The Whiners - Salespeople Who Get Your Attention

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 08, 2010 @ 06:09 AM

whinerDon't you hate whiners? These are the people who complain, rationalize and criticize EVERYTHING.  There is some criticism that is warranted, justified, needed and appropriate - much like the coaching I do each day - but I'm talking about unnecessary whining, when adults behave like kids and come up with something negative just because they can.

Prospects, Customers, Salespeople, Managers and Senior Executives are all guilty of whining.

Great Leaders, great sales managers, and great salespeople do not.

Let's focus in on salespeople.  Why do they whine?  Why do they look for things to complain about?

  • You didn't go on the road with me.
  • I didn't get the support I expected.
  • The product doesn't work the way it's supposed to.
  • My territory sucks.
  • I'm not making enough money.
  • You're too critical.
  • I don't get enough attention.
  • You took too long to get back to me with pricing.
  • I had to do everything myself.
  • It's a negative environment.
  • I don't get enough of the leads.
  • I shouldn't have to do that.
  • I didn't know my commission would be that small.
  • I didn't sign up for that.
  • My leads aren't as good as everyone elses'.
  • I did exactly what you told me to do.

You get the picture.  I can guarantee one thing about comments like these:  Your top performers (real sales professionals) aren't the ones taking their time (and yours) to whine.  Oh no. This stuff is the exclusive domain of the under achievers and they whine to justify their lack of success.  Whining might distract you from their dismal performance and further distract them from performing the work they're supposed to be doing.

So next time someone whines to you about well, you,  what should you do?  Whine back?  Reprimand? Thank them? Ask questions? Set the record straight?  What would you do?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, sales management functions, salespeople, sales pyschology

How to Achieve Consistency on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 07, 2010 @ 09:09 AM







I was reconciling my Amex statement and found these charges:


I have always believed that in sales, the three most important attributes (not skills) are the willingness to do what it takes to succeed (commitment) the passion for being the best (desire), and the discipline to repeat the required behaviors and activities (consistency).  Those numbers?  My gasoline charges for last month.  They are certainly consistent - no matter how I got there.

  • I could have waited until my fuel guage reached a certain point and pulled into the nearest service station - but that wasn' t it.
  • I could have stopped the pump before it approached $58.00 - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have refueled whenever I passed a certain station I liked based on my schedule - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have refueled on the same day and time each week - but that wasn't it.
  • I could have driven a certain number of miles before refueling - but that wasn't it.
  • It could have been a huge coincidence - but it wasn't.

I am a very consistent individual.  Consistency simply happens because I expect it to happen.  It's in my demeanor, which doesn't change much regardless of what might be taking place.

  • If I am managing salespeople, that consistency applies to coaching and accountability.
  • When I am coaching clients, the consistency applies to the format and outcomes of the call.
  • If I am prospecting, my consistency applies to call quantity and quality.
  • When I am selling, my questions are very consistent.
  • I am consistent in the number of hours I work each day, as well as the time I wake up and begin work.
  • If you checked, you would find that most of the articles on this Blog are posted between 5:30AM and 6:30 AM. That time indicates when they are completed, not when they are started.  I usually begin them at 5:30 and some get done sooner than others.

You probably know some salespeople who are consistent too, but unfortunately, most of them are consistently bad!

Do you feel like fixing something on your sales force today?  Figure out what/who could be more consistent, determine what behaviors must change, identify something measurable, set better expectations, and drive the change home!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management functions, Sales Accountability

Sales Coaching is Like Baseball - How do You Rate?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 03, 2010 @ 08:08 AM

Pujols 2Where are you when it comes to the all important topic of Sales Coaching?

I'm in the middle of training several sales management teams on the finer points of coaching.

What's always fascinating for me is the transition that these teams go through on their way from point A to point B.


They start with: "I coach my salespeople all the time."

Then I hear: "Well, I don't coach them quite as often as you say we should."

And then: "Oh, that's much more often than I do it now.  I don't have time for that."

Then: "Wow, if I coached that frequently it would have quite the impact!"


They start with: "When I do coach, I'm pretty good at it."

Then I hear: "That's exactly how I coach!"

And then: "Well, I don't go that far."

Then: "That's much deeper and wider than I go."

Also: "I never get to those kinds of outcomes with my salespeople."

Finally: "If I could coach like that and do it that frequently, all of my salespeople would be awesome!"

Role Playing:

They start with:  "Those are how my coaching role plays sound."

Then I hear: "Well, I never have my salespeople play the prospect's part."

And then: "My role plays don't last 20 minutes."

Also: "I can't get them off price and onto the issues that really matter like you do."

Finally: "You do that so easily.  How can I learn to do that?"

Sales Coaching is like baseball. 

"Oh, I played baseball."

Really?  Whiffle Ball in the back yard? Sandlot?  Little League?  Babe Ruth? High School? American Legion? College? Cape Cod League?  Independent League? First Round Draft Pick?  Signed by a Major League Team?  High Minors? Cup of Coffee in the Bigs?  Utility Player on a Major League Team?  Every Day Player?  All Star? MVP?  Hall of Fame?

When it comes to coaching, most sales managers have done the baseball equivalent of Sandlot - they messed around at it and had some fun.

I want the sales management teams I work with to perform the baseball equivalent of at least All Star.  They excel at it every day and have a major impact on their team's ability to win.

Where are you or your sales managers when it comes to the all important topic of Sales Coaching?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management functions

5 Advantages That Overcome Inequities on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 @ 05:06 AM

Red Sox fanInequities are the things that aren't fair and that don't happen to everyone.

Take the Boston Red Sox for example. If you don't follow them, you probably don't know that they are just 1.5 games out of first place despite the fact that they have lost these great players for some or most of the season:

  • Speedy outfielder and offensive spark Jacoby Ellsbury has missed most of the season with broken ribs suffered when Adrian Beltre collided with him
  • Veteran outfielder Mike Camerson has missed almost as much time and is playing with an abdominal tear;
  • Back-up outfielder Jeremy Hermeda has missed a month with broken ribs suffered when Adrian Beltre collided with him (not a copy/paste error - Beltre actually did this twice!);
  • Ace pitcher Josh Becket has been ineffective and missed more than a month because of a back problem;
  • MVP 2nd Baseman Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his foot Friday night and will be out 6-8 weeks;
  • Catcher Victor Martinez took a foul ball off his thumb yesterday and broke it and will miss time
  • Mike Lowell is on the disabled list with a bad hip
  • Starting pitcher Dasike Matsuzaka has been on the disabled list twice.
  • Jed Lowrie, the guy who was supposed to be their starting shortstop for the last two years, has been injured for most of the past three years and has missed all of this year with Mono;
  • Starting pitcher Clay Buckholtz pulled his hamstring during Saturday's start.

That's an inequity (actually it's just really bad luck) because all of the teams haven't suffered the same fate as the Sox.  Another inequity is interleague play. The Red Sox have already played the Phillies, Braves and Mets (all NL East contenders) as well as the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants (all NL West contenders) while other AL teams get to beat up on weaker NL Teams.

So let's move over to business, and sales.  There are inequities there too - with territories, margins on imported versus domestic components, parts and products, various markets a company sells into, the relative size and market clout of the competition, patents and copyrights, etc.

But there are advantages that companies can, but don't all necessarily have.  R & D, leadership, people, product design and quality, expertise, service and support are a few that quickly come to mind. There are five areas where the sales force can develop a huge advantage over its competitors:

  • Selection - when a company learns how to hire the right salespeople - those who will consistently succeed at their company - they can compensate for inequities through the effectiveness of their salespeople.  Market leaders only need people who will show up every day.  The rest of us need great salespeople to compete.
  • Sales Process - 91% of the companies we evaluate don't have a formal, structured sales process.  This is just stupid!  An optimized sales process is a huge difference maker, keeping salespeople focused on what must be done, when, with whom, and in over what period of time.  It helps salespeople gain traction, improves conversion ratios, leads to bigger margins and increases in revenue.  What's not to like?  Mike Workman, CEO of Pillar Data System, wrote a very funny article on his Blog about sales process.  
  • Strategies, Competencies, Tactics, Posturing - Most companies don't have much in the way of this stuff either yet, through training, this becomes a huge differentiator.  If you're not the company people ask to do business with and you don't have the lowest price, your salespeople must be skilled in these areas.
  • Pipeline - Everyone talks about pipeline but most companies have nothing more than a placeholder.  There is a pipeline, but it's not staged properly, the criteria for each stage is lame, the method for factoring confidence sucks, and the data isn't properly integrated for coaching and accountability.  Yet, when management has a properly set up pipeline, used within an effective sales management framework, good things happen!
  • Metrics - Most companies have metrics but they are invented rather than derived from pipeline requirements.  The most important metrics drive revenue but most companies ignore them, opting for lagging rather than predictive metrics.  The latter makes all the difference in the world.

There isn't much you can do about inequities but you can compensate for them by doing all you can with those things you can take advantage of.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Force, sales pipeline, sales management functions, sales core competencies, mike workman, pillar data systems, sales management framework

5 Frustrations that Derail the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 @ 05:06 AM

derailed trainI write a lot about the things that frustrate Presidents, CEO's, Sales VP's and Salespeople.  Yesterday, somebody asked what frustrates me so I attempted to tackle that question here. 

I'm very steady and what you see on Monday, you'll probably get on Tuesday and Wednesday too.  That said, there are things that will make me eat faster or more often, and here you can read my top 5:

  • People Don't Follow Through. This refers to people who don't do what they said they will do.  When it comes to my world, this can include clients, their sales and sales management personnel, my Expert Reseller network, my own salespeople, my staff, vendors, and yes, prospects too.  Please follow through as promised!
  • Salespeople Suck.  When salespeople let sales opportunities that were right there for the taking slip right through their fingers as a result of not being thorough enough I don't understand how they can be so lackadaisical.  Come on - how can you make those mistakes? 
  • Inverted Pipeline.  When salespeople lose their prospecting momentum and fall out of the habit of scheduling new appointments it drives me nuts.  They'll have some lean times ahead but it affects more than their success and income. It affects their sales managers, their teams, their company, their morale, and others who work with them and wonder, "How come he gets away with not scheduling the appointments?"
  • Interruptions.  I can control phone calls, email and the calendar but hate walk-in interruptions because even 20 minutes could mean not getting the 20 hours worth of work completed in the available hours I have. I know, I could simply shut my door like most people do but that gives the impression that I'm not in the office - no visibility, no presence, not really there, so why go to the office at all?  Why even have an office?  I could work poolside, gradually work less and less and suddenly, not even have a business!  This is what interruptions do - they cause one to become unfocused.
  • Can't Find What I'm Looking For. I know where my stuff is but when I'm looking for the real-time data that is supposed to be in the CRM Dashboard, that's an entirely different story.  Is it really lost, or did someone not put it back where it belongs? How hard is it to update your opportunities every day?
OK, those are mine.  What frustrates you?

Topics: Sales Force, sales management functions, bad salespeople, frustrations

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

But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 07, 2010 @ 09:06 AM

Money MotivationA Sales VP and his CEO were in the conference room and each time the CEO brought up a problem, we asked the Sales VP to elaborate.  Each time he began with, "Well I'm a sales guy so I know this stuff..."

Yes and No.

Yes, he's a sales guy.  But no, he doesn't know this stuff.  If he knew this stuff the problems and challenges in their organization wouldn't exist and the two of them wouldn't be sitting in front of us in the conference room.  This isn't at all unusual either. 

Most Sales VP's, Directors and Managers have egos so large that they can't ask for or readily accept the help that most of them so desperately need.  Most CEO's don't expect their Sales Leaders to be trainers, they expect them to arrange for the training.  Most CEO's don't expect their Sales Leaders to be experts in Sales Force Evaluation and Sales Candidate Selection.  They expect their Sales Leaders to identify the tools that will help them.  Most CEO's DO expect their Sales Leaders to implement sales processes, create realistic metrics, hold their salespeople accountable and coach them to be more effective.  And most Sales Leaders just aren't very effective at this.

I just looked at the data on about 50,000 sales managers that have been assessed by Objective Management Group and on average, sales managers have only:

  • 37% of the attributes required to be effective coaching coaching salespeople;
  • 58% of the attributes required to be effective holding salespeople accountable. 
  • 47% of the attributes required for developing people.

So it's clear that they need the help but most of them say the same thing -- "I'm a sales guy - I know this stuff..."  Yeah right.  Most of them know what their salespeople must achieve for results but beyond that, don't have the skills, strategies, tactics, experience, and understanding to help all of them do that consistently and effectively.

Another thing Sales Leaders don't know very well is compensation.  Only 20% of the sales managers in our database know what motivates their salespeople and only 42% of the sales managers are even personally motivated to earn more money!

My guest on last week's episode of Meet the Sales Experts was Sales Compensation expert Dick Dauphanais.  You need to listen to every word of this show but a few of the things that Dick said that I thought should be included here are:

  • "Well designed compensation plans have a life expectancy of 3-5 years max."
  • "Take people off of commission during aberration (economy in the tank) years."
  • "You need to understand the difference between pay and recognition based compensation plans."

If you're a CEO, communicate to your Sales Leaders that they are supposed to get help and you expect them to.

If you are a Sales Leader, get your ego out of the way and ask for the help you need.  That's why we are here!  Don't be embarrassed, think about how you'll look when you're smashing past the goals!


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management functions, sales motivation, sales compensation, dick dauphanais

What Sales Leaders Don't Know About Ego and Empathy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 11, 2010 @ 21:05 PM

In the past week, three people had discussions with me about recruiting salespeople and suggested that the difference between successful and unsuccessful salespeople is that effective salespeople have empathy and ego.

These people probably use personality and behavioral styles assessments too.  Those assessments, always poorly adapted for sales, feature empathy and ego.  There are three things you must know when it comes to salespeople and their empathy and ego.

  1. The findings mean nothing when reported in a personality or behavioral styles assessment
  2. Lousy salespeople have empathy and ego too
  3. Empathy and Ego are only assets in the right quantity.

This article will focus on #3. 

Empathy and Ego are both a lot like food - you can't have too much of it or it will make you sick.  And if you don't have enough of it you'll be weak. They are really best plotted on bell curves, not bar graphs!

Let's take empathy.  Salespeople who don't have enough empathy won't be able to relate to the problems they are attempting to find and won't be able to help prospects feel comfortable sharing their frustrations and fears.  In other words, lack of empathy will compromise the listening and questioning competency.  Yet, salespeople with too much empathy will not only relate to the problems they can solve, but they will be empathetic to every stall, put-off, objection, excuse and sob story they hear too.  Here is where an ideal level of empathy can be seen on the bell curve.

Bell Curve

Ego is a very similar story.  Salespeople who don't have enough ego lack confidence and are easily intimidated. As a result, they have difficulty developing strong relationships, showing their expertise, garnering respect and developing credibility.  Yet, salespeople with too much ego appear to be cocky, arrogant, self-centered ass-holes who don't understand that selling is all about their prospects, not them.  I can't tell you how many salespeople each week are forced to hear me say, "John, it's not about you."  Here is where an ideal level of ego is plotted on the bell curve.

Bell  Curve

So there you have it.  If you read it on a personality or behavioral styles assessment, just know that the empathy and ego were measured in a social, not a business or sales context.  That makes it inaccurate and nonpredictive. Many ineffective salespeople have empathy and ego.  Too much empathy and ego is just as bad as not enough.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales recruiting, sales management functions, empathy, ego, sales assessments, personality test

Anatomy of the Million Dollar Producer

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 03, 2010 @ 05:05 AM

I was listening to Red Sox manager Terry Francona being interviewed on one of Boston's sports radio stations the other day when I heard him say, "When we get information we try to know what information we are getting."  Huh?

It turns out that he was referring to the difference between what the statistics tell him and what he sees with his eyes.  The statistics don't tell the entire story.  A baseball example of that might be the shortstop who leads the league in errors.  If you look at that statistic you might think he was a defensive liability but if you were watching him perform, you might see that he completes all of the routine plays, regularly makes outstanding plays to prevent runs from scoring, and most of the errors were harmless throwing errors that didn't cost the team runs or games.

Which salesperson would you rather manage?  The salesperson with $1 million in annual sales or the salesperson with $650K in annual sales?  You think I'm going to choose the $650K person, right? Well it depends.  If you simply look at the data, you would choose the $1 million salesperson.  If you also watched them, you might still choose the $1M salesperson.  But let's look a little more closely at the make-up of their business.

Our million dollar man has just two accounts but they are big ones; one is worth $650K annually and the other $350K annually.  He wins roughly 2 deals a week from those two accounts and he's always happy, smiling and confident.  The company and the salesperson were both very eager to have these two accounts and offered sizable discounts in order to land them.  The margin on all of this business stands at only 10% and it's a senior salesperson, earning 30% (of margin) commissions.  So we have a salesperson investing 100% of his time managing just two large accounts that contribute only $70K annually to overhead after commissions. Yikes!

Our $650K salesperson has only been with the company for three years and has 65 small accounts at a 30% margin.  His commissions are 20% (of margin) and he brings in about one small order each week from one of his small accounts.  If you were watching, you wouldn't think his accomplishments were nearly as impressive as the first salesperson's.  But this salesperson is contributing around $175K to overhead, more than double that of our million dollar man.  

The differences go beyond the contribution to overhead though.  If salesperson #2 loses an account, there is almost no change to the business.  If salesperson #1 loses an account, it has a major impact on revenue, capacity and cash flow.  Additionally, it is much less difficult to replace a small account than one of those large accounts.

If salesperson #1 were somehow able to leverage those two large accounts and capture business from two more accounts like that, at 20% margin instead of 10%, that might make his contributions more valuable, but only if the average order from the four large accounts doubled or tripled in size.  Otherwise, he wouldn't have the time to effectively manage twice the workload and the company might have to hire additional workers to handle the volume.

So things are not always quite as they appear.

Do you have salespeople that aren't profitable, don't contribute enough to overhead, won't change what they're doing and simply aren't benefiting the company?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, sales management functions, top salespeople, sales figures, margins, annual revenue

One Hidden Gem in 10 Sales Management Challenges

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

You have a sales force and some of your salespeople are difficult to manage.  There are varying reasons for the challenges.  They could include, but aren't limited to these 10:

  1. resistance to coaching
  2. don't want to be held accountable
  3. excuse making
  4. attitude
  5. always making suggestions about how things should be done differently
  6. critical of the company, management, systems, expectations, etc.
  7. they aren't effective
  8. not motivated
  9. not likable
  10. depression

To be sure, 9 of these 10 are management challenges that you must work extra hard to deal with.  On the other hand, there is 1 - the 5th one about suggestions - which one can easily mix in or fail to distinguish from the others.  Many managers treat #5 just as they treat the other 9 - whines from a malcontent.  But #5 is different.  The salespeople who fit the description of #5 might actually be on to something.  They might be right.  They're actually trying to make things better.  They might even be wrong, but they're being constructive.  The challenge with #5 is getting over yourself enough to listen!  Here's what you can say:

You've been making an awful lot of suggestions and I probably haven't given them the consideration they deserve.  Let's pick a couple of them, discuss how we can implement them, and commit to making them work.

Two things will happen.  You'll have a much more engaged salesperson and that in turn will cause others to become more engaged.  You'll continue to get input, some of it useful, and when you listen, consider and implement the best, you'll gain more respect and credibility from your salespeople.  That leads to more trust, better relationships and increased performance.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, sales management functions, attitude problems

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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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