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

Bob Chronicles Part 6 - When Salespeople Suddenly Make Things Your Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 20, 2022 @ 07:01 AM

airplane

Both AT&T and Verizon have delayed activating their 5G networks near airports because it might cause interference with airplane guidance systems on certain planes, like Boeing 777s.

Forgive my cynicism, but how long have the airlines known about that?

They have probably had years to prepare for this deployment and update their own technology but didn't and now, at the eleventh hour, they sounded the alarm and tried to make it the carriers' problem.  

Can you think of any selling scenarios for which this would be a good analogy?  I can!

Scenario 1:  Your salespeople were scheduled to begin using new technology or even to take an OMG Evaluation and the night before the deadline you start hearing all the reasons why they haven't been able to set it up, enter their data, get online, complete the project, turn it in, upload, download, unload, or do it correctly and all of a sudden it has become your problem.

Scenario 2: Bob was informed 2 weeks ago that an important customer proposal would be due by the end of business today. At 4pm, Bob was in a panic, screaming that he needed pricing in the next 10 minutes or you'll lose the business.  Suddenly it has become your problem.

Scenario 3: Recently, an opportunity became closable and yesterday was the day to get it closed. Yesterday, for the first time, Bob learned there was another competitor who proposed an alternate solution that the customer liked and at a lower price. Bob must respond to this situation today and needs you to be on the call.  Suddenly it has become your problem.

Scenario 4: A decent sized opportunity has been stuck in the pipeline for weeks and Bob has assured you that despite the lack of movement it is still good to go. Your Spidy-sense suggests that it's anything but good to go and you urge Bob to follow up and you share your strategy with him.  Bob, who always knows the best way to proceed, resists and you know that if this opportunity sits another day it's as good as gone so if anyone is going to follow up it isn't going to be Bob.  His resistance to following up has made this your problem.

Scenario 5: Bob tells you that he has a huge opportunity but needs references before they will meet with him.  He doesn't have any good references of his own and wants to use your references so now this has become your problem.  Watch this 2-minute video rant to see how I feel about premature requests for references.

We know Bob is a weak salesperson and he isn't alone as half of the entire population of salespeople are very Bob-like in their behavior.  I'm sure you can think of a dozen more examples and I hope you will add them to the comments below.  I've written about Bob before and you can "catch up" here:

Part 5

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1

Over the nearly 2,000 articles on this Blog we have discussed evaluations, assessments, sales performance data, consultative selling strategies, examples, closing, prospecting, qualifying, advanced selling tactics, coaching, recruiting, accountability, pipeline, sales process and more.  However, we have rarely, if ever, talked about the importance of being organized, proactive, detailed, prepared, and ahead of schedule to avoid the problems that sabotage so many salespeople.

I mentioned that Bob is among the weakest 50% of all salespeople.  You can see the data here.

You can avoid hiring salespeople like Bob by using the most accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment on planet earth.  You can check that out here.

You can evaluate your existing sales team to learn whether you have a team full of Bobs or only some Bobs.  You can learn more about that here.

Finally, if you want to see samples of our sales, sales management, sales leadership insight reports, sales team evaluations, or sales, sales management and sales leadership candidate assessments, click here.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales tips, sales calls, closing deals, time management, sales assessments, pipeline management, sales team, organizational skills

How Gas Grills, Gardening, Masks, and Baseball Mimic Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 03, 2021 @ 13:05 PM

gasgrill

Some random thoughts from the weekend and its impact on sales teams...

We have a twenty-year old gas grill built-in to a stone wall on our back patio and this year I decided to replace all of the components.  New burners, new heat plates, new briquettes, new grates, new ignitor, and new wiring.  All told, it took three-hours of work, much of it with the ignitor and the wiring.  When I got it all reassembled, everything worked except the ignitor despite the fact that I smartly tested it prior to reassembly.  I opened it back up and discovered that the battery had become disconnected.  A tweak later, it was reassembled, the ignitor was sending sparks, but it was still failing to ignite the gas.  After all that work, and despite all the new components, I still must use a hand lighter to light the grill and will have to call a gas grill expert to get the sparks to ignite the gas.

My project corresponds so well with how many executives approach their sales teams. 

They do nothing for years, and then, after growing frustrated with complacency and inability to grow revenue, finally decide to make changes and rebuild their sales teams.  They quickly reassemble the team by terminating the obvious liabilities and hiring replacements.  Then, when the new salespeople don't perform to expectations, they make additional tweaks by adding hiring criteria, and try again.  Lacking a real sense of what good looks like, they continue to get it wrong and are back where they started, needing expert help to select the right salespeople to grow revenue.

We went to an outdoor garden center - outdoors means no masks if you're fully vaccinated so it should be an opportunity to shop mask free!  Not.  Everybody - young and old were masked up because we've learned that if you remove your mask people give you dirty looks and employees refuse to help you. So we must continue to mask up.  What does this have to do with selling?  

The discomfort with removing masks outdoors speaks directly to our discomfort with, resistance to, and fear of change.  After 14 months you would think that people would be excited for the opportunity to go maskless but it's not close to happening in Massachusetts.  You would also think that salespeople would be quick to embrace strategies, tactics and sales processes that will help them dramatically improve their effectiveness, and help them differentiate and close more business. That has great appeal, but most salespeople are typically slow to adapt for the very same reasons.  Discomfort with, resistance to, and fear of change.  It takes time.

Like most spring weekends, we were watching our son play baseball (2 games each day) only this year spectators aren't allowed on college campuses so we were watching live streams.  We wondered how we would handle not being present and cheering for him and his team, how disconnected we might feel watching him on a computer screen, and how much we would miss it.  It was especially difficult this year since it is his freshman, or as they now say, "first year" season.  We adapted.  We had to adapt. The seating and food were both exponentially better at home, we didn't have six hour round trips to campus and back, and the bathrooms were sparkling!  That said, we still missed being there for him and can't wait until we can return to watch him play in person.

This aligns with how sales teams pivoted to virtual selling in the spring of 2020.  It worked, but many of the same differences were in play.  The seating, food and bathrooms were better, but we missed being with our colleagues and customers.  We adapted, although in the case of virtual selling, we didn't adapt as well.  I am still very frustrated with the sales teams I personally train, who week after week, have failed to upgrade their physical appearance, wardrobe, and backgrounds.  I don't want to see bedrooms, closets, kitchens, dens, basements or bathrooms!  The lighting sucks!  You've had 14 months to upgrade how you present yourselves, so read my article on upgrading your virtual presence and get with the program.  Many of you will be selling this way, from home and/or office, for the foreseeable future.

It was a great weekend for gardening and when the baseball games weren't streaming we were in the gardens.  Pulling weeds, grooming the beds replacing perennial flowers and cutting down scrawny, ugly or dead trees were on the list.  It's what we do in May.

This is a great time for weeding out your under-performers and negative, whiny liabilities, upgrading your sales teams, and replacing them with better salespeople who are better fits for the role.  It's what we should do, not only in May but year-round.  A sales force evaluation should come first so that you know who is part of your future, how to develop them, and how much more revenue they can generate. You must also know who is part of your past and whether or not to move on from them.  You must understand why you get the results you get and what needs to change.  You should also use an accurate and predictive, customizable, sales-specific candidate assessment to help select your new salespeople. Ask your sales consultant about Objective Management Group (OMG) for help with both issues.  If you don't have a reliable, magical sales expert you can call, we can recommend one for you.  If you have one, but they don't offer OMG, insist that they either become OMG certified or find one who does offer OMG.  Just email me and I'll get you hooked up with someone who can help in a big way.

Image Copyright: arinahabich

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Salesforce, sales effectiveness, sales hiring tools, objective management group, sales team

31 Conditions That Predict Your Sales Opportunity is in Trouble

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 16, 2021 @ 14:04 PM

Photo Gallery: 2021 Genesis GV80 Luxury SUV - » AutoNXT

Long article for the weekend.

In December I took delivery on my all-time favorite new car and I've been driving my Genesis GV80 for four months now.  You probably saw video of the GV80 that Tiger Woods' destroyed and there wasn't a thing the car could have done to prevent him from crashing it because he had probably disabled the driver assist features and he may have been "disabled" when he got behind the wheel.

Last week, a crazy driver pulled out right in front of me and despite the fact that I anticipated his stupidity and would have been able to stop before smashing into this moron, my car wasn't as certain as I was.  My Genesis took matters into its own hands and went into all out protection mode - making sure nothing happened to it or me.

As advertised, it took over the braking and steering to protect itself, sounded all the alarms to alert me to its strategy and then did two things that really surprised me.  All at once, the seat enveloped me in a cocoon and the seat belt tightened around my shoulders so that there was no chance that I was leaving that seat.  Going through the windshield?  Not a chance unless the whole seat was coming with me!

That was cool. 

And it got me thinking.  Wouldn't it be cool if salespeople had a sales version of an early warning system/driver assist like my car has?

The car uses cameras and sensors to factor in conditions that would require emergency tactics.  Salespeople have eyes and ears as well as wisdom that can all be used for emergency tactics.  Let's start with the ears.

Prospects say things that are tell-tale signs that something is amiss.  Anytime a salesperson hears any of these comments they could be swaying out of their lane or their opportunity might be about to crash.  They include but aren't limited to:

  • Send me a proposal or get me a quote; both are bad if it happens earlier in the sales process than it should
  • We still have to meet with others
  • I've been tasked to gather information
  • We don't have a budget for this
  • We'll have to find the money
  • We're going with the best price
  • I need to bring this to [the decision maker] for approval
  • This is a future project
  • We're happy with who we're using
  • You don't need to know that
  • I need to get consensus
  • We don't have any real urgency on this
  • Our contract/agreement doesn't expire until [date]

There are things you don't hear but wisdom (experience plus lessons learned) communicates them through your inner voice:

  • They don't seem to have a compelling reason to do anything
  • They are withholding information 
  • You think they're lying about something
  • It seems that this is only "nice to have" but you haven't gotten them to "must have"
  • The decision maker is not engaged
  • They are hesitant about spending the necessary money
  • You don't seem to have their ear because they aren't talking in terms working together
  • They have transitioned to a pricing conversation which suggests you haven't cemented your value
  • They see you a vendor or supplier; not a partner or trusted advisor
  • They have an existing relationship that they don't seem willing to blow up
  • They are not allowing you to follow your sales process
  • They are not allowing you to ask questions and you find yourself in show and tell mode

Then, there are the things you observe:

  • They aren't making eye contact
  • They are distracted
  • They are giving you short answers and not explaining themselves
  • They are in a hurry
  • They're looking at their watch
  • Their RFI/RFQ/RFP reads like it was written by a competitor

Some of the examples listed above are chronic - they occur most of the time to most of the salespeople.  Half of them may not know any better - shame on the training and coaching they are or should be getting!  But the other half have weaknesses in their Sales DNA which cause these things to keep happening to them.  A Sales Force Evaluation can smoke out gaps in their sales competencies and Sales DNA.  OMG measures all 21 Sales Core Competencies plus an additional 11, each with an average of 8 attributes.  That's close to 250 sales specific findings for each salesperson! 

Finally, your sales process which is integrated into your CRM application provides warnings, yellow flags, alerts, incomplete milestones, incomplete stages, time in stage too long, stuck opportunities...You do get those, don't you?  Check out the Baseline Selling instance of Membrain.

Pivoting back to my car which takes matters into its own hands.  The partial listing above is set to "alert-only" without evasive or protective measures.  How can we get salespeople to perform evasive and protective measures?  Evaluate/Train/Coach/Reevaluate.  

The evaluation tells us what they're allowing to happen and why.  Training provides them with the strategy and tactics to use evasive action and protect the opportunity.  Coaching helps them master the strategies and tactics.

Improving sales effectiveness does not happen in isolation, automatically over time, or by magic.  Improved sales effectiveness and the resulting increase in revenue requires proactive, purposeful intervention as described above. 

By the fourth quarter of 2021, we will encounter some of the most difficult selling conditions since November of 2008 when, without warning, the revenue spigot was turned completely off.  It remained partially closed through 2016 but from 2017 until the pandemic hit we were in full open fire hydrant mode.  Business was booming and for most companies, quickly returned to booming by the fourth quarter of 2020.

Now we are faced with some huge impending corporate income tax and payroll tax increases and they will be larger than what has been stated on the news.  Those large tax increases do one thing - they cause layoffs.  After the layoffs, consumer spending and confidence drop.  Then we see buying freezes and their related ripple effect where the companies that sell to those big companies experience cash reserve issues, initiate  buying freezes of their own, which work their way down to businesses of all sizes.  

This time around you've been warned.  You have no more than eight months to prepare your sales team for some of the toughest selling ever and most salespeople have never experienced selling as difficult as what we will see in 2022.  On top of that, you'll have more, not fewer competitors because when everyone is selling virtually, every competitor is just as close or just as far away as the next.  And if you're not in the USA, don't think you won't be affected.  What happens here affects you wherever you are.

Now is the time to install early warning systems, sales force evaluations, targeted training and coaching, and more.  Prepare your sales teams now or pay the price in 2022!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, sales objections, sales assessements, sales effectiveness, sales team, tax increase

The Problem With Having Crappy Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 11, 2020 @ 15:11 PM

lg-electronics-front-load-washers-wm8100hva-64_1000

The lettering above the dials of our LG washing machine (pictured above when new) have worn off.  I went online believing I could get a replacement decal and while LG does not provide replacements,  they will replace the entire front panel for $125.  While I was researching this stupid, preventable issue, I found that many LG owners have the same problem.  You see, the letters come right off if you are stupid enough to drape a stained baseball uniform (or any stained clothing) over the front of the washer and spray it with a stain remover like Shout.  How can the product managers for this machine be so bad?

They're not the only professionals who are quite bad at what they do.  Sales Managers underperform at a mind boggling level.  Let me show you the degree to which most sales managers are unqualified.

Let's begin our story with sales management candidates - those candidates looking for a sales management gig.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) recommendation rate for sales management candidates is only 14.8% with another 14.1% on the fringes leaving 71% of all candidates not recommended!  More than two out of three candidates for sales management roles don't qualify!

The next question is why not?

One third of all candidates are knocked out for having low scores in Will to Manage Sales.  This group of five sales management competencies includes Desire for Sales Management Success, Commitment to achieving greater sales management success, Outlook, Responsibility and Motivation.

42% of all candidates are knocked out for having Sales Management DNA scores that are too low.  Sales Management DNA consists of five competencies which together are a combination of strengths that support a sales manager's ability to coach to and enforce sales process, sales strategies, sales tactics, sales methodology, sales pipeline and CRM compliance.  When the score dips below a certain point, those competencies become weaknesses.

16% of all candidates are knocked out for scoring too low on the Sales Coaching competency and another 61% are on the fringes.  That's another way of saying that only 23% of all candidates have the Sales Coaching competency as a strength and when sales managers are supposed to be spending half of their time on coaching, that's seriously useless.

Ugh.

There are a couple of different ways to look at this.  Companies that are serious about building strong sales cultures and following best practices use OMG's sales management candidate assessments and say, "No big deal.  That's why we use OMG to assess sales and sales management candidates!"  Companies that don't use OMG probably don't even notice because the candidates are probably no worse than most of the sales managers already working there.

That brings us to the bigger problem.  Six out of every seven sales managers SUCK!

What does that mean for you?

Most sales managers don't coach enough, don't coach consistently, don't coach the right way, don't impact their salespeople's opportunities, don't grow their salespeople, don't inspire their salespeople, don't hold their salespeople accountable, suck at recruiting new salespeople, spend too much time on personal sales and compiling reports, and not nearly enough time developing the talent on their teams.  More on this topic.

I spoke with the two senior-most executives of a national company who admitted that they've been trying to build a sales organization for ten years.  They said they "don't know what they don't know."  That doesn't actually differentiate them from most executives.  What does differentiate them is that they admitted it!  Unfortunately, admitting that they don't know what they don't know doesn't solve anything.  They must also be willing to follow advice, follow through and stick with it and that's easier said than done. Building a sales culture that rocks means starting with the right sales manager in place.  Always.

The challenge is to understand the importance of having the right sales managers.  If you run a company with a small sales team, you're lying to yourself if you think that you can manage salespeople in your spare time.  Just. Not. True.  If you run a larger company with a larger sales team, you're lying to yourself if you think that as long as you hire the right sales talent any sales manager will do.  Right up until the good salespeople quit.  If you have multiple sales teams, with more layers between the C Suite and the salespeople, sales managers receive less scrutiny, are more independent, and play an even more important role in executing the company's strategy.  You're lying to yourself if you think that having any sales manager with industry experience will get the job done.

Sales Managers are the LG washing machines of the sales profession and the people they report to are the enablers that allow that inferior product to exist.

Time to towel off.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, sales management, sales performance, sales team, sales management test

Keys to Improved Sales Performance - Part 4 of 4

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 07:09 AM

sales force dominationThis is the last in a four-part series that ran this week.

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here.  
See Part 3 here.

If you are like most folks, you were away for at least part of the summer, took as many long weekends as you could, and worked fewer hours on the days you actually did work.  As part of getting the work done, you deleted as many emails as you could where a reply wasn't required and visited fewer websites and blogs.

That means you missed a lot of what we were discussing this summer.  This series was written to catch you up in a hurry.

Four days, four categories, with related articles.  Easy.
 

The Sales Leadership Articles

Sales Leadership and sales management are the keys to successful sales performance.  Without good sales leadership, management, coaching, motivation and accountability, we have salespeople left to their own devices.  You've all seen that show before and for all but the top 6% of the sales population, that show is one that will cause you to change the channel and tune out because you can't stand what you're seeing.  Think Reality Television.
 

Starting with the Sales Management Team - Is it a Bad Decision? 

Why You Must Understand This about Desire for Sales Success 

Does Efficiency or DNA Help to Increase Sales? 

My Top 21 Keys to Help Your Sales Force Dominate Today 

United Airlines Uses Customer Service This Way to Impact Sales 

Fine Tune Your Sales Force as You Optimize Your Computer 
 

Please tell us what you think and share your opinions about how these sales leadership topics impact you, your thinking and your sales force. 
 

Image Credit Lightspring via Shutterstock.com

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales team

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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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