How Executives Fail to Understand the Reasons for Poor Sales and Revenue Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 @ 09:08 AM

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"That wasn't what I expected!"  

You might say that after reading an awesome book, waiting for months and years in anticipation of the movie version, only to be extremely disappointed when the much hyped film failed to live up to what you remembered feeling when turning the pages.

You might also feel let down after leaving a great, but expensive restaurant, but the meal, service or ambiance was quite different from what you had imagined when you heard about the business.

And from experience, I can tell you that once in a blue moon, after we evaluate a sales force and present our findings, a rare CEO can become defensive and react poorly to the results.  When it happens, it's usually a sign that the CEO is out of touch with the sales force.  I'll share some of the things to which they sometimes react badly:

The top 5 findings that a CEO might react poorly to are:

  1. An executive sales leader appears to be weak on OMG's Sales Leadership Evaluation.  The CEO might say, "Well, the only reason we landed that multi-million dollar contract with that billion dollar company is because of Bob.  He sold it himself.  So how do you explain that?" 

    The CEO didn't recognize that the company took a great major account salesperson, place him in the Sales VP role, and instead of leading the sales force and functioning as a Sales VP should, he still wants to be the rainmaker and the star of the show. That definitely makes him a weak Sales VP!

  2. The entire sales team is weak.  The CEO might say, "Then how do you explain our double digit growth over the last 5 years?"  

    The CEO doesn't recognize that the company's success has more to do with great marketing and desirable products than the salespeople who represent them because their salespeople just plain suck!  This is an example of Mediocrity winning out over excellence. If the company grew at double digit rates with this group, then they would be growing by leaps and bounds with stronger salespeople!  

  3. The salespeople have issues around the Will to Sell.  Many of the salespeople lack the kind of commitment to sales success that is required to get to the next level.  The CEO might say, "I can't understand how that can possibly be and I certainly don't know how to fix it."  

    The problem is that the company was hiring the wrong salespeople, focusing on technical skills instead of sales core competencies and in doing so, created a culture of complacency.

  4. With the proper training and coaching, the existing sales force can generate 75% more revenue but it will take 24 months.  The CEO might say, "That's a considerable increase.  I don't believe that's possible.  Why is it so large and why will it take so long?"  

    The problem is that the existing sales force is so weak that they are leaving letting large numbers of opportunities slip through their fingers without any ability to capture it.  It will take 24 months because the gaps are so wide and deep and there is a lengthy sales cycle.

  5. Some of the top account managers evaluated as weak salespeople.  The CEO might say, "They are the top 3 salespeople so they can't be that weak!"  

    The problem is that those 3 account managers manage more revenue than anyone else and they're extremely important to your success.  However, they aren't your top 3 salespeople and we can prove it.  If you took their existing accounts away - which they probably inherited and didn't close themselves -  and asked them to build a pipeline, close some new accounts and generate new business, they would fail in dramatic fashion.

Our eyes can be wide open yet still fail to see what we don't want to see.  When expectations aren't met it causes the three D's - discomfort, disappointment and disaster.  Sometimes you can't see the reality of your own sales force until you have the actual data and use it to look at your people, systems, processes and strategies through a different lens.  Companies that fight the data don't change.  Companies that are afraid of the data remain clueless.  And companies that embrace the data grow by leaps and bounds.

The sales force evaluation is the most important and powerful thing you can implement at your company.  It leads to better decisions, changes based on science instead of hunches, and improvements based on necessity instead of opportunity.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales effectiveness, Drive Revenue

10 Attributes of the CEO Who Drives Sales and More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 @ 06:08 AM

Both Sides of MouthI had two conversations that were in stark contrast to one another.

The first was with an executive who told me that the company must have their salespeople selling more consultatively to better differentiate themselves in the global market, so they began training on SPIN selling - a year ago.  I told him that was a good start and wondered if they experienced the same thing as most companies that train on SPIN selling - it is a great questioning strategy but their salespeople simply can't apply it or execute it. 

[Note - SPIN is a questioning strategy developed by Neil Rackham but it is not a sales process.  If you are familiar with my Baseline Selling sales process and book by the same name, SPIN would take place between 1st and 2nd Base.]

Back to the story...This executive said that their salespeople aren't able to demonstrate any more competance than they were a year ago but he didn't want to upset anybody, anything, any apple carts, any vendors, any salespeople, etc.  He believed he had all the answers despite his own evidence pointing to the contrary.  I  mentioned that he was talking out of both sides of his mouth and he even agreed with that!  He was simply too invested in maintaining the status quo and keeping the peace to change anything.  A powerful, consistent formula - for failure.

You may have read my article from earlier this week when I described 10 CEO's and the Impact They Have on Their Sales Forces.  The executive above was a combination of #1 and #9. 

My second conversation was with an effective CEO who is completely unlike those that I described in the other article.  My good CEO has the following 10 qualities that have a positive impact on the sales force:

  1. He asks questions and listens when he doesn't have the answers;
  2. He has very little patience for incompetence;
  3. He holds people accountable;
  4. He lets people know where they stand;
  5. He demands the best from everyone;
  6. He leads the way and drives change;
  7. He sets clear expectations and has consequences for failure;
  8. He isn't afraid to terminate anyone;
  9. He is very decisive;
  10. He knows that revenue is King.

He has many more good qualities but these ten stand in contrast to the ten I wrote about in the previous article.

If you lead a company or a sales organization, which leader would you like to emulate?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, accountability, CEO, Drive Revenue, Lead Sales Force, Lead Change, SPIN Selling

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About Dave

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

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