During our time working with customers’ sales teams, we’ve found a few common problems that companies with flat growth often suffer from. As is the case with any difficult change, the first step is understanding that you’ve hit a snag.
Once you’ve done that, you can begin to diagnose and treat the root cause of the problem, moving beyond simply triaging symptoms.
Do you have a problem on your hands?
Many businesses might know there’s a problem because their revenue dips or their stock is being hammered by analysts. For others, the issues are subtler, with some growth still happening, but not at the level or in the places they’d expected.
Regardless of the symptom, struggling sales people have a myriad of excuses at their disposal. We’ve heard quite a few. Everything from, “The industry we’re in just isn’t growing at the same pace as in the past,” or, “Customers are buying on price and our competitors are undercutting us to win deals,” to, “We don’t do enough marketing,” and “I spend so much time managing current customer relationships, I don’t have time for prospecting”.
In our experience, there are 3 common issues that businesses facing low/no growth need to address:
Incenting the wrong behavior. We often see compensation plans that fail to align with the growth our clients are trying to achieve.
Measuring the wrong thing. Data can provide meaningful insights. Unfortunately, those insights don’t always translate into actionable strategies. You need to make sure that you measure and incent your team in areas where their behavior can make a difference.
Failing to make the right investments in their sales team: Growth shouldn’t suffer at the hands of profit. Many of our most successful clients have figured out how to grow and make money. Being strategic with your sales investments is the best way to achieve both.
It’s time to reassess your sales operations
Before any steps can be taken to fix your sales organization, it’s important to understand what you’re actually trying to solve for. These situations don’t often get solved by just throwing money at the problem.
When we look at a sales organization we assess:
How your resources are being used: We frequently see companies staff larger groups in smaller markets because they get more bang for their buck. But they often miss out on larger opportunities in more fruitful markets because staffing a sales team there means more overhead cost. Your small market team might be successfully closing deals, but they could be closing bigger ones for you elsewhere.
Which variables are being measured: Too often we’ve seen companies pick a single metric to measure their success. While that metric might be an indicator of success, it’s probably not the only one. More importantly, it’s probably not highlighting where your team can improve.
What actions are being taken to achieve desired outcomes: Your team may be in the right location and you could be measuring the right variables, but are you taking the right actions to achieve your desired outcomes? Business insight doesn’t do much for companies unless it’s acted upon. Identifying the right steps for your team to take is key.
Assessing these aspects of your sales organization identifies root problems which enables you to restructure your processes and your team.
Steve is the former CEO of MCM, one of the largest privately held insurance businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Steve brings 20 years of Leadership, Organizational Systems, Operations and Change Management experience to Spur.