Archives for April 2013

Final Thoughts Before the Crickets Chirp



This past week, I was asked by my new employer to press the pause button on this personal blog, to become part of the collective voice at The Richardson Sales Excellence Review™

Despite the fact that I regret my wishy-washy, stop/start behavior with this blog, I couldn’t be more pleased to become part of the blogging team at Richardson, and am honoring the request with this announcement. I will keep this website and blog up, with full access to past posts, but this will be my last new post here for awhile.

I would, however, in typical Kunkle-style, like to leave you with a few thoughts.

Advice that’s out of context is best ignored.

Consider these sayings:

The early bird gets the worm.
…Yet, the early worm gets eaten.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
…Yet, out of sight, out of mind.

All good things come to those who wait.
…Yet, only what’s left behind by those who hustle.

Opposites attract.
…Yet, birds of a feather flock together.

The best things in life are free.
…Yet, you get what you pay for.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
…Yet, better safe than sorry.

Actions speak louder than words.
…Yet, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Hmm. Get the point?

How Sales Are Made

How Sales Are Made

I hope so. Anthony Iannarino gets it, too. He wrote a post called, called “Ten Popular Ideas About Sales That Aren’t Exactly True.”

In the post, Anthony cites some ideas that have become popular, which are talked about as if they are fact. Some of them seem true much of the time, while some of the ideas simply seem off-base when examined more closely, as he does in his post. Much of right/wrong interpretation is based on your perspective. I find that many of these ideas either may or may not be true, based on the specific situation you find yourself in. Isn’t this so often the case?

I especially respect Anthony’s comment that, “There are all kinds of ideas about what works and what doesn’t work in sales. Some of it contains a truth, but not the whole truth.”

And that’s the truth. 😉 Just as with the seemingly-contradictory sayings above. I’m sure each of us can recall different times and different circumstances when both sides of these sayings above seemed true (not at the same time, but one at a time, in the moment). The world is often a grayer place than the polarized, black-and-white thinkers would have us believe.

Also, and very importantly… if you leave assumptions out of it, and truly dig into the intended meaning of each saying (best done with the person saying them at the time, but it can be done in general), in some cases, something else mind-boggling comes to light… both statements are true. Yup, I’m serious. Look again and mull that one over for awhile.

This is the thought I leave you with, while the crickets chirp here, on this blog. Much like my Adaptive Buying and Selling Alignment thoughts, my Sales Utility Belt concept (from the same post), and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II, which I mentioned recently in a post on coaching… real-life is situational. Your circumstances may not always be precisely “unique,” but they are distinct enough that the advice you listen to and apply, needs to consider the specifics of your situation.

Business-people-faces-collage-716x398It’s like faces, right? By design we have two eyes, two ears, a forehead, a nose, a mouth and a chin. And some people (who are not even twins or a multiple), may look remarkably alike. There are a lot of similar combinations. But everyone is also unique. This is even more true when you add personalities to the mix, doesn’t it? Some are similar, but figuring out the different possibilities requires a statistical Monte Carlo expert. It’s equally as complex with companies, products, buyers, and selling situations. There are many similarities, many differences, and many sales nuances, as we’ve discussed before.

So, the next time someone offers you advice without digging into your unique situation or considering the sales nuances… my advice is, “Run!” Their advice might fit… and it might not. But the fact that they offered advice without a deep understanding of your situation (or without disclaimers that they’re aware of the potential gaps and encourage you to dig into it further), makes their advice suspect and flimsy, at best.

To quote one of my high school teachers, and years later, also a respected corporate mentor… “To be terrific; be specific.”

I’ll be back someday, but right now I can’t predict when. In the meantime, thanks for reading, join us at the Richardson blog, be safe out there, for goodness’ sake be kind to each other – even when you disagree, and by all means… let’s continue to elevate our sales profession.

Richardson Blog


Mike Kunkle
Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>


Improve Your Sales Coaching with Two Simple Steps – Part 3

Improve Your Sales Coaching with Two Simple Steps - Part 3I guess it’s somewhat funny that a simple, two-step addition to sales coaching has taken a 3-part blog series to communicate. Hopefully, it’s been a good journey for those who have come along for the ride.

  • In Part 1, I laid out the overall framework of the two-step addition, and explained Addressing the Right Issues, which involves diagnosing effectively, and Addressing the Issues Right, which is selecting and implementing solutions effectively.
  • In Part 2, I went into detail on Addressing the Right Issues

In this final post in the series, Part 3, I will detail Addressing the Issues Right.


Addressing the Issues Right: Solution Analysis

In this stage, now that we have hypothesized and confirmed gaps in mindset, knowledge, judgment, skills, behaviors (hopefully in comparison to your internal data on top producer differentiators) and identified environmental obstacles, it’s time to select appropriate solutions. The most effective way to accomplish this is to identify appropriate solutions based on the type of gap(s).

  • Explore possible solutions
    • In a landmark book, Analyzing Performance Problems, Bob Mager and Peter Pipe explain a very logical process to systematically find solutions to performance problems. In it, they introduce the Performance Analysis Worksheet (see:, which is a step-by-step flowchart, leading to solution outcomes such as clarify expectations, provide feedback, provide resources, train, remove obstacles, and more, all the way down to replace person. This tool had a profound impact on me in my early years in training and development, helping me to realize that many performance problems were not solved by training.
    • Another author that I came to respect and reference frequently was Ferdinand Fournies, who wrote Coaching for Improved Work Performance and Why Employees Don’t Do What They Are Supposed To Do (And What To Do About It), which was a New York Times Best Seller.  His content is behavioral-based, pragmatic, and excellent, but his 16 reasons why employees don’t do what they are supposed to do, is classic – and was the most illuminating for me. See: and scroll down to the Table of Contents, which lists the 16 reasons. I’ve also pasted them below… just in case this page isn’t a permalink. In the book, he addressed the reasons and provides appropriate solutions, similar in concept to Mager and Pipe’s work.

Ferdinand Fournies’ 16 Reasons Employees Don’t Do What They Are Supposed To Do

They don’t know why they should do it.
They don’t know how to do it.
They don’t know what they are supposed to do.
They think your way will not work.
They think their way is better.
They think something else is more important.
There are no positive consequences for doing the task.
They think they are doing it when they, in actuality, are not.
They are rewarded for not doing it.
They are punished for doing what they are supposed to do.
They expect a negative consequence for doing it.
Their poor performance does not receive a negative consequence.
There are obstacles beyond their control.
Their personal limits prevent them from completing the task.
Personal Issues.
The task cannot be done.

  • Select best solutions
    • This is where my recommendations diverge from some (but not all) of the coaching models on the market. Similar to Blanchard and Hersey’s versions of Situational Leadership, in which you base the appropriate leadership action on the needs of the performer, not every solution is best selected (or later, delivered) through a facilitative style. Sometimes, you need to be directive. Other times, you facilitate or lead the session. At other times, you may turn it over to the rep and ask them to report their plan to you.
    • In the case where there is not a solution that you need to prescribe exactly, yourself, default to your facilitative coaching model to engage and involve the rep in selecting or identifying the best solution. Obviously, this can enhance buy-in and ownership of the solution.
    • If you have to set clear or firm expectations or manage their performance, you may need to take the reins and select the solution yourself. If you read Fournies’ work, you’ll find that you can still often facilitate these discussions through effective use of questioning.

Provide Solution Support

  • This is done in a similar way, through your training or coaching models for running a coaching session. If you’ve determined a gap in mindset, knowledge, judgment, skills or behaviors, provide the rep the support they need.
  • This might include my simple Tell, Show, Do, Review training model or 3-D Coaching (Discuss, Demo, Do), or GROW, DOME, or any one of the standard coaching models on the market (for developmental sales coaching, I’m still a huge fan of Sales Coaching: Making the Great Leap from Sales Manager to Sales Coach). In short, provide the information, demonstration, skill practice, feedback, resources and/or support that your rep needs. I encourage the use of communication checks at each stage, to ensure communication is clear and remove all doubt that the rep understands expectations, what to do, and can actually do it. (In case you need to address non-performance later, these checks and verifications systematically remove most excuses, in advance.)
  • While this is a topic unto itself, and is what many people consider the actual coaching session, this section isn’t the purpose of this particular post on diagnosis and solution development, so I will breeze past the rest of this and move on to action planning.

Action Planning

  • This is pretty common, too, so hopefully doesn’t need much of an explanation. Once you’ve settled on a solution and provided whatever support you can at the time, you should create an Action Plan for implementation.
  • Establish expectations for who, what, why, where, how, and by when things will be done.
  • Set a date for review of plans, actions, results, and as needed, additional diagnosis and solutions.
  • Recommend or provide additional resources, as needed, as well.
  • Allow the rep to drive this as much as possible. Have them document, summarize and share. And when you get back together to review their activity and results, they should drive as much of that meeting as possible, too.

Well, that wraps this series on sales coaching, and the two big items around diagnosis and solution selection. Not that the other pieces aren’t critical… they are. But these are pieces that I often see as weak or missing, and they can add a measurable impact to the effectiveness of your coaching efforts. Hopefully, this series has given you some food for thought and tools to use.

I’ll be back next week with a new 2-part series start, and hopefully, one of my first guest posts.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, be safe out there, and by all means, let’s continue to elevate our sales profession.


Mike Kunkle
Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>


Improve Your Sales Coaching with Two Simple Steps – Part 2

Coaching2In the first post in this series, I wrote that there are many good coaching models for having an open, engaging discussion with a rep, but not as many that focus on rigorous diagnosis and the application of the best solution, based on that diagnosis. Which, this time, leads us right into some details about how to:

  • Address the Right Issues (in Part 2, this post)
  • Address the Issues Right (in Part 3, the next final post)


To get to the root cause and eventually solve the problem, I favor a scientific approach, using a personal situation analysis. This is also sometimes called a coaching analysis, since “situation analysis” is technically a strategic marketing analysis that is related to SWOT analysis and usually conducted at an organizational level. This is a similar thing, just aimed at a personal level, to assess the circumstances and situation with the sales rep.

Situation Analysis: To conduct a personal situation analysis, you identify the rep’s mindset, knowledge, judgment, skill, or behavior, and/or the environmental factors or constraints, that are producing the current results. To do that, you explore what is the sales rep doing, how often, to what degree of effectiveness, at what times, to get their current result. In performance coaching, it’s useful to have a baseline or benchmark of effective behaviors to compare and contrast, but for now, you are gathering facts.

  • To form some hypotheses, you…
    • Use reporting, metrics, lead indicators, lag indicators, and past experiences with the sales rep to form hypotheses to test.
  • To begin to confirm the hypotheses, you…
    • Dialogue with the rep about the situation (the facts, their perceptions, your perceptions)
    • Observe the rep work or interact, in situations where the issues in question will likely arise (may require purposeful scheduling)
    • Discuss again after observation to further explore the hypotheses and agree on this situation analysis, if possible (the goal is to determine objectively, “What Is”)

Situation Analysis: Forming the Hypotheses

If you’ve done a study internally of top-producer practices < see: Part 1 | Part 2>, it’s helpful. This provides a benchmark to which you can compare your rep’s mindset, knowledge, judgment, skills, and behaviors, to determine what is holding the rep back from being more successful. While it’s likely that your rep works in the same environment as your top producers, it’s possible that there are certain environmental factors that could be impacting your rep’s performance, but not the top reps’, so at least remain open to exploring that possibility.

If you haven’t done top-producer research, it’s somewhat more of a guessing game, but in that case, you can use the content from your rep’s sales training or your own experience as the backdrop and foundation for your gap analysis.

Looking at the organizational reporting, metrics, measures, lead indicators, lag indicators and overall results for your rep compared to others, is a good place to start. While you must remain open to change, you can begin to form some hypotheses to test with closer analysis.

Sometimes, the answer is painfully clear. Other times, less so. But usually, you’ll have some ideas where to start digging in deeper. For example, imagine that your rep’s pipeline conversation ratios are far above average in the latter part of their pipeline stages. (When a deal is in the pipeline and the client has an interest, it seems as if the rep does a great job shaping and closing the opportunity). By contrast, the rep has a far lower-than-average number of deals in the pipeline with earlier-stage conversation ratios being lower-than-average as well. (Perhaps indicating some challenges identifying the right prospects or approaching them effectively, to create opportunity.) This at least gives you an indication of where to start looking deeper and allows you to form some opinions to test. (As it also would, if that problem were reversed.)

Next you’ll want to confirm your suspicions.

Situation Analysis: Confirming the Hypotheses

  • To confirm your hypotheses…
    • Have an open dialogue with the rep about the situation (the facts, their actions, their results, their perceptions)
    • Observe the rep work or interact in situations where the issues in question will likely arise (requires purposeful rather than random scheduling)
    • Discuss with the rep after observation to further explore hypotheses and agree on the situation analysis, if possible

Having an authentic, non-threatening, and open dialogue with the rep is the best place to start. To help with this, start by positioning yourself as a helpful resource and asking more questions (rather than initially providing answers or solutions). Discuss the immutable facts first, then dig into what’s behind them, and why. Use the Five Ws and One H + the Five Whys, to truly understand what is happening. Explore the rep’s  perceptions and opinions, as well as your own. Do not attempt to solve the problem, at this point. This is about clearly identifying the problem(s), and at this stage, is mostly about finding some areas to test more closely.

Next, schedule some times to observe the rep when he or she will be able to do some of the work in question. This is a more purposeful approach than just “dropping in” on reps or having them cherry-pick accounts where things are going well, for you to observe. It also takes a different level of commitment, planning and flexibility. The benefits, however, are worth it. It’s often said that you want to coach to retain your top 20% of producers and coach to improve (if possible) or remove (more likely) your bottom 20% producers. But with the vast number of reps in the middle 60%, you have an opportunity to move the needle on their performance greatly, with this more targeted approach. So, this is your opportunity for the greatest organizational performance lift. My point in sharing that? Make the extra scheduling effort.

After observing the rep in action, wrap up this section with a discussion about what happened, using your typical coaching model frameworks… their perceptions, yours, agreeing on the diagnosis of what is happening and why – or at least agreeing on the possible diagnosis, at this point, with a willingness to explore solutions.


Now, finally, with the analysis, hypotheses, dialogue and observation behind us, it’s time to start addressing the issues. In the next and final post in this series, I’ll cover how to Address the Issues Right and get the maximum impact from this coaching investment.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, be safe out there, and by all means, let’s continue to elevate our sales profession.



Mike Kunkle

Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>

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