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When Sales Performance Flops, What's the Best Next Step?

By John Wright on January 12, 2017

When Sales Performance Flops.pngYour sales figures are in…and they’re less than stellar. You could even call them a “flop.”

After a few heavy sighs, what do you do next? Panicking isn’t going to right the ship, and blaming your sales team—without fully understanding what went wrong—isn’t going to either. But you can turn things around with your sales team. These are the first steps you should take:

Dig Deep to Figure Out the “Why”

This may seem like an obvious first step with an equally obvious answer: Sales performance flopped because your sales team didn’t meet sales quotas. Yes, but…why didn’t they? Is it because your sales team members’ sales skills are not up to necessary standard—or does the problem go deeper? While it’s tempting to blame poor sales performance on a sales team’s skills—or lack thereof—that’s not always the problem. There are two other common culprits when it comes to poor sales performance: a bad product or a selfish approach to selling that permeates the whole company.

If your sales team has a track record of success up until recently, take a critical look at what it’s trying to sell—especially if it’s a new product or service. Even talented, experienced salespeople will have a hard time selling a flawed product. Your product or service may be a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, or it just hasn’t been differentiated enough from competitors. The product or service may need to be reworked altogether or taken back to the marketing team, which can refine the product’s messaging and make sure there’s an actual need for it in the market.

If, however, you think your product or service is in good shape, it’s time to take a closer look at your sales team. Have sales been sinking over the years, but your products or services have maintained their high quality? Have there been leadership shake-ups or mergers that could affect team dynamics or dilute direction?

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Yes, sales team members’ individual sales skills may not be up to par, but there’s a good chance your sales teams may have collectively developed some bad habits as well. This may be due to a sales approach formed at the top—which, of course, affects individual performance. Some signs that your company’s overall sales approach is the root of the problem are:

  • Your sales team members take competition to dangerous levels. They compete more with each other than with your competitors.
  • Your sales team commonly blames other departments when sales suffer.
  • Your sales team lacks a true leader who models effective behaviors and helps define team direction.

Issues like these point to a lack of organizational effectiveness in your sales department. This could be the true driver of sales performance flops.

Implement Real Change, Not Band-Aid Solutions

Now it’s time to talk about solutions. There’s no easy fix for a broken or tired sales approach. Sure, you could spend time and money having your sales team members attend seminars on how to close with confidence or how to build rapport during a sales meeting. But your sales problems don’t start in sales meetings—they start far before your salespeople call a client or meet in their office. If the problem starts with the approach, focusing on front-line salespeople is only going to do so much. In short, don’t invest in “Band-Aid” solutions for much bigger problems.

When sales performance flops—especially when sales flops become the norm rather than anomaly—it’s time to overhaul your company’s sales approach. Essentially, a selfish sales approach is one that views sales as transactions, rather than relationship-building opportunities. A selfish sales approach makes sales all about your products, instead of your customers’ needs.

To get out of your company-wide sales funk, you need to develop a customer centric approach to selling. Put the customer at the center of the entire sales process—that starts with the research and intelligence gathering that happens before the sales meeting and extends into the sales meeting itself as the salesperson speaks less and listens more to the customer’s needs. And most important, it means treating a sale not as a “close”—but as the opening of a door that can lead to a partnership that’s mutually beneficial for years to come.

Why make this effort? Because today’s customers are incredibly sophisticated, and they want sophisticated, tailored solutions to match. If your company can’t—or won’t—provide that, then it’s no problem for customers to browse the Internet in search of competitors that will.

Overhauling your sales approach goes deeper than focusing on skills improvement—and it has the potential to rocket your sales team to new levels of success. Your sales team members will improve their sales skills along the way, but now they’ll be supported by a company-sanctioned approach that makes their job of selling much easier and more authentic.

If you’ve faced sales flops in the past, what were your first steps in the face of the flop? Did they lead to a sales turnaround?

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Since 1991, John has acquired extensive experience in the design and delivery of a diverse portfolio of programs. In addition to his executive responsibilities as President of Leadership and Learning Events, John is considered a valued partner to many executive teams. His insight and experience enable him to effectively diagnose, design, and implement complex culture change initiatives in a collaborative and engaging manner. Moreover, John’s experience in global implementations allows him to draw from a deep well of history to create unique and customized solutions. John’s passion for developing people makes him a sought after speaker, partner and coach and is evident in the high praise he receives from clients.

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