New Movie Has 3 Great Lessons for Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

The Trial of the Chicago 7' is as timely as ever - The Stanford Daily

Among all the product shortages we have experienced in the past ten months, there has been no shortage of crappy movies.  It's almost like the movie studios decided to release all the movies filmed in the past several years that weren't ready for prime time and hope that people would stream them at home during the pandemic because we had watched everything else.

One exception to the crappiness of 2020 movies is The Trial of the Chicago 7.  This article is not a review of the movie but it was a terrific film and worth the time to watch it.  As good as this movie is, it comes with a bonus because it also provides three exceptional lessons for salespeople and sales managers.  Let's take a look!

It's Decided

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity when at some point late in the process you finally determined that the decision had already been made and it wasn't you? The prospect invited several competitors to engage, went through the motions, and led them to believe they had a chance. You may have been a better overall fit, had a better solution, more of the needed capabilities, a better warranty, been able to deliver more quickly, had better pricing and terms, better references and more. Despite all that, none of it was going to make a bit of difference because the key decision maker, who they wouldn't let you meet, had a relationship with someone at one of your competitors and for optics, your contact was tasked to involve three other companies.  Another version of this occurs when your contact is the decision maker but engages competitors so that the process has the appearances of being fair and objective to anyone who might be checking in on them.  In either scenario, the decision was made before you got involved and nothing that you said or did was going to change that decision.  In the movie, the judge went through the motions of the months-long trial but it didn't matter how much proof of innocence the defense provided because the judge refused to let any of it be heard.  Someone above him had already decided what the outcome of this trial would be. 

The lesson is that if you are going to fail, you must fail early!  That requires thorough qualifying and inspection as to where you stand versus your competitors, questions and statements that most salespeople fail to ask,  like:

  • In my experience, when a potential customer won't let me meet the decision maker it's usually a pretty good indicator that I won't be getting the business
  • Decision makers for our solutions usually have a strong existing relationship with companies like mine, and Jim (the decision-maker) doesn't have a relationship with us, so who does he have a relationship with?
  • I'm getting the feeling that even if we can prove that we have a superior solution, you won't be working with us

According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and the 2,051,794 salespeople they have assessed, 59% of all salespeople can't ask those questions because their need to be liked prevents them from asking a question that could cause their prospect to no longer like them.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare.

You're a Pawn

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity where your prospect was so interested that they requested a proposal or quote earlier than you expected?  You probably believed that you had a really strong opportunity, thought this would be an easy one and forecast it to close within 30 days.  Unfortunately, your prospect had an incumbent vendor that they planned to retain but needed the extra quotes to either make it appear that they collected three quotes or they were trying to keep the incumbent honest.  Had you quoted the lowest price, the business wouldn't have gone to you; they would have shown the quote to the incumbent and demanded that they match it if they wanted to keep the business.  In this scenario, you were being exploited. In the movie, the first two jurors that were sympathetic to the defense were removed under false pretenses.

The lesson is that when a prospect moves too quickly to a quote or proposal, you need to ask better qualifying questions, like:

  • Who do you usually buy this from? (XYZ)
  • Why didn't you call them?  (We wanted to explore our options)
  • In my experience, companies that are happy with who they are using don't usually take the time to look for options.  (They get defensive)
  • Why did you call us? (You were on the list)

They will probably tell you that yes, they are happy, but if you come in with a better price they would consider moving the business to you.  THAT'S YOUR CUE CARD!  It's not a sign that they're about to buy from you; it's a sign that they're NOT going to buy from you.  You should immediately say, "Based on experience, it sounds like you just need a quote to keep the other guys honest."  If you're face to face I suggest writing a random number on a napkin and handing the napkin to them.  If you are virtual, you can email them the same thing.  The point is, don't take the time to work up a quote, and don't take the time to produce a proposal. Just say, "No thank you." 

According to more of OMG's data, only 30% of salespeople have selling value as a strength.  Additionally, only 36% are able to control their emotions and at this point the sales conversation calls for staying calm and selling value.  Most salespeople lose the business because of the value selling skill gap and weakness controlling emotions.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

For Sales Managers - The Expert Debrief

In one scene of the movie, the defense attorney was cross-examining the assistant to the mayor, a witness who said he was offered $100,000 to issue a permit to protest, and the request was a bribe, not a joke as the attorney suggested.  The attorney asked a bunch of questions that sounded something like this (it's from memory so the words that come after "when you called" might not all be exactly what was said):

  • When you called the US Attorney General what did he say?  (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the FBI what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Attorney General of Illinois what did he say? (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the State Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Chicago Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you told the mayor what did he say? (I didn't tell him)
  • So if you didn't tell anyone then you must have believed the offer to be a joke.

This is absolutely the most powerful way to debrief salespeople.  Assume they did what they were supposed to do by asking, "When you asked what it was about their current vendor that they were unhappy with what did they say?" Continue to ask questions using, "When you asked..." about everything they should have asked until your salesperson says, "I didn't ask that."  Then you can learn whether it's because the salesperson didn't know to ask that question or knew to ask but was uncomfortable asking.  And finally, why was the salesperson uncomfortable.  Then, and only then, does the coaching actually begin and it begins with a role play! 

More of OMG's data says that only 7% of all sales managers can debrief, coach and role play effectively.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

If you want to learn to coach like that - and there are so many examples of how to properly debrief and coach, join me for my annual public (virtual this year) 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive from May 19-21.  Register here. You'll be glad you did!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, asking questions, selling tips, sales lessons, chicago 7

2021 Challenge:  Put a Little Beatles Into Your Selling!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

beatles2

Although it's been more than 50 years since Paul McCartney announced the break up of The Beatles, I am fairly certain that regardless of your age and geographic location, you know who The Beatles were and have heard at least one of their songs, even if the one you listened to was recorded by another artist.  Most of you probably know dozens of Beatles tunes!

During the holiday break I was listening to the Beatles channel (18) on SiriusXM radio and it helped me to realize just how similar the Beatles are to selling!

Their songs were timeless. In the last decade alone, Beatles songs were covered by 186 artists!

Their song-writing system was repeatable as they focused on their titles, beats per minute (BPM), choruses, rhythms and rhymes.

They were memorable.  Everyone knows John, Paul, George and Ringo - in that order.  And most people knew the words to their favorite Beatles songs.

They were incredibly likable!

You only needed to hear a song once to love it, like, "She Loves You."

Their songs told stories, like, "In My Life."

Their songs had calls-to-action, like, "Get Back."

Their songs asked questions, like, "Do you want to know a secret?"

The only thing that would make the Beatles different today is technology.  The sound quality would be SO much better.  It wouldn't change their songs but the songs would sound better.  It wouldn't eliminate the work they did to write the songs but they would get the songs transcribed and notated more quickly.  They would still have to record their music but the recording would be digital which would make mixing much easier.

Isn't this all pretty much the same as sales?  Let's take a run-through.

People have been selling for centuries - it's timeless.

Only since the time of the Beatles have more formal selling approaches, systems and processes been developed.

The best sales processes are repeatable and deliver repeatable results.  See Baseline Selling.

The best salespeople are memorable.

The best salespeople are very likable.

The best salespeople are great story-tellers.

The best salespeople have calls-to-action.

The best salespeople ask great questions.

And that brings us to technology.  All that technology that the best salespeople use, like video, CRM, document signing, calendar applications, email, social selling, and more make salespeople more efficient.  The technology doesn't do the selling or make anyone a better salesperson, but it does replace the rolodex, index cards, printed agreements, paper calendars and literature.

As I completed writing this article I was overcome with a feeling of Deja Vu.  Sure enough, I have tackled the Beatles before!  I'm embarrassed to say that my search revealed that I wrote a very comprehensive article on how The Beatles taught us to sell as recently as August of 2019!  Back in 2010 I included The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones in an article about differentiation as a way to close big deals.

One thing that mediocre salespeople seem so unwilling to do is practice.  Malcom Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, wrote that The Beatles had performed for 10,000 hours prior to becoming an overnight sensation.  As a result, The Beatles gave one the sense that performing their songs was effortless.  Great salespeople have seemingly effortless yet consequential conversations with their prospects but that ease and comfort also come from more than 10,000 hours of practice as they attempt to fine tune and improve their performance.

A challenge for 2021?  Put a little Beatles into your selling!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, selling tips, Malcom Gladwell, the beatles

How a Mug of Dunkin Can Help You More Effectively Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 09, 2020 @ 08:12 AM

Amazon.com: In case of accident my blood type is dunkin donuts Cheap  lasunandsport Mug Coffee Mug Gift Coffee Mug 11OZ Coffee Mug: Kitchen &  Dining

I won't suggest that a cup of Dunkin coffee will make you more alert and more effective.  It's much more helpful than that.

This is another Bob story. Bob was on a sales call and the prospect told him that they were looking for the lowest price.  I hope you hate it when that happens.  It's a bad thing because while Bob was supposed to be selling value, a price-based conversation is transactional yet he's supposed to be taking a consultative approach to support the value he provides.  Would you like to guess what Bob did instead?  Yup, he got them his best price.  Ugh!

So what should Bob have done instead to turn this around and not waste everyone's time?

There are four things that Bob should have done and he must do them in the proper sequence:.

  • First, lower resistance - Bob needs to acknowledge that he heard them and say, "I understand."  Then he can leave it alone.  He has lowered their resistance and that was the goal.  He can come back to this topic later.
  • Uncover their compelling reason to buy - Bob can't sell value if he doesn't know their compelling reason to buy, buy now, and buy from him instead of his competitor.  This is the most important thing to focus on because if he doesn't uncover that reason and create urgency, he won't be able to provide and sell value, and neutralize their stated goal to buy at the lowest price.
  • Monetize their compelling reason - problems have consequences, including operational, functional, conceptual, emotional, economic, and perceived consequences.  These consequences must be monetized to include hard costs, cost of time lost, cost of not solving the problem, the gain from solving the problem, etc.  This is where value actually comes from! Bob must take the time to walk his prospect through what the problem really costs.
  • Sell Value - Bob must ask if, in order to solve the (cost that was calculated) problem the right way, they are willing to spend a little more with him.  If yes, he can ignore their lowest price comment because he successfully sold his value.  If not, he must learn whether they always buy this way or just this time.  For example, if they claim to always buy this way, he can find the weak link in that behavior.  Do they ever get coffee at Dunkin' Donuts? Really?  How often?  Why are they paying around $2 for a medium cup of coffee from Dunkin when It costs only 88 cents to make it using a DD K Cup in a Keurig machine, and only 30 cents to make a mug yourself using DD ground coffee that you buy for between $8-$10/pound.  They are paying as much as 650% more for the value of not having to make it themselves.  Now Bob has precedent that they don't always look for the lowest price.  He could also use a car analogy.  Most of the people you are selling to are not driving Kia's or low-end Fords, Chevy's and Chryslers.  They paid more for a better car! Analogies are great for changing perceptions.

Selling value has nothing to do with sharing value propositions, telling people why it's better to do business with you or trying to meet a competitors's price. Those approaches take away from value and make you sound just like everyone else.  Selling value is about being valuable to them!

Dunkin has made it into my Blog a lot, having written about them four previous times:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, sales tips, selling value, dunkin, lowering resistance

The $225,000 Selling Mistake Most Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2020 @ 07:12 AM

big-mistake

I'm going to share the story of a real salesperson and his current, real opportunity, but change the names of everyone involved.  I hear stories like this every day but this particular one happens way too often.

2 months ago, Bob agreed to a $25,000 pilot for an enterprise size company generating billions in revenue.  At the time, he was told a successful pilot would lead to much more business in 2021.  Last week he excitedly shared that the company was very happy with the results of their pilot to date, and they asked Bob to prepare a business case for exponentially increasing the size and scope of their spend.  The future purchase would be north of $250,000.

While colleagues and supervisors shared their enthusiasm for this exciting moment, my first reaction was, "And why do you think this is good news?" 

"Dave, you're so negative."

I was asked to explain why I felt that way because Bob and his team believed that this was clearly a positive development.  I pointed out that the request to prepare a business case was nothing more than a request for (another) proposal and Bob would once again need to prove and convince the company that doing business with them would provide value, create ROI, and justify the tenfold increase in spend.

The response from Bob's team?  "Good point."

This IS the customer moving forward, but only moving forward to resume their discussions as to whether to or not to move forward with an increase in spend.  One more time. The only thing moving forward is a resumption of the discussion about moving forward.  I did not hear anything about decisions, commitments, intent, budgets, terms, agreements, contracts, PO's, timelines, or closing dates.  The only thing certain, is that Bob can open the opportunity in his CRM application and place a checkmark to indicate that the pilot was successfully completed.  Check! The opportunity did not advance in any other measurable or meaningful way because he is right back where he was in October when he proposed the same solution only to settle for 10% of the business in the form of this pilot.  They weren't convinced then, and apparently, still aren't convinced. 

There are a few issues here:

  • The pilot was not sold correctly - When Bob agreed to the mini-pilot, there should have been a very clear understanding of what exactly would constitute success; and if he met the criteria for a successful pilot, what exactly would happen next.  If the "next" step is anything other than easily and automatically transitioning to the larger order, then Bob should not have begun the pilot.
  • The salesperson had happy ears - When the customer asked Bob to prepare another business case for 2021, Bob should not have been so eager to facilitate.  Instead, he should have asked why they were asking for another business case since he did that prior to the pilot.  Bob should have also asked what they were looking for in the business case, who would be reviewing it, and what would happen after it was reviewed.  If Bob hears anything other than "we'll be signing an agreement" it's a no-go on the new business case/proposal.
  • The sales manager did not push back - Given the poorly executed expectations and next steps prior to the pilot, and the new request for a proposal, the sales manager should have pushed back hard and not allowed either the pilot or the business case to move forward without a better understanding of timelines, next steps and commitments.

This story is not unusual in any way.  Scenarios like this occur at an alarming rate throughout each day at companies across the spectrum of more than 200 industries.  Even good salespeople make mistakes like these and ineffective sales managers allow them to happen time and time again.  Great salespeople, who make up the top 5% of the sales population, never allow scenarios like this to take place.  Weak salespeople, who make up the bottom 50%, always allow scenarios like this to occur.

The story I shared here is just one example of the ripple effect from lack of quality sales training and coaching, and lack of effective sales management.  Much of this could be solved with improved sales selection - hiring the right sales managers and salespeople to begin with.  The rest can be solved with a sales force evaluation to identify the core issues and gaps, and then the right training to better prepare the sales team to execute when they find themselves in scenarios like these.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, closing, selling tips, sales managerment, sales milestones, terms, pilot

New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

current

Fish, rafts, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and swimmers all find much more success when they are moving with the wind or the current rather than going against it.

Unfortunately, the same isn't necessarily true in sales.

Most salespeople who are struggling with large companies and all of the meetings, procedures, stakeholders, vendor options and criteria, find it easier to just go with the flow - the current - and wait and see how it all shakes out.  Following the "current" results in a future outcome rather than a "current" outcome.  In other words, current = future.

On the other hand, when salespeople are confident enough to ask questions, challenge their process, and nicely push back, they will not only differentiate themselves from their competition,  they might be able to disrupt the current, move themselves to the top of the list, and get a current outcome instead of a future outcome.  In other words, anti-current=current.

There are three keys to succeed with this approach.

The first key to having success with this approach is whether or not you need to be liked.  This is not about whether you can get people to like you.  This is about whether you NEED people to like you.  They are two completely different things and NEEDING people to like you is a huge barrier to disrupting the flow. 

Consider that 79% of the top 10% of all salespeople DO NOT need to be liked, while only 8% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength.  

The second key to having success with this approach is whether or not you can stay in the moment.  The opposite of being able to stay in the moment is when you talk to yourself, worry, get excited, or strategize on the fly. 

66% of the top 10% of all salespeople are able to stay in the moment while only 10% of the bottom 10% have this as a strength. 

The third key to having success with this approach is whether or not you understand and agree with their buying process.  68% of the top 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process and therefore, don't understand why the prospect needs to comparison shop, look for a better price or think it over.  By contrast, only 2% of the bottom 10% of all salespeople have a supportive buying process as a strength.  

When we take the average of these three elements of Sales DNA, 71% of the top salespeople have these strengths and only 2.5% of the worst salespeople have these strengths. These three are huge differentiators between studs and duds! Top salespeople are twenty-eight times more likely to disrupt the flow and get a current outcome.

Those elements of Sales DNA are just three out of a total of twenty-one Sales Competencies that are measured by Objective Management Group. You can see them graphed here.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, objective management group

Did You Know That The Beatles Taught us About Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 26, 2019 @ 06:08 AM

beatles

While this should be a fun, end of summer article I'm guessing that you don't actually believe that the Beatles taught us about selling.

The Beatles recorded 18 songs where the lyrics talked about selling plus I included two bonus titles by other artists to bring the total to 20!

The Beatles. 

Can you name the song that went on and on about building relationships?  Of course you can.  It was:

I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND 

Can you name the song about prospects who refuse to schedule a first meeting or appointment with a salesperson?

YOU WON'T SEE ME (Time after time you refuse to even listen)

Are you getting the hang of it?  What must salespeople do to accelerate the sales process?  For this the Beatles recorded:

SLOW DOWN

The Beatles wrote a song about price objections too!

IT'S ALL TOO MUCH

They wrote a song describing the alarm that sales managers sound with their salespeople who have stale and/or stuck opportunities in their pipelines:

YOU'RE GONNA LOSE THAT GIRL

And they wrote one for the day after when salespeople learn that their sales managers were right about those opportunities:

YESTERDAY (all my troubles seemed so far away) 

The Beatles recorded a song by the same name as one of their movies about salespeople who, after the previous two days and titles, needed to rebuild their pipeline.  It was called:

HELP (I need somebody, help, not just anybody, h-e-l-p)

Sometimes selling is easy because there is low hanging fruit from renewal business and call-in business.  The song they recorded for that was:

COME AND GET IT

You might remember their legendary song about negotiating called:

WE CAN WORK IT OUT

They even recorded a song for long sales cycles where the decision makers change over time called:

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD (that leads to your door)

Some salespeople make the mistake of calling on prospects repeatedly over a span of years, despite the fact that the prospect has never, ever bought anything and never, ever will.  The Beatles recorded a song about that too, called:

YOU NEVER GIVE ME YOUR MONEY

I asked the salespeople that I coached to  develop wish lists, and then reach out to their network to learn if anyone knows an executive at one of the wish list companies.  The Beatles recorded it first but Earth, Wind and Fire had a bigger hit with this song: 

GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE

Too many salespeople feel like they've won when the only thing that happened was that they were considered for an opportunity, like when they receive an RFP or RFQ.  They actually thank their prospect for the opportunity to be considered!  In honor of that, the Beatles recorded:

I'M HAPPY JUST TO DANCE WITH YOU

Today, salespeople send out a lot of unanswered emails.  The Beatles anticipated this more than 50 years before it happened when they recorded:

NO REPLY

Salespeople are often guilty of developing Happy Ears where they hear what they want to hear, even if it isn't true or factual.  This often gives them a false sense of hope so for this problem, the Beatles recorded:

DON'T LET ME DOWN

One thing that hasn't changed in years of selling is prospects that make a decision to not make a decision, forcing ineffective salespeople into follow up mode.  The Beatles were thinking about that decades ago when they recorded:

I'LL BE BACK

One of the most important skills that salespeople must develop is the ability to listen and ask questions.  Not surprisingly, the Beatles recorded:

TELL ME WHY

Unfortunately, many salespeople don't ask those questions, won't push back, won't challenge a prospect's thinking because they are afraid the prospect won't like them anymore. As a result, they choose to ignore it and move on.  The Beatles covered that with:

LET IT BE

Now for the two bonus songs.  Can you name the song that makes it obvious that if you talk to the wrong person, you won't close the deal?  That song would have been:

SYVIA'S MOTHER by Dr. Hook where he wants to talk to Sylvia but can't get through because her mother is playing gatekeeper.

Can you name the song about salespeople who try over and over to sell something that their prospect has no intention of buying because they don't have the problem that the salesperson's product solves?  That would be:

HONKEY CAT by Elton John where he talks about trying to find gold in a silver mine and like trying to find whiskey in a bottle of wine.

Your turn.  Can you name a song - by any artist - that describes selling?  Leave your comment in the LinkedIn thread.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, sales tips, the beatles

Would You Like to be Selling Guns Right Now?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 @ 21:02 PM

guns.jpg

In the current social and political environment, can you imagine what it must be like to be a salesperson whose job it is to sell memberships for the NRA?  How about selling guns for Smith & Wesson, Glock, Colt, Sturm Ruger, or Beretta?  Many of you have worked for companies that had less than desirable products and/or reputations and you know how difficult that can be.  But how bad might it be for those salespeople when so much of the nation is demonizing their company, organization and/or products?

It was an awful week for stunned people around the USA and an unimaginable tragedy for parents of the 17 students who were killed in the most recent shooting rampage.

Going off my Blog topic for two paragraphs, allow me to warn you that this article will be very controversial and many people will hate it and/or me. I don't like guns, I don't own a gun, I don't want to be in the same room as a gun, but some of my best friends hunt and have collections of hand guns and hunting rifles. I'm OK with people using firearms for hunting, but I'm sure it pisses off members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was under attack in the past week but I don't understand why.  I thought the NRA was a membership organization for people who own guns in much the same way that the American Automobile Association (AAA) is a membership organization for people who own cars.  The AAA doesn't manufacture or sell cars but they do provide benefits to their members.  When drunk drivers take innocent lives because they were driving under the influence, I am not aware of anyone attacking the AAA.  The NRA doesn't manufacture or sell guns but like the AAA, they offer benefits to their members. And while they certainly don't write the laws, they do lobby congress to enact laws favorable to their members.  Monsanto lobbies for legislation that allows farmers to spray cancer-causing Roundup on Roundup resistant crops and then we eat the stuff.  Pharmaceutical companies lobby to fast track drug approvals that allow doctors to prescribe poisonous treatments that we inhale like candy and become even sicker.  Agricultural companies lobby to have their diabetes-causing wheat products included on the government's food pyramid of healthy eating.  These industries and big companies lobby for favors that eventually kill us and we don't attack them.  So why are people blaming the NRA for the recent string of shooting tragedies?  Let's stop kidding ourselves.  If we have to place the blame somewhere, let's blame our dysfunctional, bought and paid for, corrupt government and the media that amplifies the outrage and pushes the divisiveness.

OK. I'm done with my rant and returning to the sales topic that I began with.  What must it be like to sell for one of these companies or organizations when they are under attack from all sides and what should those salespeople do?

I don't think salespeople representing gun companies have anything to worry about as this article in the NY Times shows that MORE people, not fewer, are buying guns!  

But what if you sell for a company whose products are not reliable, lack the latest and greatest features, aren't a good fit, or don't have competitive pricing?  That would suck, wouldn't it?  What if you sell for one of America's 20 Most Hated Companies?  That would suck too.  But those sales organizations are not disintegrating, their salespeople are not heading for the doors and their revenues are not in a nosedive.  Most of the outrage, hate, and reputation-killing is taking place in the media, not with their customers.

Most of the 16 million salespeople in the USA work for an underdog because only one company in each space can be the most well known, the best in quality, or have the lowest prices.  Everyone else is an underdog and underdogs do just fine.  In order to succeed when selling for an underdog you must be better at selling but unfortunately, 43% of all salespeople are crappy.  

In the battle to win business, great salespeople, who follow an effective sales process, take a consultative approach and sell value, will win more often than crappy salespeople whose only attributes may be to make friends and offer the lowest price.  However, when there aren't any great salespeople in the mix, the crappy salespeople with the best prices will beat the crappy salespeople who don't have the best prices, each and every time.

Those of us in the sales profession might not be able to do anything about the tragedies that are taking place, but we can do something about all of the crappy salespeople out there.  If you are responsible for hiring salespeople, don't hire any more crappy ones.  Use an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.  If you manage salespeople, get better at coaching them!  Attend my Sales Leadership Intensive in May.  If you lead a company or a sales organization, determine how your salespeople measure up in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.  And if you are a salesperson, ask for training and coaching to help you become elite and become one of the top 5% of all salespeople in the world.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, selling tips, florida shooting, NRA

Veteran's Great Quote Makes News and Has Terrific Lessons for the Sales Profession

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 @ 14:02 PM

dead-horse.jpg

Disclaimer:  This is not a political post even though I quoted someone with a political opinion.  The entire article is about sales.

On my way to the office, I was listening to FOX News when they cut to a diner in Jacksonville, Florida to interview some of the patrons there.  One of the people interviewed was Stanley, a Veteran who said he had two messages he wanted to share.  He said, "To the media, don't make in-depth assumptions from shallow observations.  And to the obstructionist democrats, we have a saying in the military.  When the horse dies, dismount and quit riding that dead horse."  

I might not have nailed his quote word for word, but I'm sure I captured the gist of it. Just think of the sales lessons that can be taken from this!  The short video below is from the FOX interview and below that I will share some lessons for the sales profession.

Don't Make In-Depth Assumptions of Shallow Observations.  Salespeople make more assumptions of a prospect's buying potential and readiness than you can imagine.  They observe what appears to be interest and then, instead of uncovering their compelling reasons to buy, thoroughly qualifying and building a case, they assume the prospect is "good" and will "probably" do business, hastily create a proposal, forecast the business to close, and then spend most of their time in the act of futile and ineffective follow-up.  Result?  Dead opportunity.

When The Horse Dies, Dismount.  Salespeople with nothing but dead opportunities in their pipeline are pretty much dead themselves.  We are seeing inadequate pipelines in many companies and there are multiples reasons for it.  They include, but aren't limited to: 

  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of clear expectations
  • Confusion over whose job it is to find new opportunities
  • Unwillingness to make cold calls
  • Over-reliance on social selling

Salespeople who include their dead opportunities in the pipeline are reluctant to archive them for several reasons.  They include, but aren't limited to:

  • Fear of letting go
  • Repurcussions of an empty pipeline
  • The reality that without those opportunities they will have to prospect
  • Fear of rejection
  • Alternate facts
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Poor Outlook
  • Ineffective Hunting skills

I believe that Stanley shared two great, shallow quotes that deserve more in-depth analysis!

Speaking of News, here are some other things you should be aware of.

My thoughts and a fantastic Wharton School of Business video on why sales leaders fear predictive assessments appear on LinkedIn Pulse. Read and watch it here.

My Annual Sales Leadership Intensive - the best two days of training on the planet on how to be an elite sales coach - is coming up on May 17-18.  Learn more here. If you would like to attend, use discount code DK-Blog-Subscriber.

Earlier today, I presented a 30-minute session on how OMG's Tailored Fit is not only different from benchmarking, but makes benchmarking silly and unnecessary.  It was very fast-moving, had lots of data, a good story line and a sneak peak at the magic of the OMG sales selection tool.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales pipeline, selling tips, lost sales opportunities, fox news

The Crucial Channel Sales Strategy You Can't Get Wrong

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

Our business is different.
Our salespeople are really good. 
We have a sales process. 
We sell consultatively. 
We don't have a sales force - we sell through a channel.

Those statements represent the 5 most inaccurate things we hear every day from executives before they become clients.  I say they are inaccurate because each statement is invariably proven to be incorrect after we evaluate their sales force.  If we take the 5th statement, break it apart, and make it two statements, then I could make a case for each being a true statement, but not when taken as a single statement of fact.  They "sell through a channel" is very easy to agree with.  They "don't have a sales force" becomes easy to agree with because channel salespeople are quite often among the weakest salespeople we see anywhere!  But there is a larger, more important issue with the channel statement. Whether or not you currently employ channels as part of your goto market strategy, you must understand this one crucial strategy which, if you get it wrong, absolutely sabotages your results with a channel.

Executives tend to believe that there is a major difference between selling directly to their customers versus selling through their channels. In reality, what is it that is so different?  When selling directly to a customer we’re trying to persuade them to buy what we sell.  When selling through the channel we’re trying to persuade the channel reps to sell what we sell.  The commonality though, is that we are trying to persuade them to do something.  Whether it's buy what we sell or sell what we sell, the only real difference is where the money ends up coming from!

The answers to "why you should sell more of what we sell" and "why you should buy what we sell" are similar.  Their respective reasons for taking action may be different, but the overall sales approach is identical!

The problem is that most companies view their channel salespeople as channel managers despite the fact that the channel managers don't actually manage anybody or anything.  The title reinforces inappropriate beliefs, behaviors, activities, messaging, questions and outcomes.  How would things change if their titles changed from channel manager to salesperson in charge of getting reps to sell more of our stuff?

Let's not disguise what we expect our salespeople to accomplish. Providing them with superficial titles that make them feel important, but mask or change expectations, does a huge disservice to all.  Call them what you want them to be! 

I don't write about channel sales nearly as much as I should, especially where so many of our clients sell through channels.  If you want to read more on channel sales, you might enjoy this article about the 10 biggest problems with channel sales.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, sales revenue, channel sales

Great Selling Lessons in The Martian - But Should You See the Movie?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 05, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Most of the great books I read are disappointing, at best, when they become movies.  The Davinci Code, Gone Girl, Absolute Power, Lone Survivor, Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Lincoln Lawyer, 127 Hours, and Heaven is for Real are just some of my recent disappointments.  Unbroken, The Blind Side and Moneyball didn't get botched up too badly.  So it was with great anticipation, but limited expectations, that we went to see The Martian this weekend.  Not only was it the first book that I read where the movie was even better than the book, but there were some great, important lessons on selling to large organizations too!

Two of the great lessons occurred when the director of the Mars program tried to get the Director of NASA (played by Jeff Daniels in a role 180 degrees opposite Dumb and Dumber) to approve what needed to be done.  In the first instance, it was to get some satellite time so they could take a look at Mars where their mission had been aborted.  Later in the movie, after it was determined that Astronaut Watney (Matt Damon) was still alive, he made another attempt to convince the Director to rescue Watney.  In both cases, the Director said "No" because it was the safe decision, wouldn't jeopardize NASA's funding, and wouldn't cause any additional scrutiny of him personally.  Isn't that just like selling to the government?  Oh yeah, NASA is the government!  Isn't that just like selling to a major public corporation?  

So how did they eventually get the idea sold?  In the most unconventional of ways - but not inconsistent with what salespeople must do when they need to differentiate themselves in a large organization, with lots of options, limited budget and executives that are predisposed to maintaining the status quo.

:In this case, Vincent, the young scientist, made his case to the Director of NASA by walking into the conference room, and saying something along the lines of:

"You, stand right there.  And you, move over here."  Then he asked the Director, "Who are you?"  

The Director said, "I'm Teddy - I'm the Director of NASA."  

The kid said, "Cool."  

Then, getting both executives to pretend to be planets, he used a stapler and sound effects to mimic a spaceship and demonstrated the ship accelerating toward Earth, looping around Earth instead of landing, returning to Mars, intercepting and rescuing Watney, looping around Mars and returning back to Earth. 

Most differentiation takes place in the field, not on websites!  Some of the things that are important when it comes to differentiating in the field are whether or not the salesperson:

  • Was Memorable
  • Taught Them Something They Didn't Know
  • Got the Prospects Engaged
  • Got them to Share Information Freely
  • Cared
  • Listened
  • Had the Conversation Nobody Else Would Have
  • Developed a Relationship
  • Pushed Back or Challenged

In addition to Vincent, who convinced them that this approach would work, it would take the work of another NASA executive.  After the convincing demonstration, when the Director still said "No" to a rescue mission, Mitch (Sean Bean), covertly sends the Mars crew a maneuver that convinces them to commit mutiny and begin the rescue mission against the Director's orders.  

When selling to large organizations, you need more than a champion.  You need a chauffeur like Mitch, who forced the Director's hands.

So there you have it.  Good movie, great selling lessons, and since it's a new movie and there aren't any online scenes available that I can link to, you'll have to go see it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, selling to big companies, matt damon, the martian

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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