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The Three Silent Killers Of Your Sales Organization

Did you know there are three silent killers that could be in your sales organization that can absolutely ruin productivity, teamwork, collaboration, and your results? If there aren't processes in place to deal with these obstacles, they could negatively change your sales team's trajectory. Read what the three silent killers are and how to avoid them.

Your Sales Leader

This one may be obvious, but your sales leader really is the driving force behind your Sales Operating System. If the sales leader isn't doing well or driving the right things, then your sales organization could kill your company.

You may think your sales leader is effective if they are good at closing deals, hitting goals, being an accurate forecaster, and bringing good ideas to management.

But what if:

  • They do all the work for their team?
  • They change directions too often?
  • They are slow to make decisions?
  • They don't play nice with peers?
  • They don't address conflict?

They may be getting results, but they may not be a great sales leader. They may not have the right leadership traits.

Doer vs. Developer

A common approach sales leaders often have is being the "doer" or the " reactor." They will take it upon themselves to do the action instead of developing their team to do the action. This particular type of sales leader has the mentality of, "I'm the only one that can do this right,” or "It takes too long to explain to someone else," or even "I don't have anyone to delegate to."

But the shift you want to see is the sales leader becoming the performance manager. You want your sales leader to develop people rather than do the work themselves. You want your sales leader to develop the system, not just hire "the superstar" and hope they have it all figured out.

Things to Look Out For

If you want to avoid the pitfalls of a sales leader who isn't the right fit for your organization, you'll want to watch for a sales leader who:

  • Works in a silo and is not aligned with other departments
  • Allows bad news to appear too late
  • Does not continually develop the sales team
  • Looks to the CEO for answers when issues arise
  • Does not hold others accountable,  which results in people not getting things done

If you start to notice some of these things, you may want to discuss how your sales leader can improve. Or if you have no idea if your sales leader is the right fit, you can always bring in an outside source like Pivotal Advisors to help you.

Not Making Adjustments

The second biggest killer of a sales organization is not making adjustments. If you don't change with the times, the times will change without you, and you may never be able to catch up.

Change frequently happens due to many factors. Some of the common factors are:

External:

For example, the pandemic, a talent shortage, an industry shifting way down or up, or supply shortages.

Competitive:

For example, a new competitor, competition catching up, or alternatives to your solutions.

Internal:

For example, new products or services, new initiatives, losing key players, people underperforming to expectations, or realizing you made a bad hire or new internal processes.

Issues if You Don't Adapt

Many challenges can arise if you don't adjust in times of pressure or stress. A few of the common challenges are:

Not adapting at all

  • You lose ground/momentum
  • The competition gets advantage
  • You lose opportunities

Reacting too quickly, or by"gut instinct"

  • Bad decisions lead to lost opportunities
  • Results in conflict or confusion on the team

Communicate changes poorly

  • The team is not clear and therefore can't execute
  • The team understands what to do, but not how
  • The team doesn’t buy in and won't execute

Symptoms to Look Out For

If you want to avoid the pitfalls of not adjusting or adapting when times call for it then you'll want to watch out for:

  • Your data – Leading and lagging indicators going the wrong way
  • Your system – Strategy changed, but systems didn't
  • Team observations – Changes in behavior, environment, demeanor

If you want to adjust and adapt, then you'll want to review your leading and lagging indicators regularly, get input from all your leaders, and set clear expectations.

Not Addressing Conflict

The last silent killer of a sales organization is not addressing conflict. If you see something, say something. According to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, "Employees in United States companies spend approximately 2.8 hours each week involved in conflict."

Some of the most common sales organization conflicts involve:

  • Sales vs. marketing
  • Salespeople not following policy
  • Sales vs. operations
  • Team members not getting along
  • Territory battles/turf wars
  • Leader vs. team member

What Happens when You Don't Address Conflict

Workplace conflict is inevitable when employees of various backgrounds and different work styles are brought together for a shared business purpose. Conflict can—and should—be managed and resolved quickly. If not, then things get worse, or it could lead to:

  • Collaboration worsening
  • Disengagement
  • Turnover
  • Business issues turning into personal dislike
  • Bottlenecks when people avoid the conflict

The negative effects of workplace conflict can also cause emotional stress. This can be both a cause and an effect of workplace conflict, so address it quickly.

Handling Conflict is an Art

To address conflict well, "check yourself." Make sure you choose your words carefully. Handle your own emotions – do not be judgmental and watch your non-verbal communication. Pick an appropriate venue – don't address conflict or poor behavior in public.

Next, observe your team's reactions. Listen to the meanings of their words. Ask for clarification if need be. Finally, allow your team time to react to something – de-escalate their emotions and change them.

Lastly, come to a positive outcome. Pay attention to tipping points for cutting off conversations until your team can be productive.

In the End

The three silent killers of your sales organizations start at the top with your sales leader. You'll want to be sure they have the leadership traits your organization needs. The next one is not adjusting when something like the world, the industry, or some other factor calls for it. The last silent killer is not addressing conflict quickly or addressing it in an inappropriate way.

Maybe you have seen the signs of one of these three killers, or you, as the sales leader, want to brush up on your leadership traits and move to the next level. If so, please reach out to us at info@pivotaladvisors.com.

About Steve Hoeft

Steve is a Partner, VP Client Services at Pivotal Advisors. Leadership has been forefront in his career for over 20 years. He has also been a Vice President of Sales for a number of companies in Minnesota. Steve has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Sales Leaders Roundtable, Trust Vets, Marine Corps Events and more. If you want to find out more about Steve check out his profile here.
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