When You Should Stop Selling

There are times when you may feel like the right thing to do is to stop selling. No matter what you think, and without regard for any circumstances, you must not stop selling. The implications of pausing your efforts, diverting your attention, and even something that sounds as innocuous as helping your team will cost you dearly later.

You Believe You Should Stop Selling

Your operations team is struggling to keep up with the pace of sales, and they are falling further behind every day. There is an increase in service failures, and you are horrified by the number of phone calls and emails you are receiving, let alone the number of issues going to your customer service team. Every cell in your body is screaming at you to let up, to stop selling, to wait until things are under control before you restart your efforts.

You believe that by pausing, you are helping your company, but you are not. Instead, you are making matters worse.

Your new offering, the one that is going to allow you to dominate your market, is plagued with problems. It works, but it takes more time and effort to get up and running, and you are behind on every project plan with every one of your clients who moved forward with your best solution. No one is pleased with all the work involved with standing up the new solution.

You hope that taking a break from selling will give everyone time to catch up, and your technical team to improve the implementation.

There is a crisis that is not of your making. Your company made the front page of the paper due to individuals accused of financial impropriety. It’s a very public black eye, and the nature of the accusation is the kind of thing that causes a loss of trust. Your company is embarrassed, you are ashamed, and your stock price has plummeted overnight.

How are you supposed to continue to sell when your company makes the front page?

The Wrong Kind of Help

You might believe that the best thing you can do for your company is to stop selling, but it is the worst possible choice you might make. When asked for help, you could decide to pitch in and start helping your operations team catch up on orders, believing that makes you a team player. Both of these ideas suggest you are offering the wrong kind of help.

When you stop selling because your company is falling behind, you create a future scenario where they have too little to do. By slowing your creation of new opportunities now, you eliminate the new clients and new orders you need in the future. Your b2b sales process doesn’t change, whether you create more work than your company can handle or generate too little work to keep people busy. Your b2b buyers aren’t going to accelerate their buying process to help you make up for lost time.

There are some salespeople and sales leaders who want to help by pitching in and doing work that is not sales, believing this is the right thing to do. If your company needs resources, salespeople jump into to make up the shortfall in human resources. During the time the sales force is working in operations, they create no new opportunities, nor do they move existing deals forward, dealing with an existing operations challenge to a future sales problem.

If you want to help your company and your teams, you will offer the right kind of help, none of which will require you to stop selling.

Extending the Time to Improvement

When you stop selling because your team is struggling, you are not helping them. In many cases, you are allowing an unaddressed problem to continue. The root cause of execution problems is never that you have sold too much, but that your company is lacking the necessary resources to deliver. This is why some sales organizations rely heavily on accurate forecasts as a way to ensure they make the investments to provide what they sell.

Any attempt to stop or slow your sales because the organization is experiencing challenges prevents or postpones the need to identify or improve the execution.

If execution means hiring more people, slowing sales prevents the need to add additional people, leaving the root cause undressed, and inviting the same problems later. The challenge of not having enough equipment or machinery is not made better by not having the sales; it’s made better by addressing increasing capacity.

Offering the Right Kind of Help

Let’s imagine a scenario where the sales force is struggling to create new opportunities. No one would suggest that people in operations start scheduling meetings to acquire new clients. Nor would anyone ask the CFO to move people in accounting into the field to sell. Instead, they would demand that you improve sales.

None of this is to suggest you don’t owe your company help with execution challenges. If you want to help, here is what you should do:

  • Triage: Because you have sales skills and abilities, you can communicate what you are doing to improve things and set expectations that buy your team time. Making calls and visiting with clients proves you care, that you are working to make things better, and that you are going to resolve their issues. You can help triage clients who are at risk, and you can help your team prioritize clients with greater needs over ones who may be able to wait a little longer.
  • Win New Clients: You can also help your company and the people who work hard delivering for your clients by working on bringing in more prominent, better clients. You can focus on winning deals with companies who will invest more in your solution and will potentially allow your company to make more considerable investments in the business.
  • Keep Your Team Working: As to the scenario where people in the company have been accused of impropriety, you help your company and your team when you continue to sell, acknowledging that the few people who may be guilty of some wrong-doing don’t make up the entire company. You owe it to your teams and all the people who had nothing to do with any wrong-doing to keep selling.

No matter what, never come off the field, and never stop selling.

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