With how complicated sales management is in this day and age, more sales managers are turning to expert consultants for help. Enter Dave Kurlan, the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group, Inc., the leader in sales force evaluations. Dave is also the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc., an international sales force consulting firm. Finally, Dave is also a top-rated speaker, best-selling author – including the bestseller “Baseline Selling – How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What you Already Know about the Game of Baseball” – radio show host and sales development industry pioneer. When he speaks about sales management, you can’t help but sit up and take notice.
Fortunately, we recently had the pleasure of speaking to him about that very topic! Dave shared his thoughts on sales assessment, the similarities between baseball and sales and the key metrics that inside sales management requires in this day and age.
1) What does sales assessment mean in the context of Objective Management? How can sales assessment improve the performance of sales reps?
When we evaluate a sales force, we answer the question as to whether the sales organization they have in place today can execute the company strategy, shorten the sales cycle, close more effectively, bring in more new business, sell more consultatively, sell at higher margins and more effectively reach decision-makers. We also answer questions as to why the forecast isn’t more reliable, which non-performers can be saved, how much better their salespeople can become and recommend what is required in order to achieve all of that.
An individual sales assessment shows where the gaps are in their skill sets and where the holes are in their sales DNA. It would help them understand the sales weaknesses they need to overcome and the skills they need to develop to increase sales and earn more money. When salespeople join our company, they’re assessed. If you use assessments the way they’re intended, they’re great. You can’t use a personality assessment to predict whether or not someone will succeed or fail in a sales role.
2) Which key sales performance metrics do you recommend to measure the performance of reps at client companies? Which are the most important metrics?
Metrics are really important and we always recommend that companies have them. Sales metrics must do two things: they must be a measure that will drive revenue, a number that, if reps achieve this, will lead to revenue. The other thing that metrics should do is focus on an area where reps must improve. If we have a sales force that in general isn’t finding new business, then the metrics must be focused on business acquisition. That could be number of calls, new meetings, meetings that advanced. If the problem is delayed closing, then the metrics must focus on the things that cause delays, whether or not they uncover compelling reasons to buy, opportunities that become qualified, etc. So, metrics must drive revenue and improve a part of the sales process that needs improvement.
At Kurlan & Associations, we use the baseline selling methodology. For a new salesperson, we want to know how many new first base opportunities they have. For a salesperson that’s been here for a while, I might want to know about base moves. I want to know the number of opportunities that gain traction, the number of opportunities where we achieve excellence. If we’re focusing on something in particular, I might want to track the numbers of referrals and introductions. If we’re hosting an event, I might want to track registrations.
3) Where do you see inside sales and the sales industry in general trending for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
IS means different things to different people. We all use that label, but for one company it means customer service, another company is support, another company is lead generation, another company is sales over the phone, telemarketing. To people who aren’t aware of all the nuances, it’s all inside sales. What’s changing is that the folks who are doing sales over the phone, there’s now an awareness that inside salespeople are leaving a ton of money on the table by being reactive and responsive instead of proactive. They need to have conversations and be less transactional. For example, someone calls up and asks for a price and the inside salesperson gives them a quote. Most companies find that the quote converts to business about a quarter of a time. If they identify that gap and ask how they can convert 50% of the time, the answer is to teach the inside salesperson how to have a conversation instead of just giving a quote.
4) What do baseball principles have to do with sales?
There are a number of different ways we can use baseball. At Kurlan & Associates, we use the baseball diamond to track the evolution of an opportunity from suspect to prospect to qualified opportunity to closed. We can also map our sales process along those bases. We can even map the pipeline. There are a number of other analogies, like the analogy between why little leaguers swing and miss at high fastballs. That’s the same as sales reps seeing an easy opportunity and not being able to close it. You swing but you don’t close it because you can’t reach it because salespeople skip steps. It looks so good, so irresistible. We don’t want to teach a little leaguer how to hit a high fastball, we want them to learn how to lay-off. Same with the salespeople.
Baseball lends itself to dozens of analogies, not to mention all the statistics and metrics of baseball.
5) What does sales management mean to you? How is it different from sales coaching?
Sales coaching today is 50% of sales a manager’s role. It’s different in that it also includes holding salespeople accountable for metrics, results, performance, change. It includes motivating when necessary including compensation, recruiting, growing and developing salespeople, preparing them for promotion and a career path.
The coaching is purely “how can i impact this salesperson with this opportunity today?” You can teach sales managers how to be effective motivators and how to hold people accountable and recruit effectively. Sales coaching takes a while. We probably do that better than anybody on the planet. We can teach sales managers how to have the conversations with their salespeople better than anybody. We have an event coming up on November 14-15 in Boston.
6) What are some of the challenges of sales management today?
1. Every business is becoming more commoditized. The biggest challenge is making sure their salespeople are able to differentiate. They need to sell less transactionally and more consultatively. That means buyer-focused and buyer-centric. The problem is most sales managers don’t know how to do that.
2. There are trends to move sales organizations from outside to inside. Sales managers don’t have a sense whether or not they should be doing that, how they should be doing that or why.
3. Challenge and motivation of salespeople. People used to be money motivated. They’re either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. Intrinsically motivated means they care about what they do, doing it well, mastering, competition, they care about praise, satisfaction, fulfillment, they might have a chip on the shoulder. Extrinsically means they’re motivated by money, bonuses, vacation. The challenge for sales managers is how to motivate intrinsically. Sales managers are mostly comfortable with extrinsically motivated people because that’s what they’ve known for so long. When they’re not aware of it it’s a horrible challenge, trying to motivate people using methods that don’t work.
More about Dave Kurlan
Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best-selling author, radio show host, successful entrepreneur and sales development industry pioneer. He is the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group, Inc. and the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc.. He has written two books, and his popular blog “Understanding the Sales Force” won Top Sales & Marketing Blog for 2011 and 2012.
Connect with Dave on LinkedIn.