The number one killer of sales performance and how to fix it
by Rob Keogh | 19 November 2019
We understand sales to be a progression, a journey that takes people from awareness to fulfilment, from being a contact to a customer. A great sales framework is founded on an absolute commitment to the customer experience, delivering a lifetime customer value, by creating raving fans (promoters) that in turn introduce new customers.
This is essentially a sales motherhood statement. We know these words, like we know our nations’ anthem. We can all sing it, except it’s easier when we’re at the footy or cricket and they put the words on the big screen.
So, let’s cut to the chase, let’s look at the words. Just pull out our sales process document or sales playbook. It’s the one that was carefully designed to create the sequence of functions and tasks, that align with the key touch-points of our customer journey map.
Few businesses have either a written sales process or a customer journey map. In the businesses that do, three quarters of the salespeople don’t follow the process, because they don’t believe it works for them – a point which would seemingly justify not having one in the first place. Back to square one. The question is however:
How much self-determination should there be in how salespeople or sales teams operate?
Often in sales management, I have had people say to me, “Don’t judge me on the process, judge me on the outcomes”. Two problems with that approach. The first is, if performance is exceptional, you can’t replicate it which means you can’t scale the business for growth.
The second is that business performance then becomes personality based.
The problem with personality-based performance is it’s lost as soon as that person walks out the door. If the person remains, you have surrendered any process for managing their performance, other than going through the numbers and asking them to do better.
The number one killer of sales performance is self determination of front-line sales operations.
Most salespeople should catch what walks in the door. What walks in the door can be a result of goodwill, business momentum, strategic marketing, market position or seasonal factors. The function of sales management is to maximise performance to drive incremental, if not exponential growth.
The concept of maximum efficiency cannot exist without measurement. Maximum output from given inputs. The inputs are defined in the sales process. That is the yard-stick. It is the lines on the field and the mechanism by which we keep score.
If you are not getting the required output, you change the sales process. If the person does not follow the sales process, you change the person.
Of course, the sales process (playbook) is designed, drawing on the knowledge and experience of your best sales people. It should reference an agreed version of the customer journey map. These are living documents, reviewed to recognise break-through performances, changes in technology or market movement.
Salespeople must have "buy-in" and the ability to influence how sales are made. That structure is part of the process. Once that is done, the function of a front-line salesperson is to execute the sales process.
The number two killer of sales performance is when we divert sales resources.
Two factual examples of how resources get diverted. A marketing assistant was employed to work alongside the admin team in the office. They had a set structure of measurable tasks and outcomes to deliver. After just a few months, marketing performance fell away. When asked why, the person responded that other staff in the office had asked them to “help out” on other, apparently more “urgent” tasks. (Urgent & Important quadrant) As if by osmosis, the marketing role had evolved to include admin, and the work of four was now being spread across five.
In the same team, I introduced a sales support role whose function was to generate and nurture leads. It was created as a work-from-home role, again with clear performance measures. The office team requested that this person be required to work in the office so they could contribute where required on other functions.
This sounds a perfectly reasonable request. It even sounds as though it might offer greater efficiencies by combining resources. Certain death for measuring sales performance is to give someone a separate function. Measurement and accountability are immediately lost.
Small business might, at some level, need people to pitch in and do a bit of everything, just to get by. Keep in mind however, this is also the description of chaos.
The opportunity to write your own story for success
Today you have the opportunity to write your own sales playbook for success. The story can have many heroes, but only one process. You and your team are the experts and you will know how this story should go. It starts with how you attract and engage people, and what is the best way to turn them into customers and service their needs. Call your story “the customer journey”. Your job is to make the story as seamless and smooth as possible.
The trick to achieving “seamless” is integrated data, automated workflows and unified communications, all of which are accessible within a small business budget. Where-ever you find a speed-bump or roadblock, give it a title and write a small description. You will not be the first person to solve this problem. If you can dream what you want to happen and describe it, you will most likely find that someone, or some new platform is doing just that.
Look at the core systems you use for your CMS, CRM, ERP, payments and accounting. If you don’t know what these things are, you are going to need at least four out of the five. Some systems might cover multiple functions, so search the web to uncover why they are important and what they can do for you.
Sales today is driven by content, data and technology. There may be dozens of ways to do it, but one will cost less and/or produce a lot more than the others. Create and define the best process. You must review it regularly to drive continuous improvement (iteration), but don’t let anyone deviate from the process or divert the resources. Never let the tail wag the dog.
Exception to the rule: High value solution selling where your sales lead is an industry expert with years of experience and a large contact list. These sales are based on the performance and personality of the individual. Good people in this space are often referred to as unicorns.