Sales professionals are a rare breed. Most are self-starters, personable, inquisitive, intuitive and passionate about their craft. They enjoy selling and revel when they are in contact with prospects or customers. They thrive on challenges and relish the benefits of being the CEO of their territory. The welcome the freedom to design a formula to make their monthly, quarterly and yearly sales number amongst a constantly changing and challenging work environment. For most of them their customers become their friends and they enjoy seeing the value their products bring to their customer’s business.
Life is not always rosy, however, for a sales professional. Here are some common complaints that we often hear. These are in no particular order.
Complaint 1: Bumping My Number Without any Reason
Each year sales professionals are asked (OK let’s be honest) GIVEN a sales forecast to hit by product and in total dollars. Rarely is there any science provided about how the number was determined or if it’s a fair number. If you ask a sales professional about their number most will sigh or swear and say it’s too aggressive.
Solution: Sales leaders should provide concrete data on how the “number” was determined and then provide a roadmap that describes how the sales representative can make their number. We like to use the sales professionals existing sales funnel as a starting point along with a discussion of what’s required in conversion, penetration and retention in their territory while considering any customer churn.
Complaint 2: Inconsistent Pricing
This one is our favorites. In most organizations, the sales force is told to sell “value” and not discount the product……unless it’s the end of the quarter or the end of the year and then emotion prevails and they are told to close everything possible. The mantra becomes get the business.
Solution: Company leadership needs to learn to manage the sales funnel, leading indicators and completed selling and buying activities. They need to ensure the sales force is selling the value and holding price regardless of the time of year. Being inconsistent in pricing strategy trains buyers to wait for specials. Good supply chain personnel know when it’s the end of quarter and end of year for their suppliers. If they can take advantage they will do so because it’s their job.
Complaint 3: Cross-Selling Goals with No Support
Every company wants their sales force to sell all their profitable products. Most tie it to the compensation plan. Its natural and logical especially after an organization has made an acquisition. Product mix becomes important and its always easier to sell an existing or new product to an existing customer.
Solution: Company and sales leadership should ensure the sales forecast is realistic relative to the products differentiation, pricing, market coverage and the sales representatives training and compensation. Sales professionals sell what they are comfortable selling and where the commission is the highest. It’s the easiest pathway to making their sales quota.
Complaint 4: A CRM System Designed for Management Not the Sales Team
This is the age-old problem and there are few signs of it going away soon. The reality is most organizations haven’t sold the sales force on the benefits of using the CRM system. Most sales professionals view it as big brother looking over their shoulder.
Solution: Make the system easy to use via a smart phone, table or PC. Design the system to add value to the sales professional. Turn the data into useable information. Let the sales professionals sort their funnel by product, deal size, funnel positon or any other way they deem necessary.
Translate the data entered into a “deal review” form that can assist the sales professional in making next step decisions to move an opportunity foreword. Provide suggestions that will spark thinking. Show stakeholder maps. Include a dashboard that incorporates a what if scenario where the sales professional can calculate the results of winning certain opportunities on their revenue and product mix quotas.
Complaint 5: Management in Lieu of Coaching
Sales professional like being coached but they hate being micro-managed. Good coaching accelerates results and learning through trust, questioning and collaboration.
Solution: Manager should stop telling and start asking insightful questions. Good coaching has a foundation that that individuals have the answers to their own sales challenges. This is an acquired skill. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Complaint 6: Changing the Compensation Plan
Rarely is a compensation plan changed to make it easier for a sales professional to make more money. It’s a simple fact, if you want to sell less product reduce the commission percentage.
Solution: Leave the compensation plan alone and make earnings uncapped.
The life of a sales professional is difficult enough without company management making the job even more difficult or frustrating. Company leaders should always remember there is no bottom line without a top line. Your sales organization delivers the top line with the support of everyone else in the organization.
As always, we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful and informative discourse.