Sales Managers Must Make Sure That This Never Happens

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 @ 07:09 AM

truck in the mirrorYou are driving down the highway and see an enormous truck in your side mirror.  The truck is moving very fast - twice your speed - and closing in quickly.  You continue to look in the mirror and because of the way your side mirror is shaped, it appears that the closer the truck gets, the more likely it seems that the truck will simply run right over you.  You accelerate a little, keeping watch on that mirror and then it happens.  You miss the sharp bend in the road and drive off the cliff.

This short story is the real-world equivalent to something which often occurs with your salespeople.  There are new opportunities to be targeted, as well as opportunities which already populate the pipeline.  The most promising of the existing opportunities seem to get most of the salesperson's attention.  One particular call causes the salesperson to become so excited that she devotes the rest of the week to developing an appropriate solution, value proposition, ROI, proposal and presentation.  She is so focused on this opportunity that she forgets all about what is up ahead.  Post-presentation and proposal, she begins making follow-up calls and over the course of the next month goes into full-chase mode.  When it finally sinks in that this prospect is not returning calls, has gone missing, and won't be buying anything from her soon, it's too late.  She neglected to continue filling her pipeline, has neglected to line up new opportunities, not stayed in touch with other opportunities in her pipeline and drove off the cliff.

It happens all the time.

It's not the salesperson's fault.

That's what sales managers are supposed to be doing.  Sales Managers must not only help, but hold their salespeople accountable to being focused on the right activities and behaviors, at the right time, on the right opportunities, and for the right reasons.  They must also provide coaching on each opportunity so the salesperson can see what is in front of them and avoid falling off the cliff.

Last call for my Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, October 3-4, when we will spend 2 days working on things like this together.  If you want to attend, skip the online registration and email me directly.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, coaching, sales management, sales leadership training, seminar, workshop, program, boston

Getting Excited About New Sales Opportunities

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 @ 11:09 AM

Why do salespeople get more excited about big sales opportunities than they do about strong sales opportunities?  I don't know about you, but I get much more excited about an opportunity which has a strong likelihood of closing than a big one that at best has less than a 50% chance.  What about you?

Salespeople are generally too optimistic and not skeptical enough about what they are hearing.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics, on more than 600,000 salespeople who've been assessed, show that 86% of them are too trusting of what people tell them.  This affects their ability to recognize put-offs like, "Sounds good. Call us next week."  More often than not, a prospect says those things to end a call or meeting with no intention of buying (especially next week!)  Yet equally often, the salesperson hears something completely different, like, "I'm going to close this next week!"  And of course, that leads to them getting excited about a closing opportunity, it goes into the forecast, and then it fails to materialize.

Speaking of getting excited about future events, and this being the season of fall television premieres, here is a list of some upcoming public events when you can see/hear me live:

What's Preventing Your Sales Force
From Over-Achieving?
10-3 & 4-2012
Sales Leadership Intensive
Transform Your Sales Force
into a Consistent Revenue Machine
Consultative Selling 3.0
Washington DC
Hire, Manage and Develop
Great Salespeople Using the 
Power of Assessments 
Miami FL

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales leadership training, live, appearances, seminars, workshops

Are Sales Leaders More Receptive to Training Than Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 16, 2012 @ 19:05 PM

training dayWhen a room full of sales leaders arrive for two days of intensive training, there are many things that can and do happen.  Here are ten of them:

  1. They can and do resist the training if they were sent there.  If they chose to come on their own, resistance never occurs!  Fortunately, the resistance fades away by the end of the first day.
  2. They can and do see the magic of how proper sales coaching should be conducted.  
  3. They can and do pick and choose what to embrace and bring back to their offices and teams.
  4. They can get a much better grasp on what it takes to make their sales force change-ready, but some won't take the time to do so.
  5. They can understand the subleties of how to shape their sales environment, but it's not as exciting as mastering sales coaching.  So, even though one can't coach effectively without shaping their environment, some will fail to execute that important step.
  6. They can and do see the power, efficiency and magic of a well-thought-out, time-tested, proven, customized, optimized sales process.  But old habits are hard to break and some still want to demo and present too early in the new process!
  7. They can and do get a much better understanding of how to effectively motivate their various salespeople, but some will forget most of it by the time they return to their office.
  8. They can and do understand how to more effectively and consistently find, assess, interview, select, hire, on-board and retain better salespeople, but some would rather work harder and longer and do what they have always done instead of trusting that a time-tested, proven, customized, efficient sales recruiting process will make it as easy as advertised.
  9. They can and do learn the power of the daily huddle as a great way to hold their salespeople accountable to the KPI's that will drive revenue.  However, some will ease into this by conducting a weekly huddle, mistaken in their belief that weekly will work as effectively as daily.
  10. They can and do learn the power of a staged, criteria-based pipeline and what it takes to keep it filled.  Most will implement this upon their return.
If it sounds like some people waste their time by attending, that isn't true.  What actually happens is that they fear that they can't do everything that they hear (not enough time and too much work), so they determine what is most important (or most comfortable) and resolve to do that.  It's not a waste at all.  It's simply the sales leader being guilty of some of the same "I can't" issues that their salespeople have.
Here are ten suggestions that will make participation a success if you decide to attend an intensive sales leadership training event like this:  
  • Embrace instead of resist.
  • Focus instead of getting distracted.
  • Participate instead of observe.
  • Be early instead of late.
  • Take fewer detailed notes, but focus more on concepts.
  • Apply everything, not just with what you like or feel comfortable.
  • Listen with your sales force in mind.
  • Ask questions, ask for help, enter into discussions.
  • Complete all exercises which are intended to help you apply the lessons to your sales force.
  • Perform the overnight assignments so that you won't be left behind.
You can get more out of these two days than from your entire sales leadership career, but you must be present and in the moment for the entire two days.
Can the next event help you?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales management training, sales leadership training

Why Most Companies are Struggling to Grow Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 @ 09:04 AM

sales training dave kurlan picChris Scirpoli, of Invoke Selling, managed to engage me for nearly 15 minutes in a power-packed, fast-paced, video interview that covered a tremendous amount of ground in a very short period of time.  He did the mandatory, "Tell me about your background.", but he left nearly 13 minutes for me to elaborate on the greatest challenges to sales managers and salespeople, and the various approaches that can be implemented to solve these challenges.  Because of the questions which he asked, it was one of the better interviews with regard to content.  You can watch the interview here.  If you liked that, you'll really like the Sales Leadership Symposium in Boston next month.  

Dan Perry, writing at Sales Benchmark Index's Sales Force Effectiveness Blog, wrote that "The single biggest problem with sales today is sales reps are mismatched to the buyer.  They think like a sales rep and not like a buyer."  

Well, Dan, I don't agree and I have the statistics to back me up.  If you were to interview buyers (we don't call them that in 2012, we call them procurement specialists today), I'm sure they would agree with me because they don't want to be sold anything by anybody!  They want total control, want to squeeze every last dime from you, and don't want to share any information that might help a salesperson gain an edge.  

The biggest problem with salespeople today (I can back it up with the data from Objective Management Group, which has assessed more than 550,000 salespeople) is that 63% are not reaching decision-makers and 58% begin the sales process with procurement.  In general, the sales population doesn't possess the skills to sell consultatively (on average, salespeople have only 21% of the attributes of the consultative skill set), to uncover compelling reasons to buy and to use those compelling reasons as leverage, and to differentiate themselves. That leverage causes decision-makers to tell their procurement people to do business with your company (the company that stood out).  If your salespeople can differentiate themselves to such a degree that a decision-maker wants to buy from you, it's the internal decision-makers that must sell the procurement folks, not your salespeople!  When the opportunity finally arrives at procurement, only the terms need to be negotiated.

Don't believe everything you read.  Just because it's printed, doesn't mean it's good.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management training, sales leadership training, selling to procurement, selling to purchasing, selling to buyers, sales benchmark index, sales assessments

Challenges Don't Always Require a Complete Sales Force Makeover

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 @ 07:04 AM

sales force makeoverMany of the Sales Force Evaluations provided by Objective Management Group (OMG) reveal that the company's problems run so deep that they will require a complete sales force makeover.  However, it doesn't always have to be that way.  Sometimes, a single word, question or statement will change how every prospect responds.

In one such company, most of their opportunities were found via inbound calls.  As you might expect, the first question from each prospect had to do with pricing and availability.  Salespeople weren't able to answer the pricing question and continue to keep their callers on the phone.  Selling was very transactional and they had little control over outcomes.

By only modifying how they responded to the price question, they were able to take the first step toward transitioning from a transactional sale to a consultative process.  They began having deeper and wider conversations which led to more closed business.  

The consultative sales process is more than just a sales approach.  When customers buy transactionally, they tend to repeat the same behavior, calling or clicking vendors for pricing, choosing the lowest price or most convenient option.  On the other hand, when customers are sold consultatively, they tend to remain that company's/salesperson's customers by making repeat purchases.  Isn't that a convincing case for transitioning from transactional to consultative selling?

Yesterday I had a discussion with an industry-leading company with 700 people in their sales organization.  Their competitors were closing new business but they weren't.  Why?  Their competitors hired strong salespeople to take away business from the industry-leading company while the industry-leading company was still hiring order-takers - a selection method left over from the days when people lined up to buy from them.  Their ability to make the transition from transactional to consultative selling will depend on several factors:

  1. How many salespeople have the incentive to change,
  2. How many salespeople are coachable,
  3. Which salespeople have strengths that support consultative selling,
  4. Which salespeople can make that change in a reasonable period of time,
  5. Whether their sales management team can drive that change,
  6. Whether they are willing to abandon their current set of non-sales specific competencies,
  7. Whether they have enough time,
  8. Whether they are willing to invest in training and development,
  9. Whether they will make the personnel changes that will ultimately be required, and
  10. Their willingness to embrace a new sales process that supports consultative selling.
The key among the ten factors listed above is #5 - Whether sales management can drive the process.  What is involved in driving process?
  1. Creating a proper sales coaching environment,
  2. Mastering the coaching skills to support the consultative selling skills training,
  3. Holding their salespeople accountable to the desired changes,
  4. Making the time to coach and hold salespeople accountable each day,
  5. Learning to recruit salespeople who already possess the ability to sell consultatively,
  6. Embracing the change,
  7. Ability to replace salespeople who aren't successfully making the transition,
  8. Motivating their salespeople during a time of challenging change,
  9. Staying 5 steps ahead of their salespeople in the mastery of consultative selling skills, and
  10. Leading by example.
You can jump start your ability to handle these 10 factors by attending my Sales Leadership Symposium next month in Boston.  If you would like to attend, send me an email for preferred pricing.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, sales management training, sales leadership training

Does Your Sales Force Look Like This?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 @ 14:04 PM

Yesterday, I spoke to an energetic group of sales leaders attending the EcSELL Institute Sales Coaching Summit in Austin, Texas.  EcSELL is different in that they won't place speakers on their event faculties unless their work can be substantiated by research and science.  As a result, their audience is a sponge for any and all best practices that are time-tested, proven and have confirming empirical data.

I shared just a few of the charts, graphs and tables, which we include in a sales force evaluation when we are answering common, but difficult, business questions such as:

  • Are the salespeople, whom you have today, the right people and are they in the right roles to help you reach your stretch goal?  If not, why and what must be done?
  • Which of your non-performers and underachievers can be saved (developed into strong B's and A's) and, if so, what will it take, how long will it take and what is the expected improvement?
  • Can the existing sales force execute your changing strategies?
  • What impact is sales management having on the sales team in the areas of coaching, motivating, recruiting, accountability and developing them for growth?
  • Which of your existing salespeople can make the important transition from transactional selling (hunt, present, propose or quote and close) to the more effective, but more difficult, consultative selling (asking many good, tough, timely questions to uncover compelling reasons to buy, and identifying an appropriate solution.)
In a post earlier this month, I shared some of the graphics from a pipeline analysis, one of the many data points we use to determine if the sales force can execute the strategies.  Here is another graph that we use to answer some of the questions above:
sales capabilities


In this graph, you can see that the three teams, making up this sales force, have some ability to hunt down new opportunities and they are most capable at presenting.  Unfortunately, like most sales forces, they have very little capability in the areas of selling consultatively, qualifying and closing.


I will be working with sales leaders in Boston on May 10th and 11th to help them develop the mastery to overcome problems like this.  Please join us for the premier sales leadership event of the year.  If you are interested in attending, notify me by email and I'll get you a preferred rate!

sales leadership event 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales force evaluation, EcSELL Institute, sales management training, sales leadership training, pipeline analysis, sales management seminar

Sales Education - New Events, Articles and Books

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 @ 12:02 PM

Insightful SellingToday's article has a collection of links to help you, your sales managers and your salespeople become more effective.

A new book by Adon Rigg, Insightful Selling, launched today.  It's a nice collection of important reminders, tips and insights for all things sales.  There are a few things that I especially appreciated about his book and you might too.  There is a tremendous emphasis on using the Internet and especially LinkedIn.  For those who aren't up to speed on how to incorporate these tools into their day-to-day selling, this is invaluable.  Adon says that cold-calling is dead, and while it has become more challenging, I don't agree that it is quite dead yet.  See this important article for more on the truth about cold-calling.  The book provides some much needed assistance on how salespeople can more easily understand business finance!  In my opinion, this is a no compromise skill that salespeople must possess if they wish to sell more consultatively and become partners and trusted advisors.  Order the book today and receive dozens of free bonus gifts.

Seth Godin recently posted two articles that you should find helpful.  Read this one about misunderstandings and this one about how prospects check you out.

EcSell Institute is hosting it's spring Sales Coaching Summit on April 10-12 in Austin, TX.  This is a terrific event, I've spoken at it, and we like it so much that Objective Management Group is sponsoring it this year.  I'll be speaking on April 11 and my topic is "Sales Force Intelligence - The 5 Most Important Answers".  For more information and to register, click here.

If you can't make EcSell's Sales Coaching Summit in April, Kurlan & Associates is hosting its annual Sales Leadership Symposium on May 10-11 in Boston, MA.  If you are interested in attending or sending a team to this event, please contact me by email.

sales leadership event 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, EcSELL Institute, sales management training, sales leadership training, Seth Godin, bill eckstrom, adon rigg

The Latest Astonishing Findings about Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 07, 2011 @ 09:11 AM

under performingThis article recently appeared at  The number that stood out for me in their report was 83% - as in 83% of first year sales managers don't make their number.  Is that possible?  Is it realistic?  Is it believable?  Can you explain it?

A few thoughts about that...

This is a recent study so we must place it in the proper context of the times.  We already know that depending on whose data you read, between 50%-75% of all salespeople did not make quota in 2010 and will not make quota in 2011.  If their salespeople aren't making quota, you can be fairly certain that their sales managers aren't making quota either.  So adjusted for the times, 83% may really be just 8% to as much as 33% worse than veteran sales managers.

Objective Management Group's data says that 18% of all sales managers shouldn't even be in sales management -  they're just not suited for it -and another 34% simply aren't trainable.  So 52% should really do something else - like go back to sales.

The SalesBenchmark article focuses on promotion criteria but I think it's a broader issue than one of inappropriately promoting salespeople to sales management roles.  Companies need to reevaluate their overall criteria for hiring sales managers because the problem is not limited to those that are promoting from within. Companies that hire sales managers from the outside select experienced sales managers that aren't capable of driving sales, leading the sales force, managing the sales process, coaching full-time, developing salespeople, holding salespeople accountable, recruiting/selecting the right salespeople, keeping the sales force motivated, managing the pipeline and forecast, and affecting the outcomes of the opportunities in the pipeline.

When I speak (if you're in the DC area I'll be there this Wednesday 11/9/11) to audiences of Presidents, CEO's and Sales VP's, one question I always ask is, "Are your sales managers doing everything possible to grow your company?".  And I am always met with a deer-in-the-headlights response.  The reason is that most executives - from sales management on up - don't really know what sales managers should really be doing!

We'll be hosting our annual Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston in early February 2012.  We haven't posted the dates/agenda/schedule yet but if you would like to be notified when it becomes available and have an opportunity to purchase the best seats, email me and I'll make sure you are among the first.  We are scaling it up this year - a bigger group means lower fees - and that's good news for you!  You can also count on us thoroughly covering all of the topics mentioned above.

Until then, focus on selection and if you haven't selected a sales manager that is native to desired competencies, it's all about development, assuming that you don't have one of the 52% that should be doing something else...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales leadership training, sales management selection, sales benchmark

Are Your Salespeople Jerks or Just Different From You?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 01, 2011 @ 07:06 AM

jerksLast week I conducted a 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive for a very small group.  Working with a small group has advantages because everyone receives more individual attention, we can go at their pace, and spend as much time as we need to on their issues.  Working with a small group also has disadvantages because their diverse learning styles tend to stand-out and can be a distraction.

For example, in last week's group, I had:

  1. Mr. Anticipation - "Oh yeah, this is exactly what I need.  This is gonna be great!"
  2. Mr. Impatience - "Oh no, I couldn't possibly spend that much time on coaching."
  3. Mr. Wait for It - "That's a good point .  I always try to do that!"
  4. Mr. Thoughtful - "Could you please clarify that for me?"

The point here is that these are not good or bad reactions; they are just different.  And when you are working with your salespeople, they will not all learn things in the same way.  You need to quickly understand how they are different and be flexible enough so that they will still receive value from your coaching and managing.

For example, Mr. Wait for It got value from the points that reinforced what he already does.  That allows him to do those things more frequently, with more detail, nuance, and conviction, leading to better results.

Knowing that Mr. Impatience will tend to move from point A to point Z without covering the baby steps in between, we can make sure he understands why it's so important to go more slowly or devote more time.

People are different.  Your salespeople are different.  Their prospects are different.  The more we understand their differences and learn to work with those differences, the more effective we can become.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales leadership training

The Latest Tools to Grow Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 @ 16:04 PM

Today, rather than one of my analogies stories or case histories, I'm going to let you know about few upcoming events and the latest book launch.

TODAY - If there was just one area where the majority (94%) of salespeople (remember 6% are elite and have this mastered) could improve, it would be at using their listening and questioning skills to carry on effective and appropriate sales conversations that lead to closing business. Mike Schultz and John Doerr, partners at RAIN Group have just released a new book, Rainmaking Conversations, which teaches you everything you need to know about leading masterful sales conversations. And if you purchase the book today from, you can take advantage of a whole bunch of bonus gifts, courtesy of sales experts from far and wide (including one from me), just for purchasing a copy of the book. 

So get your copy at Then stop by: to pick up all the bonuses. 

MAY - Top Sales World is hosting the 2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference - an entire week of online presentations for salespeople and sales managers, from the industry's top experts.  The sessions are compelling and the $5 per session registration fees are even more compelling.  Not only that, the proceeds are going to the Red Cross for the Japanese Relief Effort.  The Conference runs from May 9 -13 and my session kicks off day 3.  For more information and to register, click here.

ALSO IN MAY - My top-rated 3-Day Sales Leadership Intensive will be offered again on May 25-27.  You can read all of the details here.  If you manage salespeople or sales managers, and want to master the art of coaching, motivating, sales selection and accountability - and you want to spend 3 days with a lot of personal attention from me, this is the place to be!

Topics: sales leadership training, sales management competencies, sales management boot camp, great sales management training

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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