- June 27, 2023
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
Even though this article begins as a baseball article, in the fourth paragraph it quickly morphs into a sales article.
As my regular readers know, my son is a baseball player – a rising college senior (as of the summer of 2023) – and I still coach him in the batting cage when he’s home for the summer. I started coaching him when he was old enough to hold a wiffle bat. By the time he was thirteen years old, he responded to every piece of hitting advice with, “I know Dad!” He was no longer coachable (by me), thus beginning a stretch of six years during which we hired various coaches to work with him.
He started playing organized ball at seven years old and just five seasons later, he thought he knew everything. While he was an advanced hitter, it took “outside experts” coaching him to realize he really didn’t know Jack $hit about hitting.
Compare that with salespeople who, after five years in sales, could be referred to as veterans. We hear their varied direct and indirect feedback at several stages of a sales development initiative and while most of it is good, some feedback isn’t good and it has the potential to interfere with a team’s ability to achieve consistent, strong sales results.
We receive indirect feedback from some of them during the sales team evaluation phase, when some claim that the questions must be for “in-home sales” or “a one-call close” or “don’t fit selling.” Those comments are not close to accurate, as the evaluations were designed for B2B sales where most complex B2B sales have long sales cycles. The questions which, according to some veteran salespeople, “don’t fit” shows how little THEY know about selling. Based on how poorly most salespeople score on three of the twenty-one sales competencies, it’s clear that most salespeople are clueless about professional selling.
Analyzing only the most recent 37,000 plus rows of 2023 data from Objective Management Group’s (OMG) assessments of salespeople globally, just 49% of all salespeople follow an effective sales process and only 10% are strong at a Consultative Selling approach. Worse, 57% are Excuse Makers and based on those findings, is it any wonder that many salespeople don’t think the questions “fit?” Most simply don’t know how to sell! See all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.
The second time we receive their feedback is after they receive their insight reports. While the findings, validated by third-party data scientists, are extremely accurate, some salespeople are not very introspective and can’t handle a report that doesn’t have Tony the Tiger telling them they are GREAT. A small percentage won’t agree with some of the scores and/or findings and push back a little. Some are in the other camp and their comments appear in the form of how excited they are to finally get objective feedback about their sales capabilities and how they can improve.
The third time, the feedback is more direct and comes during or after a sales training kick-off. By this point in time, we are finally working directly with them and again, the feedback from veteran salespeople tends to be mixed. The positive group tells us the training is “life-changing,” a “breath of fresh air,” a “logical approach for them to follow,” a “welcome methodology to make them much more effective,” etc. A relatively small percentage of veterans provide negative feedback. They are my once thirteen-year-old son, grown up, but still behaving like a teenager, giving us their version of, “I know Dad!” They say, “Nothing new here” or “I know all this stuff.” After anywhere from five to thirty-five years in sales they should have heard something like this before! Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. it doesn’t matter. What are they even referring to? Is it selling in general? A sales process that is more complex than winging it? A consultative approach which requires them to listen and ask questions instead of presenting solutions before the opportunity is qualified? Is it the Baseline Selling process or methodology? The question is not whether or not they know what they are supposed to do. The question is whether or not they are doing it, doing it effectively, and getting consistent, effective results.
In 100% of the cases, we are working with a company because their salespeople are not getting consistent, effective results, their win rates are far short of where they should be, opportunities are getting stuck in their pipelines, they have a mandate to sell value but their salespeople sell on price, they are not getting properly coached, and they need to transform their sales organizations for the better. So when veteran salespeople speak out about “knowing it all,” and we have seen their evaluation results, the problem is most definitely that they aren’t willing to be realistic, listen or change.
We continue to get direct and indirect feedback during our months of working with a sales team. While there are still instances of, “you can’t do that or ask that or say that in our business,” we are very successful at turning around most of the thick-headed, resistant, and unjustifiably confident veteran salespeople. Most become huge advocates for our work.
CEOs, CROs, CSOs and Sr Sales VPs who are frustrated because their salespeople aren’t responding to their mandates, training and coaching need to understand that their veteran salespeople are the same as my son when he was thirteen. They think they know it all but they don’t know Jack $hit. Hire outside experts who know how to deal with their resistance and turn them around, and soon you’ll have veteran salespeople who are doing exactly what you need them to do while getting the increase in revenue that you need.
Improvement, effectiveness, efficiency and consistent results should not be options, they should be requirements.
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