Sales Strategies Undermined by False Assumptions

New research by Performance Connections International (PCI) concluded that most sales organizations base their strategies on a set of false assumptions that undermine their sales groups. The sales training and consulting firm conducted two surveys--one of managers and sales professionals at leading global sales organizations and another of 25 senior-level sales executives at companies across the United States. PCI President Bruce Fern says six common mistaken beliefs are widespread among sales leaders: The economy excuses poor sales performance; well-thought-out sales goals equate with having a sound sales strategy; having an effective sales strategy is key to success; compensation drives behavior; and sales training and sales meetings drives sales performance. Each of these common misconceptions undermines a successful sales group, according to Fern. He stresses that using the economy as an excuse for poor sales performance is not valid and notes that in the fastest growing Fortune 100 companies' revenue for 2002 increased 36 percent, while earnings rose 46 percent. Fern says that many times, blaming the economy often masks deeper problems with the group. Although having goals is necessary, it is only part of a sales strategy, according to Fern. Sales organizations need to have a strategy for acquiring new clients and a strategy for expanding sales. "Goals are not the same as a clear strategy," Fern says. "They are the first step." The flip side is that having a strategy doesn't ensure success. According to Fern the key is executing a strategy. Among the top five most important issues to sales leaders are two that relate to execution: making sales people accountable for sales results and sales activities. The study also disputes the long-held idea that compensation drives behavior. Fern says that when you take people out of their comfort zones, even if the compensation is increased, it's unlikely that they will follow through. That goes along with the notion that confidence in achieving sales goals is a reasonable predictor of success. Fern says that when sales management asks the group if the goals are achievable and they say yes, then goals are likely to be met. Finally, the study showed that sales training and sales meetings do not drive performance. There are many other factors and simply holding a meeting is not what gets sales reps to achieve goals. "As long as business continue to hold these false beliefs, their sales groups will be severely hampered in improving sales performance and meeting sales goals," Fern says.
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