Occasionally I like to take note of what I see in the world of sales. The following obstacles to better sales results seem to be prevalent in companies – or pockets within those companies. Going into the world and displacing competitors, creating new opportunities, winning those opportunities, retaining clients, and growing revenue isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, let alone adding to it unforced errors.
- Outdated Approach: If your approach to sales is from 1988 (or even earlier), it is obsolete and of limited effectiveness. If your sales process and methodologies haven’t kept pace with the changes in the business environment, your results will suffer. As sales approaches evolve, your strategy, including your processes and methodologies, needs to evolve to match the times. If how you sell has not changed in any meaningful way, it will cause you to generate poor results. If you can’t compel change, your approach is outdated.
- Lack of Accountability: If there is an epidemic in sales organizations that causes them to produce poor results, it is the lack of accountability that plagues too many sales organizations. The twin problems of unengaged leaders and unwillingness to require people to do the work necessary to produce the results they need leads to results that continue to decline over time. Many leaders offer their people suggestions, allowing them the option to decide for themselves what they do and how they do it.
- Lack of Cadence: One of the reasons you might produce results that are less than what you need is because you lack an operating cadence for sales. There is no territory or account planning. There are no pipeline meetings, and if there are, they would be more accurately called mini-opportunity reviews. There is no real focus on managing and leading the sales force from week to week, and from quarter to quarter. You cannot stand up a sales organization without putting the necessary pieces in place.
- Not Enough Actual Selling: You would sell more if you spent more time selling and less time on everything else. The statistics on how little time salespeople spend selling are abysmal. If you have wished you had a larger sales force, you can double your sales efforts by merely removing the non-sales related tasks they spend their time on and allow them to focus on creating and winning new opportunities. One way to measure your selling time is to look at how much time you spend with your prospects and clients.
- Poor Execution: Some sales organizations have everything they need to reach their goals. They have the right people, the right approach, and the right value for their clients. What causes them to produce poor results is poor execution. Poor execution of their strategy, and poor execution of the primary tasks of their sales managers (coaching and development). It is possible to have everything you need to succeed and still fail due to a lack of execution. Selling well has never been easy. But the modern approach to sales is even more challenging to execute well. Execution challenges never resolve themselves.
- Too Little Prospecting: No opportunity is ever closed before it is opened. Salespeople, sales managers, and sales leaders love to focus on deals while trading prospecting as something less important. All of the deals you need to make your number all stem from your efforts to create new opportunities. It is a mistake not to treat opportunity creation as being as valuable—or more valuable—than deals. This is the same as wanting a good yield at harvest time without having planted the seeds necessary.
- Failure to Control the Process: You are supposed to have a sales process that outlines all the things you need to accomplish to create and win new deals. You are supposed to line your process up with your theory about your buyer’s journey (or their buying process). These ideas are honored in the breach. Where sales results are unsatisfactory, one of the reasons may be because the salesperson doesn’t have the ability—or willingness—to control the process. Instead, they let their prospective clients determine what they might do next—to the detriment of both the salesperson and their client.
- No Development Initiatives: If you are not getting better, you are getting worse. If you are not growing and improving, you are falling behind. The belief that sales problems can still be enhanced by technology hasn’t proven right. As technological solutions have proliferated over time, the number of salespeople reaching their goals has declined. Whether this is causation or correlation is irrelevant. The real challenge in effective selling is the interaction between the salesperson and their prospective clients. There is no decision your potential client will make that will be the result of the component parts of your sales stack. If there is no training, no development, and no coaching, you are not getting better.
The symptoms of these root causes include sales results that are less than they should be. The way you improve those results is by treating the root causes.
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Filed under: Sales