Surprising New Data on Salespeople Busts the Myths about Relationship Selling and Social Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 @ 13:06 PM

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If you are a regular reader, you might recall this great article on Selling to a CEO.  In that article, I also mentioned some of the expanded Sales Competencies that Objective Management Group (OMG) now measures.  Before April, Relationship Building and Mastery of Social Selling were findings in our evaluations, but now, they are full blown competencies with complete sets of attributes.

I had a theory about salespeople, but didn't have the data to prove it out.  I believed that social selling was a godsend to those in sales who were not great at relationship building - that by utilizing applications like LinkedIn and Twitter, they could reach out to new people, but with the benefit of hiding behind the glass screen. Do you think I was right?  Or wrong?

 Actually, I couldn't have been more wrong!

We took nearly 5,000 rows of data from the past 2 weeks and looked at those two competencies and compared the results.  In the 1st graph, you'll see that the overwhelming majority of salespeople are poor at both, or to put it in my vocabulary, they suck at both!  Just 5% were good at both, 11% excelled at social selling and 16% excelled at relationship building.  


So I wondered if the data might be skewed based on demographics.  For instance, would the data show that salespeople with more than 10 years in sales are less effective at social selling and better at relationship building?  We filtered the data and removed everyone who had fewer than 10 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 1,850 veteran salespeople.  The graph looked nearly identical to the first graph but the veteran group at 33% was much better at relationship building, 11% - the same as the entire population - had mastered social selling and 8% achieved high scores in both.


So I wondered what would happen if we looked at the people who were new to sales. This time, we filtered the data and removed everyone who had more than 5 years of sales experience, leaving us with around 2,000 newer salespeople.  This graph also looked quite similar, but there were a few small differences.  Just 2% of the newer salespeople were good at both competencies.  33% were good at relationship building, and surprisingly only 9% had mastered social selling - an even smaller percentage than the veteran group!



 My theory?  Out the window.  Not even close!  Instead we made two even better discoveries from this exercise:  

  1. The majority of salespeople, who aren't very good at relationship building, will be equally poor at social selling.
  2. Although you and I are selling socially, most salespeople - 89% are not effective at social selling! 

Are you surprised by any of these discoveries?  What are your thoughts?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, twitter, Relationship Selling, linkedin, social selling, sales assessments

Effective Selling is Less about the Words and More About How You Say Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 @ 18:04 PM


Two experiences this weekend support something I have been teaching for more than 30 years.  

Saturday, I walked up to the deli counter and asked the young woman for a quarter pound of imported provolone.  She responded, "We don't have impourded, but we have some from Italy."  I said that would be fine. Then she grumbled to a co-worker that this guy wanted "impourded" provolone and he explained that the Italian provolone was imported.  Then she held up the slices and said, "It's only 5 slices - that won't go very far!"  I explained that it was perfect for a sandwich.

I was able to laugh that one off - it was actually funny - but I didn't think the second one was very funny.

The AAU 13U baseball team was ahead 4-1 when the assistant coach approached us. Our son had just finished pitching his fourth strong inning so we expected to hear, "He's pitching a great game!", but instead he whined that our son needed to develop better command of his curve ball (that I wouldn't let him throw prior to this year because we were trying to protect his arm).  

I nicely reminded the coach that our son had tried out for the team as a catcher, not a pitcher, and that the coaches liked his arm so much they told him he would pitch - a lot.  

The assistant coach growled, "If he doesn't want to pitch, I'll take him off the mound right now!!!"  

Huh?  If he doesn't want to pitch? He loves to pitch! Where did that sarcastic comment come from?  And why was he so nasty about it?

Neither of these two individuals intended to be nasty, or even mean-spirited, but both of them communicated their replies in such a way that they came out quite nasty.

The deli lady could have said, "Will provolone from Italy be acceptable?"

And the coach could have said, "I'm going to help Michael with the command of the curveball he's been working on."

You can say almost anything, to anyone, at any time, without offending them, if you say it nicely, softly, kindly, and sincerely.  You can't get away with saying anything, ever, even when your intentions are good, if you sound arrogant, abrasive, offensive, snarly, defensive, loud or combative.

Whether you are trying to convince a prospect, customer or salesperson, make sure you emphasize the how over the what and your message has a much better chance of being accepted in the spirit you intended.

Read more about how you can stop worrying about the words you use.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, tonality, communication skills

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

Top 10 Outcomes That Should Come from Sales Coaching

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 @ 06:12 AM

When you coach a salesperson, which words should you hear that would tell you the session was effective?

Not "Thanks" or "OK".

Think about how frequently you hear responses like:

  1. "I have some great action items"
  2. "Great take-aways"
  3. "You make it seem so easy"
  4. "How do you come up with that stuff?"
  5. "I can't believe how helpful that was!"
  6. "I wish I had this yesterday..."
  7. "Perfect - that's exactly what I needed."
  8. "Would you hold me accountable for that?"
  9. "How soon can we schedule our next session?"
  10. "Any chance we can go a little longer the next time?"

There are certain things must always occur in a sales coaching call to achieve outcomes like those mentioned above.  Here are just a few:

You'll have to role-play and you'll have to play the part of the salesperson.  Most sales managers just aren't up to this task...

You'll have to take it wider and deeper than your salespeople are capable of taking it - if you can't, your salespeople won't find value.

You'll have to explain what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how you're doing it if you want them to be able to replicate what you demonstrated.

You'll have to make sure they understand whether a gap in skills (OK) left them not knowing, or a weakness (not OK) prevented them from doing what the situation called for.

Bring your coaching game to the next level and both you and your salespeople will reap the benefits!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, selling, Sales Coaching, salespeople

How to Determine if Your Sales Process is Effective

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 08, 2010 @ 08:12 AM

baseline selling sales processYou know all about reverse engineering, right?  The Chinese do...that's how they've copied all of the products that others have created and sold them into the mass market, gray and black markets too.

Technology companies tend to be quite good at reverse engineering. How else can you explain one company's game-changing leap in capabilities, and the short time it takes for their competitors to introduce similar, if not the identical capabilities?

Can you reverse engineer your sales calls? 

OTHER THAN THE PART OF YOUR SALES CALL THAT INVOLVES PRESENTING, could you break down and explain, each step, strategy, tactic, question, response and milestone met, in the order they occurred, why they were chosen, and the resulting reaction of each occurrence, AFTER you've completed an entire sales cycle?

If you can, congratulations.  If you can't, it means the following:

  • You don't have a formal, structured, optimized sales process or, if you do, you don't follow it very consistently;
  • You are so involved in your sales call that you aren't in control of what you are doing, when and why;
  • You tend to wing it;
  • Whatever you are doing is not repeatable or scalable;
  • You can't teach it;
  • It's not indicative - you can't say, "if you follow these exact steps, reach these exact milestones, ask these specific questions, utilize these specific strategies and tactics and do so in this particular order you will get the business 75% of the time".

Try to reverse engineer your last complete sales cycle and let me know what happens when you do...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales management, selling, sales cycle

The Difference Between Selling to Negotiators and Price Shoppers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 02, 2010 @ 06:02 AM

I was introduced to Michael, an expert in multi-cultural selling who wrote this must read top 10 Myths About Multicultural Customers.

I love #8 on Negotiators.  Salespeople often confuse the prospect who needs to negotiate with one who must have the lowest price and as Michael says so often in his article, nothing could be further from the truth. 

The negotiator simply needs to win - to get a better price than the one you started with.  The price shopper wants to go with the lowest price.  It is much simpler to do the break and shake (my tag for providing a price break and shaking on it) and be done with it, then it is for you to give away the farm with a price shopper who may not care about your value proposition, storied history, legendary quality, or unsurpassed customer service.  On the other hand, any one of those may be the very thing the price shopper is demanding - but at a lower price than anyone else can offer.  

Selling successfully to both the negotiator and the price shopper takes good strategy, effective tactics, and timing - you must know when to employ them.  For instance, with the negotiator, one can't simply give the price break to get it over with because the negotiator believes that now that there has been movement from the starting price, there can be yet more movement. You must learn how to offer only a single concession and have that be good enough for a win-win.  With the price shopper, you must become expert at leveraging the one thing other than price that is so important, build compelling reasons around it, and use the resulting urgency to drive up your value.

Most executives who read this won't have to deal with negotiators very often for it tends to be industry specific in America.  It tends to be part of the car shopping and home buying experiences, and you'll see it at flea markets too.  Price shoppers are out there.  Objective Management Group's statistics show that about 20% of the sales population buys this way and they are the most likely group to show up with the lowest margins.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, selling, Sales Force, Michael Lee, multicultural selling, price shopping, negotiating

18 Business Trends For Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 @ 05:01 AM

This week's edition of Meet the Sales Experts featured a panel of three sales development experts.  My guests were Mark Berezow, Gary Harvey and Rocky LaGrone.  Before they handled one caller's sales force challenges (excellent stuff) , they commented on the state of business out there right now.

They see:

  • no more tolerance for mediocrity
  • focus on new business development
  • changing strategies
  • more accountability
  • more emphasis on evaluating the sales force to identify the right people
  • lots of movement
  • companies have already cut as much as they can
  • focus on the revenue side of the business
  • gearing up for a great 2010
  • more interest in investing in their people
  • companies will now grow or die and people will go with them
  • can't move forward without A Players
  • doing what you've always done won't get the results you've always gotten
  • cautious optimism
  • companies thought they had salespeople and now recognize they had order takers
  • less overall resistance
  • companies are hiring salespeople right now in a big way
  • manufacturers are releasing PO's and money

It sure sounds like things are looking up!

Click here to listen to the show.

Click here to contact Mark.

Click here to contact Gary.

Click here to contact Rocky.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, selling, Sales Force, business trends, sales assessments

What is Maximum Effort on the Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 @ 09:01 AM

You've observed salespeople who were focused, efficient and effective for months at a time.  Very few distractions, good balance of new opportunities and closable opportunities, and everything moved along as it should, driven by these great salespeople. And when they perform like this for long stretches at a time, that is maximum effort.

You've also observed salespeople who were achieving anything but maximum effort.  They were distracted, didn't have enough new prospects and/or closable opportunities, and weren't effectively moving the few opportunities they had through the sales process. Instead they were just stumbling their way through each day and week, going through the motions.  You've probably been able to get salespeople like this performing more like the salespeople in the first paragraph, but only for very short bursts of time, like a short sprint, before their effort returns to their normal.

There is a third type of salesperson, one of the elite top 5%, who can consistently maintain maximum effort for much of the year.  But that salesperson isn't the norm.  So the questions that come from this are these:

Are the top 5%'ers A players or super human players?

Are those that can maintain maximum effort for months at a time A's or B's?

Are those that can only achieve maximum effort for short periods of time and only after a reprimand C's or people you should replace?

In my opinion, the top 5%'ers are the A's.  That's the expectation you should set.  That's what you should demand.

Those who can achieve maximum effort for months at a time, but not all the time are your B's.

Those who can rarely achieve it and only with your interference are your C's.

If you're beginning to compare these comments and criteria with your sales force, you may be realizing that you don't have any A's,  have at best 1 or 2 B's, and the rest are C's.

The next question is, can you turn your B's into A's?  Can you turn your C's into B's?  Do you have the right people?

A Sales Force Evaluation will certainly answer those questions for you.  Stepping up your hiring and selection effectiveness will help too.  I'll be the guest presenter on January 25 when ExSELL Institute presents How Not to Screw Up Your Sales Hiring in 2010. For more information, or to register, click here.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, selling, Sales Force, maximum effort

Sales Success Secrets From Beyond the Grave

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 05, 2010 @ 08:01 AM

Warning. I have included some very controversial material in this article so I'll start with the easy stuff and finish with the material you may not want to read. I have some insights from three totally unrelated books as well as an unrelated article that I had a chance to read last week. I found common themes that relate directly to sales and sales management success. 

I read Craig Ferguson's autobiography, American on Purpose, and laughed all the way through.  This was much more than a fall-down-drunk-asshole-Scot finally wakes up and becomes a sober American star-TV talk show host story.  Repeated, over and over through his story is the theme persistence. He knew, from an early age, where he wanted to be and what he wanted to be, and despite his demons, he just kept on trying and failing and trying some more. There is no better analogy to developing true sales success than that one.

Jim Griesing turned me on to a video that went viral, The Last Lecture, and I was so mesmerized that I purchased Randy Pausch's book by the same title.  It's filled with his life lessons, written to be read by his kids long after he has passed on from Pancreatic Cancer.  He has a similar theme, although he uses different words and life experiences to pass it on.  I loved his use of the brick wall metaphor - that insurmountable obstacle you hit that stops you dead in your tracks.  He says the brick wall is there to stop everyone else while he believes that the brick wall only appears so that you can demonstrate how badly you want what's on the other side.  He also emphasized always asking for what you want.  The worst they can say is no!

Ed Kleinman turned me onto this article about world-famous violinist Joshua Bell and the Washington, DC. Metro social experiment he participated in with the Washington PostObjective Management Group's data shows that 74% of all salespeople truly suck at listening and asking good, tough, timely questions. This amazing story, if properly interpreted, tells us just how important it is for us to pay more attention - to the prospects, to what they're really telling us, to why they're telling us, and to what they really need from us.

And finally, if you can't handle topics like reincarnation, the afterlife, life between lives and the controversies about whether or not the soul lives an eternal life, don't read this paragraph and certainly, don't read Journey of Souls - Case Study of Life Between Lives!   Michael Newton is the founder of the Newton Institute and a famous therapist who uses past life regressions to help people through their greatest difficulties.  His book includes transcripts of conversations with his carefully hypnotized patients to provide a glimpse of what our soul experiences from the moment of the death of our human body, to our time on the other side, and our eventual rebirth into another life.  Under hypnosis, the interviews actually take place with our spirit/soul.  Newton asks one particular soul what its biggest challenge is when taking human form again.  He learned that it's all about "having the desire and motivation to fulfill each soul's goal" in a particular lifetime and that these goals remain quite constant from one lifetime to the next.  Compare that with what the top 5% of all salespeople have in this post from last month.  There you have it - after we die and before we are born it's still all about Goal Setting, Desire and Motivation!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling, Sales Force, sales motivation, Craig Ferguson, Randy Pausch, Michael Newton, sales success

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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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