Sales are the life’s blood of every organization – without sales we wither and die.
Are you and/or your salespeople selling as much as you should?
If a salesperson goes off track then, before looking for fancy reasons or investing in expensive solutions, sales leaders should first use this simple systematic diagnosis to check the basics first.
What causes low sales?
Assuming your product, market demand etc are all OK and the issue is with your sales efforts then there are two basic problems. Either the salesperson is not getting in front of enough people or, when they do, they are not getting as far as a “yes”. Which is it? Coach them to be honest, and go to either “1. Too Few Presentations” or to “2. Not Closing” below.
1. Too Few Presentations/Face to Face Sessions
There are two main reasons salespeople don’t get enough one-to-one meetings. Is the problem that they “1a. Can’t Generate Enough Prospects”? Or could they potentially get enough prospects but have problems with “1c. Poor Time Management” and therefore cannot get face-to-face with enough of them? Decide where your stumbling block lies and then read on from that point.
1a. Can’t Generate Enough Prospects
If the problem is one of a prospect drought then as sales leader you need to act urgently – once your prospect pipeline dries up you are living on borrowed time. Has your salesperson a clear sales activity plan like the one I wrote about recently? If your salespeople haven’t created and implemented plans to reliably hit solid sales activity targets then you haven’t a hope – first coach your people to get them in the right frame of mind for this economy and then get your plans in place right away.
If there is a sales plan targeting these activity level targets but are still not managing to hit the targets then look at the specific prospecting approaches you’re using – you’ll find lots of ideas and help on prospecting on sites like justsell.com, or simply Google “sales prospecting ideas” – I got 16,400 hits!
If your prospect approaches are not the problem then consider people problems like “1b. Call Reluctance” or “2b. Poor Sales Skills & Techniques”
1b. Call Reluctance
Call Reluctance is one of the most persistent and corrosive of sales problems – and every salesperson has been afflicted with it at some time or other (regardless of what they might tell you!). Call reluctance is exactly what it sounds like – a difficulty in picking up the phone to ask for an appointment or sale. All of the very great volume of research in this area shows that call reluctance is fundamentally rooted in the fear of failure that sometimes afflicts those whose jobs involve persuasion. It can be addressed with training, coaching by the sales leader, and support. Before rushing into training expense search for information on this topic on the web – you’ll find hundreds of useful “how to” articles on addressing this sales killer. This one by Gary Stauble on the ’30-Minute Rule for Overcoming Call Reluctance’ is excellent.
1c. Poor Time Management
Some people are naturals when it comes to making the most of this basic resource – the rest of us have to use a system. A salesperson without some sort of time management system is doomed. If your salesperson is not a natural time manager then invest a little – buy each person a copy of “Getting More Done” by David Allen and implement his principles using something like Nozbe to make it work for you (here’s my review of Nozbe from a short while ago). Simple and effective.
2. Not Closing
Why do salespeople fail to close after spending so much time to get in front of a prospect? Decide if it’s “2a. Poor Quality Prospects” or “2b. Poor Sales Skills & Techniques” and then skip to that point and continue reading.
2a. Poor Quality Prospects
Failure to identify and target appropriate prospects is one of the most basic sales ailments. You’ll find lots of guidance on how to help your salesperson to profile their ideal prospect, target them, and screen out non-runners in any of the hundreds of books on basic sales or on great sales-focused sites like ‘Just Sell‘.
2b. Poor Sales Skills & Techniques
So your salesperson is making lots of appointments with good quality prospects but is still not managing to bring in sales? This is not uncommon – this is when the sales elader earns her stripes.
If your salesperson does not have a clear structure that guides them from first contact through analysis of client requirements and identification of benefits to a clean deal close then you need to fix that now. Books on sales help with theory – but sales is very much a practical profession and needs careful skills development. Sales training can be expensive, but don’t be tempted to skimp in this area –what you save in cost you’ll lose in sales many times over. When you vet sales training programmes look for those that emphasise practical skills training and feature support for actual on-the-job implementation of new skills. My personal favourite for a solid basic approach to selling is Dale Carnegie’s Sales Advantage Programme. For large/strategic account selling Miller-Heiman is hard to beat.
Life is too short!
The moment you see your sales start to suffer, Doc, diagnose the problem precisely and address it before it becomes an epidemic that wipes you out. That’s being a sales leader.
What’s the biggest obstacle you or your salespeople face?
Use ‘Comments below to see if anyone has advice
If you found this post useful I’d appreciate if you could click any (or all) of the
share icons below to put the word around. Thanks!