When salespeople fail, it might not be their fault
Being a salesperson is a tough job. Trying to convince the public they really need a product or service is very challenging, and with a cold-call conversion rate some way below 1%, it’s (very) often a thankless task.
You don’t shrink from a challenge though, especially when your business needs to hire great salespeople to survive. So, you read up on hiring theory and practice, read endless resumes, conduct interviews, and hire candidates who are so red-hot their personalities could power small towns.
Three months later, and they’re not exactly living up to expectations. Their conversion rates are the pits, their pitches are more like strikeouts, and the client list you dreamed of is just a wish list. You were told to hire for attitude, and everything else would follow, just what went wrong?
Here’s the truth, and it’s an uncomfortable one — It may not be down to your salespeople. At all.
It’s easy to assume that if you aren’t making sales, it’s your salespeople at fault. In fact, much of the time, it’s the systems, support structures, and training that determine how successful your salespeople are. If your people are failing, explore these areas and see if the problem might lay elsewhere…
Your prospects lists – A salesperson is only as good as the prospects they have access to. Do you have a superb, highly converting prospect list? Do you have the Glengarry leads? Option 1: Spend some time, effort, and money to acquire high-quality, cleansed prospect lists and your salespeople will thank you. Option 2: Work with your team to develop a solid prospecting system using LinkedIn, networking group, associations and centers of influence. Option 3 – a Combination thereof.
Your sales system – Does the software you use to track leads and sales support your salespeople? Is it easy to access from everywhere, does it give them information at their fingertips? Ask your salespeople what they think of the software and how it could be improved. PS – Post it notes do NOT count as a CRM tool and frankly neither do spread sheets.
Your sales process – Your sales process is about more than just the software you use. It’s all of the admin, handoffs, interactions, and other hoops salespeople need to jump through to get things done. If your sales process isn’t as efficient as possible, it can massively drag down your sales numbers. Look at every part of your sales process to see if it could be improved. BTW – all sales systems and processes should be written in manual format and managed to. Sales is indeed….a process whether you are selling widgets or wombats the process is essentially the same.
Your training – Great salespeople are made, not born. Yes, they need to have the right attitude, but they also need the right skills. That comes from training. Provide training on your products and services, the psychology of selling, negotiation skills, and whatever else your salespeople need to become experts. Training needs to be ongoing – it isn’t one and done. During your weekly sales meetings (yes you need them), have debriefs on accounts won and more importantly on accounts lost. What can the team learn?
Your incentives – People need to be incentivized in the right way. This isn’t just pay and salary, it’s opportunities for career advancement, providing constructive feedback, having a good work environment, and ensuring your employees are cared for. Can we say equity? Many salespeople have an entrepreneurial spirit – at least the top dogs do. If your company structure allows for it – why not offer some equity based on performance?
Your management – Is your management process as streamlined as it could be? Remove as many layers from management as you can and give your salespeople more autonomy. Assign well-performing salespeople as mentors to help teach new hires the ropes.
If you’re able to tweak and improve some or all of these areas, you’ll start to see big improvements in conversions and sales. Spend some time, effort, and money on these vital functions now, and you’ll create better equipped, motivated, and trained sales reps who can sell more stuff!