How to Get Your Sales Message to Resonate Every Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 @ 07:11 AM


This is an article about getting your sales message to resonate - every time.  However, before we can discuss that, I need to share a current, real world example.  So bear with me.

Just like the news programs which, before the Paris attack, had been talking mostly about political debates and candidates, I have been discussing various aspects of the science behind sales selection.

Last week, an article I wrote for LinkedIn went viral and included a large number of very good, very insightful comments that took the conversation deeper and wider.  The article makes for an interesting study because the writing followed the same path I took on an article back in March that had completely different results.  Let's compare the two articles, examine what caused the comments to be so dramatically different, and use that to understand getting your sales message to resonate.

In a typical year, there are usually several articles written by people who aren't experts on sales selection, introducing a certain set of criteria that differentiates top from bottom salespeople.  Sometimes they take the same approach and identify several criteria that should be used in sales selection.  When I read these articles and it is clear that they are as wrong as the government is when they try to run health insurance and over-regulate businesses, I usually write a rebuttal article of some kind.

I wrote the first rebuttal article back in March and it caused a literal firestorm of emotionally charged comments, attacks, support and testimonials.  In some ways, it was awesome and in other ways, it was sad.

I wrote another rebuttal article last week and it caused a tremendous number of good, positive, insightful comments.

Both of my articles were similar in that each exposed the gaps and errors in the original articles and I backed it up with science.  But they were received in completely different ways.  What happened?

In March, The Sales & Marketing Analytics Blog ran an article titled "The 8 Things the Top 1% of Reps Do Differently".  It was lame, and the author didn't really know what she was talking about.  My rebuttal article appeared one day later, on my blog, and had typical readership and comments. Then, CustomerThink ran with the article and that's when the firestorm hit.  CustomerThink's Blog is not my audience, and doesn't have the same demographics as my audience.  The first responders were negatively charged, and the second wave of responders were positively charged.  It was an epic online battle!

This is the link to the articles and all of the comments.  It's an awesome read, but the comments make it extremely long!

On November 2, the Harvard Business Review ran an article on the "Best Ways to Hire Salespeople".  This article was as wrong as snow in July and last week I posted my rebuttal article on LinkedIn Pulse.  It's not my personal blog, but similar readers tend to find it - readers who are looking for information like this.  All of the responders were kind and many added to the conversation.  No trolls.  No emotions.  No firestorm.

This is the link to the articles and all of the comments.  It too is awesome, but not nearly as long.

I believe that the difference between the two articles has little to do with the articles themselves, but more to do about audiences.  Deliver the right message to the wrong audience and you'll get killed.  Deliver the right message to the right audience and it will resonate.

The same thing happens every single day in sales.  When salespeople get to people who really care, who have a problem, who will be impacted, who have a financial stake, their message will resonate and they can do business together.  When salespeople get to people who don't care, who have no stake, who won't be impacted, their message will fall on deaf ears and the wrong conversation will ensue.  You know who I'm talking about - Purchasing!  They don't care about anything other than price yet salespeople continue to call on them, trying to deliver messages centered around quality, value and service.  The folks in purchasing, like teenagers, don't care!  Stop calling on them.  You may end up there to get your purchase order, but please don't start there!!!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling to purchasing, sales operations, linkedin, sales selection

View From the Top - When Salespeople Call on Purchasing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 @ 15:02 PM

TaxisThe single question that salespeople ask more than any other is, "When I'm with Purchasing, they don't seem to have a compelling reason to buy and don't care about our value-add.  What can I do?"  I'll answer that question shortly.  First, I have an analogy to help you see it from my perspective.

Take an elevator up at least 20 floors in Manhattan and immediately you'll notice that the view from the top is mostly yellow - a sea of taxis mixed in with some limos and buses.  From high above Manhattan, I saw these comparisons:

Great salespeople - The elite 6% are in the limos.  They get the red carpet treatment as a result of some very professional, smooth, comfortable door-to-door service from a chauffeur.  That's right.  Great salespeople find a chauffeur - someone with the right connections to drive you directly to a decision-maker who cares enough to make decisions.  On the strength of the introduction, you are seen differently, not as a commodity, but as a partner, advisor or expert.

Decent salespeople - The next 20% are in the taxis.  They're trying to go where the limos go, but it's not as smooth, easy, or comfortable, and when they drop you off, you must fend for yourself.  Without doors being opened and introductions being made on your behalf, you'll have to fight your way to the top and probably won't get there.  You don't have the VIP pass.  So you may reach middle management - people who need to schedule meetings, can't say "yes", won't say "no" and string you along.

Everyone else - The bottom 74% are on the buses.  The buses will get you there too, but they'll bring you to the transportation hub where all salespeople disembark - Purchasing or Procurement.  You're "there", but with little hope of accomplishing anything except talking about price, delivery dates and compliance, while being viewed as a commodity. Your only hope is to win  the price war which is not really a victory, as much as it is a contest to see how low you can go.  It's not a sustainable way to grow profits.  And once you have begun with Purchasing and been frustrated there, you can't go over their heads.

Before I answer the question about what you can do, let me ask a few questions:

  • Why are salespeople content to ride the bus to nowhere?
  • Why are their sales managers, VP's, Presidents and CEO's content to allow the bus rides to continue?
  • You would think that as soon as salespeople are shown best practices relative to what to do and how to do it, selling would immediately become much easier, but many of the 74% are like rubber bands and snap back to their comfortable behaviors.  Why is it so difficult for them to change?

This particular problem is due to what I call a Non-Supportive Buy Cycle when the way in which a salesperson buys does not support the ideal outcome of a sales process.  When we attempt to create change, the contradiction between how some salespeople buy and how we want them to sell is enormous.  Selling the way in which Purchasing wants to buy (lowest price) resonates and it costs companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.  It's one of the hidden weaknesses that make salespeople completely ineffective and even new skills don't fix the problem.  The only cure for this is surgery - your salespeople must change the way they buy things.

There are five hidden elements to the Non-Supportive Buy Cycle and you can learn which salespeople have them, which ones they have and what kind of impact they're having on your revenue and profit by evaluating your sales force.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, omg, selling to procurement, selling to purchasing, losing business because of price, sales assessments

Why Most Companies are Struggling to Grow Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 @ 09:04 AM

sales training dave kurlan picChris Scirpoli, of Invoke Selling, managed to engage me for nearly 15 minutes in a power-packed, fast-paced, video interview that covered a tremendous amount of ground in a very short period of time.  He did the mandatory, "Tell me about your background.", but he left nearly 13 minutes for me to elaborate on the greatest challenges to sales managers and salespeople, and the various approaches that can be implemented to solve these challenges.  Because of the questions which he asked, it was one of the better interviews with regard to content.  You can watch the interview here.  If you liked that, you'll really like the Sales Leadership Symposium in Boston next month.  

Dan Perry, writing at Sales Benchmark Index's Sales Force Effectiveness Blog, wrote that "The single biggest problem with sales today is sales reps are mismatched to the buyer.  They think like a sales rep and not like a buyer."  

Well, Dan, I don't agree and I have the statistics to back me up.  If you were to interview buyers (we don't call them that in 2012, we call them procurement specialists today), I'm sure they would agree with me because they don't want to be sold anything by anybody!  They want total control, want to squeeze every last dime from you, and don't want to share any information that might help a salesperson gain an edge.  

The biggest problem with salespeople today (I can back it up with the data from Objective Management Group, which has assessed more than 550,000 salespeople) is that 63% are not reaching decision-makers and 58% begin the sales process with procurement.  In general, the sales population doesn't possess the skills to sell consultatively (on average, salespeople have only 21% of the attributes of the consultative skill set), to uncover compelling reasons to buy and to use those compelling reasons as leverage, and to differentiate themselves. That leverage causes decision-makers to tell their procurement people to do business with your company (the company that stood out).  If your salespeople can differentiate themselves to such a degree that a decision-maker wants to buy from you, it's the internal decision-makers that must sell the procurement folks, not your salespeople!  When the opportunity finally arrives at procurement, only the terms need to be negotiated.

Don't believe everything you read.  Just because it's printed, doesn't mean it's good.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management training, sales leadership training, selling to procurement, selling to purchasing, selling to buyers, sales benchmark index, sales assessments

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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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