We’ve either been there or have seen it before – the sales team becomes noticeably quiet, the amount of winning proposals decline, meanwhile the amount of reasons why we cannot win goes up. For me – not only have I seen it, I’ve been in it. And it was not comfortable.
One of the largest investments an organization can make is in their sales teams. Naturally, the organization would want the sales team to succeed. At the same time, the sales team also wants to succeed – because going to work every day at a winning team is going to be a lot more pleasant than going to work every day to find another reason why we’re losing. So if both the organization (management) and the sales team want to succeed – where’s the problem?
“You can’t hide from being fat by wearing black”
The stress of working against timelines while alongside factors which cannot be controlled brings out the “blame” language in many. When fingers from organizational management are pointing at the sales team, and the sales team are pointing at the market – the focus is shifted away from resolving the issue. However, is this the fault of the client? Is pricing the real reason why clients are not buying? Are the products/services really to blame? When fingers are being pointed away from ourselves, the responsibility to make a change lies in others’ hands, and we, ourselves, do not need to take action. This can be not only irresponsible, but also lazy.
Having worked with numerous multi-national, Fortune 100 and Blue-Chip sales organizations, some of the most common reasons why sales teams fall into downward spirals can be seen when looking in the mirror. Sales leaders need to shift how they‘re managing and move towards coaching. Sales executives need to adapt their techniques and self-reflect as to what they can do to improve their results. Admitting that we need to change and improve is a first step that is uncomfortable for many. When sales leaders meet with me and spend most of the conversation on what their team is not doing, I often ask them “What are they thinking? What would they need from you to achieve the goal?” When sales professionals in my workshops tell me that they are already very good in sales, then I cannot help but wonder why are they in my workshop?
Sales leaders need to take up a collaborative approach and have dialogs with their sales executives to understand the challenges from their perspective. The intention of that dialog needs to be themed around wanting to understand and cooperate to reach the goal. The hierarchy during that conversation should be put aside and instead, we should be members of the same team wearing the same jersey. By looking at the challenge from their sales team’s perspective, sales leaders may be able to see blind spots which their team can take action upon. Any advice they can share would sound more relatable. Moreover, by empathizing with how their sales team feels – the trust within the organization strengthens. The focus shifts towards resolving the situation outside of the organization with what we are doing within the organization. At the minimum, sales executives will be less distracted with trying to satisfy their manager and focused on trying to satisfy the client.
Client-facing sales executives can benefit by adopting the belief that their relationship with the client is not about winning the deal, but rather about adding value to their client. And if what they’re doing so far is not yielding that, taking a time-out to self-reflect as to what we need to do differently to get different results is in order. If we cannot control how the client will behave, we can control how we behave to get the type of behavior we desire from the client. Where the challenge is with this is that sales executives need to open up and be comfortable with being vulnerable. Whether it be in a formal training, coaching conversation or account review, being open to improvements is a winner’s mindset. In my experience, when I see sales executives in workshops share what they could’ve/would’ve/should’ve done differently in previous unsuccessful client pursuits, I know I am seeing a champion of tomorrow. On every day, we all can only ever be an imperfect human being. And for sales executives to have the mindset focused on improving, their past experiences then become enriching stories and lessons for the future.