July 6, 2015

7 Real Sales Issues I’m Tackling with Real Companies Right Now

Since returning from vacation, it’s been a whirlwind… kicking off a handful of new consulting clients, wrapping up a longer-term engagement, and leading New Sales. Simplified. workshops in several cities across North America.

In my last post I promised to share the real-world sales issues I’m seeing and tackling in various companies. While these clients literally range in size from $10 million to several billion in annual revenue, the issues are not only similar from company to company, they’re also incredibly basic. The first five deal with sales process and the final two are sales management issues.

1. Poor Target Account Lists / Lack of Focus: In more than half the sales teams I’ve been with in the past month, this is a major issue. The salespeople either don’t have finite, workable lists of target clients and prospects that they’re committed to pursuing, or not enough thinking went into creating their lists. You cannot execute a successful new business development attack without a great list. That’s why selecting targets is the very first step in my New Sales Driver framework.

2. Defaulting to Servicing Existing Customers & Account Management: Need I say more? This is an issue in every organization that doesn’t have dedicated sales hunters and even in some companies that do! Over-serving existing accounts is a wonderful excuse not to proactively pursue new business. No one defaults to prospecting and new business development mode, and two of the sales teams I’ve encountered this past month are masters at finding “work” to do for their favorite customers.

3. Decreased Prospecting Activity Due to Strong Business: Two of the companies are struggling to refill their corporate sales pipeline because of their recent success. They’ve closed a ton of business and their sales hunters have become both complacent and distracted. Prospecting activity is way off because  a) they’re not as hungry as they were, and b) they’re getting caught-up in on-boarding new clients and managing projects. Even though management and the sales team are keenly aware that they’re jeopardizing future sales success by not working the top of the sales funnel, they have yet to return to prospecting at necessary levels.

4. Sellers Are Leading with Their Product/Solution and Getting Commoditized: Three of these sales teams are so passionate about their products/solutions that they can’t stop talking about them. While I admire their passion, their self-focused approach is dooming them to vendor/commodity status in the eyes of their customers! Leading with our product/solution instead of the customer’s issues and desired outcomes makes a loud statement to customers that we care more about what we sell than their issues/business/needs/desires. Adjust your “sales story” and your approach so buyers see you as a consultant/expert/trusted advisor, not just a vendor/product-pitcher.

5. Conducting Premature Presentations before Doing Adequate Discovery Work: Four of the seven sales teams I’ve been with the past month struggle with premature presentation syndrome. They’re way too willing and way too quick to present (or demo). When we present before doing adequate discovery work bad things happen. It’s like taking a wild-ass guess at what’s important or relevant to the prospect. Just because you love your solution or because your potential customer requests a presentation, that doesn’t mean it’s the right time for it. If you can’t articulate the prospect’s current situation/pains/needs/desired outcomes and tie them to your solution, then you shouldn’t be presenting anything – yet.

6. Lack of Specific New Business Development Goals: As hard as this may be to believe, most of these seven sales organizations didn’t have specific goals in place for new business development. And in two of the companies, there were no formalized sales goals to speak of. For real. When you don’t declare specific new business acquisition goals, and don’t track progress against those goals, it should not come as a surprise when you don’t pick up new business.

7. Flat Compensation Plans that Aren’t Driving the Desired Behaviors & Results: I’ve seen some truly goofy sales comp plans lately. Some plans are just too flat. There is not enough delta between what the top and bottom performers earn, and therefore not much hunger or incentive to produce. A few of these companies I’ve been in this month have complacent salespeople because the comp plans are not driving the behaviors that would create new business. And some of the other plans reward all sales with the same commission percentage. Sellers “earn” the same commission for babysitting accounts sold years earlier as they do for acquiring a new account. You don’t need to be a compensation expert to predict the consequences of those silly plans. Why do the hard work to hunt for new business when it’s easier and just as profitable to milk the commission annuity from your existing accounts?

These seven real-world sales issues are what I’m seeing and addressing in companies this month. What issues do you see getting in the way of developing more new business? You can share this post and your thoughts on your favorite social platforms using the buttons below.