Is Your Sales Process Backwards, Upside Down or Stupid?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 07, 2021 @ 07:07 AM

Here Today movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

My wife and I recently watched the new funny but sad movie, Here and Now, written and directed by Billy Crystal, who stars as comedy writer Charlie Burnz.  In one scene, Charlie recalled a happier time when his family used to have what they called "upside down day." On upside down day they started the day by eating dessert, had dinner for lunch, and finally ate breakfast for dinner.  

Speaking of meals, we recently dined in a restaurant which had its rules laminated and affixed to the table. Their very first rule read, "Food must be ordered with alcohol" instead of what it should have said, "Alcohol must be ordered with food."  Words are important and these words were backwards. (100 bonus points if you can guess the restaurant name.) 

In between the meal and the movie, we attempted to shop at a well-known French retailer.  Before entering, they required scanning a QR Code, registering on their website, and waiting to receive a call from an associate before being allowed to shop.  Also frustrating was the problem that most of their products were not on display so you needed to know exactly what you were looking for because browsing in this upscale retail store was not encouraged.  Retail is all about browsing and at this store, they forgot about making it easy to buy and replaced it with making it difficult to get started.  Brand stupidity. (100 bonus points if you can guess the French brand.) 

Last night I was pulled over by a Massachusetts State Police Officer for changing lanes when there are double solid white lines.  I don't think it was the first time I've done that in 50 years of driving, but I'm certain I've never been pulled over for that before. I broke the rules.

Let's take upside down, backwards, rule breaking and stupid and use those four conditions to dissect sales processes.

When we look at the sales processes that most companies have in place, there are usually elements of upside down, backwards and stupid.

Some companies have a dedicated team of BDR's that work the top of the funnel before they hand-off the opportunity to an account executive. The very poor conversation to meeting ratios are an example of a serious combustion point with this scenario. There are many reasons for these unacceptable ratios that companies invariably find ways to justify (see my article about Why We Should Blow up the BDR Role).  While inexperience and ineffectiveness are the two most obvious reasons, another significant reason is the use of BANT which stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing.  (See my article about Why BANT Can Kill Opportunities.) Put another way, BDR's are not only charged with reaching decision makers, engaging them in conversation and scheduling first meetings, but many of them are also supposed to qualify those opportunities so that account executives don't waste their time.  While it's smart to have account executives working qualified opportunities, it's upside down, backwards and stupid!  A decision maker has no incentive to answer qualifying questions this early in the sales process before there is some compelling reason for them to buy what you have.  In other words, while you want to start the sales process with a decision maker with authority, you start with whom you start and go from there.  You can't qualify a prospect's ability to buy or get to the actual decision maker  until there is enough urgency for them to take action!  At that point, they'll ask you what you need from them!  When it's done at the right time in the sales process, it's much easier!

Another problem with most of the sales processes is the sheer number of steps that have nothing to do with selling.  For example, Marketing has worked its way into the sales process and while the lead generation work flow is important, it does not belong in the sales process.  A signed contract is an acceptable final step in the final stage of the sales process but the steps that legal undertakes are part of the legal team's process, not sales. 

Sales processes tend to emphasize three major steps - prospecting, presenting and closing - but seriously lack the actual selling-based stages and milestones. If we wish to sell value and create urgency, a consultative approach is required.  Without it, the conversation will invariably turn to price and your attempts to sell value will go right down the drain.

In this case, the sales process is not upside down or backwards, it is inside out - the inner core is missing!  For a better explanation, watch this ten-minute video that explains the difference between sales process and sales methodology, the milestones a good sales process must include, and the differences between some well-known sales methodologies and processes.


 

Even when we have helped companies optimize their sales process, salespeople are multiple-time-offenders when it comes to following the new sequence of milestones in the sales process.  Salespeople LOVE to skip steps.  They break the rules!

The single best example of upside down, backwards and stupid occurs when considering the limitations of certain CRM applications and/or the limitations of the integrators who customize those applications.  Your sales process must be integrated into your CRM application so some companies, acknowledging the various limitations of their CRM/integrators, include only those simple steps that they can get into their CRM. You can't dumb down your sales process because of limitations in your CRM! 

For the complex sale, we recommend Membrain, a robust CRM that emphasizes opportunity and pipeline which is fairly easy and quick to  customize, add content, create complex playbook scenarios, create stages and milestones and produce the reports you want.  Despite the availability and recommendation of a perfect application like Membrain, some companies cite their accumulated investment and training, and refuse to give up Salesforce, MS Dynamics and others, despite the lack of user compliance, inability to make it user friendly, customization challenges and costs.  Lack of compliance means very little realtime data and inaccurate forecasts and that's the reason you bought CRM in the first place!  Upside down, backwards and stupid!

What are you doing that is Upside down, backwards and stupid? 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, qualifying, account executive

A Properly Constructed Sales Process Can Help You Experience the Euphoria of a Walk-Off Win

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 @ 09:06 AM

Devers walk-off wins it for Sox – Sentinel and Enterprise

We attended last night's Red Sox Game.  Unlike most games at Fenway Park, this contest was a pitcher's duel and the Red Sox held a fragile 1-0 lead over the Toronto Blue Jays heading into the top of the 9th inning.  The Red Sox closer, Matt Barnes came in and quickly struck-out the first two batters and that brought up the best hitter in the major leagues, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  Barnes quickly got ahead in the count and was only one strike away from ending the game when Guerrero absolutely crushed a rolling curve ball, blasting it into the light towers in left field to tie the game. The mood in the park immediately changed from celebratory to morbid.  But the game wasn't over. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the first two hitters reached base for the Red Sox and then Raphael Devers smoked a long fly ball off the wall in left-center field to give the Red Sox a walk-off win.  From morbid back to celebratory and beyond to euphoric.  Such is the feeling of a walk-off win.

Regular readers know that right around this point in the article there should be a pivot to sales and I won't disappoint.  The walk-off win in baseball, the buzzer beater in basketball and the field goal with no time on the clock in football are all terrific metaphors for certain types of wins in sales.  Some deals are sure things from the get go and others stand no chance of going your way.  However, some huge opportunities are truly nail-biters and could go either way.  When those opportunities are finally decided and you win, they too are euphoric.

In today's article we'll use the walk-off win to show how a properly constructed sales process and scorecard will help you win the deals you are supposed to win, help you lose early on the deals you are guaranteed to lose, and give you a much better chance to win the nail biters that could go either way.

Coincidentally, today I will be working to improve a client's existing sales process. Their sales force evaluation results from Objective Management Group (OMG) pointed to three major reasons why they are losing business to their competition: 

  1. They aren't creating urgency,
  2. They are failing to reach decision makers
  3. Both crucial milestones are nowhere to be seen in their existing formal sales process.

Most companies don't have a formal sales process, so in that regard they are very much ahead of the game but let me be clear.  Having a sales process does not mean that the process is any good, was well thought-out, properly staged, or sequenced so that it builds upon itself.  Having a process does not necessarily mean that the process is predictive or effective.  With or without a process, it's very likely that your salespeople don't follow the process and your sales managers aren't coaching to the process.  In those cases your process has been neutered!  You must have an optimized sales process which is formalized, staged, milestone-centric, customer focused and properly sequenced. That sales process must also have within it a properly built and tested scorecard that will accurately predict wins and losses.  And, sales leadership must be diligent about four things:

  1. The process and related pipeline must be fully integrated into the CRM application
  2. This isn't optional.  Every kick-ass sales team has this in place.
  3. Every salesperson must follow it to the letter and keep it up-to-date in real time in CRM.
  4. Every sales manager must coach to the sales process and conduct opportunity reviews in the context of sales process and pipeline.

An optimized sales process will all but guarantee that your salespeople don't miss anything when it comes to winning all the opportunities that should be won.  An optimized/integrated sales process will sound the alarm to all but guarantee that your resources are not wasted on an opportunity that you have little chance of winning.  And finally, to experience the euphoria of a walk-off win, you must rely on that optimized sales process integrated into your CRM application - and we love Membrain for this - to help you win the nail biters because nothing feels as good as a walk-off win.

Image is copyright by the Sentinal Enterprise.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Closing Sales, CRM Application, membrain, winning business

Crappy Salespeople and Lack of Urgency Alignment  - The Bob Chronicles Part 4

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 27, 2021 @ 12:04 PM

urgency2

We shouldn't discuss that time you were in a meeting when, without warning, you had about 10 seconds to get yourself to the nearest restroom or you would need to drive home for a wardrobe change.  Fortunately, you were able to gracefully excuse yourself and run down the hall as fast as you possibly could.  THAT is urgency!

This is the fourth installment in the Bob Chronicles.  Bob is the weak salesperson who represents the bottom 50% of all salespeople. You can read previous installments about Bob below:

The $225,000 Mistake That Most Salespeople Make

Data - The Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople 

Good Bob, Bad Bob, The Stockdale Paradox and Sales Success

You're probably wondering, what did Bob screw up this time?  He screwed up urgency.  You might be asking how a salesperson could possibly screw up urgency but Bob and the rest of the weak salespeople screw up just about everything else so why not urgency too?

As usual, Bob was unaware that Mary, his prospect, was also talking with three other companies.  Mary asked for a proposal and Bob obliged, coming in well over the agreed upon budget and upsetting her in the process.  Mary reminded Bob that the proposal was nearly 25% higher than the budget they had all agreed to.  She asked Bob to stay within the budget and send a revised proposal.  Did Bob follow up appropriately?  No!

A couple of months had passed when Mary notified Bob that they were going with another company.  Bob was crazed and in a panic.  He reached out to Mary and requested a call.  She said she was sorry but had already made her decision.  Bob requested a call again and was told that she had signed a contract with another company.  In the middle of an acute panic attack, Bob decided to send a revised proposal and discounted the original offer by 35%.  Once again, Mary said, "This is too late - we already signed with another company."  Bob said, "But I offered you a 35% discount - that's even better than what you budgeted for!"  Mary disconnected the phone.

This is all about urgency.

Mary had a lot more urgency than Bob was aware of because Bob didn't ask the most important questions, like, "How big is the problem?" and "What is it costing?" and "How soon do you need it solved?" and "What happens if you don't have it solved by then?" and "Who else have you asked about this?"

Bob had a ton of urgency, but not until he realized he had lost the business.  If he had exhibited half the urgency earlier in the process, while uncovering Mary's urgency, their urgency would have been aligned.  Urgency alignment is crucial.  

If the salesperson has urgency but the prospect does not, the perception is that of a pushy salesperson.  If the prospect has urgency but the salesperson does not, the perception is that of an unresponsive salesperson.  When both the salesperson and the prospect have urgency, they will easily work collaboratively to solve a problem.  

Early in the process, Bob was perceived as being unresponsive.  Late in the process, Bob was perceived as being tone deaf and pushy.  However, when salespeople strike that perfect balance, magic happens.  Salespeople who are effective creating urgency AND having urgency are 35% more effective than salespeople who fail to get their prospects to "must have" and lack urgency themselves.

Finally, why did this happen?

Early in the process, Bob didn't listen, didn't ask enough questions and didn't push back on the budget.  By failing to push back, Mary believed that Bob would deliver a needs and cost appropriate solution. Then, when Mary pushed back, Bob was unresponsive.  These two events suggest that Bob wasn't controlling his Emotions and Needed to be Liked.  Those two weaknesses combine to make it difficult to listen, and too uncomfortable for him to push back and ask questions.  As you can see from the table below, the bottom 50% of all salespeople tend to be especially weak in both of these Sales DNA competencies.

When things spiraled out of control, Bob's emotions caused him to panic.  His non-supportive beliefs about pricing kicked in Bob always looks for the lowest price when he buys things for himself. Despite being too late to influence the decision, Bob believed that if he came back with an attractive offer, it would change the outcome.  As you can see in the table below, 26% of weak salespeople need to shop for the lowest price and they mistakenly believe that their prospects behave similarly.

There is so much more that goes into selling than following your sales process and having sales strategies and techniques.  There are 21 Sales Core Competencies and salespeople must be strong in all of them, not just some of them.  You can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies here and while you're there, view, filter and sort the data on nearly a third of the 2,091,766 salespeople that have been evaluated and assessed by Objective Management Group (OMG). If you want an easy-to-use, accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment to select and hire your new salespeople, check out OMG's award-winning sales candidate assessments here.

Rocky LaGrone added THE BEST COMMENT ever to this post on LinkedIn.

Image Copyright: Scott Betts

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales assessements, sales effectiveness, creating urgency, lost deals

Why Sales Transformation Achieves Better Results Than Sales Training Alone

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 @ 19:01 PM

The Best 65-Inch TVs for 2021 | PCMag

You finally have that big new 4K flat screen mounted on your wall but now the movie you are streaming isn't sharp because your inconsistent internet connection negatively affects the resolution and the big screen makes it even more obvious.

Bringing it closer to sales, you invested in the CRM application you needed but your salespeople aren't using it the way you had hoped. As a result, you don't have realtime data to populate your dashboard and still don't know what's really going on with your sales organization, their pipeline and the forecast.

You brought in sales training but it didn't achieve the expected change because the training didn't address the bigger problems that went beyond selling skills.  You may not have realized that companies really need sales transformation and while sales training can be part of that transformation, on its own, it usually underperforms.

Why?

Sales training can provide Kay with the skills she needs but if you lack a customized, optimized sales process that Kay is required to follow, those skills can't be applied at the right time, for the right reason and in the right context. Sales managers, who are especially challenged when coaching salespeople, have even more difficulty when the coaching takes place outside of the sales process. Kay needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

If Lee still wants to do everything his way and his sales manager isn't strong enough to make him do things the company's way, Lee will continue to perform inconsistently. Lee needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Bill continues to make promises, exceptions and claims that are inconsistent with what your product or services really do.  This causes problems and creates a lack of credibility.  Bill needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

You can give Don the skills he needs but you lack a proper sales culture and Don has been allowed to whine and complain and act entitled.  If Don continues to engage in backstabbing, blaming others and fails to take responsibility when there are customer issues, that affects the company's brand and reputation which indirectly affects everyone else on the sales team.  Don needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Greg has self-limiting beliefs about the kind of conversation he can have with his prospects and doesn't believe the strategies and tactics in the sales training will work with his customers. Helping him requires a combination of advanced sales management coaching, stronger accountability, and being replaced could be in his future.  Greg needs to be part of a sales transformation.

If the team is struggling to get meetings with new prospects, that requires training in how to schedule new meetings, but may also require new messaging for those calls.  The customized messaging that is used throughout a sales cycle is part of a sales transformation.

The team is participating in training but still resisting putting those skills and strategies into practice. If your sales managers are part of that resistance, and/or ineffective at overcoming the resistance, it calls for sales transformation.

On its own, sales training is nice to have but doesn't change much and wastes time and money.  As part of a sales transformation effort, targeted, customized, sales training provides salespeople with the tools they need to more effectively do their part.

The key to identifying the parts of a sales transformation that need to be addressed is the OMG sales force evaluation.

I've written about sales force evaluations before and always find it extremely interesting to learn about the various challenges holding companies back.  Here are two must-read examples:

Did you read them?

Both articles should help you recognize that while sales training needed to be part of the solutions at each company, sales training alone would not have addressed the serious issues we uncovered.  If you think in terms of sales transformation then your sales organization, people, systems, processes and results will be transformed.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales transformation

My Prediction - What's in Store for Sales Teams in 2021?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 08, 2021 @ 11:01 AM

prediction2021

When I made my predictions for 2020 I'm pretty sure I didn't predict a pandemic.  Making predictions isn't easy. 

In the US, sales teams are coming off three robust years of sales growth and while revenue was up during that time, the percentage of salespeople hitting quotas was not.  That means the top 20% were not only carrying the load, they carried more of the load.

That dynamic growth hit an iron barrier last spring when COVID became the unexpected economic disrupter, but the second half comeback was quite impressive.  What does 2021 have in store for those of us in the sales world?  In the US, how will Democrat control of all three branches of government affect sales and selling?  And how long before that kicks in?

Americans can't be certain that threats to pack the supreme court, make DC a state, and change the rules will come to fruition, but the incoming administration has been very clear about their intent to quickly increase taxes, especially on corporations and people with annual income of more than $400,000.  Given the ambitious progressive agenda they wish to implement and the enormous cost - trillions of dollars we don't have - it's likely that the tax increase will include the middle class too.  How will that affect our ability to sell stuff for at least the next two years?

Their progressive agenda, some anti-capitalist cabinet appointments, and Biden's history of coziness with China suggest that the next two years will not be very business-friendly.  Tax increases lead to reduced spending by corporations, small businesses, and consumers.  Lay-offs come next as companies scramble to do more with less.  Sound familiar?  That was the new normal from 2008-2016 so what's old is new again.

That said, we can be sure of three things thanks to the ripple effect of a China-friendly administration, a massive tax increase and lay-offs: 

  1. Imports from China will be on the rise and that means increased competition from low-cost competitors. 
  2. There will be increased pressure on sales teams to boost revenue and profit to compensate for the cost of the tax increases.
  3. Companies will be significantly more restrained about what they purchase from sellers.

See the challenge?  While sellers will be under tremendous pressure to generate additional revenue, the very companies on which they rely for revenue will be more resistant to buying and more price conscious than ever!  

There's more.

With Democrats in control, fear about the new strain of COVID, and the vaccine still months away for most people, it's likely that many more states besides California will be back in a lockdown.  If the new lockdown is anything like the last year's lockdown, the shit show known as 2020 will be back for an encore performance.

You can't endure lockdowns, tax increases, lay-offs and Chinese imports and expect selling to resemble anything routine or easy.

Salespeople will fail.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,050,385 salespeople shows that the bottom 50% lack the selling skills to handle resistance, competition, and price sensitivity.  This screen shot represents the percentage of salespeople who have these ten tactical selling competencies as strengths.  See all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

Mastery of these 10 selling competencies is required for times like these but as mentioned above, fewer than half of all salespeople have them as strengths.  We know that the top 20% of all salespeople generate 80% of the revenue so if the bottom 50% are going to fail, that will either reduce revenue by 20%, or place even more pressure on top producers to compensate for the shortfall.  Neither option is a winning strategy.

That leaves two viable strategies:

  1. Evaluate and train the ever living crap out of them.  OMG's sales force evaluation will identify the areas in which each salesperson needs help in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and then training and coaching can be targeted.  Typically, around 65% will improve but it may take 8-16 months! 
  2. Replace them with top performers. OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments will help you identify and select those who will succeed in your roles but it won't eliminate the need for on-boarding and you still have to allow for ramp-up time (the length of your learning curve plus the length of your sales cycle plus 30 days).

There is always one more option.  Hide under your desk, hope that things work themselves out, and that you won't have to do anything different.  We already know from last year how that option worked out!  Companies that asked for help during March, April and May of 2020 had absolutely rocking, kick-ass fourth quarters.  By the time the US began reopening during the middle of the year, those who didn't ask for help earlier were so far behind the 8-ball, they were no longer in a position to even pay for the help they so desperately needed.

What will you do to make sure that 2021 is a growth year?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales predictions, 2021, democrats in control

The $225,000 Selling Mistake Most Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2020 @ 07:12 AM

big-mistake

I'm going to share the story of a real salesperson and his current, real opportunity, but change the names of everyone involved.  I hear stories like this every day but this particular one happens way too often.

2 months ago, Bob agreed to a $25,000 pilot for an enterprise size company generating billions in revenue.  At the time, he was told a successful pilot would lead to much more business in 2021.  Last week he excitedly shared that the company was very happy with the results of their pilot to date, and they asked Bob to prepare a business case for exponentially increasing the size and scope of their spend.  The future purchase would be north of $250,000.

While colleagues and supervisors shared their enthusiasm for this exciting moment, my first reaction was, "And why do you think this is good news?" 

"Dave, you're so negative."

I was asked to explain why I felt that way because Bob and his team believed that this was clearly a positive development.  I pointed out that the request to prepare a business case was nothing more than a request for (another) proposal and Bob would once again need to prove and convince the company that doing business with them would provide value, create ROI, and justify the tenfold increase in spend.

The response from Bob's team?  "Good point."

This IS the customer moving forward, but only moving forward to resume their discussions as to whether to or not to move forward with an increase in spend.  One more time. The only thing moving forward is a resumption of the discussion about moving forward.  I did not hear anything about decisions, commitments, intent, budgets, terms, agreements, contracts, PO's, timelines, or closing dates.  The only thing certain, is that Bob can open the opportunity in his CRM application and place a checkmark to indicate that the pilot was successfully completed.  Check! The opportunity did not advance in any other measurable or meaningful way because he is right back where he was in October when he proposed the same solution only to settle for 10% of the business in the form of this pilot.  They weren't convinced then, and apparently, still aren't convinced. 

There are a few issues here:

  • The pilot was not sold correctly - When Bob agreed to the mini-pilot, there should have been a very clear understanding of what exactly would constitute success; and if he met the criteria for a successful pilot, what exactly would happen next.  If the "next" step is anything other than easily and automatically transitioning to the larger order, then Bob should not have begun the pilot.
  • The salesperson had happy ears - When the customer asked Bob to prepare another business case for 2021, Bob should not have been so eager to facilitate.  Instead, he should have asked why they were asking for another business case since he did that prior to the pilot.  Bob should have also asked what they were looking for in the business case, who would be reviewing it, and what would happen after it was reviewed.  If Bob hears anything other than "we'll be signing an agreement" it's a no-go on the new business case/proposal.
  • The sales manager did not push back - Given the poorly executed expectations and next steps prior to the pilot, and the new request for a proposal, the sales manager should have pushed back hard and not allowed either the pilot or the business case to move forward without a better understanding of timelines, next steps and commitments.

This story is not unusual in any way.  Scenarios like this occur at an alarming rate throughout each day at companies across the spectrum of more than 200 industries.  Even good salespeople make mistakes like these and ineffective sales managers allow them to happen time and time again.  Great salespeople, who make up the top 5% of the sales population, never allow scenarios like this to take place.  Weak salespeople, who make up the bottom 50%, always allow scenarios like this to occur.

The story I shared here is just one example of the ripple effect from lack of quality sales training and coaching, and lack of effective sales management.  Much of this could be solved with improved sales selection - hiring the right sales managers and salespeople to begin with.  The rest can be solved with a sales force evaluation to identify the core issues and gaps, and then the right training to better prepare the sales team to execute when they find themselves in scenarios like these.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, closing, selling tips, sales managerment, sales milestones, terms, pilot

Data Shows That Your Sales Team is No Different Than Your Lawn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 20, 2020 @ 07:11 AM

I just love it when our lawn looks gorgeous - thick, lush, and green, green, green.  Getting it looking that good requires fertilizing, aerating, thatching, over seeding, and frequent mowing, all things better suited to the landscaping company than me. Of course, some sun and water help too. And even with an irrigation system, by the middle of the summer, areas of our lawn begin to look like crap. Not to worry though. By mid fall, the lawn looks its absolute best.  Yup, my lawn never looks better than it does on November 1. Right before it snows and turns brown for the winter!  You have to admit, that's a lot of work and expense for a lawn that looks perfect for all of 6 weeks - 3 weeks in the spring and 3 weeks in the fall!

nice-lawn
                                                         Great looking spring lawn. 

Dead-Lawn-1024x675

                                           Crappy looking summer lawn

Because my lawn looks its worst on August 1 and its best on November 1, it has a lot in common with most sales organizations.  A sales team looks its best on January 1, when every opportunity in the pipeline is a possibility and forecasts predict a banner year.  It looks its worst just a week earlier, when on December 23, sales leaders defend the team's sub-par performance to the CEO and explain why 57% of their salespeople failed to hit quota - again!  It's easy to explain why the lawn fails, as dry, hot summers will do that.  But why do sales teams continue to fail, year after year, regardless of industry, and in every economy?  Why don't the numbers improve?  Why don't more salespeople jump from C's to B's?  From B's to A's?  From D's to C's?  The answers - and there are plenty - are evasive.  But let's try!

We can certainly pin some of the blame on sales managers.  My last two articles explain many of the problems contributing to ineffective sales management.  Read about crappy sales managers and then read the follow-up article about crappy coaching.

We can certainly pin some of the blame on salespeople.  Why don't they try to improve?  Why don't they invest in sales self-development?  Why don't they read more books and articles, watch more videos, listen to more audio and push themselves out from their comfort zone?   Why don't they practice?

After 35 years in this business, I still don't understand why sales, as a profession, includes so many ineffective salespeople.  Based on data from Objective Management Group (OMG), who has evaluated and assessed 2,040,355 salespeople, 50% of all salespeople suck.  Take a look at the image below where I have isolated the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  This screen shot represents the percentage of those weak salespeople who have the ten tactical selling competencies as strengths:

After seeing these percentages is it any wonder why half of your salespeople fail to hit quota?  Don't think it could get any worse?  Take a look at what happens when we look at the bottom 10% where it's clear that the only thing some of them are capable of is making friends and presentations:

These ten selling competencies are ten of the twenty-one sales competencies that OMG measures.  You can see them all, filter by industry and sales percentile, and even see how your salespeople compare.  Data on OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies.

We can pin some of the blame on history. To a certain degree, C Suite executives are conditioned to accept these year-end results and when they are disappointed yet again, they don't raise hell, don't fire the sales leaders, and don't storm out the door.  They simply aren't surprised any more.  Failure is baked in.

You know what it takes to make a lawn look great and from experience I know what it takes for a sales team to become great.  Companies that evaluate their sales teams, provide effective sales training, embrace sales process, train their sales managers to coach, get sales selection right and improve their sales cultures, yield huge gains in sales and profits. Yes, margins increase too. That's what happens when salespeople learn to sell value instead of price.

With that in mind, we can certainly assign a lot of blame on company owners, CEO's and senior sales leaders who don't take those steps and/or don't take those steps seriously. 

The conversation on the LinkedIn post for this article has some fantastic additional reasons why and took my lawn analogy even further.  The best one so far is from Rocky LaGrone who said, "...Don't forget about pesticides for those pesky insects, pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, over watering, and fungus. Those are the same in sales as mediocre sales leaders and salespeople. It's the equivalent to making excuses and accepting them. Add lack of understanding of how to bring value and premature presentation and you have a baron landscape in sales. With zero effective coaching you might as well not mow! The layman landscaper cant see the early warning signs of root damage or infestations of grubs no more than the layman sales executive can't see their rotting sales foundation without measuring the right metrics at the right frequency. Most people react to their grass and don't pay attention to the roots. Healthy roots produce healthy plants and the same is true for sales. The fundamentals never change. It's the application of the fundamentals that make the difference. A professional landscaper will start with a soil sample and analysis. Why wouldn't a sales executive start with an analysis of their salesforce?"

There are a lot more great comments like this one at the LinkedIn post.

There's no excuse for not weaponizing your sales teams and equipping them with every appropriate sales strategy and tool to leverage their ability to close opportunities they have routinely allowed your competitors to retain, steal or close.

As Michael Jackson famously sung in his timeless 1980's hit, Man in the Mirror,  Make a change.  Start with the [person] in the mirror.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales performance, CEO, sales quotas, sales assessments, sales managerment, increase profit

The Correlation Between Milestones, Sales Process and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 @ 07:10 AM

process

The shit show known as 2020.  Many of us have heard that term used to describe this uniquely strange year.  Despite everything unusual about 2020, there have been some normalcies too.  We celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's and Father's Days, and we will all celebrate the upcoming holidays.  The gatherings might be smaller and more localized, but the holiday won't pass by without us.  These are all Milestones.

Objective Management Group (OMG) celebrated some milestones this year too.  In January we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, in August we processed our 2 millionth sales assessment and in September we updated the industry standard 21 Sales Core Competencies.  Milestones are important.  How are they important to sales success?

Milestones are also the most important components of a strong, reliable, predictive sales process. 

Without specific milestones that must be reached in each stage of the sales process, there is no sales process!

Back in the early 90's, in the very early days of OMG, only 9% of all salespeople had and/or followed a sales process.  While that has improved dramatically in the last 30 years, to 45%, it is still way too low.  Check out these findings.

Sales Process is only one of twenty-one Sales Core Competencies yet it correlates perfectly with sales percentile.  As you can see, the best salespeople are 94% more likely to have and follow a sales process while 83% of weak salespeople, the bottom half of all salespeople, are out there winging it!  And when it comes to all salespeople, 55% are winging it.  Hmmm.  That's pretty close to the 57% who don't hit quota, isn't it?

Consider that salespeople who are just winging it usually have milestones.  For example, most lousy salespeople have conceptual milestones for things like:

  • Getting on an approved vendor list
  • Quoting
  • Submitting a Proposal
  • Scheduling a Demo
  • Getting a Prospect to Agree to a Trial

There is nothing wrong with these milestones unless they are the only milestones in a company's or salesperson's sales process. Unfortunately, that's what we usually see, with salespeople looking to achieve late stage milestones without meeting the ten to fifteen crucial milestones that must be achieved PRIOR to the five listed above. A best-practices sales process has at least four stages (think in terms of stages like suspect, prospect, qualified, closable) with each stage having between three and eight measurable milestones.  

Skipping a single milestone can have devastating consequences.  Imagine what can happen when salespeople skip ten to fifteen milestones! 

Very often, companies lacking the appropriate milestones in its sales process have win rates below 15%.  Companies that get their sales processes customized and optimized with predictive scorecards get their win rates up to near 80%!  If yours isn't that high, there's a good chance that sales process is at the top of the list of root causes. 

To get a better sense for what a sales process should look like, and how popular sales processes compare, check out this 11--minute video that I recorded four years ago.

Milestones are important.  One of your milestones should be to make your sales process as structured and predictive as your accounting, operations, manufacturing, programming, legal, shipping or engineering processes.  It is irresponsible for your sales process to not be as solid and well-thought out as each of your other processes. Sales success drives revenue and profit. Why would you allow the single process that drives revenue and profit to suffer from lack of professional attention. 

Sales is not some fluffy art-form that can be molded to the whims of each salesperson!  Sales is more like a software application where the science lies under the hood in its code and the art or personality is infused into the look, feel and easy-to-navigate user interface.  Sales science lies in the sales process and methodology and the art or personality is infused by the salesperson to have a friendly, easy and enticing conversation with the prospect.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales effectiveness, sales success, sales milestones, sales software

New: The 21 Sales Core Competencies for 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 27, 2020 @ 16:09 PM

Had an update lately?

I get an Office 365 update on Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote at least every week.  Yawn.  It seems half of them are to fix something that broke in the previous release.

Apple updates the operating systems of their various devices on a fairly regular basis.  The software for my Apple watch was updated twice in the past month.  IOS, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad was just updated as was the software for AppleTV.  OS x, the operating system for the Mac, was recently updated.  Most of these updates occur automatically and without fanfare but when an update advances to the next number - from 13.62 to 14.0 - it's a big deal and means significant updates to features, stability, security and usability are included.

Such is the case with Objective Management Group.  Like Apple, OMG updates its assessments on a non-stop basis but rolls out significant updates a couple of times per year.  Last week OMG introduced the latest revision to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There are thirty competencies in all, each with between six and twelve attributes but some are more important than others and OMG measures twenty-one of them in the following three categories:

  1. Will to Sell includes 5 sales competencies that differentiate between whether a salesperson CAN sell, versus whether they WILL sell. 
  2. Sales DNA includes 6 competencies which, when appearing as strengths, support a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.  However, when these competencies appear as weakness, they sabotage a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.
  3. Tactical Selling has 10 sales competencies that show the degree to which a salesperson has developed the required skills to effectively sell in today's ever-changing world of selling.

OMG's latest release includes several changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There is a new competency called Sales Technology which wraps three sales competencies into one:

  1. Video Proficient is a brand new competency that looks at a salesperson's use of video platforms, how well they have learned those platforms, and to what degree they have embraced video for virtual selling.
  2. CRM Savvy was previously included in the 21 sales competencies before being rolled into Sales Technology.
  3. Mastery of Social Selling was also included in the 21 sales competencies prior to being rolled into Sales Technology.

Sales Technology is a great example of how quickly OMG moves to not only remain current as selling evolves, but to lead the way and standardize the competencies which experts in the sales development space view as core to success.

OMG has had a finding called Reaches Decision Makers since 1990 and in recent years it became a full-blown competency that included eight attributes.  In the latest update, OMG moves Reaches Decision Makers into the primary group of 21 because our research shows that salespeople are 900% less likely to move the opportunity to closable if they are not talking directly with the actual decision maker. 

There is a very good reason that OMG has been named the Top Sales Assessment Tool in the World for nine consecutive years.  It is not only extremely accurate, it is also incredibly predictive and insightful. In the screen shot below, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as some of the other competencies OMG measures and reports on, as shown on the coaching dashboard of a sales evaluation.

Personality assessments (like Caliper) and behavioral styles assessments (like DiSC) ask their questions in a social context, measure personality traits and behavioral styles and then ADAPT (GUESS) those findings for sales.  This is crucial for understanding the differences!  OMG asks all of its questions in the context of sales, measures actual sales knowledge and capabilities in the context of the sales competencies above, and ACCURATELY REPORTS on those sales competency scores.

You can view and filter by industry some of OMG's data in 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your salespeople compare by clicking here.  You can check out OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Personality Tests, caliper, sales test, selling value, DISC

Most Companies Can Boost Sales From 30-100% in Just One to Two Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2020 @ 18:09 PM

maserati

Your teenage daughter, growing 4-6 inches per year, asks for two new pairs of sneakers.  She's already outgrowing 3 pairs each year and these two, which are completely unnecessary, would keep her in fashionable footwear for only a few months.  It would make total sense for you to say, "Let's wait a few months until you've stopped growing so fast."

An employee asks for a new car, believing that an SUV crossover (not the Maserati in the picture!) would be more practical than a mid-size sedan.  There are 8 months left on the lease so it would be completely reasonable for you to say, "Sounds good.  Let's make that change when the lease comes to an end in 8 months."

In both 2012 and 2016, companies everywhere were telling salespeople, "We're going to wait until after the election."  There was tremendous uncertainty surrounding those two elections and companies didn't want to commit to anything until they were sure who the next President of the USA would be.

Surprisingly, in the year of the pandemic, salespeople are not hearing the dreaded, "We're going to wait until after the election."   Despite the polling, pandemic, and incredible divisiveness, companies are not pushing the pause button.  But why?

It's not because salespeople have become so strong that they have obliterated that put-off!  89% of all salespeople accept stalls and put-offs and that's changed by only a quarter of a percent since before the start of the pandemic.  That's right.  There has barely been a change in salespeople's ability to overcome stalls and put-offs since before the pandemic.  Ugh.

Biden has promised to raise both the corporate income tax and the capital gains tax if he gets elected so it can't be fear of that.  

It's not because there's a vaccine on the way which will help stop the spread of the virus because when it comes to Covid-19, nothing is certain.

So what is it?

Many companies already experienced at least 3 to 6 months of uncertainty and they can not withstand even 2 more months of that.   As a result, companies are investing, streamlining, expanding, hiring and going all in to save their 2020s, and position their companies for historical growth in 2021.

As I review what our clients are hearing, what OMG's partners are sharing, and adding my own anecdotal experience, there has never been a better time to sell!

But seller beware. Favorable conditions do not equate to easy selling.  There is tremendous pressure on margins, competition is fierce, and the selling challenges are more difficult than ever before.

Current conditions require resistance proof sellers however only 54% of all salespeople fit that description and that's improved by only 1% since the start of the Pandemic.  Current conditions require salespeople to take a much more consultative approach and sell value.  Unfortunately, only 12% of all salespeople have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength and only 30% have the Value Seller competency as a strength.  Among the weakest of all salespeople - that's half the sales population - the percentages drop to 2% and 7% respectively.  As we begin to purge the virus, how can companies surge when half of their salespeople suck at selling?

Companies don't really look as I just described them.  We don't see many companies where half the people in the sales organization suck.  In many of the companies whose sales organizations we evaluate, most of the salespeople suck!

You don't think that applies to your company but you aren't really sure whether a quarter, a third, half, or all of your sales force sucks because some of your people sell more than others.  Don't be misled by distribution of revenue.  Keep in mind that distribution of revenue usually has more to do with quality of the territory, number of established accounts, size of the established accounts, length of time in the industry, repeat business and call-in business than sales capabilities.  There are only two ways to compare the relative sales capabilities of your salespeople:

  1. Have every salesperson look for new customers under the exact same conditions (calling on the same size accounts in the same vertical against the same competition in the same territory)
  2. Have us evaluate your sales force and from the more than 180 findings and 21 Sales Core Competencies, compare Sales Percentile scores.

The ability to compare the sales percentile scores of your salespeople is not the ideal reason to evaluate your sales force.  But identifying where your challenges lie and learning what it will take to significantly increase sales is. Large and small companies alike that evaluate their sales teams learn that with targeted training and coaching in the areas identified, sales increases of between 30-50% within one to two years are very achievable. Some companies are able to double sales in the same period of time.

This is not the time to purposefully do nothing, wait and see, or worse, hope for the best.  Improving sales effectiveness has a greater impact on your top and bottom lines than any other thing you can do, including cost-cutting, operational efficiencies and lay-offs.

When it comes to sales transformation, you don't say, "let's wait until things get better" because sales transformation is the very thing that makes things better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, objections, sales statistics, election, selling value

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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 nine 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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