Best Practices in HR
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Nancy Bleeke
  August 3, 2016

Easy Fixes for the Top 3 Company Sales Challenges

Listen to any sales manager, business owner, or president of a small to mid-sized company and you’ll hear how they aren’t completely satisfied with their sales results. They often blame economic woes (after all it is an election year in the USA), not being able to find enough good people who are great at selling, or the competition’s price slashing.

These top 3 sales challenges can be fixed much easier than these frustrated leaders believe.

Easy Fixes for the Top 3 Company Sales Challenges

Challenge 1: Inconsistent sales

Far too many small to mid-sized businesses have a sales and profitability results chart that looks more like a rollercoaster or zigzag than the nice, upward, growth curve they desire.

Here are the most common reasons for inconsistent sales and their easy fixes we see in our sales audit:

  • Systems and strategies are not in alignment with sales growth objectives. Companies need a defined sales process that keeps the top of the funnel full and prospects moving through the pipelines. Identify all the key activities that move an opportunity through the steps of your sales process. Then refine the list by focusing on the key activities that really matter, and not the ones that keep you busy without progress.
  • The sales team does not follow a sales process (even if there is one). The fix is expectations and accountability. Clearly state the expectations for the process with measurement, then follow with accountability measures such as the reporting of results, and redirection of activities when the process isn’t followed.
  • The leader does not coach the people on the team effectively. Research shows a full 50-70% of a leaders time should be spent on effective coaching of their team. That’s not easy even if you have a designated sales leader, and most challenging if that leader is also responsible for all the other company functions; which are common in so many small businesses. The easy fix is to get outside help. It’s not as costly as lost sales and the turnover that lack of coaching and accountability bring.

Challenge 2: Finding and keeping top producers

While there are “people” available for hire, recruiting, and retaining; top producers is a challenge every leader I know struggles with. Just last week I asked a leader, “How many more employees would you like to hire?” “One thousand if possible”, was his quick response. One thousand!?! He insisted it was not an inflated number.

The common reasons we see for the challenge of finding and keeping top producers are:

  • The hiring process is not defined and uses subjective data gathering to drive the decision on who to hire. Define an effective sales hiring process which includes key elementsof objective assessment, productive interviews, and efficient on-boarding to get the right sales reps in place.
  • The managers are not effective recruiters, skillful interviewers, and don’t make the time for coaching and training. Equip your managers to coach and everything else will be easier. If you don’t have a manager with specific sales responsibility and this is your responsibility, get help!
  • Compensation and incentive plans do not drive the right behaviors and sales. The amount of time and money spent on comp and incentive plans that do nothing to grow sales is infuriating. Effective plans begin with knowing what behaviors and results you seek and then matching it with those of your team’s motivators. If you reward with money, your people need to be motivated by money. If you reward with flexible schedules, recognition, team events and work, and such, hire people who find that motivational.
  • The company owner or President is the main rainmaker. Evaluate whether the company’s growth would be better sustained with dedicated sales reps. Delegate sales when possible.

Challenge 3: Winning against the competition

There are many ways B2B or B2C can get the services and products they need or want, which means there is strong competition for most companies’ solutions. Leaders tell me they aren’t winning the deals they once did.

If you have the right product, pricing, and delivery of the product or service, sales should follow, right? No. The winning against the competition challenge often happens because:

  • The sellers are not confident in their solution and offer price discounts early and easily. The fix is to help the sellers build their confidence. How? Building their belief in the solution, your company, and themselves. Sales coaching; providing information to show the value of their solution and how it compares to the competition; group or one-on-one brainstorming to identify the benefits and value; and dissecting wins so that they can be repeated are all ways to build those beliefs.
  • The skillset for collaborative selling is not strong. Training is the fix. Good training that equips the sellers with the skillset and tools, and includes reinforcement and practice to help the skills stick, is what works.

Yup, these really are easy fixes. They aren’t sexy and all high techy, which may lead you to think they don’t work. However, it’s like losing weight, you can spend thousands of dollars on equipment, gym memberships, and food delivery, but if your intake still is higher than your output (exercise), you won’t lose the weight.

While good technology supports the human conversations and interactions necessary to win sales, the real fix to stagnant sales lies within your people…and you!

To fix these challenges for good, make the time to identify the systems, strategies and processes and then equip your people to deliver. The entire effort needs to become as much of a part of your business strategy as product development and delivery. The efforts will be worth it as you see your profits soar along with your sales.