Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader. Dave Kurlan’s Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for 9 consecutive years. You can find Dave’s blog articles here.

  • Most Salespeople are Underdogs Like the Boston Red Sox
    by Dave Kurlan on October 13, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Anyone who has followed this Blog over the past 15 years knows that other than sales, the only thing I write about nearly as much is baseball.  A Google search from within the Blog yields 605 results, and a search on my son playing baseball over the past twelve years yields 208 results. I haven't really mentioned baseball 605 times, but I have probably written about it 150 times! For non-baseball fans, the regular season ended last week and two teams - the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - finished in a tie for the wild-card spot, requiring a one-game playoff.  The Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season and one of the worst teams during the second half.  I've been cheering on the Red Sox for 65 years and despite that, was very confident they would succumb to the Yankees in last Tuesday's one-game wild-card playoff.  If they somehow managed to beat the Yankees, which it turns out they did, I was even more certain they would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division series.  I was wrong again and the Red Sox not only won, but they won the best of five series decisively, winning the last three games in a row.  Now they will take on the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League  Championship Series, with the winner moving on to the 2021 World Series.  Despite the fact that the Red Sox are now playing in a manner consistent with their first half identify, they will be underdogs for the rest of the post season because of their second half identify. How does that tie into sales?  Easy!

  • Most Sales Processes, Funnels and Pipelines are How Old?
    by Dave Kurlan on September 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Have you ever conducted a Google or Amazon search for one thing only to be presented with search results that were completely different than what you were looking for? I was looking for an image of a sales funnel and couldn't believe what I found!  My search results can be found here.  Can you believe all of those images of sales funnels?  Look them over and see if you can recognize the  problem with all of them.

  • Hidden Sales Competition and Why it Could Happen to You
    by Dave Kurlan on September 27, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    I recently took these pictures of mushrooms on our property that I had not seen prior to this year.  Bright reds, bright oranges, whites and more.  After living on this property for the past twenty years, it really surprised me that these bright colored mushrooms appeared out of nowhere.  Then again, my wife and I have cut down a lot of trees and cleared a lot of brush in the last twelve months.  Could they have been growing there right along and we simply didn't see them? Can you guess where this is going? Have you ever had a sales opportunity that was completely under control, you were following your sales process, everything was looking great, and then, from out of nowhere and without warning, surprise competitors appeared?   Yes, the magic mushroom competitors! 

  • How to Prepare for the Coming Sales Team Super Storm
    by Dave Kurlan on September 22, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    What would you do if, in the middle of summer, a big box store said you would really need a snowblower in preparation for the summer snowstorms we were about to get?  Crazy, right? What if Staples sent out a promo to buy all the printer paper you can in preparation for a printing explosion as we move away from digital?  Wouldn't that be nuts? What if a professional sports team reached out to your really good 12-year-old and offered them a professional contract?  Is that even possible? So when a promotion for an upcoming webinar appeared in my Twitter feed last week I was equally astounded by the lack of anticipatory awareness of the sales training firm and online publication promoting it.  It said: My first reaction was that this must have been something from 2016 - right before the boom that lasted until the pandemic slammed the economy to the ground.  Or, from the 4th quarter of 2020, when we expected the economy to come roaring back.  But it simply can't be something that is remotely relevant to what we are about to experience.  Here's what we know, and how that will impact companies and their sales teams in 2022.  

  • The Sales Compensation Plan from Hell and How to Improve It
    by Dave Kurlan on September 17, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Have you ever attempted to complete a jigsaw puzzle when the entire puzzle is a solid color?  You dump all the pieces on the table and say to yourself, WTF?   Have you ever come to a strange intersection and the signs are pointing in every possible direction?  You sit there with drivers leaning on their horns, urging you to move and you're looking at the signs and wondering, WTF? And the perfect analogy, Frankenstein. The monster was not at all what its creator, Victor Frankenstein had intended or hoped. Victor, a scientist, looked at his creation and said to himself, WTF?  If you are familiar with the book, then you know that at birth his creation was not a monster on the inside but Victor was so horrified by what his creation looked like that his abusive behavior towards the creature forced him to morph into a monster. Have you ever seen a compensation plan so complicated, so illogical and so detailed that all you could do was stare at it and wonder, WTF? I did.  This week.  Couldn't make heads or tails of it. There were several sales groups selling different services to different audiences, several roles in each group, different plans for each role, different percentages, some of the compensation was guaranteed but some was variable and had to be earned by achieving quantitative and qualitative goals consisting of variable weighted goals, some of which were based on revenue while others were based on percentage achievement of goal.  The only way to figure it all out was to draw a table on the white board and start filling it in.  When we were done it looked like the monstrosity below:

  • The Chainsaw Massacre and Building Sales Teams
    by Dave Kurlan on September 14, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I was on the back of our property with my chain saw and I was ready to take down the third tree of the afternoon.  I determined where the tree needed to fall, made the two front cuts to create a hinge and made the final cut in the back to take it down.  Only it didn't go according to plan.  Somehow, the tree began to drop right where I was standing, ninety degrees from where I intended.  If cutting down trees is a hit or miss proposition, this was definitely a miss - as long as I could get out of its path quickly enough.  There is a science and a process for taking down trees and obviously, I didn't follow it properly! Despite the existence of both a science and a process for hiring salespeople, most efforts also tend to be hit or miss and the emphasis always seems to be on miss.  There are plenty of reasons why, and we can discuss some of them, but the biggest and most insane reason is...

  • Data: The Top 10% of All Salespeople are 4200% Better at This
    by Dave Kurlan on September 7, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    My wife and I entered the small jewelry shop and were greeted - not with a warm welcome - but with a matter of fact "my name is...and I'm the owner...and I created everything in the store" which was followed by fifteen minutes of non-stop presentation of everything she created.   You've been in a store like this and you know exactly how you have reacted to that.  It includes thinking all of the following: Stop! Shut Up! I don't care! Go away! Oh wait, I can go away! Please stop so I can leave! Your stuff is not even that good! Has anyone ever listened to this? You've got to be kidding me! There's more? OMG make it stop!!! When it was over my wife said "thank you" and we walked across the street to a gallery where we were quickly greeted - no greeted is totally the wrong word - instructed to "put on a mask!"  The mask thing again.  About ten minutes later he caught us staring at one particular painting for several minutes and asked, "Are you familiar with her work?"  We said, "No" and he took the opposite approach of the Queen of all Jewelry and walked away! So in one store we weren't the least bit interested, she didn't notice, didn't care and kept on keepin' on.  In the other store we would have bought that painting and he abandoned us. I don't usually write about retail selling and today's article is not about retail selling except to make a couple of important points.

  • How To Stop Sucking by Understanding and Changing Your Sales Metrics
    by Dave Kurlan on August 30, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    The CDC is back to focusing on COVID case numbers.  Earlier this summer, Massachusetts was reporting fewer than 100 new cases each day but more 1,000 new cases per day have been reported for the past two weeks.  That particular metric supports the narrative that the Delta variant is spreading but it does not tell the real story that allows us to assess our risk.       For the real story to materialize, we should know how many of those 1,000 cases occurred in vaccinated people, how many vaccinated people with COVID have symptoms, and how many of those cases required hospitalization.  Case numbers support that there is new spread, but a detailed breakdown would help us to understand our reality. The exact same thing is happening with the sales numbers reported by most companies. Suppose a company reports that its win rate is 24%.  Does that tell you anything other than they suck?  It doesn't tell us how badly they suck, why they suck, how long they've sucked, who sucks, or whether there is any hope for them to stop sucking.  And even if their win rate is double the 24%, the same questions apply. Let me explain.

  • Follow This Advice to Schedule More Meetings and Spend Less Time Doing It
    by Dave Kurlan on August 25, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Yesterday I watched a toad walk across the outdoor side of our kitchen window.  Picture it!  I wish I had video but it ran so counter to what I have observed toads doing over the past 65 years that I froze.  I performed a google search and found exactly one image of a toad on a window. Please understand that the dirty window and sill are not mine - I found the image via a Google search. Regular readers know that I'm all about the data and I have written nearly two thousand articles based on data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) assessments of more than two million salespeople.  Occasionally however, I see data where incorrect conclusions have been reached and like the toad on the window, my conclusions run counter to theirs.  One such example is a beautiful infographic from sales playbook company Xant. I am going to share some of their data, graphics and conclusions and I'll provide my counter argument to their conclusions. I'm not challenging the data, only their conclusions.

  • Nothing Beats This One Tool When You Can't Sell Face to Face
    by Dave Kurlan on August 19, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    The "ABC's" is an alternate term for fundamentals. Unless ABC stands for Afghanistan, the Border, and Crime. The US Government has seriously botched the ABC's in 2021 and there's no way to easily undo what's been done. However, there are some misguided selling strategies that can be undone and in today's article we'll discuss the benefits of the single tool that is the real deal and a huge difference maker.