I have worked with many businesses of different sizes and at different stages of their ‘life’, e.g. early stage start-ups to mature businesses handing over to the next generation or exiting via a trade sale and ‘growing their business sustainably’ is always on the agenda.
All companies need to increase sales and improve their performance on a continuing basis if they are to survive. However companies lose between 10-20% of their customers per year due to bankruptcies, mergers and simply because the customer stops buying.
Studies show that the vast majority (more than 66%) of companies consider that sales and marketing are the key issues for their business right now. But they are less likely to do something about it than cutting costs. Here are the 7 deadly sins – mistakes that many companies make in trying to improve their performance.
- Get out and do more sales calls
This is the normal reaction of most sales managers. When the sales teams are not performing well they will require redoubling of efforts in either sales visits or telephone calls. But doing more of the same thing will necessarily get more of the same result: below target performance. A review of their target customers, messages and better understanding of benefits is more likely to achieve results required. They need to work smarter not harder.
Discounting is an invidious way to get more sales – but most times it will not work. Yet many sales people will resort to this as a way of closing and trying to increase sales. It is easy for the lazy sales person and it is frequently a panic measure brought about by the first deadly sin. If you have not correctly positioned your product no amount of discounting your product or service will persuade your customer that it is even better value for money.
- Don’t bother to train you sales staff – ever!
The average number of days spent training sales people in the UK is 1 day per year! In the US it is more like 2 days per month – and the results show. To become top performers sales teams need to be trained on technique, process and the benefits of the products again and again. Many companies consider the training budget to be a cost but they should look at it as an investment.
- Do not target customers
Allowing your sales people to do what they like, or go where they like to get orders will result in an increasing number of low value customers that will not contribute significantly to your bottom line. Your costs will increase as sales people will travel anywhere to get orders, no matter what the value of those orders whilst your competitors will meanwhile grab the biggest and best customers at your expense.
- Do not set your targets for your sales team.
By not setting targets your sales team will not know what is expected of them, nor will they know which customers to target and the sales manager will find it difficult to motivate them to a better performance. Sales people who are not comfortable with targets are just that – comfortable. They stay within their comfort zone and do not rock the boat. Generously, you could say they are order takes not professional sales people.
- Do not bother with all that ‘fluffy bunny’ motivation stuff!
Selling is a tough occupation and motivation needs to be a regular part of the sales/business manager’s activities. Identifying what the right sort of motivation is for each of the sales/accounts team and then working on that will help turn average sales people into stars. But start with your own attitude. Attitudes are contagious. Therefore ask yourself, is yours worth catching?
- Never ever, ask for the order
More than 70% of sales people do NOT ask for the order! They may well qualify the prospect right, identify the benefits for that particular customer, do a fine presentation, answer all the objections, but then do not complete the sale. Often fear of rejection is at the root of this issue. But by not asking for some form of commitment they are leaving the door open for the client to say “I’ll think about it.”
Just having read through the above 7 deadly sins should have given you some pretty good food for thought about your own company. Ask yourself, how many of these sins do you think your customer facing team commit on a daily/weekly basis and is there anything that you can do to improve their overall sales performance?
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