I was playing golf recently at Bandon Dunes with the CEO of a major Chicago based firm. During our match, he asked me if I could name a few of the common issues I see in my engagements.
Maybe he was just trying to distract me, it was match play after all, but I thought he was truly interested. I told him I had seen barriers that seemed to be present frequently, usually fixable but all causing many issues for many firms, Among them were:
1. The Alignment Problem:
When alignment between the goals/expectations and compensation plans are at odds. Often CEO’s tell me their sales force just isn’t firing on all eight cylinders,and could I help them by replacing them with better, more capable people, or maybe get them on track with more focused training or perhaps more discipline.
When I get engaged, I see a significant misalignment between what the sales force is being asked to do and how they are being paid. Compensation plan design is not often a core competency for senior management for a number of reasons.
Problems arise when those without the experience/ability to design a good plan fail to get guidance from those who do have the skill. It’s not an especially difficult issue to solve, but far more often than not, it needs solving!
2. The Collaborative Model:
When management fails to lead, thinking they need to manage and often confusing the two.
Far too many salespeople feel like they’re in the vast blue ocean of competition all by themselves and have nobody to turn to for collaboration.
Sales meetings are “account reviews” with a senior manager whose perceived goal is to ask the tough questions and uncover their failures and shortcomings. It’s rarely a pretty sight, nor is it an especially productive session.
Management needs to contribute their skills, experience and position, forming a team with the sales staff, who have an obligation to keep the rest of the organization informed and involved. This collaborative model has a much better chance of success than the hierarchical model so many of us know.
Management needs to accept the responsibility of helping move the account forward to a close, rather than just passing judgment on performance.
3. The “Like” Factor:
People have long espoused the theory that people buy from those they “like” — little could be further from the truth. People buy from people they have confidence in and in whose judgment they trust. They buy from those who offer them a solution that is better than they originally expected.
The real role of an expert salesperson is to deliver a solution that exceeds the customers’ expectations — a solution better than they knew existed. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a retail environment or a sophisticated commercial transaction, the goal of sales should be the same: To provide a solution that exceeds the customers’ expectations/requirements and add value. The “like” thing may very well happen, but the customer wants a professional, not a friend!
When salespeople get the “like” message from their organization, they focus on getting customer to like them. Then come the lunches, golfing and all those activities that have little to do with closing the deal. The corollary is true as well. If a customer believes he has a special “friendship” with the salesperson, when the rules change, he feels he’s been abandoned (or worse), creating even more issues.
I see this frequently in the banking world. When the terms of the loan are changed, or new covenants are imposed, the customer can’t figure out why his “good friend” bank did that to him.
4. Much Too Focused On Features & Benefits:
When organizations focus mainly on training for features and benefits of their products, with a smattering of competitive reviews. The result is salespeople who are automatons when it comes to reciting the attributes of their products. What they haven’t done is learn how to
listen, develop and solution that surpasses the customers’ expectations, build a plan that serves the customer and wins the deal. It’s really rarely about features, they are important, to be sure, but important only as one component in meeting the customers’ needs.
5. The Failure of Technology:
Finally, I mention the failure of technology for two groups. There are people who have experience and age as an asset, but tend to rely
on their “tried and true” methods, not realizing the world has largely passed them by technologically. They can no longer win business on the sheer force of their personality. Some seem to take perverse pleasure in rejecting the advantage technology brings them. They are staring at their own obsolescence and don’t even know it.
Just as bad are the younger salespeople who rely too heavily on technology, thinking an email is all that is necessary. Those types use available technology to “put the ball in somebody else’s court,” as they say. They mistakenly think that once they’ve launched an email, their task is essentially done. Both are failing because of their perception of the value of technology.
One undervalues it; one places too much value on it. So, there you have it, the five most common hurdles I see that act as barriers to
achieving great performance. All can be fixed, but they must first be recognized.