With the economy still sputtering and CEOs keeping a tight lid on spending, sales managers report that paths to decision makers are blocked with obstacles. This is frustrating for the entire sales team. I recently spoke with a number of seasoned managers to get a firsthand look at their challenges and coping strategies.
1. Real opportunities are harder to identify. Most sales managers direct their salespeople to explore opportunities with companies that are doing well. But often, salespeople are not capturing these opportunities. Why? Because the decision-making process has migrated upward, and salespeople are struggling to make connections with these upper-level executives.
A solution: Higher-level executives can join in on sales calls.
2. Real solutions are harder to justify. The salesperson proposes a great solution that will do wonders for the client, but the client does not see enough benefits to justify the purchase. Why? Because many companies are still in a budget-saving mode and don’t even think beyond the current quarter.
A solution: Have your salespeople spend more time mapping the pain points earlier in the call. Ask the client to put a dollar figure next to each pain. Justify the economic wisdom of your solution by using your client’s numbers.
3. Friendly relationships are not always productive. Some salespeople work hard on making every call a pleasant experience, yet they are often surprised when a competitor calls on the client and walks away with a sale. Why? Because some salespeople have a strong need to be liked, and their need for approval prevents them from asking some of the tough questions that would advance the sale and actually help the customer make a favorable decision.
A solution: Train these salespeople to sell with the customer’s needs being priority number one. If training has no effect…move them to customer service.
4. With sales being slow, it’s more difficult to cut off problem clients. While sales managers preach that every sale counts, they often fail to count the time and expense it takes to close certain sales.
A solution: Give your sales team clear directions about when to say no to a customer.
5. When business is slow, creative ideas are harder to find. While it’s easy to say that sales problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity, salespeople are often hard-pressed to come up with new ideas for increasing sales. Why? Because they think that they’ve tried everything under the sun.
A solution: Pull in your top performers and list their best practices. Then ask them to mentor your sales team.
6. When business shrinks, salespeople get confused about your expectations. Why? In tough times, salespeople worry more about their job and income.
A solution: Don’t add to their stress with unrealistic expectations or ambiguous leadership. Offer a clear vision of the future and create a solid plan that leads to new opportunities.