When sales numbers are flat or declining, 75 percent of the time it's not the fault of the sales staff. Yet most companies go for the quick fix -- they send their salespeople for coaching and training.
As a result, they overlook the root causes of the problem: all the other processes and people in the organization who have an impact on capturing and maintaining customers. When companies take the time to develop a holistic, organization-wide sales process that focuses everyone's efforts -- from the CEO to HR to tech support -- on their customer's needs and buying habits, these companies discover that salespeople are only part of the picture. Without robust sales and a solid, growing customer base, every single job at the company is in jeopardy.
Let's look at a few of the most common myths about selling.
MYTH When a great product isn't selling, the salesperson is probably to blame.
REALITY Although it's easy to point a finger at salespeople, selling is only one part of a larger system, in which all aspects of the company -- from the executive suite and technical support, to marketing and distribution -- should be aligned in well-defined roles that support the efforts and objectives of sales.
MYTH Great salespeople are entrepreneurial lone rangers.
REALITY Like no one else in the company, salespeople's pay is directly tied to results. Therefore, they tend to be highly motivated, success-oriented pros. However, in companies that have mapped out and adopted a companywide sales strategy and process, salespeople function more as team members who drive profitability.
MYTH A good product at a great price will sell itself.
REALITY This would only be true if your company had researched customers' buying motives and found that discounted price was their number one priority -- which it rarely is! More often, if such contributing factors as the product's delivery, customer relations, and technical support fall short, customers will choose a pricier competitor.
MYTH If sales understood the product better, sales would increase.
REALITY Actually, if everyone in the company -- e.g., marketing, product developers, IT, and fulfillment, to name a few -- understood sales better, sales would increase.
MYTH When salespeople don't use a consistent company or product "pitch," sales effectiveness suffers.
REALITY Again, it's tempting to blame the salesperson. A more holistic way to look at this issue is to ask: Does leadership have a clear vision for how to engage customers, and have they communicated this vision clearly across the organization? Has marketing created messages, based on this vision, that are meaningful to customers? Does everyone at the company speak the same brand language?
MYTH Sales coaching and training are a sure way to boost sales effectiveness.
REALITY In more situations than not, it is how a salesperson is applying his or her skills, not the skills themselves. Correcting this involves a deeper understanding of the sales process. For example, you may be able to improve the way in which a salesperson presents a message, but if he or she is presenting the wrong message, to the wrong people, at the wrong time, you are unlikely to see any benefit by simply improving their presentation skills.
About the Author
Martyn Lewis is the founder, president, and CEO of Market-Partners (www.market-partners.com), and author of Sales Wise: A Journey through Sales and Selling (Fenestra Books).