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Times Are Changing

by David Brock on March 4th, 2014

Every day I speak with sales leaders and sales professionals who are struggling.  They are astute professionals, they are working very hard, but struggling.  They may be making their numbers, but just barely.  They may be just shy of their numbers.  CSO Insight’s 2014 Performance Optimization Survey shows continued performance declines with 58.2% of sales people making quota (down from the previous year at 63%), and 83.9% of organizations making their revenue plan (down from 89.2%).

People are working harder.  They are leveraging tools to help them.  There is no end to new programs and initiatives.  But they continue to struggle.

I’m often called to assess what’s going on.  Much of the time I have a “deja vu” experience, I see the same thing in organization after organization.  They are doing the same things they did 5 years or more ago.  They’re doing it with more intensity, they’re spending more time, they are leveraging technology to help them, they may be using slightly different words/terms, but their fundamental business/sales model hasn’t changed.

We all know that buying has changed profoundly!  Yet we continue to use the same sales business models and processes that we used years ago.  As an extreme case, recently I was involved with a large division of a Global 20 company.  They struggled mightily to hit their numbers.  Sometimes they would make it, sometimes they wouldn’t.  They hadn’t changed their approach to the market for at least 10 years.  They had the same sales deployment strategies, they had the same sales processes (when I looked at the documentation, it was dated 1998).  They were recruiting the same types of people they recruited 10 years ago.  Yet everything about their markets had changed!

We think we may have changed by providing sales people training, by leveraging technology, but unless we have fundamentally reassessed our sales models and our sales processes, we are leveraging old models and processes, we still may be missing the target.  It means we have to reassess our whole approach to the market, our sales deployment (organizational/structural) strategies, our recruiting strategies, our training, metrics, sales processes, compensation/incentive systems.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting results.  If you are constantly struggling to meet your numbers, perhaps it’s time to reassess your approach to the market.  Perhaps it’s time to transform and change.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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