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1 posts from April 2009


53 Reasons Sales are Failing! Installment #4

In my interim sales management and consulting assignments I have found 53 reasons why sales commonly falter in most companies. I am publishing them over the coming weeks in installments; this is the fourth. If you can’t wait to see the "rest of the story," take advantage of the offer at the bottom of our home page for the full list.

1. Do you know the customers buying process? How does your customer buy? What are their steps? How many "touches" do they require to be comfortable enough to sign the PO? Do your sales processes match their steps? Are you in sync or out of sync with their processes to buy your product? Map out the customers buying process and get your salespeople in line with their needs.

2. Do you have defined steps to the sale for your products? How many touches and steps does it take to make the sale? Are your steps different from the customers buying process? You have to know the customer steps in order to control the sales process (steps).

3. Open sales territories? Open territories can silently kill sales force productivity. If you have 50 salespeople (600 months of sales time) and you turn over 10 territories a year and lose an average of six months per territory you have lost 60 months of selling time, not to mention the ramp up time to get sales productivity back to normal. Plug the hole with creative hiring, maybe a recruiter to reduce risk and time and recapture three months back into the sales productivity column.

4. Who is in charge of sales management, the company president? You have to grow up and put a professional sales manager in charge of the salespeople. Salespeople need care and attention. Inside salespeople need more care and attention than outside salespeople. Both groups need a daily dose of coaching. If you have a part-time sales manager you'll get part time results. No one would expect Phil Jackson, the famous basketball coach, to get the results he has obtained by doing his job part-time.

5. Comfort level? Sooner or later salespeople will reach a comfort level. Make them uncomfortable. Set stretch sales quotas, reduce the territory size, make the comfortably sleepy salespeople uncomfortable. I didn't say kill their momentum, just make them stretch. You can set goals from the top down, or from the bottom up. By bottom up I mean getting the salespeople to set their own goals. It works every time.

6. Hiring the best and the brightest? Have you hired your cousin's son because he wanted a job? Are you testing candidates for sales skills (see item #8 below)? Have you looked for a successful sales track record in previous companies? Checked W2's when hiring? Read the book TopGrading for Sales by Bradford Smart and Greg Alexander.


7. Weed the garden or accepting meritocracy! Change is difficult. It is time-consuming to replace salespeople. Are you ready for the round of interviews, training and coaching and traveling to get the best? Are you too lazy to hire the best and the brightest? Are you weeding the garden? Time to start. 

8. Testing salespeople for sales skills before you hire them? There are sales aptitude tests that will help you reduce your hiring risk for new salespeople. Use them for every new hire. Trust the tests when they tell you a person isn't right for your products or marketplace.

9. Have you introduced new products at mid-year and added to their quota without taking any products away? It will take them time to figure out if they want to sell the new product and if they do, sales will begin to decline on other products in the line. Very few salespeople can substantially increase sales for new products and retain the sales quantities sold for their other products; while they are trying to figure it all out, sales slump.   There are only so many sales hours in a day. 

10. Are the new products working? Did you introduce a product that didn't work (momentum killer)? Nothing like having salespeople spend valuable time selling something that doesn't work and then they have to spent time servicing a client, answering questions, taking a product back, etc. It steals valuable sales hours from products that work.

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