You Can't Lose Customers or Salespeople - 2 Secrets to Their Retention

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 06, 2022 @ 11:07 AM

wading

As we wade deeper into recession, you will certainly agree that there are two things you must not lose:

  • Customers/Clients
  • Good/Great Salespeople

I conducted a Google search for "why salespeople quit their jobs" and was surprised to find more than 6 million results for that query!  The first page of results was filled with self-serving articles from companies like Gong (artificial intelligence for digital prospecting), Hubspot (marketing platform) and more urging you to leverage their platforms so that you don't have to rely on salespeople.

I also found a pattern that was similar to last month's search for "top sales blogs" as part of my research for the article, The Top 12 Sales Blogs of 2022 That Make You Think and Sell More.  There were lots of articles that had the top 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 reasons why salespeople leave or quit their jobs.  Most of those lists were simply subsets of other lists and the reasons included things like compensation, morale, workload, changing quotas, culture, toxic management, the job was misrepresented, too much pressure and lack of growth opportunity. While there were no surprises to these lists of reasons, I think there is a more pervasive reason that is not represented on the lists created by marketers and recruiters:

Sales Selection. 

Companies are still routinely selecting the wrong salespeople and the wrong salespeople are the ones that often leave.  Period.  Sales and HR leaders still make hiring decisions by relying on resumes, how someone interviews and gut feel, and while all three of those criteria have their place, a customizable, sales-specific, accurate and predictive assessment that measures capabilities in all 21 Sales Core Competencies is the difference maker.  The right sales-specific assessment will weed out sales candidates who lack the required skill set for the role, and identify the best candidates to consider for the role.  When you hire salespeople that meet and exceed expectations and quotas, the previously mentioned factors generally cease to exist.  Hire salespeople and focus on fit for the role.

A recession makes it more difficult to sell new customers, new projects and new products and services so you can not lose customers right now.  Period.  Most people believe that salespeople are the differentiators that assure customer retention but the reality is that it's customer service that plays the biggest role.  Just think about the customer service you have personally received over the past 2-3 years and how horrible and unacceptable most of it has been.  When you have the rare good experience you not only don't want to leave that company, it has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with how the company and their CSRs treat you and solve your problem.

Finally, some advice in advance of unfavorable selling conditions.  I've sold and/or consulted through recessions dating back to the 80's!  Most, especially the economic crisis of 2008/9, caught companies by surprise and nobody saw a pandemic coming.  Most companies did not fare very well during the various economic crises because they hunkered down and tried to wait it out.  That wasn't a very good strategy.  Some companies actually grew during the down-time!  They sought out help at the first sign, right-sized their sales teams, invested in sales process, training and coaching and were clearly the exceptions to the rule.  They thrived while most companies lost ground.

Hire salespeople when your instinct is to let people go.  Invest in CSRs and make sure they will go out of their way to make customers happy.  Be proactive and aggressive in getting your sales team the help they need to sell when prospects don't want to meet or spend money, yet have more choices from increased competition with most focusing on lowering prices to win the business.  If your sales team is well trained, none of that will matter and they will continue to sell at your desired margins.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, assessments, selling in the recession, selling value

Selling and the Need for Speed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 08, 2022 @ 08:06 AM

speed-limit

We had Chinese for dinner and my fortune said, "Speed is not as important as accuracy."

When you think of speed what are the first things that come to mind?

Fighter Jets? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to Mach 6.70 (5,140 MPH)

Racing Cars? The 6 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 304 MPH.

Motorcycles? The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 273 MPH.

Power Boats?  The 10 fastest in the world reach speeds of up to 317 MPH.

Light travels at 186,270 miles per second!

And salespeople.  What?  That's right, salespeople speed.  Let me explain.

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to close - before an opportunity is even closable.  

Salespeople tend to be in a rush to present - before an opportunity is even qualified.  Most salespeople are in such a hurry that they completely skip things like qualifying and discovery.  And when salespeople do perform discovery they accept the very first indicator they hear and rush to explain how their product or service addresses that indicator,

Example. You tell the doctor about a stomach ache and the doc says, "No problem - I can help" and calls in a prescription for an antacid.  And while that example actually happens, a good, thorough doctor would ask questions like, "Where does it hurt?"  "Does it hurt to the touch?"  "Is it always sore or does it come and go?"  "Is it more frequent after a meal or when you're moving around?" "How long have you been experiencing this discomfort?"  "Can you show me the exact area of the pain?" "Have you been overly stressed or anxious?"  "Have you made any changes to your diet?" 

[I'd make a good doctor!] 

Then the doctor would say, "I want to make sure we aren't missing anything.  I would like to get you scheduled for X-Rays, and an MRI so that we can rule out a few things."

He's still in discovery.  A good doctor has no need for speed.

Back to salespeople who do have a need for speed.  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and how a company, team or individual salesperson scores on those competencies tells a story about how they sell, what they encounter, and how effectively they can turn those encounters into business.  Several competencies overlap with Discovery, the two most obvious being Consultative Seller and Value Seller.  However, those two competencies are much easier to complete when we include the competencies Reaches Decision Makers and Relationship Builder.  The numbers in the 3 images below show the percentage of 2.2 million salespeople who are strong in these four competencies.  All salespeople are on the left, the top 10% are in the middle and the bottom 50% are on the right.

Do you see the problem?  Even some of the top 10% struggle with the Consultative approach but they excel at Reaching Decision Makers and Selling Value.  Why do even the best salespeople struggle?  Because among the 10 or so attributes found in the Consultative Seller competency, the 2 most crucial are listens and asks great questions.  Most salespeople struggle mightily with listening and when one doesn't listen effectively, the next question isn't that obvious.

To execute the 4 competencies above, a certain amount of Sales DNA is required.  When strong, Sales DNA supports the execution of sales process and methodology.  When weak, Sales DNA sabotages those efforts.

Only 22% of all salespeople have strong Sales DNA.  Here are the average Sales DNA Scores for salespeople.

  • All salespeople have an average score of 65.
  • The top 10% have an average score of 81. 
  • The bottom 50% have an average score of 56.

More challenging selling roles require higher Sales DNA scores while less challenging selling roles require lower Sales DNA scores.  Here are three examples:

  • A salesperson who sells industrial batteries (for golf carts, truck fleets, wheelchairs) in a territory can get by with Sales DNA of 64.
  • A salesperson who sells payroll software to HR departments in a territory can succeed with Sales DNA of 72.
  • A salesperson who sells 7 to 8 figure capital equipment to the C Suite of the Fortune 500 against formidable competition in an 18 month sales cycle requires Sales DNA of over 82.

The salesperson the first example and those in similar roles to that salesperson have a need for speed.  It's a transactional sale.  They can move the sale and the relationship from transactional to consultative by S-L-O-W-I-N-G down.

The salesperson who is successful in the second example has slowed down.  Their biggest challenge is competition.  It's not a question of if the company will buy and use payroll software, the only question is whose software they will use and who they will purchase it from.  Slowing down even more will help to differentiate.

The salespeople in the third example have learned that if they are to have any success in this role, they must crawl through their sales process.  Slow is the name of the game.  I don't mean slow as in extend the sales cycle. I mean slow as in thorough.

[Update: One reader suggested that the crucial piece is having a variable speed where you move as fast or as slow as your customer.  I agree that you need variable speeds but many times the client wants to move fast and you need the ability to slow down the client or it will become a transactional sale.  So variable is OK but only when it provides an advantage to you.

They say speed kills and other than driving, nowhere is this more true than in sales.

Evaluate your Sales Team.

See scores for your industry in all 21 Sales Core Competencies.

Talk with an expert.

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales training, Sales Coaching, selling value

The Recession is Here - How to Take Advantage and Prepare Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 31, 2022 @ 07:05 AM

crash-landing

You boarded your plane, got seated, the plane pulled away from the gate and you fell asleep.  Later, a hard landing woke you and you wondered, "Are we already there?"  Yes you are and you slept through the entire flight.

The same thing is happening with the economy.  While you were sleeping, distracted by Russia invading Ukraine, baby formula shortages, off-the-chart gas prices, a migrant surge across the southern border, mass shootings, supply-chain shortages, and runaway inflation, the recession crash-landed and it's here.   

The two biggest tell-tale signs are new home sales were 100,000 or so units below expectations for April, and the first of many interest rate hikes have been enacted. And the biggest sign is that government officials continue to tell us that there is nothing to see here, the economy is booming and there will be a soft landing from inflation.  Sure.

While I'm citing events in the United States, there is no doubt that this will be a global recession.

So what must you do to prepare your sales team and how can you leverage the effects of a recession?

You'll know the recession is real when in the next 90 days, sometime between now and the end of August 2022, the first domino falls and a major corporation announces they will layoff thousands of workers.  Others are sure to follow.  Then come the spending freezes.  This trickles down to mid-size and small businesses and while this is taking place, consumer confidence plunges, people stop buying things, which reinforces the decision to stop corporate spending and vindicates them for the layoffs.  We're gonna get clobbered!

You can leverage all of this by hiring salespeople.  That's right.  Resist the urge to layoff salespeople and instead, take advantage of what will finally be a surplus of good to great salespeople.  They have been in very short supply for several years and this will be one positive consequence of a recession.  Gobble them up, upgrade and smart-size your team and use OMG's Smart-Sizing tool as part of a sales team evaluation. Use OMG's sales candidate assessments to distinguish the sales winners from the imposters because past success is NOT a good predictor of future success in sales. You should already know that from experience otherwise your track record would be better and all of your salespeople would be meeting or exceeding quotas.

You must prepare your salespeople so they can convince people who are on a spending freeze to spend money despite the freeze.  This REQUIRES that they be effective at calling on, reaching and engaging actual decision makers as they are the only people who can override the spending freeze.  In addition to developing their skills at engaging decision makers, they must be equally effective at using a consultative approach, selling value and using a sales process optimized for a value-based, consultative approach.  Why consultative?  Selling value doesn't work well outside of a consultative approach.  Not only that, but salespeople struggle to achieve differentiation outside of a consultative approach.

What could go wrong?

OMG has evaluated and assessed more than 2.2 million salespeople and the data shows that taking a consultative approach is where salespeople are LEAST effective.

As you can see, only 11% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 28% have reaching decision makers as a strength and only 31% have selling value as a strength.  But it's worse than that.  Weak salespeople make up 50% of the sales population.  Weak salespeople don't sell this way!  The next graphic isolates weak salespeople - the bottom 50% - only.

Only 1% of weak salespeople (half of your sales team!) have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 10% have reaching decision makers as a strength, and only 4% have selling value as a strength.

This is why half of your salespeople don't hit quota!  But over the past several years they have gotten by because they have been in order-taking mode.  With demand dropping like a rock and order-taking going away what will you do?  These are the five steps you should take.

1) Evaluate Your Sales Team  to determine who will be part of your future and who was part of your past.  Determine the exact competencies in which they will require training and coaching.  Better understand where the bottlenecks are and what it will take to increase your win rate. 

2) Assess Sales Candidates as you hire better salespeople.

or Request Information

3) Customize and Optimize your Sales Process for a Consultative Approach

4) Get your sales managers trained and coached to be effective and consistent at coaching up their salespeople

5) Get your sales team trained to hunt decision makers, take a consultative approach, and sell value.

The economy might make a crash landing but there is no reason you or your sales team need to do the same.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling in the recession, sales candidate assessment, selling value, sales team evaluation

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

Senate Confirmation Hearings Shows Us What Salespeople Do Wrong Every Day

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 @ 18:10 PM

Day 1 on Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearing begin in  Senate

Oh no, another post on the political climate.  Don't worry, I'm not taking sides, I'll be right down the middle, and very critical of both sides.  And stay with me for the pivot to the good stuff - my sales analysis.  Here goes!

It was Columbus Day in the US so I had a chance to catch the first day of the Judiciary Committee's Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  It featured 10-minute opening statements by both Republican and Democrat Senators and finally, by Judge Barrett herself.

In my opinion, there weren't any winners today.  In 10-minute increments, both sides demonstrated everything that goes wrong when salespeople make presentations. Make no mistake, politicians are very much always selling and their performances usually give salespeople a bad name.

The Democrat messaging, although consistent, was extremely negative, with all of the senators regurgitating the same talking points: Covid-19 safety concerns, the process being a sham, and threatening that Americans will lose their health insurance if Judge Barrett is confirmed.  Although we want salespeople to articulate consistent messaging, especially with their value propositions, negative messaging turns people off, and if these presentations had been delivered by salespeople, most prospects would have responded with, "You guys are all the same!"  You don't want to be in a selling situation facing prospects who share that perception!

The Republican messaging was as inconsistent as the Democrats were consistent. Most addressed different topics from each other, but the real issue was that they were on the defensive the entire time as if they were handling objections.  When salespeople are in objection handling mode their prospects' resistance goes up making it very difficult to sell anything.

I understand why both groups chose the strategies they used. 

The Democrats could not risk leveling personal attacks on Judge Barrett the way they did on Justice Kavanagh so they attacked the process, the President, the Republicans, the timing, the rules, and claimed that the impact of having this judge on the supreme court would be catastrophic.

The Republicans were already under fire by Democrats and the media for moving forward to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg prior to the election so they defended themselves by citing precedent, constitutionality, qualifications, religious freedom, history, and unfair attacks.

Both sides were right to have strategies but the strategies were poorly executed. Strategies of attacking and playing defense are both losing strategies.

Salespeople must never go on the attack and must never go on the defensive.  

Instead of attacking the competition, salespeople can ask questions about their prospects' personal experiences, what they want and need, why it's important, how they feel about it, and what would make things better.  You can accomplish the very same things, only better, without ever mentioning the competition or saying anything bad about them.

Instead of getting defensive in response to objections, whether real or perceived, salespeople can - you guessed it - ask questions using the very same approach described above.

Elected officials suck as role models, especially when making self-serving politicized partisan presentations.

Learn from this debacle!  The key to sales success lies in listening and asking questions, not delivering cleverly worded presentations.  It's important to note that listening and asking questions are consultative selling skills and are attributes of both the Consultative Selling Competency and the Value Selling Competency.  Check out the 10 selling competencies in the screen shot below which shows the percentage of all salespeople who have that competency as a strength.  

You've probably heard that 80% of all revenue comes from 20% of all salespeople.  Here is how the top 10% of all salespeople fare in the same ten competencies:

Except for Hunting and Relationship building, the top salespeople are two to three times more likely to have these competencies as strengths.

I'll show you the same ten competencies, but this time for the bottom 50% of all salespeople:

You are reading this correctly.  Only 1% of the bottom half of all salespeople have Consultative Selling and Qualifying as strengths and none having Closing! So that's why more than 50% of all salespeople don't hit their quota each year!  Most salespeople suck at most selling competencies so perhaps they should all become politicians.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales presentation, selling value, sales and politics, amy coney barret

New: The 21 Sales Core Competencies for 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 27, 2020 @ 16:09 PM

Had an update lately?

I get an Office 365 update on Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote at least every week.  Yawn.  It seems half of them are to fix something that broke in the previous release.

Apple updates the operating systems of their various devices on a fairly regular basis.  The software for my Apple watch was updated twice in the past month.  IOS, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad was just updated as was the software for AppleTV.  OS x, the operating system for the Mac, was recently updated.  Most of these updates occur automatically and without fanfare but when an update advances to the next number - from 13.62 to 14.0 - it's a big deal and means significant updates to features, stability, security and usability are included.

Such is the case with Objective Management Group.  Like Apple, OMG updates its assessments on a non-stop basis but rolls out significant updates a couple of times per year.  Last week OMG introduced the latest revision to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There are thirty competencies in all, each with between six and twelve attributes but some are more important than others and OMG measures twenty-one of them in the following three categories:

  1. Will to Sell includes 5 sales competencies that differentiate between whether a salesperson CAN sell, versus whether they WILL sell. 
  2. Sales DNA includes 6 competencies which, when appearing as strengths, support a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.  However, when these competencies appear as weakness, they sabotage a salesperson's ability to execute sales process, sales methodology, sales strategy and sales tactics.
  3. Tactical Selling has 10 sales competencies that show the degree to which a salesperson has developed the required skills to effectively sell in today's ever-changing world of selling.

OMG's latest release includes several changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies.

There is a new competency called Sales Technology which wraps three sales competencies into one:

  1. Video Proficient is a brand new competency that looks at a salesperson's use of video platforms, how well they have learned those platforms, and to what degree they have embraced video for virtual selling.
  2. CRM Savvy was previously included in the 21 sales competencies before being rolled into Sales Technology.
  3. Mastery of Social Selling was also included in the 21 sales competencies prior to being rolled into Sales Technology.

Sales Technology is a great example of how quickly OMG moves to not only remain current as selling evolves, but to lead the way and standardize the competencies which experts in the sales development space view as core to success.

OMG has had a finding called Reaches Decision Makers since 1990 and in recent years it became a full-blown competency that included eight attributes.  In the latest update, OMG moves Reaches Decision Makers into the primary group of 21 because our research shows that salespeople are 900% less likely to move the opportunity to closable if they are not talking directly with the actual decision maker. 

There is a very good reason that OMG has been named the Top Sales Assessment Tool in the World for nine consecutive years.  It is not only extremely accurate, it is also incredibly predictive and insightful. In the screen shot below, you can see all 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as some of the other competencies OMG measures and reports on, as shown on the coaching dashboard of a sales evaluation.

Personality assessments (like Caliper) and behavioral styles assessments (like DiSC) ask their questions in a social context, measure personality traits and behavioral styles and then ADAPT (GUESS) those findings for sales.  This is crucial for understanding the differences!  OMG asks all of its questions in the context of sales, measures actual sales knowledge and capabilities in the context of the sales competencies above, and ACCURATELY REPORTS on those sales competency scores.

You can view and filter by industry some of OMG's data in 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your salespeople compare by clicking here.  You can check out OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Personality Tests, caliper, sales test, selling value, DISC

Most Companies Can Boost Sales From 30-100% in Just One to Two Years

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 10, 2020 @ 18:09 PM

maserati

Your teenage daughter, growing 4-6 inches per year, asks for two new pairs of sneakers.  She's already outgrowing 3 pairs each year and these two, which are completely unnecessary, would keep her in fashionable footwear for only a few months.  It would make total sense for you to say, "Let's wait a few months until you've stopped growing so fast."

An employee asks for a new car, believing that an SUV crossover (not the Maserati in the picture!) would be more practical than a mid-size sedan.  There are 8 months left on the lease so it would be completely reasonable for you to say, "Sounds good.  Let's make that change when the lease comes to an end in 8 months."

In both 2012 and 2016, companies everywhere were telling salespeople, "We're going to wait until after the election."  There was tremendous uncertainty surrounding those two elections and companies didn't want to commit to anything until they were sure who the next President of the USA would be.

Surprisingly, in the year of the pandemic, salespeople are not hearing the dreaded, "We're going to wait until after the election."   Despite the polling, pandemic, and incredible divisiveness, companies are not pushing the pause button.  But why?

It's not because salespeople have become so strong that they have obliterated that put-off!  89% of all salespeople accept stalls and put-offs and that's changed by only a quarter of a percent since before the start of the pandemic.  That's right.  There has barely been a change in salespeople's ability to overcome stalls and put-offs since before the pandemic.  Ugh.

Biden has promised to raise both the corporate income tax and the capital gains tax if he gets elected so it can't be fear of that.  

It's not because there's a vaccine on the way which will help stop the spread of the virus because when it comes to Covid-19, nothing is certain.

So what is it?

Many companies already experienced at least 3 to 6 months of uncertainty and they can not withstand even 2 more months of that.   As a result, companies are investing, streamlining, expanding, hiring and going all in to save their 2020s, and position their companies for historical growth in 2021.

As I review what our clients are hearing, what OMG's partners are sharing, and adding my own anecdotal experience, there has never been a better time to sell!

But seller beware. Favorable conditions do not equate to easy selling.  There is tremendous pressure on margins, competition is fierce, and the selling challenges are more difficult than ever before.

Current conditions require resistance proof sellers however only 54% of all salespeople fit that description and that's improved by only 1% since the start of the Pandemic.  Current conditions require salespeople to take a much more consultative approach and sell value.  Unfortunately, only 12% of all salespeople have the Consultative Seller competency as a strength and only 30% have the Value Seller competency as a strength.  Among the weakest of all salespeople - that's half the sales population - the percentages drop to 2% and 7% respectively.  As we begin to purge the virus, how can companies surge when half of their salespeople suck at selling?

Companies don't really look as I just described them.  We don't see many companies where half the people in the sales organization suck.  In many of the companies whose sales organizations we evaluate, most of the salespeople suck!

You don't think that applies to your company but you aren't really sure whether a quarter, a third, half, or all of your sales force sucks because some of your people sell more than others.  Don't be misled by distribution of revenue.  Keep in mind that distribution of revenue usually has more to do with quality of the territory, number of established accounts, size of the established accounts, length of time in the industry, repeat business and call-in business than sales capabilities.  There are only two ways to compare the relative sales capabilities of your salespeople:

  1. Have every salesperson look for new customers under the exact same conditions (calling on the same size accounts in the same vertical against the same competition in the same territory)
  2. Have us evaluate your sales force and from the more than 180 findings and 21 Sales Core Competencies, compare Sales Percentile scores.

The ability to compare the sales percentile scores of your salespeople is not the ideal reason to evaluate your sales force.  But identifying where your challenges lie and learning what it will take to significantly increase sales is. Large and small companies alike that evaluate their sales teams learn that with targeted training and coaching in the areas identified, sales increases of between 30-50% within one to two years are very achievable. Some companies are able to double sales in the same period of time.

This is not the time to purposefully do nothing, wait and see, or worse, hope for the best.  Improving sales effectiveness has a greater impact on your top and bottom lines than any other thing you can do, including cost-cutting, operational efficiencies and lay-offs.

When it comes to sales transformation, you don't say, "let's wait until things get better" because sales transformation is the very thing that makes things better.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, objections, sales statistics, election, selling value

15 Things Salespeople Must Do to Make up for a Lackluster 2nd Quarter

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

risk

Last week we moved our son into his dorm to begin his freshman year of college. The college President's opening remarks were virtual, so we joined the Zoom stream from our hotel room and listened in.  He had some really useful things to share with the new freshmen and while his thoughts were targeted to the students, they apply quite equally to salespeople.

Among the points he made, these seemed to be just as applicable to salespeople:

  • Show up
  • Do the Work
  • Try approaches that you haven't previously attempted
  • You will be uncomfortable but do it anyway
  • Ask for help
  • Ask lots of questions
  • The effort is even more important than the results
  • You will be pushed
  • Push yourself
  • Take responsibility
  • Show tolerance of people whose beliefs and opinions are different than yours
  • Wear your mask and socially distance

Translating his hopes and expectations to sales, here are 15 things salespeople could do that they may not have been doing, comfortable with or effective:

  • Proactively prospect - push yourself - 34% of salespeople do not prospect consistently
  • Live in CRM - be considerate of those in management who need to see what's in there in real time - 90% of salespeople do not live in their CRM applications
  • Fill the pipeline - the more that's in there the more will close - only 35% of salespeople maintain a full pipeline
  • Follow the sales process - it's there for a reason - only 30% of salespeople have and follow a sales process
  • Be more consultative, listen more and ask more good, tough, timely, effective questions - this is how you differentiate - - only 27% of salespeople listen and only 25% ask enough questions
  • Thoroughly qualify - stop wasting your time - only 30% of all salespeople do this
  • Work harder to build solid relationships - get past rapport and be authentic - Only 52% of salespeople succeed at this
  • Learn your video platform inside and out - stop being so ignorant - only 30% have done this
  • Attempt to schedule all of your sales calls virtually over video - what are you waiting for?  Only 49% prefer video to phones
  • Have a more tidy and professional background or use a non-distracting virtual background for virtual selling - get with the program - 40% are using virtual backgrounds
  • Take an interest and show that you care - don't be so transactional 
  • Be a problem solver - not a presenter
  • Stop focusing on price and sell value - it's time - Only 40% are strong at selling value
  • Stop giving yourself a pass because you aren't comfortable - suck it up.

Baseball, basketball and hockey recently restarted  - with changes.  The changes affect the players, coaches and fans but that's the way it is right now.

We must adapt! 

You might feel that there is risk associated with doing something you haven't done before.  None of these things will get you killed or even hurt, so unless you believe there is risk in having better quality sales conversations with your prospects, there isn't any risk.

There should be a greater urgency to get our products and services sold to make up for the lackluster second quarter that many companies experienced.  There should be even more urgency to make up for the personal dip in commissions from the same time period.  And if you took your foot off the gas during March through May because you were uncomfortable asking people to buy and pay then you have only 4 months to make up for your self-inflicted second quarter disaster.

Take responsibility.  

Show the world what you are capable of, stretch, do the one thing you've never done before in sales, and start right now!

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales pipeline, Relationship Selling, selling value

The Most Successful Negotiation is The Negotiation That Isn't Needed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 09, 2019 @ 05:12 AM

driving-in-the-snow

The last few years it seems that each time it snows, even a little, they cancel school.  Are school officials convinced that parents and bus drivers will put kids' safety in jeopardy because snow is falling?  They weren't worried about such things when I was growing up  and back then, we didn't have cell-phones, all-wheel drive, anti-lock breaks, traction control, all-weather radials, blind spot warning, collision warning or lane assist!  Winter drivers are better equipped to deal with snow than at any time in history so cancelling school every time it snows doesn't make any sense.

Another thing that doesn't make any sense is the "Negotiate" step I see in the sales processes of most companies.  Why is it there?  Why are we negotiating?  What are we negotiating? How are we negotiating?  The only thing that's clear is when we are negotiating and apparently, it occurs just prior to closing.  Like cancelling school when it snows, it doesn't make any sense.

If we begin with the concept of why we are negotiating, it might answer the what and how questions too. If our salespeople are thoroughly qualifying, and they get their prospects to agree to share their budget, agree to a dollar amount or range, or better yet, that they'll spend more to do business with us, we should never have to negotiate prices, fees or cost.  Is that step in most sales processes?  It sure as sh*t should be!

So if we shouldn't be negotiating the price, are we negotiating terms?  In my experience, when salespeople are qualifying properly, only terms need to sometimes be negotiated.  In the normal world, sellers set their terms; not buyers.  But in Bizarro sales world buyers (at most big companies) try to bully sellers into agreeing to their ridiculous terms. 

This week, one company said that their terms are Net 75.  I said, "I'm sorry, but we can't solve your problem and be your bank.  Our terms are due on receipt of invoice and it's non-negotiable." 

They said, "Oh, OK."

I could have said, "If you can get us 50% on receipt of invoice, we'll let you pay the balance net 30.  Would that have been a negotiation?  Of course it would.  But it would be the exception, not the rule, and it wouldn't require a negotiation step in the sales process!

The existence of a step in the sales process requires that we must always execute this step.  The belief that we must negotiate price, terms, deliverables or anything else puts salespeople in a situation where they are expected to sacrifice profitability.  And companies wonder why their margins are being squeezed.

According to data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations and assessments of 1,925,985 salespeople, only 13% of all salespeople have the Negotiator competency as a strength. Only 13%!!  If you force your salespeople to negotiate, most of them will give away the farm!  OMG measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and while the Negotiator competency isn't one of the 21, you can see the data on the 21 Sales Competencies and how you and your salespeople compare here,

Instead of negotiating, your salespeople should be mastering selling value.  Selling value completely neutralizes the need for negotiating and while fewer than 50% of all salespeople have the Value Seller competency as a strength, that's a lot better than the percentage of salespeople who can negotiate.

Stop telling your salespeople to negotiate and get them the training and coaching they need to effectively sell value.  The most successful negotiation is one that never occurs.

What do you think?  Leave your comments on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, negotiating, selling value

Elements of an Effective Elevator Pitch

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 @ 17:09 PM

messaging

Why is your favorite sports team better than my favorite team?

Why do you like your political party instead of mine?

Why are you so loyal to the make of car you drive instead of the make of car that I drive?

I bet you can make a passionate pitch for all three, and probably have them come out better than an elevator pitch or your unique value proposition.

At Objective Management Group (OMG), we ask salespeople to record their elevator pitches and value propositions as part of our sales force evaluation.  Some are OK, most are not, and for most companies, there are tremendous inconsistencies between each salesperson's messages.

Elevator pitches and UVP's are usually so poorly constructed that it makes me wonder if anyone in sales leadership puts any time at all into formalizing these messages.

That said, I thought it might be helpful to discuss the elements of a good elevator pitch and/or value proposition.

I believe that a good pitch or proposition has seven elements:

  1. Personable - When a likable salesperson launches into a pitch or proposition and recites a scripted message, it sticks out like a sore thumb and they are no longer perceived as personable.  It's imperative that they deliver the right message, without sacrificing their likability.

  2. Message - Whether it's an elevator pitch or value proposition, the essence of each is the message itself. Is the actual message consistent with what an elevator pitch (what we do) or value proposition (how we uniquely provide value) are expected to communicate?  In my experience, most are not.

  3. Context - Context is important as it's the backdrop for the message.  If the type and location of an event represent the context for how to dress, then the question that was asked or the type of call or meeting represents the context for the pitch or proposition.  Context helps us frame the elevator pitch or value proposition.
                                                    
  4. Who - Often times salespeople fail to include the company, product or brand in the elevator pitch or value proposition when it's the company that should be front and center.  Explaining how what we do, or how we are different, impacts the prospect is equally important.

  5. Breadth - Salespeople should communicate the breadth of the offering or differentiation but too often, they ramble through their value proposition and elevator pitches, something that is never very effective.

  6. Succinct - As important as it is to show breadth, it is even more important to be succinct. Fewer words communicate a value proposition or elevator pitch much more effectively.

  7. Expertise - The company and salesperson have expertise and if not for their expertise, why buy from this company?  Since so many salespeople suck, many buyers are making their decisions based on price instead of value. Good messaging is required to communicate and demonstrate a company's expertise, an element that can help neutralize a price-driven buyer and provide prospects with information they can use to justify buying from a company that doesn't have the best price.

Now that you've reviewed the elements of effective elevator pitches and value propositions, what must you do to improve yours?

Comment on the LinkedIn thread for this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling value, Value Proposition, messaging, elevator pitch

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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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