How To Succeed in Sales
The sales team is the linchpin of any business. If your sales performance dips, then before long your whole money-making operation could be in jeopardy. Obviously all departments contribute to a business’s success, but having a good salesperson and marketing teams are the ones who keep paying customers coming in the door.
So how can businesses keep their sales departments working like a well-oiled machine? How can you help your salespeople bring their A-game time and time again?
Let’s explore this by learning what not to do. Here are 10 common reasons why sales teams fail – or perhaps more accurately – 10 B2B sales management mistakes that are commonly found out in the wild; plus our tips to keep these slip-ups at bay
10 Reasons Why Sales Fail
1. Poor Sales Training and Skill Building
Any good salesperson is well versed in how to sell. However, they will need extra guidance before they can sell your product in the ways that work for your organisation.
Regular, engaging sales training is essential for all salespeople, even seasoned sales veterans. Not only does it give you an opportunity to level up everyone’s sales skills equally and in a way that’s tailored to your target audience, it also means you can further cement your company’s preferred sales methodologies and practices too.
One misconception about sales is that it’s all about the “gift of the gab”. However, in reality, the most important sales skill is listening. Asking the right questions at the right time and actively “listening between the lines” to any response can be the difference between closing and not closing, so don’t forget to train your team in this crucial sales skill.
2. Salespeople Don’t Understand Your Solution
Say you’ve employed the best salesperson in your area. You provide training around how you like your salespeople to sell and the sales processes they need to follow. So, you sit them down in front of your CRM, give them a phone, and tell them to start selling. Chances are that this will still fall flat.
Why? Because in order to sell, your salespeople need to know all of the ins and outs of your product, its value proposition, your market, and your competition like the backs of their hands. Without a fundamental understanding of your product and the problems you solve, for who, and what other options are out there, your sales reps will be unable to combat sales objections effectively.
Your sales reps should know exactly why you are a better bet than any competitor and how you bring more value to the table. Good salespeople need to be acutely aware how your solution plays into the buyer’s current challenges. And most importantly, salespeople need to be well versed in product features and functionality.
To use ourselves as an example, as a software provider, we’re always adding new, interesting features to our product. So we regularly guide our sales reps through our new functionality and developments so they can sell these new features effectively, incorporate the latest information into their sales conversations, and fluently answer any questions that prospects may have.
3. Poor Follow Up Processes
Nowadays, especially in B2B sales, it’s incredibly rare that people will buy after a single interaction with you. Therefore, the true magic is in the follow up. Yet follow ups can be inconsistent, poorly timed, misjudged, or worse – non-existent.
It takes around 6-12 brand touchpoints to turn someone into a sales lead, so your salespeople need to know what interactions each prospect has had with your organisation, what solutions they showed most interest in, and when each interaction happened so they can approach each lead in a relevant, timely manner.
The solution here is twofold: you need good data analytics tools and good CRM tools. If you can integrate these two solutions, even better.
CRMs make it easy to schedule and pace follow ups, making sure nobody slips through the net, whilst also visualising each prospect’s place within your sales journey. With integrated marketing tools, your salespeople will be able to see which campaigns or products each prospect has shown interest in and adjust their approach accordingly.
4. Poor Goal Setting, Monitoring & Support
Whatever your professional role, it’s important to set meaningful goals and targets. However, sometimes sales reps simply get left to their own devices, with nobody questioning their work until the money starts drying up.
Even with an eager, well-intentioned sales team, not having a cause or target to rally behind can lead to chaos. Far from giving them autonomy and confidence, simply patting them on the back and saying “do your best” actually has the opposite effect – your reps don’t know what results are good, what results are bad, and they just sort of coast along.
If there’s no urgency or accountability, it’s easy to become complacent. Setting – and essentially measuring – your sales targets is essential, and a good CRM tool can help monitor your sales success through at a glance dashboards and in-depth reporting.
5. Pushing Poorly Qualified Leads
Time is money and not every lead is going to turn into a sale. So the earlier you can eliminate “poor fit” prospects and time wasters, the better. Carefully examine how your sales reps determine whether each lead is a good candidate.
Sales qualification sounds like a bit of a needless hurdle but it really isn’t. Methodologies like MEDDIC simplify the process of deciding which prospects are most likely to convert and which ones aren’t.
6. Poor Research Into Each Prospect
Once a fresh, new lead has passed your sales qualifying sense-checks, it can be tempting to reach out to them immediately. Yet we’d advise a more careful approach. Even post-qualification, your sales team should research each prospect’s company before picking up the phone or setting up an appointment; simply to establish their industry, why they reached out, where their priorities lie, and where their needs and your solution overlap.
This isn’t just for the sake of coming up with a good ice breaker; it’s about understanding how they might benefit from working with you; getting to the root of each buyer’s core pain points; and indeed identifying the best way/person to approach.
So instead of making contact straight away, take a while to look at their website; their presence on social media; and even look them up on review sites. All can be a goldmine of surprising, sales-relevant cues.
7. No Variety in Sales Experience and Toolset
No two salespeople are ever quite the same. No two buyers are ever quite the same. So why do some companies insist on selling in set, rigid ways? There are countless different sales methodologies out there, all of which suit different types of buyer, different styles of selling, and different sales situations.
Sales is much more of a creative talent than some would like to admit and every salesperson joins a sales career for different reasons. Therefore it’s likely that your sales reps’ natural sales styles may be quite different. Creative variety in sales is a real asset, so embrace it!
Yes, your sales team do need to coalesce on some points; they’ll need to envisage your sales pipeline in the same way, use the same lead qualifying criteria, and follow the same general processes to their peers. But avoid giving them concrete directions on how to get prospects from one end of the sales funnel to the other.
When you have a variety of inborn talent to choose from, you can carefully pair each prospect with a salesperson that they are most likely to resonate with.
8. Poor or Inconsistent Pipeline Management
Though you may welcome creative variety in the sales process, sales funnel/pipeline management is one aspect where your whole team absolutely need to be on the same page. It’s essential to define the distinct steps that make up your sales pipeline, what criteria must be met for a lead to progress to each step, and to communicate that to your team.
Let’s imagine having no defined sales pipeline for a moment. Each prospect’s closeness to a sale would be up to individual interpretation, so there would be less opportunity for reps to collaborate on a single sale. If you do have pipeline stages but your team aren’t trained in what they mean or what criteria they represent, then each team member is likely to formulate their own definitions of the different stages, eroding any intended meaning and causing confusion. It will also affect your sales and marketing strategy too as any functions that involve pipeline data (such as forecasting, ROI stats, and goal-setting) will be totally out of whack.
It’s therefore important to record where each prospect lies in your sales pipeline – and do so in a way/place that your whole team can access and understand. This way, any good salesperson can field a call from any prospect and immediately know where they are in their sales journey. Though recording each prospect’s place in the pipeline can be handled manually or on a spreadsheet, pipeline management is where CRM tools really shine.
9. Sales & Marketing Don’t See Eye to Eye
It’s time for sales and marketing teams to bury the hatchet. In all too many organisations, the sales and marketing teams are sworn enemies when really they should be allies, working towards a common goal and supporting each other in doing so.
A customer’s journey involves somewhat equal input from both sides – it’s marketing’s job to keep the conversion funnel full and turn vaguely interested prospects into warm leads, then the baton passes to sales to further tempt that lead towards conversion. Yet when both sides don’t interact – or worse, can’t stand each other – you end up with a situation where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
To give a vastly simplified example, your marketing team may decide to start promoting the benefits of product A, but your sales team may want to focus on selling service B. As marketing bewitches new prospects by singing product A’s praises, there’s a jarring disconnect when sales are suddenly more focused on getting them to buy service B.
Customers are far too savvy nowadays to put up with disjointed promotional efforts and other by-products of internal politics. If they see an awkward, unexpected administrative roadblock then they’re likely to just go elsewhere. Therefore, both departments need to be 100% strategically aligned to produce best results.
It’s likely that getting both teams on the same side will look very different in practice between organisations, but if you are unsure where to start, here are a few ideas:
- No separate sales meetings and marketing meetings – integrate the two into one promotional mega-meeting in order to share strategic vision.
- Have your salespeople occasionally shadow your marketers and vice versa.
- Train both teams on each other’s practices and metrics so they can fully understand the whole customer journey.
- Instigate promotional campaigns jointly with set outcomes for both teams.
Ready to dodge more sales faux-pas? Check out our article 6 Common Sales Rep Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
10. Sales Tools Are Too Basic
Some companies pay good money for talented, experienced salespeople, yet expect them to make do with a messy, sprawling spreadsheet of leads (or even – shock horror – a paper system). In order to properly track sales, follow sales processes, and view sales reports, you need a quality customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
In our post “Do I Need a CRM System?” Nick Leong makes a great case for how a company like ours benefits from a CRM:
We get 50+ enquiries a day, far too many to remember each one. The sales cycle can take anywhere from a week to six months, with lots of interactions between the prospect and multiple points of contact within the company, including sales, marketing and support staff. We run segmented marketing campaigns to our customers and prospects. There is no way we could function without a CRM system.
Nick Leong, Really Simple Systems
So if you have a lot of leads to juggle; a lengthy, involved sales process; or you commonly pass leads around to different internal departments, a CRM might be just what you need. Check out our case studies for some real life CRM success stories!