Why Is It So Hard to Create Improvements in the Sales Department?
Some people didn’t like the word “Easy” in last week’s blog post: “Six Easy Ways to Boost Your Company’s Sales Results.” For example, reader Tony Cole said:
“If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. …
“Let’s address the issues of why companies, sales leaders, and salespeople fail to implement and execute basic fundamental sales processes or techniques, let alone the sophisticated process improvements you talk about here.”
I called Tony to find out more about what he meant. Turns out we were talking about completely different things!
Lots of sales trainers have observed how difficult it is to get some human beings to learn behaviors you are trying to teach them. Tony was asking, “Why is it so hard for salespeople to learn to implement a new skill?”
Good question. Sometimes, getting salespeople to exhibit the right skills is what will improve results.
And sometimes, it isn’t!
Reader Dave Stein asked:
“How do you get a majority of sales leaders to even say the word process, not to mention take the time, money, resources, focus, and possible short-term revenue hit to actually make process changes?”
Again, great question. Lots of sales managers believe “process” is something that will hinder, harm, and possibly hurt. You can’t blame them for resisting something like that!
How can you create improvements when people believe “process” is bad for them?
This is such a crucial question: Everyone at all levels wants and needs sales results to improve, especially in an economy like this. And, people try so many things to improve the situation!
You have no doubt seen all sorts of attempts to improve over the years, such as:
- Lead generation
- Territory realignment
Yet, achieving provable, sustainable results is rare. Normally, results are just someone’s opinion, they do not last, or something else comes up that appears to change things, or whatever. Why?
There is an underlying principle that explains why this happens so often. The principle accounts for the observations behind Tony’s and David’s questions, and a whole lot more. Until you understand this principle, improving any business is completely hit or miss.
Consider these additional examples (there is something in common with all of them):
- Why won’t salespeople follow the process?
A company president I know dramatically increased his marketing spend and the flow of leads, yet revenue did not increase proportionally. His salespeople appeared to follow the process he had given them only when he was standing over them watching. He figured this was the problem. Why would that happen?
- Why doesn’t sales training work?
Sales training initiatives often define success as “some of the best salespeople used the techniques and were successful with them.” Yet the methods often result in a lot more work for ordinary salespeople, who don’t necessarily get such fabulous results. After a time, behaviors tend to return to their original state. Why does that happen?
- Why doesn’t the company know how to generate leads?
A sales VP for an equipment company I know needed big gains in market share. He decided to participate (along with several competitors) in an expensive trade association study designed to learn the incidence of companies needing to replace their old equipment. The study distributed thousands of so-called “leads” to his sales team, who quickly learned they were worthless. Why does that happen?
Senior executives are normally pretty smart people. Yet when they are wrong about something, it has an incredibly damaging effect.
Why does senior management’s opinion trump everything else?
- First Example:
A manufacturing company's marketing director had successfully used landing pages and postcard campaigns to generate good leads, something his salespeople were starving for. Yet the marketing director's requests for budget to expand the lead generation campaigns were turned down. Why? The company president believed “Our problem is that our salespeople need to manage their territories more effectively.” Results did not improve after that decision.
- Second Example:
A consulting company hired by the CEO of a $600 million services company had recommended they shift from a “hunter vs farmer” sales model to one in which individual salespeople were expected to do both. Yet this change did not resolve any of the salespeople’s problems, it aggravated them. The manager assigned to create the training for people who would take on the new roles was in a situation she could not win: regardless of what training she could find, she knew no one would be happy. The organizational change, which really amounted to a RIF, went ahead. Needless to say, results did not improve.
- Third Example:
The sales V.P. hired a training company to improve the quality of telesales agent’s prospecting techniques. After great effort and expense, agents began to engage prospects more effectively, they left a better impression of the company, and they were finding more sales opportunities. Unfortunately, the agent’s calls were taking longer, so the number of calls reported per week started to decline. Senior management objected, and prioritized the number of calls above all other measures. In doing so they undercut everything that had been accomplished to that point.
Lots of additional examples like this can be found in “Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way.”
What is the root cause of all six problems?
There is something in common with them all. Can you identify what it is?
Please share your experiences, and your thoughts, for what the real problem is.
April 24, 2009