Shoot Your Sales Process, Not Your “Sales Idols”

Have you ever watched the early rounds of American Idol auditions and laugh at all the pretenders Simon and the gang must wade through to pick the real stars? Ugly process isn’t it? Does it remind you of trying to find sales stars to sell for your company?

What’s Your Poison?
Have you ever screamed, “Why can’t I hire good sales reps?” Despite churning their resumes, hiring them slowly and firing them fast, are you still seeking the right match between who says they can sell for your company and the sales your company needs?

Have ever you bitten the bullet and paid too much for your competitor’s “sales superstars” only to see them fail, flounder or fly away? Did you pay them a large base and were surprised they couldn’t meet quota, build their own book of business or even cover their draw?

Or have you invested heavily to groom your own sales superstars by providing sales training, lead generating marketing and even your personal mentoring, hoping to pick winners and keep them?

Even if you are successful employing a real “rainmaker”, sometimes the consequences can almost be worse. If your sales rep does build a successful book of business, he or she may come to believe (and tell their customers) that he or she actually “owns” your customers. If your customers really believe this you have created a monster or a competitor.

Now, in these difficult times, your challenges may even be worse. Few buyers are eager to place an order and those who are buying have to be further qualified to make sure they pay. Can your sales reps do this? Can any sales rep do this? Can you pick up the slack? Where does this leave you? You can either churn through more resumes and sales reps or you can investigate what’s really not working in your sales efforts.

You Can Focus on the Symptoms
Are your sales reps failing because?

  • They cannot get appointments
  • They cannot build trust
  • They cannot overcome objections
  • They cannot close
  • They cannot upsell or cross sell
  • They blame your company’s lack of marketing, high prices, quality products or service

Given these symptoms are as evident in good times as bad, fixing them now will be harder than when times change but can you afford to wait.

Or Solve the Root Causes
Instead of dwelling on these symptoms, solve the root causes. Probably your customer base and your prospects have changed their needs, behavior or even their roles and jobs and it is not your sales reps’ fault. If your customers’ buying behavior has changed and your sales reps are selling the same way you have a fatal root cause. To solve this root cause, investigate the following components of your customer’s buying process. These “root causes” will torpedo any sales rep’s efforts in good times or bad.

  1. Are the needs of your buyers changing with the times?
    In the last 20 years many buyers have changed from demanding “made in America” to “lowest cost” to “eco-friendly.” If your customer’s needs have changed you must sell to their new requirements.

  2. Have your buyers’ criteria for choosing vendors changed?
    In the last decade, vendors have been evaluated on everything from their ability to meet quality programs to their backup capabilities and now to if they are solvent enough to keep their promises. If your customers are evaluating you on new measures, you must understand these and meet them.

  3. Have your economic buyers and jobs they hold changed?
    It’s very possible that your buyer may now be in his twenties, and want to go home to their moonlighting or family instead of being schmoozed. Furthermore, they may prefer to communicate via text and Twitter rather than in person. Or, instead of Purchasing making the buying decision, now their Marketing Department is determining whether your components or services will meet their emerging needs. Understanding who your true economic buyer is and what job they now hold will be central to your ability to meet your customer’s evolving needs.

Fixing Your Sales Process
Understanding the root causes of why your sales reps are not meeting your expectations may have nothing to do with their behavior or how you pay them and may be completely out of their hands. Before you shoot another sales rep, fix your sales process as follows:

  1. Answer the three questions above regarding your customers’ buying process.
  2. Define a clear roadmap of how your customers are now buying.
  3. Remap and test your selling process.
  4. Then retrain or rehire the right kinds of sales reps and rebuild the marketing you need to ensure your sales reps are not only successful but depend on your marketing to remain so.

Shooting the messengers, aka your sales reps, may feel temporarily satisfying. But if you have fired your sales reps three times, it is high time to look at the root cause, your sales process and fix it. As they say, “once is a coincidence, twice is a trend and three times is a certainty.” While it may be entertaining and profitable for American Idol to troll through tens of thousands to find next season’s stars, it certainly would not be for you!

Need help clarifying your sales process. Contact Andy Birol using the form below and Andy will connect with you.

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