5 Most Likely Culprits Causing Underachieving Sales
Time & time again, I hear tech-oriented CEOs tell me, “Dave, I hired 10 people this quarter; and only 3 are meeting my expectations for sales.” Then they’ll go on to tell me how sales people suck, or that it’s touchy-feely. They often also bring up the one or two hero sales that they closed to get the company started or when they came on board.
The numbers vary from company to company, but the message is consistent – CEOs who didn’t come up through the sales ranks consistently blame sales people for lack of sales.
Sometimes it is the fault of the sales person. But if you’re seeing the problem with more than an occasional sales person, the problem is not the sales people – it’s something you’re doing; or more likely, something you’re not doing.
There are five places you should consider when you’re looking for ways to fix this problem – and even to help your entire sales team (including successful reps) achieve more.
· Leadership & Support
Let’s take a brief look at each one.
For people whose backgrounds are technical, operational or financial instead of sales, it’s easy to see a good product-market fit, and think that your marketing and sales strategy is done. Or more recently to add social marketing tactics to get to that place in your mind.
In many cases, though, the sales strategy is not fully-baked. Sales strategy transcends the marketing strategy in that it includes a deeper dive into the various people who are part of the purchasing decision process, determining which need which type of attention, and identification of how to do it.
Diving deeply will produce some surprises, and will likely show you week points that need to be addressed because they’re causing sales not be made when they could be.
Although every sale has its own idiosyncrasies, for most companies and for most industries, there are more commonalities between successful sales than there are aspects that set them apart. This works in your favor, because it allows you to create a consistent, repetitive, scalable sales process.
That’s right. Despite many thoughts that sales is touchy feely and all about the relationship, it’s not. Relationship is important (which Dale Carnegie proved 100 years ago); but process is what lets you replicate it with the highest success in the most places.
By process, I don’t mean, “I have a CRM; so I have a process!” Nothing could be farther from the truth. By process, we’re talking about consistency from everything from the way you choose your calls, how you structure your emails & voicemails, to how often and when you reach out to your prospects – before and after the sale.
It includes determining the optimal mix of how you work with prospects and customers. Direct sales, seminars, webinars, telemarketing, social outreach, and mass emails, for instance are all ways to prospect and interact; but they all have their strengths & weaknesses, as well as different cost structures and uses in your sales cycle.
Here’s a question that if you answer the wrong way, points out that you don’t have a complete sales process – “How long does it take to get a sale from the first outreach to the day you get the purchase order?”
Some companies rely on hiring seasoned sales veterans hoping they can start taking orders immediately and not require any training. In reality, while the on-boarding for these sales types should be different from the way you on-board a novice, you still need to provide the proper training – and that might be significant at the start, with a consistent approach ongoing.
Sure; you know you need to train them on your product. But you’ll also need to keep them fresh on their sales techniques, industry acumen, and other aspects that are specific to your business.
With sales, it’s use it or lose it – and even more, it’s refresh it with training or you’re letting it become less effective. Your training plan should acknowledge that.
There are lots of tools that help a sales team, some of which help in the tracking & strategies; others that help become more effective on a daily basis.
CRM (customer relationship management) is the one that most often comes to mind; but it’s not the end-all tool. In fact, most of the the CRM tools that I’ve seen implemented in companies are not optimized for the real sales process. CRM should support the process, not the other way around. Plus you should have other tools that help target and follow up effectively – from lists, to trackers, to prospecting & follow up aids.
Here’s a tool that helps your sales team more easily follow a successful, consistent prospecting & conversation generation process, while it helps executives gain insights to help tweak the sales process and coach individuals to further success.
Leadership & Support
Finally, don’t let your own feet get in the way of your sales people achieving. Turn your efforts into support for your team – and avoid situations in which you hamper them inadvertently.
I’ve also run into a number of CEOs who have done a great job of getting sales from some clients, and expect their sales people to find it easy because they’re the sales pros. Forget that. As CEO, you’re supposed to be the best sales person in the company. But just because you made some hero sales doesn’t mean you really are the best sales person. Figure out how you can learn from your sales team; and figure out how you can use your successes to spur other people to be successful too.
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for leadership to hamper sales teams with unrealistic expectations, poor personnel skills, and other maladies. Don’t let this happen to you.
Here’s my offer:
If you’re interested in reviewing how you do your sales, and want somebody to help you increase your trajectory for customer attainment and revenue growth, fill out my contact form at www.MMasters.com. One of our highly skilled consultants will respond to set up a 30-minute gap analysis.