In India, we run an April to March financial year and every time, we get to around February/March timeframe, the same dreaded discussion does the rounds in management & board meetings across organizations. Should we fire our sales guys? Why do we get into this situation, what can be done to improve this and ensure predictable growth for the organization? If we indeed fire the sales guy, then who is more hurt the sales guy or the organization? I intend to cover some of these questions in greater detail through this post.
Let us get to the fundamental premise. When you onboard a sales guy, you have done all the necessary verifications and you believe that he/she can truly add value to your organization and accelerate its growth. For the sales person as well, it is a great opportunity, as he is keen to succeed and deliver to ensure that he is adding value to his career portfolio. Several things can go wrong from this point onwards that can lead to a situation where you have to separate.
And believe me, it is just as painful to the sales guy as to the organization. Organization has spent months and marketing dollars, waiting for results and if it hires a new person, it has to go through the same cycle again, till the new person is able to start delivering results. For the sales guy, maybe it is a little less painful and he has taken a hit on his confidence and but as long as he is able to get his new assignment in a few months, he is able to recuperate.
What goes wrong?
1) Sales enablement
Several times, we allocate targets and territory to sales guys, but he does not have all of the sales enablement tools necessary to engage meaningfully with the prospects. This could be in the form of standard collateral, case studies, pricing information, standard objection handling etc. Sales guys typically have ‘go-to’ guys, once they hit the slightest level of discomfort in prospect engagements. If he does not get satisfactory support, then he starts losing confidence and continues to operate at suboptimal levels, without really challenging the organization about new upcoming opportunities. The typical problem is that these ‘go to’ guys have other priorities and they are not able to provide the necessary support to the sales guys.
2) Suboptimal sales process
Related to the sales enablement is the point about sales process. It is sales guy’s responsibility to get you the new business, but he needs a supporting marketing organization that will engage consistently with the target audience and create awareness and excitement about the products/services of the organization. Just as the sales guys have targets, the marketing team needs to be assigned targets that get rolled up to the revenue goals that the sales guy is expected to close for the organization. Just as much as the marketing organization, the technical delivery team is also responsible as they are the ones who engage with the initial prospects and are able to spot opportunities to productize service offerings.
3) Rigor & Intensity in Reviews
Sales guys are very smart, by nature & that’s why they are in the sales profession, to represent your business. If there is no closed loop mechanism in which their progress is tracked, both in qualitative terms as well as quantitative terms, then this is bound to result in problems. Sales guys are used to taking pressure and if there is not sufficient pressure in terms of tracking their goals and performance, then they tend to relax and lose focus.
4) Incentive plans & Motivation
Compensation structure of sales guys needs to be properly planned so that they are making a good amount of money, only when they are bringing business for the company. There are a lot of companies who create 50:50 or 60:40 fixed pay: Variable pay mechanisms, so that the sales compensation starts looking incomplete without the variable pay. Waiving off the variable pay criteria for the first quarter ensures that you stay fair to the sales guys. Such structures, apart from creation of sales commissions ensure a good level of motivation for sales guys to keep performing.
5) Sales Training
Most sales guys, as they join have the basic traits of successful sales people, but there are so many things that keep changing in the sales domain. There are better sales techniques and availability of a variety of tools that can help the sales guy keep track of his pipeline and engage with prospects more meaningfully. Apart from pure play sales training, the sales guys also need frequent product/service offering trainings as well so that they are able to represent it well.Why you cannot sell without a sales process
So what do you think – Should we fire our sales guys? As you address some of these points in your sales process, you’ll be able to get better results from your sales guys, and much quicker. You’ll also be able to get a clear idea of who isn’t going to make it much sooner as well. This will save you money and frustration at the same time.The end of solution sales – What’s next?