Is the "Lack of Commitment to Sales Success" Finding Predictive?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 06, 2013 @ 23:05 PM

over and outSo you have your sales force evaluated and in addition to learning why you are getting the results you are getting, and what you can do to significantly improve those results, you are suprised by some of the individual findings on some of your salespeople.  One of the findings that generates the most push-back is Lack of Commitment to sales success.

We could hear any of the following comments as push-back to this finding:

  • our best salesperson,
  • nobody tries harder,
  • works longer hours than anyone,
  • been here for years,
  • landed our biggest customer,
  • an up-and-comer and/or
  • we really like her.
The list could go on and on, but none of the rebuttals actually addresses commitment - one's willingness to do whatever it takes (ethically of course) to achieve sales success.  For the record, I believe that this particular finding is 100% accurate.
One such example of this occurred last fall, when after a sales force evaluation, one rep's results showed that she lacked commitment.  Their sales manager spoke with her and was cautious, but optimistic that she was committed.  A month or so later, he spoke with her a second time, pointed out a few concerns of his, and after listening to her responses, came away from the meeting feeling more optimistic, but still cautious.  
Today the sales manager - a terrific guy and very effective sales manager - sent me a note saying that this rep is getting married and leaving the company - and sales - to spend more time working in her church ministry.
Sometimes, it takes several months to see what we only can measure, but it always shows up sooner or later.
That's the danger in moving forward with salespeople who lack commitment.  The proof might not be as dramatic as in the example above, but there will always be proof, like:
  • lack of improvement from training,
  • lack of improvement from coaching,
  • inability to change their thinking,
  • inability to change their behaviors,
  • inability to embrace a new sales process,
  • inability to embrace a new sales methodology,
  • inability to embrace a company's new policies,
  • inability to become engaged in a company's new culture and/or
  • many more.
It's one thing to learn that one of your existing salespeople is not committed to their own sales success.  It's another to learn that a sales candidate lacks commitment.  Why would anyone fight that finding?  You're not invested in that candidate and there are other qualified candidates out there; so why would any manager insist on hiring someone with a lack of commitment to sales success?  
The simple answer is that employers fall in love - not in a romantic way as much as a hopeful way - with the wrong candidates all the time.  Sometimes they fall in love because of their:
  • personality,
  • energy,
  • experience,
  • expertise,
  • sense of humor,
  • book of business,
  • previous employers and/or
  • good looks.
Whatever the reason, if they lack Commitment to sales success, they should not, under any circumstances, consider that candidate for a sales position at their company.  Unless of course you like wasting time and starting over.
This is Dave saying over and out.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales candidates, sales assessments, sales test, personality test, objective management group

Inc Magazine Misses on the 13 Traits of an Outstanding Salesperson

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ 10:03 AM

inclogoI just read the 13 Traits of An Outstanding Salesperson, an article that appeared on

As usual, I had several thoughts about this so, in no particular order...

  • Note that it isn't "The" 13 traits; it's simply 13 traits, implying that there are others;
  • It's also not "The Top 13" traits;
  • These are not in any way, shape or form, expert opinions;
  • Charisma?  Really?  If the salesperson will be presenting to audiences, sure it would be a nice plus for them to be charismatic but if you read the actual explanation,  the contributor is simply talking about someone who is likable.  Likable is good, but hear this:  All of the mediocre and horrible salespeople - almost the entire 74% - are likable!
  • Laziness?  Seriously?  A great example of how an executive confuses a behavior with a result.  Great salespeople aren't lazy, they simply know which opportunities to pursue and don't waste their valuable time chasing low percentage, low profit opportunities!
  • Hunter's Mentality?  That's the correct phrase but if you read the contributor's explanation, he got the mentality part wrong.  He's more focused on whether the salesperson is excited enough about a huge opportunity to pursue it.  A true sales Hunter's mentality is to actually find as many sweet spot opportunities as possible and not waste time pursuing those with low odds of closing.
  • Intelligent Fighter?  This contributor mixes motivation with what he calls politely persistent, or assertiveness.  Motivation and assertiveness are not the same things.  There are plenty of highly motivated salespeople that are not nearly assertive enough, and plenty of assertive salespeople who are not very motivated.
  • The Trifecta?  This contributor says it's a combination of Drive, Personality and Intelligence but he describes someone who has the ability to get in front of a buyer and close the deal.  Not so again.  The real requirements for that are Strong Commitment, No Need for Approval, Rejection Proof, and Supportive Beliefs around Prospecting!
  • Existing Relationships and Product Knowledge?  All that will accomplish is assure that there are plenty of prospects who value a good presentation and product knowledge.  We don't need more friends and presenters, we need hunters, consultative salespeople, and closers!
  • People Skills?  This contributor is really describing someone with great listening skills - that's the ticket.
I think Inc. published these because they were the most interesting of all the submissions.  However, because Inc. is a respected business publication, readers are likely to take this crap to heart and actually go out and look for salespeople who exhibit these traits.  Most of these young business people either don't know what they don't know, or know they know it all.  Most importantly, if you are going to be hiring salespeople, it's more important than ever to not make costly mistakes.  Even if their 13 traits were predictive of sales success - and they're not - how would you really know if a candidate had them?  That's why it's so important to use Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments - legendary for their accuracy and ability to predict sales performance.
Earlier this week, I hosted a 45-minute interactive Webinar and shared the magic behind our assessment.  If you are interested in seeing it, you can click here.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, sales personality, sales traits, sales test

All-Time Top Kurlan Sales Article

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 10:12 AM

sales force evaluation,sales test,dave kurlan,sales candidate assessments,OMG,sales assessements,sales hiring test,sales hiring assessment,objective managementAs promised for today, I'm revealing the single article, from among my former 999 blog articles which my readers voted "best", to be my 1,000th post.  It's not my personal favorite, it's not the most well-written, it's not the most viewed, it's not the most entertaining, it's not the most insightful or the most linked to.  But from among the 15 for which you could vote, this was your choice:

Exposed - Personality Tests Disguised as Sales Assessments

(originally posted on January 28, 2009) 

Yesterday, I met with a longtime client who, in his previous company, used OMG's assessments to identify what needed to change in order to double revenue from $30 million to $60 million.  In his new company, which is already about twelve times that size, he wants to double revenue again.  He said, "I just wasted two years with the _____ assessment."  The assessment to which he referred was a personality assessment marketed as a sales assessment.  He could have referred to any personality or behavioral styles assessment.

Many people are not going to like this article.  I'm about to expose the findings in personality-based and behavioral-based assessments which assessment companies have been marketing as sales assessments for the last dozen years.

First, you'll need to read this piece, Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study.  Really, you need to read it first!

There isn't a tremendous difference between personality assessments and behavioral styles assessments.  Popular behavioral styles assessments, like the various versions of DISC, produce findings along four dimensions (categories) while some personality assessments, like those using the PF16 as their underlying engine or instrument, can measure traits in as many as sixteen dimensions.

But personality assessments and behavioral  styles assessments are not predictive of sales performance.  They don't conduct predictive validity studies, as we do, because their assessments don't predict.  Instead, they conduct construct validity studies, which only show to what extent an assessment measures a specific trait and not necessarily the traits which you want to know about, but the traits which they can actually measure.

So here's the problem.  Their marketing material usually says something like, "Salespeople must be able to Prospect, Question, Manage Objections and Close.  They must have Product Knowledge.  They must be accountable, have drive, be self-starters and be coachable."  You read those words and say, "Yes, yes.  That is exactly what we need."  And the masquerade is on.

As I wrote in the other article, personality-based sales assessments don't really measure what you need to know.  Instead they report on what they can actually measure.  In the table below, I'll list some of the most common "findings" in personality and behavioral styles tests which are marketed as sales assessments, describe what is really being measured and compare that to what Objective Management Group (OMG) measures and reports.

 OMG Finding
What OMG Actually Measures
Drive or achievement
General need 
to achieve
How important it is to achieve success in sales
General ability 
to cope with
The sales-specific scenarios which will be problematic and the individual's ability to handle them
How the individual
reacts to
not being accepted or
not having their
ideas accepted 
Difficulty Recovering from Rejection  
The impact that "getting hung up on" or "getting a no" will have when they close and how long it may take to recover
Ability to Control Emotions 
The likelihood that, when a salesperson is caught off guard or in an uncomfortable situation, they will panic and lose control of the sales call
How comfortable
they feel and how
appropriately they
behave in social
Bonding and
How quickly they develop relationships with their prospects
Whether they
are a confident
The sales-specific beliefs which support or sabotage their sales outcomes 
Whether they
are open to new
Whether they have the incentive to improve their sales competencies 

These are just some of the most common findings.  Since OMG's assessments are so sales-specific, there are literally dozens of findings covering everything which can possibly happen in sales including, but not limited to, prospecting, closing, qualifying, account management, farming, use of the sales process, ability to handle stalls, put-offs, objections and work remotely, growth potential, development needs and more.  What's most important to understand about assessments is that: 

  • The questions in the personality tests are asked in the context of social settings, not sales settings, so none of the findings are sales-specific.
  • Because the findings in personality assessments are not sales-specific, they're not predictive.
  • Personality assessments are generally one-size-fits-all, without regard to your market, its challenges, your competition, your pricing, the resistance which your salespeople will face, your compensation plan and how specific selling strengths and weaknesses will impact those conditions.
  • Assessments of your existing salespeople should be useful for development.  If you don't have sales-specific findings, you're only developing them as people, not salespeople.
  • How is OMG different?  Assessments are only a minor part of an effective sales force evaluation.  The most important part is to be able to learn:
    • What impact sales management is having on the salespeople.
    • Whether you've been hiring the right people.
    • Whether your sales force can execute your strategies.
    • Whether your systems and processes support the sales force.
    • Whether sales management is effective.
    • If you can develop more of a sales culture.
    • Whether the salespeople can make a transition such as account manager types to hunters and closers; presenters and quoters to consultative sales types; transactional sale to a solution sale; etc.
    • Who can be developed?
    • If you're attempting to downsize or rightsize the sales force, which individuals actually have the ability to help you do more with less?
    • How much better can they get?
    • What it will take?
    • What would be the ROI on development?
    • Why do you get the specific results which you get?
    • What is the quality of your pipeline?
    • Etc.
  • When used for hiring and selection, an assessment must be an accurate predictor of sales success for a particular sales role in your particular company, calling on your particular market, with its particular challenges and competition.  A personality assessment won't consistently identify the people who will succeed, while OMG's assessment, with its 95% Predictive Validity, will.  We can differentiate between Recommended (they meet our criteria and yours); Recommended - Ideal (they are recomended and they will ramp up more quickly than normal); and Recommended - Perfect (they are recommended ideal and they meet additional customized criteria which match up with your most effective producers).

In summary, whether you're using a personality assessment, behavioral styles assessment, psychological assessment, or psychometric (describes all of the above) assessment, it's the marketing that's sales-specific, not the findings.  Use them at your own risk.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, omg, objective management, sales assessements, sales hiring test, sales hiring assessment, sales candidate assessments, sales test

8 Question Sales Quiz - Malpractice?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 @ 05:02 AM

One of the many sales newsletters I get each day had a ridiculous sales test.  It asked "Is a Sales Career Right for You?" and had an 8 question test.

First, there aren't 8 questions in the world where the answers would allow us to make that determination.  Even if we tried, we couldn't identify even 15 of our 100+ questions that would allow us to answer that question accurately! But I was curious and clicked on through.  8 Questions and if you get 3 strikes or wrong answers, you're out and shouldn't be in sales. This free test shouldn't even be available for entertainment purposes!

How accurate, predictive or relevant could an 8 question test be?  My problem was that only one, maybe two if I stretch it, of the eight questions were relevant to one's suitability for selling. The rest examined (if you could call it that) beliefs (2 questions), aptitude (2 questions) and strength/weaknesses (3 questions).

I read some of the comments that follow the article and they fell into 2 categories.  The first was "I don't agree" and the second was "thanks for helping me understand why I am struggling". People just shouldn't have any expectations from an 8 question test of any kind.

Aptitude, or what someone knows about selling, has no bearing on WHETHER an individual should sell.  Skills, strategies, tactics and process can be taught.  When people first enter sales, none have the prerequisite skills.  And many who have been selling and have developed the skills shouldn't be in sales because they AREN'T suitable for sales.  

Beliefs, while important, can predict outcomes and the likelihood of success, but not suitability.  Beliefs can be changed too.

Strengths and weaknesses help us understand whether skills, tactics, strategies and process will be executed.  Too many weaknesses and you have a very weak salesperson at which point you could call it DNA.

But ultimately, Selling DNA has more to do with sales motivation and attitude, which this pretend test forgot to ask about.

Why did I waste an article about this little 8 question fraud of a test?  Because there are many reputable assessments which, when they try to use them for sales, become just as irrelevant.

Speaking of assessments, and more specifically Objective Management Group's sales candidate assessment, Al Strauss, my guest on this week's edition of Meet the Sales Experts, talked about tips, case histories and results from an effective sales recruiting process.  He also discussed motivation, resistance, commitment and change.

Click here to listen to the show.  Click here to contact Al.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales test, sales quiz

Sales Management Requires a Different Mindset Than Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 01, 2009 @ 22:07 PM

It was on the corner of 82nd Street and 37th Avenue in Queens where 12 year-old Mark Berezow learned to approach strangers and provide them with some compelling reasons to vote for his friend's dad.  He believes that experience had a great impact on his ability to sell, manage salespeople and for the past 20 years, help companies grow their sales.

Mark was my guest on this week's episode of Meet the Sales Experts.

Mark shared some great insights about sales management, specifically how the the sales management mindset differs from the sales mindset.  He said, "A Salesperson is all about being successful.  A sales manager must make the team successful.  The team is made up of individuals. A group doesn't achieve, individuals achieve. The good sales manager manages the behavior of individuals so that they reach their personal goals."

Mark also said, "Existing business will not grow as much as it did before because the business is just not there. People just aren't buying as much.  So companies are forced to make up the difference by seeking out new business" even though their salespeople may not have done that before.

And you just have to hear Mark tell the story about how he cold called to get his first sales job.

You can listen to the entire Mark Berezow interview hereContact Mark.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management, sales leadership, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales personality test, sales expert, sandler, sales test, mark berezow, TEM Associates

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

Sales Assessment Says He's Weak but He Made President's Club

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 @ 20:06 PM

Yesterday a well meaning Sales Manager, in defense of his salesperson, asked me how a salesperson who made "Club" could possibly assess so poorly.  It's a great question with a dozen or more possible explanations.  Here are some: 

  • One or two big hits - exceptions rather than sustained performance
  • Existing accounts grew
  • Accounts were inherited
  • Had help closing his accounts
  • Been in the industry for a long time and was well known and well respected
  • Owns the biggest accounts
  • Owns the richest territory
  • All renewal business
  • Large portion of call-in business
  • Opportunity knocks - in the right place at the right time
  • Had the opportunities in the pipeline forever and they finally closed
  • Had exceptional marketing support to generate interest and leads

Rather than asking how someone who has achieved success could assess so poorly, what if I asked this tried and true question:  If you take away all of his existing business, customers,  sales manager, leads, call-ins and pipeline, and told him he had six months to go out and find and close 50% of a year's quota, how would he do?

Tomorrow (June 12, 2009) on Meet the Sales Experts my guest will be Bill Murray. Visit Meet the Sales Experts at 12 Noon ET to hear Bill live. 

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales performance, sales evaluation, sales profile, President's Club, sales test

Sales Cycles and Time - Is it Running Out?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 01, 2009 @ 09:06 AM

We are always focused on sales cycles.  Are they optimized?  Are they taking too long?  Can they be improved?  How many calls should they take?  Are we doing things that make the sales cycle take longer than necessary? For example, the sales cycle can be shortened in direct proportion to how high your salespeople call in the company. 

If we are have begun a sales development program, you won't see results from top line revenue until 6 months plus the length of the sales cycle have passed.

I have a couple of things to discuss today relative to sales cycle.

1) Even articles have a sales cycle.  I wrote this article around Christmas of 2007.  I just learned that it was nominated for article of the month for June of 2009 - an 18 month sales cycle.  For all the time that passed it might have well been a major account!  Anyway, as long as it was nominated, would you be kind enough to vote for it?

2) I was talking with Ed Kleinman, our director of channel development here at Objective Management Group.  He pointed out something, relative to sales cycle, that I hadn't realized and it's really important.  Here's what he said:

I have come to the realization that most top executives, whose companies have been struggling to survive, have overlooked that we have already reached the end of the 2nd calendar quarter. Our network of sales development experts are reporting that there is still a sizable group of frozen, numb executives who still haven't realized how important it is to focus on their sales organizations.  They must make sure they have people in place who can help the company thrive in this economic climate. Have they forgotten where the revenue must come from? Are they waiting for the world around them to change before they change?  Are they stuck thinking that now is not the time to do anything?


Suppose you evaluated your sales team to identify who will generate a return from a development initiative, who won't, and replace those who won't be able to improve and produce? It would take a few weeks and you would already be at the end of the second calendar quarter.

The money you save from thinning (do more with less) can be reinvested in your remaining salespeople - those who will step up and learn how to sell in this new, extremely resistant economy.  Your B players become A's from training, development, coaching, mentoring , and improved accountability. But, by the time these folks produce at the pace needed to thrive, you may be looking at the end of the 4thquarter - if you're lucky! Yes, they will grow and improve.  They will survive and thrive. Your company will return to its successful ways and more, but any start you make today, won't help until the end of the year.

The longer you wait and do nothing, the longer your flat or declining revenue continues. This is the real world. Can you afford to wait until next year to do something or are you finally fed up with what you have? What you are doing now is not working, so NOW IS THE TIME to make moves that will insure that next year with the right systems, processes, and people in place, will be a great year.

TIME is no longer on your side. If you do nothing, you will find yourself in a position that will take even longer to get to the survival stage, before returning to the thriving stage. CAN YOU WAIT?  Don't think too long, because the 3rd quarter is just four weeks away.

Assess your sales organization, hire the right people to replace those who won't get it done. Develop the sales organization by providing them with superior training and coaching to help them be more proactive, persistant and resistance-proof - skills they'll need in this economy.

There isn't much time - you know how it flies.  Commit to using your sales force to generate company changing revenue today.

Thanks Ed!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, Salesforce, Sales Force, revenue, sales effectiveness, Economy, sales test

Hire the Best Salespeople on the Planet

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 28, 2009 @ 21:05 PM

Several months ago Objective Management Group began to identify hirable candidates that are ideal - they will ramp-up more quickly than a normal hirable candidate. A normal candidate should ramp up according to this formula I devised many years ago:  

Normal Ramp Up = Length of Sales Cycle + Length of Learning Curve + 30 Days.

So an ideal candidate's ramp up time would be shortened in proportion to their score on a finding we call the Figure it Out Factor.

I thought it might be time to look at the data and see what it turns up. 

To date, exactly 6% of the candidates for non entry level positions have been ideal.

Last month we began to identify hirable candidates that are perfect - they will perform in the top 6% of the North American sales population.  In a few months, I'll look at the data for that and report back to you.

Keep in mind that, as reported in my book, Baseline Selling, our data shows that there is a small group of elite salespeople that performs at a significantly higher level than all the rest.  The size of this group is.....6%. 

What would you do if you could be patient enough to wait for only ideal or perfect candidates and you knew, without a doubt, that they would be among the elite?  how many would you hire?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales, sales recruiting, Salesforce, Sales Force, Sales Candidate, sales test

More than Half of All Sales Managers Should Consider....

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 19, 2009 @ 09:05 AM

After posting this article two weeks ago, showing the percentage of salespeople who are not trainable, who shouldn't be in sales, and who are elite, it was inevitable that I would be asked to post similar statistics for sales managers.

While the number of salespeople we have assessed is greater than 400,000, the number for sales managers is closer to 50,000 - still a more than adequate sample size. 

(Speaking of sample sizes, I saw a promotion yesterday from a new sales assessment company and all of their claims are based on a sample size of 150 salespeople.  And of course, despite their "rigorous", "comprehensive" build, the actual assessment, despite strong marketing claims to the contrary, is based on a non-sales context.) But hey, it's 5 tests in one - that should make up for it's lack of context...

Sales Managers who should not be in sales management.....18%
Sales Managers who are not trainable................................34%
Sales Managers who are elite............................................. 7%

So there are twice as many sales managers in need of redeployment as salespeople, and 10% more sales managers than salespeople who are untrainable (they know it all?).  That means 52% of all sales managers, more than half, should consider doing something else - like selling! About the same percentage who qualify as elite.  It's such a shame that the percentage of elite is so small, but then again, if it was much bigger, they wouldn't be elite, would they?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, sales managers, sales test, salespeople, personality assessment

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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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