10 Prospect Rules That Salespeople Must Learn to Break

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 24, 2022 @ 07:01 AM


This is not an article about COVID but I will begin by asking which COVID policy you believe is the most stupid.

My vote is for the mask requirement in restaurants because the premise is so moronic.  While you're alone with your group at the front door and until you reach your table you must wear your mask.  Then, when you're seated at your table, among all the other diners, you can remove your mask.  The most literal conclusion is that the virus isn't contagious while you are sitting and eating your food, only when standing and walking.  The same can be extended to the airlines where the virus won't spread if you are unmasked with your mouth open to eat or drink, but will most certainly spread if you are sitting with your mouth closed without a mask.  

Like I said, this is not a COVID article because if it was, I could write a book about the data, science, policies and hypocrisies.  However, there is a sales equivalent to the stupid restaurant masking requirement and that is what we will discuss in today's article.

Have you or your salespeople ever been told by a prospect that they can't:

  • Share who the decision maker is
  • Allow you to speak with the decision maker
  • Allow you to meet the decision maker
  • Share the actual budget
  • Divulge who you are competing with
  • Provide feedback about how you compare with the competition
  • Answer your questions because they don't know the answers
  • Explain the problem your product/service will solve because they were simply tasked to gather information
  • Meet because they only need a quote or proposal
  • Share the criteria for what constitutes a winning partner/proposal/quote etc.

There are two interesting takeaways from this list of 10 prospect rules.

  1. Most salespeople aren't even asking most of these questions or alternate questions.  I teach salespeople to ask alternate questions because let's face it - these questions suck like a vacuum cleaner.
  2. The salespeople who do manage to ask questions like these and don't get them answered wouldn't dare push back and/or try again to get the questions answered

There are two reasons for salespeople not being able to push back.

  1. They don't know how to push back because they haven't been trained and coached to push through these challenges.
  2. They need to be liked.  According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2,177,025 salespeople, 59% have Need for Approval or the need to be liked.  Salespeople who need to be liked are uncomfortable asking questions, more uncomfortable asking lots of questions, and find it impossible to ask good, tough timely questions.  There is no chance they would ever have the difficult conversation that would differentiate them from their competition.

It's a powerful weakness found in the area of Sales DNA.  It is so powerful that when salespeople finally overcome the weakness, using OMG's Sales DNA Modifier, that their sales increase by 35%! 

Not needing to be liked is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG.  You can see all 21 here and if you're up to it, sort by industry and even by company.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, omg, sales objections, sales tips, sales assessements, sales evaluations

The Sales Assessment that Dave Kurlan Developed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 08, 2010 @ 21:02 PM

I am often asked how I can write so many articles.  I have a few answers for that:

  • Compared to the demands of writing my two books, Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling, writing a couple of paragraphs every day is a piece of cake;
  • From my unique vantage point as a thought leader in two industries - the Sales Development Industry and the Assessment Industry, there is more article material than I will ever have time to write about;
  • I usually choose topics that are bothering me at that particular moment in time.

This is my 600th article since the inception of the Understanding the Sales Force Blog 4 years ago.  It seems that around every 66 articles or so I write an article to explain how inferior all of those other assessments are when it comes to the sales force.  The last time I made an attempt like this was four months and 115 articles ago.  So it basically comes down to a formula where I provide 65 articles with great content, and in return, you read about how our Sales Assessments blow the lid off of any other assessment you place along side them.

I have already written a series of articles on the subject of how assessments compare.

Let me begin with some questions.

If you sell high end business services and your salespeople earn in excess of $250,000 annually, would you want to use the same hiring and selection criteria that they use to hire salespeople that sell long-distance telephone services to anyone who will listen?

If you have a complex technical product with a long sales cycle, would you want to use the same hiring and selection criteria used to hire life insurance salespeople who call on married couples?

If you require your salespeople to call on C-Level executives, would you want to use the same hiring and selection criteria used to hire office supply salespeople who spend all day calling on administrators?

If you are hiring hunters, do you want to use the same hiring and selection criteria used to hire account managers?

And if you are hiring A players, do you want to use the same hiring and selection criteria used to hire office workers?

When I write this type of article, I don't usually get into everything that makes our assessment so much better.  Today I made an exception and got a bit more aggressive.

This is what is available when it comes to assessments:

Personality Assessments - they identify personality traits - these are never role specific and the questions are asked in a social context therefore the findings are not necessarily applicable to a sales environment.  As a result, personality assessments are not predictive and are ineffective as a sales selection, development or coaching tool.

Behavioral Styles Assessments - behavioral tendencies, much like traits above, but can also include cultural needs and wants to identify fit and management requirements. Questions are asked in a social context therefore the findings are not necessarily applicable to a sales environment.  As a result, these assessments are not predictive either and are ineffective as a sales selection, development or coaching tool.

Both of the above assessment types are marketed by their various companies as sales assessments but the only thing about them that is actually sales specific is the language used in their marketing material. See the next category.

Sales Assessments -  there are so many of these now that I can't keep up with them anymore but nearly everyone of them, despite the literature, web sites and white papers they produce, are based on an underlying personality or behavioral styles instrument. They are not accurate or predictive within the sales context no matter what their marketing claims.

Sales Aptitude Assessments - Think knowledge, not ability.  In other words, you know how a computer works but you can't build one.  You know what it takes to play winning, professional sports, but you aren't able to actually perform at that level.  The aptitude test measures what salespeople know about selling, not what they're actually capable of accomplishing.

Objective Management Group - We invented and pioneered the space.  Before OMG came along, nobody ever talked about evaluating a sales force.  Our accuracy is legendary yet we are never content with our world-class, industry leading sales force assessments.  Our sales force evaluations go so wide and deep that we can answer any question that you can imagine about the performance - past, present or future - of a sales force.  Our sales candidate assessments are so predictive that the statistics are nearly unbelievable.  Check this out:

When clients hire candidates that we don't recommend (silly clients), 75% of those salespeople fail inside of six months.

When clients hire candidates that we do recommend (smart clients), 92% of those salespeople rise to the top half of their sales force within the first 12 months.

How do we do it?  Our assessments are not based on somebody else's personality or behavioral styles instrument and they aren't modified to make them appear sales specific.  We built ours from the ground up - purposely for sales - and we continue to expand, evolve and refine it today - 20 years later.  It's a work in progress and that's one of the reasons that it's so good.  We are always working to make it even better.  It wasn't designed using antiquated test publishing guidelines, and it wasn't intended for use in schools or the military. Instead, it was designed by a very successful sales expert who happened to be a great sales diagnostician and researcher. How do I know?  I used to be that guy! 

Our data on salespeople and the 8,500 sales forces that have used our assessments provides us with rich sources of information to identify trends and make comparisons.  We recognize true success markers and reliable failure indicators.  We can sort by industry,  role or finding.  Simply put, we know what it takes for a salesperson to succeed in sales and you know what it takes for a salesperson to succeed in your business (and if you don't we can help you figure it out!).  When we combine the two sets of criteria and adjust for difficulty (complexity times resistance), we will either not recommend a candidate, or provide one of four recommendations:

  1. Hirable - Less Than Ideal
  2. Hirable
  3. Hirable with Ideal Ramp Up Skills
  4. Hirable Perfect

Watch out for all of the assessments that pretend to provide sales findings but report only what they can actually measure.  See examples here.


Leave a comment and I'll answer it.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan




Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales testing, caliper, predictive index, chally, sales evaluations, sales assessments

The Latest Fiction for the Sales Force - No More Hunters and Farmers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 @ 10:09 AM

Today I received an email from Selling Power promoting their latest webinar, The Hunter/Farmer Paradigm is Dead

In 2007 we had to deal with writers proclaiming that sales and the sales force were dead.  The reality of all of that talk was that the people writing about it weren't close enough to sales to know what they were talking about.  Companies with transactional sales don't need salespeople selling their transactional items, but they do need salespeople persuading companies to choose them in the first place.  Then the transactions can be placed via Internet or an inside sales group. That's about the only scenario where the "dead" proclamation even comes close to being accurate.  

Companies selling complex products, design engineered, custom, capital intensive, and higher priced than competition absolutely need salespeople to find opportunities, develop the need, provide value, qualify the opportunity, present the right solution and close the business.  Companies that are underdogs, those that sell professional services, and those with a story to tell absolutely need salespeople.

And today we have more attention grabbing headlines.  While it is Selling Power that is hosting this promotional webinar, it's actually a sales training company that is conducting it.  They go on to say that, "today's economy demands that you leverage all of your available sales talent by helping your sales reps both farm and hunt productively."

That's fine in theory.  It's optimal.  But the reality is that Objective Management Group has statistics from evaluating 450,000 salespeople and it's just not possible.  Here are the facts:

You want all of your salespeople to find new business but 24% of them will never be able to do that.  All of the training that they can provide won't change those people.  They'll have new words and will learn new skills but they still won't actually do it.

You want all of your salespeople to farm but some of them will never be able to do that either.  22% of them can't be trained.  And 45% of them will not close.  Again, they can train them until they're blue in the face but aside from the new words they'll learn, nothing will change for that group of salespeople.

So in a perfect world, where we can be anything we want to be, athletes aren't wired to be scientists, artists aren't wired to be software programmers, and ballet dancers aren't wired to be weight lifters.  Some salespeople aren't wired to prospect - they should be account managers - and some people aren't wired to close - they should be account managers too!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, closing, prospecting, Action Selling, Personality Tests, sales evaluations, sales tests, sales assessments, objective management group, selling power

Sales Prospecting on Steroids

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 @ 06:09 AM

With all of the articles written about sales and cold calls being dead (I usually write the counter arguments to that.  How would you find new business if the only thing you could rely on was a lead?) it was a breath of fresh air when Michael Strickland, my guest on this week's edition of Meet the Sales Experts, spoke about prospecting on steroids.  His five tips for sales success in today's economy are:

  1. Review your prospecting strategy - prospecting on steroids - redouble everyone's efforts
  2. Have a signature communication - own a channel - communicate your value proposition
  3. Leverage technology - CRM - to identify and manage opportunities
  4. Have a web presence - make sure people can find you by Googling you
  5. Identify all of the weaknesses in the sales organization - fix them.

Michael, the former banker, turned banking consultant, turned sales consultant, turned Vistage chair also spoke about how executive teams and sales teams spend 97% of their time planning and only 3% of their time doing.  He strongly suggested reversing those percentages.

"Action conquers fear.  Make a strategic decision to grow."  That was his comment when asked about the fear that has paralyzed so many businesses, causing them to wait and see what happens, rather than do something about their slumping sales force and revenue. 

Listen to the showContact Michael Strickland.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, grow sales, sales management, prospecting, cold calling, fear of failure, sales evaluations, steroids, sales tests, michael strickland, identify weaknesses, sales assessments

You Have an 82% Chance of Making a Hiring Mistake When...

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 02, 2009 @ 21:09 PM

My guest on this week's episode of Meet the Sales Experts was Ken Edmundson.  We were talking about hiring when he he said that there is an 82% chance of making a hiring mistake when management does not know how their candidate is wired.  He said it's a mistake when they are fired, they quit, or they under achieve.  He went on to say that you can't hire without an interview and a background check and you can't hire by only doing those two things.  He named 4 things that cause these mistakes:

  1. they have the wrong DNA to do it
  2. they are not trained to do it
  3. they have personal issues
  4. they aren't a good fit for the culture.

Ken had a new example of number four that I can't even include in this article.  You'll have to listen to the show to hear this incredible explanation!  And when it comes to the DNA of salespeople, nobody does a better job of presenting you with their DNA than Objective Management Group.

Ken said that "when a sales manager says, 'what my salespeople do when they walk out the door is none of my business' means that we have a problem with the sales manager."

Ken had dozens of great tips and suggestions during our conversation.  Listen to the show for all of the rest!

You can click here to listen.  You can click here to contact Ken.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales assesments, hiring salespeople, sales evaluations, ken edmundson, sales candidate assessments

180 and 360 Degree Assessments on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 03, 2009 @ 22:06 PM

There are not a lot of companies that undertake 180 degree or 360 degree assessments of the sales force and that's a good thing because there are so many limitations.

The 180 - The salesperson or sales manager does a self-rating on the predetermined competencies and attributes and the individual's boss conducts the same ratings.

The 360 - The sales manager does a self-rating on the predetermined competencies and attributes and both the sales manager's boss and the salespeople that report to the sales manager conduct the same ratings.

So the 180 and the 360 are nearly the same except for the number of people and the vertical depth.

What are the limitations?

  • The assessment is only as strong as the competencies and attributes that have been identified.  Most of these assessments miss more competencies than they include;
  • The assessment is only as good as the scorer's ability to completely understand each competency and attribute;
  • The assessment is only as good as the scorer's ability to know the difference between good and bad in each competency and attribute;
  • The assessment is only as good as the scorer's ability to observe the individual's use of these competencies and attributes in the field;
  • The assessment is only as good as the scorer's ability to honestly score the individual;
  • The assessment is only as good as the scorer's use of the entire range of potential scores.  In other words, if the assessment uses a 1-5 scale, and the scorer uses the entire range of 1-5, there is reason to believe the scores are useful.  On the other hand, if the scorer uses only 4's as the lowest score and 5's as the highest score, it yields little, if any, usefulness.

So even the most thoughtful and comprehensive 180's and 360's are very subjective and have major limitations.  At best, they identify very strong and very weak performers.  At worst, they are a waste of time.

My question is, why would a company bother to go through this time consuming, inaccurate process when there is a very accurate, very predictive, sales specific, time-tested, proven, validated sales force evaluation that can be implemented, analyzed and reviewed, quickly and easily for far less money?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, Sales Force, Personality Tests, sales evaluations, sales tests, sales assessments

Who Are Better Salespeople - Men or Women?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 @ 22:10 PM


Tom Peters said women are better salespeople than men.

I wrote that Objective Management Group's data proves that a greater percentage of women are stronger than men.

Here is how that data breaks down:

In the four of the five sales Competencies of Will to Sell: Desire, Commitment, Money Motivated, and Responsibility, men and women are statistically the same.

In the fifth Will to Sell competency, Outlook, more Women have a strong Outlook than men.

In a surprise finding, men and women are statistically just as likely to have any of the five Sales DNA competencies as weaknesses we identify. The same goes for Difficulty Recovering from Rejection.  The big difference though is in the severity of these weaknesses.  Men are three times more likely to have severe weaknesses than women!

Women are 50% more likely to have low self-esteem.

Tom Peters also said that (Woody Allen said that) 80% of success is just showing up.  Women are far more likely to show up in front of a prospect because they are 25% more willing to make cold calls than men. While we have no statistical evidence for the next statement, we believe that women are also more effective getting an audience with their prospects.

Hunting and Closing skills are statistically the same but, overall, women have more selling skills and strengths than men.

And finally, men dominate the highest levels of selling.  Men are twice as likely to have a Sales Quotient of greater than 130.  As a matter of fact, as the sales quotient becomes higher, men make a stronger showing:

Sales Quotient over 140 70% male and 30% female.
Sales Quotient over 145 79% male and 21% female.
Sales Quotient over 150 80% male and 20% female.

If you assess 100 sales candidates, a quarter of the the top 24%, or 6 candidates, will be women. 

Overall, women are stronger salespeople but among the top 25%, men make up around 75% of that group.  you can see all of OMG's statistics by sales competency and sort by industry, and even company and see how your team compares here.

Image copyright 123RF


Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales personality, women in sales, men versus women, men vs. women, women are stronger than men, sales evaluations

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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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