Last week, a sales executive at a large manufacturing company told me that his phones have stopped ringing. “We have the best products in the world,” he said, “but we’re losing ground.”
He’s not alone. As I discussed in an earlier article, CSO Insight’s “2015 Key Trends Analysis of Sales Performance Optimization” shows a global sales failure rate of a staggering 41.9%. It’s easy to blame outside factors—global competition, copycats, changing market conditions, or even a bad marketing process. But the truth is, if we’re going to turn sales performance around, we have to take a good, hard look at sales process.
Why Sales Teams are Failing
Marketing departments love to tout the latest statistic that “buyers complete 60% of the sales process before they contact a sales person,” and there is some truth to it. Buyers are more in charge than ever of the content they consume and the methods by which they contact sales people.
But that statistic only reveals part of the truth. The other part is that marketplace is crowded with content, much of it difficult to distinguish from all of the other content. By the time a buyer reaches a sales person, he or she is highly saturated with overwhelming quantities of information. The sales team’s job is more important than ever in differentiating the brand and establishing it as the best solution to the buyer’s specific need.
Unfortunately, as reports indicate, they’re failing badly at it. Here’s why.
- Sales People Don’t Master the Fundamentals
Though much has changed, the fundamentals of selling have not. You still have to get inside the heads of your customer, understand their needs, know where your solution fits uniquely, and understand which clients you can make profitable and happy. In the rush to catch up with the changing marketplace, sales organizations have let these fundamentals slip. Even in companies where a sales process has been established, it’s rarely followed. Sales people are hired from other organizations and immediately set loose on prospects without adequate onboarding and training, and with no attention whatsoever to whether they can and will implement the company’s best practices in sales process.
- Sales Managers Don’t Hold Salespeople Accountable
Even when training is provided and sales processes are established, most organizations do not provide consistently effective sales management. Without accountability, sales inevitably slide backward.
- Three: Executive Leadership Has No Visibility to Clearly Understand Why Their Teams are Failing
The management teams of most large organizations do not consist of sales people. In the manufacturing industry, executive leaders are usually engineers. Sales directors are asked to pass up forecasts and reports that show numbers only. The numbers may demonstrate that sales effectiveness is falling, but they give no indication as to why. This communication gap leaves executives with very little insight on which to base changes.
What Are We To Do?
The first thing an effective sales organization must do is overcome the idea that sales is an art form that cannot be harnessed or systematized. Research consistently demonstrates that top performing organizations develop, execute, and consistently follow effective sales processes, holding all team members accountable to it. Also, a modern sales process must be designed with the buyer in the center, not the seller.
The CSO Insights study reports that “sales process adoption is down, CRM adoption is in decline, levels of relationship with customers are slipping, and sales execution is less effective in several areas.” The connection between these factors is not coincidental.
Of course, instituting a consistent sales process is easier said than done. Many organizations invest in CRMs and sales effectiveness training, to very little long-term effect. This failure is usually due to an inability to track salesperson performance against the established sales process, and link their adherence (or non-adherence) to results.
Sales people often see little value in the process initially, and even the most enthusiastic learners will quickly rubber-band back to old habits when those habits are not reinforced by managers and an ability to track results against their adherence to the process.
Most CRMs do a good job of tracking activities, but a terrible job of tracking progress through the sales process, or measuring its effectiveness against sales results. What’s needed is a system that captures and encourages best behaviors and ensures that all sales people can and do carry out the right activities with the right people at the right time (i.e. helping buyers through their decision-making process), and provides visibility for managers to provide effective coaching and correction. Such a system can drive sales effectiveness by:
- Making a best practice sales process easy to understand and follow
- Holding sales people accountable to the process
- Allowing managers and coaches to see where coaching is required
- Flexibly modeling best practices on data via real-time win/loss analysis
For instance, New Zealand-based SalesStar experienced a 67% win rate increase after partnering with Membrain to integrate their best practices and sales strategy with the system their sales people were using.
“Membrain holds both the sales team and the sales team manager accountable to the activity which gets results,” says SalesStar CEO Paul O’Donohue. “Using Membrain, the activities are easy to monitor and the reporting tells me if my team is being effective in that activity and achieving results.”
Similarly, Scania Mining, a global mining transport organization, saw a 50% increase in net profit after implementing the Membrain Sales Improvement Platform to support their new complex solution selling process.
“Investing in a deal and then losing it can be very costly for the company and devastating for the sales team,” says Sven-Erik Gustafsson, Scania Mining’s Sales Director. “You need to qualify very carefully as you go along. Membrain supported this way of selling, and ensured that managers and sales reps adopted the new process right away.”
The stakes are high. If sales effectiveness continues to decline as it has, even large, established organizations will struggle to survive. It’s time to up the game.
Schedule a call with us today to find out how to reclaim your sales organization’s effectiveness.