Do you find yourself frustrated with your salespeople?
Or your sales manager?
Or yourself for letting it all happen?
Here's the problem.
Small business owners are typically good at creating stuff that the market needs.
A product, a service.
Doesn't really matter.
But there is a need.
Your company, typically, is pretty good at selling your stuff. And when the business was smaller, and life was less complex, that was enough.
But then, as things grew, the owner needed to get others to sell for them. That's where things started not working.
Now, many owners fast forward to today and realize they have things like:
• Salespeople that are overpaid and under-performing
• A salesforce with a sense of entitlement
• Sales management that isn't coaching, motivating, holding accountable and upgrading with newer, better salespeople like sports teams do.
• Sales management that can't accurately predict what revenue will be coming into their pipeline
And then, hovering over the owners head is the thought that:
"How am I ever going to sell this business one day with this sales team and this sales process?”
"How will I ever get the multiple I want for the business if we don't improve sales?"
Sure, it's possible to cut costs for a while. Getting EBID, EBIDA, EBIDTA, etc. improved can be done to a point by cutting stuff. But at some point, for many it's fairly basic.
You need to improve top-line sales.
But what owners are hearing are excuses like:
1. We need to lower our price to get the business.
2. Our competition has better products and services.
3. It's tough selling in today's commoditized world.
4. It's hard to get to buyers because of voicemail and technology.
And then, when most business owners look at what's actually happening, they are seeing things like:
1. Salespeople spending a lot of time and company resources responding to RFPs (or other less formal requests for proposals) with little to no chance of getting the business.
2. The sales pipeline full of unqualified prospects that never seem to come in. The pipeline is crap.
3. Salespeople are discounting price to get the business and seem to have a hard time selling at a premium.
4. Everyone seems to be calling on the same accounts and aren't prospecting for new ones.
5. Sales management seems to accept mediocrity.
It's tough being a company owner.
Owners, who founded and developed cool things that the marketplace needs, have non-transferable skills when it comes to selling.
They are pretty good at it, but have a hard time getting others to be as good as they are.
Do you wish there was a better way?
There is, but it isn't easy.
It requires looking in the mirror and having an honest conversation with yourself.
Not the distorted, fun house mirror that is masking sales problems.
But the real mirror. The reality that says: I have a sales problem and I need to fix it!
So here is the thing, many companies come to us because of our reputation in training. But training isn't the magic bullet. It feels like a nice quick fix, but it isn't. Most people in the business won’t tell you this, but:
Most sales training doesn't work.
It's heresy to say this, but it's true.
Don't get me wrong, training is critically important if done in correctly for the right salespeople.
Unfortunately, it's almost never done in the right way.
(By the way, one-time seminars never work. You can't learn any skill of any value in a one-time training. Can't learn to sell, speak a foreign language, fly a plane, play golf. That's not the way humans learn, apply what they’ve learned, and actually build a skill)
So what should you be thinking about?
15 years ago, I developed The 4S Sales Improvement Process, a process for looking at ongoing growth and improvement in a salesforce. The four areas to look at are:
Let’s start with the last one, Skills.
People call us all the time for “skills training”. In areas that are typically things like:
• Shortening the selling cycle
• Overcoming price objections
• Getting to the decision-maker.
You probably have skills your salespeople need to work on also. (I'd suggest you do an inventory of what skills training they need)
But here is the problem, overall, with skills training alone. If you are dealing with Staff that isn't trainable or coachable, it will not work.
After 50 years of proven Sandler methodology being around, it clearly works.
But give me someone who is not trainable and there is no way it’s going to work for them.
Not everyone is trainable or coachable!
Save yourself the headache.
Either accept them as non-trainable/non-coachable…or get rid of them. (“Make them available to the Chicago marketplace” is a more politically correct term for letting them go.😊)
So with Staff, the common problems that lead to being non-trainable/non-coachable are things like:
1. Salespeople in comfort zones.
2. Salespeople that are unmotivated.
3. Salespeople that aren't committed to excellence.
4. Salespeople that make excuses.
5. Salespeople with an entitlement mindset.
So the question to ask yourself is:
“Do I have the right salespeople?”
The people who get you here many times will not get you there (if “there” is a better place. They may get you there if the goal is declining sales.)
Are you going to accept mediocrity from mediocre salespeople?
Or have you had enough?
But let me be more positive. Let's say you have the best salespeople. Or at least some of the best salespeople.
For many companies, it is the area of Structure that often holds them back. Common challenges in structure are things like:
1. Lack of sales management processes like:
C. Pre-call process
D. Role-playing practice.
2. Poor compensation plan (current plan is not producing the intended results).
3. Lack of hiring process for continually upgrading the sales team. (All great teams have turnover and are always looking for new and improved talent)
So that brings us to Strategies, which is actually the starting point that you should think about.
Everything flows from Strategies. Common areas that sales teams have challenges here are:
1. Not having a definition on how much time and effort to allot to things like:
A. Attaining new business.
B. Keeping existing accounts.
C. Expanding existing accounts.
D. Recapturing past accounts that have left.
2. The idea of being the low-price leader or selling value and commanding a premium.
3. The question of being pro-active or reactive with their sales approach.
So here is how it all flows –
Let's pick as an example. A company decides the Strategy is:
"We want to increase new accounts in the Chicago area by 25%."
Then we go to Skills and say, ‘what skills do they need?’ Things like:
1. Cold calling.
2. Using LinkedIn for better introductions.
3. Setting effective first appointments.
4. Sales Training that teaches how to get to the real pains.
5. Avoiding unpaid consulting.
6. Qualifying a real opportunity.
7. Sales Training that helps them sell value and uncover the real budget.
9. Sales Training that helps them find out the true decision-making process.
10. Sales Training that helps them get to multiple decision-makers.
11. Sales Training that helps them to not be commoditized
12. How to get prospects to switch suppliers/vendors.
But then we have to look at Staff and ask "Can my current people bring in new accounts?"
Because you have to consider:
1. Maybe they're great account managers but not great hunters.
2. Maybe they're not hungry enough to do new business development.
3. Maybe they don't have any interest in this.
4. Maybe it's easier to find better hunters than trying to change our current people.
5. They don't have the desire and commitment to follow through.
But, let's say we actually have good people who are trainable and coachable. Then the gap can be in Structure because you have to ask yourself questions like:
1. Do we have accountability systems - Very, very, very few salespeople will prospect without accountability because prospecting is tough.
2. Do we have top sales training and coaching reinforcement from sales managers?
3. Do sales managers role-play and observe through doing ride-alongs?
4. Do we have the right compensation plan?
Think about your Strategies in sales. And then back it up into an inventory of the Skills, Staff and Structure needed.
In closing, I want to encourage you to take action. Using the 4Ss as your simplified process as a start.
Of course, we offer help in these areas, but you may want to do it all yourself (especially if you cut your own hair and bake your own bread. 😊)
If you do want to have a brief phone conversation about your situation, you can set up a 30-minute exploratory conversation with me through my executive assistant.
Both of our times are valuable, so to make our time most efficient, I will have a short, two-minute-to-complete, questionnaire sent to you on the 4Ss.
When we talk, we will then just discuss the issues most relevant to you because the overall purpose of our call would be for you to share with me your biggest concerns with your sales team and for me to get a better idea if we could possibly help you.
We may discover in our phone call that there is no potential for us working together and that's okay. At least we figured that out.
Or, we may figure out there is a potential fit, in which case we would schedule a time for us to have a more in-depth conversation.
In our call, let's keep it to just the two of us speaking.
No sales managers.
That typically lessens the authenticity we can have in our dialogue.
If you'd like to talk, you can schedule a 30-minute time with my executive assistant Sully Kowalski at 847-513-6918
If you don’t want to talk, hopefully you'll find some value in the 4Ss I've shared with you.
Either way, I wish you well.
Founder & Managing Director
Sandler Training Chicago/Northbrook