I know it’s a depressing title but unfortunately, it’s true. An incredible 67% of salespeople fail to meet their monthly targets. Another frightening statistic is that more than half close less than 40% of sales opportunities.
But before you start swinging the axe at your sales team, maybe you should consider a few questions first, and try to use these to create a more effective sales team.
1. Is it harder to sell now?
Definitely. No longer is your sales team full of order pickers, they have to work damn hard for sales!
“Order pickers can’t survive, as this old fashioned way is neither as profitable nor as effective as the consultative approach.”
Today’s salespeople need to have in-depth situational and solution knowledge, even more so if their target audience is the CEO. They need to have the intellect and product knowledge to hold a thought provoking conversation and fully understand the way that their customer and prospects’ businesses operate.
But before your sales team even gets in front of the prospect, they need to actually find them. Prospecting is getting harder for salespeople because the early stage of investigation is being done by the customer themselves on the web. This is why SEO has grown to become so important for businesses great and small. The web also opens up the market to globalization, so your sales team is battling an ever-growing list of competitors.
2. Is the culture in sales different from other professions?
In a word: yes. Two thirds of people being ineffective is a shockingly high number for any profession. If the same ratio was applied to medicine or aerospace, I’m pretty sure we’d hear a lot more about it.
“Let’s just thank the stars that the medical profession doesn’t have the effectiveness rate of the sales profession or we’d have patients dropping dead all over the place!”
But then again, is it high for sales? The numbers make sense when you consider that most salespeople have had no previous formal training about how to sell. They didn’t major in sales at college or even take a course in selling, with most just falling into a sales role. How many doctors haven’t had prior training before they picked up a scalpel?
Research carried out by Kurlan suggests that 25% of all salespeople are hopeless, aren’t trainable and should be doing something else. This does however leave 75% that are, which means a change in culture may be what’s needed to improve sales performance.
3. Is their technique good enough?
As mentioned above, the sales scene has changed and the successful salespeople have learned to adapt. Researching your customer’s business, asking questions to understand pain points and having the data and knowledge to suggest a solution are fundamental activities for the modern salesperson.
But how do you research effectively, build upon prior relationships and get in front of your target audience to ask questions? Simple: use technology to nurture your leads and to fill your sales pipeline.
“Salespeople using social selling strategies are 51% more likely to meet quota.”
The top 33% of salespeople will research prospects using social platforms like LinkedIn, partially eliminating the need for cold calls and other traditional tactics. They go beyond just social selling too, with a plethora of other resources such as presentation tools, data mining software, CRM (that they actually update) and utilizing their marketing team’s content.
The latter is the most important for B2B salespeople, as thought provoking, educational content is what moves your prospect through each stage of the sales funnel. A ‘sales pitch’ is a big no-no in this content though, as 75% of buyers have a negative reaction to ‘sales speak’ in marketing content.
4. Is your recruitment process up to scratch?
Recruiting effective salespeople is a tough challenge. At the interview stage, most applicants are very confident and can sell themselves well, so seem like a perfect fit.
The problems arise when you have to look past this front and get down to the nitty gritty. According to research by Objective Management Group (OMG), only 6% are elite and 20% are strong in their role. But hiring someone who falls into one of these categories is difficult; as they are well rewarded well by their current employment, they tend not to change companies that often. It’s these salespeople, however, who will consistently hit quota and are therefore the member you need in your team.
“Only 6% of sales people are elite and 20% are strong in their role.”
Your recruitment process needs to be aligned with this concept. Screen staff thoroughly, go on recommendations and headhunt rather than wait for job applications. It’s also important to note that having their successful nature and way of doing things as a part of your sales team can have a hugely positive effect on any rough diamonds you may have, which can boost the success of everyone.
5. Does your sales team have the right tools?
When a salesperson fails, they fail fast. This is because most companies assume that the people they hire know exactly what to do instead of preparing them for success.
Give them a formal boarding process with clear objectives, train them on the messaging and positioning of the company and give them the technology to be able to do their job to their full potential.
“Successful salespeople have the tools and training suitable to do their role.”
Training should be a key priority for any sales manager; although the reality is that most small and medium-sized companies don’t provide any sales training at all. Even when they do, it’s usually the wrong level of training or the frequency and duration are incorrect. So, ask yourself this: how can you help the ineffective 66% of your sales team when you aren’t giving them the right training and tools to improve their sales performance?
If you have an underperforming sales team, get in touch as we may be able to help.