The Philosophy of a Pitching Coach Will Improve Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 04, 2022 @ 07:04 AM

pitching

I find ideas and material for this Blog everywhere, especially when I'm not looking for them. Yesterday I received a daily email from a Paul Reddick, a baseball coach who was drumming up some business for his baseball institute. It resonated - not for its baseball coaching - but as sales coaching.  Here's what it said:

If your coach is talking about any of the pitching flaws that you see listed above…

Run… Run Fast!

That Coach is working on “flaws” that will have no impact on your pitching.  He is working on symptoms… not the illness!  He is trying to fix things that are happening as a byproduct of incorrect movement early in your delivery. If you get the first second of your delivery right, almost all of these flaws get fixed instantly. 

Do you know how this applies to sales? 

I'll explain exactly how it applies and I promise you will be surprised!  Click here to read last year's fun article comparing pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) to role-playing in sales.

If a CEO, Sales Leader, Sales Manager, Sales Coach or Sales Expert suggests that closing or negotiating is a selling flaw, then that individual does not really understand what salespeople must do in order to win business.

Closing is over-rated. 

Always has been.

Except for the concept of when to close, closing shouldn't even be taught!

If a salesperson is effective adding opportunities to the pipeline, reaching decision makers, building relationships, taking a consultative approach and uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, qualifying, and doing that in the context of a effective and efficient sales process, they will earn the business and it will close at the appropriate time.

If they suck at any or all of the nine competencies referenced above, then the lack of wins will appear to be a closing issue, when it is actually symptomatic of something that wasn't properly executed earlier in the process.

Same goes for negotiating.  If an opportunity is properly qualified at the appropriate time, there should not be anything to negotiate.  However, if qualifying lacks thoroughness and is completed too early, it invites a negotiation at closing time.

Training and coaching should be targeted towards the competency in the sales process that has the lowest conversion ratio.  In other words, if salespeople struggle to get opportunities into the pipeline, focus on prospecting.  If salespeople are booking meetings but opportunities stagnate in the pipeline, the issue is with the consultative approach and/or value selling.  If opportunities get as far as qualified but fail to close, then the issue is probably with qualifying and/or consultative selling/value selling.

The most important thing to identify is where ALL of the skill gaps are.  How can salespeople leverage their strengths, sharpen existing skills, learn new skills and improve their conversion ratios?

The best way to do that is to know exactly what they are capable of, where their bottlenecks are, what their blindspots are, and what they need to do in order to improve.  This should never be a guess because most sales managers, sales leaders and CEOs guess wrong!  It sounds like most of the calls and emails I receive where the potential client says, "Yes, we're looking for someone to provide some sales training on closing and negotiating."

There are a couple of ways to find out what your team is really capable of and how much better they can become:

An OMG Sales Team Evaluation is the best solution and provides answers to every possible question you might have about your team.  In addition to the comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA), Executive Summary, and Visualizer (interactive tool to play with the data), you and your sales team will learn how everyone measures up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

Request Samples

Email for more information

OMG has a free self-serve solution as well.  You can see how your team collectively compares to other teams in your industry and to companies overall in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You won't get any reports or individual results but you'll see where the team-wide gaps are.

Check out the Free solution (or first step)

Companies that have their sales teams evaluated experience faster, quicker and greater growth than those who don't.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Closing Sales, sales assessments, sales team evaluation

Top 10 Sales Videos and Rants From Dave Kurlan

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 21, 2022 @ 07:03 AM

video

From time to time I record impromptu unscripted rants as well as some that are more well thought-out videos.  From among the collection presented below, most are rants so the rants are much more popular.  The most-watched (I have added to the list so there are more than 10 now!) videos are shown below in order of popularity and while I like all of them, I indicated my personal favorites with an asterisk.  All but three of the videos are three-minutes or less, one is six-minutes, one is ten-minutes and one is eight-minutes.  Topics include:

1. Revenue Sensitivity - a rant on the lack of correlation between top salespeople and revenue

2. On Sales Process and Methodology - the difference between popular sales processes and methodologies

3. Why Your Prospects Won't Talk with You and What to Do About it - a rant

4. On Attracting Salespeople When Recruiting - a rant on the Two Keys to Attracting More of the Right Sales Candidates

5. Transactional versus Consultative Selling - a rant

6. Why Forecasts are Always So Inaccurate - a rant on why it's not the forecast!

7. Dinger's Listening Skills - how my Dog's Listening Skills are better than those of most salespeople

8. Protect Your References - a rant on why you shouldn't give out references unless it's the perfect time

9. Why People Should Consider a Career in Sales

10. On Cold Calls - a Rant

More...

1.  On Revenue Sensitivity *

2. On Sales Processes and Methodologies

 

3. Why Your Prospects Won't Talk with You and What to Do About it

 

4.  On Attracting Salespeople When Recruiting

 

5. Transactional Versus Consultative Sales

 

6. Why Forecasts are Always So Inaccurate

 

7. Dinger's Listening Skills *

 

8. Protect Your References

 

9. Why People Should Consider a Career in Sales *

 

10. On Cold Calls

More.

On How Nothing Has Changed in 35 Years.

On Not Getting Distracted

 

On How to Shorten and Speed Up the Sales Process

On Why Sales Training Doesn't Work

On The Importance of Momentum in Sales

Momentum Part 2: The Difference Between Discipline and Consistency - You'll Need Both!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales recruiting, top salespeople, tips on selling, listening skills, sales forecasts, best sales video, career in sales

10 Steps to Crushing Your Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 18, 2022 @ 12:02 PM

One hundred years ago, most men and women wore hats and dressed up to go everywhere. Sixty years later, Dress for Success was founded and at the same time became somewhat of a thing where if you wanted to be successful, you needed to dress like you were successful.  That was followed by business casual Fridays and then always business casual. Finally, the tech industry ushered in the current movement for business dress, the "who cares?" dress code.  The pandemic changed everything so that "who cares?" temporarily became whatever you were wearing when you woke up this morning!

Times change but one constant is the requirement for monthly, quarterly and annual sales forecasts.  It used to be difficult to come up with that number but with the technology we have today, a single click in our CRM applications should show us the accurate number.  But there is always a lingering question that accompanies that click:  Is that really the accurate number?

Most sales leaders have to perform major tweaks to that number because the opportunities in the CRM aren't up to date, the opportunities don't contain all the information, and the probabilities and dates are likely over stated.  But despite playing with the data, the sales leaders's attempt to settle on a single, more realistic number will usually be incorrect. In my experience, there are three distinct types of CEO reactions to this constant epidemic of missed forecasts:

  1. The revenue is fine and the margins are high regardless as to whether the team does or doesn't hit the forecast number and they simply don't care.  They are in the minority but they are definitely out there.
  2. Some CEOs have become so numb to this monthly ritual that the likelihood of an inaccurate forecast has been baked into their operation.  They expect it to be wrong.
  3. Finally there is the third group. They become more and more pissed off with every blown forecast and don't understand why it continues to occur or what to do about it. 

Watch this 3 minute rant from me to hear what I believe is to blame.

I feel better now that I got that off my chest...

Here are 10 steps to put an end to missed forecasts:

  1. CRM - Cut your losses and move to a salesperson-friendly CRM so that your salespeople will use it and keep it updated. If they see it as a tool to help them sell rather than a replacement for call reports you'll have realtime data and isn't that the primary executive function for CRM?  I recommend Membrain.
  2. Sales Process - Have your trusted sales consultancy customize and optimize your sales process.
  3. Tools - Have your trusted sales consultancy build a predictive scorecard and simple playbooks. 
  4. Integration - integrate the sales process, scorecard and playbook into your CRM.  It should all be working together inside your CRM.
  5. Training - Train your salespeople on how THEY can get the most out of THEIR CRM application and share your expectations as to daily use.
  6. Accountability - Hold salespeople accountable for keeping it updated daily. It's a condition for continued employment, or for releasing their commissions, or for expense reimbursement but under no circumstances is it optional.
  7. Evaluation - Ask your sales consultancy to have your sales team evaluated in all 21 Sales Core Competencies so that you can identify capabilities and gaps and weaknesses and get them fixed.
  8. Training - Get comprehensive training for your sales managers on how to effectively conduct opportunity reviews and coach up your salespeople.  Isn't that one of the primary sales management purposes for CRM?  
  9. Training - Have your sales training company provide comprehensive sales training in all the areas identified in the sales team evaluation.
  10. Annual Review, tweak and repeat.

Ready to get started?  Let's go!

Topics: sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, evaluation, sales CRM, sales forecast, sales team, opportunity review

10 Prospect Rules That Salespeople Must Learn to Break

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 24, 2022 @ 07:01 AM

restaurant-masks

This is not an article about COVID but I will begin by asking which COVID policy you believe is the most stupid.

My vote is for the mask requirement in restaurants because the premise is so moronic.  While you're alone with your group at the front door and until you reach your table you must wear your mask.  Then, when you're seated at your table, among all the other diners, you can remove your mask.  The most literal conclusion is that the virus isn't contagious while you are sitting and eating your food, only when standing and walking.  The same can be extended to the airlines where the virus won't spread if you are unmasked with your mouth open to eat or drink, but will most certainly spread if you are sitting with your mouth closed without a mask.  

Like I said, this is not a COVID article because if it was, I could write a book about the data, science, policies and hypocrisies.  However, there is a sales equivalent to the stupid restaurant masking requirement and that is what we will discuss in today's article.

Have you or your salespeople ever been told by a prospect that they can't:

  • Share who the decision maker is
  • Allow you to speak with the decision maker
  • Allow you to meet the decision maker
  • Share the actual budget
  • Divulge who you are competing with
  • Provide feedback about how you compare with the competition
  • Answer your questions because they don't know the answers
  • Explain the problem your product/service will solve because they were simply tasked to gather information
  • Meet because they only need a quote or proposal
  • Share the criteria for what constitutes a winning partner/proposal/quote etc.

There are two interesting takeaways from this list of 10 prospect rules.

  1. Most salespeople aren't even asking most of these questions or alternate questions.  I teach salespeople to ask alternate questions because let's face it - these questions suck like a vacuum cleaner.
  2. The salespeople who do manage to ask questions like these and don't get them answered wouldn't dare push back and/or try again to get the questions answered

There are two reasons for salespeople not being able to push back.

  1. They don't know how to push back because they haven't been trained and coached to push through these challenges.
  2. They need to be liked.  According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2,177,025 salespeople, 59% have Need for Approval or the need to be liked.  Salespeople who need to be liked are uncomfortable asking questions, more uncomfortable asking lots of questions, and find it impossible to ask good, tough timely questions.  There is no chance they would ever have the difficult conversation that would differentiate them from their competition.

It's a powerful weakness found in the area of Sales DNA.  It is so powerful that when salespeople finally overcome the weakness, using OMG's Sales DNA Modifier, that their sales increase by 35%! 

Not needing to be liked is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured by OMG.  You can see all 21 here and if you're up to it, sort by industry and even by company.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, omg, sales objections, sales tips, sales assessements, sales evaluations

Has Buying Changed and Has B2B Selling Adapted?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

b2b

My articles begin with analogies so we'll start by asking, has baseball changed?  

Games take longer, there is role specialization, starting pitchers rarely complete games, hitters are stronger, pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90's and there is a trend towards either hitting a home run or striking out.  But it's still baseball.  It is still played the same way.  The changes are superficial.

And in the context of how it affects salespeople, has buying really changed?

If you believe what is so frequently written by digital marketing folks, then buying has changed dramatically.  But just because a digital marketing person wrote it, does that make it true?  

We must discuss buying in the context of buying from salespeople so we will begin by differentiating facts from claims. Let's begin with what we know for absolute certain.

B2B buying can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Point and Click Transactional Purchases (navigate to a website and buy it)
  • Talk and or Meet with an Expert (salespeople)

For transactional purchases, salespeople have been eliminated so to that extent, sales has changed dramatically!

For other B2B purchases, salespeople still have significant involvement - for now.  Prospects search Google, visit websites, learn about products and services, and even get a sense for pricing.  For their part, salespeople who regurgitate the same information that prospects can find online are simply redundant, fail to provide any value, and won't be around for long.  It is imperative that salespeople provide value by actually being the value and from that perspective, one of the salesperson's responsibilities has changed.

It is more difficult for salespeople to reach decision makers of larger organizations as they are better protected than before and tend to rely more on group decision making.

When the onset of the pandemic introduced virtual selling to the masses, more buying options than ever before became available because the business that is 3,000 miles away is suddenly no further away than the one down the street.

The way that buyers find salespeople has changed.  They may use the aforementioned Google search, but are just as likely to find a trusted source from an expert Blog, through LinkedIn, or Facebook.  While marketers will use that as proof that outbound selling is dead, that proclamation is propaganda, not fact.  Inbound marketers generate a lot of interest and leads on which to follow up but the quality of those leads is questionable and inconsistent and there are big problems when handing them off to salespeople.  Salespeople who still do their own prospecting by phone schedule plenty of quality meetings to keep their pipelines full.

So how buyers and sellers find each other has changed, decision makers are more effective insulating themselves, and there are more buying options.  What happens after that?

The digital marketing folks say that the buying journey is 57% complete when a buyer first reaches out to a salesperson.  Most ineffective and underperforming salespeople agree that prospects seem to know what they want and all they have to do is quote prices, prepare proposals and take orders.  Of course that's why they are ineffective and chronically underperform.

Today's buyers are self-educated and salespeople mistake that knowledge for readiness. Salespeople tend to take the path of least resistance and the knowledge they mistake for readiness lulls them into the quote, proposal and order taking mode.  As a result, they don't follow their company's sales process or worse, the company's sales process has been modified to reflect buyers being ready.  If the buyers were truly ready at this point they would actually buy but the additional options prolong instead of shorten the sales process.

The top 20% of all salespeople have not fallen victim to the false sense of security offered by poor quality inbound leads or the myth of the buyer journey being 57% complete.  They leverage new tools and technology to take a more consultative approach, follow their sales process, nicely challenge prospects who seem to be ready, uncover the reasons and consequences that led them to buy, get them to think differently and get prospects to see them as subject matter experts. They qualify more thoroughly than ever, talk with and/or meet decision makers, and close two to three times more business than their underperforming, order-taking colleagues.

Buying has changed to the extent that it's easier to start the process and reach out to potential vendors.  Selling has changed to the extent that most salespeople are less effective and top salespeople are closing a bigger percentage of the business than ever before.

This can all be fixed.  How?  

A Sales Team evaluation identifies the issues.

A Custom Sales Process helps salespeople to meet the correct milestones with the proper people at the optimal time for the right reasons.  Integration of the sales process into a CRM application that is designed for how you sell and who you sell to is crucial.

Sales Leadership Training and Coaching train your sales leaders to coach up their salespeople.

Sales Training that demonstrates a consultative approach, utilizes role-play and models what great selling looks and sounds like. 

An integrated approach to sales development changes everything.  Isn't it time?

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, closing, crm, inbound, buyer journey, outbound

Top 10 Sales and Sales Leadership Articles of 2021

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 07, 2021 @ 10:12 AM

top-10-articles

There are two articles that I post each and every December.  This is the first - the top articles of the year - and later this month I will post my annual Nutcracker edition which I have been doing since 2011.

There are several criteria for choosing the top articles of the year, including, but not limited to:

  • Views (Article)
  • Popularity (likes on LinkedIn and Twitter)
  • Engagement (comments to the article, via email, and on LinkedIn)
  • Personal (my favorites) 
  • Value (insights for the community)

Some of the criteria is subjective and some is measurable.  I believe value is most important, although it might not be reflected in views or likes, and then engagement.  I think views are less significant because people could read the article but not like it.  Popularity is a good barometer but not everyone sees what is posted on LinkedIn and Twitter and the time of day influences that.  So with all that said, here are the top 5 Sales Articles and the Top 5 Sales Leadership articles of the year.

Top 5 Sales Articles (in no particular order)

  1. 2 Questions That Will End Every Request for a Better Price
  2. Salespeople Will Close 50% More Business By Changing This One Thing They Do!
  3. Crappy Salespeople and Lack of Urgency Alignment  - The Bob Chronicles Part 4
  4. 31 Conditions That Predict Your Sales Opportunity is in Trouble  
  5. Data - Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople (Bob Chronicles - Part 3) 

Top 5 Sales Leadership Articles (in no particular order)

  1. How to Use Buckets to Improve Sales Performance and Coaching
  2. How Pitchers Fielding Practice is Exactly the Same as Salespeople Role-Playing 
  3. Startups Almost Always Get The Sales Thing Wrong 
  4. Why I Believe We Should Blow up the Business Development Rep (BDR) Role in Sales  
  5. MUST READ: Are Assessments as Evil as the Persona Movie Suggests? 

The Most Viewed and Commented article was "Salespeople will close 50% More..."

My personal selection was a tie between my favorite for pure fun - Pitchers Fielding Practice - and for insights - the article on Evil Assessments.

There you have it - the top ten articles from 2021.  Which one is your favorite?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales leadership, sales pipeline, sales tips, sales assessments, personality assessment, best sales management articles, best sales articles

Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 @ 16:10 PM

Kiké Hernández's dream postseason continues for Red Sox: 10 things we  learned from ALDS-clinching walk-off win - masslive.com

Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times!

For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify.

How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

If your company is not the brand leader, market leader, or price leader; if you have a complex sale, a story to tell, a new technology, a new brand, a new product, a much higher price or a much tougher sale, then you are an underdog too.

Brand leaders, Market leaders and price leaders have it easy.  There is no true selling involved.  They show up, write proposals, provide quotes, conduct demos and take orders. They get what they get.

Underdogs must not only sell their way in, but they must also sell their value to justify the higher prices, differentiate themselves to prove their value, and use a consultative approach that supports selling value.  On top of that, they must follow a proper milestone-centric sales process that supports a consultative approach for selling value.

Most salespeople simply can't do this.  The data in the table below, from Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments of more than 2 million salespeople, shows the percentage of salespeople who are strong in the three competencies I just mentioned.  

It's not very difficult to grasp the takeaways from this data.  Even some of the best salespeople struggle to take a consultative approach to sales but compensate with their adherence to sales process and their ability to sell value.  The worst salespeople aren't capable of much more than a transactional sale described earlier in the article.  The best salespeople score, on average, 4823% stronger in these three competencies.  There are actually a total of 21 Sales Core Competencies and you can see the data for all of them right here, play with the data a bit, and filter by industry and company!

The top 5% and the bottom 5% represent only the extreme examples of 10% of all salespeople.  The other 90% are represented in the "All Salespeople" column.  We can filter the numbers some more if we break down the other 90%.  Wait until you see these numbers!

As you can see, there is a significant drop off from the top 5% to the next 15% and an even greater drop off to the 30% after that.  The big takeaway is that in these three competencies  the bottom 50% are nearly as weak as the bottom 5%. They all suck.  As a matter of fact, once you get past the top 20%, the picture is bleak.

What can you do about this? 

Use OMG to Evaluate your sales force so you can see what the capabilities are at your company.

Use OMG to Assess your sales candidates so that you can be assured of hiring only those who will succeed in the role.  

Train, train, train, coach, coach, coach, drill, drill, drill, role-play, role-play, role-play.

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright MassLive.com 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales training, sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, value selling,

Most Sales Processes, Funnels and Pipelines are How Old?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 29, 2021 @ 16:09 PM

Have you ever conducted a Google or Amazon search for one thing only to be presented with search results that were completely different than what you were looking for?

I was looking for an image of a sales funnel and couldn't believe what I found!  My search results can be found here.  Can you believe all of those images of sales funnels?  Look them over and see if you can recognize the  problem with all of them.

There were a number of marketing funnels included on the page but I wanted to see the images for sales funnels. 

The first one I found had the title, "Sales Funnel Stages."  It had six stages and none of the stages were sufficiently defined so as to determine where a prospect is in the sales process or for forecasting whether the opportunity will close and when it will close.  The six stages were:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interest
        3. Consideration
        4. Intent
        5. Evaluation
        6. Purchase

I'm sorry, but that is not a predictive sales funnel.  Awareness is a marketing stage.  Purchase is post-pipeline.  Evaluation is just like consideration.  Intent - is that intent with us or intent in general?  This funnel is for an optimistic sales leader who wants things to look good but I guarantee that the win rate out of this funnel is brutal.

I found a variation of that funnel without the evaluation stage and with intent replaced by decision.  In other words, they are evaluating!

The second funnel I found had the title, "Sales Funnel."  It was four stages so that seemed promising until I saw the stages:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interaction
        3. Interest
        4. Action

More awareness.  Interaction - you mean like a conversation to get them interested?  And once they were interested they were going to take action?  Wow.  I'm sure that has a high win-rate.  Not.

Then there was a variation of that funnel where Interest is replaced by Decision.  So we go from a conversation to a decision.  It's very transactional, isn't it?

Then I found a "Detailed Guide to Building a Sales Funnel" and it even had descriptions of its five stages:

        1. Unaware
        2. Lead
        3. Prospect
        4. Customer
        5. Fan

In this funnel, they go from lead to prospect to customer so the only part of the sales funnel that has anything to do with selling is stage 3 - prospect!  Guess what their win rate must be?  This is an incorrectly named marketing funnel!

Then I found a three-stage six-part funnel that had:

        1. Awareness
          1. Visit
          2. Lead
        2. Consideration
          1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
          2. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
          3. Opportunity
        3. Decision
          1. Customer

It appears more complex than the funnel before this one but it is essentially the same thing with the same problem.  The entire sales part of the sales funnel was 2.3 - opportunity.

It was only a matter of time before I found a graphically modern and pleasing version of the original sales process, AIDA:

        1. Awareness
        2. Interest
        3. Decision
        4. Action

Now it should make sense to you.  Nearly every single pipeline, funnel and sales process shown on that page full of funnel images is based on this old, antiquated AIDA process that was developed by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.  That's right. In the 19th century, five years before Henry Ford rolled out the first Model A from his plant in 1903, St. Elmo Lewis gave the world a sales process that is still being used by most companies.

So what should a modern funnel look like?

It should have just four stages.  Any additional stages would be for marketing and if it's marketing-related it doesn't belong in the sales funnel!

The funnel should mimmic the sales process.  The stages don't necessarily need to have the same names but the stages should represent the same milestones.

The funnel or pipeline should trace the evolution of a sales opportunity as it moves from suspect to prospect to qualified opportunity to closable opportunity.

          1. Suspect - you have a first meeting, call, or video scheduled (3 milestones) based on discovering that they have issues that you can address
          2. Prospect - they have a compelling reason to buy what you sell and buy it from you (5 milestones)
          3. Qualified - they are thoroughly qualified to do business with you (7 milestones)
          4. Closable - they have given you a verbal and you are waiting to formalize the agreement (3 milestones)

If you want to see what a funnel should look like when you bring it to life, in the context of a full and comprehensive sales process, then watch this video.  It has a run-time of ten minutes.  I have shared this video before so if you have seen it and don't need to see it in the context of this article, feel free to skip past.

You heard and saw in the video that the only complete sales process with a built-in methodology is Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is pre-integrated and easy to further customize in the Baseline Selling edition of Membrain, simply the best sales-specific CRM application on the planet.  Check it out here

The danger of having your funnel rooted in 120-year-old theory becomes even more troublesome when your sales training and coaching is based on this and it is this which is integrated into your CRM.

It should be crystal clear by now that most of what you learn about sales today, is no more relevant, thorough, fresh, on-point or correct than the sales process served up by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, crm, sales funnel

How To Stop Sucking by Understanding and Changing Your Sales Metrics

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 30, 2021 @ 09:08 AM

metrics

The CDC is back to focusing on COVID case numbers.  Earlier this summer, Massachusetts was reporting fewer than 100 new cases each day but more 1,000 new cases per day have been reported for the past two weeks.  That particular metric supports the narrative that the Delta variant is spreading but it does not tell the real story that allows us to assess our risk.  

 

 

For the real story to materialize, we should know how many of those 1,000 cases occurred in vaccinated people, how many vaccinated people with COVID have symptoms, and how many of those cases required hospitalization.  Case numbers support that there is new spread, but a detailed breakdown would help us to understand our reality.

The exact same thing is happening with the sales numbers reported by most companies.

Suppose a company reports that its win rate is 24%.  Does that tell you anything other than they suck?  It doesn't tell us how badly they suck, why they suck, how long they've sucked, who sucks, or whether there is any hope for them to stop sucking.  And even if their win rate is double the 24%, the same questions apply. Let me explain.

How badly they suck depends entirely on the stage in the sales process from which the conversion is being measured.  Win rates are not calculated consistently so a 24% win rate could mean five different things:

  • Proposals to closed - if they are only closing 24% of their proposals they are demonstrating the highest possible degree of suck.
  • Qualified to closed - if they are closing 24% of their qualified opportunities they suck at qualifying!
  • Prospects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the opportunities that move past a first meeting, that could be an acceptable rate.
  • Suspects to closed - if they are closing 24% of the prospects they get first meetings with that is something to brag about.
  • Leads to closed - if they are closing 24% of their leads they are freaking awesome!

Every company handles this conversion differently but in my opinion, proposals to closed provides incomplete information because we don't know how many companies they were competing against.  Prospects to closed, suspects to closed and leads to closed are inferior because we don't yet know if the opportunities are thoroughly qualified. Therefore, only qualified to closed provides us the intelligence to determine how badly they suck.

Knowing why they suck requires that a sales process includes all of the required milestones and the milestones have also been integrated into their CRM.  We need to know how many qualified opportunities failed to meet all of the company's milestones for qualified.  If you want to know which milestones should be included, watch this ten-minute video on the most popular sales processes and methodologies.


In order to know how long they've sucked, look at win rates over time using the exact same criteria that is being used today for comparison.  What was the win rate last quarter, and each quarter before that?  Are we trending up or down or is it the same as it was earlier in the timeline?

Who sucks? Unless your reporting includes win rates by salesperson, you won't have the ability to see how you arrived at 24%.  You probably have someone who is closing closer to 50% and there is probably someone closing closer to 10%.  Why is that?  What are they each doing that is so different?  

Is there any hope that they can improve?  This is the most important question of all.  The other metrics we were discussing report lagging data and won't be of much help.  Improvement must be forward looking and the best forward looking metrics have nothing to do with win rate and everything to do with the pipeline.  Is it larger than last quarter, prior quarters and prior years?  Do the opportunities in the pipeline have a larger value than over the same period of time last year?  Is the quality of opportunities in the pipeline higher than it was over the same period of time last year? 24% of 200 opportunities is better than 24% of 100 opportunities.  24% of $2 million is better than 24% of $1 million.  And if the quality is better that would suggest that the win rate will be better than 24%.  That is one way to answer the hope question. 

The other way to measure hope is to conduct an OMG (Objective Management Group) evaluation of your sales team. OMG's evaluation is unique in that it will very clearly show why salespeople aren't selling more, the specific sales competencies where the gaps are, who could be selling more, how much more, the required coaching and training to get them there, how long it will take to get them there, and so much more. Most companies feel that the money spent on an OMG Sales Force Evaluation is the best money they ever invested in sales.

You can get a sample of an OMG Sales Team Evaluation here (checkmark next to sales force eval).

You can see data on the 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

You can learn more about a sales team evaluation here.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales backed by science, sales metrics, sales milestones, sales team evaluation

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

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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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