Sales Force Lessons from Gates, Crowley and Obama

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 @ 06:07 AM

The outraged Harvard Professor who was arrested and Cambridge's arresting officer of record will both meet over a beer with President Obama at the White House this week.  The President is reaching out to mend fences between local adversaries and as unusual as that sounds, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

This sort of thing happens - parents bringing two quarreling kids together. Sports managers uniting players that don't get along.  Letterman and Oprah.  But it happens in business too.  The boss meeting with the manager and employee that are having trouble.

This should happen a lot more often on the sales force.  How often do customers become upset over the behavior of a salesperson, customer service rep, technician or even accounting?  When controversy jeopardizes a good account, it's time for the president or CEO to reach out and mend fences between adversaries!  Some top ranking executives feel as though they are above such gestures but now we have precedent.  After all, when the President of the United States of America can bring cop and professor together, you can bring customers and company representatives together too.  It should be a best practice and it shouldn't be limited to behavioral disasters either.

How about good opportunities with profitable accounts that can be leveraged?  When a salesperson or team loses traction, hasn't positioned itself correctly, or takes a misstep along the way, isn't it appropriate for a top executive to step in?

So what should an Entrepreneur do? While there are upsides to Entrepreneurs being their own best salespeople, there are downsides too.  The two biggest are:

  • Despite being the president, they are viewed as a salesperson
  • When things go wrong, there isn't anyone higher up to step in and reset the opportunity 
I know a CEO of one large company who makes calls to existing customers and not only makes his presence known, he always asks for more business.  Why not take advantage and leverage your position?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: sales competencies, sales, selling, Sales Force, CEO, sales personality, sales strategy

Top 6 Reasons Why Most Sales Training Doesn't Work

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 @ 21:06 PM

If you invest in sales training, especially now, you also need it to work now, not in 12 months.  Why does it take so long for most sales training to make a difference and why does most sales training fail to make the difference you expect? There are a lot of possible reasons and I'll attempt to explain them here.

  • Sales trainers want to sell sales training so they skip or gloss over the more important issues like
This is why it's so important to work with a sales development expert - someone who takes an integrated, thoughtful approach to the sales force.
  • Sales training is too difficult to understand and apply and trainers make it even more difficult with their complicated processes, non-intuitive tactics and tricks. Instead, they should make it as simple as possible by making it memorable, intuitive, and easy to apply. 
  • They tend to demonstrate their strategies and tactics through role play, which is fine, but their role plays demonstrate more tactics than what they have already taught.  They should never include more in the role play than their audience has learned from them.  Here is an example.  You take a seven year old to the movies.  If it's an age appropriate movie, rated G or PG, all of the previews are age appropriate and the seven year-old gets it - all of it.  However, if you take the seven year-old to a PG-13 movie, then the previews are a bit overwhelming. The seven year-old can tell you whether it seems exciting, funny or scary, but the seven year-old doesn't understand the theme, content or mature dialog. They haven't been exposed to that stuff yet.  Same thing with your salespeople.  If the trainer has already exposed them to the basics, and includes only the basics in role play, the salespeople get it.  It's age appropriate.  But if the trainer includes material that the salespeople haven't been exposed to, they can only tell you whether they like it or it seems scary.  The role play is a bit overwhelming because they haven't been exposed to that stuff yet.
  • Some of the sales trainers just aren't that good. They fail to relate, engage, understand, entertain and change the salespeople they are training.
  • Much of the content isn't that good.  Some of it is just plain outdated while much of the other content around isn't complete, only focusing on certain parts of the sales cycle.
  • Some of them only know strategies and tactics but they don't understand the laws of cause and effect.  They can't get to the real reasons why salespeople fail to execute the strategies and tactics.

There are at least as many more reasons but this article is already longer than it should be.  We'll just call it part 1 and I'll circle back with part 2 at a later date.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales leadership, Sales Tactics, sales management training, sales evaluation, sales trainers, Selling System, sales strategy, selling skills, sales test

Rules of Sales Engagement for the Recession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 16, 2009 @ 13:06 PM

On the June 16 episode of Meet the Sales Experts, I answered listener questions - live.  There were some fantastic questions and I provided some fair answers.

Listen to the show to learn how you can shorten your sales cycle by taking advantage of the window of opportunity...

Listen to hear about sales coaching - how often, what kind, with whom, and how...

Listen to discover the single biggest mistake salespeople make...

Listen to some opportunity specific advice.

We also discussed the economy - of course - and right now, there are some new rules of engagement.  You simply have to work three times harder, three times smarter, find three times more opportunities and be three times more effective just to sell what you used to sell.  That's it?  No.  In order to be three times more effective you must refine your strategies and expand upon your tactics.  You must be more creative, quicker on your feet, more resourceful and more persuasive.  You must ask better questions and more of them.  You must be more powerful than ever before.  Do that and you will survive.  Do that consistently and you will thrive when the economy turns around and money loosens up.  In the mean time, no short cuts!

(c) 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, Sales Tactics, improve sales, sales mistakes, sales tips, sales cycle, Sales Experts, sales strategy

Differentiating a Pricing Strategy from a Sales Strategy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 01, 2009 @ 13:05 PM

Do you subscribe to Verne's Insights - 10 Minutes with the Growth Guy - Verne Harnish?  You should.  It's the best newsletter I get - one I actually read each week!  In today's issue Verne wrote that his favorite quote from last week's Sales & Marketing Summit was Mark Burton's, "Discounting is the crack cocaine for business today".  He also shared that "instead, Burton says companies can use a 'good, better, best' strategy to provide various pricing levels without simply giving away margin."

Wait a minute!!!

Let's differentiate between this very sound pricing strategy yet unsound selling strategy.  From a pricing perspective, this strategy allows you to effectively position your company, brand, products and services wherever you need them to be, based on markets, competition, reputation, quality and business strategy.

However, from a selling perspective, never provide your prospect with even two, let alone three options.  It's difficult enough to close business in a timely manner today and you certainly don't want to be the cause of a decision making delay.  

Let's assume that your salespeople have identified the compelling reasons why their prospect would buy, and buy from you, rather than your competition.  Let's assume they have also positioned themselves as experts, established value, and learned how much their prospect will spend to solve their problem.  It is only then that your salespeople will present both a needs and cost appropriate solution.  If they have effectively met each of the above criteria, then in their expert opinion, there can only be a single ideal solution that is both needs and cost appropriate.  More than one and they didn't listen effectively.  More than one and they may appear uncertain.  More than one and they have provided their prospect a reason to think it over.  Less isn't more, one is more.

Price with options, sell with certainty.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, verne harnish, mark burton, pricing, sales strategy, salespeople

Sales Force Alignment with Market Strategies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 @ 16:04 PM

Most companies differentiate between inside and outside sales; domestic and international sales; products and services; equipment and consumables, etc.

But if you are into breaking down processes, approaches, market strategies and positioning, there is more to it than these obvious differentiators.

The first is Need and Want - Do your prospects initially think they need what you have?  Do they initially want what you have?  Be honest.  Let's make an example of a sales development company like mine.  As you read this, do you need our help?  Do you want our help?  Obviously, if you answered yes to both questions, you would have already called, emailed or completed a inquiry form.  If you answered no to either of those questions, there is resistance.  How much resistance must your salespeople overcome?  How equipped are they to overcome resistance?  The two mistakes companies make here are:

  1. salespeople, experienced overcoming resistance, when their prospects both need and want what they have - these salespeople come on too strong;
  2. salespeople, experienced selling only to prospects that need and want what they have are deployed in markets where there is strong resistance (can you say economy?) and they aren't comfortable and don't know how to overcome it.  This leads to frustration, discouragement and failure.

The second is Why versus Why Me?  If your company sells and leases copiers, you are clearly in a 'why me?' sales process.  The company will buy copiers, but it's a question of who will get their business.  The salesperson's job is to get the prospect to choose you.  If you're in my business, where sales development is not a line item, and in many companies, not even a planned expense, the challenge is to sell you on why you need our help, as opposed to why you should choose us versus a competitor.  These two sales approaches are very different and the two mistakes that companies make are:

  1. their salespeople use a 'why me' when they are in a 'why?';
  2. their salespeople use a'why me' when they could more easily differentiate and create urgency by moving to a 'why?'.

The third is to or through?   Are you able to sell directly to your customer/client or must you first sell to someone else?  Is it a company that will stock and resell your products, like a distributor, or is it more like an agent who must recommend your service to his clients? Like the two  differentiators above, companies make mistakes here too:

  1. mistakenly believe that the reseller/agent will effectively sell their prospects on the merits of your product/service.  Instead, salespeople should be part sales coach.
  2. don't understand that selling resellers is different from selling to end users because rather than being sold only on the value of the product/service, it is even more important for them to be sold on how reseller your product/service helps them grow their business, attract new customers/clients, increase their revenue/profit, improve their image, etc.

So now you have three more differentiators to consider.  How well aligned is your sales force with these strategies?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, alignment, sales strategy

10 Types of Sales Advisers and How to Choose the One That's Best For You

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 09, 2008 @ 12:10 PM

I'll bet you know plenty about agreements, contracts, and legal compliance in your industry. You probably know enough about accounting, taxes and audits to get by too.  And I bet you know your way around insurance, investments and real estate.

Despite all of that knowledge, I'm certain you have a great corporate attorney, corporate accountant, insurance advisers for commercial, benefits and personal lines, and a Realtor.  Some of these people may even sit on your board.

Do you have a sales expert on your board? On retainer? Working with your sales team?  Your sales management team? On your sales infrastructure? On compensation and incentives?

The question shouldn't be whether you should or shouldn't include a sales expert in your group of inside advisers, the question should be which kind of sales expert you should rely on for advice.

There are several types of sales advisers and I wanted to discuss their various areas of expertise today.

  1. Sales Trainers - Deliver training, usually canned, and regardless of their content, the training is only as good as they are at engaging the group and getting into lively role-plays. Focus on skills training.
  2. Sales Consultants - Out of work former Sales VP's whose primary  focus is on territories, strategy, roles, infrastructure, compensation, systems and processes.
  3. Sales Strategists - Primarily focus on the sales force's ability to execute the strategy and provide necessary services to enable more effective execution.
  4. Sales Coaches - Usually skip most of the above and focus on one-on-one coaching of salespeople.
  5. Sales Gurus - Out of work former Sales VP's who use marketing to differentiate themselves from Sales Consultants.
  6. Sales Authors - Those who can write with authority about various sales topics. 
  7. Sales Management Consultants - Same as sales strategists.
  8. Sales Speakers - Can speak with authority and entertainment value on sales topics of their choosing.
  9. Sales Development Experts - Focus more on the development of the sales organization as a whole rather than one particular area.
  10. Integrated Sales Development Experts - Able to perform all of the above quite well, from comprehensive diagnostics to comprehensive integrated solutions.

All sales advisers are not created equal.  They usually have the most expertise in the industries from which they came and their ability to help you is in direct proportion to the number of diversified clients, industries, challenges and scenarios they have dealt with.  Also quite important is their understanding of your issues and challenges, and their ability to effectively solve any and all of the problems associated with those issues and challenges.  You don't solve an infrastructure problem with training and you don't solve a skills problem with consulting.

Unless you're very insecure, you won't want a "yes man" because you'll end up with a facilitator.  You'll want someone who will push back and point out the errors in your thinking, even if you don't believe your thinking needs to be revised.  You'll want someone who asks more questions than you're comfortable answering and you'll want someone who can differentiate the real issues from the symptoms you provide.  For example, it's not unusual for a client to say, "We need some training on closing skills".  That's the symptom.  Your sales adviser must be able to identify why closing is an issue in your company and that should involve asking questions about the company, management, systems, processes and each individual salesperson to differentiate between cause and effect.  Skills training alone will rarely solve any of the problems that you bring to one of us.

There you have it.  If you don't already have a sales adviser, add a great one to your team.  If you have someone, make sure that you get their input on everything related to their expertise.

For example, most clients include me on all their important account strategy emails so that I can contribute when something doesn't look right. Most clients won't hire a salesperson, sales manager or sales director without my direct involvement.  Most clients won't discuss company strategy without me.  Most clients won't install systems and processes without my advice. Sales advisers know what they're doing in much the same way as your lawyers and accountants do. Take advantage of it and stop guessing at what the best possible approach might be.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales training, sales management, selling, Sales Tactics, sales strategy, sales assessments, sales development

Winning Sales Strategies Communicate Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 07, 2008 @ 16:10 PM

Last week I was a seminar panelist that took place in a Virtual Trade Show - very cool!  I was joined by Mike McCue, Editor in Chief of Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, and Lee Salz, CEO of  The seminar was called Why Winning Sales Strategies Communicate Value and Losers Cut Price.

I thought the seminar was quite good. Mark covered trends, Lee covered positioning/strategy and I covered tactics/process. It was almost as if we had planned it that way, even though we never even compared notes.

The seminar ran 60 minutes and you can watch it on demand right here.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales process, Sales Tactics, sales strategy, selling value, upholding price

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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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