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Straight Talk About Your Sales Force — Do They Pass By Millions? By Bill Caskey

I was talking with one of my CEO clients last week. “Bill, sometimes I feel like our sales force is like the blind fly–trying to get out of the house but he keeps running into the same window. And right next to the window is an open door. But he never sees it.”

You know he had a point. And it’s a point I’ve seen proven out with the hundreds of teams I’ve worked with in the training business since 1987. Plenty of market opportunity, but because of blind eyes, it’s never seen.

Now, we’ll shed some light on the problem. Forgive me for my boldness, but my findings tell me there are five areas that your sales people are poor at. And because of this lack of competency, it costs you, the CEO, millions of dollars annually in opportunity cost.

Here they are:

[1] They are terrible at creating an atmosphere for truth with their customers. Work with me on this one. If you want to sell something, you have to find out what the compelling reason the prospect has for change. But the moment you drop into sales mode, they start lying. And you then take those lies and try to make sense of them. They don’t make sense because they aren’t the truth.

So while your management team meets with your sales team to take what the customer has told you and create a strategy to sell them, you’re working with lies. Result? Your people seldom get the truth. And that’s why your closing percentages are so shoddy. Better than that, create at atmosphere for truth by doing one simple thing: Stop Selling! And start finding out if the prospect is experiencing lack because you aren’t in their lives.

[2] They are rotten at finding out the prospect’s compelling reason for change. This is a cousin to #1 but is different. The basics of decision making are that a prospect won’t make a decision unless there is a problem to be solved–or a dream to be achieved.

Most sales people don’t ask the questions that help them determine which it is. Long selling cycles? Too much pressure to discount? If you have those problems, then you have a sales force that can’t find the customer’s pain. Result? Prospects who should be buying, don’t, thereby losing untold millions of revenue. Plus, you pay the price with high selling costs.

Better than that, have sales meetings where you quiz the team on what kinds of problems they’re finding. Make an inventory list of the problems you solve for clients. Then, make that the standard on which you judge good prospects.

[3] They fail miserably to call high, wide and deep in the prospect company. When we go into companies, this is the #1 problem we hear from CEO’s like you. “My people don’t call where the decision is being made.” Result? We get discounted, dragged through long selling cycles, and experience high sales costs.

Better than that, do a Prospect Landscape when your people come back from a first meeting. Make them tell you where the problems show up at your account. Then, whomever feels pain because you aren’t around, go call on them.

[4] They miss the boat, badly, when it comes to denominating the cost of the prospect’s problem and comparing it with your solution. One of the new competencies of the sales person of tomorrow is the ability to do “financial analysis.” If your people are unable (or unwilling) to do that, they’re missing the very thing that helps you justify your price–or justify buying at all. Result? Never get paid for their true value because they can’t connect the economic dots.

Better than that, bring in your accountant for a half day and have him teach you how to denominate problems. Don’t dare deliver a quote to someone where there is no monetization of the issues they want fixed.

[5] They do not engage in ‘consistent prospecting activity.’ Prospecting in B2B areas is tough. Very few companies have lead generation programs…so what it gets down to is the sales person’s ability to create something from nothing. And most can’t do it. Reason? They don’t think like marketers. They mistakenly believe that selling is marketing. It isn’t.

And until they understand that prospecting activity is a marketing function, they’ll waste countless hours of time (at a high hourly rate) that they could be spending with current clients growing that business. Or, at the very least, they could be spending time with true prospects. Result? Wasted resources, lost opportunity.

Tip: Have everyone do a Personal Business Plan that includes the inputs (activity) rather than just the outputs (closed business). Track things like a) initial face to face meetings; b) first phone calls; and c) quotes to close ratios.

Others As Well
Make no mistake. There are many other areas that sales teams fail at as well, but these cover most.

Overall, sales teams need better philosophies and better processes. After all, you can bet the customer has a process and a philosophy. And theirs are built on getting free information and price concessions.

So until your sales force (and you) demand that your sales force change their thinking, they’ll continue to get dropped into the commodity dungeon, where all buying decisions default to price. And you’ll continue to sacrifice millions.

–Bill Caskey
Bill Caskey is President of Caskey, a sales training and development company in Indianapolis, and author of Same Game New Rules. He also produces his own podcast at www.Advancedsellingpodcast.com. His observations of selling and life help fuel explosive sales growth for companies. Mr. Caskey can be reached at 317.575.0057 or at www.caskeyone.com

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