Many articles have been written about the many, many excuses salespeople come up with as to why they haven’t hit their sales targets, why they find it hard to sell, and so on.

The accusatory finger always seems to be pointing at the salespeople. And sometimes this is fair, however, there are many reasons why it’s not always the salesperson’s fault.

There are many reasons why salespeople are prevented from carrying out their sales duties effectively. This article is about highlighting the blockers or blockages in their way – intended or unintended.

Let’s explore these blockers and see how we can remove them from our midst and help our salespeople sell better.

First let’s set the scene and explore salespeople’s accountabilities:

It’s easy to find reasons why things aren’t working or going to plan. It’s easy to find excuses and blame someone else in all that activity.

So what are salespeople in control of?

Salespeople find themselves in a job which is all about personal accountability: they are expected to make time to plan, prospect, sell, follow up, close viable deals, do their admin, attend (hopefully relevant) internal meetings and events, and keep CRM updated, as well as do their fair share of social media curation (social selling) and personal development.

Those salespeople who have developed a disciplined approach do not leave their sales efforts to chance. They have little time for excuses. They know they need to create a rhythm of focused revenue generating and revenue supporting activities and ensure these things happen every week, without fail, so they can achieve their goals and have a successful sales career.

So what else prevents salespeople from selling better?

  1. Competing motivations create confusion:
    a. Differing company’s goals, KPIs and priorities i.e. product teams wanting transactional sales results at a price versus distribution teams wanting to sell in solutions and value
    b. Competing ELT (executive leadership team) agendas i.e. confusing cost cutting with growth and investment strategies
    c. Reward systems that ask for one thing but reward other activities i.e. solution selling ethos but transactional sales reward system
  2. No articulated sales processes that salespeople can learn, follow and apply consistently
  3. Treating CRM as a compliance admin task rather than a sales enabler whereby salespeople are shackled to their desks filling in forms
  4. Sales team needs training and development but managers/HR/’insert key person here’ doesn’t organise it or see it as relevant. This can be because the person in charge doesn’t know or understand what they need, or they think training can be delivered in-house at a sales meeting amongst other agenda items, or they don’t want to invest the money at this time.
  5. Bad customer service that eliminates any possibility of keeping customers or get a referral from customers – losing customers out the back door
  6. Senior leadership lacks vision and strategy and tends to be short-term and reactionary, jumping here and there, leaving people feeling anxious and unsettled
  7. Selling is not seen as a priority at all and is completely taken for granted
  8. Other divisions ruling the value chain and leaving sales on the outer or treating it as a lackey role (too many stories to share here about this one in particular)

As discussed last week, many salespeople learn selling by default not design where salespeople are often thrown in the deep end. This means that people leading these types of businesses do not understand how sales teams and sales operations work.

The fascinating factor here is that most people who have instituted these ‘blockers’ have most likely never intended to block salespeople or sales. They do not even know they are blocking sales. Most of these blockers think they are doing their job. If they understood their part in the sales value chain and how they can improve sales success, and customer experience, well, that would be a different story. 

The Sales Led Value Chain

To counter these ‘blocker’ issues it helps to remember that everyone is responsible for sales directly or indirectly.

Model based on Michael Porter’s Value Chain

To ensure that we do not ever block sales, here are some ideas and concepts to factor in your organisation:

  1. Make sure your organisation is or is transitioning to being a proactive, client facing (external), sales led organisation
  2. Remember, business strategy is derived from the value chain. Nothing happens until something gets sold. Sales Strategy makes sales happen.
  3. In any of the value chain areas lies a competitive advantage but without a healthy sales operation system we have no business.
  4. Sales & Marketing need to come first in the value chain with the whole business geared to serve the front line sales effort and the customers, so the sales team can drive more and better opportunities with viable customers across all of our brands.
  5. Getting your value chain operating effectively will increase your competitiveness, reduce costs, improve revenue and market share significantly.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Related topics

The power of Sales Process Maps to deliver best sales practice

Why Sales is still the elephant in the room


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