Often businesses hire the wrong people for sales and don’t realize it until it’s too late. We know because we’ve been there. That’s why we’ve put together a list of five deadly sales team sins, as well as some ways to avoid these pitfalls.
Every business owner dreams of having a sales team that operates like a well-oiled machine. Your company’s growth and profitability depend on your salespeople.
Unfortunately, not every sales team fits that well-oiled machine image. Far too many sales teams fall victim to poor communication, a lack of direction or a failure to develop relationships with clients. Often businesses hire the wrong people for sales and don’t realize it until it’s too late.
We know because we've been there. That's why we've put together a list of five deadly sales team sins, as well as some ways to avoid these pitfalls.
1. Forgetting The Importance of Hiring
Sales is as much an art as it is a science. Good salespeople possess a range of skills that they can use when helping clients. So, it’s interesting that so many businesses fail to define what they are looking for in a salesperson before interviewing candidates.
If you want that salesperson you hire to sell a million-dollar product to C-suite executives, they will need a different set of skills than the person selling much lower-priced merchandise to small businesses and do-it-yourself customers. That's why it's crucial for each salesperson you hire, you must have a definition of success already in place for that role. After all, if you don’t know how to define it, how can you expect them to know? Remember these tips:
- Don’t Wing It: Establish criteria that will guide your decision about who you are hiring. Do not interview any candidate before you know what kind of person you need for a sales position and the skills they must possess.
- Don’t Hire Someone Based on a Gut Feeling: Hiring a candidate because they remind you of yourself when you were younger or excel at selling themselves in an interview is just about the worst reason to hire a salesperson. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake many businesses make when looking for good salespeople.
- Don’t Interview the Candidate Alone: Ask some work colleagues to sit in on the interview with you. They can provide you with useful feedback to consider before making your decision.
- Require Candidates to Role-Play Sales Calls: You want to see how they respond in a real-life situation. Too often, businesses hire salespeople based only on the interview. As we mentioned above, sometimes people are good at interviews but lousy at sales. Hiring someone without knowing their sales ability would be like a restaurant hiring a new chef without knowing whether they could cook.
An important note here about hiring millennials. Millennials present an interesting problem for businesses. As older generations of salespeople either move to senior positions, leave the company or retire, millennials will represent a higher percentage of the pool of candidates.
Here's the thing: millennials often feel queasy about the idea of selling. The world that they have grown up in — with the Internet, social media and smartphones — abhors advertisements and the notion of "selling." So when you are in the interview, ask them how they see themselves helping others on the job and how they can provide solutions for clients. This approach will give you a better idea of the skills millennial candidates possess.
Remember, millennials make up a critical consumer group, and knowing the best way to reach them is very important to the success of any business in the future.
2. Not Having A Good Sales Compensation Plan
So you’ve gone through the process of hiring and believe you’ve found the right people. You're excited about their potential and what they can do for your business. Now, one of the most significant challenges your company faces is how to compensate these people effectively.
You want to construct a high-quality sales commission compensation plan because it can have a significant effect on both the profitability of your business and its potential growth. A good sales compensation plan incentivizes your salespeople. It’s also a great way to build a solid reputation that your company acknowledges and rewards performance in a way that attracts and retains quality salespeople.
Some other helpful tips include:
- Take a Strategic Approach: If you need to, stop reading this article and have a think about your sales compensation plan. The last thing you want is a sales compensation plan that's thrown together because "it sounds okay." That’s a recipe for confusion, underperformance, and eventually, disaster.
- Create Relevant Sales Goals and Performance Objectives: You are developing this plan to incentivize your salespeople. You can’t change it week by week, or it will just be counterproductive. Your salespeople need to know how their performance will be rewarded. Take the time to do this the right way and let it guide your organization for at least a year. Stick to your guns.
- Think About the Sales Cycle in Your Business. When designing a comprehensive sales commission plan, think about how your business works. Do you sell more in the summer than you do in the winter? Would you like to improve your winter sales? Use your sales commission plan to motivate your salespeople.
- Use Sales Commission Software to Put Your Plan in Place: It’s not enough to do your sales compensation plan in Excel anymore — it’s far too easy to make mistakes. You may overpay some salespeople while you underpay others, all of which affect your bottom line. Software like Performio automates sales commissions calculations and processes. Salespeople can track their pay or performance anywhere, either on their smartphone, tablet or computer. You want a feature-rich, out-of-the-box solution like Performio, which can be up and be running in a day.
Remember, your business's priorities need to be clearly communicated to your sales team, so they know what to focus on. Combine this with a sales compensation plan that recognizes these aims and priorities, as well as a sales compensation software with an easily accessible interface that allows your salespeople to see how they are doing daily — like Performio — and stick to it.
3. Not Keeping Up With the Times
The subject of countless movies and Broadway plays, very few people actually enjoy making cold calls: Phoning someone they’ve never met, who knows nothing about them or the product or service they sell and trying to convince them to buy it. Even worse is the in-person cold call where you drop by someone’s business and make a sales pitch.
Times have changed. If we may use a more-friendly metaphor, salespeople need to "woo" customers by establishing relationships with them. While this may take a bit longer than the traditional cold call, it also leads to a successful initial sale and repeated business in the future.
The Internet and social media have changed the way salespeople can build these relationships. Some tips include:
- Use the Internet to Your Advantage: Join online services like LinkedIn and post articles relevant to what you do. Share interesting content and answer people’s questions about your product or services. Connect with people and build relationships.
- Start a Blog: Create a blog where you use your expertise to show ways your product or service can solve potential clients’ problems. Important: if you start it, don’t just post now and then — post regularly. You don’t have to write an essay, but posting a thought or an interesting article you’ve read can go a long way. The idea is to share content that keeps people constantly checking in with you.
- Stay Relevant on Social Meda: Use social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to remain in touch with clients after you’ve made a sale and continue to build the relationship. Then, use those relationships to generate leads. Satisfied customers will refer you to others who might benefit from your product, service or expertise.
- Get Creative: Don’t just use social media tools or the Internet because “everybody else is doing it.” Put some time into thinking about how you want to use them. That way, you won’t try to use all these tools at once. Find one or two that suit your purposes the best and focus on those. This will save you time, money and frustration.
A recent study showed that 78% of salespeople who use social media to establish and build relationships actually outsell their peers. It's worth the effort for you to get up to speed. If you are a sales manager, encourage your salespeople to move online; if you’re a salesperson, there's no time like the present!
4. Getting Lazy With Training, Training, Training
The funny thing about training — most businesses recognize how vital it is, but few go about it the right way. The American Society of Training and Development reported that companies based in the United States spend an average of $20 billion a year on sales training.
Event-based learning like seminars or conferences provides a good start, but a recent study shows that after five weeks, people have lost about 50% of what they may have learned at a sales training event. By the time you hit the three-month mark, almost 85% of that new knowledge is gone. The answer? Hold regular in-house training sessions every month that reinforce and build on what your salespeople have learned during these events.
Training should provide several key skills, including how to:
- Communicate More Effectively: Communicating doesn’t mean just talking, it also means learning to be a better listener. Your salespeople should be listening to what your potential client truly desires. Part of this skill is learning how to ask the right questions. Communication needs to focus on your client’s needs and how you can help them.
- Build Relationships: As we noted above, building stable and long-lasting relationships is the key to repeated sales. If your salespeople don’t know how to use the Internet or social media, arrange for training to help them acquire these skills. Recently, the performance measurement firm Chally analyzed data from 100,000 people who qualified as business decision-makers. They found that almost 40% of them decide to buy based on the abilities of the salesperson they are dealing with, rather than service features, quality, and even price. Relationships create sales.
- Close the Deal: Closing the deal is an integral part of selling. After they’ve built relationships with potential clients your salespeople should know how to overcome their objections or relieve their concerns about your product or service. One good way to do this is something we’ve mentioned above: role-playing. This gives your salespeople a chance to try out different ways of closing the sale before they try them on real clients.
- Develop Administrative Skills: You want your salespeople to learn how to keep accurate records. If you’re using sales compensation software like Performio, you need to train them so they’ll be able to use it to their advantage and efficiently. Knowing how to track other daily activities is also essential.
Remember: many people graduate from business school without any sales training at all. The training you provide may be their first opportunity to learn how to sell effectively.
5. Ignoring The Sacred Relationship Between Salesperson and Sales Manager
Most companies recommend their sales manager to spend 25% to 45% of their time coaching their teams on how to sell. However, a survey done by the Association for Talent Development found that 87% of managers do not receive any management training or education before they are promoted to the position.
Research shows that the sales manager acts as the key to how salespeople perform. This is true regardless of the situation: the adoption of new services or products, using new software, building relationships with their customers or how acting ethically in stressful situations. Sales managers also need to receive proper training to do an adequate job.
It's also important to mention that to truly build a high-performance sales culture, you must train before you promote. Once you identify salespeople you want to promote to sales manager — or even if you’re hiring someone external — make sure they receive training in how to coach their teams. There’s a big difference between selling and teaching how to sell. Sitting around and talking about the day you made that big sale won’t give your team everything they need. Good sales managers lead good teams. They improve performance, reduce inefficiencies, promote growth and help your salespeople do a better job, which results in more sales. Don’t neglect them.
Getting Help With Sales Performance Management
When you develop a consistent plan to avoid these five deadly sales sins, your business and your people will prosper. Flying by the seat your pants may be a romantic notion, but it’s a lousy way to run a business. Performio sales performance software allows you to spend more time dealing with some of the critical issues mentioned above.