Trust in Selling is Becoming More Important Than Ever

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

trustI loved this short, but perfect post from Seth Godin's Blog last week.  It's about the importance of trust.  Please read it before proceeding.  It's also very consistent with the late Steven Covey's philosophy as related in his book, The Speed of Trust.

Trust is becoming more important than ever.  Companies are focusing more on integrity and values, and that's from both sides of the door.  They are looking for salespeople, vendors, suppliers, partners and trusted advisors who have strong integrity.  And they are also hiring the people (in this case, salespeople) who are deemed to be of a higher integrity.  Trustworthy is the operative word here.

There are certainly companies and people that don't measure up when it comes to the high integrity profile and that is what makes prospects so skeptical.  Bad experiences.  It only takes one shoplifter for a retailer to install a video surveillance system and/or detectors, lock their display cases, hide their merchandise and distrust all of its customers.  Just one bad apple is all it takes to ruin it for everyone.

Yesterday, we had an internal conversation about our website, collateral, videos, blog articles, white papers, emails and of course, phone calls and face-to-face visits.  The question of the day was, "Do potential clients trust us when they don't really know us that well?"  

We wondered aloud whether credibility and trust were really the same thing, related, or completely separate conclusions.  Personally, I believe they are separate.  I believe that someone could be credible as an expert, yet still not be completely trustworthy.  I also believe that we could meet someone who was completely worthy of our trust, but not be completely credible as an expert.  Separate issues.  The problem is that many companies lump these two issues together and assume that if they are credible, they have built trust.  Here's something for you to consider.  Let me know if you agree with my definitions.  I believe that credibility is an earned, time-tested, combination of experience, expertise and success in a specific field or subject matter.  I believe that trustworthiness is the ability to convey personal values and integrity through words, body language and actions.  Do you agree?

You can have all of the latest systems, processes, tools, and applications, along with the best products and services.  But if your prospects don't trust you, your intentions, your company, your promises or your eagerness, they won't buy from you.

I would like to remind you of a white paper on trust that I published a couple of years ago.  I conducted a study and we got some incredible, eye-popping data, that shows who trusts whom, by industry, and exactly when and why salespeople are distrusted.  It's a must-read.  You can download it right here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, trust, Seth Godin, integrity, steven covey, salespeople

Sales Execution - What Should You Pay Attention to?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

baseball executionThis is the 8th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force.  Here are the others:

If we refer to baseball, the best sport for sales analogies, there's a word that ball players and managers use quite often: Execute.

Pitcher:  "I felt strong out there, had good velocity, good stuff, but I didn't execute my pitches."

Manager: "We had a game plan as to how to approach [the opposing pitcher], but we just didn't execute very well today."

You could substitute most any sport and the dialog would be similar.  Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan even wrote a best-selling business book titled, Execution.  Yet in sales, we rarely hear anything as simple or basic.  We're far more likely to hear about competition, politics, relationships, price, marketing, or the product itself before we hear anyone utter execution as the reason for not winning an account or a deal.  Why is that?

There are some very large egos in sales and some of the largest can be found occupying sales leadership roles.  For a sales leader to say, "We failed to execute", is an admission that they weren't good enough.  While the admission of ineffectiveness is very difficult for most sales leaders, the reality is that without it, there can be no real change.

Watch this one-minute video on Excuse Making and you'll completely understand what I mean by "no real change."

Suppose you could put an end to excuse making.  Suppose you were to be held accountable for executing.  The first thing you would do is set clear expectations and then hold your salespeople accountable for executing.  What would you pay attention to in order to make sure they were executing?  

You could look at conversion ratios, but some opportunities move from one stage to another and it's unrelated to whether or not the salesperson was effective.

You could look at closing ratios, but unless you have a ratio that is definitive of success, all actual ratios are simply relative to the goal, to last month, to last year, or to other salespeople.

You could look at activity, but that tends to put all of the focus on the first stage of the sales process.  While that could be the most difficult stage of the process, it doesn't help us determine effectiveness in the latter stages of the sales process.

While we are reviewing our salespeople's performance on selling activities that have already occurred, it's also important that we consider forward-looking indicators, not lagging indicators.  

Let me propose several areas in which we could measure effectiveness to achieve an overall effectiveness score, while also serving as forward-looking indicators of likely business:

  • New - There are so many sales roles today, and each has a different level of responsibility for getting opportunities into the pipeline.  A broad term like "new" allows us to redefine what "new" represents for each role in the sales force.  Based on the definition, we should be able to rate the level of execution for each of those roles.
  • Conversations - Before demos, proposals, quotes, presentations, samples, references and even qualification, salespeople must, at minimum, get their prospects to engage in a conversation, discover their compelling reason to buy, and differentiate.  They should have developed a relationship during this conversation.  Based on what the salesperson is able to convey about their conversation, we should be able to rate the level of traction they achieved.
  • Thoroughness - Qualified opportunities don't necessarily measure a salesperson's effectiveness.  While getting to the decision maker is a measure of effectiveness, the spending ability, timeline, incumbent vendor and internal politics are not a measure of their effectiveness.  A better measure of effectiveness is a salesperson's ability to be thorough, uncovering information like this, even if that ultimately disqualifies an opportunity.
  • Qualified Win Rate - Most companies measure win rates, but it's often one of two formulas.  Either it represents the percentage of total opportunities that become sales, or it represents the percentage of quotes/proposals that convert to sales.  The problem with both of those formulas is that they don't take into account whether those opportunities were ever closable.  However, if our salespeople are only quoting and proposing to qualified opportunities where the Conversation and Thoroughness have both been rated, we will have a more quantifiable metric from which to work.
Suppose we were to rate the effectiveness of each of our salespeople, in all four categories, on a scale of 1 to 4, using 4 for Excellent, 3 for Good, 2 for Fair, and 1 for Poor.  They would be rated each month and, at the end of the month, be given a scorecard showing their average ratings in each of the four categories, and an overall effectiveness rating.
By defining, setting expectations, monitoring and grading salespeople in these four areas, you would have a much better way to determine and communicate a salesperson's overall effectiveness, and as a result, the effectiveness of your team.  But, that's just the beginning.  Given a grade of anything less than 4, what will you do about it?  What kind of coaching will you provide?  What will your salespeople do about it?  What kind of coaching will they need?  
Sales Execution is the key to improved performance and, in this case, the key unlocks a safe.  Inside, for safe keeping, is your ego along with the egos of your salespeople.  Will you be able to unlock the safe, liberate the egos, and allow humility and capability gaps to raise awareness and allow change to take place?

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour Webinar that will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time. 

Image credit: vladyc / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, accountability, execution, architecture of the sales force, sales execution

10 Tips for Great Keynotes and Better Sales Presentations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 @ 09:12 AM

PresentationRecently I was searching Google for a Keynote Speaker for Objective Management Group's (OMG) upcoming International Conference in April.  In addition to the many speaker bureaus listed, I also read through a number of articles where the authors shared their secrets to great talks.  While a few were pretty good, most weren't, and the secrets were certainly not very well kept.  I thought I would share some tips that you could incorporate into your group sales presentations, lunch and learns, conference talks and appearances to make them more effective.

  1. Slice It Up - Every presentation should have three sections - an attention-grabbing opening, a memorable ending, and the middle, where you make the points you want to make.  Example of the middle.
  2. Bring the Database - When possible, back up your findings with data and science.  Example
  3. A Picture is Worth All Your Words - I rarely include bullet points on my slides.  Just pictures.  Warning: My approach is not very useful if you need others to present your slide deck, but the "pictures only" approach helps to hold people's attention.  Black/blank slides are good too, when you want them paying attention to only you.
  4. Bring the Popcorn - Before technology cooperated, I told stories for my opening and closings, but these days I show compelling and relevent short clips from popular movies and tv shows.
  5. It's All about Them - It's tempting to be the center of attention, but the reality is that if you want to be a top speaker or presenter, it's all about your audience and how well you connect with them.  Example
  6. Get it Backward - Most presenters end with Q & A, but I believe that makes for a momentum breaker.  I like to talk for 5-10 minutes about my topics and then get the audience involved to learn what's on their mind, what they would like to hear, and focus the rest of my talk to what's important to them.  Example
  7. Know Your Role - They need you to be humorous, especially at your own expense.  Your humility should be in direct disproportion to the success you've achieved.  They need you to be entertaining, dynamic and animated.  If that's not you, then get some coaching or you'll suck at being a great speaker/presenter.  Vintage example
  8. Expertise is a Subtlety - Don't tell your audience how much you know.  Demonstrate expertise through the questions that you ask of the questioning audience members.  Explain your answers in the context of their world, not yours.  Help them figure out what they should do, instead of telling them what you would do.
  9. Curious Challenges - If you don't challenge their thinking or get them to think about something in a different or new way, you've wasted their time and an opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from everyone else.  Do so with questions, more than with answers.  Example
  10. Timing - Be a closer and end on time!  There's nothing worse than a speaker or presenter who continues beyond the end time.
I invite speakers and presenters, with tips of their own, to add them in the comments section.  All concise tips are welcome!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales management, event speaker, motivational speaker, memorable event, keynote speaker, guest speaker

Can Marketing Get Along with Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

It is difficult to have a conversation about sales and marketing without discussing some of the areas where they tend to bump into each other, create friction, and disagree.  This series will discuss some of those scenarios.

Social Selling - I'm a Proponent, Not a Detractor - Look at The Stats

Has the Death of Selling Finally Arrived?

Can You Improve a Kick-Ass Sales Force?

How Marketers Can Help Shorten Sales Cycles & Close More Sales

Aligning and Optimizing Sales and Marketing to Increase Conversions

Who Cares More - Sales or Marketing?

This is the One Thing Missing from the New Way of Selling

What is the Best Sales Process for Increasing Sales?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, sales, sales leadership, Social Media

Sales Coaching Lessons from the Baseball Files

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 24, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

baseline sellingAs evidenced by one of my book titles, Baseline Selling, I have frequently borrowed from baseball when the analogy is more useful than the sales message.  Although the following stories may appear to be about my son and/or his baseball team, they are actually about coaching and adapting.

Baseball - I brought my son to the batting cage to work out a swing flaw after his line drives had become weak ground balls.  He was bailing out (stepping toward third base instead of the pitcher), causing him to take weak swings at the ball.  After I got him to stop bailing, he began leaning away from the pitch with his upper body, causing him to take an off-balance swing.  When we fixed that, his front shoulder began opening too quickly, the head of the bat moving through the strike zone too slowly for solid contact.  When we finally fixed that, line drives began zipping off his bat again and he was able to carry that into the next game for 2 doubles and 3 RBI's.  

Sales -This sequence of analysis and tweaking works in exactly the same way when coaching salespeople.  You should be able to immediately identify what went wrong, when it went wrong, how it went wrong and demonstrate how to prevent and fix it.  The last two steps must take place through role-play.  Are you doing that effectively?

Baseball - I took some swings for the first time in 20 years.  I immediately realized that I couldn't track the ball with bifocals, so I removed them.  Without the glasses, I could barely see the ball at all!  My son said, "Dad, you don't have it any more."  That's all I needed to hear.  I wasn't going to let my 10-year-old get away with that, so I adapted.  I accepted that I couldn't see the stiches or the spin of the ball anymore, but I could see the fuzzy little round thing heading in my direction and resolved to just see that and hit that.  He said, "I guess you still have it after all."  

Sales - Your salespeople must adapt when the existing approach isn't effective with a prospect.  Instead, most salespeople take one of two actions.  They either continue to do what isn't working (stupid human trick) or they give up (typical human behavior). 

Baseball - As their coach, I offer 1-2 minutes of one-on-one pre-game or in-game coaching to each boy on the team.  They get more from their one-on-one time than they could ever get from a 90-minute practice and we see immediate results in that very game.  

Sales - Sales Managers must provide their salespeople with one-on-one time before upcoming calls and debrief calls that have already taken place.  There is no area that will have more impact on sales than coaching.

Sales and baseball are nearly the same except that far fewer ball players make it to the major leagues, but those who do so get paid a lot more money.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, coaching, sales management, Baseball

Non-Salespeople - Assets or Liabilities When They Face Customers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

Customer Facing Non-SalespeopleNearly 18 months ago, I posted an article about my experience with National Car Rental.  Please read that for background before reading this article.  Pay particular attention to the comments where Elizabeth, from National Car Rental, reached out to me and provided me with a free rental day.  That changed my impression of National!

I didn't have an opportunity to use that free day until this weekend when, following the instructions on the email they sent prior to arrival, we entered their area of the garage in Orlando.  This time, there wasn't a man in a green booth who didn't want to wait on me.  This time, while browsing the cars from which to choose in the Emerald Club aisle, a miserable lady chased us down and demanded to know what we were doing.  I told her.  She pointed to three cars and started to walk away.  I said, "Thanks, but I reserved a luxury car."  She said, "Why didn't you say so?  Those are in the next row." and she walked away.

On our way out of the garage, I wasn't smart enough to follow all of their exit signs and the twists and turns that went along with them.  I ended up in another rental car's exit lane.  The guy in that booth nicely explained that I was in the wrong place, got out of his booth, helped me back up without injuring anyone, led me back to the correct path and made sure I was headed in the right direction.  Then, I came across another National employee, who should have been directling me to the exit lane, but instead asked, "What do you want?"  I told him I was exiting and he nodded.  Nice touch.

In the end, just like 18 months ago, the man inside the exit booth and the lady, who received my car when we returned it, were both wonderful.

I never would have used National again if they hadn't provided me with a free day.  After another unacceptable experience, I don't plan to use them again even if they provide me with another free day.

This is a tremendous example, and not the least bit unusual, of how non-selling, customer-facing employees, sell.  Despite two effective customer-facing people doing their part on selling us to return, one was horrible and not so subtley sold us on not returning.

Companies must be certain that ALL of their customer-facing employees, not only salespeople, always create favorable impressions that sell their customers on returning.  National Car Rental still fails to do this.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, customer service, non selling, customer facing

Getting Deals Closed - End of Quarter Sales Gone Mad

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 02, 2011 @ 21:03 PM

In the 26 years that I've been helping companies grow and develop sales and revenue, I have rarely met with an executive for the first time and not heard about ---it.

It all begins around week 11 of the quarter.  A frenzy of calls, increased activity, sales management and sometimes C-Level intervention, discounts, offers that can't be refused, and more.  For 3 weeks every quarter, the entire sales force - hell, the entire company - takes on a do whatever it takes attitude to bring those deals in house.

Is this necessary?  It is when your sales force can't bring in the business in a logical, optimized, predictable fashion.

Can it be stopped?  Of course.  But you're the only one who can stop it.  And if you stopped it, what would have to change so that the revenue still came in?

Can you make things normal?  if the 3 week frenzy occurs at your company each quarter, then that IS normal - for you.  You can't change that until you agree that it shouldn't be that way, doesn't need to be that way, and it isn't healthy, scalable or even desirable for your company's long-term future.

Do you have to give it away to get people to buy it?  If you're selling a product or service that sucks in comparison to your competition, then yes, you'll probably have to offer heavy discounts or improve your quality.  But if you provide something of value, then you should be able to get value for it.

Stopping the madness, getting the business closed when it is forecast to close, getting your asking price, and doing without end of quarter interventions requires having the right salespeople, having a customized, optimized, formal, structured sales process, great sales management, and the belief that normal doesn't look like weeks 11-13 of every quarter.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales process, sales management, selling, Sales Coaching, closing strategies

Did Your Salespeople Choose to Be in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 05, 2011 @ 07:01 AM

Even if you reviewed as many resumes as I do each week you might not notice this:  Most sales candidates did not have a sales position as their first job after college.  Most started as something else and then, out of the blue, they were in sales, sales management, marketing, or business development.  I always get suspicious when somewhere back in time a candidate went from Purchasing to Sales Management and never sold along the way...

So what happened?  Did they think salespeople had a more exciting life/role and wish to become one?  Were they given ultimatums to accept commission sales positions as a way of keeping their jobs during a recession?  Did they lose a job in their chosen profession and then take a sales position out of desperation?

Of more interest is why, after the transition, they remained in sales...After all, only a small percentage (26%) of them are reasonably good at it. 

The small percentage of people who chose sales as a career (if I had a resume, it would show sales as the first position but it was less a matter of choosing and more a realization that I wasn't qualified to do anything else!) aren't any more successful than those who didn't.

Let's conduct an informal poll/exercise.  After reading this, ask your most effective and least effective salespeople if they chose sales as a career or simply ended up in a sales career.  Then report your findings by commenting below.  We would be very interested in your findings!

Your comments might read something like:

"Our most effective salesperson was forced into sales 10 years ago.  Our least effective salesperson started in sales 20 years ago because it was the only job he could get."


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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales recruiting, selling, sales candidates, sales career, sales effectiveness, salespeople

Relationships - 7th of the Top 10 Kurlan Sales Management Functions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 @ 07:11 AM

This is the 7th in my series of the Top 10 Kurlan Sales Management Functions.


There isn't a person in the company who must work more on developing relationships than an individual in a sales management role, whether it be a line level sales manager or the World Wide VP of Sales.  But developing a relationship does not mean that one should become friends.  Wikipedia says that an interpersonal relationship is an association between two individuals. While it is inevitable that a friendship will evolve here and there, that is not and should not be the goal.  Friendship compromises rather than enhances your ability to be effective in the other sales management functions.

In most sales management roles, relationships must be developed throughout the organization with:

  • Sales managers;
  • Salespeople;
  • Sales Leadership; 
  • Finance and Accounting;
  • Manufacturing;
  • IT
  • Executive Team;
  • Customer Service;
  • Technical Support;
  • IS
  • HR.

It's important to build and maintain relationships with every department in the company so that they all support the effort to acquire, maintain and grow the customer base.  You wouldn't want anyone getting in the way of that effort and you must have them willing to do what it takes to help accomplish your goals.

In addition to your internal relationships, it is equally important to develop relationships with all of your key customers.  Not just the big customers, but the accounts that could become big, the centers of influence, and the ones you simply couldn't bare to lose.  Your relationships with these customers are crucial in the event that the customer's salesperson leaves the company.  Your relationship with that account may be the only power you have to retain that business!

But all of the relationship building stops here.  You don't want these relationships to become deep friendships which can compromise your ability to effectively do your job. Read this article about what happens when you need your salespeople to love and respect you.

Instead, your relationships should be like the one I have with my dry cleaner.  When Chris sees me pull up, he immediately drops everything, gets all of the cleaned clothes from the prior week, brings them to the car, and hangs them.  He opens the trunk, takes out the laundry bag with the current week's dirty clothes and brings them inside. He grabs a couple of Tootsie Rolls for our son and chats with him if he's in the car. We don't sort and count items of clothing, we don't exchange slips and receipts, and I never have to wait.  He knows our preferences without having to consult a computer, gives me the accessories I might need, and will do anything in his power to make sure I'm happy.  We have a great relationship, we are happy to see each other, and we know about each others' families .  But we aren't in a relationship.  We don't have meals together, hang out, go out for drinks, or visit each others' homes and we're not friends. We simply have a strong relationship.

Develop relationships like those with everyone I mentioned and you'll be free to effectively work on the other 9 Sales Management Functions.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, Sales Force, sales management functions, relationships

5 Steps to Coaching Your Salespeople Beyond Happy Ears

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:09 AM

Today I posted this article about Diagnosing and Overcoming Happy Ears on the Baseline Selling web site.  And last week I wrote this article about Happy Ears and an empty pipeline.

Following are my thoughts about how you, the leader of your salespeople, can help them overcome Happy Ears. Slip into these five roles to help them be more realistic about and more comprehensive with their opportunities.

  1. Be their Doubting Thomas - Be more pessimistic than them. 
  2. Be their Carpenter - punch holes in everything they tell you by asking, "how do you know?" or "did they actually say that or is that what you think?"
  3. Be their Elephant - remind them of the last time they told you this - and what happened late when they were caught by surprise.
  4. Be their Show Director - rehearse them for what they must ask - before the call - through role play.
  5. Be their Coach - Do less cheerleading and more challenging.

Upcoming Events

Baseline Selling Webinar Series - begins next week - for Owners and Solopreneurs Only

Defeating the Enemy and Dominating Your Market - 10/15 - a Top Sales Experts Master Class

Close More Sales by Shortening Your Sales Cycle - 10/8 - a Business Experts Webinar

After the Cutting - How Successful Companies are Selling Their Way Back to the Top 11/3 - Top Executives only use Discount Code DK1103 to avoid paying fees.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales management, selling, sales tips, sales management coaching, happy ears

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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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