At the risk of really aggravating the people who buy my services (senior executives, CEOs, owners of mid-size businesses), I need to share this strong message:
Very often, a sales problem is not solely a sales problem. Said differently, when sales results, especially new business development sales results, are not what they should be, don’t just point the finger at the under-performing sales organization. Based on experience, I can share that in a good deal of the cases, a company’s senior leadership, and yes, often the CEO, shares a good deal of responsibility for why sales results are what they are.
Sales is supposed to follow Strategy. The job of the sales team is to execute a clear strategy laid out by by the company. We in sales are not supposed to be making it up as we go along. Clarity is essential for a new business development sales initiative. Salespeople do not succeed when they don’t have clarity of mission. In Chapter 3 of New Sales. Simplified., I make the case for the company’s responsibility for sales success, and specifically, I challenge CEOs in a section titled “Mr. CEO, Please Do Your Job so I Can Do Mine!”
If we are going to hold sales leaders, sales teams and salespeople accountable for results (which I absolutely 100 percent advocate), then the people responsible for revenue and acquiring new customers/clients/accounts, are entitled to very clear answers from company leadership to the following questions:
- Why does our company exist (business answer, not some esoteric, unhelpful vision statement fluff)?
- What direction is our company headed and why is that the correct course?
- What are our offerings? What is it, exactly, that we sell, and why should someone buy it?
- Which markets should we pursue and where are we positioned in those markets?
- What is the competitive landscape? Who are we up against? How do we stack up against their offerings, and why are we better and different?
- Why is our pricing model appropriate for the value we create in the markets we serve and compared to the competition?
If you’re a senior executive reading this post and your sales organization isn’t delivering the numbers you expect from them, may I ask you to take a few minutes to re-read the bullets above? If you’re an entrepreneur or a professional services executive, or a solo-consultant and you’re not acquiring new clients at the desired rate, before asking for sales coaching, do the hard work to answer the above questions first.
Yes, very often there is a sales problem. The salesperson or sales team could certainly do better, and that’s why I have a business. It could be a lack of talent, or more likely, the wrong people (account managers) in the wrong jobs (hunting sales roles). It might be a lack of focus, intensity, accountability. I am sure you or your people could do a better job selecting target accounts to pursue. I’d make a pretty hefty wager that your sales story could be sharpened and made more compelling, succinct and client-focused. And surely, your sales team could improve on the phone and be much more effective when conducting face-to-face sales calls. I love coaching on all the topics in this paragraph and nothing energizes me more than seeing people become more effective attacking the market and acquiring new pieces of business. But the plain truth is that often I am brought into a company to help “fix” a sales problem only to discover that the sales team has not been set up to succeed.
Senior executive and CEOs, give the sales team what it needs to win!