Targeting Sales Opportunities - The Hidden Truth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 @ 08:09 AM

targetingWe frequently discuss reasons why salespeople fail, the differences between successful and unsuccessful salespeople, and scenarios where salespeople make good versus bad choices.  Those aren't the only topics which separate good selling from bad.  Salespeople make other decisions which impact the likelihood for success and today's article takes a look at one of those.

Targeting is a fairly simple practice, but when sales management doesn't perform this activity for their salespeople (as in, "Mary, call on these 27 accounts.") and salespeople do it themselves, it leaves plenty of room for trouble.  

Take the case of the salesperson who targets hospitals, oil companies, banks and insurance agencies.  You might say, "Good for her.";  until you learn that these markets are the most difficult verticals to which one could sell and the company would rather have her call on technology, distribution, manufacturing and professional services.

How about the salesperson who chooses to call on VP's?  You might say, "Good for him."; until you learn that VP's are very resistant to the offering and that most business is conducted in the C-Suite.

There is also the case of the salesperson who calls on the right people in the right industries (so far so good), but all of the opportunities are the wrong size.  They're either larger than the company's sweet spot or they are too small (easy enough to close, but not large enough for the company to profit or the salesperson to earn sizable commissions.)

Why do salespeople make these ill-advised choices?  Here are four possible reasons:

  1. They don't know any better and are reinventing the wheel, perhaps calling people and companies on whom they called in other roles or jobs.
  2. They' are not getting proper direction, coaching or feedback from sales management.
  3. They aren't being held accountable by sales management.
  4. They aren't comfortable with where sales management wants them to focus, so they focus on that with which they are comfortable, even if the results don't justify it.

Comfort.  It's responsible for choices.  It's responsible for the skills, strategies, tactics and practices which are applied in selling.  It's responsible for the weaknesses which salespeople successfully overcome as well as those that aren't.  It's responsible for how much money for which they can ask and get, their need to discount, allowing prospects to comparison shop, whether or not they ask the tough questions and so much more.

The biggest challenge is that comfort is hidden, not communicated, and difficult to observe.  However, a sales force evaluation can successfully uncover all of their discomforts and identify opportunities to increase sales.

Everyone has salespeople like this.  The question is, can you identify them, refocus them, and help them to become more successful before having to replace them for under achieving?

Topics: sales competencies, sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales performance, underachieving, targeting

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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