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!


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