Dave Kurlan: Revenue Isn’t an Indicator of Sales Effectiveness | Podcast 32

Dave Kurlan: Revenue Isn’t an Indicator of Sales Effectiveness | Podcast 32

Interview by Nikola Djuric
Published: February 02, 2024

The 32nd episode of the DesignRush Podcast brings us a conversation with Dave Kurlan, a sales performance expert and a top-rated keynote speaker at numerous business conferences in the U.S.

Listen to the full episode now to discover:

  • Why building long-lasting relationships with clients is crucial in sales
  • How data analytics can enhance sales processes and increase success rates
  • How to maintain authenticity in the sales environment that’s increasingly relying on generative AI and automation

As Dave says, most CEOs, chief revenue officers and sales leaders have a spreadsheet they can look at that measures sales performance by revenue. But, according to him, revenue isn't an indicator of sales effectiveness.

Learn why in the next video:

Here are the highlights of some of the most engaging insights Dave shared with our editor Vianca Meyer.

Vianca: What achievement are you most proud of, and why?

Dave: I'm most proud of the development of the sales team evaluation at Objective Management Group.

It's unique, progressive, insightful, and head and shoulders above anything else in the assessment industry. Every company needs it, though they might not be aware of it yet.

The evaluation is unique because it looks beyond traditional revenue metrics to assess sales effectiveness.

We analyze a salesperson's competencies across 21 areas, each with about 10 attributes, providing 250 sales-specific data points per salesperson.

This allows us to see the sales organization's dysfunction, the impact of sales leadership, growth potential, role suitability, pipeline quality, skill gaps, sales DNA, will to sell and predict future sales performance.

Measuring sales performance by revenue can be misleading, as it doesn't necessarily indicate sales effectiveness.

Salespeople could top the revenue list simply because they inherited the best accounts. Our evaluation provides a deeper, more accurate look into each salesperson's abilities and the overall health of the sales organization beyond just revenue figures.

The evaluation offers insights into the dysfunction within a sales organization, the impact of sales leadership, growth potential, and the suitability of salespeople for their roles.

It also includes a pipeline analysis to accurately restage opportunities, identify skill gaps and obstacles to sales performance, evaluate the will to sell, and predict future sales performance and the path to achieving potential.

With the focus on data-driven strategies in sales, how can sales teams effectively use data analytics?

The essence of sales is the conversation between two people about a potential purchase.

Data plays a role before a prospect enters the sales process and in tracking KPIs within CRM systems. However, there's a significant distinction between selling and marketing, with most data analytics applying to the pre-sales (marketing) activities.

That said, data from sales team evaluations can pinpoint what a team or individual salesperson needs to improve effectiveness, influencing coaching and strategy adjustments based on CRM data like win-loss analysis and conversion ratios.

Most data analytics apply to marketing efforts — everything that happens before the first sales conversation.

While big data is important, its direct impact on the selling process is limited. However, data is invaluable in identifying training needs, coaching opportunities and bottlenecks within the sales process, as revealed through CRM analysis and sales team evaluations.

This helps in refining sales strategies and coaching methods, but the primary use of data analytics is in optimizing marketing efforts to generate qualified leads.

With the rise of the $21 billion influencer marketing industry, how do you see this impacting sales strategies in the B2B world?

The impact of influencer marketing on sales strategies intersects with the historical shift from traditional sales methods towards more inbound marketing approaches.

Initially, the rise of inbound marketing led to claims that traditional sales tactics were becoming obsolete.

However, this perspective overlooked the complexity of sales, particularly in B2B environments where relationships and consultative selling remain crucial.

The reliance on inbound leads resulted in salespeople becoming passive, leading to the creation of business development roles focused on lead follow-up and outbound efforts. Yet, these efforts often lacked effectiveness due to inexperience and the inability to engage decision-makers.

The emergence of AI and tech-driven sales tools continues to challenge traditional sales roles, but cannot replace the nuanced, consultative approach required for complex, high-value, or new market products.

The "underdog" salespeople, those selling non-dominant, complex, or higher-priced offerings, will always be necessary, as their role cannot be fully automated or replaced by influencer marketing or AI technologies.

Check Insights from ClickUp's Chris Cunningham on Influencer Marketing

How do we balance the expansion of generative AI and automation with the need for authenticity in customer relations?

This balance is discernible through the lens of customer control and frustration.

When customers make online purchases, they appreciate the control and efficiency technology offers.

However, frustration arises when dealing with automated customer service systems that prevent direct human interaction, offer inadequate solutions, or fail to escalate complex issues effectively.

Real-world frustrations with customer service, such as navigating automated voice systems, ineffective chatbots, or unhelpful customer service representatives, highlight where technology falls short.

What changes have you noticed in client-salesperson relations due to the wider use of generative AI?

AI is currently primarily utilized at the initial stages of the sales process, such as scheduling first meetings and outreach.

However, the feedback on AI-driven communications, like emails and LinkedIn messages, is overwhelmingly negative.

These messages are easily identifiable as AI-generated, often featuring either overly generic or uncomfortably personalized content that fails to engage recipients effectively.

From my observation, there hasn't been a single instance where AI-driven outreach has positively impacted the relationship between clients and salespeople.

While AI can assist in refining written communication, such as improving a note to a customer or enhancing the quality of a blog post by correcting typos or grammar and suggesting thoughtful additions, it still falls short of replicating the nuances of a real conversation.

In terms of substituting genuine human interactions in sales, AI has a long way to go. Its current state does not offer a viable alternative to the depth and authenticity of personal engagement between salespeople and clients.

So what qualities define a good salesperson, and what are the crucial milestones in the sales process?

A good salesperson is characterized by a strong will to sell, which includes a deep desire for sales success, commitment, motivation, a positive outlook and no excuse-making.

They need robust Sales DNA, comprising strengths that support their execution of sales processes, methodologies, strategies and tactics. Sales DNA involves overcoming self-limiting beliefs and fears that hinder execution.

The tactical selling competencies, which can be taught, include hunting, reaching decision-makers, relationship building, consultative selling, selling value, qualifying and effective presentation.

The most important sales milestones are primarily reaching decision-makers early in the process — salespeople who accomplish this are significantly more likely to close deals.

Building genuine relationships with these decision-makers and mastering a consultative approach to identify and leverage the customer's compelling reasons to buy are also key.

What would you say are the five most effective ways to build a relationship with a client?

Building a relationship with a client mirrors the process of developing personal friendships or family bonds. It involves genuinely getting to know them and taking an interest in their lives.

Here are some effective ways to achieve this:

  1. Show authentic curiosity about the client's interests, challenges and goals. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share more about themselves.
  2. Discover areas of mutual interest or shared experiences. This doesn't mean focusing on your own interests, but identifying what genuinely connects you and the client.
  3. Pay close attention to what the client says, demonstrating that you value their thoughts and opinions. Active listening helps build trust and shows you care about their perspective.
  4. Tailor your interactions and solutions to the client's specific needs and preferences, showing that you understand and value their unique situation.
  5. Ensure the client feels comfortable reaching out to you by being accessible and responsive to their inquiries or concerns.

What were your thoughts on the viral incident involving a salesperson from Cloudfair who recorded her firing and shared it online?

I have mixed feelings about the event

While Cloudflare's former account executive, Brittany Pietsch, had every right to record her firing, I believe it was misguided to share it widely on the internet. The primary issue was her frustration with not knowing why she was terminated and being fired by individuals she didn't recognize.

Although companies sometimes handle terminations this way, her decision to publicize the event could make her less appealing to future employers concerned about potential negative publicity.

Understandably, she sought reasons for her termination, however, sharing the recording online was not advisable. It raises concerns about her judgment and how she might react to future challenges or disagreements in a professional setting.

Her actions, although driven by a desire for transparency and accountability, might inadvertently reduce her attractiveness to potential employers wary of similar public disclosures.

The situation lacks context, particularly regarding the company's sales cycle length.

If the sales cycle is short and she failed to close deals within a reasonable timeframe, the decision to terminate her might be justified.

However, if the sales cycle is longer, six months for example, and she wasn't given sufficient time for her efforts to mature into sales, then her firing could be considered premature.

Editing by Katherine 'Makkie' Maclang

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