain as I was.  My Genesis took matters into its own hands and went into all out protection mode - making sure nothing happened to it or me.

As advertised, it took over the braking and steering to protect itself, sounded all the alarms to alert me to its strategy and then did two things that really surprised me.  All at once, the seat enveloped me in a cocoon and the seat belt tightened around my shoulders so that there was no chance that I was leaving that seat.  Going through the windshield?  Not a chance unless the whole seat was coming with me!

That was cool. 

And it got me thinking.  Wouldn't it be cool if salespeople had a sales version of an early warning system/driver assist like my car has?

The car uses cameras and sensors to factor in conditions that would require emergency tactics.  Salespeople have eyes and ears as well as wisdom that can all be used for emergency tactics.  Let's start with the ears.

Prospects say things that are tell-tale signs that something is amiss.  Anytime a salesperson hears any of these comments they could be swaying out of their lane or their opportunity might be about to crash.  They include but aren't limited to:

  • Send me a proposal or get me a quote; both are bad if it happens earlier in the sales process than it should
  • We still have to meet with others
  • I've been tasked to gather information
  • We don't have a budget for this
  • We'll have to find the money
  • We're going with the best price
  • I need to bring this to [the decision maker] for approval
  • This is a future project
  • We're happy with who we're using
  • You don't need to know that
  • I need to get consensus
  • We don't have any real urgency on this
  • Our contract/agreement doesn't expire until [date]

There are things you don't hear but wisdom (experience plus lessons learned) communicates them through your inner voice:

  • They don't seem to have a compelling reason to do anything
  • They are withholding information 
  • You think they're lying about something
  • It seems that this is only "nice to have" but you haven't gotten them to "must have"
  • The decision maker is not engaged
  • They are hesitant about spending the necessary money
  • You don't seem to have their ear because they aren't talking in terms working together
  • They have transitioned to a pricing conversation which suggests you haven't cemented your value
  • They see you a vendor or supplier; not a partner or trusted advisor
  • They have an existing relationship that they don't seem willing to blow up
  • They are not allowing you to follow your sales process
  • They are not allowing you to ask questions and you find yourself in show and tell mode

Then, there are the things you observe:

  • They aren't making eye contact
  • They are distracted
  • They are giving you short answers and not explaining themselves
  • They are in a hurry
  • They're looking at their watch
  • Their RFI/RFQ/RFP reads like it was written by a competitor

Some of the examples listed above are chronic - they occur most of the time to most of the salespeople.  Half of them may not know any better - shame on the training and coaching they are or should be getting!  But the other half have weaknesses in their Sales DNA which cause these things to keep happening to them.  A Sales Force Evaluation can smoke out gaps in their sales competencies and Sales DNA.  OMG measures all 21 Sales Core Competencies plus an additional 11, each with an average of 8 attributes.  That's close to 250 sales specific findings for each salesperson! 

Finally, your sales process which is integrated into your CRM application provides warnings, yellow flags, alerts, incomplete milestones, incomplete stages, time in stage too long, stuck opportunities...You do get those, don't you?  Check out the Baseline Selling instance of Membrain.

Pivoting back to my car which takes matters into its own hands.  The partial listing above is set to "alert-only" without evasive or protective measures.  How can we get salespeople to perform evasive and protective measures?  Evaluate/Train/Coach/Reevaluate.  

The evaluation tells us what they're allowing to happen and why.  Training provides them with the strategy and tactics to use evasive action and protect the opportunity.  Coaching helps them master the strategies and tactics.

Improving sales effectiveness does not happen in isolation, automatically over time, or by magic.  Improved sales effectiveness and the resulting increase in revenue requires proactive, purposeful intervention as described above. 

By the fourth quarter of 2021, we will encounter some of the most difficult selling conditions since November of 2008 when, without warning, the revenue spigot was turned completely off.  It remained partially closed through 2016 but from 2017 until the pandemic hit we were in full open fire hydrant mode.  Business was booming and for most companies, quickly returned to booming by the fourth quarter of 2020.

Now we are faced with some huge impending corporate income tax and payroll tax increases and they will be larger than what has been stated on the news.  Those large tax increases do one thing - they cause layoffs.  After the layoffs, consumer spending and confidence drop.  Then we see buying freezes and their related ripple effect where the companies that sell to those big companies experience cash reserve issues, initiate  buying freezes of their own, which work their way down to businesses of all sizes.  

This time around you've been warned.  You have no more than eight months to prepare your sales team for some of the toughest selling ever and most salespeople have never experienced selling as difficult as what we will see in 2022.  On top of that, you'll have more, not fewer competitors because when everyone is selling virtually, every competitor is just as close or just as far away as the next.  And if you're not in the USA, don't think you won't be affected.  What happens here affects you wherever you are.

Now is the time to install early warning systems, sales force evaluations, targeted training and coaching, and more.  Prepare your sales teams now or pay the price in 2022!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, sales objections, sales assessements, sales effectiveness, sales team, tax increase

2020's Ten Must Read Sales and Sales Leadership Articles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 @ 11:11 AM

TopTen

The year was 2020 and it was an unpredictable year.  There were surprises galore. For example, instead of only bank robbers and anarchists from ANTIFA wearing masks, we were all told to always wear masks.  Instead of forcing myself to be social among extroverts, I was given permission to be socially distant, a not so awful turn of events for an acute introvert like myself.  The stock market lost and gained more than 10,000 points in the same year.  Most companies pushed hard for the last six months attempting to generate enough revenue to offset their lackluster second quarter sales.  All because of the pandemic.  But there was one thing that didn't change.  I still managed to churn out around fifty articles and after 15 years of blogging and almost 1,900 articles to date, I feel like most of the articles from this year were among my best ever.  As has been the custom each December, today we name the top ten articles of 2020 and I hope you'll read every one of them.

The articles from 2020 fell mostly into three categories with some overlap to an obvious fourth category; the pandemic:

Category 1: Research, Data Mining and Assessments (19 articles including 6 that were pandemic-related)
Category 2: Sales and Selling (9 articles including 1 that was pandemic-related)
Category 3: Sales Leadership (17 articles including 8 that were pandemic-related)

There are many ways to vote the top ten articles including:

  • views
  • comments
  • likes
  • engagement
  • personal favorites
  • award nominations/wins
  • appearances on top-10 lists

It's difficult to assign weightings to the list because more views doesn't necessarily mean that people liked or engaged with it, engagement doesn't mean people liked it, lack of comments doesn't mean people didn't like it, awards and top-10 lists are dependent on the people making such designations actually seeing and considering an article, and my favorites won't necessarily be your favorites.  As this is partly scientific and partly subjective I introduce:

The Top 10 Articles of 2020

Best article on How to Conduct an Opportunity Review - This was a fun article to write because I was able to use the political divisiveness as a metaphor to demonstrate the correct and incorrect ways to conduct opportunity reviews.

Best Take-Down of a competitive assessment - Most competitive assessments don't stand a chance against OMG and I simply obliterated Extended Disc in this take-down!  This article was even more fun because you can't make this stuff up! 

Best article on the difficulty explaining the differences between salespeople - Most people can't explain or justify how one salesperson is better than another and are left to rely on revenue as the differentiator.  But revenue is actually the single worst way to compare or differentiate salespeople and sales capabilities.  This article explains why revenue comparisons don't work and presents a better way to make these comparisons.

Best article showing how sales effectiveness changed before, during and after the first recovery from the pandemic - Sales capabilities are sales capabilities, right?  Not when it comes to a Pandemic.  Some scores actually changed throughout the pandemic and into the summer recovery.  This article shows what changed, what stayed the same and why.

Best article on how to be your best selling virtually over video - 6 upgrades that you must make to your virtual/video sales efforts to improve prospects' impressions of you.

Best use of an analogy to explain sales team effectiveness - Regular readers know I love to use analogies and I can turn almost anything into a sales analogy. This was not only one of my best analogies, LinkedIn readers piled on with more examples from this analogy.

Best article on explaining how metrics are used and their importance to sales  - In yet another analogy article, I used pandemic metrics - many that aren't reported - to drive home the importance of having and identifying the correct sales metrics.

Best article showing correlation between a finding and sales success - There are dozens of OMG findings that correlate to Sales Percentile and ultimately, sales success, but the correlation to this finding hadn't been noticed prior to the publication of this article.

Best article on why sales managers are so bad at sales coaching - The data doesn't lie and this article is packed with data about what sales managers do and don't do, as well as how poorly they do it when it comes to coaching.

Best article on what you can do to have a great fourth quarter - While it's too late to impact the fourth quarter of 2020, this article has fifteen specific things you can do which, given the date on the calendar, will impact your first quarter of 2021.

Honorable Mention - these are some of my personal favorites

Most Controversial Article - Trump.

Best use of politics in an article - The first day of the Senate Confirmation Hearing on Amy Coney Barrett was chocked full of examples of how not to convince people to do what you want them to do.

Best article dealing with the Pandemic - How to lead your team in times of crisis.

Best article using historical figures - I wasn't much of a history buff but I did find a way to include FDR and Sir Isaac Newton in this article about fear.

Which article did you like the most?  Which article was most helpfuil?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, top sales articles, top sales blog, sales hiring assessment, sales effectiveness, Donald Trump, pandemic

The Correlation Between Milestones, Sales Process and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

process

The shit show known as 2020.  Many of us have heard that term used to describe this uniquely strange year.  Despite everything unusual about 2020, there have been some normalcies too.  We celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's and Father's Days, and we will all celebrate the upcoming holidays.  The gatherings might be smaller and more localized, but the holiday won't pass by without us.  These are all Milestones.

Objective Management Group (OMG) celebrated some milestones this year too.  In January we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, in August we processed our 2 millionth sales assessment and in September we updated the industry standard 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Milestones are important.  How are they important to sales success?

Milestones are also the most important components of a strong, reliable, predictive sales process. 

Without specific milestones that must be reached in each stage of the sales process, there is no sales process!

Back in the early 90's, in the very early days of OMG, only 9% of all salespeople had and/or followed a sales process.  While that has improved dramatically in the last 30 years, to 45%, it is still way too low.  Check out these findings.

Sales Process is only one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies yet it correlates perfectly with sales percentile.  As you can see, the best salespeople are 94% more likely to have and follow a sales process while 83% of weak salespeople, the bottom half of all salespeople, are out there winging it!  And when it comes to all salespeople, 55% are winging it.  Hmmm.  That's pretty close to the 57% who don't hit quota, isn't it?

Consider that salespeople who are just winging it usually have milestones.  For example, most lousy salespeople have conceptual milestones for things like:

  • Getting on an approved vendor list
  • Quoting
  • Submitting a Proposal
  • Scheduling a Demo
  • Getting a Prospect to Agree to a Trial

There is nothing wrong with these milestones unless they are the only milestones in a company's or salesperson's sales process. Unfortunately, that's what we usually see, with salespeople looking to achieve late stage milestones without meeting the ten to fifteen crucial milestones that must be achieved PRIOR to the five listed above. A best-practices sales process has at least four stages (think in terms of stages like suspect, prospect, qualified, closable) with each stage having between three and eight measurable milestones.  

Skipping a single milestone can have devastating consequences.  Imagine what can happen when salespeople skip ten to fifteen milestones! 

Very often, companies lacking the appropriate milestones in its sales process have win rates below 15%.  Companies that get their sales processes customized and optimized with predictive scorecards get their win rates up to near 80%!  If yours isn't that high, there's a good chance that sales process is at the top of the list of root causes. 

To get a better sense for what a sales process should look like, and how popular sales processes compare, check out this 11--minute video that I recorded four years ago.

Milestones are important.  One of your milestones should be to make your sales process as structured and predictive as your accounting, operations, manufacturing, programming, legal, shipping or engineering processes.  It is irresponsible for your sales process to not be as solid and well-thought out as each of your other processes. Sales success drives revenue and profit. Why would you allow the single process that drives revenue and profit to suffer from lack of professional attention. 

Sales is not some fluffy art-form that can be molded to the whims of each salesperson!  Sales is more like a software application where the science lies under the hood in its code and the art or personality is infused into the look, feel and easy-to-navigate user interface.  Sales science lies in the sales process and methodology and the art or personality is infused by the salesperson to have a friendly, easy and enticing conversation with the prospect.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales effectiveness, sales success, sales milestones, sales software

The Keys to Fourth Quarter Sales Success in 2020

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

You're probably going to hate this article!  I'm going to show you that much of what is transpiring with the Pandemic could be having a greater impact than you realize relative to the future state of your business and you might not like what I have to say.  As always, if you can hang in through some of the preliminary analysis, I'll make the pivot to sales and business.

Each day, the Boston Globe sends an update with metrics that the state of Massachusetts is monitoring with regard to the Pandemic.  The update for October 19, 2020, is shown below:

Notice that the death toll rose by 15. 

Also notice that under "Related" the link to the article warning about gloom and doom over the next 6-12 weeks.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer tweeted this out today:

Back in May, when Massachusetts began reopening, there were between 10-20 deaths per day, and 100-200 new cases per day.  Over the past 5 months, the number of new cases has risen by more than 100 each month to the 827 new cases reported today.  However, during this entire 5 month period, the daily death toll has not exceeded 10-20, the same as it was back in May.  See the two graphs in the next paragraph on media reporting.

Media Reporting - Unfortunately, most media outlets insist on reporting only the number of new cases, but don't tell you that hospitalizations are down  *dramatically*  and deaths have remained steady after dropping to their current low levels.  Check out the CDC's own graph on hospitalization rates between week 10 (early March) and week 40 (early October):

You are reading this graph correctly.  Even among those over 65, hospitalizations are down to just over 5% of those infected with Covid. 

This is the latest graph of US deaths from Covid.

That's right.  Cases way up.  Deaths way down.  You should also check out this data on death counts - click on the graph to see the entire graph.

You read this table correctly too.  The actual number of deaths did not significantly exceed the expected (normal) number of deaths.  Does this mean that the largely elderly population with comorbidity, who died, might have died anyway?  This video shows that the CDC's own data shows that more than 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were not COVID deaths!

If deaths and hospitalization rates are so low, despite cases continuing to increase, why isn't the media sharing this great news? 

After all, we all want good news, we all want to be more optimistic, and we all want the economy to thrive.  What's going on? 

There can be only one answer.  The media wants to continue making President Trump the villain so that he does not win reelection.  If you don't agree with that explanation then please explain why the media never shared any of these graphs and tables with you.  Do you have a better explanation?

Impact on Business - The same media that is misleading you about the Pandemic is also telling us that we are in the midst of the worst economic recession in history, with more jobs lost than ever before, and it will become much worse.  Of course, that's not the case.  Unemployment is down to just 7.9% and that's with most of the travel, tourism and restaurant industries still shutdown or operating at very reduced capacity! 

I participated in a government survey on the impact the Pandemic had on my small business and last week they sent a link to view the results. You can see the results for yourself here but I can save you a tremendous amount of time.  I played around with the variables on the site, recorded my results and one thing became crystal clear.  When I didn't include states like California and Michigan, whose Governors are still trying to keep small businesses shuttered, and I didn't include the two NAIC codes from the industries that were devastated, the rest of us have fared pretty well through the past 7 months!  We're doing OK!  It's important for us to know this fact in order to drive home a fantastic 4th quarter to salvage 2020.

Metrics - The pandemic has called attention to the fact that on a daily basis we are surrounded by key metrics for COVID-19. I can't believe how many companies have still not identified the key metrics that will drive their sales results.  There are either no metrics, the metrics are irrelevant or the metrics are backwards looking.  It's 2020.  Forward looking metrics rule the day.  Get with the program!

Tools - I read this article about the best Chrome Extensions for sellers.  I don't want to criticize the article because it's an accurate list of great applications that you can start from within Chrome.  However, the last thing your salespeople need right now is more tools.  It's noise. A distraction.  Technology for the sake of technology.  There are basic tools that every salesperson should be equipped with and everything else is completely unnecessary.

We're trying to grow the economy all the way back and most of the information being pushed at us isn't helping. We've come a long way since March and we can make even more progress in the fourth quarter if we keep our eye on the ball and don't allow the fear-mongering, agenda-driven media to have their way, negatively influence the masses, and cause another slowdown or worse, shutdown.  Here's what the same Boston Globe sent out today, October 20, 2020.

In summary, Simplify.  Focus.  Metrics. Optimism. Hire Salespeople. Sell. Train. Drive. Fight. Engage.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales effectiveness, sales tools, revenue growth, covid-19, pandemic

The Crucial Step Missing from Most Sales Training Programs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 21, 2020 @ 06:09 AM

Most companies don't understand that crappy customer service is really a sales issue.  When a company's customer service is thoughtful, helpful, kind and thorough, that great customer service actually serves the sales organization.  It becomes easier for salespeople to renew accounts, cross-sell, up-sell and succeed.  When a company's customer service sucks, it has the opposite effect, creating objections, resistance, disdain and animosity.

As an example, I had such an experience with Safelite, whose website claims that they are the #1 auto glass specialist in the country.

I had a ding in my windshield and scheduled Safelite to come to my office to repair the windshield.  Easy!  In the middle of the repair, the technician called to let me know that the windshield had cracked to the bottom and that this happens sometimes with repair attempts.  Frustrating but Okay, so I needed to know, if my repair payment would be applied to a new windshield and how soon I can have that completed.  The technician was vague but he said not to worry - it would be taken care of.  I should have known from his vague response that he knew transitioning from a failed repair to a windshield replacement was not one of Safelite's strengths!

Over the next 24 hours, I didn't hear from Safelite so I reached out to customer service.  I left a voicemail, sent an email, and sent a text.  Nothing!  Frustrated, I looked at the other options for windshield replacement but there weren't any - Safelite had bought up all of the competitors!  I had no choice but to schedule the windshield replacement through Safelite so I did. 

By now the crack created by Safelite (that's one way of up-selling from a repair to a replacement) was quickly expanding in three directions. Time was of the essence but the first available slot was two weeks away but beggars can't be choosers so I booked it.  A week later, customer service finally responded to my email but their response had little to do with what I asked them.  I began receiving reminder emails and texts telling me to be on time at two weeks ahead, 1 week ahead, 2 days ahead, 1 day ahead, 12 hours ahead and 30 minutes ahead.  I pulled into their shop at the scheduled time, having blocked out the morning to get the repair completed.

I was greeted by a man who looked at the car (Lincoln Navigator) and then asked, "Are you the Lincoln Navigator?" 

Wow, that was an intelligent question but I digress.  "Yes."  

"We have a problem."

"What's that?"

"We don't have the windshield for your car."

I said, "You've been texting me non-stop to make sure I was here at 8am.  If you didn't have the glass, couldn't you have let me know last night?"

He replied defensively, "First, I haven't been texting you - that's done from Ohio.  I have nothing to do with that.  Second, the glass is delivered overnight so we wouldn't have known last night and yours wasn't delivered. I'm trying to find it now"

Did you notice how well he diffused the situation and lowered my resistance?  Not.  He basically said, "Hey, it's not my fault!"  How about, "I am so sorry."  Or,  "Wow, we really screwed up."  Or,  "You must be really upset."  Or, "I feel terrible - this was totally unfair to you."

I'll save you from the rest of his ugly conversation with me and fast forward to the call I received later that day.  Brooke was calling to reschedule and she offered me a date two weeks out.  I reminded her that I had scheduled this two weeks earlier - with her - and I didn't understand why they would need another two weeks to get my windshield, especially in light of what had happened earlier that day.  She said, "You probably didn't schedule it with me."

I said, "Yes, it was you, Brooke."

She said, "Well, that doesn't matter."

I was thinking that this arrogant, defensive, ass-covering attitude was part of the culture at Safelite.  I said, "I'm not going to schedule a date two weeks out and have this happen again.  Call me when you have the glass in your possession and then I'll schedule it."

I don't think Safelite has a sales organization or has to worry about up-selling or renewals.  They are the only game in town over much of the country.  Can you imagine what would happen if they actually had competition or had a sales organization worrying about how much business they would lose to those competitors with customer service as bad as theirs?  No wonder they gobbled up their competitors! 

There is a lesson here for those of us in the sales development space.  When we train, coach and develop salespeople, we must demand that customer service get the training and coaching required so as to not sabotage the great work we do with sales organizations.

[UPDATE 9-24 Guy S. from Safelite reached out to me today and made everything right, had my windshield in his possession, scheduled the replacement, apologized for the way this was handled and for how I was treated.  Thanks Guy!]

[UPDATE 9-27 Guy S. From Safelite called again and said the windshield was inspected and he offered to pick up my car, drive it to their shop, and return it to me when finished.  Thanks Guy!]

[UPDATE 9-29 All's well that ends well.  Guy S picked up my car at 8am, drove it to the Safelite shop, oversaw the windshield replacement and calibration, and returned the car to me a short time later.  This ended the fiasco that began a month earlier on a good note.  Guy, you're the best.  This is Guy with my car and new windshield.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, customer service, sales effectiveness, safelite

Why it is so Difficult to Compare Sales Effectiveness from One Salesperson to Another

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 @ 20:07 PM

Tvariables

Today we'll discuss how to measure sales effectiveness of different salespeople despite there being so many variables to confuse the matter.  You can scroll directly to that topic or, if you don't mind, please read my 3 paragraphs of context.

In 1990, I founded Objective Management Group (OMG), and now, thirty years later, we are on the verge of evaluating our two millionth salesperson.  When my leadership team planned for 2020, we predicted that we would reach the two million mark sometime in June. But then the pandemic hit, companies weren't assessing many sales candidates for most of March, April and May, so our celebration will likely be delayed until early August.

Whether we measure our success in units, currency, rows of data, experiences, visibility, or reams of paper used (pre pandemic), achieving two million sales assessments is quite an accomplishment.  On the other hand, if we compare it to where we had hoped to be at this point, (the BHAG we set in 2007 was 14 million) it was a failure of epic proportions.

But there is a more important part to this story than the number of salespeople assessed or whether that number is an achievement or a failure. How can we measure sales success on sales teams, across companies and, most importantly, in sales candidates?

To answer those questions, it's helpful to  know that we built the finest, sales-specific assessment on planet earth.  Our sales force evaluations are amazing and our sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments are incredibly accurate and predictive.  I'm extremely proud of what we built and how we continue to improve it every single day.  That's more important to me than whether or not we hit our BHAG. And that brings us to the question of how to measure sales effectiveness.  It's like the 2 million versus 14 million comparison only different.  

Let's review a few examples:

Compensation varies wildly by industry.  A top industrial salesperson earns close to $100,000 but a mediocre technology salesperson earns $135,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A mediocre regional territory salesperson might inherit a territory generating $15 million per year and watch it contract to $14 million per year while a salesperson building a new local territory might generate $750,000 his first year.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A salesperson makes one huge sale for $1 million while in the same company, one of her colleagues closes 14 sales totaling $650,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable? 

An account manager manages 87 accounts that generate $4 million while in the same company, a sales development rep makes 56 dials a day, books 5 new appointments per week, builds a pipeline worth $2 million and closes 2 new accounts per month.   Who is better?  Who is more valuable?  

We see these contradictions all the time when we evaluate sales forces.  The company judges performance and effectiveness by the amount of revenue next to the salesperson's name but that's only a measure of who is responsible for the most revenue.  It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a measure of who is the better salesperson, who is contributing most to growing the company, or who is having the most impact.

Let's review some differences that become important when you are recruiting salespeople.  Suppose that all of your candidates claimed to have been the #1 salesperson in their prior companies.  Being #1 has different meanings depending on whether they sold:

  • Snacks - to convenience store managers, grocery chain buyers or Walmart
  • Nuts and bolts - to manufacturing engineers, auto repair shops technicians, or Granger
  • Janitorial supplies -  to small retailer owners, property managers, or Microsoft's facilities VP
  • Windows - to homeowners, builders, lumber dealers or Home Depot
  • Furniture - to consumers, furniture store owners or the Marriott
  • Generators - to power an RV, an entire house, a grocery store or Mass General Hospital
  • Engines - to lawn mower manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers or GMC
  • Software - to a doctor's office, a clinic, a hospital or the Federal Government
  • Audit services - to the owner of a small professional firm, the president of a medium size company or the CFO of Apple

I could go on and on with examples like these where even the same product becomes a very different sale depending on who it's being sold to.  

Fortunately, OMG has a Sales Percentile score which is based on the combined weighted scores of 21 Sales Core Competencies before being compared to those two million other salespeople.  It's the single factor that neutralizes the differences between industries, competition, territories, pricing, complex and simple sales cycles, difficult (cold-calling) and easy (account management) roles, and targeted decision makers.  Sales Percentile allows you  to compare and/or rank sales capabilities!

This is useful when you're trying to rank sales candidates who come from varying backgrounds because let's face it - you're just guessing!  Sales Percentile is your answer.  In the sample sales candidate assessment below, this salesperson's sales percentile score of 100 means that this salesperson is better than 100% of the salespeople in the world!  And even with a 100, he still has a weakness!

dashboard

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales cycle, sales effectiveness, #1 salesperson, sales percentile

The Real Reason Why So Many Salespeople are So Bad at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 08, 2020 @ 12:06 PM

construction

Would you like to start a business?  Can't figure out what business to start?  I have three ideas for you:

In the past four weeks, I have tried and tried and tried to get a glass company to replace the tabletop for a large outdoor patio table after the glass exploded in an early April storm.  Four weeks later, we still don't have the glass replaced.

One of our garage door openers needs to be replaced because in every five out of six attempts to lower the door, the opener sends it back up again.  After calling six dealers in four weeks, I have not received a single return call. 

We have a double swinging gate at the bottom of our driveway and the electronics are twenty years old and need to be updated.  After four weeks of calling dealers I have not received a single return call.

In case you're thinking that it must be me, I have had success getting plumbers, stone masons, electricians, carpenters, power washers, and painters to the house but those other three categories are the outliers.  Start one of those three businesses today and you'll make a fortune!

In today's article, I will explain why this problem exists and how it relates to a bigger problem in sales.

The people who don't return calls are usually technical in nature.  The garage door openers, gate electronics, and glass people are all entrepreneurs running small businesses and their expertise is not sales or customer service, it's their technical subject matter expertise.  

By and large, "salespeople" like these make up a large portion of the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  They are passionate about what they do, know their product, can answer technical questions, are experts in their industry but don't have a clue about what it means to sell.  They believe that answering questions, explaining their products and producing a quote or proposal constitutes selling.  They have little concept of sales process, sales posturing, messaging, positioning, listening and asking questions, qualifying, or closing, and even less on how to do any of that effectively.  They don't know what they don't know.

A good example of this can be seen at Objective Management Group's (OMG) Statistics site.  Navigate to the site, click the "tell us what industry you are in" button, and expand Construction (23).  Select 238 or Specialty Contractors and then scroll through the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You'll notice that the industry specific scores are consistently lower than the average scores for all salespeople.  Interestingly, the biggest gap is in the Hunting Competency where you will see that contractor salespeople score 18 points lower than the average for all salespeople.  The reality is that they do little hunting, getting their new business from existing customers and RFQ's.

The good news is that after senior management makes it clear that those in a selling role will be expected to proactively sell, rather than explaining and quoting alone, things do improve.  While some in the role are not well-suited for selling, with exposure to sales process, strategy, tactics and methodology, most will improve, become more comfortable, and more effective.  After an evaluation, introduction to the company's new formal sales process, and appropriate sales training, most of these people become more comfortable, more aware, and as a result, more effective.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales effectiveness

Subscribe via Email

View All 1,850 Articles

About Dave

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

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile

Subscribe 

Receive new articles via email
Subscribe
 to the Blog on your Kindle 

 

 

Most Recent Articles

Awards  

Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs 2021

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

2020-07-20_14-45-52


 

2020-Bronze-BlogIndi

MVP2018_badge_winner_SPC

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers

Top100SalesInfluencersOnTwitter

Hubspot Top 25 Blogs

 

2020_Top20_Web_Large_assessment_eval

2020-Gold-AssessTool

 

Free Tools

Sales Process Grader

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Sales Ghost Calculator

Sales Force Grader

Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator

FREE Recruiting Process Grader