A Guaranteed Fix for Inaccurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

The weather has become quite predictive - if you want to know what it will be like in say, an hour.  Meteorologists are still fairly accurate within 24 hours, but for the most part, especially where I live in New England, they are challenged to get it accurate beyond a day in advance.

Think of that in terms of your pipeline, forecast and budget.  We know that forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, but that's when you're looking at the forecast for the month, quarter or year.  Meteorologists would never be accurate if attempting to predict temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and storms a month in advance.

Are your expectations completely unrealistic when you attempt to forecast sales for the month or quarter?  For most companies, inaccurate forecasts are the norm and expectations for accuracy are insane.  But that's when companies rely on CRM applications that fall victim to any of the following 10 challenges:

  • It was designed for customer service rather than sales.
  • It has a contact or customer focus rather than an opportunity or sales process focus.
  • It was over-designed with too many features.
  • It is not user friendly.
  • Salespeople hate to enter information into it.
  • It's too easy for salespeople to manipulate the likelihood of closing.
  • Sales Managers do not regularly inspect opportunities for accuracy and appropriate stage.
  • Pipeline is a state of being, not a gap analysis.
  • Pipeline is a report rather than a staged, visual representation of the business.
  • Salespeople don't live in it and it hasn't become an essential part of the sales culture.

There are dozens of CRM applications out there.  While some are very well-known, like Salesforce.com, others are very obscure.  Well-known doesn't mean you should use it at your company - it might not be right for you.  Obscure doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it at your company - it might be perfect.

In the end, regardless of features, if the salespeople don't embrace it, then it will be a failure.  We have so many clients that bought CRM applications that aren't being used as expected, it's embarrassing.  Yet moving to another CRM application seems like throwing money out the window and admitting that your initiative was a failure.

On the other hand, companies think nothing of changing copier brands - even in the middle of a lease, they change banks when terms or relationships make it necessary, executives move in and out of cars every two years, homeowners cycle through crappy landscapers, we upgrade our phones, tablets and laptops every year or two, and we never think twice!  Why is it such a nightmare to move to another CRM application?

Moving is really not that difficult.  The problem is that it cost a lot of money to customize the first application, get everyone trained, and input all of the data.  There is a huge fear that moving to another application will be just as difficult as the first go-round.  But that's more fear than reality.

For example, we moved a client from a popular CRM application to a more useful and appropriate application.  They did spend and waste a fortune on the first one, they did spend months entering data, they did go through a long and drawn out training program for users and it was a monumental failure.  However, moving to the new application was a easy as pie.  It needed almost no customization, had no complicated navigation, and an hour of training had everybody up and running. The data was imported, not entered manually, and the salespeople love it so much they are not only using it, but embracing it.

The best news of all comes in the form of the client's results:  

  • Salespeople are living in CRM!
  • Opportunities cannot be arbitrarily moved forward in the sales process.
  • The likelihood of closing is calculated based on reality, not hope.
  • 100% adoption translates to real time, accurate data in the dashboard.
  • Salespeople see their pipeline stage gaps and proactively respond to them.
  • Forecasts are accurate.
  • Everyone is happy.

It's not that moving to a better CRM application is a new cost or even difficult - it isn't!  It's that for most, walking away from the initial investment of money, time, emotions, commitment and your bad decision is so hard.  But it's not a divorce, it's more like changing banks.  You move away from one that no longer suits your needs and begin working with another that you perceive to be better.

Do you need some help sorting out your CRM situation?  Just shoot me an email and I'll steer you in the right direction.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, salesforce.com, sales forecast

The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 @ 06:07 AM

the_hard_thing.jpg

Thanks to another recommendation from my client and friend, Chris Collias, I am reading a terrific book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers.

On page 49 (of the Kindle Edition), there is a must-read passage for Sales Leaders who want to properly lead a sales force. The passage sums up what sales coaching and accountability are all about. 

After assembling a top-end sales force, he completely revamped the sales process and sent every salesperson through a rigorous and unforgiving training program. He demanded mastery. Any slip-up in technique, skill, or knowledge would be met with total intolerance from Mark.

We held a weekly forecast call where Mark reviewed every deal in front of the entire 150-person sales force.  On one such call, a salesperson described an account that he'd forecast in detail: "I have buy-in from my champion, the vice president that he reports to, and the head of purchasing.

My champion assures me that they'll be able to complete the deal by the end of the fiscal quarter."

Mark quickly replied, "Have you spoken to the vice president's peer in the networking group?"

Sales rep: "Um, no I haven't."

Mark: "Have you spoken to the vice president yourself?"

Sales rep: "No."

Mark: "Okay, listen carefully.  Here's what I'd like you to do.  First, reach up to your face and take off your rose-colored glasses.  Then get a Q-tip and clean the wax out of your ears.  Finally, take off your pink panties and call the fucking vice president right now, because you do not have a deal."

Mark was right.  It turned out that we did not have a deal, as the vice president's peer in networking was blocking it.  We eventually got a meeting with him and won the deal.  More important, Mark set the tone:  Sloppiness would not be tolerated.

 

I loved this passage. I'll read it at every Sales Leadership Intensive. I don't condone using the language [Update:  See comments below for clarification] with a salesperson, but the approach is spot on. The challenge, for most sales leaders, is whether or not they can do the following:

  • Can they see around the corner?
  • Can they anticipate 5 steps ahead?
  • Can they be cynical?
  • Can they be both optimistic and skeptical at the same time?
  • Can they push back and challenge their salespeople without being afraid of their salespeople hating them or quitting?

If you can't imagine a sales leader having any of these difficulties, then you are fine! If you have some of these difficulties, then you absolutely must attend my annual Sales Leadership Intensive in August.

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, accountability, sales pipeline, pipeline review

An Ode to the Evolution of the Pipeline

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 @ 07:07 AM


eggs-in-one-basket.jpg

better-PIPELINE.jpg

Over the weekend, I was thinking about sales pipelines and inaccurate forecasts, how companies are always experiencing issues at the top of the funnel, and it inspired the following poetry. It won't win an award for imagination, creativity, rhyming or flow. I'll stick to my day job for this, I surely know.

The pipeline on the left with all the eggs in one basket
Scares me to death - a business, one hope, surely heading for a casket
The one on the right has a healthier look
With more opportunities for deals to be booked.

Once so simple, my pipeline for next quarter
Suspects, prospects, and the sales cycle was shorter
Names and numbers on cards was a must
In a shoe box or a file box, today they collect dust.

The prospects were familiar - referred or introduced
Not like today where leads are seduced
Tire kickers, assistants and all the wrong folks
Wanting ebooks and samples -- it's all a cruel joke.

Back then our forecasts were accurate and true
We reached all the ones who made decisions too
They paid on time, not 90 days late
And cared about partnerships since those were first rate.

We have CRM, email, and marketing tools
And our blogs and our websites make visitors drool
Graphics and videos are now all the rage 
And they clog up the pipeline in the very first stage.

I love all the tools for managing the pipe
Membrain is awesome and will keep prospects ripe
While you're sleeping, Hubspot helps prospects find you 
And their Workflows automate your messages too.

ConnectAndSell gets prospects to the phone for you
7 in an hour - almost too good to be true
Schedule new meetings from calls that are cold
It's today's way of calling - what's new is really old.

With all that has changed, one thing remains clear
You must still do the work or your pipeline goes bare
Get on the phone and talk with some prospects
Or quit sales today and move to customer service.

The End. No it isn't.

Selling - the art and science of getting people who didn't necessarily want what you have, to pay you a premium for it. Before you can sell anything, you must have some people to sell it to! Fill the pipeline today!

Would you like to contribute a verse to this pipeline poem? Give it a try - it can't be any worse than mine!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales pipeline, membrain, sales forecasts, chad burmeister, connectandsell

Do We Have Sales Compensation All Wrong?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 06, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

balanced-compensation.jpg 

Earlier this week, I posted an article that explored whether or not a salesperson should be punished for landing a big deal if that same salesperson had nothing else in the pipeline.  It generated some heated discussion in the comments section and since there was disagreement about compensation in the comment section, I thought it would be helpful to discuss that.  Should a salesperson receive the maximum commission on the big deal if there was no other activity, critical KPI's weren't met, and the pipeline is essentially empty?

I believe the question merits more than a simple yes or no answer.

The negative comments appeared not only on my Blog, but also in the various LinkedIn Groups where the article was shared. One commenter said that we can't reward effort OVER results while another commenter said that we can't reward results to the exclusion of effort.  Both have their pros and cons, but is there a happy medium?

Let's suppose that our company expects each of its salespeople to generate $2 million annually, or $500K each quarter.  The sales cycle is 8 months, the average sale is $50,000, the closing percentage is 30%, and one quarter is already in the books.  The company has 5 salespeople and their quarterly performance was as follows:

Salesperson

# of Opps 
in Pipline

Value of Opps 
in Pipeline

Revenue YTD

Qualified 
Proposals

 Overall
Results

Overall 
Performance

1

0

$              0

$500,000

0

  On Target

 Poor

2

27

$ 1,850,000

$385,000

6

  Below Target

 Good

3

16

$    800,000

$520,000

3

  On Target

 Excellent

4

6

$    300,000

$250,000

2

  Under Target

 Poor

5

30

$ 1,500,000

$550,000

4

  Above Target

 Excellent

 

One commenter said the only thing he cared about was the results. He was referring to the big deal that salesperson #1 landed in the first quarter.  He wanted to celebrate this deal and this salesperson, but when you see the overall performance in black and white, it's clear that with an 8 month sales cycle and one quarter in the books, salesperson #1 will have annual sales of only $500,000 - the same number achieved for the first quarter.

Salesperson #3 is on target, but with a 30% closing ratio, there is not enough in #3's pipeline to support more than $240,000 in additional revenue.

# 5 will be fine, but #4 is currently failing and the rest of #4's year will likely be horrible.  

The interesting example is #2, who is below target, but has the healthiest pipeline, the greatest number of qualified proposals and will likely lead the sales force in revenue for the year.

Now let's factor in compensation.  If #1 maximizes his possible compensation by hitting his quarterly number, and then bombs the rest of the year, he will have been overpaid for his first quarter contribution to revenue.  If #2 is paid on the lowest possible scale for missing first quarter quota, she will have been underpaid for her first quarter contribution to revenue.

Those two salespeople and their first quarter performance make a great case for a compensation plan that factors results as well as quality effort (# of new opportunities/value of opportunities).  Results should still be weighed more heavily than effort, but if we include both, then both salespeople would be paid more in line with their overall performance.

If sales is worth 75% and effort is worth 25%, how would that affect compensation for these two salespeople on a bonus plan that pays out a maximum of 10% of revenue?

Salesperson #1 would be paid 75% of the maximum $50,000 (on $500,000 quota), or $37,500 for revenue and $0 for effort.

Salesperson #2 would be paid 25% of the maximum $50,000, or $12,500 for effort and 75% for revenue, or $28,500, for a total of $41,000.  Despite sales that were $115,000 short of quota, salesperson #2 would earn $3,500 more than salesperson #1 for adding 27 opportunities worth $1,850,000 to the pipeline.

I'm sure this will cause many to chime in with their own versions and variations and that would be awesome!  And based on what we read from commenters in the earlier article, I'm sure others will criticize the concept and they are more than welcome to do so.

I'm simply suggesting that we can get more from our salespeople if we factor more into the compensation plan than results.

Let's get as much feedback as possible. Have a comment?  Want to read what others think?  Either way, please use the buttons at the top of the article to share it on LinkedIn and Twitter to reach a wider audience for their thoughts.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales performance, Compensation

Fix Your Mediocre Pipeline for Accurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 @ 13:01 PM

Most salespeople don't pay too much attention to this.  Even though we perform a pipeline analysis and restage the pipeline with every individual sales evaluation and comprehensive sales force evaluation we conduct, we typically discuss this exclusively at the executive level.  So imagine my surprise when a salesperson sent along his lessons learned from a session on closing deals and included this...

He said, "I went back to your evaluation to see exactly how you restaged my pipeline...You said the quality of my pipeline opportunities was:
U-Toronto - Medium 
Mt. Sinai - High
New York Genome - Medium 
Columbia - Low

If this is how your method determined the order - then it was spot on...On both the low and high ends. Columbia has fallen completely off the radar while Mt. Sinai has progressed to the proposal and closable stage.  U-Toronto and NY Genome are still progressing forward slowly - with additional presentations required and much more qualifying work needed by me. 
I staged the pipeline today and:
Columbia is a only a suspect
U-Toronto is a prospect  
New York Genome is qualified and
Mt. Sinai is closable" 
So what exactly took place?  Two months ago, this salesperson answered 19 questions about each of 4 late stage opportunities that were - and this is the key - considered to be proposal ready and closable.  After we analyzed the data, we rated the quality of those 4 opportunities as you saw above, and then restaged them as you can see below.  Keep in mind that if they were truly late stage - proposal ready and closable - his pipeline would have looked like an umbrella stand base:
pipeline1-1
However, based on what we learned from our analysis of his answers, instead of his pipeline looking like an umbrella stand base, it looked more like a top!  The image below is what his supposedly late stage pipeline really should have looked like:
pipeline2-2
Obviously, that's quite a difference!
The ability to place your opportunities in the proper stage of the pipeline is the key to a predictive pipeline and accurate forecast.  Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power Magazine recently interviewed me about this very topic and you can watch the 5-minute video right here.
"Is your pipeline a reliable predictor of future revenue?" is just one of 19 important questions we answer when we evaluate a sales force.  And while it's quite helpful to see the actual quality and restaging of your pipeline, the additional 18 questions/answers/insights are usually even more important to most clients.  You can learn more about a sales force evaluation by clicking the image below.
evals .

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales pipeline, sales assessments, objective management group, sales forecast

Earthquakes Hold the Key to Accurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

seismograph-modern

I love finding cool new apps for my iPad and I'm always looking for the next great weather app.  I recently downloaded eWeather HD and as I poked around, I found something I had never seen before and it has a huge tie-in to sales management, the pipeline, and accurate forecasts!

Appearing right next to the tab for weather alerts, eWeather HD has a tab labeled Quakes.  What the...?  Yes indeed, it logs earthquakes!  Did you know that today, as I write this at 10:18 AM, there have been 6 earthquakes in the past hour?  There was a quake in Eastern Turkey 31 minutes ago that registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, and in the past hour, there were 5 more:

A 2.8 in San Juan, Argentina, a quake in Eastern Turkey that registered 2.3, a 2.4 in the Ionian Sea, a 3.0 in Oklahoma and a 3.1 in Alaska.  And if we go back just 8 hours, there were 14 others, including a 4.3 in Mexico, a 4.5 in Japan, and a 5.0 in Vanuatu.  I don't know about you, but I had no idea that our planet experienced non-stop quakes.  I thought that the ones we heard about on the news accounted for all of the known earthquake activity.

If you run a company, lead a sales force or manage salespeople, you are probably in the dark about salesquakes in much the same way I was in the dark about earthquakes.  The salesquakes registering 5.0 and up on the Kurlan scale - issues that your salespeople come to you with - you know all about those.  But how many of the issues do you hear about when they register below 5.0?

You hear about the deal that's about to close, but then it falls apart.  That's a 6.0.  You hear about the big customer that doesn't renew because they are moving to a competitor.  That's a 7.0.  But do you hear anything at all about opportunities where a salesperson:

  • doesn't get to the decision maker and is talking with the wrong people?  A 4.0
  • doesn't get a firm budget and proposes something the prospect can't pay for?  A 3.9
  • presents or demos to gain interest instead of having a conversation to uncover compelling reasons to buy?  A 4.2
  • is competing against an incumbent and is told the only thing that matters is price?  A 3.4
  • doesn't identify the competition?  A 3.1
  • doesn't tell you that a good opportunity has stalled in an early stage of the sales process?  A 2.9

There are dozens more, but you get the point.  You should know about these salesquakes!

If you have the right CRM solution, and it was configured properly, it would be alerting you to salesquakes in much the same way that eWeather HD alerts me to earthquakes.   If you are using one of the most popular solutions, you probably couldn't identify these quakes even if you were looking for them.

That's one of the things I like so much about Membrain.  There's a ready-to-use version with my Baseline Selling process, Visual Pipeline and methodology built right in that you can get here, or you can contact Membrain for their loaded version with everything you need to run a sales force.

We may not be able to stop earthquakes or even forecast them, but we can put an end to salesquakes and improve the accuracy of our sales forecasts.

Top Sales World and LiveHive have gotten together and published a terrific ebook on getting a jump start to your 2015.  You can download the book here.

You can download the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales management, sales leadership, sales pipeline, sales forecasts, eweather HD

Key Sales Strategies for December

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 01, 2014 @ 07:12 AM

snowmen

Copyright mreco99 / 123RF Stock Photo

It's hard to believe that it's December already.  It seems like only yesterday that I made my annual reposting of one of my most popular articles of all time - a terrific holiday article that is worth a read even if you read it each of the previous 4 Decembers.

Top 3 Lessons from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

Does that resonate for you in December?  All year long?  Every day?

So let's discuss December sales strategies.  What can you do to assure that December (a short month with only 17 business days) as well as the 4th quarter and the year finish - all have a strong finish?

You won't like my answer at all, but it's the truth.  

Not. Much.  

About the only thing you can do in December that will benefit the month of December, the quarter and the year is to make sure that the truly closable, qualified, and forecasted opportunities actually close.  If you pull out all the stops, but do it with opportunities that are not truly closable (in December), you run the risk of alienating your prospects.  This is where it is so important to know the difference between what you consider closable, and what your prospects consider closable.  How do you know?  At some point, they told you that you will get this done in December and you have a meeting or call scheduled to do just that.  If that hasn't occurred, then in all likelihood, you are guessing that you can close these opportunities in December.

Some companies need to spend their money this month or they risk losing it.  Do you know which of your opportunities are in that situation?  Those companies will buy from somebody this month - do you know whether or not it will be from you?  Again, you would know because you would have learned that as you qualified them, not because you have a good feeling about it - a guess by any other name.

There are some things that you can do this month, that will have a tremendous impact....on next year....

Most salespeople spend their December days trying to close deals, sending cards, delivering wine, chocolate, fruit baskets, nuts, pretzels and special gifts.  While important, minimal time should be devoted to those things.  Instead, salespeople should be filling their pipelines, scheduling January meetings, and assuring that the 1st quarter of next year is strong.

How can you get prospects on the phone in December?  This is a great month to use a service like ConnectAndSell, which provides up to 8x the conversations that reps get by dialing on their own.  Instead of wasting all of their time dialing and not connecting with anyone, salespeople actually spend their entire calling session speaking with their prospects.  It's very efficient, powerful and useful!  And when you find out how helpful it is in December, you'll want to use it year-round for pipeline building.  Whether it's inside or outside salespeople that do the calling, maximizing your call time in December will be the one thing that will guarantee a strong start to next year.  

There is also an emotional component to December.  Many of us will be on well-earned breaks, staycations, vacations and trips between Christmas and New Years.  There are four possible outcomes for December: 

  1. You closed the forecasted business and built a strong pipeline for next year.
  2. You closed the forecasted business, but failed to build a strong pipeline for next year.
  3. You failed to close the forecasted business, but built a strong pipeline for next year.
  4. You failed to close the forecasted business and failed to build a strong pipeline for next year.

The outomce you end the year with will determine your mental state for not only your time off, but for when you return.   How would you like to be feeling?  Would you like to kick back and relax during your vacation or sulk around, beating yourself up for blowing it?  How would you like to feel when you return on January 2?  Do you want to be energized or still feeling the effects of screwing it up in December?

Close what you can close today, but your emphasis in December must be on building for the near future.

Top performing companies have higher win rates, shorter sales cycles and stronger revenue growth.  Learn what they do differently by downloading my newest White Paper, The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, Closing Sales, accurate sales forecast

Achieve More Accurate Forecasts and Sales Results Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 @ 06:11 AM

Sales-Cycle-Time-in-Phase-1

Are you old enough so that if you don't write something on your to-do list you won't remember to do it?  That's me.  I don't feel old, I don't look that old, but I'll be 60 next year and have become a slave to Wunderlist.  On Monday, I forgot to push the correct notification button and only some subscribers were notified of Monday's article.  That article was perhaps the most important article I have written in all of 2014 and it introduced my latest White Paper - The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence.  This White Paper has ground-breaking insights and has already been nominated for Top eBook of 2014!  The Monday article clearly shows the differences between companies with shorter sales cycles, higher win rates and greater increases in sales.

Last week, a new client was explaining how he called several of the nearly 300 opportunities that one salesperson had in his pipeline.  My client identified 7 opportunities that had no recent activity, but had been in the pipeline for several months and were supposed to close.  Imagine my client's surprise when:

  • My new client had no difficulty reaching the decision makers,
  • The prospects were happy to speak with my new client,
  • My new client learned that two prospects had gone with an inferior competitor - months ago, and
  • My new client learned that the others had not even heard of his company.

How can this happen?

Did you read Monday's article?  There was one significant difference not included in that article.  In 96% of the companies where new salespeople were outperforming those hired previously using other methods, those companies had integrated their sales process into their CRM or pipeline management application.  Would that have helped here?  That depends on which application was being used.

We use Membrain at both of my companies and we recommend Membrain to all of our clients.  There are many reasons as to why we believe that Membrain is an ideal Pipeline Management tool.  Here are a few that would have helped our client if his company had been using Membrain.

Membrain would have notified him that:

  • These 7 opportunities were stuck when they were in that stage just one day longer than specified,
  • The opportunities had exceeded the ideal time for their sales cycle,
  • There were incomplete next steps, and
  • These opportunities were no longer included in the forecast.

The application would have proactively notified my new client.

One of the biggest and most chronic complaints we hear from clients is that they either can't get their salespeople to use the company's CRM application, or they don't update their CRM in real time, updating it only when asked to do so.  Does that sound familiar?  Companies with that problem - and that's most companies - rarely see an accurate forecast, rarely know the progress their salespeople have made on opportunities, and rarely have the data necessary for their dashboards to display accurate information.

The thing we like best about Membrain is that salespeople like Membrain - a lot!  It's simple to use, has no complicated navigation, requires almost zero data entry and always shows salespeople their pipeline on login by default.  It's opportunity-centric instead of data-centric.

Most of all, it doesn't require an integrator to customize it - to get your sales process built-in and hooked up to the pipeline, dashboard and forecast.  Everyone on my team is able to easily work with the Membrain application and customize it for clients.  It doesn't take long, and the end result is an awesome, robust sales process/opportunity focused application and clients fall in love.

I have always preached that salespeople should live in their CRM.  Membrain makes this possible.

In my 2005 book, Baseline Selling (kindle edition is ranked #53), I introduced the concept of a Visual Pipeline.  Membrain brought this to life.

You can check out Membrain here and take advantage of the special pricing they are offering my readers!  It's ready to rock right out of the gate.

Topics: Baseline Selling, sales pipeline, sales win rates

How Stealing 2nd Base is Today's Secret to Success in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 07:06 AM

stealingYesterday, I was coaching first base in the game that would determine the Little League championship for our town.  It was late in the game, we were down by 4 runs, and had runners on 1st and 3rd.  The runner on 1st base would need to steal second and perhaps draw a throw that would allow the runner on 3rd base to score.  A double steal!  There was only one problem.  He had been reluctant to steal all season.  When given the sign, when asked, when told, he just didn't want to steal.  After all, one of the 10 Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Steal."  He couldn't defy God for the sake of baseball, could he?

I had a private chat with him at 1st base and told him that this wasn't about him or what he was comfortable with.  This was for the team, we were playing as a team, and would win as a team.  He should want to steal - for the team.  He didn't.  

Another chat, another reminder, another non-attempt.  

A third chat, another request.  No movement.  

The count on the batter was 2-1 and it was time for a desperate fourth chat.  This time, I demanded, with dire consequences (that I won't reveal here), that he steal.  He went.  The catcher threw and he was safe at 2nd and the run scored.  A momentary victory in the game within the game.  A play that will change him, even though it wouldn't change the eventual outcome of the game.

This morning, thinking about that play again, I'm reminded of two selling scenarios that are nearly identical.

First, there are the salespeople who just don't want to pick up the phone and make calls.  How similar are they to the kid who won't steal 2nd base?  We're not asking these adults to steal, but we are asking them to talk to strangers.  Is it possible that when faced with the task of making calls, they revert to their lessons from early childhood?  

Today, kids don't even talk on the phone.  They text.  I can't get our 12-year-old son to make a phone call under any circumstances.  What are the chances that he would make calls if he entered sales as an adult?

The second scenario involves all of the entrepreneurs out there who, according to a December 2013 Forbes article, number around 20 million!  Most entrepreneurs don't give selling a single thought until they have already started their businesses.  It's only then that they realize they might have to sell something in order to eat.

I wrote an article that appears on the #1 site for entrepreneurs, EvanCarmichael.com, that explains the 3 biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face when they must sell and how to overcome them.  The article applies to everyone in sales, not just entrepreneurs.  You should read it!

Back to making those cold calls.  In the old days, if a salesperson didn't pick up the phone or knock on doors, we starved.  There just wasn't any other way around it.  

Today, there's social selling and while some view it as a solution for call reluctance, I think it's a crutch.  I'm all for anything that helps a salesperson to sell, but does social selling really do that?  Does adding someone to your LinkedIn network make a sale?  Is having a connection the same as being connected?  Is being connected equivalent to being able to schedule a meeting with that individual?  Is being active in groups the same as making calls?

While we are surely more visible through the social networks, all of that busy work serves as smoke and mirrors for the salespeople who are reluctant to pick up the phone and make calls.  They have hope (by all accounts a good thing), but it's false hope.  After someone accepts the invitation to join their network, they can't reply with, "Now that we're connected, I want to talk with you about what we do.  Is it OK if I call?"  While they can hide behind the keyboard and type a lame request like that, the lack of an actual conversation will make it even more difficult to schedule a meeting.  And you can't have a conversation over email or LinkedIn.

There's an old saying in baseball that has been around forever and used as an anaology for many things:  "You can't steal 2nd base and keep one foot on 1st."  

The same goes for selling.  You can't schedule a meeting if you don't pick up the phone.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales pipeline, cold calls, scheduling sales appointments, tips on selling

Sales 2.0 Conference; The Huge Sales Blitz and Sales Processes

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

Yesterday, I spoke at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia.  More about that in a minute.  First, I would like to relate a story about the taxi ride from the airport to the Ritz Carlton.  No, the driver wasn't a maniac.  No, the ride didn't take hours.  And no, it was not eventful.  What was interesting though, was the driver's approach.  

In my experience, there have always been two kinds of taxi drivers. The first asks how long I'm planning to stay and when they learn I'm flying back out the same day, they offer to pick me up for the return trip to the airport.  This is the taxi-driver version of an account manager.

The second type ignores me, talks on his phone, gets me where I'm going and looks for his next fare.  A hunter.  Purely transactional.  Just like a salesperson who knocks on doors.

But yesterday, I met a third type.  He was a type 2, but with time management skills.  He was driving me on a flat fare and he leveraged that quite well.  Long before we reached the hotel, he asked how I would be paying and activated the payment screen so that I could pay by credit card and sign the receipt.  Then, instead of going around the block so that he could deliver me to the main entrance, he suggested that I could save 5 minutes by getting out across the street from the hotel.  He then sped ahead to another hotel where he could be first in line.  He was an optimized, opportunist hunter!

Speaking of hunting and Pennsylvania, last weekend we were dining in an historic Salem MA hotel where the framed pieces on the wall were not so much art, but more history of how the hotel came to be.  It was fascinating!  Apparently, back in the 1920's, the Salem Chamber of Commerce recruited dozens of business leaders to raise $500,000 in one week for the construction of the hotel.  They also hired a Harrisburg-based (there's the PA connection) sales training company to train the businessmen (they were all men in the 1920's) how to sell and then tracked their sales by the day, posting the results on a large billboard in front of the town hall.  In the 60's and 70's, we would have probably called this a sales blitz, where everyone is singularly-focused on finding new sales.  Of course today, some companies have lead generation or appointment setting teams that turn the blitz into a full-time operation.  But, if you have a smaller company or a business without a full-time lead generating team, there's nothing at all wrong with taking a concept from days gone by and repurposing it...

20140301 180721  

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...Back to Philadelphia and the Sales 2.0 Conference.  

In between sessions, I had a nice conversation with S. Anthony Iannorino, one of the top sales thought leaders in our space, and the author of The Sales Blog.  It was terrific to share our common beliefs and alignment on sales process.  We both believe that it all starts with sales process and that most companies, despite thinking that they have a sales process, have one that sucks.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) data shows that 91% of all salespeople are not following an effective process, so that supports the belief that the processes either don't exist, are completely ineffective, or that salespeople have not bought into them.  None of the 3 scenarios are acceptable, so you must address the sales process problem which, along with ineffective sales coaching, are the two single biggest reasons why sales cycles are getting longer and win rates are going down.

Finally, here's a nice comment from my session, "What to Ask Yourself to Determine Whether Your Sales Force Needs to Undergo a Sales Transformation":

"What a great talk at the Sales 2.0 conference today. You absolutely hit the nail on the head of all the things we need to be thinking about, and I particularly loved what you said about coaching needing to happen as 50% of the sales manager's job - yes!! Here's to a world with better sales processes, good-fit people and intelligent use of the tools available to us."

Join the discussion.  Email recipients, please click the link to the article and tell everyone what's on your mind!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, Sales 2.0, s. anthony iannarino, gerhad gschwandtner, sales blitz

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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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