In no particular order, but expect sleepless nights, followed by chest pain, followed by massive anxiety, and a visit to someone who is a good listener with a couch you can lay back on.
The Skills Gap: The skills that one once needed to succeed in sales are no longer sufficient. The bar on what value creation is has been raised, and it is not going to be found in your product, service, or solution alone; a large part of it is going to be found in the person you have sitting in front of your prospective clients. The skills are business acumen, the ability to lead change, the ability to control the process, and to behave like a peer and a leader.
Role Clarity and Reduction: Hunters are supposed to hunt. Opportunity creation is being given a back seat to account management tasks and duties. The line as to where growth ends and retention starts is no longer visible, but the lack of opportunity creation is. If this is true, you are not going to grow revenue.
Distractions and Lack of Priorities: If everything is important, nothing is important. Priority is singular. Much of what shows up in a salesperson’s email inbox or on their smartphone is actual work. It is not, however, the real work of sales and selling. All kinds of distractions dominate their day, from emails from their teammates, to requests for information, to client questions that should be handled by someone else. There is little time to be a salesperson when you have to do the ancillary, non-revenue generating work of being a salesperson.
Lack of Purpose, Meaning, and Swagger: There is a lack of swagger. There is a lack of confidence in the role of salesperson. It used to mean something to be the person that went into white space and created opportunities. It meant something when new clients were won. It was celebrated, praised, and rewarded. Now, in many companies, it is treated as if it is necessary, but not all that interesting.
Shifting Strategies: Over the last few years, it was insight-based selling, followed by social selling and inbound marketing, followed by buyer personas and buying journeys, followed closely by account-based sales and marketing. Each new year brings a new theme, a new shiny object, and a whipsawing of the sales force. Every fashion has it’s 15 minutes of fame, and the principles and fundamentals are forgotten. The theme for your next ten kickoffs should be Executing, Finally.
Sales Managers Who Have Rarely Seen Their Reps: The reps work from home, despite the fact that they lack the discipline to do so, and regardless of the more troubling fact that they aren’t gaining the knowledge they would if they worked with and around more senior salespeople. Their managers work from home, too, and they spend more time reporting the minuscule and minute changes in the forecast than they do coaching their team.
Your Linear Sales Process is Broken: The sales process is important. It wasn’t designed to answer every challenge that one faces as they pursue a deal. But in a world where the buyers are experiencing the kind of friction that Clausewitz described in warfare, the lack of information, the misinterpretation of information, and external events outside of their control, the linear process is no longer enough. Without new methodologies, you are leaving the sales force ill-equipped for the task you have given them.
You Value Opportunity Capture and Not Opportunity Creation: There is no opportunity capture until there is opportunity creation. No one prospects anymore. I’ll repeat this here for effect (I hope): No one prospects anymore. I am not kidding. There are no targets, nor are their call blocks. Nor are their pipeline meeting where the salesperson reports on the opportunities they created.
You Gave Them a SME Instead of Making Them One: Some reps now suffer under the belief that they need a subject matter expert for the most routine of all discovery calls. They rely on them to their detriment. How can one be a trusted advisor if one lacks the advice? They need to have a working knowledge and be conversational about whatever the SME knows. Let’s call it 57 percent SME, with the technical person or engineer picking up the other 43 percent.
It’s bad. And it is getting worse. Only we can change it.
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Filed under: Sales Knowledge