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.

  • The Connection Between Road Signs, Sales Data, Consultative Selling and Sales Recruiting
    by Dave Kurlan on December 6, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    You're driving down the highway and you approach a road sign which says Chicago (South), Green Bay (North). Smart people know that taking the appropriate exit puts you on the road TO one of those cities and that you are NOT IN one of those cities.  Morons think they have arrived. The sales version of that occurrence is the single most common challenge we observe when watching salespeople "sell." It doesn't matter whether it's a live phone call, virtual meeting, face-to-face meeting, or recorded sales call.  Salespeople who are learning to take a consultative approach to selling hear a stated issue - the consultative selling version of a road sign - but think they have arrived at their destination - the compelling reason to buy. This is supported by the data.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has data on 2,280,260 salespeople that have been assessed from more than 30,000 companies.  The findings are horrific:

  • "Spirited" Has So Much in Common with Most Salespeople
    by Dave Kurlan on November 29, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Last week we watched Spirited, the new Apple TV Plus take on the old Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.  In this lighthearted film, Will Ferrell is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Ryan Reynolds is the 2022 version of Scrooge.  This Scrooge is a funny, selfish, materialistic, song and dance man, who is irredeemable. Can Will Farrell's character redeem Ryan Reynolds' character? As usual, the movie got me thinking about salespeople and Understanding the Sales Force. Ryan Reynold's character, Clint Briggs, is a fabulous showman, salesperson, and marketing consultant rolled into one.  The problem is that he never considers anyone or anything other than himself and his personal success.. There is a correlation between Clint Briggs and salespeople, many of whom are also irredeemable, but for different reasons.  Most salespeople - 87% - still sell like it's 1975 and fall into one of three buckets:

  • 5 Reasons Sales Teams Underperform Like My Old Wiper Blades
    by Dave Kurlan on November 17, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    My windshield wipers were no longer getting the job done.  They were underperforming (leaving streaks and smudges), not clearing water from the windshield (failing to meet expectations) and I couldn't see the road properly when it was raining.  It presented a threat to our safety and an upgrade was required.   I ordered Bosch Icon replacement blades, rated #1 by the NY Times, and after 30 minutes of unintentionally trying to put them on backwards, I finally got them installed. They were freaking awesome.  They exceeded my expectations in the rain, and last night they over performed in the snow. The wiper blade adventure got me thinking about a few things. My car has 37,000 miles on it but the blades should have been replaced 17,000 miles ago so why did I wait so long? How is this similar to what companies go through when their sales team is underperforming?

  • The Wall Street Journal Shares News About What it Takes to Succeed in Sales
    by Dave Kurlan on November 14, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    Brad Bolino emailed me a link from a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, "Millennials are Changing What it Means to be Successful in Sales."   I read the article three times to make sure I wasn't rushing to judgement, didn't experience an inappropriate knee-jerk reaction, and that I correctly interpreted what the article implied:  The journal relied on anecdotal evidence from a handful of millennial salespeople and buyers to suggest that millennials are transforming the sales profession.  I agreed with only one sentence in the article and it was the opening sentence which said, "Drop the hard sell." That's certainly not new as the hard sell was never a welcome component of professional selling!

  • Can a New Sales Manager Be a Difference Maker?
    by Dave Kurlan on November 9, 2022 at 11:45 am

    For the longest time, my local Panera in Westboro Massachusetts was awful.  Like phone company awful. And cable company awful. The problem was chronic.  The half and half was always empty.  The supplies of cup insulators and trays were nowhere to be found. The wait at the drive-through was intolerable.  Online orders were never ready at or even close to the time they provided for pickup.  Online orders were routinely screwed up.   And then Panera wasn't a problem anymore. Over the course of a few weeks in the summer of 2022, everything changed and they became remarkably reliable. What happened?  They got a new manager! I'm guessing (I did not interview her) the new manager prioritized KPI's and accountability, hiring people who had attention to detail, who were committed to customer satisfaction, and who took personal responsibility. Could companies that wanted to experience a similar uptick in sales performance achieve that by replacing their sales managers?

  • New Data: Will Salespeople Hit Quota When Sales Managers Coach and Sell?
    by Dave Kurlan on November 7, 2022 at 11:45 am

    I was reviewing stats from the 2022 World Series between the World-Champion Houston Astros and the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies might have had a two-man wrecking crew in Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper but it wasn't nearly enough. Over the entire 6-game series, the Astros' batting average was 43% higher (good), their pitchers' ERA (earned runs allowed per 9 Innings Pitched) was 26% lower (good), WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) was 19% lower (good), they scored 22% more runs (good) and that led to their winning twice as many games and on Saturday, a world-series victory.  There was a clear correlation between 4 baseball KPI's and the outcome of the World Series.   Pivoting to sales, and staying with correlations and KPI's, could there be one between how sales managers spend their time and why so few salespeople hit quota?

  • New Data: Is Sales Compensation Aligned With Changing Motivational Needs?
    by Dave Kurlan on October 31, 2022 at 10:11 am

    My MacBook Pro is running Monterey version 12.6 and it has been charging to only 80%.  This was driving me crazy so I did some digging and found that the default battery setting is "Optimized" where it says the following:  "To reduce battery aging, your Mac learns from your daily charging routine so it can wait to finish charging past 80% until you need to use it on battery." I'm not the smartest person when it comes to topics other than sales or baseball, but my take is that when plugged in, it will remain 80% charged until I need it to run on battery, at which time it will obviously begin draining - to less than 80%.  This suggests that it will never charge to 100%!  It's not intuitive and takes some decoding. When interviewing sales and sales leadership candidates, similar counter-intuitive discussions occur. Many candidates claim that money isn't that important because they love sales - until they claim that the base salary isn't high enough.  For others, even though they may not disclose it, the base salary is completely irrelevant as long as the company won't cap the salesperson's total earnings. We need to decode the topic of compensation so that we can be sure that both the base salary and the total on-plan earnings are acceptable to candidates. It is very important to make sense of the hidden and unpredictable compensation responses because many salespeople leave the company after a short time because they don't believe earnings are equivalent to the compensation that was promised. It is crucial to understand that salespeople are motivated primarily by one of two motivational styles and unless you wish to hire only one type of salesperson, there must be two compensation plans that should be tailored accordingly.  Let's discuss this.

  • The Similarity Between Cashless Bail and Free Passes for Salespeople
    by Dave Kurlan on October 21, 2022 at 12:23 pm

    If you aren't aware of the crime taking place in most of America's big cities, you have either been living in a cave or experiencing willful ignorance. Most of the alleged criminals are repeat offenders and those who are arrested are usually back on the street committing additional crimes later that day due to cashless bail and the presumption of innocence.   If you think about it, and you don't have to think very long or hard, cashless bail mirrors how companies deal with under-performing salespeople who are also repeat offenders.  Let me explain.

  • The Bob Chronicles - The Difference Between Selling Skills and Effectiveness
    by Dave Kurlan on October 12, 2022 at 11:20 am

    Back in the 90's, after years of Chiropractic, I learned to crack my own back and neck.  You never know when you will need to relieve stiffness and/or pain.  Actually you do know.  If you drove more than two hours today or slept in a hotel bed last night I'm certain you'll need to crack your back and neck... In the spring of 2020, I sprained my ankle and it never improved.  I'd step out of the car and the pain was so bad I would limp for the first twenty steps until it loosened up.  Imagine my surprise when two years later I heard a familiar crack - not in my ankle - but in my foot and then my knee.  When I stiffened my leg below the knee and purposely created the necessary torque, I heard four separate cracks and then bam! I was pain free!  Now, each time I stand up, I crack my knee and foot and I can walk without pain.  The most important thing was that my symptom screamed ankle but the root cause was my leg and foot. it's the same with sales teams.  I receive calls and emails that begin with things like "My salespeople are complacent" or "My salespeople need some training on closing" or "My salespeople aren't bringing in enough new business" or "My salespeople need help with negotiating" or "Our team has a lot of stalled opportunities."  Just like my ankle, the real problem is RARELY any of these things.  It's usually something else or, in many cases, a number of something else's. Today a client asked me to explain the difference between skills and effectiveness. You won't find the answer by doing a Google search as that search turns up exactly nothing on the subject.  This article will discuss the similarity between symptoms/causes and skills/effectiveness. Do you remember Bob, the subject of many articles and my favorite weak salesperson to write about? Bob strikes again!

  • How to Hire the Right Salespeople Using This Jeep vs. Infinity Analogy
    by Dave Kurlan on October 7, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Before I purchased my first Jaguar, my dream car was the Infinity Q45.  In the early 90's, I couldn't wait to get that car and when winter came, I couldn't wait to get rid of it.  It didn't matter what kind of tires I put on that expensive-but-useless-piece-of-crap-for-all-of-winter car, it wouldn't go in the snow and ice.  I had to drive up a steep, mile-long hill to get home at the end of the day, and the hill wasn't well salted or sanded because it ran alongside a lake.  The parts of the Q45 became more important than the appeal of the car. My brother-in-law had an old jeep.  It wasn't expensive and it didn't look great but it drove so well in the snow and ice that he rescued me when my Q45 wouldn't make it up that long hill.  The parts of the Jeep were more important than the lack of appeal of the Jeep. That brings us to OMG's (Objective Management Group) Sales Candidate Assessment.  Usually, the overall score, relative strength of a candidate's capabilities, and recommendation are more important than any specific scores.  Usually.  But with the assessment of Mary, it was an entirely different story.   Let's review the scores and findings from Mary's OMG Sales Candidate Assessment. She had really good scores.  Really good. Her Sales Percentile was 82 so she was stronger than 82% of the salespeople in the world. So was OMG wrong?  Why did the company hire her?  Why did she fail?