As I engage with sales organizations around the globe, I’m sometimes surprised how respectable companies lack a modern sales infrastructure and accept old (bad) habits, causing yearly losses in the millions.
Heres are five common problems and suggested actions:
- A ghost town: the sales pipeline
When conducting a pipeline and deal review, a high number of stalled deals are normally found. There are a number of possible causes for this, the main ones being that sales people don’t properly qualify deals and use “sandbagging” to tweak their pipeline numbers. This creates inaccurate sales forecasts and unpredictable revenues. It’s not uncommon to find out that 50% of the pipeline needs to be cut out.
- Introduce a clear definition of what an ideal customer looks like, when it’s OK to spend time and resources on pursuing deals and when to stop wasting time on deals that are unlikely to close.
- Responsibilities: Leadership to determine the overall commercial strategy and ideal client profiles, frontline sales managers to coach and hold sales people accountable for proper qualification.
- Technology pre-requisites: Prospecting tool with built-in qualification guidelines + opportunity and pipeline management system with momentum tracking + sales analytics.
- Sales people acting as independent cowboys
Often, an informative and actionable sales process is missing and sales people are left to their own devices to make their number. Also, some sales people decide to play according to their own rules – often the old dogs that believe that they should be excluded from following guidelines. They don’t share best practices with the rest of the team, deliberately store information about deals and contacts in a system of their own and reject new technology.
- Don’t accept this type of behavior. Even though lone wolves might be making their numbers, their behaviors will rub off on others and have a negative impact on the entire team’s performance. It will also prevent the company from building a healthy sales culture and valuable structure capital.
- Responsibility: Sales directors to set guidelines, frontline sales managers to make sure that destructive behavior is banned, encourage teamwork and coach towards desired behaviors.
- Technology pre-requisites: Opportunity and pipeline management, sales analytics and coaching.
- Gambling to make money
When we don't have sales playbooks designed to guide sales people in helping buyers to reach consensus in our favor, reps often skip or forget important steps - such as truly understanding all stakeholder’s fears and ambitions and the competitive landscape. This leads them to make simple mistakes, like sending out quotes prematurely. Also, in an eagerness to reach quota, end of quarter discounts are offered to entice prospects into signing the dotted line. This causes eroding margins and sets the expectation that there’s always a deal to be had when playing the discount game with your sales people.
- Introduce sales process and playbooks that consistently facilitate buying decisions in your favor by guiding sales people through the right actions and milestones.
- Responsibility: Frontline sales managers and sales directors.
- Technology pre-requisites: playbooks, sales enablement tools and a buyer-focused sales process.
- The rogue sheriff
Instead of helping sales people win more deals and grow their professional skills and effectiveness, some sales managers revert back to their old sales role and take the best deals for themselves. This problem often occurs when promoting successful sales people into managers, without proper training and coaching for their new management role. This problem is accentuated when compensation plans don’t align with what’s best for the sales teams and the company as a whole.
- Review compensation plans and define a clear role description for frontline sales managers. Make sure they understand that they now need to generate business through their people.
- Responsibility: Sales director and company leadership.
- Technology pre-requisites: Sales playbooks, analytics and coaching tools.
- Horseback riding
A lot of sales teams are using tools designed during another millennium. If you’re still using excel spreadsheets or a traditional CRM to manage your sales efforts, you need to step up your game. In these times of information overload and global competition, sales (and marketing) people need to use messaging that resonates with buyers, in places where they go to learn, at the right times, using the right tools. Sales people need to adopt new behaviors and their leaders must support and guide them through this change. And yes, you need to invest in the appropriate tools (if you're in a complex sales environment, we recommend Membrain as your sales platform of choice - with or without your current CRM).
- Design a sales strategy that resonates with buyers and use the right tools to enable maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
- Responsibility: Company leadership to craft messaging, sales director to design the overall sales strategy and frontline sales managers to ensure it is executed.
- Technology pre-requisites: social networks, prospecting tools, sales playbooks.
If you’d like to discuss how Membrain and can help you take your sales efforts to the next level, please reach out to us and we’ll schedule a time to speak.
To help you create a sales process, please try our sales process tool.