CEOs and owners are rarely happy with their sales. They always believe that the company should sell more or grow faster than they actually are. So, many of them go to the old standards for "fixing sales." See if you've ever tried any of these:
There may be others, but these are the most common go-to strategies. Sometimes, these strategies work well, but there is usually little positive impact or only short-lived gains.
If the old standards don't work, what is the secret? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Sales is a complex thing. There could be many reasons why sales are not growing. We like to take a more holistic look at sales to diagnose where the issues might be:
Is it defined, and do the salespeople understand it? We've talked to hundreds of salespeople across hundreds of companies, and I can tell you that this is a significant weakness across the board. The salespeople often are unclear on who to call on, giving them the best chance to win. Instead, they chase anybody that will talk to them. Additionally, when they get in front of prospects, they struggle to differentiate their product or service from the competition. Is that because they are bad salespeople? Maybe. But it also may be that the company has done a lousy job defining this for them.
Yes, companies indeed make bad hires. That may be because we hire based on industry knowledge or business we believe they can bring rather than hiring for specific skills. The best companies define what skill sets they need and interview for those skill sets. Do we want hunters or farmers? Should they be good at following up on leads or generating their own? Do they know how to sell the premium products that cost more, or are they good at selling the low-cost product? It is critical to define that we are hiring the right people. Then, when we do hire them, do we have a sound system for getting them up to speed and productive?
Is there a repeatable, consistent process that all salespeople can execute, or are there just a few good performers with all the best practices in their heads? This happens often with smaller companies that eventually get stuck because nobody besides the owners and a few reps can sell well.
Are there goals around the things that lead to sales instead of just measuring sales alone? Data and measurements to diagnose performance and coaching opportunities are critical to accountability and performance management. Without it, a sales leader will struggle to determine why a rep is underperforming, making it more challenging to help them.
Are there things we are doing to drive the right behaviors? Some of that could be compensation. However, it is often simply recognizing and reinforcing what we want them to do. Salespeople will most likely hit their number if we sit down each week and check to see if they hit their goal for new prospect appointments. They probably won't hit their goals if we never check in or recognize those activities.
Does the sales leader set reasonable expectations and hold people accountable to those expectations? Do they provide coaching and feedback to the salespeople to make them better? Do they communicate well and make adjustments when needed? Do they reinforce strategy and make sure people are following the process?
The team will most likely underperform if any of these six components is off. That is why a simple fix of sales training or changing up the comp plan doesn't work if the issue is a poor or undefined strategy. Changing out the people won't work if the problem is a flawed sales process. Sales training won't work if there is no performance management or accountability.
If you're unhappy with your current sales or growth, we strongly suggest you take a more comprehensive and holistic look at your sales force before making your next move.