The Philosophy of the Red Sox and Gallop Will Lead to Increased Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 30, 2023 @ 16:03 PM


Today, I read two articles that had some quotable copy which we can translate to sales.  The first article is about baseball and I'll translate what it says after the quote I pulled out.

Alex Spier, writing in advance of today's Boston Red Sox season opener, said:

According to Baseball Prospectus, there have been five seasons this century in which the Sox had fewer than two players reach at least a 4-win WAR plateau: 2022, 2020, 2015, 2014, and 2012. A common theme exists for those teams: They all finished last in the AL East.

This year, the Prospectus 50th percentile (midpoint) projections feature nary a Red Sox player reaching 4.0 WAR. Devers (3.8) and Yoshida (3.7) — who received the largest commitments from the Sox this winter — are closest. The team does not have a pitcher whose 50th percentile projection ranks among the top 75; Chris Sale’s 1.4 WAR projection ranks 76th.

They had passionate coaches and teachers but didn’t have a pitching lab focused on pitch design, didn’t have the scale of technology to precisely track everything on the field, didn’t have the specificity of goals in player plans to instruct them on not only what they needed to work on but how they needed to do it.

“We’ve done some internal evaluations, looking at ourselves and how we compare to other teams,” said farm director Brian Abraham. “We want to be the best. And I think this offseason represented us moving toward that direction.”

Explanation for non-baseball readers:

The first two paragraphs basically say that when the Red Sox have fewer than 2 super stars in the lineup, they suck.  In baseball analytics, WAR represents Wins Above a Replacement Player, where a 4-win WAR means that the player helped them to win 4 more games than an average player would have helped them to win.  The third paragraph explained some of the reasons for recent Red Sox last place finishes, while the fourth paragraph speaks to the importance of infrastructure and evaluation.

We could easily say the same things about sales teams.  Let's supposed a sales team has eight salespeople, two sales managers and a Sales VP.  If that sales team has fewer than two great salespeople (think the 80/20 rule), the team as a whole will suck.  Those are the sales teams where 57% or more of their salespeople fail to meet quota.  When a baseball team has only two stars it can be blamed on roster construction.  Similarly, when a sales team has only two great salespeople it can be blamed on sales selection. We can also blame management for not training and developing and coaching those weak salespeople they hired.  You can follow the Red Sox' new philosophy by getting your sales team evaluated to better understand the improvements that must be made.  

Training Industry's newsletter said that "Learning & Development is broken."  They went on to say that:

According to Gallup, “U.S. employee engagement took another step backward during the second quarter of 2022 … The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.” So, what actions can you take as a learning and development (L&D) leader to better support your employees and drive results for your company? All at a time when we’re asked to do more with less?

The sales team is the company's economic engine so if you are to invest in anything in 2023, it must be on your sales team.  You can kill two birds with one stone.  Good quality Sales Training solves the engagement problem and while doing so, you can improve your economic engine at the same time. But, and it's a big but, before you spend a dime on sales training, you must get the team evaluated to objectively understand the real issues, the specific skill gaps contributing those problems, gauge the potential of the sales team, and understand the training that would be required to get them there.  Think MRI prior to surgery and Examination prior to prescription.  

Email me for immediate help getting your sales team evaluated.

In a recent sales team evaluation, our client learned their sales team had fallen significantly behind other sales teams in their industry in the area of sales capabilities. They were wasting opportunities by being overly reliant on imagined relationships, not reaching decision makers, and they believed their technical knowledge was sufficient to differentiate them from the competition. 

It wasn't. 

Among many other issues, they weren't hunting for new business, their messaging was bad, they were ineffective at discovery and qualifying, and their win-rate suffered accordingly.  Prior to the evaluation, leadership believed they were very good at doing these things. However, everything is relative.

The key question that must be asked is, "Good at doing these things compared to who?"  The problem was, that like most companies, there was no intelligence against which their beliefs could be compared, and when they received that comparison, they were shocked! At the same time, they were relieved to know where they stood, and what had to be done to increase their revenue!

Get your sales team evaluated!  

Email me for immediate help.

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Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales growth, revenue growth, sales team evaluation

Finally!  Science Reveals the Actual Impact of Sales Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 06, 2018 @ 22:09 PM


You must have heard the joke that 73.6% of statistics are made up!

I have read and even reported that sales leaders who coach their salespeople see a boost in revenue of around 27%.  It sounds like a realistic number but I have not seen any science to back it up.  Until now.  Check this out!

OMG has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople and sales managers from 30,000 companies.  The data in the table below is from a subset of that data where we looked at around 16,000 salespeople who reported to approximately 4,000 sales managers.  The title row shows the percentage of time the sales managers devoted to coaching their salespeople and the 6 rows below that show the average scores for the salespeople that report to those managers.  Sales Percentile is the percentile that a salesperson scored in.  Sales DNA is an overall score for 6 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures.  Hunter, Consultative, Qualifier and Closer are 4 of the 7 Tactical selling competencies that OMG measures.  If you're interested, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies and how salespeople score by industry and skill here.


Do you remember that 27% number?  The first row reveals that sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching salespeople (last column on the right) have salespeople whose sales percentile score is 28% higher than those managers who devoted little to none of their time coaching.  How is that for science to back up somebody's incredibly accurate wild-ass guess?

There's another interesting find in this data.  Average scores for hunting were not further improved after a manager is devoting at least 20% of their time to coaching.  This suggests that sales managers who coach more don't spend their coaching time helping salespeople work on their prospecting skills.

Another interesting takeaway can be seen in the Consultative scores.  This competency shows the smallest gain in average score.  Given how difficult it is to effectively take the consultative approach, this suggests that despite coaching more often, those sales managers lack the consultative skills needed to coach their salespeople on the consultative approach.

If Consultative scores show the smallest gain, where can the biggest gains be found?  Qualifying and Closing.  Sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching have salespeople who score 13% better in Qualifying and 24% better in closing than the salespeople whose sales managers rarely coach.

This data was not filtered by coaching effectiveness so there was no assumption that the coaching was good coaching; only that there was coaching.  What would happen if in addition to the time these managers devote to coaching, they were also becoming more effective at coaching?  The answer is revealed in this article by John Pattison.  You can become better at coaching salespeople by attending my Annual Sales Leadership Intensive - The Virtual Edition.  This top-rated event is happening in just two weeks, from June 16-18, 2020.  Read more here.  Use the discount code DKVIP to save 10% on your registration!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales improvement, sales core competencies, omg, Closing Sales, sales growth, sales qualification, sales data

Beach Ball of Death Predicts Lack of Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

Every Mac owner knows about the dreaded beach ball of death.  For those who have never experienced the Mac equivalent of a computer crash, a beach ball that won't stop spinning appears on the screen and when it's more than a simple application crash, the death reference implies impending doom to the Mac itself.  This is what it looks like:


During the summer, beach balls can also be seen floating among fans in the center field bleachers at Fenway Park. This is especially true when the Red Sox are losing or playing a particularly boring game.  Death quickly comes to those beach balls when players, security guards or grounds crew stab the beach balls with a bullpen rake!


And then there is the beach ball I want to share today - the sales beach ball of impending doom.  You might be wondering how there could even be a sales beach ball, never mind one that spells impending doom; but, there is.

Last week I saw it for the first time on a slide from a deck that Objective Management Group (OMG) prepares when we evaluate a sales force.  This particular slide answered the question, "Why Aren't We Generating More New Business?"

Here's the slide:

Do you see the beach ball at the bottom in the center of the slide?  If it was all green, that would mean that the salespeople would be capable of finding new business and building a better pipeline.  But it is far from being all green.  There is a lot of red and coral, suggesting that there is an even bigger problem than anything that a change in behavior, strategy or tactics might solve.  Let's take a closer look at that beach ball and the legend that accompanies it:

slide-sales-beach-ball-of-doomThat big red area tells us that 33% of their salespeople are classified as People for the Ethical Treatment of Prospects (PETP).  Like their friends at PETA, who protect animals, the members of this group have a strain in their Sales DNA that prevents them from hunting prospects for new business.  In addition, the coral area tells us that 17% are fishermen.  They won't hunt either, but if a prospect bites, they'll reel in the opportunity.  The most a company could hope for is that the coral group of salespeople will follow up on leads.  The light green is represented by another 33% who will prospect if only a sales manager would hold them accountable.  But if you scroll up and look at the right-hand side of the slide, you'll see that sales management's ability to hold their salespeople accountable also falls into the red.  When all is said and done with this question about finding new business, only 17% of their salespeople will voluntarily go out on hunting expeditions. 

As presently constituted, their ability to find new business is extremely limited - a sales growth beach ball of impending doom.

This slide represented only one of more than two-dozen difficult business questions that we answer where we use science to explain why companies get the results they get, whether or not the sales force is capable of improving their results, and to what degree those results can be improved.  Are you interested in learning more about a sales force evaluation?


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales growth, sales prospecting, objective management group, revenue growth, OMG Assessment

How Critical Mass Accelerates Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 @ 12:01 PM


I'm going to begin today's article with a recent example of how reaching critical mass changes things for the better.

Robert Lerose interviewed me for an article that appears on Bank of America's small business site today on How Salespeople Can Close More Deals.  This is just one of dozens of my articles, tips and interviews that have been appearing all over the web in the past 90 days. At the same time, Objective Management Group (OMG) has accepted nearly 25 additional Certified Sales Expert/Partners to its Network.  OMG is not a big company but it does provide the absolute finest, most accurate and predictive sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments in existence. Are these two trends coincidental or are they connected?  (Would you make a good OMG Partner?)

In the past 90 days it seems that OMG has reached a critical mass.  Critical mass is important to growth because it marks the point at which customers, resellers, partners and investors begin coming to you, instead of the other way around.  And this presents both opportunities and challenges.  

Opportunities - When opportunities are coming to you, instead of you having to find and create opportunities, you can be much more efficient.  Efficiencies give way to being more effective and allow you to deal from a position of greater strength.  This creates momentum and after you are moving forward with velocity and consistency, you become very difficult to slow down or stop.  It's pretty exciting!  Salespeople can experience this in their territory or vertical, and sales managers can experience this when their team gains a certain level of experience and expertise and achieves a similar level of maturity, proficiency and satisfied customers.

Challenges - We become busier, tend to focus on low hanging fruit, and as a result, can miss bigger, better, yet more difficult opportunities.  Things like follow up, top of the funnel work, and follow through can slip through the cracks.  We can become rushed, lazier and complacent, skipping important steps, leading to undesirable outcomes.  In other words, we can completely screw up this new capability, send us right back down to where we came from, after we worked so hard to rise above.

Two recent examples of companies that achieved critical mass are Apple and RiM.  Apple scored big with its iPod, and parlayed that into the iPhone, iPad and next the iWatch.  RIM scored big, especially with the corporate world, with its Blackberry but became complacent and saw its market disappear.

Have you already achieved critical mass?  If so, how did you handle the challenges?  Are you close to achieving critical mass?  If so, how can you be sure not to fall victim to those challenges?  Do you need to achieve critical mass?  Then what must you do - think goals, plan, action steps, milestones, KPI's, time lines and results - to reach critical mass?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales growth, objective management group partner opportunity

The Monumental Effort Required to Grow Sales in 2014

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 @ 05:10 AM

BroncosRegular readers know I'm a baseball guy, but that doesn't mean I ignore football.  Sunday, the New England Patriots needed 30 points to win their game over the New Orleans Saints 30 - 27.  But that's nothing.  The previous week, the Denver Broncos needed...wait for it...51 win their game over the Dallas Cowboys.  51 - 48.  99 points in a single football game.

It takes 51 points to win a football game now?

When game planning for an opponent, I don't think any coach, anywhere, could have prepared their team and said, "Look fellas, it's gonna be a real high scorin' game, so let's plan to score 6 touchdowns and add 3 field goals for good measure."  

But that's what it took.

When you look ahead to 2014 sales, are you using the same assumptions as always?  If you want to grow by 20%, do you use the same metrics for next year that you used for last year?  Will the plan that got you there last year continue to work next year?  Have you accounted for any of these changes?

  • What if customer retention worsens?
  • What if your average sale or account drops?
  • What if the closing percentage changes?
  • What if it takes 15 attempts instead of 10 attempts to reach a single prospect?
  • What if 10% fewer conversations convert to meetings?
  • What if your margin drops by 10%?
  • What if you lose 10% of your salespeople and you aren't able to replace them for 6 months?
  • What if your sales cycle extends by 2 months?
  • What if it takes 25% more of everything in order to reach the promised land next year?
  • What if your competition introduces a better product for less money?
  • What if it takes the sales equivalent of 51 points to meet budget?

While a customized, structured, optimized, formal sales process and targeted, effective, and integrated sales training and coaching will address and improve all of those metrics over time, you also must assume that your assumptions with regard to metrics for next year are wrong.

But how will you know which ones are most likely to be wrong?  How long will it take to notice?

You can't possibly know whether or not your metrics for sales cycle, margin, closing percentage, retention, or average sale are going to change until you have completed enough sales cycles to collect the data for an appropriate sample size.  For those, you'll have to head into 2014 and leave margin for error.  However, within one week you should know the top-of-the-funnel metrics like attempts to conversations and conversations to meetings and whether those have changed since 2011.  By the way, they have!

This is one of the advantages of pipeline management and CRM.  If you have the applications tuned to report on the right metrics, getting this information in real time is not a problem.  The real issues are:

  • Will sales managers pay any attention to the metrics or look only at sales?
  • Will they notice if the metrics change?
  • Will they change the metrics on the fly and provide training and coaching to help?
  • Will they demand more sales without providing tactical and strategic support?
  • Will they be lazy, ignore the changes, but later cite changing metrics as the reason they missed quota?
  • What will you do? 
By the way, this is World Awareness Week - a celebration of Top Sales World. Click the image below to visit.
Top Sales World - World Awareness Week

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales growth, sales metrics

Best Way to Sell and/or Manage a Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 09, 2013 @ 23:01 PM

my wayIt's my way, of course.

And your way.

And everyone's way.

The biggest issue affecting salespeople, sales managers, sales leaders and even Presidents and CEO's is this:  For most of them, the way they know, the way they do it today, the way they have always done it, is the "best way".  They simply don't know what they don't know.  Of course, some are worse than that.  They know that they know it all.

It's a lot like our eyesight.  Most people don't realize that they need glasses until they can't see anything clearly, and by then, they seriously need a prescription.  After all, they thought that their eyesight was every bit as good as it was yesterday...

This doesn't apply to you.  If it did, you wouldn't be reading this article.  But it does apply to 74% of all salespeople and 82% of all sales managers.

What are they missing out on?  Aside from the best way to manage or sell, it boils down to:

  • Efficiency, 
  • Effectiveness, and
  • Significant increases to revenue and profit.  

What do they get to keep?  All of it.  Including:

  • Frustration, 
  • Long sales cycles, 
  • Stalls, 
  • Put-offs, 
  • Delays, 
  • Excuses, 
  • Missed numbers, 
  • Lack of traction, 
  • Under-achievers, 
  • and much, much more.

One of the symptoms of this problem is the wonderfully suspicious plan for 2013.  Ready for this?  

Me:  How much do you need to grow this year?

Them: Our plan for 2013 is to maintain revenue where it is.

Really?  That's a plan?  Very strategic if you ask me.  And what happens if you fall short of zero growth?  When you aren't taking business away from your competition, doesn't that empower them?  When salespeople aren't increasing sales and commissions, don't they become discouraged?  Even if the industry is shrinking, maintaining revenue isn't exactly a win.  How did everyone feel in 2009 when revenue tanked?  Can you imagine how much a company's revenue would have slipped that year if the plan was for zero growth?  Yikes!

I promise that you won't hear my Boston Red Sox, who in 2012 had the worst year since I was 10 years-old, say that they would like to maintain their current performance...

For those who don't know what they don't know, or who don't know why they aren't growing more quickly, a sales force evaluation will do the trick.  Then they'll be almost as smart as the people who know that they "know it all"!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, sales growth, sales consulting, sales plan

What the Huge Patriots Win Teaches us About Sales Momentum

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

pats beat jetsPerhaps you watched the Thursday night Thanksgiving Day football massacre between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots.  The Patriots scored 35 unanswered points in the second period and scored 3 touchdowns in one 52-second period of time.



Unheard of!

The more common reaction though is, "How quickly it all unraveled for the Jets."  We heard more of that than, "How quickly it all came together for the Patriots."  That's because humans love talking about people when they are down.  Why talk about how fortunate the Patriots are when we can talk about how unfortunate the Jets are?

Let's focus on fortune for a moment.  If you were watching that football game, it was completely uneventful up until those three quick scores.  It went from uneventful to explosive in just 52 seconds.  The same fortune can be realized by a salesperson, sales team or company, even when it seems that none is forthcoming. That's the point of today's post.  Sales and revenue can materialize very quickly. Momomentum - both good and bad - as in the football game, can build very quickly as well and success is all about building positive momentum.

So, what does it take for sudden sales, monumental momentum and ridiculous revenue? 

Consistency.  You must be consistent - about holding your salespeople accountable for consistently adding the right number of opportunities to the pipeline, moving those opportunities through the stages of the pipeline, following the steps of your sales process, qualifying , and providing both needs and cost appropriate solutions.

The wins (which can come suddenly) build positive momentum and lead to championship years.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, grow sales, sales growth, sales revenue, closing more sales, sales success

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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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