This BLOG entry is not about bad salespeople, but bad managers! A few years ago, we stopped bringing world best practices to sales teams, training salespeople how to structure their sales lives. We found, that after as little as six months the IP we had lovingly collected and dutifully delivered was no longer evident in the team.
Attrition in the team (turnover of personnel) and lack of consistency from the manager ~ who's job is to define and conduct the business process, was just nonexistent. Managers are focused on numbers ~ the natural outcome of the sales process ~ rather than the qualitative nature of the process itself, exemplified by, leaving the outcome to effective & efficient delivery. So, MANAGERS, here are the top 5 bad attributes of your salespeople, because, they are YOUR responsibility to recognise and correct.
1. headless chickens = NO FOLLOWUP
This first and most destructive habit is for everyone to be running at everything that moves. Working with a team who burnt out salespeople in one financial year, had expensive bid processing personnel writing quotes deep into the night and weekends ~ we, counterintuitively, halved the number of engagements - drove wins from 1:10 to 1:3 - doubled revenue per head and quadrupled profits!
How? By applying business like filters to engage only those suspects that fitted our sweet-spot. I get it, with no deals in the bank or the pipeline - the overriding emotion is to do more. More prospecting, more calls, more presentations, more proposals ~ but the opposite is true ~ apply a scientific filtering system and engage with quality to those we can win! Be proud, value the expertise you bring, hold your head up ~ follow process.
2. too desperate = DRINK from this FIREHOSE
The Lion knows when the Impala that is smuggling to keep up, is ripe for dinner. Just so the prospect knows when the salesperson is desperate to sell. This type of behaviour is very evident when budget times are coming to an end and when deals need to be "booked" for month, quarter and year end. Prospects take advantage of this situation. They watch for the fire-hose effect. Salespeople start talking about all that they have ~ irrespective of the prospects need.. These product features are their babies, of which they are very proud. They are not interested in what the prospect may want as their perspective customer, they are only interested in talking about their range of solutions.
I've actually been on a call where the sales person would interrupt the prospect into silence, change the subject, and begin talking about a feature which has never surfaced in the discussion to that point. I've watched the prospects eyes glaze over, they know, when the salesperson takes a breath they will begin offering discounts to close a deal. Another time, the presentation was stopped as the chairman left the room, not a problem, the salesperson went ahead and completed their presentation about the history of their company and the benefits of features that the prospect didn't even want.
3. over the TOP = believability
Exaggeration, is the enemy of customer satisfaction. Salespeople, under stress, will trot out every feature they have ever heard about and then some they have even "made up!" What do you think this does to the credibility of your barnd and brand promise. Such "over sell," gets around the market as quickly as a wild fire under a Cape South Easter. Unstoppable and it will cost mega-bucks to fix and eventually eradicate ~ if, you are ever given the chance. This type of salesperson is a serious hazard to your cost of sales, as well as being an Exocet missile fired right at the heart of your business.
On-boarding of salespeople is a serious process and should be carefully structured, documented and delivered. It should end with a certification that the individual has shown themselves capable of representing product, but overall, brand promises. In certain well run sales teams, the individual, after certification ~ spends a good time under the wings of a mentor. Only after some time absorbing the correct way to represent ~ are they "let loose" on a real live prospect. There is defined cost of a newbie loosing a sale - obviously the revenue that the sale should have generated. But, there is the sometimes irreversible cost of being figuratively "thrown out" of a prospects office where all their future business is denied to your company - irrespective of the salesperson who is assigned to the account!
4. no process = SINCERITY doesn’t cut it
Salespeople get to a point where what they did before, and what they are being asked to do now ~ is just not working. So, what to do? If they stay, they fall back on being the good guys! They sincerely believe, that if they pitch every day before the start of the business day, and leave - maybe even be the last to leave - at the end of every day, they will cut it! If they do everything to the best of their ability, they will succeed. In fact, what they are doing is being unnatural! They are trying to become something they are not. To over-conform to a process, without believing that it has value for yourself - and by following that process YOU can be a better employee, better revenue generator, greater customer advocate and supporter ~ then, you not being yourself.
The process, and the supporting environment ~ the sales eco-system ~ should ADD TO the individuals character and not try to turn them into automatons. The area of AI and sales choice systems has already arrived. We could get a robot to do the job of executing a process flawlessly, but could we get a robot to engage and interact like a human with empathy? That is still to be seen.
5. not BELIEVING in their VALUE - the prospect has the power
A great attribute in the successful salesperson, is that they truly believe that every aspect of their "Unique Value Proposition," is in fact valuable. Most beginners sit across the desk from the prospect and are like "a hare in the headlights!" They are convinced that the prospect has all the power, they have the power to fill "our" sales pipeline and even to elevate them to hero status. So, lets turn ourselves inside out to "persuade" the prospect to the point where they give some of their power - the budget - to us! But, true salespeople understand that they are there to add value to the prospected life ~ you wouldn't be there if they didn't need you to solve a problem. Or would they? Lets say they are just nice guys and cannot find it in themselves to send you packing. So, they make small talk and order in tea. They suck you into sometimes multiple calls and months of forecasting but never buy.
They are exercising their power to jerk your chain. You have to have the business understanding of their needs and how you can put out the "fire on their platform!" That is your power ~together with ~ not doing anything that doesn't have a defined outcome that moves the ball forward to the point where you can ask for an order. Prospects not only respect the fact that you are in control of the process, but also that you understand one important factor in the sale. There is a cost, but there is also a reward! The quicker and more efficiently and effectively we conclude this step in the delivery of the outcome ~ unlocking VALUE, the better!
The greatest risk to salespeople performance is the sales Manager. We've often seen the best salesperson (maybe the most sincere rather than stellar performer) promoted to manager. Or, the enterprise has stollen someone's star salesperson as their sales manager ~ It makes sense doesn't it? If they can sell then surely they can come in and manage our "plonkers" and improve their sales skills. But the work of manager is to QUANTIFY the sales process and document what is done in each of the steps of the process. Then, to ORCHESTRATE, i.e. to conduct the participants in the execution of the process. Lastly, after having produced a symphony of documented outcomes, to INNOVATE the process in a continual pursuit of excellence.
No salesperson, unless they have these attributes, or they are imparted through training ~ does these steps. We've seen promoted star salespeople, jump in ~ boots and all, push the struggling salesperson aside and try to do the job themselves. They soon burn out. As executive in charge, as found, owner or CEO ~ the best thing you could ever do for your sales revenue, profit and cost of sales, is to hire a proper manager. They don't have to have ever sold, but they do have to understand these three crucial steps and how to impart them to motivated employees. These are your employment filters ~ get the right manager and prosper.