The good and bad – what I have seen working in Sales

I’ve been working in sales or very close to sales staff since graduated in 1992. So I’ve seen quite a lot - both good and bad. This blog post talks about improvement areas in sales that I’ve personally faced or seen very common in many companies. This is not trying to be a complete list of things to be developed in sales; it just lists things that are sometimes forgotten when sales performance is discussed. So here we go:

1. The sales force does not care to listen customers or does not recognize their true need

Explanation: Unfortunately, this is not a rare situation. Sales persons are just pushing out his product or solution without having a discussion what is actually customers’ challenge or what kind of solution they are looking for. This often frustrates the customer so much, that their willingness to buy is getting close to zero.

Solution: Encourage the customer to speak up, ask “stupid” questions as much as possible. Prepare the sales staff to meet the customers.

2. IT systems are not designed for the actual sales work

Explanation: This is a more usual issue that one would expect. Company might have CRM, ERP, data mining, etc. systems in place, but no one has actually thought about how sales staff should use them in their daily work. The outcome might be that sales people are cluttered with IT-related tasks, that require a lot of time and is actually weakening their sales performance. This may also lead to situation where sales people use the IT systems only when it is absolutely necessary. So what’s the point having “nice to have” features in the CRM system, if no one have time or interest to use them?

Solution: Request an audit for a few sales people, ask the auditor to follow their daily work for a day or two. Consider using next generation sales systems where many routines are automated and all unnecessary steps are minimized.

3. Sales staff is not able to articulate the value of the offering to the customer

Explanation: Customers are expecting that the solution or product they are buying gives them some advantage over the competition. If you are not able to clearly explain the added value your solution provides, it’s very likely that the customer refuses to buy from you.

Solution: if you are not able to articulate value proposition by yourself, ask assistance from your (product) marketing organization. Normally they can provide you tools and additional viewpoints.

4. Organization does not support sales

Explanation: I don’t mean the staff who is supposed to help sales organization, I mean everyone in the company. The whole staff should understand that the success of the company depends on sales. Especially in large, silo, organizations this particularly common, people do not realize who is actually bringing in the money to pay their salaries.

Solution:  Job rotation within the organization. New employees could work one day within the sales team in order to understand the value of sales better. Companywide contests regarding “the best sales support” person of the month/year could be another way to increase understanding.

5. Lousy or non-existing sales process

Explanation: Often you hear an argument that processes do not sell anything. That’s true. But there are studies that prove that you will get better sales results by following the defined process. The caveat is that it requires that your sales process is up-to-date and lean. So you should pay attention to the efficiency of your sales process.

Solution: Make sure that you do not have unnecessary side steps in your sales process. If you do not have a documented sales process you should develop one.