Why it is so Difficult to Compare Sales Effectiveness from One Salesperson to Another

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 @ 20:07 PM

Tvariables

Today we'll discuss how to measure sales effectiveness of different salespeople despite there being so many variables to confuse the matter.  You can scroll directly to that topic or, if you don't mind, please read my 3 paragraphs of context.

In 1990, I founded Objective Management Group (OMG), and now, thirty years later, we are on the verge of evaluating our two millionth salesperson.  When my leadership team planned for 2020, we predicted that we would reach the two million mark sometime in June. But then the pandemic hit, companies weren't assessing many sales candidates for most of March, April and May, so our celebration will likely be delayed until early August.

Whether we measure our success in units, currency, rows of data, experiences, visibility, or reams of paper used (pre pandemic), achieving two million sales assessments is quite an accomplishment.  On the other hand, if we compare it to where we had hoped to be at this point, (the BHAG we set in 2007 was 14 million) it was a failure of epic proportions.

But there is a more important part to this story than the number of salespeople assessed or whether that number is an achievement or a failure. How can we measure sales success on sales teams, across companies and, most importantly, in sales candidates?

To answer those questions, it's helpful to  know that we built the finest, sales-specific assessment on planet earth.  Our sales force evaluations are amazing and our sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments are incredibly accurate and predictive.  I'm extremely proud of what we built and how we continue to improve it every single day.  That's more important to me than whether or not we hit our BHAG. And that brings us to the question of how to measure sales effectiveness.  It's like the 2 million versus 14 million comparison only different.  

Let's review a few examples:

Compensation varies wildly by industry.  A top industrial salesperson earns close to $100,000 but a mediocre technology salesperson earns $135,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A mediocre regional territory salesperson might inherit a territory generating $15 million per year and watch it contract to $14 million per year while a salesperson building a new local territory might generate $750,000 his first year.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable?

A salesperson makes one huge sale for $1 million while in the same company, one of her colleagues closes 14 sales totaling $650,000.  Who is better?  Who is more valuable? 

An account manager manages 87 accounts that generate $4 million while in the same company, a sales development rep makes 56 dials a day, books 5 new appointments per week, builds a pipeline worth $2 million and closes 2 new accounts per month.   Who is better?  Who is more valuable?  

We see these contradictions all the time when we evaluate sales forces.  The company judges performance and effectiveness by the amount of revenue next to the salesperson's name but that's only a measure of who is responsible for the most revenue.  It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a measure of who is the better salesperson, who is contributing most to growing the company, or who is having the most impact.

Let's review some differences that become important when you are recruiting salespeople.  Suppose that all of your candidates claimed to have been the #1 salesperson in their prior companies.  Being #1 has different meanings depending on whether they sold:

  • Snacks - to convenience store managers, grocery chain buyers or Walmart
  • Nuts and bolts - to manufacturing engineers, auto repair shops technicians, or Granger
  • Janitorial supplies -  to small retailer owners, property managers, or Microsoft's facilities VP
  • Windows - to homeowners, builders, lumber dealers or Home Depot
  • Furniture - to consumers, furniture store owners or the Marriott
  • Generators - to power an RV, an entire house, a grocery store or Mass General Hospital
  • Engines - to lawn mower manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers or GMC
  • Software - to a doctor's office, a clinic, a hospital or the Federal Government
  • Audit services - to the owner of a small professional firm, the president of a medium size company or the CFO of Apple

I could go on and on with examples like these where even the same product becomes a very different sale depending on who it's being sold to.  

Fortunately, OMG has a Sales Percentile score which is based on the combined weighted scores of 21 Sales Core Competencies before being compared to those two million other salespeople.  It's the single factor that neutralizes the differences between industries, competition, territories, pricing, complex and simple sales cycles, difficult (cold-calling) and easy (account management) roles, and targeted decision makers.  Sales Percentile allows you  to compare and/or rank sales capabilities!

This is useful when you're trying to rank sales candidates who come from varying backgrounds because let's face it - you're just guessing!  Sales Percentile is your answer.  In the sample sales candidate assessment below, this salesperson's sales percentile score of 100 means that this salesperson is better than 100% of the salespeople in the world!  And even with a 100, he still has a weakness!

dashboard

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales cycle, sales effectiveness, #1 salesperson, sales percentile

How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Thoughts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 06, 2020 @ 15:07 PM

baseball flag

During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.

I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles.   The five topics I have written most about are:

    1. The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.  
    2. Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized 
    3. Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach 
    4. Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue 
    5. Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales 

Baseball?  There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one.  My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level.  During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.

My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery.  While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite. 

As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments.  This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.

That brought me to memorable salespeople.  While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses.  After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable?  I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business.  Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling.  There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable.  In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business.  They were indispensable salespeople

Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend.  Baseball is back!  Sort of.  Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound.  They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach.  Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop.  But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy.  The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading.  That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.  

While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales.  How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify.  That.Will.Not.Change.  You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you.  That.Will.Not.Change.  However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed: 

  • Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
  • The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
  • Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
  • Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
  • Video Conferencing like Zoom.
  • File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
  • Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
  • Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
  • Organizational tools like ToDo.
  • Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
  • If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.

These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier.  None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done.  For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign.  This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts.  But you still have to do the selling!

I've been in the sales development space since 1985.  I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales.  From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet.  As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points!  You can see some of that data here.  

Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball.  You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson.  While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson.  Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know.  Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee.  They progress from there.

Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson.  The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, crm, Baseball, membrain, mastery

The Real Reason Why So Many Salespeople are So Bad at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 08, 2020 @ 12:06 PM

construction

Would you like to start a business?  Can't figure out what business to start?  I have three ideas for you:

In the past four weeks, I have tried and tried and tried to get a glass company to replace the tabletop for a large outdoor patio table after the glass exploded in an early April storm.  Four weeks laster, we still don't have the glass replaced.

One of our garage door openers needs to be replaced because in every five out of six attempts to lower the door, the opener sends it back up again.  After calling six dealers in four weeks, I have not received a single return call. 

We have a double swinging gate at the bottom of our driveway and the electronics are twenty years old and need to be updated.  After four weeks of calling dealers I have not received a single return call.

In case you're thinking that it must be me, I have had success getting plumbers, stone masons, electricians, carpenters, power washers, and painters to the house but those other three categories are the outliers.  Start one of those three businesses today and you'll make a fortune!

In today's article, I will explain why this problem exists and how it relates to a bigger problem in sales.

The people who don't return calls are usually technical in nature.  The garage door openers, gate electronics, and glass people are all entrepreneurs running small businesses and their expertise is not sales or customer service, it's their technical subject matter expertise.  

By and large, "salespeople" like these make up a large portion of the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  They are passionate about what they do, know their product, can answer technical questions, are experts in their industry but don't have a clue about what it means to sell.  They believe that answering questions, explaining their products and producing a quote or proposal constitutes selling.  They have little concept of sales process, sales posturing, messaging, positioning, listening and asking questions, qualifying, or closing, and even less on how to do any of that effectively.  They don't know what they don't know.

A good example of this can be seen at Objective Management Group's (OMG) Statistics site.  Navigate to the site, click the "tell us what industry you are in" button, and expand Construction (23).  Select 238 or Specialty Contractors and then scroll through the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You'll notice that the industry specific scores are consistently lower than the average scores for all salespeople.  Interestingly, the biggest gap is in the Hunting Competency where you will see that contractor salespeople score 18 points lower than the average for all salespeople.  The reality is that they do little hunting, getting their new business from existing customers and RFQ's.

The good news is that after senior management makes it clear that those in a selling role will be expected to proactively sell, rather than explaining and quoting alone, things do improve.  While some in the role are not well-suited for selling, with exposure to sales process, strategy, tactics and methodology, most will improve, become more comfortable, and more effective.  After an evaluation, introduction to the company's new formal sales process, and appropriate sales training, most of these people become more comfortable, more aware, and as a result, more effective.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales effectiveness

10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

Companies Surprised by Unexpected Remote Selling Challenges

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 09, 2020 @ 17:04 PM

roller-coaster

Forget Consultative Selling, Value Selling and Sales Process - the things I talk about most often.  The inability to sell that way is nothing - and I mean nothing compared with what I'm going to explain today!

For most salespeople and companies, the last three weeks has been an absolute roller coaster. Most companies expect their sales teams to be not only active, but proactive; to replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings; and to continue pipeline building so that there is business to close when we return to work.  But is that what's happening?  In today's article, I'll blend my usual mix of statistics with some personal observation from the clients I have been helping for the past three weeks.  I also included three videos that I extracted from a sales training session earlier this week.  You'll be surprised!

Yesterday, in a previously scheduled virtual training program to a global seller of test equipment, I learned that they weren't handling the "new" objections (we're not meeting with anyone now; we're not spending any money now) in a way that was consistent with how I trained them to handle objections just one month ago!  This helpful one-minute video about handling these objections was extracted from the training.

 

I was further surprised when I asked them if they had moved their face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.  Only 3 of their 18 salespeople were doing that!  This two-minute rant about their lack of virtual meetings was also extracted from that training.

 

I was surprised again when I asked if they were making outgoing calls and building pipeline on deals they couldn't close today.  Less than a third of them were doing so.  My final three-minute rant, extracted from that training, is about their lack of proactive calling.

 

Should I have been surprised?  Upset?

Kurlan & Associates had Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluate this company's sales force last summer and the following bullet points are among the things we learned about their sales team that are still very relevant today:

  • Their regional sales managers weren't coaching - ever.
  • Their sales managers weren't holding their salespeople accountable and  83% of their salespeople were making excuses.
  • 75% of their salespeople weren't motivated and 84% weren't goal orientated.
  • Nearly half of their salespeople are fishermen (they won't hunt but they'll follow up on an inbound lead), half were potential hunters (they would hunt if someone required them to but as I mentioned above, the sales managers aren't holding them accountable) and only one - one! was a pure hunter.
  • 75% of their salespeople had Closing as a weakness and their average score in the Closing competency was only 28!
  • Eleven out of twelve salespeople lacked commitment to achieve greater sales success
  • Half of their sales force was in the bottom 35 percentile of all salespeople
  • Only half of their salespeople were well-suited for working remotely.

Remember, these factors were discovered last summer and are still impacting their ability to get anything productive accomplished today.  In addition to these issues, they scored poorly in 9 selling Competencies other than Closing, 6 Sales DNA Competencies and 2 Will to Sell Competencies other than Commitment, Excuse Making and Motivation.  Click here if you want to see what the average scores are for nearly 2 million salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures, what they are in your industry, and what they are in your company.

Go back and review the last bullet point - suitable for working remotely.  In the old days - February 2020 - this finding only applied to salespeople who were covering a territory remotely from home office, and who worked for sales managers that didn't closely manage them.  Today it applies to every sales person on the planet that is not being closely managed by a sales manager.  With existing salespeople it's nice to know.  When you're hiring new remote salespeople, it's an important criteria of the recommendation to hire.  Under today's conditions, it could be the most important factor aside from selling capabilities.  Three of the key attributes of working remotely are:

  • Self-Starter
  • Works independently
  • Works without supervision

I looked at the data on the most recent 61,000 employed salespeople that OMG evaluated and found that only 41% overall were suitable for working remotely. 

Sales Percentile Percent Suitable
for Remote Selling
Elite (Top 5%) 67%
Strong (Next 15%) 61%
Serviceable 51%
Weak (Bottom 50%) 33%

As you can see in the table above, even a third of the best salespeople in the world aren't suitable for working remotely!  How will the bottom half perform?  And when two thirds of the bottom half can't effectively work from their homes, and most industrial salespeople fall into the bottom half, they're kind of screwed!

You can't make a salesperson who is not well-suited for working remotely suddenly suitable.  But as with the Pandemic, you can mitigate.  Have a conversation over video three times per day instead of once per week!

These times are different enough.  You shouldn't have any use for a salesperson who won't double down, work twice as hard, and find business wherever they can right now.  

Comments?  Leave them here on the LinkedIn discussion.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, overcoming objections, delayed closings, remote selling

Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 @ 23:03 PM

recession-1

Given the current circumstances - a Global Pandemic and an economy where so many industries have been shut down or compromised - selling value will be more important than ever.  

The result of selling value is that you are able to win the business despite not having the best price. But when we talk about selling value, what does it really mean?

One sales expert who reached out to me last week was worried that when we are focusing on the Value Selling Competency, uninformed salespeople interpret that as an invitation to present the company's value proposition.  They see it as an opportunity to show and tell and talk about capabilities.  He's right.  Most salespeople will seize on an opportunity to share what they know because it is so much easier than asking lots of tough, timely questions.  Let's take a look at the science.  

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated or assessed 1,961,459 salespeople.  In the table below, you can see the percentage of salespeople who are strong in 3 Sales Core Competencies, as well as Sales DNA (average score of the 6 competencies that make up Sales DNA).  All of these impact one's ability to Sell Value and are presented below sorted by various groups of salespeople. 

Group

Selling
Value

Sales
Process
Consultative
Selling
Sales DNA
All Salespeople 41% 45% 15% 28%
Top 5% of All Salespeople 97% 85% 60% 100%
Less Than 2 Years Experience 6% 29% 6% 11%
More Than 10 Years Experience 53% 53% 20% 37%
Bottom 50% of All Salespeople 11% 27% 3% 1%

This isn't a pretty picture because it basically shows that except for the top 5%, most salespeople suck at selling value.

There are four reasons for this:

  • They aren't following or using a sales process that supports Value Selling - only 45% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.
  • They aren't using a consultative approach and value selling won't work without one - only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.
  • Their Sales DNA doesn't support consultative or value selling - only 28% of all salespeople have Sales DNA as a strength
  • The company hasn't been decisive about not discounting - it sends conflicting messages.

You can't really get salespeople to properly and effectively sell value until they have been trained on sales process, consultative selling and been coached up on Sales DNA.

Circling back to the sales consultant who reached out last week, I suggested that selling value uses a consultative approach where:

  • The consequences of the problem are monetized or quantified and the solution is a fraction of the cost.
  • The salesperson, as a result of their care, concern and expertise, becomes the value.
  • The salesperson is valued as a trusted advisor compared to competitors who are mostly viewed as vendors.

Selling value will help your company navigate the economic ripple effect from the Coronavirus.  You'll not only continue to generate revenue,  you'll be able to maintain your margins too.

I've referenced only 3 (plus Sales DNA) of the 21 Sales Core Competencies in this article.  You can view the data on all 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your sales team compares here.

Comments?  Leave them in the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales force evaluation, selling in the recession, coronavirus

3 Steps You Must Take Today to Save Your Company From This Economic Downturn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

3-steps

You know the stories of the Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, and baseball fans have just heard about The Three Batter Minimum (how stupid!).  We're not going to discuss any of those threes today but we will talk about the three things companies must do, right now, in this quickly disintegrating economy, to drive revenue.

First, I'll share my Three Rants.

In the past couple of weeks, I recorded three, very powerful, very important and very relevant 2-minute video rants.

Rant #1 - Less is More So Don't Talk So Much

Rant #2 - What's Wrong with Value Propositions and Elevator Pitches

Rant #3 - Why You Can't Wait Another Day to Change the Way You Sell

With those three rants digested, let's discuss business  The economy is in trouble - not forever, but for now - and things will unravel in this order.

  • Large companies will enact spending freezes, stop issuing PO's and hold up payments on orders in progress
  • Those spending freezes will trickle down through the shipping industry, the suppliers that sell to large companies and those firms who sell to them
  • The consequences of bullets 1 and 2 will quickly hit consumers in the form of layoffs

Salespeople, who just yesterday were crushing their numbers, won't.  Those who were missing quotas will be unable to sell anything.  Transactional selling (why you should buy it from us/me instead of them) will stop working all together.  Consultative Selling (why you should buy this despite the lack of funding) is the only approach that will work at all.  

Here's the problem with that.  According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,958,990 salespeople, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  And that number is misleading because most of those 15% make up the top 5% of all salespeople.  60% of the top 5% have Consultative Selling as a strength but only 3% of the bottom half of all salespeople do.  And bad news, most of your salespeople are in the bottom 50%!

There are three things you must absolutely do, right now, today, to have any chance of getting out in front of what's coming.

1.  Have OMG evaluate your sales force.  While the findings and insights are incredible, the specific findings and insights that should be important today are:

  1. How to make the right decisions to right-size or down-size your sales organization.  Who is most well-suited to grow the business in each of your selling roles and who isn't?
  2. How big is the gap that your salespeople must overcome to become proficient at a sales process that supports both consultative and value based selling, who will be able to make the transition, how long will it take, and how much training and coaching will be required?
  3. How big is the gap that your sales managers must overcome to become proficient at sales coaching to support those salespeople?

There are dozens of other relevant, useful and important insights and findings but those are the three that you must have the answers for today.

2. Optimize your Sales Infrastructure. 

  1. Your sales process must be optimized to support this kind of selling
  2. The sales process must be milestone-centric and it must build upon itself. 
  3. Eliminate the dead wood on the sales force - less is more.  
  4. Replace them with great salespeople who will suddenly be available but make sure you use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment to select them.  Now is not the time to lose 8-12 months because you value gut instinct over science!
  5. Now is the time to dump the CRM tool your salespeople refuse to live in (bye-bye salesforce-dot-com) and replace it with one that integrates your optimized sales process and pipeline, has built-in playbooks and focuses on sales opportunities instead of data entry (hello Membrain.com.  
  6. Eliminate unnecessary layers of management and right-size the reporting structure.  Ideal=6-8 reps reporting to a sales manager and 3-5 sales managers reporting to a Regional sales manager.

3. Train, Train, Train, Drill, Drill, Drill, Coach, Coach, Coach

  1. Get the proper sales management training that will turn your sales managers into coaching machines
  2. Get the proper sales training that will turn your salespeople into consultative sellers
  3. Run daily drills so that they can practice on someone other than their prospects!

You really can get out in front of this and continue to drive revenue if your salespeople can effectively side-step the resistance, create urgency, properly differentiate, sell value instead of price, and not become discouraged over all of the rejection they will be facing in the coming months.

Or you can put your head in the sand, believe that what worked last month will work next month, and wait until your cash flow is upside down and by then it will be too late.

Your choice.

Comments?  Leave them on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, selling in the recession

How Companies Choose Sales Training Companies is Backwards

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 11, 2020 @ 06:02 AM

reverse

Do you partake of dessert prior to eating your appetizer?  Do you eat your dinner in the morning and have breakfast at night?  Would you prefer to have the builder complete the finish work on your new house prior to framing it and installing the roof?  Would you back your car out of the garage before opening the garage door? (I've actually done that by accident - twice!)

It's all quite silly.  You wouldn't think of doing those things in that order but that's how most companies choose sales training companies.  After 35 years in the sales training industry, I'm qualified to comment on this silly behavior, and explain why companies have it all backwards.

If your company is going to partner with a third-party to help increase sales, the actual sales training component should be the last of the various services to be delivered.  What services should be delivered prior to sales training?  

First, a complete sales force evaluation to identify the gaps, problems, challenges, and most importantly, the reasons why your sales results are what they are. This allows you to set realistic expectations for growth by understanding who is capable of improvement, by how much they can improve, and what will be required in the way of training and coaching to achieve that growth.  If you provide training without conducting the evaluation you might as well just write the check and spare everyone the time, effort and aggravation.

Second, sales process.  Your sales process must be customized and optimized because training must introduce your formal sales process and all of the content must be delivered in the context of the process.

Third, sales management training and coaching. If you want the sales training to work, then your sales managers must be trained and coached so that they can coach to the content in the context of the sales process. If your sales managers won't or can't coach consistently and effectively, the training won't stick and the changes won't take place.

Fourth, tweaks to your sales operations infrastructure.  You don't want to start tweaking things after sales training has begun.

Fifth, Upgrades.  Some of your existing salespeople won't be part of your future and knowing who they are in advance from the intelligence of the sales force evaluation allows you to replace them before, not during the sales training. 

Of course, there are other variables, like how the training will be delivered, support materials and technology, the effectiveness of the trainer, how many training sessions a program will include, the topics that will be covered, how much role-playing will be included to demonstrate what good conversations sound like, and homework assignments.  If you make the mistake of rolling out sales training instead of the sales force evaluation as the first step, you won't have the MRI of the sales organization, or a sales radiologist to read the MRI, so it would be like ordering surgery from a menu instead of receiving the proper needs-based treatment.

Where do you find such a sales radiologist?  Objective Management Group (OMG) partners with 300 of the best sales experts in the world who all provide those services as part of an OMG Sales Force Evaluation.  Sure, there are other assessment companies and other team reports but nothing compares with what OMG offers.  Not a single one is able to do the in-depth sales-specific analyses of your team that OMG provides.  Request a sample Sales Force Evaluation

Some of the analyses that OMG includes in a Sales Force Evaluation:

  • Role Analysis (right people in the right roles)
  • Pipeline Analysis (quality and restaging)
  • Sales Process Analysis (thoroughness, sequence, milestones and adherence)
  • Development Analysis (scope, friction, opportunity and timeline)
  • Analysis of 6 Sales DNA Competencies (do strengths support sales process, strategy, tactics?)
  • Analysis of 10 Sales Capability Competencies (selling skills)
  • Sales Management Coaching Analysis (skills, environment, frequency, topics, effectiveness)
  • Sales Leadership Analysis (competencies and effectiveness)
  • Messaging Analysis (elevator pitch and value proposition)
  • Analysis of 5 Will to Sell Competencies (can vs will sell)
  • Industry Comparison Analysis in all 21 Sales Core Competencies
  • Systems and Processes Analysis (sales operations)
  • Priorities for Growth (areas to focus on and training and development requirements)

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales training

Is Your Sales Force More Like a Dunkin', Starbucks or Panera Drive Thru?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 21, 2020 @ 06:01 AM

starbucks

On a frigid New England morning, I pulled into a Dunkin' drive thru and noticed that there were only ten cars ahead of me and that meant that it shouldn't take more than five minutes to get through the fast-moving line.  Contrast that to the Starbucks drive thru.  There were five cars ahead of me and that could take from ten to fifteen minutes because of how long it takes to prepare beverages at Starbucks.  That ten to fifteen minutes is a freakin' dream come true compared to Panera Bread.  I don't know if you have Panera Bread where you are but I love the food at Panera.  However, if there was ever a restaurant chain that shouldn't have a drive thru window, Panera, at least the one in my town, fits the bill.  When I pull into the Panera line, I see that there are two cars ahead of me and I know for certain that it's going to take twenty minutes to get through their line.  At lunch time I order ahead using their app but on that cold New England morning I'm not getting out of the car so I'm going to live or die by the drive thru.  Yet despite the intolerable wait times and ridiculously bad customer service, I return time and time again.  All it takes is to reset my expectations so that I no longer get upset with the twenty-minute wait.

This all begs the question, is the sales force at your company more like the Dunkin', Starbucks, or Panera drive-thru?  Today's article will explain how to answer that question.

If your sales force meets or exceeds budget and the revenue flows through the pipeline easily and consistently, then you have a Dunkin'-like sales force.  It only seems to take a couple of people to make a Dunkin' line zip right along so your sales force is mean and lean and gets the job done.

If your sales force meets budget, but it takes a lot of hand-holding, pressure, accountability, hard work and additional reps to do it, you have a Starbucks-like sales force.  It seems to take at least four baristas to move a Starbucks line along but they make it happen.

If you have to lower your expectations, and the sales force still fails to meet budget, then you have a Panera-like sales force.  You don't have enough reps, those you do have under-perform, most projected closes are delayed, and your win rate is very low.  It seems that Panera has a single employee taking drive thru orders, making the food, packaging the order, collecting the money and handing over the order before miserably taking the next order.

The reality is that those three drive thru lines perfectly describe most sales forces.  

Do you remember the old ads for the car rental companies?  Hertz advertised that "We're number one."  Avis marketed that because they were number two, "We try harder."

I would say the same is true for the Starbucks-like sales force.  While Dunkin' is like the Apple sales force selling iPhones, with people waiting in line to place their orders, the Starbucks-like sales force tries harder.  They have to work for every order and since their products are more expensive, they must utilize the more difficult consultative approach, and sell value to generate revenue.

Consultative selling is more difficult because it depends on the two skills that most salespeople have not come close to mastering; listening and questioning.

As you can see below from ten of the twenty-one selling competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) measures, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  Only the Closing competency has a smaller percentage of salespeople who are strong in the competency.  And this isn't from some small sample size.  This is data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,937,474

selling-competencies-1

Let's drill down into a few of the ten attributes of the Consultative Seller competency.  We find that only:

  • 27% of salespeople have listening skills as a strength
  • 24% have Asks Enough Questions as a strength
  • 41% have Asks Good Questions as a strength.

It's pretty ugly.

The Starbucks-like sales force has mastered the consultative approach but most sales forces have not.  What does it take to move from "have not" to "have mastered?"

Lots and lots of training and coaching on consultative selling in the context of a consultative sales process.  And you should have your sales force evaluated by an OMG-Certified sales expert to properly set expectations as to how long it will take, who can improve, how much improvement to expect, and how much more revenue you should expect.  And that's just on the Consultative competency.  You should want to know that about all twenty-one sales core competencies!

Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales, sales process, sales leadership, panera, dunkin, starbucks

Salespeople in Small Companies are 43% Better at This and Other Salesenomics Insights

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 06, 2020 @ 20:01 PM

statistics

You seek out the best products, best stores, best websites and best experiences.  Doesn't it make sense to wonder about where you can find the best salespeople?

I asked Objective Management Group's (OMG) COO, John Pattison, to dig into some of our data from the evaluations of 1,932,059 salespeople from  companies and provide me with some scores.

I reviewed the data and have a number of very interesting and surprising Salesenomics conclusions to share.

For this exercise, we looked at large (more than 100 salespeople), mid-market (30-100 salespeople) and small/medium (fewer than 30 salespeople) companies.  Then we gathered average scores for each of the 21 Sales Core Competencies as well as Sales Percentile.

It turns out that you'll find more excuse making at larger companies where salespeople scored 43% worse than in small companies.  Why?  Excuse makers aren't nearly as exposed in large companies as they are in small companies, with more layers of management between themselves and those who might call them out for it.  While salespeople from small companies are the weakest overall, they are much less likely to make excuses.  They'll suck without placing blame!

Large companies are also where you'll find salespeople who are more comfortable talking about money and having the kinds of financial conversations that are so necessary for sales success.  Salespeople in large companies scored 21% better in this competency.  Why?  Large companies often sell high-ticket products and services to other large companies and when salespeople aren't comfortable having those financial conversations they fail.  With high-ticket sales, quotas are quite large and when salespeople are missing quota, they are missing by millions, not thousands!  That makes it difficult to stay under the radar.

Large companies have salespeople who are far less likely to use social selling, scoring 39% worse than salespeople at smaller companies!  Salespeople at large companies have an easier time scheduling meetings than those in smaller and lesser-known companies. Think rolling out the red carpet!  But social selling isn't the only thing they don't use.  They are also the worst at using CRM!  The executives who invested millions on their CRM must be absolutely thrilled over that finding.  It tells them that they aren't the only ones frustrated with CRM adaptation and compliance.

The best salespeople overall can be found in mid-market companies where the average sales quotient is ten points higher than in small or large companies.  This makes sense too because those are the companies that take sales training and coaching most seriously.  Many large companies buy sales training but don't really care if it changes anything because they're just checking off a box.  Many small companies don't want to pay for sales training because they're afraid it won't change anything.  But many mid-market companies need it, want it, pay for it, and care tremendously about the outcomes.

The most rejection proof salespeople can also be found in mid-market companies.  It makes sense because that's where you'll find the best hunters!  Mid-market companies also have salespeople who are better at selling value, taking a consultative approach to selling and qualifying.

Salespeople who have the worst scores in Presentation Approach can be found at small companies.  That's where you'll also find salespeople who are less likely to follow the sales process.  I believe this is because there is far less discipline at small companies.

I didn't stop there.  I also looked at sales percentile by industry.

The best?  Commercial Real Estate with an average Sales Percentile of 54%.  The worst? Transportation and shipping with an average Sales Percentile of only 35%.

That's a 55% difference!  It makes sense though.  Many of the commercial realtors that have called on me have attempted to take a consultative approach even though there were still some that began conversations by asking for my lease expiration date.  That transactional approach can be seen with shippers too.  All of the shippers that have called on us seem to be unaware that there are any buying criteria other than price!

So what does all of this mean?  

It means that no matter where we look, how we look at it, how we slice it and dice it, and how many findings we dissect, most salespeople are still guilty of sucking and most companies are still guilty of allowing them to remain sucky.

Leave your comments on the LinkedIn discussion thread here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales competenices, crm, sales statistics, sales analysis, sales data

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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