How to Determine Where Your Sales Team is Struggling the Most
Over the past few months, many sales organizations have been struggling with margins, deal size and overall sales productivity due to the current economic climate. While some sales leaders are simply trying to keep their teams focused, others are trying to do anything to stop the bleeding and recoup lost revenue.
Whether your sales execution problems are new, given the current state, or the economy is amplifying an underlying sales execution issue, one thing is certain. You’ve still got numbers to hit. Getting to the root of the problem and solving it fast is key to surviving now and competing in the long run. Start by quickly prioritizing your sales team’s biggest challenges, then defining clear, actionable next steps on what’s needed to course correct.
Define and aligning what’s next:
Poor sales metrics typically materialize when there are inefficiencies in the four areas of sales effectiveness. We’ve highlighted the key indicators of an underlying sales execution problem in each of the four areas.
1. Sales Messaging
Does your sales organization have a consistent message to articulate the value and differentiation of your offerings in a way that solves your buyers' evolving problems?
Cross-functional alignment on the value your solutions provide for your customer is the key to accelerating growth. If your salespeople aren't able to articulate the business value of your solutions in a way that has meaning to buyer decision makers, than they’ll likely face these issues on a regular basis:
- Unable to repeatedly gain access to the economic buyer and other key decision makers
- Constantly being delegated down to someone they sound like (lower in the organization)
- Low margins as a results of discounting and inability to cross-sell or upsell
- Inability to repeat high-value outcomes
We often refer to a sales messaging initiative as a way to enable the entire sales organization to sell like the founder. Through our Command of the Message engagements we work to generate leadership agreement on the essential questions every company should answer.
Whether you’ve already started to or not, reframe your sales message to align with your buyers' current, evolving problems. Even small tweaks and new customer success stories shared amongst your sales teams can make a huge difference.
If you’re looking for a broader solution that enables your entire customer-facing organization to sell like the founder, then ask your company leaders the essential questions below. Building consistency around these answers is the first step to developing a sales message framework that enables your sales teams to sell at a premium consistently, even during a pandemic.
- What problems do you solve for customers?
- How do you specifically solve these problems?
- How do you do it differently than your competitors?
- What’s your proof?
- When your sales reps win, why do they win?
2. Sales Qualification Process:
Moving opportunities forward and maintaining a healthy pipeline in this environment are two critical areas many sales organizations are struggling with right now. Are these issues common amongst your sales teams or have they been amplified given the current state?
- Reps are stuck in deals they don’t belong in and aren’t going to happen
- Too much time is spent trying to establish accurate forecasts leaving little time to uncover new opportunities and build pipeline
- Gaps in customer knowledge and relationships are causing deals to draw on too long
- Sales reps and managers aren’t able to determine what's needed to move their deals forward at a high value
Help your reps become relevant to their buyer’s changing solution requirements by ensuring your sales teams are constantly uncovering critical information from buyers and testing their champions. This conversation on the role sales leaders play in keeping sales reps focused right now may provide you with more short-term actions you can take to support your sales teams in maintaining a healthy pipeline.
If your sales qualification issues have only worsened in this economic environment, you may have deeper, underlying challenges to solve. To take it a step further, generate executive alignment around these critical sales process questions, then consider a broader, strategic shift in how your sales teams qualify-in high-value opportunities.
- How aligned is your selling process with your customers' buying process?
- How do sales reps ensure opportunities are qualified?
- What customer outcomes progress a deal?
- How do managers inspect sales opportunities and pipeline?
- How do sales stages align with forecasting?
3. Sales Planning:
Accurately predicting revenue may have been a struggle over the past few months. If you’re painstakingly waiting to hit a turnaround point or have been struggling with inconsistent forecasts since before the pandemic, you may be dealing with larger issues within your sales planning process. These are a few common issues that also occur:
- Sales teams are unable to repeatedly build high-value pipelines
- Managers are unable to find revenue gaps and coach accordingly to avoid margin cuts and losses
- Each end of a quarter or sales cycle is a constant scrabble to make the number
If you’ve spotted these red flags consider how you can make effective changes now, while preparing a long-game, strategic sales strategy that drives lasting results.
To drive immediate impacts in the upcoming forecasts, sales leaders should focus on enabling their managers to become better coaches. Managers provide value to your sales teams when they’re able to coach reps on identifying gaps in their deals and refining their predictions before they commit them to the next forecast.
To solve sales execution issues within the planning process, high-performing sales organizations put processes in place that ensure their salespeople focus their efforts on the highest value sales opportunities. If you create a predictable cadence around territory, account and opportunity planning, you’ll improve forecast accuracy and your reps’ ability to build a healthy pipeline. It starts by generating executive alignment on these essential sales planning questions:
- How do reps build pipeline?
- How do reps achieve quarterly & annual quota?
- How well are your sales team covering each territory?
- How well are your sales teams covering your key accounts?
- How accurately do you forecast revenue?
4. Sales Talent:
Sales talent is one of the most overlooked problems that can hinder a bottom line. Many sales organizations are working with less people due to layoffs, making the people they do have on their team that much more important.
Talent can also be a costly mistake when the wrong people are chosen, trained in, and aren’t able to produce the results they were hired to achieve. When companies begin to start their hiring processes again, they have an opportunity to ensure they’re investing in the right people. A few reasons talent may not pan out or provide a competitive advantage for the organization may be:
- There is uncertainty around the key behaviors required to be successful in your organization
- Too much focus is put on industry experience versus sales experience
- Lack of a cadence behind setting and achieving developmental goals
- Managers aren’t held accountable to coaching and on-boarding reps in way that drives productivity
- Managers were promoted because they were great sellers, but were not given the tools to be a great coach
The most immediate thing you can do to define your ideal candidate profile is to define what success looks like in your sales organization, in each critical role. Here are a few ways you can begin to develop your talent profiles and own your talent process.
When you decide to scale your sales organization, ensure you have a process in place to hire top talent, retain top talent, and speed up the time-to-productivity of all new hires. Get started now by asking your executive team and your mid- and front-line managers these essential questions:
- What does success look like in a sales role?
- Why have we hired the wrong people in the past?
- Why do we lose key talent to the competition?
- Why would someone want to work here?
- How do we hold people accountable for results?
Invest in Your Biggest Opportunity for Revenue Recovery
Once you can prioritize your biggest opportunities to improve sales execution, invest in making it happen. Use our rapid sales assessment to define and align what’s next for your sales team so you can begin to lay the groundwork for launching a strategic sales initiative that sets your sales team up for success next year or even as early as next quarter.
As a sales leader, you don’t have time to wait to make changes aimed at improving your sales team’s ability to drive revenue. See how we’ve helped other companies course correct and achieve their desired results through virtual sales training engagements.