It has been fashionable and common for C-level executives, marketers, consultants and anyone with a blog or microphone to beat down the salespeople at every opportunity. It’s become a sick occupation to blame Sales for every downturn, and fire a sales manager after a year or so if the numbers don’t climb. And when sales lag, the first ill-conceived idea is to retrain the sales reps (as if they suddenly forgot how to sell).
It’s a cottage industry for people who leave the sales ranks to write a book about their philosophy of sales, and if you read their book and hire them your sales will soar and everyone will make quota.
The mantra for sales training implies it is a fix-all, but it seldom solves ridiculous expectations from CEOs who pull high-growth numbers out of their back sides with nothing to back up their projections except a belief that if they say it will happen, it will happen.
I recently interviewed Mike Schultz, co-president of the Rain Group (a sales training company among other things), on CRM Radio. The title of the program, Is Sales Training Needed?, delved into the misbelief that as soon as sales dip C-level managers, including sales managers, turn to sales training as a way to pull themselves out of the doldrums.
To his considerable credit Mike pushed back on this belief saying there are many reasons for sales failures. Salespeople seldom forget how to sell, and companies that fail to explore the dips in sales before rushing to retrain salespeople are often delaying fixing the real reasons behind sales failures. The beat down on salespeople is misplaced; an excuse for other failures. Even worse, it delays fixing the real problem with revenue shortfalls which is seldom training related.
Why It’s Important:
“Sales slumps don’t suddenly occur because salespeople have forgotten how to sell. Save your money on retraining, and their time, and dig deeper to find out the real reason sales are down.”
From the White Paper: How to Turn Around Failing Sales
Other Things to Consider
If salespeople were making forecast and sales started to dip for a few months, before staking the salespeople to a whipping post and making every sales meeting a sales beating, consider the following: What occurred in the marketplace three months prior to the downturn?
- Was the marketing budget cut and did lead generation activities stop a few months before the sales dip?
- Has there been a dip in sales lead flow? If so what caused it?
- Has there been a change in the marketplace, i.e. regulations or other disruptions?
- Did you change the sales compensation program?
- Did you substantially change the product line-up?
- Did the company leadership change: president, sales management or marketing management? Change the management staff and salespeople may unintentionally hit the pause button.
- Has there been an increase in quotas without a good explanation? This is a source of frustration for salespeople.
- Have you realigned sales territories? Modifying territories often creates a hiccup in sales revenue for many months.
- Have you added substantial changes in the sales process? (Do you even have a defined sales process?)
If you haven’t analyzed the reasons for your sales slump but beat up the salespeople unfairly, you have doubled down on the revenue problem and delayed a fix. Salespeople, I have found, will take their lumps and a share of the blame when it is their fault, but beat them up too often without merit and they will:
- Unconsciously slow down selling.
- Hide the real condition of the sales forecast by not being truthful, which will cause a beat down.
- Leave the company for better management,
Regardless, you have hurt your company and compounded the problem. In a dynamic marketplace many things can be beyond your control, but many things aren’t. Any self-imposed action which interrupts a sales person’s momentum will hurt you.
We’re asking you to think before you act. Analyze what could contribute to a sales downturn and protect your most valuable asset - - the salespeople. Without them, nothing else you do matters. The solution might encompass renewed sales training, but if you’re wrong you have delayed your recovery by 3-6 months. Can you afford that?
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