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“We Need To Do More To Help Our Sales People!”

by David Brock on August 2nd, 2017

It seems everywhere I turn, there is a huge urgency around “helping” our sales people sell more.  Clearly, the data on sales performance is startling, though not new.  The percent of sales people meeting or exceeding their plans is declining.  The percent of organizations not making their plans is staggering.

Everyone is recognizing the changing customer.  First they are becoming impossible to reach (perhaps an intended or unintended consequence of the deluge of prospecting emails/calls).  Second, more buying decisions end in “no decision made,” so they struggle to buy.  Our sales people need help in more effectively engaging these struggling customers.

Sales people are struggling under the weight of ever expanding product/solution portfolios.  They are struggling to compete in a world of global competitors and new business models disrupting entire industries.

It seems everyone in the organization recognizes the challenges our sale teams have in achieving their goals.  The new mantra seems to be, “We need to do more to help our sales people succeed!”

Thousands of technology driven tools/apps are coming to the market, with hundreds of new ones being launched every month.

Marketing has gotten the message and is aligning themselves with sales–sharing many of the metrics/goals.  They are on a mission to help sales and our customers, overwhelming us with content on the web, seminars, webinars, downloadable content, new marketing programs, blogs, thought leadership, influencer programs, account based marketing, MQLs, SALs, XYZs.

Sales enablement is on a parallel path, looking at training, tools, systems, programs, content.

We’ve a new vocabulary to describe how we are leveraging technology to help our sales people.  No conference is complete without every speaker talking about the value and virtues of their sales and marketing stacks.  Recently, I heard one proud executive talking about their stack of 19 applications/programs to help sales people!  Sometimes, it seems like locker room boasts of “mine is bigger than yours.”

We’re adding new functions to the sales organization to help our sales people–often offloading them of prospecting responsibility to SDRs, or we have overlays/specialists to help deal with product complexity.

Increasingly we recognize we and our sales people can’t go it alone, so we recruit partners to help and collaborate in solving the customer problems.

The sheer volume and velocity of the things we are doing to “help” our sales people is mind numbing.

The recipients of all this help—our sales people are reeling.  I imagine at some point there will be a sales person breaking down in the middle of the office, shrieking, “Stop The Insanity!!!”

Too many of the sales people I meet today are simply exhausted and overwhelmed.  They are well intentioned, they want to do better, they want to perform, but they are becoming so distracted by the help we are offering–also well intentioned–they don’t have time to spend with the customer selling.

The results are tragic.  We do audits/assessments of organizations.  We are seeing time available for selling plummet.  In large, successful organizations, we typically measure it at 9-22%!  We see voluntary attrition skyrocketing, often in the 30’s-40% range, in one very large organization it was 72% in the first year of being hired!

In virtually everything we see, while we are doing more to “help” our sales people, we aren’t seeing the results we expect.  And much of this is the result of our well intentioned efforts to do more.

Perhaps we need to rethink our approaches.  Rather than continuing to pile more and more stuff onto our sales people–training, tools, programs, support, content, systems……  Perhaps we should first focus on simplification, on eliminating and stopping some things.

I know it’s terribly unfashionable, but the simple concept of business process re-engineering is something I seldom hear sales management, sales enablement and others talk about.  Perhaps it’s implicit in what many are doing, but maybe we need to make it front and center for all our sales performance improvement efforts.

Before we do more for our sales people, the question we need to be asking ourselves is, “What should we be stopping, how do we simplify?”

Complexity will be the single biggest issue (if it isn’t already) impacting the performance of our sales teams in the coming years.  Front line sales people are at the nexus of the complexity our customers face and the complexity of their own organizations; the complexity of our expanding product/solutions offerings; the complexity of our expanding partner ecosystems; and the complexity of getting things done within our own organizations.

No other part of the organization faces the overlapping and often opposing  areas.

Perhaps the best way to help our sales people is to stop trying to be so helpful by giving them more.

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