When people write about the fact that less than fifty-percent of salespeople reach their quota, they often intimate that salespeople are somehow getting worse. Maybe they are getting worse, perhaps they aren’t. But if they are failing, pointing the bony finger of indignation at the salespeople is to avoid placing the blame where it belongs. The lack of growth for most sales organizations starts with a lack of accountability.
Growth and Development
“We can’t make our people take the training. We can’t take them out of the field. We don’t have time to coach. They already know how to sell.” You can have your excuses, or you can have the better results you need. You cannot, however, have both.
There may have never been a time when training and development were needed as much as they are now. It turns out the idea of social selling was a lot less than people made it out to be. Instead, the internet and the proliferation of information, the smartphone, the new business models based on organizing underutilized assets, and the glut of competitors in every market made selling much more difficult than earlier times.
It’s never been true that someone’s experience in sales guaranteed their performance. It’s always been true that people in any human endeavor who train and develop their teams produce better results. If you are not holding your people and yourself accountable for growing and developing, you are neglecting your single most valuable assets. If you want your people to get better, you have to make it a priority and hold them accountable.
Prospecting for New Business
“I can’t make my salesforce prospect. No one wants to make cold calls. My senior salespeople are too valuable to prospect.” If you are unwilling to hold people accountable for prospecting, how will you acquire the new opportunities you need? Salespeople only do two things: 1) create new opportunities, and 2) capture opportunities. The laws of the Universe require that one create opportunities as the prerequisite to capturing those opportunities. It’s the law of the farm.
High performing sales organizations have a hunter culture. They are not only focused on acquiring new opportunities, but they target and pursue the most valuable prospects, i.e., Dream Clients. They are intentional in what they want and the actions they take. But the reason the culture exists is that these salespeople are held accountable for generating new opportunities.
“They have their own style. They’ve sold for a long time. I can’t tell them how to sell.” Losing isn’t a style. Selling poorly, as widespread as it is, also isn’t a style. We know a lot about how to sell successfully in the 21st Century. We know even more about what one should avoid.
Your sales processes and methodologies are only suggestions if you allow them to be. Even though the sales conversation is nonlinear, it doesn’t mean that you should skip good discovery and the consensus that is now required if you want to win deals. Who allows a salesperson to have an hour-long phone conversation followed by an emailed pricing proposal and expects their team to win new business? If your salespeople are allowed to avoid doing the things necessary to acquire new clients or customers, many will do so.
Opportunities are too hard to come by to do anything less than your best work pursuing them. If you want to win them, you need your team to sell effectively. You have to create accountability for excellence in selling.
“They don’t want to use the CRM. I can’t make them. They don’t even know how to use it.” Let me offer some help with how to use a CRM. In the box that is titled “First Name,” you type in a contact’s first name. In the box titled, “Last Name,” you enter the contact’s last name. If your sales force doesn’t use the CRM, it is because they are allowed not to, not because they don’t know how.
You depend on data and information to run your business. For many, forecasting is necessary to ensure they have the resources to serve their clients. If you are going to have meaningful discussions around opportunities, especially your deal strategy, it’s helpful to have the context necessary to make good decisions. There is nothing more important than your relationships, and there is no reason not to maintain the records of these relationships.
There is no reason such a useful tool should be optional, and there should be no fear of holding people accountable for using the now long accepted tools of the trade.
Disqualifying Bad Business
“They have opportunities. How can they reach their number if we disqualify their deals?”
The reason leaders fail to hold people accountable for disqualifying bad business is that it decimates most pipelines (sometimes referred to as “pipe-lies”). Leaders worry about not having the coverage they believe they need to reach their goals, so they allow some salespeople to hold on to hope while being even more hopeful themselves. Because these reps are allowed to keep their non-opportunities, they don’t have to create real—and better—opportunities.
Non-deals are not better than no deals. They are the same, as neither produces any revenue and if a bad deal does, it comes at too great a cost. We have already dealt with the root cause here, prospecting. If you want a pipeline, you first need accountability.
How can you possibly hold people accountable to their goals, when you can’t get them to put their deals in your CRM? How do you make them responsible for their number when you don’t hold them accountable to create new opportunities?
The same salespeople that fail for one leader succeed for another. The people you believe don’t want to perform better do want to improve, and they know they need to prospect. They want to sell more effectively, they want good business, and they want to reach their goals. But it isn’t easy for many, which is why they require your leadership.
If you want your people to be accountable, you have to go first and hold yourself responsible for requiring what is necessary for your team to succeed.