What it Takes to be an Elite (Top 7%) Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 @ 06:10 AM


Last week I received a call from a young, motivated salesperson - we'll call him Jim - who desperately wanted to be one of the elite 7% of all salespeople.  Despite being just 26 years old, he believed that he was already in the top 7%.  During our call, he asked me a great question.  He asked, "How many of the top 7% have you actually met and where are they today?"  I didn't have to think very long or hard to answer that question because it was one of the easiest questions I have ever been asked.

Most companies have mediocre salespeople and a small percentage - less than 10% - are strong.  But there is an exception.  Many of the greatest salespeople, following a necessary stint in sales leadership, become sales consultants.  Now you are probably familiar with the sales consultants who have best-selling books or who tweet and blog on social media.  But they aren't the only sales consultants and trainers by a long shot.  There are thousands more and some of them are really good at what they do.  The best and brightest of them partner with my company, Objective Management Group (OMG), and provide our award winning sales candidate assessments and sales force evaluations to their clients.  Without a doubt, the nearly 300 individuals that represent OMG around the world, are the single biggest collection of the top 7% anywhere.  And each year, when around 150 of them gather for our international sales experts conference, that is where you will find the single biggest gathering of elite salespeople.

Why did Jim ask how many of these top performers I had met?  Because to him, the top 7% are the celebrities of sales.  It's like asking someone if they have met any professional athletes, movie or TV stars, or Presidents.  He has the top 7% on a pedestal because he wants to be one.

The bigger question for me is why Jim?  Why aren't the other 93% of the sales population calling, writing and asking how they can become part of the top 7%?  Why isn't it more important to them?  

Part of the answer should be so, so obvious.  If it was more important to them they would already be part of the top 7%, certainly part of the next 16% and not one of the bottom 77%!

Much of this problem boils down to Commitment to success in sales.

  • All salespeople score, on average, only 59% for Commitment.
  • The top 7% (Sales Quotient over 139) average, 72%.
  • Strong salespeople (Sales Quotient between 130-139) Score, on average, 65%
  • Serviceable salespeople (Sales Quotient between 115-129) 60% - or borderline Commitment.
  • Weak salespeople (Sales Quotient between 91-115 and the largest group) score, on average 45%
  • The bottom 10% (Sales Quotient under 91) score, on average, 39%

Notice that the biggest drop-off (from 60% to 45%) occurs when you drop from serviceable to weak.

If I had to guess, Jim's commitment is consistent with the elite group.  And while the top group has the highest overall scores for Commitment, it doesn't necessarily hold true that if a salesperson has a high commitment score that they are or will become part of that group.  Commitment is only 1 of 250 data points and while it is the most important, it is only 1.  For example, a salesperson with strong commitment, but a low score for Desire for success in sales, Motivation, Excuse Making, or even Coachable, is less likely to make it to the top group.  

OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competenceis and while I have mentioned 4 in this article, there are 17 others that will also have a great impact on whether a salesperson can make it to the top.  While 10 of those competenices are Tactical Selling competencies, 6 of them represent Sales DNA.  The top 7% have Sales DNA greater than 82% while weak Salespeople score 60% and the bottom 10% only 54%.  Sales DNA is a huge contributor to sales success and the lower the score on Commitment, the less likely it is that one could overcome a low Sales DNA.

Of course, when it comes to hiring salespeople, there is only one tool that can accurately predict whether you have an elite candidate, a strong candidate, or one of the others.

And if you were an elite salesperson, have put in your time in sales leadership, and are ready to bring OMG's great tools to your clients, you can learn more here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales excellence, sales commitment, Sales Experts, elite salespeople

Commitment, Hiring Salespeople, Sales Leadership Ego

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 09, 2010 @ 11:06 AM

Meet the Sales ExpertsOn today's episode of Meet the Sales Experts I'll have a panel of Sales Development Experts talking about some of the recent popular posts on the four blogs hosted right here.

Importance of Commitment

Tips for Hiring Salespeople

Ego of the Sales Leaders (I'm a Sales Guy!)

Listen to us live at 12 Noon ET and, if you have a question you would like answered on the show, send it to me right now or during the show via email.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management functions, sales commitment, Sales Experts, tips for hiring salespeople, sales ego

Is Your Law Firm Anything Like Your Sales Consulting Firm?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 17, 2010 @ 09:05 AM

advisersDid you ever stop to think about how much or how little you rely on your advisers? Not your board, not your board of advisers, but your business advisers. These are the individuals from outside of your company that you trust to direct, recommend, advise, consult and help with decisions, strategies, options and solutions to put your business in the best possible position to succeed.

Take a look at the portfolio of advisers to the left.

Every company, except the smallest solopreneurs, must have a commercial banking relationship. Every company, with the possible exception of one being run from home, needs a very good commercial insurance agent. Even companies with CFO's on the payroll use a CPA firm for compliance, taxes and audits. Most companies with employees utilize a benefits specialist. All but the smallest and largest companies use a payroll service. Every business needs a corporate law firm. While some only rely on them when they get into trouble, most use them for preventative purposes too. Even businesses with a marketing department use marketing, advertising and public relations firms to help with branding, visibility, promotions, creative, and lead generation.

Then we come to the sales consulting firm. Consider that the sales consulting firm is the only one of the advisors listed above that can:

* directly have an affect on revenue
* save money by optimizing the sales force
* increase effectiveness by improving the sales process
* increase productivity by improving pipeline quality and metrics
* increase morale by improving sales effectiveness
* save money by eliminating sales hiring mistakes
* help sales management become more effective at coaching and accountability
* help the company grab market share
* help increase the value of the company
* help the sales force overcome resistance
* help the company increase its margins
* reduce turnover

So it surprises me that despite the value and obvious need for these benefits, many companies do not rely on sales consulting firms because they think they can do it themselves. Their egos get in the way...

Most of the clients I have helped over the years thought the very same thing!

There are a little more than 3,000 sales consulting firms in the US. 1,000 of them are recently-laid off sales VP's. Many of the 3,000 regurgitate the basics they learned in business. It shouldn't be difficult for you to identify the real deal from the wanna be's. The real deals have a long track-record of success in multiple industries, with varied disciplines, challenges, and models. The very best of them are thought leaders.  They get people to change.  They are truly experts, not inexpensive consultants for hire by the project.  You wouldn't want that any more than you would want an inexpensive lawyer handling your most critical litigation.  There is just too much at stake!  Just because someone had success in their own company and/or industry, doesn't mean their experience is duplicatable at your company. It's a lot like the salesperson or sales manager you hired because they succeeded at a well-known, large company. Why did they succeed there?  Why did they fail at your company? Could they have simply been in the right place at the right time when they succeeded but never had to overcome the resistance that's a part of doing business at your company.

So here's the question you should be asking yourself; If you could significantly increase sales and profits, while reducing sales costs, what, other than ego, would stop you from getting outside help?


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Experts, sales consultants, sales advisors

Mastering Sales and Sales Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 @ 07:02 AM

You like music and you probably have a favorite genre. Within that genre, you probably have a favorite artist or album.  You may listen to an album by that artist dozens of times.  By then, you know the music and lyrics perfectly.

You like movies and you probably have a favorite genre. Within that genre, you probably have a favorite actor or actress.  There may be a movie you have watched many times over.  By then, you have probably memorized all the lines.

Our son loves to act out the battle scenes from movies like The Chronicles of Narnia and First Knight.  In order to perfect the timing of every line, movement and pratfall, he has probably watched and acted out the battle scenes more than 100 times each.

Professional Golfers go to the range and hit buckets of balls. Professional Baseball Players take marathon batting practice sessions and may field hundreds of balls every day.

Exposure and Repetition.

We're talking about Mastery of things you have a passion for.

Do you and your salespeople have a passion for sales?  What is the thing you do that is equal to repeated listening, watching or practicing? What do you do to know your material cold? Do you attend training as often as you attend concerts, theater or movies?  Do you listen to sales training as often as you listen to music?  You should be getting exposed to the artist (sales expert) at least twice monthly and listening to their recordings (archives or supplemental material) even more often.  In addition, you should be practicing (role playing like our son does) at least 30 minutes per day!

There are many sources of sales expertise. The differing methodologies are like genres and the sales experts in each genre are like the artists.  You'll have a favorite or two whose style, examples, content or methodology work for you.  But as with music, make sure that you also work with and listen to an expert who will push you out of your comfort zone.  If you choose it simply because it reinforces what you already think or do, that's laziness.  Everyone can improve.  Even you! 

If you've been reading my Blog for a while, you know that I write mostly about sales management functions and specific sales competencies. My own sales methodology, Baseline Selling, is a simplified, easy to apply form of Consultative Selling.  As you poke around cyberspace you'll find experts and non-experts (be careful who you listen to) who write about relationship selling, transactional selling, inside sales, outside sales, major account sales, selling to big companies, telemarketing, retail selling, closing, prospecting, questioning and qualifying.  Right here on my blog, from the tabs above, Frank's articles usually tell us how a leader from history was faced with challenges similar to those we face today.  Rick usually writes about rainmaking, and Chris writes about client issues.

If you listen to the radio show I host, you'll be introduced to a different sales expert each week.  Meet the Sales Experts is archived so you can listen to the various 45 minute episodes at your convenience.

I read a book about mastery around twenty years ago called, believe it or not, Mastery, by George Leonard. It's a book about how to master anything and it's well worth reading.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan




Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Force, Sales Experts, george leonard, mastery

Rules of Sales Engagement for the Recession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 16, 2009 @ 13:06 PM

On the June 16 episode of Meet the Sales Experts, I answered listener questions - live.  There were some fantastic questions and I provided some fair answers.

Listen to the show to learn how you can shorten your sales cycle by taking advantage of the window of opportunity...

Listen to hear about sales coaching - how often, what kind, with whom, and how...

Listen to discover the single biggest mistake salespeople make...

Listen to some opportunity specific advice.

We also discussed the economy - of course - and right now, there are some new rules of engagement.  You simply have to work three times harder, three times smarter, find three times more opportunities and be three times more effective just to sell what you used to sell.  That's it?  No.  In order to be three times more effective you must refine your strategies and expand upon your tactics.  You must be more creative, quicker on your feet, more resourceful and more persuasive.  You must ask better questions and more of them.  You must be more powerful than ever before.  Do that and you will survive.  Do that consistently and you will thrive when the economy turns around and money loosens up.  In the mean time, no short cuts!

(c) 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, Sales Tactics, improve sales, sales mistakes, sales tips, sales cycle, Sales Experts, sales strategy

Put on Your Helmet - 3 Great Tips for Selling in This Economy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jun 14, 2009 @ 22:06 PM

What a great interview I had with Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of Winning Incorporated, Friday on my Meet the Sales Experts Radio Show!  He was awesome.

Here are some of the highlights from my conversation with Bill:

His mission is to abolish mediocrity. He tells us how in the interview...

He revealed a success story where the client, a bank, achieved a 400% increase in their asset baseListen to hear what Bill did with the bank tellers!

Bill recalled his early days in sales which included getting a Jaguar for free - listen to hear how - and four transferable lessons from his very first job in sales.

He revealed the biggest obstacle he had to overcome in order to succeed - hear what it was like going from a leadership position with 2 personal assistants to a startup with zero income and....5 kids!

He had 3 great tips for helping you succeed in sales in this economy - the #2 tip was Put on Your Helmet! He explained how he named his company, and he provided this great tip:  "Find something you're passionate about and attack it."

Bill also talked about applying a 50,000 foot strategy to the real world.

How would you like to get your own sales force issues answered live on Meet the Sales Experts?  You can. The next show is this Monday, June 15, at 12 Noon ET.  You don't even have to listen to the live show - you can listen to the archived show later to get your answer.

First, email me the details of your issue. It doesn't matter what it is. It can be about your salespeople, strategy, systems, processes, challenges, or approach or even your frustration over the economy. Just send the email and I'll read your question and provide the answer on this week's show.

Next, if you're able to listen live, simply click here at 12 Noon ET on 6/15/09 and click the link to Listen Live. If you're not able to listen live, you can check back here any time after Tuesday, 6/16/09 and click the link for the 6/15/09 show.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan



Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Salesforce, Sales Force, Overcoming Obstacles, winning, improve sales, sales tips, Sales Experts, bill murray, Success Stories, jaguar, Economy

Free Sales Content - Use at Your Own Risk

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 12, 2008 @ 05:12 AM

I can't count and may not even know about all of the portals now on the web that feature subject matter experts, content, free downloads, articles and tips from people like me.  It's generally a good thing, at first, until someone like me loses control of his intellectual property - the articles I write.

Some sites run my articles with my permission.  Others simply include the RSS feed. Others run teasers with links back to my Blog.  These are all OK.  However there are some that run my articles, copy my articles, take excerpts from my articles or rewrite my articles and pass them off as their articles.  That's when it becomes a generally bad thing.

One site that said they would change that is ilearningGlobal.tv.  They claim to have the exclusive technology that will stream high-def, full screen content from experts like Dennis Waitley, Bob Proctor, and me directly to your desktop and protect the content from being pirated.  Sounded good to me.  They invited me to join their faculty, offered a revenue sharing model and said they would fly me to their studios to record my content at their cost.  Sounded even better...until my third conversation with them when they were more interested in the 3,000 of you that visit this blog each week, the 10,000 that subscribe to Baseline Selling Tips and my network of sales development experts that provide our world-class sales assessments to companies around the world.  Why?  The engine underneath this cool concept is...Multi-Level Marketing.  They wanted me to generate a down line with a few key people that would really market it.  Market what exactly?  $79 per person, per month subscriptions to "their" content. And the revenue share?  3%.  Wow - is that appealing! I've never been willing to go near the MLM space, either as participant or consultant.  And what makes them think they can even sell these subscriptions?

One site that I thought had a lot of promise and to whom I agreed to let feature my content is CanDoGo.com.  Their premise was to feature nuggets of content rather than content in its entirety.  They too were going to sell subscriptions but recently changed the model and went to a free service.

One of the sites I particularly like because of their design and richness of content from experts like me is EvanCarmichael.com.  Two more that do a great job of culling the best from the best are EyesOnSales.com and TopSalesExperts.com.  And then there are sites like Guy Kawasaki's AllTop.com, which aggregates the top content on a variety of subjects.  And then there is the webinar version of all this, BusinessExpertWebinar.com, which features various experts in webinar format all through the day.

Today's Lessons:

I still hate Multi-Level Marketing.  If you can invest even an hour a week in their business, think about the impact that additional hour per week will have on your existing business!

If you have something that others want you have leverage.  As soon as you give them what they want your leverage goes away.

If someone dangles an offer that sounds too good to be true they probably want something for nothing.

You get what you pay for.  Much of the free content out there (not mine, of course) is either  contradicting, regurgitated, unproven, inapplicable or stupid.  And there is a huge gap between a great article on strategy or tactics and your ability to apply that strategy or tactic, as written, at your company.

Watch your step.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan



Topics: sales blog, sales, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales tips, Sales Experts, free sales content, sales assessments

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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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