Snowstorm & Weather Apps Explain Why 75% of Sales Forecasts are Wrong

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 14, 2023 @ 13:03 PM


As a Nor'Easter barreled across Central Massachusetts today, a few interesting storm-related happenings were analogous to some sales-related occurrences. This article will explore two weather-related analogies:

  1. It's in 3D - Dinger the Dog and his choice of Doors
  2. The Magic of Weather Apps

I've written about Dinger, our six-year-old Golden Doodle, several times.  The most popular article was when I claimed and proved that Dinger's listening skills were better than those of salespeople

At the onset of the storm Dinger went out to do his business and got soaked.  When he's ready to come back into the house, he usually looks in the windows to see which room we are in, and whether that's in the front of the house or the back of the house he goes to a front or back door and knocks just like we do.  Knock-knock-knock. He knew he was soaked so he went to the side door, which opens into a room with a tile floor, where we dry him with a towel.  A new trick - he knew which door to use based on the weather!

Dinger is smarter than so many salespeople who regularly use the wrong doors.   Some salespeople use the back door which leads to the warehouse.  Others use the front door which leads directly to reception and procurement.  Some use the side door which brings them to business users and middle management.  But the best salespeople, the top 10%, use the private entrance which leads to the C Suite.  If you had to rank the doors in order of importance, regardless of what you are selling, it would be:

  1. The Private Entrance - this is where decisions - about everything - are made.  Worst case, you get a top-down introduction to someone who deals with what you sell.  I remember the first time that happened to me around 40 years ago.  The CEO, who I didn't know, introduced me to the VP Sales, who I didn't know.  I wasn't very impressive and was really young but that Sales VP felt pressured to do business with me by what he perceived to be a strong relationship between me and the CEO.  Which is easier and more powerful - fighting your way up or getting introduced on your way down?
  2. The Warehouse - There are only two reasons to enter the warehouse.  Either you are looking for door number 2 - the entrance to the Plant Manger's office, or you are talking with people working in the plant to identify issues that you can use in a meeting with the VP of Manufacturing or the VP of Engineering after the CEO introduces them to you.
  3. The Side Door - I can't think of a good reason to enter through the side door because users and middle managers don't have the authority to say anything except, "looks good," "we'll let you know," and "No."
  4. The Front Entrance - The only thing worse than the side door is the door that delivers you to the official gatekeepers of the kingdom and of course, procurement.  If you are selling the right way, you might end up in procurement to formalize terms, and get sign-off on a Purchase Order. You must never begin in Procurement unless you simply offer no value, have the lowest price, and are selling large quantities of a low priced product. When people write about the death of selling, that's really a phrase about where salespeople go to die.  Procurement.

47% of salespeople reach decision makers but 90% of the best salespeople reach decision makers while only 5% of the worst salespeople reach decision makers.  Do you think there is a correlation?  What about causation?  Damn straight.

The storm caused me to regularly check the weather apps.  Apps plural because for some reason, despite having access to the exact same data, they all predict something completely different.  My four apps of choice were:

  1. Accuweather  predicted 12-18 inches of snow
  2.  predicted 4-8 inches of snow
  3. Apple Weather (formerly Dark Sky) predicted an inch of mixed precipitation
  4. Fox Weather predicted 2 inches of rain and sleet.

Post Storm Note: We received 3 inches of snow so came the closest - this time.

Could four forecasts be more different and confusing?  Forecasting winter weather in New England is tricky and the difference between rain, snow, ice and mixed precipitation can sometimes come down to the center of the storm tracking a few more miles east or west of the original storm track.

Weather forecasts are the same as forecasting a sale. 

There is your personal sales forecast, which by nature will be overly optimistic as you'll have it closing sooner than it actually will, and for more money than you'll actually get.  But lost in your forecast are the forecasts from your three competitors.  They too will forecast a win and unlike the weather apps, which all have the potential to get the forecast correct, only one of your forecasts will be accurate.  Only one of four can win - a 25% chance of being right. 

And you're going to win this because why?  They like you better?  You have a strong relationship?  You have a better product?  You have a better price?  You have faster delivery?  You have a better reputation?  You have better references?  You've been around longer?  Your quality is better?

Who cares about that stuff other than you?  If those were truly the difference makers you would win every deal, every single time.  But you don't win every deal, do you? 

The question isn't "why not?"  The question is why are your forecasts wrong?

Most of the time, sales forecasts fail to take into consideration the following:

  • If the salesperson entered through the correct door - are they talking with THE decision maker as opposed to A decision maker or influencer?
  • Was there a compelling reason for the prospect to take action and is there a compelling reason to buy from you instead of the competition?
  • Was the salesperson effective enough selling value so that the prospect will spend more to buy from you?
  • Was the opportunity thoroughly qualified?

While 28% of salespeople are strong qualifiers, 77% of the best salespeople are strong qualifiers and 0% of the worst salespeople are strong qualifiers.  ZERO!  Do you think there is a correlation?  What about causation? 

Think like Dinger, use four weather apps, become a strong consultative seller and a strong qualifier, and your sales effectiveness will improve drastically!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales qualification, listening skills, sales forecast, sales data

How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 @ 16:08 PM


I'll be 64 in November which means that just like everyone else, I'm getting older. 

There are certain things that younger people do that change when they get older.  For example, younger adults :

  • go to bars and night clubs but tend to choose dinners out or nights at home binge watching TV when they become more mature
  • go to concerts but tend to choose movies when they get older
  • backpack across the US or Europe but tend to choose cruises as they age
  • want freedom at work but are more open to structure and accountability when they become more mature
  • focus on themselves but tend to focus on their children and then their grandchildren when they become older

The same applies to salespeople.  Young salespeople (0-2 years experience) tend to wing it, while older salespeople (20 or more years experience) tend to be more skilled and structured.  Want proof?  Let's dig into the data.


On average, older salespeople are 105% more likely to be strong and effective than young salespeople.

But let's dig even deeper.  The biggest differentiator between younger and older salespeople is the Qualifier competency.  Older salespeople know that if they don't qualify, they may be wasting their time, while younger salespeople are so thankful for the interest, they might skip qualifying altogether.  Look at the specific attributes of the Qualifier competency below. 


Notice that as we keep digging, one finding stands out as a difference maker and in the case of the Qualifier competency, it's self-limiting beliefs where older salespeople are 213% more likely to have supportive beliefs around qualifying than their younger counterparts.

If we dig in on self-limiting beliefs, we'll find that two self-limiting beliefs that stand out:

  • It's not polite to talk about people's money
  • I need my prospects to like me.

Those two self-limiting beliefs alone show that older salespeople are  on average 55% more effective than younger salespeople.  I wrote much more about self-limiting beliefs last month in this article.  There are 21 Sales Core Competencies that Objective Management Group measures.  You can see them here and learn how you compare.

It's not surprising to find that old salespeople are more effective than young salespeople but it is very surprising to learn that the biggest differentiators are not skill related. They are Self-Limiting Beliefs which are part of Sales DNA.  If you look at the attributes that make up the Qualifier competency, you'll see that there isn't much difference between young and old salespeople on the skill-related attributes where young and old suck equally:

  • Meets with Decision Maker
  • Uncovers Actual Budget
  • Knows the Decision making process
  • Knows the Decision making criteria
  • Asks about Everything

On average, there is only an 8% difference between old and young on the 5 skill-related attributes.  That doesn't say much for the older salespeople who simply didn't improve over their 20 plus years in sales.

Would you like to comment?  Leave it on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales qualification, sales effectiveness, age difference

Finally!  Science Reveals the Actual Impact of Sales Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 06, 2018 @ 22:09 PM


You must have heard the joke that 73.6% of statistics are made up!

I have read and even reported that sales leaders who coach their salespeople see a boost in revenue of around 27%.  It sounds like a realistic number but I have not seen any science to back it up.  Until now.  Check this out!

OMG has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople and sales managers from 30,000 companies.  The data in the table below is from a subset of that data where we looked at around 16,000 salespeople who reported to approximately 4,000 sales managers.  The title row shows the percentage of time the sales managers devoted to coaching their salespeople and the 6 rows below that show the average scores for the salespeople that report to those managers.  Sales Percentile is the percentile that a salesperson scored in.  Sales DNA is an overall score for 6 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures.  Hunter, Consultative, Qualifier and Closer are 4 of the 7 Tactical selling competencies that OMG measures.  If you're interested, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies and how salespeople score by industry and skill here.


Do you remember that 27% number?  The first row reveals that sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching salespeople (last column on the right) have salespeople whose sales percentile score is 28% higher than those managers who devoted little to none of their time coaching.  How is that for science to back up somebody's incredibly accurate wild-ass guess?

There's another interesting find in this data.  Average scores for hunting were not further improved after a manager is devoting at least 20% of their time to coaching.  This suggests that sales managers who coach more don't spend their coaching time helping salespeople work on their prospecting skills.

Another interesting takeaway can be seen in the Consultative scores.  This competency shows the smallest gain in average score.  Given how difficult it is to effectively take the consultative approach, this suggests that despite coaching more often, those sales managers lack the consultative skills needed to coach their salespeople on the consultative approach.

If Consultative scores show the smallest gain, where can the biggest gains be found?  Qualifying and Closing.  Sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching have salespeople who score 13% better in Qualifying and 24% better in closing than the salespeople whose sales managers rarely coach.

This data was not filtered by coaching effectiveness so there was no assumption that the coaching was good coaching; only that there was coaching.  What would happen if in addition to the time these managers devote to coaching, they were also becoming more effective at coaching?  The answer is revealed in this article by John Pattison.  You can become better at coaching salespeople by attending my Annual Sales Leadership Intensive - The Virtual Edition.  This top-rated event is happening in just two weeks, from June 16-18, 2020.  Read more here.  Use the discount code DKVIP to save 10% on your registration!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, sales improvement, sales core competencies, omg, Closing Sales, sales growth, sales qualification, sales data

Bad Guys - How We Lost This Deal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 13:02 PM


Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Lost deals, as well as sales calls and sales meetings that go south, make up a huge portion of our coaching calls with clients and their salespeople.  After all, everyone can learn a lot more from what went wrong than they can from what went right.  We also coach clients and their salespeople on how to win the deals that are currently in the later stages of their pipelines.  They tend to be overly optimistic, so for a dose of reality, we always ask about what could possibly go wrong.  They rarely know what could go wrong, so we help them out and introduce them to a long list of possibilities.

Today, Murphy's Law made a rare appearance at our company.  My favorite law from Murphy is, "Beauty is only skin deep. Ugly goes straight to the bone." Unfortunately, that wasn't the law that appeared.  Of course, it was, "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong."  Here's what happened...Last week, we received a verbal go ahead from the CEO of a company and a formal agreement was to be signed today.  There didn't seem to be anything that could derail this deal and in addition, they had tremendous urgency to get started.  They knew they needed help and in my opinion, things were even worse than what they thought.

Last week, they were very excited about what we could do to help and couldn't wait to get started.  We were talking with both the Chairman and the CEO, so we couldn't have gone any higher in the company.  We are uniquely qualified to provide the very specific help that they required in both the short and long term and there was terrific alignment on both sides of the table.


Today, we learned that they were going with another company due to the relationships that two of their outside investors had with the competitor.

Wait a minute...what outside investors?  Isn't the chairman the outside investor?

How did we miss that?  

In an action adventure novel, there is never only one bad guy trying to kill the hero; there are always at least two!  And the mastermind never sends just one team of bad guys, he always sends a backup team just in case his first team fails.  

Remember this!!  It doesn't matter whether we are talking about bad guys or outside investors.  There are always at least two!!

It turns out that there are more than two more outside investors.  Would knowing that last week have changed anything?  Maybe.  We could have asked if the outside investors would have input.  We could have asked to include them in the conversation.  We could have asked if they knew anybody in our business.  We could have asked what would happen if they wanted to work with someone they had personal experience with.  We could have sold them on working with us.  We could have done more than we did.

The Lesson

In professional sales, there is a qualified opportunity and then there is thoroughly qualified opportunity.  On the opportunity in question, we substituted qualified for thoroughly qualified.  It does not help to know that our version of qualified is still at least 10 times more qualified than what the typical salesperson calls qualified.  Does-not-matter-one-bit.  If you miss something, whether or not you should have known about it, you still missed it.  If something catches you by surprise after the fact, you still missed it.  If a new competitor, a new stakeholder, a new issue, a new budget, or even a new time line comes up at the 12th hour, you still missed it.

It's our job to know everything.  We failed because we didn't do our job.

There is yet another way to lose a deal and that's by losing control of your emotions.  Read this article on the Hubspot Blog for more.

Join me for one of the following free presentations coming up in the next couple of weeks:

February 19 at Noon Eastern: How to Hire Your Next Salesperson presented by TAB.

February 26 at 11 AM Eastern: The Magic Behind OMG's Legendary Sales Candidate Assessments presented by Objective Management Group

March 5 at 9 AM Eastern: The Power of Sales Process and Pipeline Management/CRM presented by Membrain and Kurlan & Associates

Finally, the latest issue of Top Sales World Magazine is available today.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Closing Sales, sales qualification, reaching decision makers, lost sale, lost deal, outside investors

Impact of Sales Process Versus Sales Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 14, 2013 @ 13:05 PM

impactWe are in the middle of the first day of our 2-day Sales Leadership Intensive.  While most attendees admit that they must be more effective at coaching, many who said they have some kind of sales process in place didn't come to the same conclusion.  So, why is it so obvious to sales leaders that they need to improve their coaching, but so elusive that they need to improve their sales process?  

Change occurs in direct proportion to the availability of immediate feedback.  

You get instant feedback from coaching.  Your coaching either makes a profound difference - right here and now - and leads to an otherwise unobtainable sale; or it makes no difference, falls on deaf ears, gets an insincere thank you, and causes a salesperson to avoid future coaching.  

Of course, there is a gray area where coaching is sometimes or moderately effective, but even that provides some immediate feedback.  

With sales process, the feedback is either delayed - by months or years - or non-existent to the point where you can't determine whether your process had any impact on your success or failure.  Without feedback, you lose perspective on whether you have the right stages, steps, milestones, to-do's, or sequence. It might be even more important to get your sequence right than your steps and milestones.  

Here's the catch.  As crucial as it is to be more effective at coaching, coaching conducted outside of an effective sales process and without the context of a staged, optimized sales process may be far less effective than it should be.  [update - Frank just posted this related article]

So, how can you determine whether your existing process is any good?  There's an app for that.  Not really, but we do have a free tool that you can use to find out.  It will give you a score and that comes in the form of immediate feedback.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Coaching, sales management functions, sales qualification

Top 5 Reasons Why Salespeople Don't Qualify Effectively

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 @ 12:04 PM

qualifiedLast week, I posted this article in reference to an Inc. Magazine article that was way off base about Consultative Selling.  It led to a significant number of comments with one of them being this question:

"Dave, in your opinion, with all the training that is available and has been delivered to sales people over the years, how come sales people still fail at executing an effective approach to qualifying a prospect. Forget what we want to call the approach. Just basic fundamentals like asking questions. This is known throughout the selling universe but sales people still suck at this. How come?"

Great question.  Here are my top 6 reasons why:

1. Hidden weaknesses get in the way. The top 7 that impact qualifying are:

  • Need for Approval (making friends is more important than closing business), 
  • Too Trusting (they believe the stalls and put-offs), 
  • Rejection (they won't ask questions that could cause a prospect to reject them), 
  • Discomfort Talking Money (they won't have the financial conversation that goes along with thorough qualifying), 
  • Lack of Commitment (they won't do what it takes, including asking questions that make them uncomfortable) 
  • Non-Supportive Buy Cycle (the way that salespeople buy things doesn't support ideal sales outcomes)
  • Tendency to Get Emotional (I was so excited to close the business so I got right to the point)  

2. Their sales managers are not holding them accountable for qualifying. There isn't much of a reason for them to do anything when nobody is encouraging and/or forcing them do.  
3. Their lack of adherance to a formal, structured, sales process allows them to sell by the seat of their pants, and skip directly to a presentation, demo, proposal or quote. That makes qualification an afterthought.  
4. If they attempt to qualify, they might learn that the opportunity is not qualified. Oh no - they'll have to find another opportunity to work on!  
5. They don't have to qualify because they already know, by reputation, without having to ask, that the opportunity is perfect. Yeah, right.

6. They aren't selling consultatively and as a result, aren't uncovering the compelling reasons for a prospect to spend money.  That creates the urgency for a prospect to take action at which point they'll almost self-qualify.  If they are selling transactionally, prospects typically won't cooperate at the qualification stage because, well, why should they?

Of course there are more, like:

  • Ignorance - Qualify?  What's that?
  • Skills and Tactics - How am I supposed to know how their decision-making process will work?
  • Stupidity - Why do I need to speak with the decision-maker?
  • Naïveté - The buyer told me that I'll be getting the business!
Lack of qualification is viral and chronic and the only way to stop it is to do the following:
  • Evaluate the Sales Force - You must know which weaknesses are at the heart of it and you must be able to identify the skill gaps.  This is not a DIY project!
  • Have a customized, formal, structured sales process developed.
  • Train the sales managers to coach the appropriate way.
  • Provide sales training to overcome weaknesses and solve the skill gap.
  • Make sure the sales training is truly Consultative Selling - no short cuts.
You can begin the challenge of helping your salespeople overcome this problem at our May Sales Leadership Intensive.
dka sales leadership event button



Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Coaching, sales management functions, sales qualification

6 Keys to Make All Sales Calls Easy Sales Calls

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 16:08 PM

easySome sales calls just go so well, flow so smoothly and have little to no resistance.  Some have no competition, others have plenty of money and a few allow unlimited access to senior decision-makers.  Some of your sales happen so quickly that you wonder why they can't all be that easy.

Your salespeople can have more easy calls, but you'll have to change up a few things.  

  1. They'll need to qualify much more thoroughly.  Those easy sales were already prequalified, but it wasn't your salespeople who did the thorough qualifying.  The customers just happened to meet all of the criteria.
  2. They'll need to differentiate much more effectively.  Your company was differentiated because your customer had already eliminated your competitors.  They were ready for you!
  3. They'll need to do a better job of selling value.  Your company's value proposition was well-known to your customer before your salesperson called or appeared.

For the prior three things to occur on a regular basis, your salespeople must become proficient at selling more consultatively.  When all is said and done, that means being able to do three things better than your competition:

  1. Listen,
  2. Ask good, tough, timely questions and
  3. Uncover the compelling reasons to buy from you.
Those easy sales were those customers who had compelling reasons to buy from you, but your salespeople may not have known what they were.  Your salespeople must develop superior listening skills, superior questioning skills and a superior ability to continue asking relevant questions until they have uncovered the compelling reasons to buy from you.  Those compelling reasons could be the consequences of problems or opportunities.  Either way, most salespeople fail to learn about the problems and opportunities, never getting close to consequences or, even deeper, to personal feelings.
That's the secret to consistent easy selling.   By easy, I mean that they consistently get the business without much resistance, delay and the advantage of having the lowest prices.  Do your salespeople find the going difficult or easy?  
One of the biggest questions for companies today is the challenge of whether their salespeople can make the transition from transactional selling (demo or present, quote or propose and close) to consultative selling.  A sales force evaluation will answer that question and so much more.

Topics: sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales qualification, easy selling

Who Should Your Sales Force Call On?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 @ 16:01 PM

It's not always obvious.  If your company sells oil drilling rigs to oil companies, then your salespeople know who to call on.  If your company sell luxury cars to wealthy people, you know where to find your prospects. But what if you sell products or services that could be sold to a much broader range of customers or clients?  Who should your salespeople call on then?

Today we conducted an exercise like this at Kurlan & Associates and listed our most recent 50 client companies.  Then we identified potential attributes of those clients that we felt were "good" ones, attributes that could more effectively narrow our focus.

We looked at possible criteria such as:


  • Size of the company
  • Title of our client
  • Money spent with our firm
  • Length of the relationship
  • Whether they evangelized internally
  • Whether they evangelized externally
  • Whether they introduced us to new clients
  • The quality of our relationship
  • How happy they were with our firm
When we applied these criteria to the 50 clients we selected, 30 of them met our initial criteria and 14 did not.  Of the 14 that did not, at least half of them failed to meet the criteria because we hadn't worked with them long enough to be introduced to a new client.  Most of the clients were all over the map with regard to their size and how much they spent with us. Some evangelized internally and some externally.  Some did both.  Most were Presidents and CEO's.
Then we looked at where these clients came from and we identified the following sources:
  • client introduction
  • cold call
  • heard one of us speak at an event
  • web site lead
  • Baseline Selling lead
While all of the sources above were well represented, the majority of the clients came from introductions from other happy clients.
Still not having anything conclusive, we had a group discussion and found a single common denominator.  All of the clients we considered "good" (45 of the 50) were fully committed to improving their sales organizations.
While that is a nice formula for predicting success with a client, the "committed to improving sales" criteria isn't readily available demographic information.  However, it is a question that can be effectively used for qualifying opportunities.
Here's my question for you:  If it benefits you to put your sales force through this exercise, will you be able to identify criteria that makes it easier to target "good" customers?
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan 



Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, Sales Force, targeting prospects, prospecting, sales qualification, sales criteria

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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