How to Overcome 4 Roadblocks That Can Cause Your Sales to Crash and Burn

roadblockHow many of these obstacles does your sales team have to overcome?

Not long ago, I received a call from the new VP Sales of a midsized. She had 150 sales reps spread across the country. She needed to make some changes to improve sales performance. The previous administration left the sales team without the structure, support, or systems needed to remain competitive.

After we agreed to work together on this project, we sat down for our Discovery. From her feedback about the sales division and team she inherited, I narrowed down the project to overcoming four specific roadblocks. These were quite common, so I assured her that they were fixable with the proper attention, time, and willingness to change.

I presented each roadblock to the VP Sales in the form of a question:

Roadblock #1: CRM

Question: Is your data working for you, or against you?

Customer Relationship Management software is a great innovation and a wonderful tool. However, many organizations use it incorrectly. Salespeople should be data recipients – not data entry reps. Except for inside reps working in call centers, most salespeople are not wired for data entry or record keeping. The VP and I surveyed the sales team together and conducted a time study. Our findings showed that over 50% of the average salespersons workweek was lost to CRM and order processing. Big roadblock. The labor cost was high, but the opportunity cost was staggering! She instituted a sales support staff quickly and began moving admin tasks off the sales teams’ plate.

Roadblock #2: Outdated sales process

Question: Do you have a sales process that everyone follows?

She had a sales process, but few people knew it or used it. This is a common issue due to lack of reinforcement or an off-the-shelf sales process that is not customized for the sales reps. The sales reps each had large pipelines full of unqualified prospects and were managing proposals that never got signed. Sales were suffering. The VP agreed to introduce a customized sales process and engaged a series of follow-up coaching sessions to ensure the training stuck.

Roadblock #3: No market research

Question: What market research do you provide the sales team?

Sales reps tasked with expanding market share and chasing new business were wasting an inordinate amount of time importing prospect lists, cleaning them, and raking through them to find the best matches to fit the ideal customer profile.  We met with the head of Marketing to discuss ways to share their data to reduce redundancy. With the addition of a data-mining specialist working with the sales and marketing department, the right data began flowing into the sales department and the sales reps enjoyed more free time to sell.

Roadblock #4: Insufficient sales coaching

Question: Is sales coaching a part of your culture?

The sales managers believed they were coaching. Unfortunately, they were not. The VP and I observed a number of coaching sessions on multiple levels within the sales department. There was little skill development going on. Mostly, sales leaders were attempting to make quota at whatever the cost – even if that meant they had to close a healthy portion of the deals themselves. Dependency set in and about 30% of the sales team couldn’t achieve quota without the aid of their sales manager – every month!

A sales manager who does not coach will focus more on achieving sales quota, rather than skill development and growing independent minded sales reps. That impedes improvement, resulting in salespeople tending to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

Salespeople on her team, who would have benefitted from coaching, could have grown into top performers. Instead, they become stagnate, subpar performers and left the company. Many poor performers stayed. The VP initiated sales leadership training focused on how to be a sales coach. The change was difficult at first, but within a few weeks began producing more self-sufficient sales reps.

Overcoming roadblocks like these takes time and effort. Examine your sales team with objectivity, even if it means getting some outside help to give you honest feedback. Start the reevaluation process now so you can see clearly to remove future roadblocks before they force you off the road.