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. In this post, I will highlight five common problems and suggest actions to be taken.
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 revenue flow. It’s not uncommon that 50% of the pipeline needs to be flushed 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 need to hold sales people accountable.
- Technology pre-requisites: Prospecting tool with built-in qualification guidelines + opportunity and pipeline management system with momentum tracking + sales analytics.
Sales people acting as lone wolves
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 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 as new age nonsense.
- 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 valuable structure capital.
- Responsibility: Sales directors to set guidelines, frontline sales managers to hold sales people accountable.
- Technology pre-requisites: Opportunity and pipeline management, sales analytics and coaching.
Gambling to make money
When there are no sales playbooks designed to guide sales people and help buyers 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 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.
Suggested actions to resolve:
- Introduce sales process and playbooks in order to better understand your buyers and 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, define scope and create a clear role 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.
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 get used to new tools. Their leaders must support and guide them throughout this change. And yes, you need to invest in the appropriate tools (if you’re in a complex sales environment, we reccomend Membrain as your sales platform of choice ).
- 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.