The Biggest Mistake Executives Make about their Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:03 PM

Blood Test or Sales Force EvaluationYesterday, I had my annual physical and my doctor ordered the usual array of blood tests.  It didn't matter that I felt terrific.  It didn't matter that he observed my blood pressure, throat, eyes and ears to be perfect.  It didn't change his mind when he listened to my heart and lungs.  And he was still ordering those tests after he felt for things and didn't find anything.  The tests he can do in his office - basically the eye test - are observations.  How I report to be feeling is my version of the eye test - it's based on my own observations.  And the reason for the blood and urine tests is that we don't know what we don't know.  

Clearly, if you or I don't feel well and that feeling persists for a long enough period of time, we would seek out a doctor.  There would be symptoms.  The doctor's job would be to learn enough, from observations and tests, to identify the cause and make a diagnosis, recommend a treatment and provide a prognosis.

That is pretty much what we do at Objective Management Group (OMG).  In some cases, CEO's, Presidents, HR Directors and Sales VP's seek us out, complain about their symptoms (observations and eye test), we ask some questions and then conduct our sales force evaluation.  They know things aren't right, but they don't know why.  Our job would be to learn enough from the observations, tests and analyses, to identify the causes (diagnosis), recommend a plan of action (treatment), and provide a projected return (prognosis).

In some cases, an executive does not seek us out.  They may have stumbled upon us through what they found on the internet.  They may have read one of my thousands of articles or watched me on a video.  They may have been looking for something else and OMG came up in the search results.  They may have been introduced by a friend or colleague.  Regardless of how they found us, this plays more like the annual physical where they believe that their sales force is fine.  They are happy to talk with an expert, but don't have any symptoms that they can identify or report.  Sales are fine.  

And that, right there, is the single biggest mistake that companies make every single day.  They use revenue as the metric to determine whether their sales force is healthy. 

Sales are fine.  Compared with what?  Sales that aren't fine?  Others in the industry?  Other industries?  What they expected sales to be?  What they needed sales to be?  Their nut?  What sales could have been?  What was forecast?

Sales is always relative to an expectation and is never an accurate barometer of sales effectiveness.  One large sale or account can mask missed metrics, poor conversions, elongated sales cycles and lousy win rates.  Two large sales or accounts can mask a weak pipeline and an entire sales force of underachievers.  Renewals and residuals can similarly skew the numbers in such a way that executives have no idea how ineffective and inefficient their salespeople really are.  And today, with most companies generating inbound leads at a record clip, salespeople don't even have enough time to follow up on all of them.  That too masks the numbers because they certainly have a lot of activity taking place, don't they?

When sales are fine, there is no better time, because there is no pressure or urgency, to evaluate the sales force because it is at that very time that executives don't know what they don't know.

Use our complimentary Sales Force Grader.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation.  Read about a Sales Force Evaluation Case Study.

Image credit: alexraths / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, evaluate the sales force, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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