Something that helps you to be a good leader is to believe everything is your fault. A few days ago, there was a LinkedIn post about a CEO who fired 100 salespeople because they failed to hit their targets. My question was, “Why were the 100 salespeople allowed to fail?” This is evidence that the CEO and the sales management were checked out.
As a sales leader, you must hold yourself accountable, not only by avoiding mistakes but also by recognizing the things that are not your fault but are still your responsibility. These include shifts in the industry, business landscape, and customer preferences, which you cannot control, but you must address.
The Legacy Sales Approach
Buyers are rejecting the legacy approach to sales, which typically begins with a slide deck about your company, your clients, and your solutions, and follows up with a question about identifying the prospective buyers’ problems or pain points. It is not your fault that your contacts have tired of this approach because it no longer creates value. It is, however, your responsibility to provide your sales force with an approach built on value creation strategies that will cause buyers to prefer them.
Buyers Seeking a “Salesperson-Free Buying Experience”
According to a recent Gartner survey, 64 percent of respondents had bought a complex sale without working with a salesperson. Millennials are now the largest part of the workforce. They grew up with the internet and they buy more like B2C buyers rather than B2B.
You are not at fault for the generational change that has changed the way buyers make decisions. However, you will help your sales force with sales methodologies and sales strategies that make them worth a first meeting.
Buyers Seeking Consensus
I remember the first time I walked into a sales call to find 14 people sitting around a large table. They told me they were the task force charged with deciding on who would be their supplier. As leaders delegated buying decisions and held the decision makers responsible for the execution and results, there was no longer a single decision maker.
You are not to blame for leaders handing off the decision-making to their managers. you are still responsible for giving your sales force a methodology to help their contacts reach a consensus.
Longer Sales Cycles
Sales cycles continue to get longer. Part of this is because of the challenge of consensus, and part of it is that buyers and decision-makers have too little bandwidth to pay attention to the many projects and tasks they need to manage.
Lay the blame at the contact’s feet if you want to, but you as the sales leader are still responsible for shortening the sales cycle by helping your sales force manage the B2B sales process.
Uncertainty and Stalled Deals
We call this phenomenon “the ACDC environment.” Our world is one of accelerating, constant disruptive change. Looking around you may notice things like record breaking levels of inflation, high interest rates, a labor shortage, a war in Europe, and political divisiveness, and you have a hint as to why buyers are uncertain.
These major problems have nothing to do with you, but you still owe your sales team a strategy to create the certainty that their prospective clients need to move forward and improve their results.
The Apocalypse of Cold Outreach
Unless you are a techno-brute with a fully automated prospecting sequence that spams a large list of contacts, you are not responsible for the apocalypse of cold outreach. Every day, your email and mine are flooded with messages from salespeople and companies using sales automation and a spray-and-pray approach to prospecting.
We are right at peak cold outreach, as contacts delete these messages without even glancing at them. LinkedIn is no better, with automated spam messages that show up two seconds after you connect with someone.
This is not your fault, but you will need to help your sales team to prospect effectively without email.
Prospects and Their Buyer’s Journey
Some contacts decide how to pursue the better results they need. When engaged with a salesperson, they decide what to do and when to do it, even though they lack the knowledge and experience to understand how to succeed. They skip conversations and leave out important stakeholders. They often end up with buyer’s remorse.
You have no culpability for these buyers’ and decision makers’ mistakes and missteps. However, you are responsible for building a sales force capable of leading their clients through the buyer’s journey successfully.
The World Keeps Turning Around
The world keeps turning and, even if you are not aware of it, the rate of change is increasing. The explosion of artificial intelligence is the beginning of a change unlike any other in the history of humans. Our future is certain to be different in ways we can’t yet predict.
The change in our environment means we need to do what humans have always done, change and adapt to the new environment. The list of challenges salesforces face today will be followed by new challenges. As leaders, we are responsible for helping our teams adjust and adapt by providing them with the new sales strategies and techniques they will need to succeed.
Your next step should be to assess these common challenges for sales organizations and prioritize the problems your sales force is struggling to overcome. Put new approaches in place and train and coach your teams to deal effectively with the many challenges that make selling difficult.
The most important thing for sales leaders to prioritize is the overall effectiveness of their sales force. You can measure sales effectiveness by looking at a salesperson’s win rates. A low win rate means you are at fault and your top priority should be increasing your team’s effectiveness.