Statistics tell us that sales teams are failing. According to Chally, only 50% of salespeople are making quota. I don’t need statistics to tell me that sales at most companies are broken. There are a myriad of reasons ranging from making poor hires and lack of comprehensive onboarding and high turnover to lack of training, reinforcement, accountability, and coaching. Much of it stems from leaders (CEOs and Owners) who don’t understand sales and their sales strategy while appeasing investors and shareholders, is not reasonable.
The sales leaders are responsible for sales and the company leaders are responsible for supporting them. Many times the sales leaders are the CEOs and Owners and unfortunately, they don’t know much about sales or have outdated information and ideas that no longer work.
Sales leaders need to be very focused on the right type of activity if they want to have consistent sales growth. Each day in a sales leader’s life is a balance of reviewing the sales strategy and assessing with others, coaching sales managers or salespeople one-on-one, managing problems, meeting strategically with key people and customers, motivating the team as a whole, preparing reports and of course, the never-ending meetings they get sucked into for non-sales related management issues.
In the midst of overlapping and demanding deadlines and priorities, it’s easy to lose focus on the most important things. I reached out to some of the sales experts I know and asked them the biggest mistake they see sales leaders make — and how to fix or avoid the problem. Here’s what they said:
1. Not taking the time to coach reps one-on-one
One of the biggest mistakes sales leaders make is spending too little time coaching their reps. Often they set time aside and cancel it. Days can go by, even weeks before reps receive coaching. This situation is unfortunate because one-on-one coaching with each of your reps can be the biggest way to make changes for your whole team.
Solution: Set time aside to coach each rep on areas that will help them learn from mistakes and shortcomings. Avoid talking about the pipeline or product! Tie in lessons from your sales curriculum and you’ll see revenues grow consistently. Honor the time you set aside. It is critical for both you and your reps to learn and grow.
2. Spending too much time on low-value management activities
Sales leaders in all types of companies lose sight of their primary job, which should be spending the majority of their time on high-value sales management activities that lead the team and move the revenue needle. Instead, they end up playing “good corporate citizen” by sitting in all kinds of meetings, participating on committees, conference calls and the like. Sales leaders are not paid to send high volumes of emails or work 80 hours per week. Their job is to lead the sales team into battle to drive new revenue.
Solution: To increase sales and create a healthy, high-performance sales culture, sales leaders must stop letting everyone else dictate how they’re spending their time. They must take control of the calendar and dedicate time to these three highest-payoff sales management activities:
- Conducting results-focused one-on-one accountability and coaching meetings
- Prepping for and leading impactful sales team meetings that align, energize and equip the team
- Working in the field or with inside reps to observe and provide feedback and coaching
3. Not providing development opportunities to existing team members
Improving the inputs to a process improves the results. But, often time sales leaders do not invest the time, money, and resources to improve their team’s effectiveness. As a result, it can be difficult to create and perpetuate a high-performing environment. If you never develop each salesperson and grow their skills, how can you give them greater goals and responsibilities?
Solution: If you improve people’s skills and abilities, you can increase the results for which they are accountable. To develop each member of your team and in turn your business, sales leaders must commit to creating an environment where everyone can grow. They should actively and regularly engage with their reps with conversations that result in new commitments and adjustments.
He posts daily sales tips and insights to The Sales Blog.
4. Providing inadequate onboarding and training to new hires
“Go get ’em, Tiger” isn’t an adequate onboarding process. But that’s the extent of onboarding many sales professionals get. When a new account manager starts, sales leaders often ask the wrong question: “How soon can we get this seller on the street or phone?” This mindset can trigger a dangerous domino effect where the new employee needs extended ramp up times and makes unnecessary errors that impact other departments and your customers. Next comes missed goals, reduced levels of employee engagement and commitment, and revenue declines. Finally, the entire team may experience extremely high sales talent turnover, which leads to increased costs for hiring, reduced profitability and more.
Solution: When onboarding a new employee, instead ask “What does a new seller here need to succeed?” Stop racing to fill sales positions and then racing to get feet on the street. Instead, provide training and onboarding that helps your new hires to perform. If you don’t have dedicated sales trainers and coaches (or if your current managers are too busy or not adequately trained themselves), get outside support.
What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen a sales leader make? Let me know below. Or, if you’ve made a big mistake and want to fess up and help others avoid the same pitfall, be brave and share.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.