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

Can Your Salespeople Sell More Effectively by Asking More Questions?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 @ 10:10 AM

QuestionsBy now most executives understand the role and importance of questions in the sales process.

More questions?  Okay.

Better questions?  Sure.

Tougher questions?  Makes sense.

Questions that result in the kind of conversations that none of your competitors are having with your prospects?  Sounds great.

But can your salespeople do this?  Yes, they can ask more questions but, without considerable training and coaching, over a period of months, those questions won't be better or tougher and won't result in those incredible conversations that your competitors aren't having with your prospects.

Selling by asking questions is hard.  A list of questions isn't the answer.  Left to their own devices, your salespeople won't be able to create the kind of questions that are needed.  You might not be able to either.

As an example, I asked a group of salespeople to create a list of 12 questions that would uncover compelling reasons - tougher questions than they usually ask.  As usual, I received questions to the ones they have always asked - commodity driven, lame, no different from their competitors.

Here is an example of one question and how it should be asked instead:

EXAMPLE: What kind of initiatives are you currently considering?

This is a good example of what salespeople from most industries do - they troll for opportunities which, when identified, are littered with competitors!  Commercial Realtors and Insurance Agents are great examples of salespeople who consistently do this wrong, shot gunning for lease and policy expirations as the events that would allow them to book appointments - along with every one of their competitors!  Those "opportunities" are ripe for price concessions and become bidding contests!  Unless your salespeople are REALLY effective at asking tough questions to move to an earlier stage of the sales process and differentiate your company, you'll find yourself presenting, proposing, chasing and giving away margin - if you win. 

Instead, you want your salespeople identifying problems that don't yet have initiatives, expiration dates or time lines attached to them.  The problems, when exposed, diagnosed, explored, expanded and quantified, create urgency to solve those problems and your salespeople are now in an enviable position, as trusted advisers, to solve them.  So what should your salespeople ask instead of the "what kind of initiatives" question?

How about, "in the area of _____(what you solve, not what you sell)_________, what is your single biggest frustration?"

Regardless of what you've been told, this is the foundation of Consultative Selling.  An analysis of a random group of 2,000 salespeople from dozens of various industries, assessed by Objective Management Group this week, shows the following:

The average percentage of the Attributes present in the Consultative Skill Set (Consultative Selling) is only 33%.  In one company, the top scoring salesperson had only 52% of the attributes.

So what can you make of all this?  Asking questions is the most important of all the sales SKILLS and this skill is the most difficult of all to understand, learn, internalize, apply and master.  Don't fool yourself into thinking that understanding and learning translate into application and mastery.  Only practice, use, coaching and accountability will cause that to happen!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, asking questions, sales evaluation, SPIN, sales assessments

Top 20 Requirements - How Salespeople Can be Better at Closing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 @ 07:06 AM

HandshakeIf you were to ask most executives for one thing that they would like their sales force to do better, you would likely get one of two answers:

  1. Close
  2. Prospect 

Nothing wrong with those two choices - or is there? 

While salespeople can get better at closing, closing is an outcome, and with the exception of real estate and banking, not really an event. When we evaluate sales forces and look at their ability to close, they may possess some of the strengths and skills that are part of the Sales Core Competency called Closing, but  most of those attributes are used prior to, not during, closing time. The ability to close depends on the following 20 variables (in no particular order) that a salesperson brings to the table - or not:

  • use of an optimized, formal, sales process
  • their severity of Need for Approval
  • whether their Buy Cycle (the way they buy things) supports or sabotages sales efforts
  • their Consultative Selling skill set
  • ability to identify the compelling reasons to buy
  • ability to quantify problems and build value
  • how thoroughly they qualify their prospect, competition and own company
  • whether they present early in the process or late in the process
  • ability to provide both a needs and cost appropriate solution
  • timing - whether they close when the opportunity is actually closable
  • ability to eliminate potential stalls, put-offs, objections and excuses prior to closing time
  • how much Fear of Rejection they have
  • ability to remain optimistic in the face of obstacles and pessimistic when things are going too smoothly
  • ability to develop a relationship early in the process 
  • ability to be realistic
  • ability to solve problems
  • exceptional questioning and listening skills
  • ability not to assume anything without validating their assumptions
  • ability to differentiate your company from all others through questioning
  • how trusting they are

When a sales manager asks for a seminar on closing, good sales experts push back and question the logic behind that, all the while knowing that a session on closing is a waste of time if the salespeople aren't doing these 20 other things effectively.  And of course, it's important to know whether they can and will do those 20 other things effectively. Inexperienced and somewhat less successful and/or effective colleagues might simply agree to provide the seminar without understanding or caring that it won't change a thing.

Is prospecting, or as executives see it, scheduling more appointments, any different? Is that a skill?   We'll explore prospecting next time.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, closing, sales evaluation

Sales Assessment Comparison - Objective Management Group versus Devine

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 14, 2009 @ 13:09 PM

It's not often that we get to compare the assessment results of an individual that took our assessment and another.  Why?  Because most companies don't use multiple assessments that report on similar findings.  Notice that I said "report on" and not "look at".  While other assessments report on findings similar to ours, they don't look at or measure the same information to draw their conclusions.  That's why the reports I received today make for such an enjoyable comparison.

The candidate was assessed by Objective Management Group AND Devine, a company that produces behavioral styles assessments that are marketed and sold as sales assessments.  Because their questions are not asked in a sales context, they get findings that, while likely accurate in social situations, are usually out of context, and  less accurate for sales.  That is why, as is often the case, the results between ours and behavioral styles assessments are contradictory.

Below, you'll see how this candidate scored on ten of the key findings for each assessment:

Variation
OMG Finding
Devine Finding
Conflicting Finding
Strong Desire
Questionable - Ambition & Drive
Conflicting Finding
Strong Responsibility
Questionable - Accepts Responsibility
Conflicting Finding
Strong Outlook
Questionable Outlook
Conflicting Finding
Is Trainable
Questionable - Challenge/Growth/Change
Similar Finding
Gets Emotionally Involved
Questionable Emotionally Objective
Conflicting Finding
74% Hunter Skills
Poor Sales Prospecting
Conflicting Finding
Decision Maker
Poor - Resists Think it Overs
Similar Finding
Some Need for ApprovalPoor - Lacks Need for Approval
Similar Finding
75% Ambassador Skills
Excellent Relationship Effectiveness
Conflicting Finding
Ineffective Selling System
Excellent Process Orientation

 

Seven out of ten findings shown here are in conflict.  Knowing that our accuracy is legendary (95% predictive validity), which assessment would you rather base your decision on?

There are two more findings that you should know about:

OMG also measures commitment - the candidate's commitment was weak and the finding was Lacks Commitment.  Behavioral styles assessments can't measure commitment to sales success.

OMG's recommendation was "not hirable".  Devine's recommendation was "Good Overall Job Fit".  Now which assessment would you rather base your decision on?

If you want to read more about the difference between assessments that were built for sales versus those that were adapted - and not too effectively - for sales, here are three on the subject:

This was the first in the series.

Then came this follow up with more detail.

Then came this article after certain PHD's had their world rocked.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, Devine, personality test

How to Get the Entire Sales Force to Change - Now

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 @ 13:07 PM

Let's discuss how difficult it is to change.

Let's start with a result of change:

In one week I:

  • lost 8 lbs.
  • stopped taking all of my toxic prescription medications and over the counter remedies
  • got my energy back
  • lost 3 inches around my waist
  • fit into my clothes again
  • discovered great flavor in foods that I previously didn't like
  • don't feel bloated anymore after eating

To make this even more dramatic, I was the person who, although usually quite open to ideas and criticism, was totally resistant when it came to food.  Quite simply, I loved my food, I wouldn't give up my favorites, and I couldn't imagine going without bread or ice cream.

Why and how this happened are not as important as what happened.

Most people don't change because they are:

  • afraid of it,
  • uncomfortable with it,
  • don't want to give things up, or
  • don't want to take things on.
For me it was the latter two.

But one day, inspired by my wonderful wife, in one dramatic moment, I made a decision.  And it was a decision that I intended to commit to, without exception.  You see it's the exceptions that can get you in trouble...."just this once"..."I deserved it"..."I've already blown today, this week, this month, etc."...

Anyway, the final goal may take some time to accomplish but the change takes place immediately.  And the initial results of that change provide the ongoing motivation to continue.  The food I was worried about missing?  After three days I didn't care anymore.

Now lets discuss your company and the sales organization.  What have you been afraid to change?

  • Evaluating your Sales Force?
  • implementing an Effective Recruiting Process?
  • Installing Sales Force Automation?
  • Making Your Sales Systems and Processes more effective? 
  • Developing Your Salespeople?
  • Holding Salespeople Accountable?
  • Daily Coaching?
  • Getting Salespeople to Resist Presenting?
  • Getting Salespeople to ask better questions?
  • Being tougher?
  • Overcoming weaknesses like Need for Approval and Rejection
  • Bringing in an Outside Sales Development Expert?
  • Spending Money?
  • Replacing non-performers?
  • Terminating relationships?

There really isn't a hard part. There's simply a decision and once you've made it you're already working on the good stuff so you don't have much time to think about the decision, what you've given up, what you've taken on, your fear or your discomfort.  Nike had it right all along.  Just do it.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales motivation, resistance to change, sales evaluation, Sales Accountability

Sales Are Probably Down if You're Doing These Three Things...

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 @ 13:06 PM

"When your market isn't growing, it is not business as usual and holding your breath and hoping is not the right strategy."  This according to Casey Coffman, my guest on the most recent episode of Meet the Sales Experts.  He went on to say that if you sell the same thing, to the same people, the same way that you did 16 months ago, he would be shocked if your sales aren't down.

Casey talked about the importance of confidence, courage and conviction, especially in this economy and he shed some light on CEO's who are still stuck in hunker down mode - paralyzed - not doing anything to reverse flat or declining revenues. He said, "Employees leave when they don't see a way they are going to win.  If we do this we will win, versus, simply staying busy."

Coffman suggested that companies use this period to trim fat, hire, and retool a best in class sales force so that they can take advantage of being able to make changes that in good times they wouldn't be able to make, where in these times you must.  He suggested new approaches, new systems, new strategies, new tactics.  He suggested thinking six months out, and putting pressure on your process instead of your people.

Great advice from a great expert.  Listen to the show hereContact Casey here.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, sales evaluation, sales expert, casey coffman, sandler, sales trainer, sales assessments, sales development

Top 6 Reasons Why Most Sales Training Doesn't Work

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 @ 21:06 PM

If you invest in sales training, especially now, you also need it to work now, not in 12 months.  Why does it take so long for most sales training to make a difference and why does most sales training fail to make the difference you expect? There are a lot of possible reasons and I'll attempt to explain them here.

  • Sales trainers want to sell sales training so they skip or gloss over the more important issues like
This is why it's so important to work with a sales development expert - someone who takes an integrated, thoughtful approach to the sales force.
  • Sales training is too difficult to understand and apply and trainers make it even more difficult with their complicated processes, non-intuitive tactics and tricks. Instead, they should make it as simple as possible by making it memorable, intuitive, and easy to apply. 
  • They tend to demonstrate their strategies and tactics through role play, which is fine, but their role plays demonstrate more tactics than what they have already taught.  They should never include more in the role play than their audience has learned from them.  Here is an example.  You take a seven year old to the movies.  If it's an age appropriate movie, rated G or PG, all of the previews are age appropriate and the seven year-old gets it - all of it.  However, if you take the seven year-old to a PG-13 movie, then the previews are a bit overwhelming. The seven year-old can tell you whether it seems exciting, funny or scary, but the seven year-old doesn't understand the theme, content or mature dialog. They haven't been exposed to that stuff yet.  Same thing with your salespeople.  If the trainer has already exposed them to the basics, and includes only the basics in role play, the salespeople get it.  It's age appropriate.  But if the trainer includes material that the salespeople haven't been exposed to, they can only tell you whether they like it or it seems scary.  The role play is a bit overwhelming because they haven't been exposed to that stuff yet.
  • Some of the sales trainers just aren't that good. They fail to relate, engage, understand, entertain and change the salespeople they are training.
  • Much of the content isn't that good.  Some of it is just plain outdated while much of the other content around isn't complete, only focusing on certain parts of the sales cycle.
  • Some of them only know strategies and tactics but they don't understand the laws of cause and effect.  They can't get to the real reasons why salespeople fail to execute the strategies and tactics.

There are at least as many more reasons but this article is already longer than it should be.  We'll just call it part 1 and I'll circle back with part 2 at a later date.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales leadership, Sales Tactics, sales management training, sales evaluation, sales trainers, Selling System, sales strategy, selling skills, sales test

Sales Assessment Says He's Weak but He Made President's Club

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 @ 20:06 PM

Yesterday a well meaning Sales Manager, in defense of his salesperson, asked me how a salesperson who made "Club" could possibly assess so poorly.  It's a great question with a dozen or more possible explanations.  Here are some: 

  • One or two big hits - exceptions rather than sustained performance
  • Existing accounts grew
  • Accounts were inherited
  • Had help closing his accounts
  • Been in the industry for a long time and was well known and well respected
  • Owns the biggest accounts
  • Owns the richest territory
  • All renewal business
  • Large portion of call-in business
  • Opportunity knocks - in the right place at the right time
  • Had the opportunities in the pipeline forever and they finally closed
  • Had exceptional marketing support to generate interest and leads

Rather than asking how someone who has achieved success could assess so poorly, what if I asked this tried and true question:  If you take away all of his existing business, customers,  sales manager, leads, call-ins and pipeline, and told him he had six months to go out and find and close 50% of a year's quota, how would he do?

Tomorrow (June 12, 2009) on Meet the Sales Experts my guest will be Bill Murray. Visit Meet the Sales Experts at 12 Noon ET to hear Bill live. 

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales performance, sales evaluation, sales profile, President's Club, sales test

How Many Salespeople Shouldn't be in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 07, 2009 @ 21:05 PM

Our certified sales development expert in Singapore, Ray Bigger, of Think8, asked if we had data on what percentage of salespeople should be considered for a different role.  Of course we do, Ray! In this case, a different role doesn't mean a different sales role, it means that they suck so bad and have such a small upside, they shouldn't be in sales - period. And if we're going to talk about salespeople that should be either redeployed or relieved of duty, we should also know the stat for salespeople that aren't trainable.  In this case, not trainable has no relation to how good they are, it refers only to whether they have the incentive to change and improve as salespeople.  Look at the graph below:

 

In the graph, you can see that there are about twice as many salespeople that should be redeployed as there are strong salespeople and about twice as many untrainable salespeople as there are that should be redeployed.

The statistics show that:

22% are not trainable
10% should be redeployed
6% are elite

If you have a sales force, you already know if you have one of the 6%.  But do you know if you know which of your salespeople can become 6%ers?  And do you know which ones fall into the redeploy and can't train categories?  They may not be who you think they are.  You have to evaluate your sales force in order to find out.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, Salesforce, sales evaluation, sales personality test

What is Causing Your Salespeople to Fail in this Economy?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 @ 16:04 PM

Do you have a salesperson like Bob?

Bob was very anxious over what to write to a suspect that blew him off.  The prospect canceled an appointment and was vague about whether or not he would reschedule.  This stopped Bob in his tracks and he literally spent an entire day getting feedback on what his email should say.  Not only is Bob wasting time, it is time that could be spent finding and identifying additional opportunities, moving existing opportunities along and connecting with customers or clients and collecting referrals.  So what causes Bob to do this and could we have predicted this behavior?

In this scenario, Bob is emotionally involved - not with the suspect himself - in the drama of both the rejection and the upcoming response to his soon to be sent email.  However, the emotional involvement is not the problem, it's merely a symptom.  There are two problems:

  1. The first is his lack of recovery from the rejection of the canceled appointment.  Everyone gets rejected but how long it takes to recover is more important than the actual "fear" of rejection. 
  2. The second is Bob's Need for Approval. He is so worried about how his suspect will respond to the email, that he is putting tremendous, unnecessary effort into the actual letter. It's likely that if Bob recovered from the rejection more quickly, the need for approval may not have kicked in either. 

Let's pretend that Bob didn't have this trouble recovering from rejection.  Without it, he would have been in a position to deal with his suspect's cancellation on the phone, in real time, as it happened, and either rescheduled or ended this opportunity right then and there.  However, even without the rejection problem, his need for approval may have prevented him from confronting the suspect for fear that his suspect would be offended and go away.

So what do we have instead?  A suspect that has likely gone away anyhow, and Bob wasting an entire day on a letter that may very well be irrelevant.  Sound like an unlikely scenario? Both the actual scenario and the hypothetical scenario happen every day to tens of thousands of salespeople, maybe even yours!

Can these behaviors be predicted?

Yes! The Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved, Need for Approval and Difficulty Recovering from Rejection, specifically in sales situations, are standard findings in Objective Management Group's suite of sales assessments.  More important than the findings though, are your ability to manage salespeople with these issues.  How you get your salespeople to navigate their day, despite weaknesses like these, defines how effective you are as a manager.

Do you know which salespeople are likely to fall victim to the myriad of possible scenarios?

Do you know how to prepare them?

Do you know how to help them use their strengths to compensate?

Do you know which role plays to engage them in so that they say, ask, and do the right things when suspects and prospects trigger the weaknesses?

Do you know how to hold them accountable to applying and executing those role plays in real sales calls?

In the current economy, you must be able to consistently succeed in that style of coaching and accountability with each of your salespeople because with the resistance they encounter each day now, those weaknesses will cause certain failure rather than sometimes interfere with success.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales, Emotionally Involved, sales weaknesses, failure, sales evaluation, rejection, selling salespeople

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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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