Archive for April, 2011

Three Reasons for Sales Performance Problems

Are you experiencing sales performance problems?

Without trying to oversimplify the problem, it will usually be one of these three issues, no matter what form your sales organization takes.

These issues are that the sales force “does not know”

  • “What” to do (lack of process)
  • “How” to do it (lack of training)
  • “Why” they should do it (lack of proper expectations or compensation)

 Not Knowing “What” to Do

If the sales force does not know “what to do” it is generally because the management does not have a specific sales process defined. The sales process is the linchpin of the entire sales organization’s potential for success. If this process is not clearly defined and managed, the sales force can become immobilized and unproductive.

The sales process is the method you use to manage the selling relationship with the prospect. It begins with identifying suspects and developing them into prospects and ultimately customers. It includes the sales cycle (steps used in the sales process) and any collateral material or systems you have developed to implement and manage it. The single biggest factor in overall sales success is a clear definition of the sales process.

 Not Knowing “How” to Do It

If some or all of the sales force is not certain about “how to do it” it means your training and coaching activities need to be assessed. This result could mean there is a problem with the sales management process itself.

It is also a possibility that the recruiting process has not identified the right people or organizations to get the job done. Generally speaking, if sales people do not know “how to do it” it is often an individual rather than a group issue. Effective sales management and training are usually the best solution if you determine that recruitment is not the problem. Incidentally, sales training is not a sometimes thing. You need to have a regular program of training and in-field coaching to grow the salespersons skills.

 Not Knowing” Why” to Do It

If the sales person does not know “why” to do it, either sales management has not clarified the rules of acceptable behavior, or the compensation program is not designed to motivate the personnel. Another possibility is that the salesperson is not doing the right things for some internal or external reason. A well defined “performance improvement program” (PIP) will show the poor performer why to do it and force them to choose to start doing the right things or move on.

 Take Action Now!

Sales performance issues are the responsibility of the Sales Manager. In smaller organizations, this may be the owner who has no training or knowledge of how to manage this process. In larger organizations the Sales manager should understand the problems and the typical solutions. I have worked with organizations where the Sales Manager was appointed directly from the sales ranks and is not schooled in understanding the methods for detecting and remedying poor performance. I have also worked with Sales Managers who were slow to address performance issues in order to avoid conflict.

The prescriptive process for poor sales performance is early diagnosis and detection, action to remedy the situation as best you can and a performance improvement program to help manage to get the person (or organization) back on track. Many times the easier remedy is termination, however if you are having a lot of these, either the hiring process needs to be reviewed.

If you are not a trained sales manager yourself or if your sales manager is not schooled in solving performance issues, the fastest way to determine what the issues are is to have a sales specialist conduct an assessment and evaluation of the process and people. Generally, a good specialist can identify the problem quickly and provide a prescription for solving it. You may choose to use outside resources to implement the solution or you may choose to do it yourself.

For now, if you are experiencing a sales performance problem, don’t sit back and wait for it to get better on its own – it won’t.

You need to take action now!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Sales 2.0

Are you interested in “maximizing sales revenue?”

Sales organizations worldwide have spent a tremendous amount of time defining, understanding, integrating and implementing Sales 2.0 technologies and processes ever since our good friend Nigel Edelshain coined the phrase in January 2007.

But while we were all focusing on sales processes, technologies and the rise in social media and automation, a funny thing happened. Buyers were quietly creating and defining the concept I will call Customer 2.0 and it has had a huge impact on our selling processes.

Using many of the information, education and communication technology vehicles available to them, they found that they could reshape the buying cycle and delay the entry of the sales person into the relationship. They have in fact taken ownership of the sales process.

Because the buyer can use information technology, the point of engagement for the sales organization has shifted further down the buying cycle. The following chart shows the area where the sales organizations usually start adding value.

Sales organizations have spent most of their time becoming “selected” as the favored supplier and did very little selling in the early stages of the “buyers cycle because they were rarely invited to participated. Customer 2.0 has aggravated that situation and moved the sales rep entry further down the cycle.

If buyers (55%) are now saying that the “Planning” and “Recognizing Needs” steps are actually the most challenging areas for them, we need to reorient our approach to selling.

In these two stages, the buyers are on information overload. The seller’s role therefore is not only to provide “business” related information, but also to interpret it for them and make it relevant. This means the seller has to have a high degree of knowledge. The competencies required for this process include:

                        Knowledge     

                                    of General Business Concepts

                                    of the Client’s Business

                                    of the Industry

                                    of the Competition

                        Questioning and Listening Skills

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

Today’s salesperson is a “Knowledge Broker” more than anything else.

Old Protocol

The salesperson was focused on a single objective which was to “secure and order”. Anytime spent doing other activity was viewed as time wasted. The goal only extended to getting the product or service sold, operational and paid for. Anything else was someone else’s responsibility.

New Protocol

The salesperson today is responsible for entering the buyer’s cycle earlier (with the help of an aligned marketing process). He/She needs to understand the buyer’s decision process and work to extend the relationship way beyond the range of the old cycle.

The value added salesperson must blend his/her process with that of the buyer and extend the value of the relationship to a higher level.

Alignment of the sales, marketing and customer intimacy agents and processes is the best way to accomplish this objective.

“if your relationship with your customer is based solely on product and price, you are to blame and it is up to you to raise the relationship to a higher level”  Tom Peters