Top Salespeople are 8600% Better at This Than Weak Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 20, 2023 @ 07:01 AM

Don't mix alcohol with prescription drugs

You're not supposed to mix alcohol and medication, which isn't an issue for me because I don't drink and I avoid medication. But those aren't the only two things you're not supposed to mix.  You're not supposed to use mixed metaphors either so I am breaking the rule, incorporating 4 separate analogies, and then attempting to string them together at the end.  

When I'm driving, I usually fire up Spotify and listen to one of my playlists but for some reason, last week I chose to play songs by the 70's band, The Raspberries.  I like three of their songs a lot but lacked familiarity with the other songs on their four albums. I figured that there had to be some other good tracks to discover.  Wrong.  The Raspberries just do not compare to some of the great talents from their era.  The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, and solo artists like Elton John, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson or Lionel Richie routinely produced albums on which every song could have been or was a hit single. [Note: It seems like all you needed to be a star in the 70's and 80's were two first names and not just the four I named, but also consider Huey Lewis, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, George Harrison, and James Taylor!] The comparison of successful hit-makers to common musicians are analogous to sales pipelines where top salespeople have a never-ending flow of good, strong, qualified opportunities and weak salespeople have fewer opportunities and most of them aren't very well qualified. 

If we look into some of Objective Management Group's (OMG) data from the assessments of  2,296,264 salespeople, we see the following as it relates to the Qualifier competency and its 12 attributes:

Qualifier CompetencyQualifier Competency Data

As you can see from the table above right, the top 5% of all salespeople are 56% stronger at qualifying than strong salespeople, 452% stronger than serviceable salespeople, and 8600% stronger than the bottom 50%.  8600% Stronger!!!!  Who says qualifying isn't important?  See how your industry/salespeople compare.

We were first-time diners at Friendly Toast, an all-day brunch restaurant in the Boston area. Unfortunately, my inner 12-year-old ordered and because of my inability to control him, I was ecstatic over my hot chocolate peppermint waffles!  My reaction was consistent with a sales opportunity where the salesperson receives a very strong introduction from a happy customer, the large opportunity was completely teed up, the sales cycle was short, sweet, and easy, and the deal closed without competition.  How many salespeople EVER get to experience that kind of easy?  According to OMG's data, only 3% of all salespeople have a steady flow of quality introductions and referrals and for weak salespeople, it's half that.  

One of the dashboard displays in my car shows the pressure for all four tires.

Low Tire Pressure Gauge

When a tire begins to lose pressure the early warning system is incredibly helpful.  Membrain is the CRM application that we most frequently recommend to clients, and our clients LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Membrain compared to Salesforce dot com.  Membrain comes with a win/loss analysis consisting of more than a dozen criteria.  While they won't all have significance, most of them do.  The four analyses that I believe are most analogous to the tire pressure warning are:

Age, Time in Stage, Stalled and Time Spent.

Time in Stage

The  taller green bars in the Time in Stage image shows that the largest percentage of deals won remain in each stage for only a day or two while the odds for closing deals that remain in stages for more than a week are not good.

Time Spent (not shown) shows that an average of 1 hour and 9 minutes is spent working in Membrain on deals that are won, but an average of only 9 minutes is spent on deals that are later archived.

 Stalled Opportunities

The Stalled image above shows that the average time stalled on a won deal is 43 days compared with 110 days for an archived deal.

And finally, the Age finding (not shown) tells us that the average age of a won deal is 39 days, compared with 105 days for an archived deal.

Together, these four components of the win/loss analysis show that when deals are stalling, we don't spend time working on them, and the chances of closing them are in direct disproportion to how long they stall.  It's our version of the tire pressure display!

What do these four analyses have to do with qualifying?  The more thoroughly qualified the opportunity, the less likely it is to stall for long, and the more likely it is that you can either lose fast - a good outcome - or win fast - a better outcome!

So whether it's mixing drugs and alcohol, scoring a prolific number of hit songs, eating an awesome meal, or a dashboard warning indicator, they all tie back to the importance of thoroughly qualifying opportunities and winning deals.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, crm, chicago, win-loss analysis, the beatles, beach boys, the raspberries, michael jackson, elton john, billy joel, lionel richie

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

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

Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 @ 08:06 AM

first-impression

Most salespeople don't take first impressions seriously enough. If they did, their first impressions would be much more favorable.

I can still remember my first (unintentional) lesson about first impressions.  My family was gathered at my grandfather's house to watch the debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show.  It was February 9, 1964 and at 8 years old, I was one of seventy-three million people watching the show that night.  I was as excited about this show as I would be later that same year when I attended my first Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park.  That is pretty excited! 

Sitting on the carpet, I was completely focused on seeing and hearing The Beatles play five of their hit songs, but my mother was doing color commentary from the plastic covered sofa behind me.

She said, "He's cleaner than the other 3", referring to Paul McCartney, who had straighter teeth, and a face more suitable for the mop top hair style shared by the four of them.

There it was, my first lesson in judging people by how they looked, and more specifically, what "clean" did and did not look like.

We were all exposed to unintentional lessons like that when we were young and those lessons stay with us today.  My father was an optometrist and around a quarter of his patients were on welfare.  While they were entitled to the same eye examination as everyone else, they were not allowed to choose from the same selection of eye glasses  and were not allowed to wear contact lenses - unless they could pay the difference.  Therefore, I assumed that anyone I saw wearing "those glasses" must be on welfare.

15 years later, when I was in the music business, a man who looked like he spent the night sleeping on the side of the road, bought the most expensive guitar I had in stock.  He paid cash.

Enough for the trip down memory lane.

When you are in sales, your first impression has been made the moment a prospect sets eyes on you, and based on how that prospect reacts, you, in turn, create a first impression of them.

Objective Management Group (OMG), which has evaluated or assessed 1,869,505 salespeople, has a finding I haven't written much about called Sales Posturing.  In a nutshell, Posturing measures first impressions, how memorable you are, and how effectively you differentiate yourself from the competition. In the table below, you'll see scores for Posturing,  as well as Relationship Building which is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies. 

posturing-relationships

While there is a correlation between both sets of scores and the overall effectiveness level of salespeople, the difference in scores is minuscule in comparison to creating urgency, The 21 Sales Core Competencies, Closing, and 5 Scores Related to Money.  This proves my point that most salespeople, even the great ones, do not pay enough attention to the quality of their first impressions.

How much focus have you given to how you make your first impression?  Here are 10 things you can control to assure that you make a great first impression.  For a lot of these, Goldilocks and  the Three Bears will be a good guide.  Not too much, not too little, but just right:

  1. Your smile
  2. Your handshake
  3. Your confidence
  4. Your outfit
  5. Your hair
  6. Your first words
  7. Your tonality
  8. Your trustworthiness
  9. Your approach
  10. Your authenticity

Thirty-three years ago, when I was far less experienced in the sales development space, my first impressions were not very good and it was represented by the quality of my clients at the time.  Fortunately, thirty-three years provides a nice, long runway for improvement!

Selling, and especially consultative selling, is difficult enough without having to dig out of the hole created by first impressions gone wrong.  You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression so remember, every encounter provides you with your last chance to make a good first impression.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, relationship building, assessment, omg, the beatles, objective management group, Ed Sullivan

Can Music Make Your Sales Force More Effective?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 @ 11:02 AM

beatles - revolutionThe Beatles?  Revolution?  Yes, when I listen to the radio or my iPod, certain songs take me right back to the time when that song was first popular.  I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I hear songs like, And The Beat Goes On, Revolution, 25 or 6 to 4, If You Leave Me Now, I'm Easy, Unforgettable, Have I Told You Lately, We Are the Champions, Good Bye Yellow Brick Road, Mockingbird, Long Train Runningg, Kodachrome, Cracklin' Rosie and dozens more. Some of these tunes go back more than 45 years! Some of them are not even favorites, yet they all have Time Machine capabilities.  Does this happen to you too?

The exact same thing takes place on sales calls, in training, coaching and even reviewing the findings from a sales force evaluation.  When somebody says something I've heard before, it takes me right back to the first time I heard that comment.  Does that happen to you too?

It's actually desirable for this to happen to your salespeople - as long as they respond appropriately to the effect.  They shouldn't ignore the impulse, nor should they assume that because somebody said the exact same thing that led to a favorable outcome 8 years ago, that a favorable outcome will occur this time too. 

We want them to remember the unfavorable outcomes that occurred when those words were last uttered.  Then they should say something like, "You know, the last time someone said that to me, what they really meant was.....  Is that what you really mean?"  Then they can force their prospects' thoughts to the forefront of the conversation and discuss them, rather than let happy ears guide them to a feel-good-about-the-call false sense of security.

Do you do that too?

sales force evaluations

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, the beatles, sales effectiveness, sales development

Can the Beatles Help You Close Big Deals?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 07, 2010 @ 23:01 PM

Perhaps. Back in the 60's, three companies were competing for attention. But they weren't retailers, manufacturers or service providers. Despite that, they had features and benefits that caused people to follow and buy from them.  Some people didn't care for any of the three and bought from alternative sources.  Some preferred just one or the other.  And some bought from all three.  They were the big winners of their day.  Who were they?  Try The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones.  Check out the following table which, if they were traditional sellers, could have been used to tout their features and benefits.

Feature/Benefit

 Beatles

Beach Boys

 Stones

Angelic Harmonies

 

 x

 

Sounds of Summer

 

 x

 

Musicianship

 x

 

 

Rhythm Section

 

 

 x

Blue Collar Sound

 x

 

 x

Foot Tapping Sound

 x

 x

 x

Sophisticated Arrangements

 x

 

 

Made in the USA

 

 x

 

Catchy Melodies

 x

 x

 x

Love Songs

 x

 

 

Songs about Girls, Cars and Surf

 

x

 

Dynamic Front Man

 

 

 x

You may argue with my analysis but my analysis is not the point. 

The point is that you may be just like one of these market leaders - or not.  One mistake that companies make is they say, "Let's do the things those other guys are doing and then we'll be all things to all people and increase our sales."  Can you imagine the Stones singing like the Beach Boys?  Yuck.  Or the Beach Boys getting all gritty like the Stones? 

When companies become all things to all people they lose their following.  They lose their edge, their niche, their appeal.  Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, ask yourself how many more followers, buyers, customers and clients you would have if you simply improved on what you already do.  The Beatles did that.  So didn't the Beach Boys.  Stones too.

What happens if you're not a leading band but you're simply a one man show - a singer, songwriter, or recording artist like Neil Diamond or a small business?  How does Neil Diamond compete with The Beatles?

That was the topic on this week's edition of Meet the Sales ExpertsMy guests were Sales Development Experts Tom Schaff and Andy Miller and they contributed some brilliant ideas as they spoke about the work they do to help small companies land huge deals.  You won't want to miss this show.

Click here to listen.  Click here to contact Tom.  Click here to contact Andy.

 

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, Tom Schaff, the beatles, rolling stones, closing big deals, andy miller, beach boys

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