New customers are the lifeblood of most companies. We’re either growing or dying. If you are frustrated with the lack of new business secured by salespeople, here are 5 likely culprits.
1. They have cold-call reluctance. This usually stems from one of two root causes. Either they can’t or they won’t. They may not know what to say, how to ask for the appointment, qualify the prospect or work with gatekeepers. Or they may feel like they’re interrupting people during dinner.
Potential Solutions: Conduct behavioral interviews to make sure there is evidence of competency in prospecting before hiring salespeople. Train and coach your salespeople so they know what to do and how to do it. These are obvious steps but are skipped a shocking number of times.
2. You aren’t holding them accountable. Everyone is being asked to do more with less. We’re all way busier than we were even a couple of years ago. This means we have to prioritize what we will do and decide what we will not do. Accountability doesn’t mean that we have to be Big Brother and rule with an iron fist. It does mean that salespeople need to know that we’re serious about prospecting to add new accounts, that it’s critical to everyone’s success, and that it’s how we do things around here.
Potential Solutions: Peer pressure is one of the best ways to establish accountability. If a new hire sees his or her teammates constantly prospecting to add new accounts, they’ll fall in line. Conversely, if they don’t see it, they won’t. Publish metrics in a public way. Top performing salespeople will thank you for this and others will complain that it’s grossly unfair. When there is an appropriate number of meaningful metrics, what gets measured gets done.
3. They aren’t making time for it. Salespeople will come up with all kinds of seemingly valid reasons for not prospecting. They don’t have time because they’ve got an important customer meeting, are working on a proposal, have customer complaints, are putting out fires, have doctor appointments, scheduled a vacation during your prospecting blitz time.
Potential Solutions: Top salespeople make time to prospect. Our job as sales leaders is to recognize and remove barriers. Those barriers may be real or perceived. Remove the real barriers when you’re able (for example, make sure that customer service is able to handle issues instead of your salespeople spending time on it). Also, coach your salespeople so they recognize perceived barriers for what they are (for example, proposals should be worked on outside of the peak times customers are available). The combination to each salesperson is different, so make sure you are as consistent as possible with expectations, but recognize the nuances that help motivate different personalities.
4. They don’t know how to sell. This one is tough because it may indicate that someone who has been with the organization for a while shouldn’t be. It’s usually not too hard to see. Other salespeople recognize it. Other leaders recognize it. They probably realize it themselves. Signs include someone who is really busy but doesn’t accomplish much. They only go where customers know and like them, they refuse to take ownership (“my quota is too high”, “our prices are not competitive”, “our computer system stinks”, “I have to spend too much time on customer service or reporting issues”). Of course, we need to be fair in how we judge someone’s performance. These things may very well be true, but success is the only option. If others are successful, it may indicate that they can’t sell.
Potential Solutions: First off, make sure you have a proven sales process so you get consistent and predictable results. Second, find out what’s really holding someone back. If they show deficiencies in sales competencies, make sure they understand expectations, have been trained, and receive ongoing coaching as needed. If performance continues to be unacceptable, implement a performance improvement plan and make tough decisions to move people off the team when necessary.
5. You’re not leading. Speaking of ownership, it’s our job to make sure our team succeeds. We’ve all got to look in the mirror and make sure that we’re doing what it takes. Sometimes, we’re promoted into leadership because we’re great salespeople. That doesn’t always translate into being a great leader.
Potential Solutions: Make sure you’re doing what it takes to improve your team, which includes improving your own abilities. Have you been trained and coached to be both a good manager and a good leader?
Leaders have implemented many strategies to get their salespeople to cold call and focus on new business development. Compensation plan changes, bonuses, contests, even intimidation, may result in short-term compliance. However, the best results come from embedding consistent prospecting into the DNA of your sales team.
- Busy Salespeople are Lazy Salespeople (customerthink.com)
- How to Build Relationships with Decision-Makers (bmwilliamson.wordpress.com)
- What Makes a Successful Salesperson? (thebusinessofsports.com)
- Do you resent other salespeople when they prospect you? (customerthink.com)
- Harvard Business Review Blog Post Gets Salespeople Wrong (customerthink.com)
- Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople (brickseller.wordpress.com)