I’ve spent the past 33 successful years in senior sales leadership roles at small and mid-size businesses and as a strategic sales operations consultant. Without fail, the number one question I’m asked is – “Why aren’t my company’s sales growing as expected?” Business owners and sales leaders alike need help identifying not only why their company’s sales aren’t growing as expected, but also how to address the issue.
My answer is always the same – you need a proven system.
Sales is a process. Sure, there is an element of art involved but at the core, to generate significant, predictable and sustainable sales growth your sales team needs to follow proven processes.
Based on my experience, I’ve identified 12 primary reasons why an organization’s sales (and revenues) are not growing as expected. If any or all of these apply to your organization, read to the end for a solution on how to eliminate these issues and implement a proven sales system.
Top 12 Reasons Why Your Sales Aren’t Growing as Expected
12. No annual performance reviews. An annual performance review forces a sales manager to sit down and evaluate the performance of the team. This is the time to set goals for the following year. It’s also the time to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges facing that team member, as well as ideas on how to improve results. Then progress should be tracked and discussed monthly, or at least quarterly. This review lays the foundation for performance improvement and, if necessary, termination.
11. Over reliance on sales team to generate leads. Having sales reps fend for themselves when it comes to finding leads is an ineffective approach. While sales reps should always be on the lookout for good prospects, and part of their responsibility is to generate new leads and create opportunities, they can’t be the sole source of new opportunities. It limits growth. Your organization needs an automated, digital lead-generation and lead-nurturing program in place to feed the sales team qualified leads. So, they can spend more time “farming” and less time “hunting.”
10. Limited or ineffective sales skills training; Non-existent sales mentoring. A sales leader should travel with each sales rep regularly–at least monthly–to determine their competency. With that insight, knowledge and skills training can be customized to fit each rep’s needs. The best sales training involves ongoing coaching and mentoring in addition to formal training sessions. Role-playing is an excellent way to test a sales rep’s ability to apply what he or she has been taught. Practice improves performance. Give your people access to the skills needed to improve their performance.
9. Compensation plan doesn’t incent desired behavior. What gets rewarded gets done. Your sales compensation plan should provide the right activity, and results-based incentives, to meet your goals. Don’t incent A and expect to get B. An effective compensation plan is a win-win for the sales rep and the company. Compensation plans can also be used to attract the right sales talent. Is yours?
8. No Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM systems are essential to getting expected sales results. This is the single repository for all sales activity and results reporting. It allows business owners to identify and manage operational challenges, like client attrition, sales decline, misalignment between revenue targets and salespeople’s compensation plans. It’s what gives you the metrics to evaluate performance. Before buying one, the first step is to determine the proper application of CRM for the team. A CRM system is not one size fits all and should be customized to match the company’s sales processes, support structure, and reporting requirements. The proper implementation of a CRM system enables multiple departments to see the status of sales activities and deal progression.
7. Sales message doesn’t differentiate from the competition. A company’s sales message must distinguish the company from the competition by communicating its unique value. To accomplish this, your messaging must be: (1) important to the prospect, (2) unique to your company, and (3) easy to defend against competitive attack. There are three additional messaging musts: it must be simple, it must be presented from the customer’s point-of-view, and it must be memorable.
6. Sales team is not staffed properly. Your sales team must be led by a sales manager who is focused on building highly effective sales reps versus securing individual sales, in order to achieve significant and sustainable results. There needs to be a proper structure to maximize sales, such as outside versus inside reps, reps that are hunters versus reps that are farmers, and direct sales versus indirect sales channel support reps. Know the skills needed for each sales role and hire accordingly.
5. No short-term and/or long-term sales pipeline and forecasting tool. A sales pipeline and forecasting tool provides a bottom-up view for use by the company to forecast future sales, align costs with expected revenues, and accurately predict cash flow. Monitoring the sales pipeline is one of the most important duties of a sales manager.
4. No weekly scheduled sales meetings for the group and one-to-one. These meetings should be a learning experience designed to share success stories, what’s working and what’s not working, as well as to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of making sales. These meetings are the foundation of effective coaching and mentoring. Each member of the sales team should know what is expected of them each week. The sales leader should make sure everyone comes prepared to report on their expected deliverables.
3. Sales metrics are not clearly defined. Attention must be paid to how a company is keeping score of sales activities and results. This is how a company sets the proper performance levels it desires and provides a common score-keeping system for what is good and bad. Furthermore, this is how to determine future success before it is too late. Consistently communicate what metrics are being monitored and give access to the data so everyone on the team can track results.
2. No defined sales processes. Each step of a company’s sales processes must be clearly stated and documented. This creates a common language and understanding of sales success. It makes it easier to train new sales team members, getting them onboarded and productive as fast as possible. It is vitally important to define checkpoints for each step in the sales process to ensure that no steps are being skipped and ensure a consistent experience for customers.
1. No detailed sales plan that is understood by the entire sales team. The number one reason holding companies back from smooth selling is the lack of a sales plan understood by all. Remember this business adage? “The probability of hitting your goal is much greater if you have one.” Don’t ignore this. A business must know where it wants to go and when and how it wants to get there. A written plan must be created that includes three critical elements: (1) sales strategy, (2) sales support/enablement systems, and (3) sales organization structure and people. The plan must include clear deadlines and accountability for executing each and every plan component. This must be clearly stated in writing. No fuzzy thinking allowed.
So, how many of these issues are plaguing your organization? Which issues affect you the most?
As I said earlier, the way to overcome these 12 issues is to implement a proven sales system. But, how do you start?
To help business owners start and gain more control of their sales growth, I created the Star Guide Program for Smooth Selling Forever.
This accelerated, 10-week program gives you and your organization the processes, techniques and tools to get more control over your time, opportunities, and sales revenue for more predictable and sustainable sales growth.
There are two versions of this program, one for small and mid-size business owners that launches in March. You can get more information and register here. The second version is for trusted advisors, coaches, and consultants, since this program is also extremely effective where the owner is the main sales generator. This program launches in April and you can get more details and register here.
If you have any questions on what’s keeping your organization from growing as expected or about the Star Guide Program, please give me a call at 630.649.4943.