"Spirited" Has So Much in Common with Most Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 29, 2022 @ 07:11 AM

Watch new trailer for holiday comedy 'Spirited,' starring Will Ferrell and  Ryan Reynolds - Good Morning America

Last week we watched Spirited, the new Apple TV Plus take on the old Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.  In this lighthearted film, Will Ferrell is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Ryan Reynolds is the 2022 version of Scrooge.  This Scrooge is a funny, selfish, materialistic, song and dance man, who is irredeemable. Can Will Farrell's character redeem Ryan Reynolds' character?

As usual, the movie got me thinking about salespeople and Understanding the Sales Force.

Ryan Reynold's character, Clint Briggs, is a fabulous showman, salesperson, and marketing consultant rolled into one.  The problem is that he never considers anyone or anything other than himself and his personal success..

There is a correlation between Clint Briggs and salespeople, many of whom are also irredeemable, but for different reasons. 

Most salespeople - 87% - still sell like it's 1975 and fall into one of three buckets:

  1. They sell transactionally. In other words, they talk about their company, their products and services, themselves, their features and benefits, and try to leverage that for a sale.
  2. They rely on demos to generate interest and then try to close.
  3. They rely on having the lowest price and take orders.

Only 13% of all salespeople take a consultative approach to selling and almost none of them can be found in the bottom 50% - the group that fails to meet quota each year.  A coincidence? On the other end of the spectrum, the top 10% of all salespeople are 4300% more likely to have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength!

Are the 87% redeemable?  Can they make the transition from transactional sellers, demo-focused presenters, and price focused order takers to professional, consultative sellers?  Only an OMG (Objective Management Group) sales team evaluation (SEIA) can answer that questionDownload free samples of the sales team evaluation here.

Spirited does have three things in common with prior versions of A Christmas Story and those are the ghosts of Christmas' past, present and future.  That got me thinking about the articles I wrote in 2022, the articles you'll see in December, and what you can look forward to in 2023.

Our ghost of articles past reminds us that we began 2022 talking about whether buying has changed and if salespeople have adapted.  We followed that up with our 6th installment in the popular Bob Chronicles about salespeople who make things your problem.  Then came an article about the 10 Unwritten Rules of Prospects and how to break them.  

February began with an article on how hiring salespeople the right way yields 62% less turnover and 80% higher quotas.  We followed that up with the similarities between cyber thieves, hackers and most salespeople.  No kidding!  Then came this favorite, the 7th installment of the Bob Chronicles about salespeople who can't close closable business.  I love the Bob articles!  Then I provided 10 steps to crush your sales forecasts.  Finally, our last article in February was my review of a prospecting email with some elements that could actually work for salespeople.

March started with an article explaining how salespeople with a high tolerance for money are 4,000 percent better than those with a low tolerance for money.  That's a huge differentiator!  Next was the comparison between great baseball coaches and great sales coaches.  Then I began a new series of my most popular videos and rants.  It started with the top 10 but there are now nearly 2 dozen popular videos and rants to watch! 

April started with another baseball analogy - this one about how the philosophy of great pitching coaches can improve your sales team.  Then I explained how to identify the accurate reason for a salesperson who is not performing.  

May's first article had my 5 simple steps to grow sales by 33%.  Really!  May ended with an article about how to prepare your sales team to thrive in a recession.

In June, I explained how salespeople like to go fast but good salespeople actually go slow and followed that up with an article on the benefits of competency-based assessments.   

In July, I wrote about why you can't afford to lose customers or salespeople right now.  Then I wrote about big company strategies that small and medium businesses can emulate.  The last article of July explained the differences in requirements for success in different selling roles

August began with one of my trademark takedowns of a junk-science article with 20 attributes of successful salespeople. Not. That was followed with an article about how to stop account churn.  Then I explained how my car's qualifying ability is a great example of how salespeople should qualify. Then came the article that explained how salespeople would be impacted by the 15% minimum corporate tax and how difficult it would be for the IRS to hire 80,000 agents.  Sorry if reporting on an actual news story offended some of you.  The post that should have gotten people upset but didn't was when I compared the sorry and pathetic Boston Red Sox to most sales teams.  Not a single complaint about that one!  My final article in August was another baseball analogy where I compared closing a tough sale to hitting a home run.

In September I found and shared an article with a doctor's testimonial about the importance of his salespeople.  Awesome!  Then I wrote about 10 attributes that do not differentiate top from bottom salespeople.  Next up was my tortured message to the masses wondering why more companies don't use OMG.  Then came another takedown of a Harvard Business Review article that appeared online.  The last article in September talked about how you can double your revenue in a recession.  

October began with my personal life comparison of Jeeps and Infinities and how that analogy holds up when interpreting an OMG sales candidate assessment for hiring salespeople.  My 8th installment of the Bob Chronicles looked at the difference between selling skills and effectiveness.  Then I compared alleged criminals who are released under cashless bail to underperforming salespeople who are released back into the field.   My final October article explored the correlation between motivation and sales compensation.

In November I wondered if salespeople will sell more effectively when sales managers sell and coach and if new sales managers can be difference makers.  Then I wrote a take-down of a Wall Street Journal article about selling to millennials.  My most recent article compared my failing wiper blades to why executives fail to take action when they have underperforming sales teams.

Which of these articles will make the list of the top 10 articles of the year?  Stay tuned for the December reveal as well as my annual Nutcracker post.  In 2023 I'll be focusing even more on how you can use OMG's data to improve sales performance.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales performance, sales tips, sales effectiveness, sales assessments, sales team

Can a New Sales Manager Be a Difference Maker?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 09, 2022 @ 06:11 AM

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For the longest time, my local Panera in Westboro Massachusetts was awful.  Like phone company awful. And cable company awful.

The problem was chronic.  The half and half was always empty.  The supplies of cup insulators and trays were nowhere to be found. The wait at the drive-through was intolerable.  Online orders were never ready at or even close to the time they provided for pickup.  Online orders were routinely screwed up.  

And then Panera wasn't a problem anymore.

Over the course of a few weeks in the summer of 2022, everything changed and they became remarkably reliable. What happened? 

They got a new manager! I'm guessing (I did not interview her) the new manager prioritized KPI's and accountability, hiring people who had attention to detail, who were committed to customer satisfaction, and who took personal responsibility.

Could companies that wanted to experience a similar uptick in sales performance achieve that by replacing their sales managers?

Maybe.

it would depend on with whom they replaced the sales manager.

I speak with so many sales leaders who tell me about the four sales managers they went through in the last two years.  I speak with CEOs who tell me about the three sales VPs they went through in the last eighteen months.

There is tremendous pressure to fill these roles because your team's performance will suffer without someone at the helm.  Or is that misinformation?  How much worse could a team perform than how they perform under a sucky sales manager?

Well thought-out role requirements, patience, and being uncompromising are important ingredients to landing the ideal sales leader and/or sales manager.  When companies try to quickly fill an opening and as they often do, make a mistake, they have essentially doubled the amount of time that it takes to put a competent leader in the role.  Had they adhered to the requirements, been patient enough to continue recruiting and interviewing until a candidate met the requirements, and committed to not compromising, it could take an extra month or two, but it will be well worth it.

The problem is that most companies don't really know how to properly set requirements for these two roles, don't have an effective way to ascertain that the sales management and/or sales leadership candidate has the required skills to meet the requirements, and aren't disciplined enough to invest the time to get it right.

I write about Objective Management Group (OMG) a lot, and especially OMG's role-specific, accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessments.  I rarely, if ever write about OMG's Sales Management Candidate Assessments or its Sales Leadership Candidate Assessments.  As I mentioned in this article, sales managers must spend the appropriate amount of time and be effective at coaching up salespeople.  How would anyone interviewing a candidate know the candidate was capable of this without the power of OMG's accurate insights?  Request a sample of the sales and/or sales leadership candidate assessments.

Other than actual experience, there are three primary differences between sales managers and sales leaders:

  1. Sales Managers are tactical (sleeves rolled up) and should focus on coaching while Sales Leaders are strategic and should focus on leadership (sleeves rolled down).  
  2. Sales Managers have salespeople reporting to them while Sales Leaders have Sales Managers reporting to them.   
  3. Sales Managers tend to earn in the $125,000 to $175,000 range while Sales Leaders tend to earn in the $250,000 to $350,000 range (US Dollars).

There are a lot of people carrying a Sales VP title who are actually performing the role of Sales Manager.  There are also some over-qualified Sales Managers who compensate for under-qualified and overwhelmed Sales VPs.  If companies could get these two roles right we would see an historic uptick in sales performance.

As part of OMG's Sales Team Evaluations, we conduct role analyses and can show you if you have the right people in the right roles and, if not, which roles they should be in.

OMG also conducts a pipeline analysis, a sales process analysis, a growth opportunity analysis, a sales cycle length analysis, a selling capabilities analysis a motivational analysis, a Sales DNA analysis and so much more.  Request a sample of the SEIA.

OMG has the greatest suite of tools for sales selection and development since sliced Panera Bread.  Would it help you to use OMG?  Contact us here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales leaders, sales pipeline, sales managers, omg, OMG Assessment, panera, sales team evaluation

How Your Sales Team Can Double its Win Rate in a Recession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 26, 2022 @ 14:09 PM

double

Isn't it awesome when you learn about new tricks your computer, phone or software can do that you weren't previously aware of? I've been using a number of new widgets on the home screen of my iPhone 13 and I love how quickly I can get or enter information!

Isn't it fascinating when you thought you knew what a product was all about but you were wrong?  A client was having great success using OMG (Objective Management Group) to assess their sales candidates and they assumed the sales candidate assessment was the only thing OMG offered.  When they learned that our core offering is evaluating their existing sales team they became excited about what that would mean for addressing their two biggest selling challenges.  

One of their issues was their 20% win rate was much lower than they thought it should be and they believed their salespeople needed some refresher training on closing.  They also had a large number of opportunities stalled in the pipeline and they believed that training on more effective techniques to conduct follow up calls would help.

In this article, I thought it might help if I share a bit of what they learned about their sales team.

It turns out that they didn't have either a follow up or a closing problem.  The three biggest issues were that their salespeople were:

  1. Not reaching the individuals who actually made the decisions to buy their services.  They knew they had to reach that person and  reaching that high in the organization was a milestone in their sales process but only 7% of the sales team was having any success doing that.  We also learned that the salespeople who did get to the decision maker were 400% more likely to close the business than the others on the team.



  2. Somewhat ineffective at Discovery and as such, were not uncovering compelling reasons for their prospects to buy.  Without compelling reasons, there was a lack of urgency and without urgency, there was nothing compelling their initial contacts to get the decision makers involved or the money approved.  The salespeople were simply not getting their prospects beyond "nice to have."
  3. Not selling value. They were focused on selling value, but because they were not uncovering compelling reasons to buy, they were unable to communicate their value in terms that would resonate with their prospects.  As a result, by the time the opportunity was proposal-ready, 50% had reverted to price-based opportunities.

These three issues were not the only issues facing this company but to give you a sense for how crucial these three issues are, read the next sentence three times.  If they were to do nothing else, but they relentlessly trained, coached and role-played these three issues, they would double their win rate next near. DOUBLE THEIR WIN RATE!

Some companies learn that their issues lie within their pipelines because the opportunities are not well qualified or scored.  Other companies learn that their problem is the company's ineffective sales process.  Some companies discover that the problems have more to do with not having the right salespeople in the right sales roles, a selection problem.  At other companies, we learn the problem is ineffective sales management, due to ineffective coaching and/or accountability.  Motivation is the problem at some companies while the thing that looks and sounds like complacency is often a problem with lack of Commitment.

Some companies have sales teams that aren't very effective developing relationships while others have trouble leveraging the relationships to generate revenue.  I've seen some sales teams that weren't very effective at building trust and credibility while other companies had hired salespeople whose Sales DNA wasn't strong enough to differentiate their higher priced products or services in the C Suite.

The problems I mentioned above are a small sampling of the many issues OMG identifies and it might surprise you to learn that many sales teams have all of these problems and more.

You can't fix the sales problems you can't measure.

When you scientifically measure exactly what the sales problems are, who has the problems, to what extent those problems exist and what the complimentary problems might be, you can begin to determine exactly what kind of development, training, coaching, and even organizational changes are required.

Or, you can do what this company was about to do before they evaluated their sales team and hire a sales training company to train on the latest and greatest closing and follow up techniques. After reading the story, you will understand that what they thought they needed for sales training would have never helped - not even a little!

If you are interested in learning more about having your sales team evaluated, you can email me and I'll get your request to the right person. If you don't want to hear from anyone (an example of a non-supportive selling belief that lowers Sales DNA), you can head to this site where you can get started on your own for free.  Full disclosure, at some point you will still have to speak to someone and pony up to receive the deliverables.

Image copyright 123RF 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, recession, OMG evaluation, creating urgency, sales team evaluation, discovery

How Many Authors Does it Take to Screw in a LightBulb Highlighting Selling Skills?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 22, 2022 @ 15:09 PM

Indeed - Home | Facebook

A few years had passed since the last time I wrecked an hbr.com (Harvard Business Review online) article about sales.  If you haven't been reading the Blog for the last sixteen years you may have missed my previous fourteen take downs.

Why Do You Think Harvard Business Review Does This When it Comes to Sales?
The Challenge of the Challenger Sales Model - The Facts
Harvard Business Review Blog Off Target on Sales Greatness
Harvard Business Review Blog Post Gets Salespeople Wrong
Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on Sales
How Wrong is the Harvard Business Review Article on How to Hire Salespeople?
Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR
Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings
Top 10 Questions for Salespeople to Ask and Stay Away From
What Customers Expect From Your Salespeople and More
HBR or OMG - Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople?
More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog
Now That You Have a Sales Process, Never Mind
I
s SELLING an Afterthought in Today's Sales Model?  

Dan Caramanico alerted me to this dubious September 19, hbr.com article that explains their 5 Skills Every Salesperson Needs to Succeed.  It took three consultants to screw in the lightbulb that illuminates their five stupid-as-shit skills so let's take a look:

The five skills they claim everyone should have are not sales skills at all.  In their defense, their title doesn't state they are sales skills, but instead, skills that salespeople need to have.  As you read these, ask yourself, does EVERY salesperson need these skills, do certain salespeople need these skills, or do any salespeople need these skills?

  1. Anticipating the Customer's Tomorrow
  2. Collaborating Inside and Out
  3. Leveraging Digital and Virtual Channels
  4. Ability to Get Power from Data
  5. Capacity to Adapt

The three authors looked at sales job postings on Indeed and extracted their five skills of choice by looking at some of the requirements listed by enterprise companies, like Apple, Grainger, Microsoft, Pfizer, Bank of America and 3M.

Enterprise companies are rarely representative of small, medium and mid-market companies.  If we study industries that are considered old-school, like industrial distribution or building materials, they wouldn't even consider skills like these being associated with sales.  They're just learning what CRM is!

Let's look more closely at #3, digital and virtual.  This requirement simply states that salespeople must be able to use the tools that all salespeople have learned to use, like Zoom, LinkedIn, MS Office, and CRM.  In this day and age, those requirements are no different than twenty years ago when it was a requirement for a salesperson to have typing skills!

If we look at the top five sales skills that every salesperson - EVERY SALESPERSON IN EVERY ROLE - needs to have in order to succeed, I would choose these (data courtesy of Objective Management Group (OMG):

  1. Reaches Decision Makers - you can have all five of the skills listed in the hbr.com article but if a salesperson can't reach and meet with the decision maker, the skills listed above and below cannot be leveraged.  Salespeople who reach decision makers are 341% more likely to close the business.
  2. Consultative Seller - Salespeople must uniquely differentiate themselves and provide the prospect with an ideal solution that is both cost and needs appropriate.  The best way to do that is with a consultative approach based on excellent listening and questioning skills, attributes of the Consultative Seller competency at which only 11% of all salespeople are strong
  3. Value Selling - The ability to sell at a profitable margin is very important to most companies.  Selling Value is the skill that drives profit but it requires a set of beliefs, strategies and tactics to support the effort.  Simply spouting off a company's value proposition will not get the job done.  Only 31% of all salespeople have Selling Value as a strength.
  4. Qualifying - The win rate is driven by a salesperson's ability to thoroughly qualify an opportunity and there is a direct correlation between unqualified and lost, and fully qualified and won.  Only 21% of all salespeople have the Qualifying Competency as a strength.
  5. Sales Process - A custom staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process will support and enhance a salesperson's ability to use a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify a decision maker's ability to buy.  Only 34% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.

These five skills are Sales Core Competencies at which all salespeople must be good.  Compare these five competencies to the five skills in the hbr.com article and you will easily see that their five skills, without my five competencies, won't get a deal done.  On the flip side, I would argue that my five competencies, even without their five skills, will still get a deal done.

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies with an average of 8 attributes per competency.  OMG measures all 21 of them and there is an online tool where you can see the data behind all 21 Sales Core Competencies and break it down by industry and Sales Percentile.  OMG has assessed 2,253,218 salespeople.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales CRM, reaching decision makers, selling value

Which is Worse - The Boston Red Sox or Your Sales Team?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 23, 2022 @ 07:08 AM

fenway

I wrote the best-seller, Baseline Selling, so it should come as no surprise that I'm a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan.  I'll be at Fenway Park for a game this week and I had some thoughts about how the Red Sox compare to many of the sales teams that get evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).

The Red Sox are not very good. They have become difficult to watch, and have morphed from a 2018 World Series champion, to a 2021 playoff team, and now to a last place team because their roster was so poorly constructed.  In the off-season and at the trading deadline, the Red Sox waited until the other teams made their big moves and the dust had settled. Then, from among the players that were still available (nobody wanted them), he made some bargain basement signings or traded players who will be due for big contracts and got little in return (again).  The result is a bad team with only a handful of stars and a supporting cast of broken parts, guys playing out of position, and minor leaguers filling in for injured players.  Do you know how bad a team has to be to score ten runs and still lose by five?

Most sales teams that go through the OMG evaluation process have a couple of stars but most of the salespeople are not very good (bargain basement hirings), not in an ideal role (out of position), and aren't contributing to the growth of their companies.

The construction of the Red Sox roster is simply a Stupid as Shit Strategy or SaSS. Use of the word strategy means that it's intentional and is a disservice to the word stupid!

Sales team construction usually lacks formal strategy and that suggests something accidental is at play. We tend to see the "we already had these salespeople" and then "these are the new salespeople who were willing to work for us." New is a relative term as the newest 30% of the team continues to churn when and if they find candidates.

In both examples, we have teams that appear to be underperforming when in fact, they suck because of poor selection.  I'm not letting managers off the hook as they are responsible for coaching up the people on their teams but let's face it.  If the right people were acquired in the first place, they wouldn't require much coaching!  

It's common knowledge that for the past several years, only around 50% of all salespeople meet or exceed quota. Are they underperforming or performing as they should based on their own capabilities?  I mined some data from the 2,242,971 salespeople that OMG has assessed. What follows helps to explains why:

OMG measures the difference between salespeople who can sell versus those who will.  Only 55% of all salespeople will sell.

Only 22% have the necessary Sales DNA (combination of strengths that supports the execution of sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics) to succeed in their roles.

Only 41% have Hunting as a strength and only 34% prospect consistently so pipelines fall short of target.

Only 43% have Relationship Building as a strength and only 29% are able to leverage their relationships to win business.

Only 34% follow an effective Sales Process so most salespeople are winging it while believing they are terrific.

Only 28% Reach Decision Makers but only 11% reach the final decision makers and only 1% of new salespeople reach those decision makers

Only 11% have Consultative Selling as a strength and only 7% get past nice to have.

Only 31% have Selling Value as a strength and only 25% of salespeople make purchases in a manner that support successful sales outcomes.

Finally, 50% of all salespeople are weak!!  Is it any wonder that only 50% of all reps hit quota?

More importantly, CEOs and Sales Leaders don't know what their salespeople are truly capable of because they read only what appears in the CRM application, hear only what their salespeople tell them and see only the monthly, quarterly and annual revenue numbers.  At most companies, the salesperson responsible for the most revenue is often among the worst salespeople on the team.  They might have the biggest and/or best accounts, or the most lucrative territory, decades of tenure in the industry, but they aren't selling as much as they are serving in the role of account manager and order taker.  Don't confuse revenue with sales effectiveness.

A professional sales team evaluation shows what prevents your team from achieving a higher win rate, higher margins, more new business and a shorter sales cycle.  Do you have the right salespeople in the right roles? How much better each can each salesperson become? What it will take to get them there and how long will it take?  Is your pipeline legit? Which of your salespeople can be trained or coached up to reach their potential?  Are your salespeople part of your future or part of your past?

You can guess or you can get the data.  Learn more about a sales team evaluation.  Request a sample.

This article began with poor sales team performance as a by-product of selection.  Start using OMG's sales candidate assessments - the most accurate and predictive sales selection tool in the world. Request a sample.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales assessments, objective management group, sales team evaluation

The Many Different Selling Roles and How They Differ - Part 1

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 27, 2022 @ 12:07 PM

car-comparison

When you think about cars, you know there are coupes, sedans, crossovers, SUVs, and sports cars.  You also know there are luxury cars, mid-range cars and economy cars.  You also know there are fast cars and slow cars, flashy cars and vanilla cars, big cars and little cars, white cars, black cars and every color in between.  But if you were to think about specific features that differentiate one car from another, you would have to really think about it, wouldn't you?  It used to be easy.  Air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, power windows, power seats, side mirrors and automatic transmissions were standard in the expensive cars but not available in the budget-priced cars.  Today, most cars, in most classes include all of those features as standard.

The same kind of thinking is required when thinking about the various roles of salespeople.  We can name them: Account Executive, Territory Manager, Business Development Rep, Sales Development Rep, Account Manager, Key Account Manager, National Account Manager, Channel Manager, Application Engineer, Sales Consultant, Inside Sales, Outside Sales, and more.

To further complicate things, in some companies and industries, Sales Managers function as salespeople and Sales VPs function as Sales Managers.

While the above roles have selling as a primary responsibility, there are as many differences to selling roles as there are differences to the class or style of cars.  Today, we'll explore the difference between an Account Executive and a Business Development Rep.

I collaborated with Joe DiDonato, Chief of Staff at Baker Communications, and together we produced the following comparison.

Role Comparison for 21 Sales Competencies

While both roles overlapped in 10 key competencies, the capabilities in the remaining 11 competencies were very different. 

A successful AE needs to excel at 18 of 21 competencies that OMG assesses, while a successful BDR needs to excel at 13 of the 21 competencies. BDRs perform lead follow-up, send emails and connection requests, and conduct cold-calling. The reality is that most individuals in that role aren’t very good at it, based on the data we've collected. There is a prevailing misconception that those 3 tasks don’t require much selling ability because it’s “all top of the funnel,” but success in the role requires proficiency in 11 different sales competencies.

It’s the nature of each role’s responsibilities - and the prospect’s point of entry into the sales process and funnel - that requires different strengths. A BDR is focused on closing the prospect on initial sales and proof of concept steps at the top of the sales funnel. They’re going to be faced with 9 out of 10 callers rejecting them – if not more - and must be able to shrug that off without taking the rejection personally. As a result, the BDR must be “rejection proof” in addition to having strong hunting and closing capabilities. 

In contrast, the AE role relies on relationship building to move the opportunity down the sales funnel and through the formal sales process. Included in that effort is a strong consultative selling ability, as well as the knowledge of how to convincingly sell value to the prospect – both essential skills in moving the opportunity forward. 

Next comes strong presentation skills as the proposed solution has to be presented to multiple stakeholders, as well as a keen understanding and respect of the formal sales process that successfully moves the opportunity forward. Rounding out the AE's portfolio of skills is that the AE must have a considerably stronger comfort level around discussing money. 

So many opportunities are squandered as a result of an AE's failure to verify that the money is there, it can be spent, they are willing to pay more, and the value of more has been established. AEs who are comfortable having that conversation will outsell those who don’t. When they skip, avoid, or vaguely cover finances, proposals are generated for prospects who either won’t buy or won’t pay the price resulting in price objections, delays, business lost to competitors, or prospects choosing to do nothing. 

One of the most significant differentiators between the most successful AEs and their less successful counterparts can be found in the sales competency called Supportive Buy Cycle (shown in the table above). The attributes in the Buy Cycle competency correlate to how salespeople go about the process of making a major purchase for themselves and salespeople tend to sell in a way that is consistent with how they buy. The best salespeople determine what they want to purchase and simply buy it - without much consideration of price, alternate sources, having to think it over, and more. 

Conversely, the weakest salespeople tend to conduct research, comparison shop, look for the lowest price, think things over, and some of them even hate salespeople and "being sold" something. As you might imagine, the weakest salespeople understand it when their prospects want to buy the same way that they do, while the strongest salespeople don’t understand that buying behavior, push back, and ask questions. 

Strong salespeople have the ability to eliminate competition, shorten the sales cycle, and help prospects buy on value instead of price. It’s difficult for some salespeople to grasp the concept and consequences of this competency. But when salespeople change the way they buy so that it supports ideal sales outcomes, their revenue increases by 50%.

As you can see from the analysis, the skill sets are very different. Many companies treat the BDR role as an entry-level position in preparation for the more demanding AE role at some future date. But as closely aligned as these two roles are in objectives, they require different skills to be successful. As a result, the movement between roles is not as easily accomplished as most sales managers hope.

Before we conclude the article, it's important to note that for each of these 21 Sales Core Competencies, OMG includes 8-10 attributes (64 on one of them) for a total of around 275 specific sales findings and scores.  We have a site that shows the following data for each competency:

  • Average score for all salespeople
  • Average score for the top 10%
  • Average score for the bottom 10%
  • Average score in your industry
  • Average score for your company (you'll need some of your salespeople to take the evaluation to populate this bar on the graph - it's free for them to take it and populate the bar graph with your aggregate scores but you'll have to pay for the 30-page reports if you want them)

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, relationship building, prospecting, sales core competencies, sales CRM, top of the funnel

Big Company Strategies That SMB Sales Teams Can Emulate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 11, 2022 @ 11:07 AM

apple-logo

On a recent Saturday I was running errands which took me through 3 local towns and a nearby city.  Even though I have traveled this route more than 5,000 times, it was the first time I noticed the difference in the various business signs along the road.

All of the national brands, chains, franchises, and well known businesses had professionally designed and recognizable logos.  All of the local, single-location, small businesses had signs that were crappy.  It would be a stretch to say their business signs displayed their logos because their signs, and probably their advertisements, just used different combinations of fonts that you have on your computer.  They were not professionally designed and they were definitely not attractive.  There was one exception.  The new BBQ/wings shop opening their second location has a very professional logo that makes them look like a national chain.  Not only does it draw ones eye to the store, it gives them instant credibility.  After all, isn't that one of the attractions of a franchise?  Even though you may operate a single location, you get to ride the coattails of their logo and reputation and instantly become a national or international business!

I know. The previous paragraph was about branding and marketing; not sales.  But there is a correlation to my theory that a slick, professionally designed logo, makes you look bigger and more successful. Give me a moment to explain how that applies to sales.

If a professionally designed logo makes you look bigger, more successful, and provides credibility, wouldn't the same theory apply to a professionally trained sales team?

Think about the last dozen or so B2B salespeople that have called on you.  From the cold emails, to the cold phone calls, to the demo where they read their own slides, to the unqualified proposal or quote and the agreement they want you to sign before you ever indicated you were interested in buying, 8 out of 10 salespeople suck at this.  These salespeople are basically throwing as much glue up in the air and just trying to see what sticks.  They close a deal here and there because of perfect timing and/or luck but missing from their arsenal are sales process, sales methodology and sales capabilities.

Data from Objective Management Group (OMG) backs this up.

The top 5% of all salespeople have elite selling skills.
The next 15% are very strong.
The next 30% are serviceable - at best. 
The bottom 50% are pretty crappy.

When a crappy salesperson calls on you and makes you wonder why you gave this salesperson any of your valuable time, isn't that the same as the boring font that doesn't stand out, isn't attractive, and screams unsuccessful? 

While I was composing this post, I received a voicemail from a crappy, bottom 50%er that was cold calling me.  I can't play the message but this is a word-for-word transcription:

Hi, this is Mary. I'm calling from [withheld] for [withheld] on a recorded line. I'm calling in today to show you a percent my business proposal in line with your phone system and for you to know more about our promotion, please contact me at [withheld] at extension [withheld]. Thank you. Have a great day. Bye.

Isn't that the same as the sign that suggests you might do better going elsewhere?

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge supporter of small business and over the past 50 years started four of my own.  But just as logos make a huge difference, professionally trained salespeople make a huge difference as well.

Big companies have an advantage.  They not only have the branding and marketing to create awareness, they also have the power to buy their customers through discounts, deals and incentives.  How can a small or medium business compete with that? 

Through better selling.  To show they are a better choice.  To prove that they are a better fit. By taking a consultative approach and selling value.  By building stronger relationships.  By taking the time to listen and empathize.  By qualifying.

Suppose you wanted custom built-in cabinets and you have some basic handyman skills allowing you to measure, cut, glue, hammer and paint.  You can probably build a functional cabinet.  But if you hire a professional cabinet maker, it will be more than functional.  It will also look amazing with exact miter joints, beautiful molding, perfect-fitting drawers and doors, and a silky smooth finish.  Hiring a professional matters if you care how it will look.  Professionally training your sales team matters if you care about win rates, efficiency, accurate forecasts, consistency, and landing the most profitable and leverage accounts.

In the fall of 2020, when our son was moving onto a college campus that would be 55% female after attending an all boys High School I said, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."  The same advice applies to CEOs and Sales Leaders who have some selling experience.  Just because you can sell doesn't mean you should be the one to create the sales process and train your salespeople.  There is way too much at stake to rely on a DIY sales approach.

Do you think there are large companies that don't professionally train their salespeople?  They all do it.  If you want to achieve large company results, do what large companies do.  Slick, professionally designed logos and professionally trained salespeople.

Image copyright ©viewapart/123RF.COM

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, accurate sales forecasts, win rates

You Can't Lose Customers or Salespeople - 2 Secrets to Their Retention

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 06, 2022 @ 11:07 AM

wading

As we wade deeper into recession, you will certainly agree that there are two things you must not lose:

  • Customers/Clients
  • Good/Great Salespeople

I conducted a Google search for "why salespeople quit their jobs" and was surprised to find more than 6 million results for that query!  The first page of results was filled with self-serving articles from companies like Gong (artificial intelligence for digital prospecting), Hubspot (marketing platform) and more urging you to leverage their platforms so that you don't have to rely on salespeople.

I also found a pattern that was similar to last month's search for "top sales blogs" as part of my research for the article, The Top 12 Sales Blogs of 2022 That Make You Think and Sell More.  There were lots of articles that had the top 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 reasons why salespeople leave or quit their jobs.  Most of those lists were simply subsets of other lists and the reasons included things like compensation, morale, workload, changing quotas, culture, toxic management, the job was misrepresented, too much pressure and lack of growth opportunity. While there were no surprises to these lists of reasons, I think there is a more pervasive reason that is not represented on the lists created by marketers and recruiters:

Sales Selection. 

Companies are still routinely selecting the wrong salespeople and the wrong salespeople are the ones that often leave.  Period.  Sales and HR leaders still make hiring decisions by relying on resumes, how someone interviews and gut feel, and while all three of those criteria have their place, a customizable, sales-specific, accurate and predictive assessment that measures capabilities in all 21 Sales Core Competencies is the difference maker.  The right sales-specific assessment will weed out sales candidates who lack the required skill set for the role, and identify the best candidates to consider for the role.  When you hire salespeople that meet and exceed expectations and quotas, the previously mentioned factors generally cease to exist.  Hire salespeople and focus on fit for the role.

A recession makes it more difficult to sell new customers, new projects and new products and services so you can not lose customers right now.  Period.  Most people believe that salespeople are the differentiators that assure customer retention but the reality is that it's customer service that plays the biggest role.  Just think about the customer service you have personally received over the past 2-3 years and how horrible and unacceptable most of it has been.  When you have the rare good experience you not only don't want to leave that company, it has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with how the company and their CSRs treat you and solve your problem.

Finally, some advice in advance of unfavorable selling conditions.  I've sold and/or consulted through recessions dating back to the 80's!  Most, especially the economic crisis of 2008/9, caught companies by surprise and nobody saw a pandemic coming.  Most companies did not fare very well during the various economic crises because they hunkered down and tried to wait it out.  That wasn't a very good strategy.  Some companies actually grew during the down-time!  They sought out help at the first sign, right-sized their sales teams, invested in sales process, training and coaching and were clearly the exceptions to the rule.  They thrived while most companies lost ground.

Hire salespeople when your instinct is to let people go.  Invest in CSRs and make sure they will go out of their way to make customers happy.  Be proactive and aggressive in getting your sales team the help they need to sell when prospects don't want to meet or spend money, yet have more choices from increased competition with most focusing on lowering prices to win the business.  If your sales team is well trained, none of that will matter and they will continue to sell at your desired margins.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, assessments, selling in the recession, selling value

Selling and the Need for Speed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 08, 2022 @ 08:06 AM

speed-limit

We had Chinese for dinner and my fortune said, "Speed is not as important as accuracy."

When you think of speed what are the first things that come to mind?

Fighter Jets? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to Mach 6.70 (5,140 MPH)

Racing Cars? The 6 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 304 MPH.

Motorcycles? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 273 MPH.

Power Boats?  The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 317 MPH.

Light travels at 186,270 miles per second!

And salespeople.  What?  That's right, salespeople speed.  Let me explain.

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to close - before an opportunity is even closable.  

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to present - before an opportunity is even qualified.  Most salespeople are in such a hurry that they completely skip things like qualifying and discovery.  And when salespeople do perform discovery they accept the very first indicator they hear and rush to explain how their product or service addresses that indicator,

Example. You tell the doctor about a stomach ache and the doc says, "No problem - I can help" and calls in a prescription for an antacid.  And while that example actually happens, a good, thorough doctor would ask questions like, "Where does it hurt?"  "Does it hurt to the touch?"  "Is it always sore or does it come and go?"  "Is it more frequent after a meal or when you're moving around?" "How long have you been experiencing this discomfort?"  "Can you show me the exact area of the pain?" "Have you been overly stressed or anxious?"  "Have you made any changes to your diet?" 

[I'd make a good doctor!] 

Then the doctor would say, "I want to make sure we aren't missing anything.  I would like to get you scheduled for X-Rays, and an MRI so that we can rule out a few things."

He's still in discovery.  A good doctor has no need for speed.

Back to salespeople who do have a need for speed.  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and how a company, team or individual salesperson scores on those competencies tells a story about how they sell, what they encounter, and how effectively they can turn those encounters into business.  Several competencies overlap with Discovery, the two most obvious being Consultative Seller and Value Seller.  However, those two competencies are much easier to complete when we include the competencies Reaches Decision Makers and Relationship Builder.  The numbers in the 3 images below show the percentage of 2.2 million salespeople who are strong in these four competencies.  All salespeople are on the left, the top 10% are in the middle and the bottom 50% are on the right.

Do you see the problem?  Even some of the top 10% struggle with the Consultative approach but they excel at Reaching Decision Makers and Selling Value.  Why do even the best salespeople struggle?  Because among the 10 or so attributes found in the Consultative Seller competency, the 2 most crucial are listens and asks great questions.  Most salespeople struggle mightily with listening and when one doesn't listen effectively, the next question isn't that obvious.

To execute the 4 competencies above, a certain amount of Sales DNA is required.  When strong, Sales DNA supports the execution of sales process and methodology.  When weak, Sales DNA sabotages those efforts.

Only 22% of all salespeople have strong Sales DNA.  Here are the average Sales DNA Scores for salespeople.

  • All salespeople have an average score of 65.
  • The top 10% have an average score of 81. 
  • The bottom 50% have an average score of 56.

More challenging selling roles require higher Sales DNA scores while less challenging selling roles require lower Sales DNA scores.  Here are three examples:

  • A salesperson who sells industrial batteries (for golf carts, truck fleets, wheelchairs) in a territory can get by with Sales DNA of 64.
  • A salesperson who sells payroll software to HR departments in a territory can succeed with Sales DNA of 72.
  • A salesperson who sells 7 to 8 figure capital equipment to the C Suite of the Fortune 500 against formidable competition in an 18 month sales cycle requires Sales DNA of over 82.

The salesperson the first example and those in similar roles to that salesperson have a need for speed.  It's a transactional sale.  They can move the sale and the relationship from transactional to consultative by S-L-O-W-I-N-G down.

The salesperson who is successful in the second example has slowed down.  Their biggest challenge is competition.  It's not a question of if the company will buy and use payroll software, the only question is whose software they will use and who they will purchase it from.  Slowing down even more will help to differentiate.

The salespeople in the third example have learned that if they are to have any success in this role, they must crawl through their sales process.  Slow is the name of the game.  I don't mean slow as in extend the sales cycle. I mean slow as in thorough.

[Update: One reader suggested that the crucial piece is having a variable speed where you move as fast or as slow as your customer.  I agree that you need variable speeds but many times the client wants to move fast and you need the ability to slow down the client or it will become a transactional sale.  So variable is OK but only when it provides an advantage to you.

They say speed kills and other than driving, nowhere is this more true than in sales.

Evaluate your Sales Team.

See scores for your industry in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

Talk with an expert.

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, selling value

The Recession is Here - How to Take Advantage and Prepare Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 31, 2022 @ 07:05 AM

crash-landing

You boarded your plane, got seated, the plane pulled away from the gate and you fell asleep.  Later, a hard landing woke you and you wondered, "Are we already there?"  Yes you are and you slept through the entire flight.

The same thing is happening with the economy.  While you were sleeping, distracted by Russia invading Ukraine, baby formula shortages, off-the-chart gas prices, a migrant surge across the southern border, mass shootings, supply-chain shortages, and runaway inflation, the recession crash-landed and it's here.   

The two biggest tell-tale signs are new home sales were 100,000 or so units below expectations for April, and the first of many interest rate hikes have been enacted. And the biggest sign is that government officials continue to tell us that there is nothing to see here, the economy is booming and there will be a soft landing from inflation.  Sure.

While I'm citing events in the United States, there is no doubt that this will be a global recession.

So what must you do to prepare your sales team and how can you leverage the effects of a recession?

You'll know the recession is real when in the next 90 days, sometime between now and the end of August 2022, the first domino falls and a major corporation announces they will layoff thousands of workers.  Others are sure to follow.  Then come the spending freezes.  This trickles down to mid-size and small businesses and while this is taking place, consumer confidence plunges, people stop buying things, which reinforces the decision to stop corporate spending and vindicates them for the layoffs.  We're gonna get clobbered!

You can leverage all of this by hiring salespeople.  That's right.  Resist the urge to layoff salespeople and instead, take advantage of what will finally be a surplus of good to great salespeople.  They have been in very short supply for several years and this will be one positive consequence of a recession.  Gobble them up, upgrade and smart-size your team and use OMG's Smart-Sizing tool as part of a sales team evaluation. Use OMG's sales candidate assessments to distinguish the sales winners from the imposters because past success is NOT a good predictor of future success in sales. You should already know that from experience otherwise your track record would be better and all of your salespeople would be meeting or exceeding quotas.

You must prepare your salespeople so they can convince people who are on a spending freeze to spend money despite the freeze.  This REQUIRES that they be effective at calling on, reaching and engaging actual decision makers as they are the only people who can override the spending freeze.  In addition to developing their skills at engaging decision makers, they must be equally effective at using a consultative approach, selling value and using a sales process optimized for a value-based, consultative approach.  Why consultative?  Selling value doesn't work well outside of a consultative approach.  Not only that, but salespeople struggle to achieve differentiation outside of a consultative approach.

What could go wrong?

OMG has evaluated and assessed more than 2.2 million salespeople and the data shows that taking a consultative approach is where salespeople are LEAST effective.

As you can see, only 11% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 28% have reaching decision makers as a strength and only 31% have selling value as a strength.  But it's worse than that.  Weak salespeople make up 50% of the sales population.  Weak salespeople don't sell this way!  The next graphic isolates weak salespeople - the bottom 50% - only.

Only 1% of weak salespeople (half of your sales team!) have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 10% have reaching decision makers as a strength, and only 4% have selling value as a strength.

This is why half of your salespeople don't hit quota!  But over the past several years they have gotten by because they have been in order-taking mode.  With demand dropping like a rock and order-taking going away what will you do?  These are the five steps you should take.

1) Evaluate Your Sales Team  to determine who will be part of your future and who was part of your past.  Determine the exact competencies in which they will require training and coaching.  Better understand where the bottlenecks are and what it will take to increase your win rate. 

2) Assess Sales Candidates as you hire better salespeople.

or Request Information

3) Customize and Optimize your Sales Process for a Consultative Approach

4) Get your sales managers trained and coached to be effective and consistent at coaching up their salespeople

5) Get your sales team trained to hunt decision makers, take a consultative approach, and sell value.

The economy might make a crash landing but there is no reason you or your sales team need to do the same.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling in the recession, sales candidate assessment, selling value, sales team evaluation

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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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