There aren’t too many jobs more difficult than effectively leading a sales force. It is a tough role, with as many ways to get things wrong as there are to get things right. There are, however, common mistakes that awareness will allow you to avoid. Here are nine terrible mistakes sales leaders make and their cures.
- Not Modernizing the Sales Force: The world of sales has changed more over the last ten years than the preceding forty years. Some would have you believe that nothing valuable in the past is still right today, a wrong idea—and the source of poor results. Evolution tends to transcend and include what came before, integrating and improving things. Modernizing the sales force means providing them with new processes, new methodologies, increasing business acumen, the ability to manage change, and leadership.
- Lagging Indicators over Leading Indicators: Some sales leaders believe the only things that matters are the numbers at the end of the quarter or the year. They absolve themselves of doing the real work of leading the sales force by insisting that people reach their goal without their day-to-day involvement. Lagging indicators are an autopsy. The body is dead, and there is nothing you can do about except determine the cause of its demise. Careful management of the leading indicators is what allows you to make changes while there is still time to improve your results.
- Underestimating Low Activity as a Cause for Poor Results: No one wants to be micromanaged. Nor do very many leaders want to micromanage their teams. For some reason, many sales leaders don’t like to look at low activity as a root cause for poor results, even in the face of unassailable evidence. They don’t want to require their sales force to prospect and schedule the meetings that result in new opportunities, the prerequisites to winning opportunities. When activity is a problem, more action is the right solution.
- Allowing Poor Hiring Practices: ”They have experience.” That statement alone is often enough to justify hiring the person applying for a position. If that isn’t enough, then “They have industry experience,” will surely do the trick. Neither of these is enough of a reason to hire a salesperson. You are recruiting for a set of attributes and skills that cannot be evaluated by looking at their resume. There is not a more important decision than the people you hire to acquire and take care of your clients.
- Believing Training and Development Isn’t Necessary: While we are on the subject of hiring, why is it that we want to think that because the person has worked in sales they need no training or development? If you believe their prior employer trained them, you are almost sure to be wrong. If you think their experience is enough to make them effective, you are mistaking time for growth and development. If you are not getting better, you are falling behind.
- Diminishing Accountability: The numbers used to be public. There used to be consequences for not doing the work necessary to produce the results that deliver your goals. Now, not so much. It’s more challenging to let people go, even when they are failing—and even when they are bad actors. Too many managers would rather keep a poor performer than hire a replacement. If you want better results, there is no better place to start than accountability.
- Making Changes Too Frequently: Some salespeople suffer from whiplash their leaders change things so often. Last year it was this methodology; this year, it is that one. Now it’s a new initiative to replace the initiative that was never executed. Instead of going all-in on a transformation and spending three years standing it up, like fashion, the changes follow the seasons. Make a good decision and spend the time and energy executing it.
- Not Protecting the Culture from Negative People: Negative people will turn positive people negative. Positive people don’t turn a negative person positive. Negative people are more committed to their beliefs and speak to anyone who will listen long enough that they flip them. Misery loves company so much that it spends all its time recruiting. Ask a sales leader who on their team is negative, and they will point to them without hesitation. If you allow them to stay, you are allowing them to whittle away at your culture. Protect your culture from all threats.
- No Commitment to Coaching: The best and highest performing sales organizations tend to place a high premium on coaching. When this is true, two things also seem to also be true. First, the leaders all coach. Second, the sales manager is provided with a framework for effective coaching. In General James Mattis’s book, Call Sign Chaos, the word that occurs most often as it pertains to his leadership is coaching. The best performers all have coaches.
If you want better sales results, reversing these mistakes is an excellent place to start a transformation.
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Filed under: Sales Leadership