Effective SalespeopleDavid Gordon
Your salespeople are great, right? After all, they are YOUR salespeople.
When the economy is going great (you remember when!!), everyone hits their sales goals or achieve ever higher levels. When it muddles along and goals are not achieved, excuses come out of the woodwork. For many distribution salespeople, they do much to support existing accounts (hence are really account managers) and sales performance rides like the tide, in and out.

I recently saw a posting entitled “7 Excuses Salespeople Make for Not Hitting Targets.” They are

• We’re not competitive on price

• I don’t have time to complete sales reports or update the CRM

• Marketing isn’t passing me enough leads

• The economy is crap, that’s why my sales are crap

• My territory is weaker than everyone else’s

• It’s not me, it’s the product

• My pipeline is stacked for next month

We can interpret this as “It’s not my fault.”

In reality, sales’ goal is to be either growing at a faster rate, or declining at a slower rate, than the market. Here are seven keys to achieving this:

1. strong sales management that drives accountability and helps coach

2. salespeople who want to sell rather than be account managers (and you may need a mix of the two or consider revising your sales model)

3. using data to identify what your salespeople, and hence their customers, are not buying. Perhaps there is a training, marketing or sales issue. This type of a gap analysis is critical to account penetration.

4. Pricing is either an excuse that they cannot sell your value or sometimes a flashing light that you need to evaluate your processes or negotiate account specific special pricing. Somehow your pricing was fine when the market was growing. Are all accounts down and is margin eroding? Use business intelligence/analytic tools to do some analysis. And then there is also the possibility that they can’t communicate your value, the customer doesn’t see (or need) those values, or maybe new services/value propositions need to be identified.

5. Identifying suspects that sales drives by daily. Are they confident enough to make cold calls on new customers? Can they “make your pitch”? Are they willing to track cold-calling experience in CRM?

6. Speaking of new accounts, do you have new account objectives (# and $) for your company or are you satisfied selling to the same accounts?

7. Possibly using a CRM system to support the above cold-calling process while also proactively using it to market to existing contacts. Tailor your message to applicable audiences. Shotgun marketing doesn’t work

And if the pipeline is stacked, maybe sales management needs to verify? In the words of a mentor, “people respect what you inspect.” Most companies don’t track their project close rate let alone track the sales cycle of potential large projects.

Managing to goals is not managing. The key is managing the steps to the sale that generate the desired outcome… sales. Do you know what steps your salespeople are doing, or does sales realize when the cat’s away, the mice play?

Some uncomfortability on the part of sales (and hence accountability) may be what is needed to reduce excuses. Information-based management can help support sales management.

What say you, as the person who hears all these excuses?