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How to Determine Where Your Sales Team is Struggling the Most

How to Determine Where Your Sales Team is Struggling the Most

Categories: Sales Transformation

With recent speculation around the economic landscape, many organizations are preparing their teams for a difficult sales season ahead. Whether you're already seeing your sales team struggle with unexpected deal delays or economic uncertainty has begun to amplify underlying sales execution issues, one thing is certain: you’ve still got numbers to hit.

In these moments, it’s tempting to go back to basics and manage expectations. What separates good sales leaders from great ones is their commitment to their people, no matter the season. Do more with who you have and what you have. Identify how you can help your salespeople build the critical skills they need to be relevant to customer needs, drive pipeline and close deals. 

Define and Align What’s Next:

Now is not the time to batten down the hatches and hope for the best. The most elite leaders right now are already prioritizing their sales team’s biggest challenges, so they can make their people their biggest competitive advantage. You can do the same by defining clear, actionable next steps on what’s needed to emerge from a challenging sales season equipped and prepared to drive revenue. 

There are four key areas of sales effectiveness that elite sales leaders help their team master to achieve consistent numbers. An organization that understands and executes consistently in these areas is capable of thriving in any environment. We’ve highlighted the key indicators of an underlying sales execution problem in each of the four areas.

1. Sales Messaging 

Consider your customers. They’re facing the same economic pressure that your company may already be preparing for. 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? Help your reps get customer-focused, so they can cut through the noise.

Cross-functional alignment on the value your solutions provide for your customer in a changing economy 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, then they’ll likely face these issues on a regular basis:

  • Unable to repeatedly gain access to the economic buyer and other key decision makers
  • Unable to get prospects and customers to define a line item need for your solution; cost-cutting directly affects your solution in new and existing accounts
  • Low margins as a result of discounting and inability to cross-sell or upsell
  • Unable to repeat high-value outcomes

Create a critical connection between what your solutions offer and how they solve your customer’s biggest business challenges today, like increasing efficiencies, driving revenue, doing more with less, etc. Get laser-focused on how your sales organization materializes your solution’s value in the marketplace and how your product can deliver on the positive business outcomes your sellers promise. These efforts will minimize buyer risk, customer churn and discounting.

Next Steps:

Whether you’ve already started to or not, reframe your sales message to align with your buyers' current, evolving problems. Even small tweaks in messaging and new customer success stories shared amongst your sales teams can make a huge difference.

We often refer to a sales messaging initiative as a way to enable the entire sales organization to get customer-focused. Through our Command of the Message engagements, we work to generate leadership agreement on the essential questions every company should answer.

If you’re looking for a broader solution that enables your entire customer-facing organization to focus on great discovery, 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, even in a complex selling environment.

  1. What problems do you solve for customers?
  2. How do you specifically solve these problems?
  3. How do you do it differently than your competitors?
  4. What’s your proof?
  5. When your sales reps win, why do they win?

2. Sales Qualification Process:

Moving opportunities forward and maintaining a healthy pipeline are two critical areas many sales organizations often struggle with, regardless of the economic climate. 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
  • Deals are delayed because buying processes require more decision makers to validate the business need and allocation of resources
  • Sales reps and managers aren’t able to determine what's needed to move their deals forward, without resorting to cost cutting

Next Steps:

Given how the economic landscape influences your main buying audience, their buying indicators and your sales activities will shift, as your customer’s needs shift. Help your salespeople become skilled in getting multi-threaded in their deals (i.e., selling to more decision makers), so they can capture a collective yes for your solution. 

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 and progress high-value opportunities.

  1. How aligned is your selling process with your customers' buying process?
  2. How do sales reps ensure opportunities are qualified?
  3. What customer outcomes progress a deal?
  4. How do managers inspect sales opportunities and pipeline?
  5. How do sales stages align with forecasting?

3. Sales Planning:

Accurately predicting revenue is always a challenge, but it can certainly be amplified when facing external market challenges. Right now, it’s more important than ever to ensure your team is spending time and resources on clients who will have the highest propensity to buy from you, those with a big business pain your solution can solve. If you find yourself unsure about where your deals stand in the pipeline, you may be dealing with larger issues within your sales organization's 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. 

Next Steps:

To drive immediate impacts in the upcoming forecasts, sales leaders often 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: 

  1. How do reps build pipeline?
  2. How do reps achieve quarterly and annual quotas?
  3. How well is your sales team covering each territory?
  4. How well is your sales team covering key accounts?
  5. 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 organizations experience hiring freezes during times of economic uncertainty, making it that much more important to cultivate the talent they already have. Consider how you can best support who you have now. Remember, your talent is your biggest competitive advantage. Small actions now, like helping your managers build their coaching skills can go a long way.

If you want to improve sales productivity — focus on how you are managing, coaching and retaining your sales talent. This process is the ultimate driver of sales productivity. Start by assessing where your talent needs further support. Here are a few red flags you may be seeing:

  • Uncertainty around the key behaviors required to be successful in a specific sales role 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

Next Steps:

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. Your salespeople will likely welcome any resources and training that will take them to the next level. Define for your sellers what they can focus on to be successful. What does that mean for your company specifically? Think about your solutions, your processes and your customers' needs. 

Get started now by asking your executive team and your mid- and front-line managers these essential questions:

  1. What does success look like in a sales role?
  2. Why have we hired the wrong people in the past?
  3. Why do we lose key talent to the competition? 
  4. Why would someone want to work here?
  5. How do we hold people accountable for results?

Building great sales talent isn’t about hiring or developing “a-players”. Companies can build top-performers by giving their existing sales organization a keen understanding of the capabilities and skills that will make them successful in their current sales roles. Here are a few ways you can begin to develop your talent profiles and own your talent process.

Invest in Your Biggest Opportunity to Drive Revenue

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. Once you can prioritize your biggest opportunities to level up your sales execution, invest in making it happen.

Use our rapid sales assessment to define and align what’s next for your sales team. Then, you can start to lay the groundwork for launching a strategic sales initiative that prepares and equips your sales organization to drive consistent revenue, quarter after quarter.

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