Sales Hacks and How to Improve Your Lead Follow Up Conversions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 @ 15:08 PM

I just returned to the office to find around 900 emails waiting for me  While purging my inbox, I found some interesting and useful items that I am sure you would want to know about.

I have previously written about how important it is to quickly and consistently follow up on inbound leads. This article from September of 2013 included two great infographics that demonstrate lead conversion statistics. However, Russ, from, emailed me a link to this case study on 63,256 outbound calls that has much more specific, useful information.  

Check out the article by Adam Bluemner!

Chad Burmeister, VP Sales at, emailed to let me know that Sales Hack, the book he co-wrote with ConnectAndSell's CEO, Chris Beall, is now available at The cool thing about this book is that Chad asked a small group of sales experts to contribute their best sales hacks to the book. In addition to my contribution, there are contributions from other well-known experts like Gerhart Gschwandtner, Lori Richardson, Trish Bertuzzi, Dan McDade, Tibor Shanto, Kurt Shaver, Matt Heinz and others.

Speaking of sales hacks, earlier this month, I hosted a different group of 20 sales experts and we came up with some sales hacks of our own! I'll be writing about them later this week, so keep your eyes open for our Sales Hacks.

Last week, I hosted about 30 sales leaders from around North America and we spent the better part of two days on the art and science of coaching salespeople. Wouldn't you know that there were some cool sales hacks that came from those two days as well. I'll share those with you next week!

You might also find some use for Hubspot's Guide to writing follow up emails.  It includes a bunch of useful email templates that your salespeople might be able to incorporate and that could be useful for controlling your message, and upholding their professionalism, spelling and grammar.

Finally, check out these 11 articles that you might have missed while you were on summer vacation:

Why Inbound and Inside Sales Experts Think Sales Process is Dead Too

The Science of Sales Selection vs. the Marketing of Modern Selling

How the Right Questions Can Make up for Lack of Sales Experience

Trust and Integrity in Selling May Not Be What You Think

The Two Sides of Likable Salespeople

Bugged by the Difference Between Great and Lousy Salespeople

The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

An Ode to the Evolution of the Pipeline

Why I Was Kicked Out of a LinkedIn Sales Group

Keys to Selecting a Sales Training Company

12 Proven Sales Hacks to Increase Sales


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leads, conversion ratios, inside sales, inbound sales, sales hacks

Leads are Making Salespeople Lazier Than Old Golden Retrievers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 07:07 AM

lazyNot too long ago, before the advent of social selling, if a salesperson needed to add new opportunities to the pipeline, there were basically two options:

  1. Make cold calls; or
  2. Call existing customers for referrals and introductions.

Interestingly, this choice was not a no-brainer!  I observed that for every three salespeople who would call customers for referrals, there were always two who preferred to make cold calls.  This was not because they loved making cold calls, but because in their minds, it was a more comfortable option for them than asking for something from customers.

Of course, things are quite different today.  Most salespeople are the beneficiaries of a nice supply of leads from their company's marketing, advertising and online efforts.  I typed that "things are quite different", but is that the same thing as, "things are quite better"?

I don't know about you and your leads, but a lot of the "leads" I see aren't very good at all. They're actually more like names with email addresses and a good percentage of them can't really be considered leads at all.  But because a small percentage of them turn out to be really good ones, all of them must be followed-up.  One can't distinguish the good from the bad until the follow-up calls have been made.

With salespeople so busy, following-up on mostly crappy leads, they probably don't even give a thought to calling customers and asking for referrals.  Suppose I was given the option to phone one of two leads:

  1. A potentially crappy internet lead where the form was completed by the assistant of a branch sales manager or
  2. An introduction from an existing client to the CEO of a growing mid-market technology firm who expressed interest in getting our help.

I know who I would rather call...

I know all the statistics about lead follow-up.  If you don't place a follow-up call within the first 10 minutes, your chances of connecting decrease by...I know.  I also know that it takes 8-15 attempts to reach one of those leads...

We all know that the introduction beats the crap out of the lead follow-up 95 times out of 100.  If that's the case, why are so many salespeople spending all of their time attempting to generate and follow-up on the leads that produce results 5 times out of 100?

If you've been reading my blog for the past 8 years, then you know that according to Objective Management Group (OMG), 74% of all salespeople are ineffective.  So we already had this huge class of sucky salespeople and now, with leads making life so easy for most salespeople, we have created a new class of sucky salespeople who are also lazy.  

Have your salespeople pretend it's 1985.  Have them each call 5 customers or clients every day for the rest of the month and ask for referrals and introductions.  If they don't do it, shame on them.  If they don't know how to do it effectively, shame on you.

Image: Chin Kit Sen via Shutterstock



Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leads, sales tips, lead conversion, inbound leads, referrals and introductions

Selling - We're Going Back to AIDA And You Should Be Scared

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:10 AM

back in timeAs wonderful as all the hype is about inbound, lead gen, and the new way to sell to these leads, one important fact is being ignored.

While the tools have changed, information is available in the blink of a click, and leads are in huge supply, people, at their core, have not changed the way they buy.

Sure, they may be meeting with or speaking with salespeople later in their buying process.  Sure, they may take longer to make decisions.  Sure, they may be more diligent about spending their money.  But the one thing that has not changed is that they still have some motivation - some compelling reason - to spend their money and spend it with you instead of someone else.

The rush to embrace inbound marketing comes with a false sense of security and a poorly grounded belief that the sale is somehow easier, faster and more demo-centric today.  


Easier, faster and demo-centric leads to slower, price-driven and more difficult closing.  Closing percentages are DOWN! 

Remember, the motivation or compelling reason to buy has not disappeared.  It's just that suddenly, too many marketing experts and writers, lured by the sexiness of inbound marketing, are simply skipping over what they were never responsible for in the first place.

When we ignore motivation, we turn back the clocks by about 50 years, and return to the purely transactional sale.  The acronym was AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.  That's where the inbound marketing folks are taking it and it's not a good thing.

If you have a more expensive product or service than your competition - you're screwed with AIDA.

If you sell something that's an awful lot of money - period - you're screwed with AIDA.

If you have a new company, a new brand, a new product or a new technology - you're screwed with AIDA.

If you aren't the market leader, brand leader, or price leader - you're screwed with AIDA.  You can get away with a transactional sale if you have the cheapest price or you are the logical choice.  Anyone else?  Oh-oh...

Embrace inbound.  Embrace the leads.  Embrace the tools.  But don't be tempted to take the shortcuts that are a death sentence to winning business.  The good news is that there is an abundance of leads.  It quickly becomes bad news if you follow them up traditionally and allow your salespeople to sell them transactionally.

Getting found is the new way of identifying new business opportunities.  A consultative, buyer-focused selling approach is the right way to leverage their compelling reasons to spend their money with you.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Inbound Marketing, sales leads, sales follow up

The Connection Between Gas Prices and Sales Lead Follow Up

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

I was pumping gas yesterday and two things came to mind:

  1. When I was a kid, gas sold for 18 cents per gallon and the 5 neighboring gas stations were competing on price.  So it made sense that gas was priced to the 10th of a cent.  18.9 cents here, 17.9 cents there.  But at $4 per gallon, why on earth are gas stations still pricing gas by the 10th of a cent?  If your car takes 15 gallons, that 9/10 of a cent comes to the same 13.5 cents that it always did.  When you filled up your tank for $5, that extra 13.5 cents might have meant something, but when it takes $75 to fill the tank, 13.5 cents means very little to anyone.
  2. There was a sticker from the local department of weights and measures certifying the accuracy of the pump for another year.  Really?  In the digital age, do we really need to pay people to certify the accuracy of something that used to be hand-calibrated?

Why do we still do these things?  Which brings me to selling - of course.

Why do salespeople still do the things they used to do, even though those things don't work anymore.  For example, why do salespeople still sell transactionally when presenting/demoing, quoting/proposing and closing yields a 10-20% conversion ratio?  Even if they were in hiding, everyone must have heard by now that a typical B2B sale requires a customer-centric consultative approach. 

Why do salespeople still rifle down lists to make cold calls?  Everyone knows that doesn't work anymore.  As a matter of fact, yesterday I received a pretty cool infographic from Cypress North, who teamed up with  It has an endless number of metrics, the best of which is just below.  The first graphic shows the likelihood of a response from a prospect based on how quickly the salesperson follows up.

Sales Connections

Customers were 60 times more likely to convert if a salesperson follows up within an hour of the lead coming through!!!  So why do salespeople wait forever?  Never mind the first hour, what about the first 5 minutes?

This graphic shows how quickly the chance of qualifying an opportunity decreases after the first 5 minutes.


And less than 1% of companies get their salespeople to follow up in the first 5 minutes?  Why do salespeople wait so long?

It's time for companies to simply stop everything that they have been doing for years and start from scratch.  No modifications, bandages or minor changes.  It's time for complete redesign of sales processes, systems, methodologies, models and, yes, people.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Inbound Marketing, sales leads, sales follow up

Can You Improve a Kick-Ass Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 17:09 PM

Most of the calls and emails which we receive come from companies with flat or declining sales.  However, some of the greatest successes occur when we help companies who are already kicking ass.  

Mark Roberge, Sales VP at Hubspot, is responsible for building one of those kick-ass sales forces and he contributed a guest post to Software Advice on Building a Sales Team the Hubspot Way

When I read the article, I noted a couple of things that I really liked:

  1. They learn very little about sales in the first 30 days.  Mark said, "Instead, they start a blog, create a website, open a Twitter account and begin email marketing campaigns.  By the time training is over, they will rank in Google for a few dozen keywords in their market, have a few dozen followers on Twitter and have written a few dozen blog articles.  HubSpot’s content marketing strategy allows the rep to establish online credibility before even getting on the phone with his or her first prospect."  Cool.
  2. A steady flow of inbound leads.  That sure helps new salespeople get started, doesn't it?
Like all kick-ass sales forces, they could do better.  I read a few things that surely aren't as good as they could be and with some tweaking, would significantly improve sales:
  • Mark identified 5 traits that he believes correlate to success and hires salespeople who have these traits.  He identified Coachability, Intelligence, Prior Success, Curiosity and Work Ethic.  While most top-performing salespeople have these qualities, it does not necessarily work in reverse.  For example, top-performing salespeople are also great at developing, building and maintaining relationships.  However, people who are good with relationships do not necessarily become good salespeople.  In fact, most of them don't!  So while it's important to identify predictors of success, predictors that correlate in only one direction will often disappoint.  The problem with the 5 that Mark identified is that none of them speak to either sales DNA, Commitment, Desire or selling skills.  Hubspot has so many leads that their salespeople don't have to be nearly as strong or effective at overcoming resistance as they would if the company were an underdog as described by:
  • Really expensive products or services; 
  • Not the market leader; 
  • Higher priced offerings than their competition; 
  • Have a story to tell; 
  • New product or technology;
  • New company or brand.  
If you are reading this, and your company matches up with any one of my criteria for underdogs, then you couldn't possibly get away with what Hubspot can get away with.  You must have strong hunters who are adept at overcoming resistance, can differentiate by selling consultatively, and ask the kinds of questions that develop respect, allowing prospects to open their mind to the possibility that you can help.
  • Hold Them Accountable to a Predictable Sales Process.  I completely agree with the premise, but the example is not a sales process as much as it is a set of metrics measuring conversion ratios.  This too - having a set of KPI's that drives revenue - is extremely important, but you can't choose between KPI's and Sales Process.  You need them both.  I speak with many CEO's who think they have a solid sales process in place and what they actually have are some steps - not necessarily the right ones, and never in the right sequence.  There are two things you can do to determine if your sales process is any good.  The first is the eye test.  Does it always yield predictable results on a predictable timeline?  The second is a graded test.  Use our complimentary Sales Process Grader and get a score!

sales process grader
In summary, Mark has done a great job, written a great article and achieved greatness for Hubspot.  But like any kick-ass sales force, they can do even better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leads, HubSpot, sales process, sales training, inbound, sales KPI, Mark Roberge

Leads for the Sales Force - Not

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Dec 14, 2008 @ 23:12 PM

I received an email last week from a LinkedIn connection promting his new super duper lead engine that connects salespeople with the most powerful buying influences in the world.


I'll be the first to agree that if you're buying a list, one that actually contains the contact information for CEO's, Presidents and other top officers can be much more helpful than a list that targets middle managers.  But let's stop there. 

First, a list with the names of CEO's and Presidents won't help anyone who sells products or services that top executives don't buy.

Second, and let's not fool ourselves on this, these are NOT LEADS!!!  They never were and they never will be.  Call them what they are.  They are names on a list and if hand them to your salespeople and call them leads they'll stop calling after about 5 conversations - lousy leads.  If you let them know that they are simply a tool to help them identify potential customers you'll be in much better shape. Just be sure that they know how to make calls like this. The "how" is the key. If they aren't great at this then it's clearly a waste of time.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales leads, Salesforce, Sales Force, cold calling, sales prospecting

Easier Than Selling Free Services

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 @ 17:09 PM

This post puts a different spin on selling...

Topics: sales leads, sales, cold calls, leads

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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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