Author Archives: Michael Dalis

Different Players, Different Game

 

 

 

 

 

 

Has this ever happened to you?  You think you’re all set for a sales meeting when you learn that the people you were planning to meet with have shuffled the deck and “others” will be joining the meeting.

How does that make you react?  Your brain may tell you to dismiss this as unimportant or irrelevant, that it doesn’t matter, that this change will not affect the meeting and the outcome you are hoping for. But, what if it will?  Will you be able to pivot?

ENTER THE ALIENS

In biology, introducing a foreign species into an ecosystem upsets the balance in, and can destroy, its environment, economy or health.  In your prospect’s buying ecosystem, alien species are additional buyer stakeholders who join your prospect’s decision-making process.  How will this affect your main contact’s role in that process?  Her perceptions?  The ultimate outcome?

Solving for every unknown is impossible, but you can count on one thing: unexpected things will happen.  Changes to which stakeholders are involved in a meeting or in the client’s buying process changes the sale.  Will you be able to make that pivot, and adapt, or will you stay locked onto your prior course?

PIVOTING

You may remember Lance Armstrong, the once famous and now disgraced professional cyclist.  In 2003’s Tour de France – the super bowl of championship cycling – he executed a creative, impressive and famous pivot.  Since most pro cycling teams have elite-level fitness and equipment, the major risk is an accident.  When someone goes down in front of you, it tests your agility in a high stakes moment.  Midway through this race and a 185km stage, Armstrong approached a pile-up that had claimed one of his chief rivals.  What does he do?  Instead of plowing into and joining the carnage, wrecking his body and his bike, he steers his bike away from the pile-up.  In fact, he veers off the road completely, into and across a field.  In the process, he eliminated a key competitor, avoided injury and gained time on his rivals.

How do you execute a great pivot in your selling, so that you can adapt when conditions change?  Here are five best practices:

  1. Breathe. In addition to sending oxygen to your brain so that you can think clearly, it will help you remain calm and focused.
  2. Think. Who are the new players? What is their role? Why are they joining the meeting?
  3. Adjust. The sales process doesn’t always move forward.  Be willing to take steps back to do more discovery to understand the interests of these new stakeholders and bring them on board.
  4. Focus. Arrive dialed in, ready to ride across the field to win if needed.

EXECUTE

In your pursuit of a sale, the players will change at different points.  If your aim is to win, not just to show up, the best practices above will enable you to stay agile, and ready to adapt to changes so that you can eliminate a competitor and get closer to the prize.

How agile are you in your selling?

You Say Tomato, I Say Sales

It’s funny.  In many professions, the words “sales” and “selling” are taboo.

If you’re in tech or professional services, you may call it business development, or biz dev if you’re a righteous dude or dudette.  In banking, you may call it BD or even marketing.  You may also “monetize” or “commercialize.”

And the people who do it?  Well, of course they’re account execs, consultants, advisors, business development officers, client evangelists and client engagement specialists.

Anything, please, just don’t use the dreaded s-word.

THE CONTORTIONIST

In the most recent Cirque du Soleil show, my wife and I marveled at Aleksei Goloborodko, a 25 year-old Russian and the circus troupe’s contortionist.  How this young man bends, twists and folds his body seems impossible.

Back to selling, why all the contortions around using the s-word and why does it matter?  It’s true that every culture, industry and company is different in sometimes very significant ways.  However, are the activities that your people pursue to grow your business so different that they warrant a unique naming convention?  Do your clients not know that your biz dev people are, well, developing new business? Aren’t your clients and prospects doing the same thing with their business?

THE REAL QUESTION

To grow your business, how many of the following activities must you or your people do effectively?

  • Find new clients
  • Expand existing relationships
  • Develop trust quickly
  • Ask great questions
  • Listen for understanding, meaning and feeling
  • Convey value compellingly
  • Focus on the most attractive and likeliest opportunities
  • Gain commitment to move forward

Using cryptic names can risk miscommunicating your intent internally.  And isn’t there enough of that already?

When some people hear that what they do is something different from “selling,” it gives them license to not do the activities above — effectively or consistently.  Is that a pattern you see?  How does this affect your bottom line and what can you do about it?

OWN IT

What if you just owned it?  In addition to delivering great solutions, why not be clear that to grow your business:

  1. Your firm has salespeople. To find and close new opportunities with clients and prospects, you need salespeople.
  2. Your salespeople sell.
  3. Selling isn’t dirty. Given how tough it is to do well, selling is worthy of respect.
  4. Selling skills must be developed. To win against able competitors, your people will need to keep getting better to accomplish your aspirations.

You say tomato.  I call it selling.  Whatever you call it, if you want to drive growth, there is no need for contortions.  Be clear and consistent in your messaging, build a team with the right stuff, and support them to do their important work.  If you’re not sure how to get started, I can help you get there.

Sales Hiring Mistakes: The 2 Hidden Costs of Choosing the Wrong Candidate

What’s your firm’s success rate in choosing business development talent who’ll ramp quickly and hit goal?

It’s a question that many companies aren’t clear about.  At their best, most sales managers select sales candidates that fail as often as they succeed.  So, it understandably becomes the norm: nobody’s perfect, your underperformers may finally break through, and making mistakes is a cost of doing business.

Does that work for you?

Hiring the right talent is key. In the movie business, the choice of leading actor can play a significant role in box office success or failure.  Production companies hire professional casting directors, may run auditions with hundreds of candidates, and do screen tests with co-stars to get this decision right.

Bringing in a big name with lots of movie credits, and paying up, surely guarantees success, right?  Bruce Willis helped the “Die Hard” movie franchise become one of the most successful in history, grossing $1.4 billion.

Get this decision wrong and you’ve got “Hart’s War.”  Doesn’t ring a bell?  Losing $100 million, this movie also starred Bruce Willis and became one of the biggest box office flops in history.  Same actor, wrong role.

To generate sales, you hire, pay, manage and train talent to hopefully generate blockbuster revenue.  But, sometimes, despite a strong resume, past success and sparkling personality, they’re just not right for the role.  Here’s one more (real) example: as part of a lift-out of a business unit within the same industry, two salespeople were brought over from the old company.  Successful in the past, both were fired within their first 12 months at the new company — for lack of sales results.  How did this happen?  Despite their talent, the conditions into which they were being hired (no internal leads) were different from those at the previous company (many internally-sourced referrals).  Good people, wrong role.

What’s the “cost” of hiring the wrong candidate?  What’s the benefit to getting the right sales talent into the right role?

While you probably know much about the answers to these important questions, here are two ugly truths that my clients have come to discover and that you might want to consider:

  1. Opportunity cost: Hiring an underperformer, of course, may involve fees for headhunters and job boards; and salary (or draw), commissions, benefits, training and travel expenses. But there’s a bigger question: what’s the spread between an average performer (who meets their sales quota) and an average non-performer (who doesn’t).  For one of my clients, this spread is $250K/year.  Multiply the spread by the number of years that a company retains an underperformer, and you may be at $500K or more.  What would the opportunity cost be in your business?
  2. Collateral effect: Effective salespeople like winning, and this requires an A-list supporting cast, from analysts to sales engineers to managers. Salespeople with weak production and weak skills, and who are allowed to carry on without changing, have a corrosive impact on the sales organization.  They consume time and resources, and send the message that sales success doesn’t matter.  While compassionate in one sense, what if that created a level of resentment that caused one or more of your high performers to finally take that offer from your competitor that’s been chasing them?  In your firm, what would their lost production be worth — $500K? $1 million? More?

Because of these two ugly truths, measuring and improving your firm’s success rate in selecting biz dev talent should take on greater importance.  One way you can accomplish that is by using a data-driven approach to assessing sales talent, early in the recruiting process to ensure your team only interviews candidates who will succeed in the role you’re filling.

Want to take a free road test of the sales candidate assessment tool I use to predict success for my clients? Click here.  We can customize the assessment for your company so you can find the right talent you need to accelerate your revenue growth.

PIVOTING YOUR SALES ORGANIZATION: MAKE SHIFTS THAT STICK

Are you making changes to your sales organization with new leadership, a new CRM, going after a new channel or larger clients, or trying to sell solutions that cross multiple lines of business?You probably won’t be surprised to learn that roughly 70% of efforts by organizations to change direction are unsuccessful.  So, what are some ways to bend the curve on your firm’s outcomes?

WHY CHANGE EFFORTS FAIL

When making changes, it’s important to consider that one major reason that change efforts often fail is that the organization is not aligned around the change.  Not surprisingly, people are generally resistant to change. Employees often prefer their current behaviors to new ones and will look for reasons not to change; and managers or peers who are not supportive, or even indifferent, about the change might be just the ticket they’re looking for to stay on their current path.

Gaining alignment to change current practices is different from a leader gaining consent to or compliance with their idea.  It involves effective teamwork to, first, make the right decisions about the change and, then, gain alignment around the change decided upon.

THE ESSENTIALS

How do you do this?  Research from Richard Hackman, whose work on high performing teams lasted beyond his years, and Ruth Wageman (both Harvard PhD’s and organizational behaviorists),  proved that 80% of a team’s performance could be traced to three essential questions:

  1. Are they a real team?
  2. Do they have a compelling purpose?
  3. Do they have the right people?

Allow me to add some color to each, using an example that you’re assembling a task force to choose or change your organization’s CRM system.

REAL TEAM

A team that’s “real” is bounded, interdependent and stable.  Will the membership be defined?  To choose the right CRM for your firm, will the members need to draw from each other’s experience and insights? Can you count on the members to stay involved from start to finish, and will their managers support this?

COMPELLING PURPOSE

A purpose that is “compelling” is clear, challenging and consequential.  Are members clear on the scope of the task?  Does their work end with a systems recommendation, or do they continue on through negotiation, or possibly implementation?  Will participating on this task force engage and stretch people in a way that feels good?  And do they see this system change as something that will help their colleagues, the business and give them pride?

THE RIGHT PEOPLE

The “right” people are those who can best contribute to the team’s mission.  For a CRM selection, does each member bring a perspective that will lead to the right outcomes?  Do they have teamwork skills that will enable them to operate effectively with others in contributing to the task force’s work?  Will they bring a diversity of thought to ensure there is some healthy tension in how decisions are made?

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Ensuring your firm makes the right decisions, and is aligned around them, takes patience.  It’s way quicker to announce a decision and tell people to get on it.  That’s exactly what lands most initiatives in the 70% of fails.  If the change is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.  Getting into the 30% success club starts with a real team, a compelling purpose and the right people.

If you’re frustrated by a team that is charged with important work connected to your growth aspirations, but which is not aligned and incapable of producing optimal decisions, I can help.  By running a quick diagnostic – based on Hackman’s and Wageman’s work – we can gain clarity on both their challenges as a unit, and how to support them effectively, so that your efforts succeed.

Consultative Selling with a Wooden Racquet

Does your sales organization gain enough client information to win consistently?

Are you old enough to remember Bjorn Borg, the Swedish tennis phenom?  You know, long blond hair, headband, scruffy face.  His fitness and innovative topspin forehand helped him win 11 Grand Slam titles in the 1970’s.  Less memorable was his comeback in the 1990’s.  Borg quickly learned that a wooden racquet and topspin were no longer game-changers.

Likewise, the phrase “consultative selling” may bring back memories.  It should, it’s been around for over 40 years.  It’s tempting to dismiss the approach as old-school.  Like Borg’s wooden racquet, surely this tool won’t win deals today.  Right?

Wrong.  For two reasons.  First, there is a misunderstanding of what it is.  And, second, there is an incorrect assumption that everyone does it.

There’s a commonly held belief among salespeople (and their managers) that consultative selling is about identifying and addressing a customer’s needs.  While these things are important, they don’t go far enough.  For a long time now, the internet has empowered clients to source and research their own list of vendors.

In a sales meeting today, asking a few questions and describing your capabilities isn’t enough to win, when other vendors can do the same thing and your client knows it.  Today, selling consultatively means asking deep enough questions, and listening acutely, to uncover an accurate and complete picture of a client’s urgent and compelling needs.  Do your salespeople do this? Do your sales managers know how to do this?

The second incorrect assumption is that, because consultative selling has been around a while, everyone must do it.  Have you ever heard the expression, “common knowledge isn’t common practice?”  It applies. Based on a survey of over 1.9 million salespeople from 200 industries and 130 countries, how many are strong at the consultative selling competency?  Get ready for it: 12%!

This means that, when 10 salespeople compete for a deal, only 1 of them will ask the kind of questions that enables her to position value in a way that a client will find compelling enough to agree to a change.  What about the other 9?  They walk away with participation trophies or, in this case, believing that they would have won if they had a lower price.

Does your sales organization sell consultatively, or just talk about it?  For leaders who are driven to accelerate growth, I offer these five proof points to test whether your people are in the 12% or 88% of consultative sellers:

  1. Client knowledge: When you ask your people about a new business opportunity, are their answers limited to either their perspective (on size, timing or competitive advantages) or that of one decision maker (“he loves us”)? Or are they able to articulate the client’s urgent need, voiced by multiple people in the decision chain, that the status quo must change, and change now?  This requires less talking, more high-mileage questions and more listening; how comfortable with silence is your sales team in client meetings? Do they wait for the client to fully unpack their concerns and challenges, or do they rush in to “solve” what they think is their problem?
  2. DQ’s: What percentage of pipeline opportunities get disqualified (“DQ”), rather than pursued, by your team? This takes client knowledge (see #1 above) and a disciplined process that is supported by your managers.
  3. Win conversion: What’s the ratio between proposals and wins? How often do deals die at the proposal stage?  If your people are gaining strong client knowledge (#1), and they (and their managers) use rigorous qualifying criteria and process (#2), they should be winning 50-80% of deals they decide to propose or pitch.
  4. Win quality: What percentage of new wins meet your criteria for a solid deal? How often does your sales team (including managers) say they lose on price?  What percentage of them require discounting, or an exception to minimums, or require non-standard workarounds?  Who benefits from this new win?
  5. Trending: Are you seeing upward movement in the organization’s ability in the above areas?

Gaining objective, accurate and predictive data on your sales team’s consultative selling skill — as well as the 20 other competencies required to sell effectively today — will tell you how to properly shape and support the sales effort to bend the revenue curve.

If you track the data above in your CRM, and feel confident about its accuracy, these proof points should be easy for you to measure.  If you don’t have access to that data, and are relying on your sales managers, how do you feel about their knowledge and objectivity to give you a true read on your sales organization’s selling skills?

If you would like a clear picture on the strength of your sales organization’s selling abilities and potential, I can help you with that.  In the meantime, here is a link to a free whitepaper on what the data say about “The Science of Sales Effectiveness.”

Bjorn Borg might never have won another tournament with his wooden racquet.  If your sales team is going to market with stale consultative selling skills, do yourself a favor: buy them a new racquet and arm them with the skills they need to come home with more than a participation prize.

 

Will Your Dogs Hunt? (What the data says about sales “hunters”)

How’s your new business development going during this crazy “new normal?” Are your people getting out there and hunting for new opportunities so your business can continue to thrive?

However you feel about using the phrase “hunter” in sales (wouldn’t that make clients a target to be tracked, followed and killed?), it’s generally used to describe a salesperson’s skill level in finding new clients or new logos.

According to research data from my colleagues at Objective Management Group, who maintain a database of over 1.9 million sales professionals, in 200 industries and 130 countries, only 41% of salespeople are strong in the hunting competency.  So if you’re feeling as though your salespeople are waiting for some incredibly rare planetary realignment to make an unsolicited prospect call, the data backs up your feelings.

What’s holding back your salespeople? The research looks at the following contributing factors in determining whether a salesperson will hunt: perfectionism, rejection fatigue, excuse-making, need for approval, volume of company-generated leads and referrals.

What role do your managers play in finding and developing hunters?  What are the consequences in your firm for a salesperson not hitting their metric of new clients, not maintaining a strong pipeline of opportunities, not sourcing their own referrals or leads, and not being able to convert a network of contacts into new opportunities?

If your business needs more new clients to reach your goals, you might consider pursuing these six best practices to gain better outcomes:

  1. Get good data: Your biz dev people have value, after all your firm decided to hire and keep them all these years. What’s less clear is their ability to hunt for new business.  Gaining objective, accurate and predictive data on their hunting skills will make it clear which dogs will hunt and how to support this part of their work.
  2. Skill them up: It may be years, if ever, since your salespeople were trained in how to prospect.  Today, digital tools have changed the landscape – both for prospects and for your sales team.  Where needed, get them re-grounded and current in the principles of effective prospecting.
  3. Challenge them: There’s a reason mamma birds push their babies out of the nest! Hunting for new business is always going to be tougher than servicing current clients and fielding internal leads and referrals.  Pushing them out of the nest involves aligned and consistent messaging across your leadership team, so they understand there’s no place to hide from this important sales responsibility.
  4. Track them: If you don’t already, use your CRM as the source for tracking new business metrics, such as the number of pure prospect calls, the number of new opportunities created, and their efficiency ratio in converting calls into opportunities. If you are tracking these stats already, volumes and trends should be consistently discussed in meetings between leaders and managers, and between managers and salespeople.
  5. Support them: Be empathetic that changing behaviors and doing things that feel uncomfortable is tough and takes time.  That means managers committing time to observe prospecting calls, and to coach development of prospecting skills.  Equally important, this also means that leaders should coach managers on their coaching effectiveness.
  6. Compensate them: One skill shared by all salespeople is how to max their payout.  Be sure that your comp plan is not only competitive with peer organizations; it should offer salespeople and their managers greater incentives for tougher work like winning new revenue from new clients.

Hunters play an invaluable role in growing your business.  Using the six best practices above will ensure that your sales organization is driving new business development; and allowing its salespeople to engage their inner hunters.  And will tell you which of your dogs will hunt.

Score a free road-test of the sales talent assessment I use to assess a salesperson’s hunting competency (in addition to 20 others), by clicking here.  Let me know what you think!

 

 

Goldilocks and the Three Empathies (a COVID-19 tale)

Tired of being confined to her cottage during the COVID-19 crisis, Goldilocks decided to take a walk through the Enchanted Forest and gather ingredients for dinner.  She came upon a market, considered by the king to be an essential service, where local farmers were still permitted to sell their produce.

She approached the first vendor at a socially-safe distance.  When asked how her day was going, she said how frustrated she was with this lockdown.  Vendor #1 then commented: “You shouldn’t feel that way, Goldilocks.  This will all be fine and over before you know it.  And, by the way, I’m running a special on strawberries today.”

Goldilocks walked away thinking to herself, “That empathy was too cold.  I “shouldn’t feel” the way I feel?  And how does he know that it will all be fine and over soon?  That felt icky, just like his strawberries probably were. And I’m allergic to strawberries anyway.”

As she visited vendor #2, who greeted her and asked about her day, Goldilocks again expressed her cottage-quarantine frustration.  In response, vendor #2 remarked: “Oh me too.  I’m so frustrated.  My business is down.  I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.  I haven’t been sleeping well because I’m so stressed out!  I can’t take this much longer…”

The vendor continued talking as Goldilocks wandered away.  This time, she thought: “That empathy was too hot.   He was not listening and did not care about me. He totally hijacked my story and talked about himself the whole time I was there.  I feel even more stressed out than I did before. Yuck.  What was he selling again?”

Getting even more frustrated and still with an empty basket, she moved on to vendor #3 who, again, said hello and inquired about her day.  This time, when Goldilocks shared her frustrations the vendor said, “Oh Goldilocks, I’m so sorry that you’re feeling frustrated.  Sounds like you’re having a difficult time.  How are you managing through it?”  As Goldilocks talked, the vendor listened with compassion and curiosity.  Then he helped her choose fruits and vegetables for her evening’s feast.  She gladly paid for them, filled her basket and skipped happily home.

On her way, Goldilocks thought to herself: “That empathy was just right.  It felt good to be heard and supported.  Vendor #3 was really nice and helpful.  I will definitely go back to him.  In fact, I will give him a killer Yelp review, and Face-time Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin right now to refer them to that nice man, with his beautiful produce and helpful advice!”

The moral of the story: especially during this unusual time, remember to stay close to and connect with your clients, prospects and centers of influence; and, when you do, ask high-mileage questions, and listen with sincere interest and compassion.  They will appreciate you for it.

Do your salespeople most resemble Vendor 1, 2 or 3 in managing through this difficult time? I care and I’m here to support you.

 

Low Tide at Revenue Beach

One of the most interesting things about going to the beach is the change in scenery at high and low tide.  High tide is about abundance.  Low tide, on the other hand, reveals all sorts of unusual things: shells, starfish, sea glass, tires, shovels and rocks.

For growing your business, the last ten years have been high tide.  There was so much growth and opportunity, were there points that you were unable to find enough sales talent to keep up with it?

The COVID-19 health crisis has been a difficult period for people on so many levels.  It’s also created a low tide in the financial markets and in many industries.  And as revenue and pipeline opportunities flowed out over the last several weeks, what’s been revealed on your beach?  The common theme in the conversations I’ve had during this period with CEO’s, Managing Partners and PE investors is that there is a now-visible gap between what they need, and what they’ve got, in their sales organization.  These gaps might include some or all of the following:

  • Hunters
  • Legitimate pipeline opportunities
  • True account managers, to both retain and expand relationships
  • Managers who drive accountability
  • Ownership
  • Agility

Whether your current focus is on getting through the current crisis or preparing for what follows, two things — dispassionate data and objective insights — will give you the confidence to make the right calls during this difficult period.  When the time is right, I can help you with cutting-edge tools that will change the way you move forward.

The #1 Action Your Salespeople Should be Taking Today (and why 95% of them will probably not do it)

As a business leader, are these extraordinary times re-stacking your daily priorities and decisions?  Does your sales organization feel paralyzed — with activity and results way off, and a pipeline that seems to have vanished?

No doubt, this is a difficult time to be selling.  The pandemic impacts people, companies, industries, markets and the economy.  And with social distancing, the meeting calendar might have been wiped out.

So, what’s the #1 action your sales team should be taking right now, today?  The answer, while perhaps uncomfortable, is not as tough as it may seem: gaining virtual appointments and conducting what I call “re-discovery” calls with pipeline prospects.  This goes beyond simply checking in.  A re-discovery call takes intention and preparation, and includes the following:

-Leveraging the access your people have earned,

-Conducting fresh discovery with customers on how recent events are impacting their goals, challenges, priorities and decision making,

-Finding (new and maybe different) ways to help.

Why are 95% of your people unlikely to do this?  The data on salespeople suggests that all but 5% of them lack the mindset and skill. Surprising?  Here is a link to a recent post on the importance of value selling by Dave Kurlan from Objective Management Group that highlights some illuminating data from their bank of over 1.9 million sales professionals, across 130 countries and 200 industries.

How much stronger are the top 5% of salespeople compared to the bottom 50% in several critical areas right now?

-Sales DNA: 10,000%

-Consultative selling: 2,000%

-Selling value:  900%

What does this huge gap mean? The data suggests that, even in normal times, poor mindset and ineffective selling skills prevent most biz dev people from having critical and timely conversations.

How do your salespeople’s mindset and skills compare to the averages above? What should you do as a leader to address this – to navigate the current storm and properly position for the rebound?  Let’s talk.

 

Link

If you’re a leader in a professional services firm, you’ve probably noticed that most of your new business comes from a small handful of your Partner-level colleagues.  If one or more of these Partners left, who would replace them to be your next generation of rainmakers, or biz dev superstars?

Understandably, professional services firms – consulting, accounting, law, etc. — tend to assign biz dev responsibilities to Partners and Directors who are a) extroverted, and b) strong networkers.  It’s true that selling new work can be challenging for someone who doesn’t enjoy being around other people.  However, it is also true that plenty of well-networked extroverts fail to bring in the work.  How come?

I set out to find how rainmakers — which I define here as the top 10% within professional services firms in winning new revenue from new clients — compare to:

  1. Top salespeople in industries outside of professional services,
  2. Non-rainmakers (the bottom 90%) in professional services.

To do this, I engaged my friends at Objective Management Group, which maintains the largest and most seasoned database on the planet for sales and business development talent.  They did a highly targeted study of roughly 500 professionals with business development responsibilities in professional services firms.  The conclusions might surprise you.

Belief #1: Top rainmakers are different from top full-time salespeople.

Whatever term your firm uses to refer to new business from new clients, the rainmakers (top 10%) in professional services firms share the competencies of the top 10% of full-time salespeople in any industry.

In the illustration above, you can see how closely aligned rainmakers (blue) are with top salespeople in any industry (orange) in two key areas: grit (the five factors to the left) and how they’re naturally wired for sales (Sales DNA, on the right).  In fact, there was a 96.7% correlation across the 29 factors OMG looked at.

>>Conclusion: Top rainmakers and top salespeople share the same competencies to win work.

Belief #2: Rainmakers (top 10%) are more personable and better networked than non-rainmakers (bottom 90%) in professional services firms.

Across the 29 factors, there were significant differences between the top, average and bottom performers in our professional services study.

For the same six key factors selected in the prior graph, you can see some wide gaps between top and bottom performers in the areas of grit (left-most five) and how they’re wired for sales (right-most).

The biggest gaps, however, were in several biz dev competencies, or skills:

The five most significant differences had little to do with being extroverted or having a big network.  They were:

  1. Closing: The ability to overcome resistance to close new business.  Here, the top 10% were 123% stronger than the average, and 600% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  2. Reaching Decision Makers: Accessing a broader set of contacts in the sales process, given larger and more complex decision-making processes in client companies today.  For this competency, top performers were 92% stronger than the average, and 582% versus the bottom 10%.
  3. Social Selling: The ability to not to just have a lot of contacts, but to convert them into opportunities.  Here, the top 10% were 71% stronger than average and 336% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  4. Consultative Selling: Through effective questioning and listening skills, rainmakers identify a prospect’s compelling reason to buy or move.  Here, they are 68% stronger than average and 283% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  5. CRM Savvy: Rainmakers realize that their CRM saves them prep time and allows them to stay organized and on track to win more work. In this regard, they are 85% above average and 200% higher than the bottom 10%.

>>Conclusion: There is no evidence to support the concept that extroversion and networking ability produce rainmakers.

While these qualities are helpful for business development, it’s important to look deeper to find your next generation of rainmakers.  If you’re not happy with your firm’s pace of growth, using data to identify business development competencies in your next generation is a more objective and accurate way to promote and recruit those future rainmakers that will, er, make it rain.