Consider this for in a moment or two. Your job is to be a sales executive. What size your company doesn’t matter. The product or service you offer doesn’t matter. Your competition doesn’t really need to be considered. Price or margins do not matter. The focus of this question is sales behavior, culture, and communication.
There’s an old saying. “What I don’t understand won’t cause harm to me.” Personally, I hate this phrase and view it as a justification and not as a reason to explain reasons for why things are the way they are. Awareness is the foundation for actions, results, and eventually accountability. The first step is to feel the need to “know” and admit that perhaps, just possibly, one doesn’t know everything.
In my time working with sales teams and within them, I’ve experienced the full range of what makes an effective sales team and what’s lacking in the ones that, let’s face it, are not so great. In almost all instances, I hear excuses, but not just reasons. When all the conversation is finished, and the dust has settled, it all boils to the issue mentioned above. How apparent is the effort to sell, which is crucial to the success of your business? Are your sales representatives accountable for their level of activity and the results that follow? Do you have confidence in the information you’re being taught or shown to translate into actual and sustainable sales?
Let’s take a look at these three essential success elements, each one on its own.
Visibility refers to the awareness of what’s happening in every phase or aspect of the selling process. I don’t have any sales company in which there aren’t two or three (or more) salespeople who are holding off a bit on their prospect churn rate or shortly to close customers. The reason? It’s the way that salespeople make to manage the expectations of their boss. They’d rather please instead of failing to meet expectations. The unexpected victory is what makes them heroes! What if the boss is giddy over the surprise win? The answer is no! This is just one example of the importance of visibility. Another example is the management and communicating of a complete pipeline by a single participant. Pipeline reports are not only the most likely closing of the best prospects. It should also include the good along with the bad and ugly. What else is there to control individual performance? Also, it’s good to have those who are sluggish in the effort but short on performance be recognized in more circles, rather than only with the boss. Visibility such as this leads to the next component…accountability. A little more on that later. In summary, visibility requires standard processes, standard rules, and standard measures/expectations for success. Every detail must be clearly shared and understood by all. There are no exceptions. Anyone who violates or violates the rules could face adverse sanctions in the form of fines or formal actions.
How many times have you as a sales leader experienced a salesperson whose pipeline was always full to the brim, who had the highest probability of closing projections, but when the month’s end approached and there was nothing? These are self-proclaimed masters of selling; they attend regular training sessions and are constantly overwhelmed and stressed that you’re not able to keep them in line for even a minute. They think their success is measured through the amount of activity and not always by outcomes. Many sales companies contain a few of them, and they can be challenging to manage. There’s every time an excuse(s) that explains why the close-to-sale projections didn’t come to fruition. There always is the next one in the pipeline, which is sure to end. While this is not uncommon, there is an apparent reason for the lack of performance. The person who is in this situation is not accountable for the duties that they have assumed as their responsibility in the initial place. This is the end of the business and the generation of income. Period. The reasons behind this can range from a lack of communication as well-defined goals, excessive salaries, or insufficient feedback or insanity. The list could go on. However, keeping and attracting salespeople who are aware of what is expected of them and sign up or committing to this expectation is essential to achieving sales success. They are also mindful that not delivering on this commitment is a guarantee of losing their job. As sales managers, it is the responsibility of each one of us to fully communicate and emphasize the expectations of every salesperson, the benefits of their work, the drawbacks, and the assistance they can anticipate to succeed. In reality, a sales company that isn’t fully accountable is a sales company that will end up in a state of incompetence, at the very least, and will be a constant expense drain with nothing results to show for it.
What a perfect world would it be if every single sales forecast was perfect 100 times out of 100! Unfortunately, this scenario doesn’t happen. But, reaching the “reasonable” percentage to use in the process of forecasting is an enormous issue, particularly in the current economy. What is a fair share of actual closing versus projected close? I’ve seen less than 10 percent and up to 66 percent. The issue isn’t just the amount, however, but the information you can trust from your sales team. Naturally, you would like the figure to be as good as it is possible. The predictability of sales is the result of the last two discussions about accountability and visibility.
In the wake of the introduction of structure, process, and discipline in conjunction with ongoing and honest communication, you’re on your way to building a sales team that is accountable, visible, and reliable.