Most senior executives and sales leaders focus on what they should be doing right. That’s a good thing, of course. But often your sales team can be successful by just focusing on what not to do wrong! Here are some tips, especially for newly minted sales leaders, that can help you avoid major mistakes and put yourself in position to focus on the right things. In no particular order:
- Don’t: Don’t waste your most valuable resources: time and money. Insist on a disciplined approach to deal qualification, and ensure that your prospects fit your business strategy, your go-to-market strategy and your preferred client profile. Every hour and dollar spent on chasing unqualified or one-off prospects can never be recovered.
- Don’t: Don’t sell what you can’t deliver. The quickest way to kill your sales reputation is to sell something that you can’t deliver. Word spreads rapidly in the marketplace if you botch delivery of what you’ve sold, even if there are reasonable justifications. Know the difference between stretching your delivery team to step up to the plate and selling something that you truly know is beyond your company’s capabilities.
- Don’t: Don’t accept mediocrity at any level. When it comes to proposals, presentations or even the talent you have on the field, don’t accept mediocrity. Every document, presentation or face to face interaction is a unique opportunity to impress your prospect. As a sales leader or business owner, set the standard for demanding quality rather than quantity. Don’t let subpar performers or subpar materials sabotage your sales efforts. You may have to make some tough decisions along the way, but it will be worth it in the end.
- Don’t: Don’t be hard to do business with. This may or may not be totally within your control, but it is within someone in your company’s control. Unrealistic expectations, unreasonable terms and conditions, heavy-handed legal demands and inflexible financial constraints are common deal killers. If you live in this world, you are constantly fighting an uphill battle that will take its toll in the end. Do everything in your power to make sure you and your company’s senior leadership understand how these behaviors can undermine your sales growth.
- Don’t: Don’t try to get by on the cheap. Underinvestment in sales resources is common, especially in small and medium sized businesses. Inadequate compensation plans, lack of investment in sales tools and infrastructure (especially CRM) and poor sales operations/support resources are sure signs that your company is not investing properly in its sales function. Demand your fair share!
- Don’t: Don’t ignore marketing . . . marketing is your friend. Marketing and sales have always been joined at the hip, and this is even more evident than ever in the social media age. Some companies still don’t understand the difference, and so it may take some education of senior leadership to drive the point home. Recognize that investments in inbound marketing, lead generation and outbound marketing to create qualified leads can dramatically improve the performance and productivity of your sales organization.
- Don’t: Don’t confuse activity with results. As tempting as it might be, don’t be misled by the activity of your sales team versus the results they produce. The number of cold calls and meetings, the time spent out of the office, client meals and entertainment expenses and proposals made are all great, but only to a point. Be extremely diligent about separating these “activities” from the results your team actually produces. Your sales executive who rings the bell in terms of phone calls and meetings may not be delivering the results you are looking for.
- Don’t: Don’t assume you have a good sales culture . . . it takes work. How do you know? It takes tremendous focus to truly create a positive sales culture. You must have the right leadership with supportive senior management, hire the right kind of people, create a positive working environment, support each other, implement appropriate compensation plans, instill a “team first” mentality, and develop an open and honest communication style across the organization to build a strong sales culture. Not many companies can pull this off, but making the effort towards getting there will bring its own rewards.
- Don’t: Don’t take sales process for granted. Everyone thinks that sales is the last place that needs process, but nothing could be further from the truth. Especially in complex B2B sales, a sales process that is followed with rigor pays great dividends. A proven sales process will ensure that you are progressing opportunities through your pipeline, that everyone agrees on the characteristics of the opportunities that are moving forward, that proper checks and balances are in place and that sales and delivery are all on the same page. See my blog “The Pipeline Quality Challenge: 5 Ways to Get Your Pipeline Back in Shape,” for more information on this topic.
- Don’t: Don’t settle for unproven or average sales leadership. At the end of the day, it comes down to proper sales leadership to ensure that your sales team is hitting on all cylinders and achieving the results your company desires. There is no substitute for experience in creating and building high-performing sales teams and avoiding the pitfalls laid out in this article. Great sales leadership comes from a combination of knowledge, successes, failures and most of all, character. Don’t settle for less.
Need help evaluating your sales team leadership? Or did any of the above observations strike a chord with your organization? I am happy to help. Reach out to me, Dave Sharp, at email@example.com or give me a call at 214.507.1447. Let’s talk.