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Posted by Scott Santucci on October 4, 2010
Ah, that pesky sales force. Why don’t they:
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?
No matter where you sit inside your organization (executive leadership, department head, marketing, etc.), you cannot help but bring a strong bias that drives your perception of the sales force. But is that perception a reality?
Here is a synopsis of a conversation I’ve had dozens of times with business unit leaders or CEOs talking about their frustration with their sales performance:
Q (me). What do you think is the core issue standing in the way of your success?
A (executive). I don’t think we have the right people.
Q. Why not?
A. They just are not able to communicate the value of our portfolio in a way that is meaningful to our customers.
Q. And you think that’s a staffing issue?
A. Yeah, we just need better people.
Q. Did your company hire all of those people?
Q. So, you have a practice of hiring poor performers, then?
A. No, of course not. We only hire the best.
Q. So, if you have hired the best performers, and you are telling me now that you need to get better people, how did they become poor performers? Have you considered the possibility that your organization is making them bad sales people?
A. [Pause] ... You know, that is a great point. You might be right; how can I look at this differently?
The point here is that, in a lot of cases, we’ve become conditioned to just blame sales — which translates into — it's the fault of the salespeople; if we fix them we solve our woes. In actuality, there are major tectonic forces at work that are fundamentally altering the role of the salesperson. In our research on buying executives, we’re told that how your firm engages with them at the point of sales (through salespeople) is much more a differentiator that what you actually see.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
So, if you accept the notion that how you sell is becoming as (or more) important than what you sell, doesn’t it make sense then to better understand what’s really going on in the trenches?
I get to speak with hundreds of salespeople every year — I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t want to sell more of the products and services your company sells.
So, where is the disconnect?
The simplest way I can describe this condition of the misunderstood sales force is one word — bias. Depending on your role inside the organization, you only see a small slice of what a salesperson actually has to do each day to be successful.
The point here is that many people in the organization are projecting a tremendous amount of their perceptions onto the sales force and calling a sales problem a salesperson problem.
In reality, all of the people who provide resources for direct consumption by the sales force are part of a selling system. In order to understand how to fix the sales productivity problem, you first need to understand the challenges faced by the tip of the spear.
In our next teleconference, we will explore that question – what’s going on in the trenches — and understand why the sales force is so misunderstood.
Information on the teleconference
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