Sales Warfare: Love to Win or Hate to Lose?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 05, 2015 @ 10:01 AM


Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Happy New Year, everyone.

I hope you had an opportunity to recharge, review, and look ahead.  During the break, in addition to spending quality time with my family, I listened to music, read four books, watched some movies together, went to 3 shows, and saw Unbroken.  The common thread among concerts, books, shows, and movies is whether or not they are memorable.  For me, memorable refers to whether or not I will remember a book, show, movie, scene, passage, chapter, event, line or moment - years later.

I'm sure you have some of those memories too.  I remember a Rod Stewart concert from 10 years ago when he stopped a song about 20 seconds in and said he had "f****d it up" and wanted to start over.  I also remember a Michael Franks concert from 27 years ago when he thanked the audience for helping his album reach Gold, and admitted that it was probably because we all purchased both the vinyl record and then the CD, thereby doubling his sales.

There was a very memorable line in Unbroken:  "If you can take it, you can make it."

As is always the case, these memorable moments got me thinking about memorable selling moments and that led to some interesting insights about motivation...

Can you remember your most memorable sales calls?  Your most memorable wins?  Your most memorable losses?  

Last month, while training a sales team, I asked if they loved to win or hated to lose.  Everyone raised their hand in response to love to win.  I challenged them to reconsider.  In my case, as well as most top sales performers, the many wins are nice - very nice - but the losses, especially because there are so few of them - make me angry.  I remember them, learn from them, and make sure I don't repeat the mistakes that led to a loss.  Yes, it is always my fault when there is a loss.  A top performer will always take responsibility and learn from it.

So do you love to win or hate to lose?

I think it was Jimmy Connors, the championship tennis player, who is most famous for saying he hated to lose.  On the other hand, it only takes a single tennis or golf victory to see how glorious it is to win a championship.  But that's a win of a totally different type.

I remember the awards for winning, but not most of the winning moments.  I think that's because I expect to get the business, so the win meets my expectations, while a loss catches me by surprise and causes an emotional reaction.

It's very important to know which outcome - winning or losing - is more motivating for you and your salespeople.  If it's winning, then the strategy can be traditional - how to win the deal or account and how great you will feel upon winning.  If it's losing, then the strategy should be an opposite strategy, based on how you will feel if you lose and how to prevent that outcome.

It really doesn't matter whether winning or losing motivates you more, but it is important to know and understand how you are motivated. 

LeadTrigger has published its book of 2015 Sales Predictions.  You can download your copy here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, winning sales, losing sales

7 New Ways to Motivate Salespeople Through 20 Old Hurdles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 07:09 AM

Sales Challenges

Trust me when I say that this is a great article, but before we get to it, I have a few post-vacation links for you.  

This is important!  We want you to be part of our next White Paper on Sales Force Effectiveness.  Would you kindly take no more than 5 minutes to answer some questions about the sales force at your company?  We won't even ask your name or email address!  

Hubspot's Sales Blog published this post with some professional follow-up email templates.  It's worth a look and it has one of mine...

The September issue of Top Sales World was published last week and my article about the Top Mistakes Salespeople Make on the Phone was named Top Blog Post for August.

Gerhard Gschwandtner interviewed me for SellingPower TV. You can see the 5-minute interview here.

I'll be speaking at Inbound14, September 17, and I'll be talking about How to Hire Great Inbound Sales/Marketing people.  You can register here.

Finally, my article about How to Hire Salespeople That Will be Great Instead of Great Salespeople that Will Fail was posted in EcSell Institute's Coaching Library.  You can hear me speak on this topic there next month.


Now for the article.

The ability to motivate salespeople is just as important as it has always been.  However, there are differences today that make it more complicated than it used to be.

In the old days (pre-2008), if salespeople were motivated, then they were probably motivated by money.  According to data from Objective Management Group (OMG), 54% of salespeople were money-motivated during the 1990's and first half of the 2000's.  Today, the data shows that no more than 27% of salespeople are what we now call extrinsically-motivated.  Even the name has changed!

But what about those who are intrinsically-motivated - those who are motivated by satisfaction, fulfillment, praise and recognition.  They want to change the world.  They love what they do and want to achieve mastery.  That motivates them.  OMG is able to differentiate between intrinsically-motivated and extrinsically-motivated salespeople, but how do you manage those who are intrinsically-motivated?  How do you get them to perform when they are interested in things that go beyond a commission check?

Perhaps this will help:

In the next release of OMG's suite of Sales Candidate Assessments, Salesperson Evaluations, and Sales Force Evaluations, we will be able to show you exactly what YOU can do to motivate your existing and new salespeople.  For instance, wouldn't you love to know if a salesperson:

  • Loves to win - or hates to lose?  It's a subtle difference, but you would take a completely different approach to motivate each of these two types of salespeople.
  • Spends money to force performance - or performs and spends the money as a reward?  Just like the first example, the difference is subtle, but your motivational approach would be different.
  • Responds better to being pushed by the sales manager - or prefers to push himself?  If you are familiar with the scene in "Facing the Giants", you'll have a good idea of what it means to be pushed to be the best.  
  • Performs better when closely managed - or when left alone?  Some salespeople cannot function well when left to their own devices.  They don't self-start or self-direct and need to be directed and/or be part of a team.
  • Performs better when competing against others - or when competing against her own expectations?  What if the mediocre salesperson would rise to the next level if the competition and the rewards were compelling enough?
  • Responds better to recognition - or satisfaction after meeting and exceeding goals?  For some, it doesn't get any better than hearing their name called out, receiving an award or plaque, reading about themselves on a website or being listed as the winner.  Others could care less about all of that because the self-satisfaction one gets from knowing they're the best is all they need. 
  • Is motivated by proving someone else wrong - or proving himself right?  There are some salespeople who can be motivated to achieve greatness just because someone told them that they would fail at sales, that they weren't ready for this role, that they couldn't sell that big account, that they wouldn't beat out that particular competitor, or that they could never earn that much money.
Samples Button2

Salespeople are different - very different - and the more you know about what will help them face and overcome the following 20 hurdles, the better:

  1. Adversity
  2. Rejection
  3. Better-Known Competition
  4. Disinterest
  5. Ambivalence
  6. Existing Relationships
  7. Preconceived Motions
  8. Lower Priced Competitors
  9. Insulated Decision Makers
  10. Liars
  11. Assholes
  12. Impossible Political Structures
  13. Unfair Terms
  14. Unwillingness to Answer Questions
  15. No's
  16. Maybe's
  17. Self-Limiting Beliefs
  18. Discomfort with Certain Selling Situations
  19. Fear
  20. Pressure

Image Copyright: texelart / 123RF Stock Photo 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales challenges, sales testing, sales assessments, objective management group

How to Run a Killer Sales Incentive Contest

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 23:02 PM

contestYesterday, we had a fairly sizable snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow and it reminded me of this article from last winter.

Also yesterday, in my article on the importance of rallying cries, I promised to discuss incentive programs.

Incentive programs are still very powerful as long as you make sure they don't last for more than 90 days.  There are other factors that can make the difference between an effective and ineffective program.  Consider the three most important concepts:  Everyone must believe that they can win the contest, there should be more than 1 winner, and the rewards must be motivating enough for them to go into overdrive to win one.

Let's begin with how you get them to believe they can win.

It's easier than you think.  Just don't base your contest on revenue.  When a contest is based on revenue, everyone knows, well in advance, who the likely winner will be.  So if not revenue, then what?  That's also easier than you think.  What would you like your salespeople to do more effectively?  Find new business?  Fill the pipeline?  Then base the awards on behaviors that you want to change.  And when you base it on more than one behavior, your salespeople will believe they have a chance to win!  Consider some or all of the following:

  • Most new meetings scheduled,
  • Most new opportunities added to the pipeline,
  • Most referrals and introductions received,
  • Most new accounts or customers,
  • Most new sales (that's number of new sales closed, not revenue),
  • Most leveragable new account, and/or
  • Biggest new opportunity added to the pipeline.

Won't every salesperson believe that there is at least one of those that they can win?

What about the award or prize?  How can you make that compelling enough so that they WANT to win?

That's also much easier than you think.

Eliminate any award, reward or prize that they can buy for themselves.  That gets nobody motivated.  Instead, focus on things that either wouldn't be practical, or wouldn't be safe for them to buy with family money.  For instance, some of your salespeople would simply love to participate in a week-long sports fantasy camp, but most of them would feel way to guilty to actually spend the money and go away for a week of fun.  However, if they were to win it, that changes everything.  Another way to get them excited about the payoff is to ask them to choose their prizes.  Give them a range and have them pick!

Finally, there are websites that will run your contests for you.  They're called gamification sites and you can find some of them here.

So keep it short, have multiple winners, reward the behaviors you want to change, don't reward revenue, offer guilt-free prizes and you'll have the killer contest that gets everyone motivated, excited and working hard.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales motivation, sales contest, gamification, sales incentives

World Series, Super Bowl and the Sales Force - The Rallying Cry

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This article was originally going to be just a single paragraph,  but it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.  I believe that amplifies the significance of this topic.

world series winnersWe saw it for the first time in October when the overachieving Boston Red Sox beat the talented Detroit Tigers for Baseball's American League Championship.  Then those same Red Sox topped a great St. Louis Cardinals team to win the World Series.  The most impressive element of the 2013 Red Sox is that what they lacked in talent, they made up for in chemistry, character, work ethic, intensity, commitment, and a rallying cry.  Those elements led to a unique culture of togetherness and a true desire to pull for each other.  They were not an untalented team; they just weren't the most talented team.

super bowl winnersThe Seattle Seahawks story is not significantly different from the Red Sox.  Their Super Bowl winning team was comprised of the same type of chemistry and character that led the Red Sox to the world championship of baseball.  Is character a substitute for talent?  Not at all.  But when you combine a strong dose of talent with a strong dose of the right character, it makes all the difference in the world.

With selling being such an individual sport, can any of this character and culture stuff be applied to a sales force?  Let's discuss it and figure it out.

If every salesperson is aligned around your rallying cry - the why we're all doing this - and they all pull for each other instead of competing with each other, you can get your talented salespeople to overachieve.  Of course, that is much easier said than done.

Let's discuss the rallying cry.  Every April, the state of Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day and there are two special events.  The Red Sox always play a special 11 AM game while marathoners compete in the annual running of the Boston Marathon.  As you know, in 2013, tragedy struck when the Marathon was disrupted and people were injured and killed by what is now known as the Marathon Bombing.  There was a heartfelt and immediate response by the Red Sox players as people from around the world watched the events play out on live television.  

boston strong"Boston Strong" became the rallying cry of the Red Sox.  David Ortiz, their biggest star, addressed the crowd and on live television, famously said, "This is our f---ing city."  Even the FCC didn't mess up that moment, deciding not to assess a fine on Ortiz, the Red Sox, or NESN, the sports network that broadcasts Red Sox games, for his use of the F-Bomb on live television.

But make no mistake.  Those two statements - Boston Strong, and This is Our F____ing City - became the rallying cry around which the entire team aligned and that evening, they committed to bring the World Series championship to Boston. They pushed each other.  They pulled for each other.  They found a way.  They achieved.  They overachieved.  They persevered.  They did it.  They won.

How would things change if you could come up with something bigger and more important than money, sales, profits, commissions, metrics and personal achievement?  How would things change if there was something bigger and better than you and me and them?  How would their approach change?  What would happen to their sense of urgency?  When it's bigger than the one and the all, how important would it be for everyone to succeed?  

What could be your rallying cry?

meadowlandsI haven't written too much about incentives and contests, although I have some strong opinions.  I'll share those opinions in my next article.  But a rallying cry, that could be bigger than everyone, could be an event, location or thing where if the team succeeds, everyone on the team participates and celebrates.  "New Jersey" was a rallying cry of the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson, their Quarterback, got the entire team aligned around, "Why not us?"  If the team achieves its goal, everyone on the team goes to New Jersey and competes, as a team, in the Super Bowl.

What could be your rallying cry?

duck boatIn addition to the team's World Series trophy and the player's share of the World Series money, there is one additional reward for winning the World Series in Boston.  The Red Sox and their families are paraded through Boston and into the Charles River on Duck Boats.  A third rallying cry for the 2013 Red Sox team was "The Parade" and "Duck Boats."  After the parade, pitcher Jake Peavy went so far as to purchase the Duck Boat in which he and his family rode.

What could be your rallying cry?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales motivation, red sox, marathon bombing, boston strong, seahawks, sales incentives

Motivating Your Sales Team - Secrets to Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 09, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

My first post-vacation post is a collection of announcements that have been sitting in my note-taking app, inbox, and calendar.  So, in no particular order:

I was named as one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2013.

This blog was named as one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs for 2013.

I will be hosting our renowned Fall Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston November 14-15.  When it comes to mastering the art of sales coaching, you won't find a better program than this one!

Check out with PayPal and choose Bill Me Later. Subject to credit approval. See Terms.


I'll be back with some more thoughts on sales leadership later this week.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales motivation, lorman, sales success

Zig Ziglar's Legacy to the Sales World

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 @ 16:11 PM

zig ziglarZig died today at the age of 86.  Seth Godin memorialized him here.  I wrote about our chance meeting here 6 years ago.

I want to talk about Zig's life and his sales and selling impact.

He paved the way for people like me by almost single-handedly creating the motivational speaking industry.  Today, motivational speaking has evolved to include sales and sales management training and coaching, sales consulting, sales force development, sales enablement, sales and sales leadership training and coaching, sales infrastructure and sales architecture.  While none of those competencies actually involve motivational speaking, people still categorize any and all of them into the motivational speaking grab bag of business.

Zig's ability to motivate and help sales professionals (as well as people from many walks of life), made him a role-model worthy of emulation.  He wasn't the first, but he was certainly the most prominent, among early motivational speakers, to focus on goal-setting and closing.  Today, those are just two of literally dozens of topics to address with a sales force.  But without those two, it would be difficult to develop the rest.

Zig also wrote books, recorded audio tapes and CD's and eventually video too.  He wrote articles, appeared live and was really the grandfather of the industry.  Other prominent names came before and after Zig, like Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Og Mandino, Paul Meyer, Earl Nightingale, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, W. Clement Stone, and Elmer Wheeler.  But Zig is the name that everyone associated with motivation and sales.

The funny thing is that some of what I wrote in my 2005 book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball, is already outdated!  Yet fifty years later, much of which Zig wrote and spoke is still relevant.

Give yourself a treat.  Order an old Zig book and enjoy!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, dale carnegie, napoleon hill, og mandino

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

sales motivationThis was the question posed at 

When I reviewed the page, there were 18 other answers to the question.  There was nothing particularly wrong with them, but they just weren't transferable or scalable.  They didn't answer the question of how sales professionals stay motivated as much as they answered how certain salespeople motivate themselves and how certain sales managers motivate others.

The most important thing to understand is that when someone must ask how to motivate their salespeople, they may not have the right salespeople!

The best salespeople don't have to be motivated - they just are - and it not something they have to do.  Sure, they are goal-orientated.  Sure, they are disciplined.  Sure, they love praise and recognition.  But salespeople who love what they do and love either the thrill of success or the sight of their growing bank account are pre-motivated.  Think pre-washed or pre-faded jeans. They come to the table wired for it.

The real issue is what to do about those who aren't wired for it.  The easy answer is to evaluate the sales force and, as part of that process, look for the data which will tell you who is motivated; not in general terms, but specifically for success in sales.  Who can be developed and how much improvement are they likely to show?  You may learn that you don't have the right salespeople in the right roles and may need to make some changes.

You'll also see this problem with veteran salespeople who have made a lot of money and have become complacent.  Just because they have succeeded in the past, doesn't mean they will continue to succeed in the future.  And did they really succeed in the past or did they make a bunch of money because they inherited lucrative accounts?

Change is the best way to motivate a complacent sales force.  Send a message that they can all be replaced and that you are willing to make those changes.

Read more of my articles on sales force motivation.


Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales development

Getting Reluctant Salespeople to Fill Their Empty Pipelines

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 @ 10:06 AM

empty sales pipelineLast week, I wrote this article about the best time to ask salespeople to fill their pipelines.  One reader asked how to get salespeople to fill their pipelines.

It's an interesting question because your real performers don't have to be asked.  They will keep it filled on their own.  If you are having difficulty getting salespeople to fill their pipeline, then one of several things may be true:

  • They are relatively inexperienced and, while willing, aren't very effective.  This is your best scenario because training and coaching will help these salespeople, but you must both put in the work!
  • They aren't motivated enough to do it.  This describes most account managers who are happy to live off of their existing business.  Unfortunately, while this might be good for them, it isn't very good for you or your business.  While there could be a tremendous amount of business being managed by them, they are not setting a good example for others on the sales force.  The bad significantly outweighs the good unless all you can see is the revenue that they manage, and then you'll be blind to all the bad for which they are responsible.
  • They aren't committed enough to do it.  Bye - It was nice knowing you!  There is no place for this salesperson on your sales force.
  • Their hidden weaknesses prevent them from doing it.  This is your second best scenario, but it will take a lot of training, coaching and time to help them overcome their call-anxiety and some will never overcome it.
So, how do you get them to fill their pipeline?  You make it a condition of continued employment.  You'll provide training and coach those who don't know how; provide training and long-term coaching for those who are uncomfortable; replace those who lack commitment; and redeploy those who aren't motivated to an account management position.  The rest - the real salespeople - don't have to be asked.
How do you distinguish between lack of motivation, lack of commitment, hidden weaknesses and skill gaps? A Sales Force Evaluation will provide you with all of that intelligence and more.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales motivation, sales weaknesses, sales competency, sales commitment, sales skill gaps, sales assessments

Can the Right Music Motivate and Improve Sales Performance?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 22, 2012 @ 06:05 AM

musicOne of the many changes to affect selling during the last several years is that salespeople are making fewer face-to-face sales calls than ever before and more of the selling has moved to the phone.  This has resulted in more calls (although shorter), more resistance with a longer sales cycle, and greater success in closing sales, deals and accounts which might not have been possible just a few years ago.  The biggest difference though?  It might just be the music.

Back in the good old days, many of us played music on the way to sales calls while some listened to sports, news, or talk shows.  I'm focusing on music today, so I'll we'll discuss how music could serve to:

  1. Motivate
  2. Calm
  3. Stop the Thinking
  4. Improve Focus and Resolve
  5. Boost Adrenaline
While some might play classical, easy listening or new age music to calm their nerves, others play genres that could motivate them for upcoming calls.  In much the same way as a pitcher or hitter has a personal music clip played to get their adrenaline pumping as they enter a baseball game, music can have a similar effect on the psyche of a salesperson.
If a salesperson has a one-hour ride to the next sales call, it would require about 10 tunes to fill that time. I invite you to join today's conversation by sharing your pre-sales call playlist (or the tunes you would include if you had one).  I've shared mine and encourage you to contribute yours. It will be very interesting, perhaps even exciting, to see all the variations (or not) in the styles of music and specific songs that everyone prefers prior to a sales call. There is no right or wrong, just personal preferences.  
Here are my 10 (Frank, you'll notice that the band Chicago does not appear in my Top 10 Pre-Sales Call Playlist):

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales development

Basketball and the Difference Between Sales Studs and Sales Duds

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 14, 2012 @ 09:05 AM

Baseketball is like salesI heard former NBA all-star and current ESPN basketball analyst, Bruce Bowen, talking about Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics.  He characterized Garnett as one of the toughest competitors on the court, unlike some younger, very talented players who aren't as competitive and don't know how to close out games.  He said the difference is that Garnett is trying to win while the less competitive players are trying to make friends.

I've been talking about Need for Approval being one difference between the elite 6% of salespeople and the bottom 74% of salespeople for years, but this is the first time I have heard of the affliction as a differentiator in sports.  In one of my books - it was probably Baseline Selling - I discussed how it would play out if the pitcher had need for approval from the batter and vice versa.

Why is Need for Approval such a differentiator?

In the discussion about Kevin Garnett, Bowen said that Garnett doesn't care what other players think about him. Given his reputation as a shut-down defender, we can interpret that as he doesn't care if other players have a problem with him being tough, unrelenting, unfriendly, angry and passionate on the court. He isn't going to smile at an opponent, ask how he's doing or praise him for a nice play. He doesn't care if his opponent has a problem with that.

In sales, the elite 6% don't care what prospects and customers think about them, as long as they are thinking about them. They don't need to be best friends or have a relationship outside of work. That allows them to ask tough questions, challenge strategies and comments, and push-back when appropriate. These are behaviors that the bottom 74% of salespeople aren't able to do because they care so much about what their prospects and customers think about them. They worry that, if they ask too many questions or push-back, their prospects and customers won't like them anymore.

Who says that those prospects and customers like them now?

Because they don't ask tough questions and don't ever push back or challenge anything, we can be certain that they aren't having the type of conversations that add value.  And if they aren't adding value, their prospects and customers probably don't respect them.   

Do you know which of your salespeople have need for approval and how to deal with it?


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, difference between top salespeople and the rest, sales competition

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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 eight 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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