No sales - no business. Weak sales – anemic business. Sales is the life blood of business. When sales aren’t what you think appropriate, how does a business owner or sales leader figure out why. This article provides the top 3 reasons, in priority order, sales teams don’t meet their full potential, and provides suggestions for resolution.
Reason #1 – Lack of activity
Are your salespeople generating enough activity to fill their pipeline with qualified prospects? Failure here is the single biggest reason B2B salespeople fail. Determine how many closed deals you need to meet your goal; then figure in your close rate to determine how many qualified prospects you need to get into your sales pipeline.
Example - if your sales goal is a million dollars, your average sale is $10,000, and your close rate is 50%, you need to attract 200 qualified prospects. Now you have to figure out how you’ll get those 200+ qualified leads. Effective inbound marketing and a robust outbound prospecting plan are the prescription for success.
When doing outbound prospecting, don’t over-qualify. Some selling programs encourage getting to a “no” answer quickly. There’s lots of merit to not chasing weak prospects, but don’t get over-zealous about qualifying during outbound prospecting calls. There aren’t many B2B salespeople who fail because they’re in front of too many prospects.
One way to solve this problem is developing lead activities, and lead your team to achieve them. These are sales activities over which a salesperson has full control, and they are to be done weekly without exception. Here are three examples of lead activities: attend a networking event and meet new prospects or referral sources, make 20 outbound prospecting calls to set up appointments, and advance one prospect in the pipeline. These are examples of lead behaviors, and you should establish what makes sense for your sales team.
Reason #2 - Inadequate sales process
Sales process is comprised of many things including the process through which sales opportunities move along your sales steps, coaching and skills development, how your sales system is supported by the right tools and resources, and a variety of other things.
More often than not, the problem we see with sales process is inadequate coaching and skills development. Sales managers, if there is one, are burdened with administrative duties that prevent spending one-on-one time with salespeople. When management of the sales team is left to the business owner, this problem is often worse because that person is consumed with many other duties.
Salespeople, like most employees, improve through coaching and skills development. If salespeople aren’t executing the defined sales process, they aren’t telling the company story, they don’t fully understand how products/services benefit the customer, it’s likely they won’t perform. If salespeople aren’t exposed to methods to build rapport, discover pain and build value, develop proposals, and ask for the sale, it’s no wonder they can’t perform well.
Solve this problem by assigning someone the responsibility of leading the sales team, providing the salespeople with adequate leadership, coaching and skills improvement. Whether it’s the sales manager, business owner or a fractional sales manager, your salespeople need time to be developed.
Reason #3 – Wrong people
Perhaps you just have the wrong people. We believe a good process can enable an average performer to be good, but a bad process can make a strong performer weak. Consequently, always focus on process first, then people. I’ve seen many small businesses blame the people when their processes are weak.
When there’s adequate sales activity and a strong sales process, yet performance is still not appropriate, it may very well be the people. If that’s the case, put on your recruiting hat and begin finding stronger players.
Develop a comprehensive recruiting process that includes multiple interviews and personality assessments. See a previous article I authored “How to hire a successful B2B salesperson – 10 step process”.
Include in your pre-employment selection process a personality assessment that is designed specifically to assess compatibility to high activity sales. Not all high performance salespeople are born that way, but most are. A good personality assessment will help you find those natural born salespeople.
If you are perplexed or frustrated about why your sales team can’t perform, it’s probably because there’s inadequate sales activity, your sales processes are broken, or you have the wrong people – in that order of priority. Strengthen these three elements and you’ll be on your way to sales success.