When Salespeople Aren’t Going to Make It, Do the Right Thing
MASSolutions helps companies increase sales. We do that by helping sales teams sell more through coaching, mentoring, improved processes, better incentives, and stronger sales messaging.
In doing so, we have the chance to see and hear how sales teams do what they do. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s a bit disconcerting.
One thing we hear a lot is the head of Sales (Sales Director, Sales Manager, VP or even President of a small business) asking individual salespeople what is happening in the marketplace.
The conversation goes a little like this:
Head of Sales: “So what’s happening out there?”
Salesperson: “I’m talking to (insert position of the decision maker) at (list a bunch of prospect company names) and they keep telling me (list favorite stall or objection salesperson THINKS is the reason for not buying).”
Head of Sales: “OK. What if you tried (mention potential ways the company can overcome pain point)?”
Salesperson: “Actually, I’ve tried that and it didn’t work because (insert response which ends up being another favorite stall or objection salesperson THINKS is the reason for not buying).”
This usually goes on for a while. The salesperson is underperforming and has been coached for an extended period. The head of sales is frustrated and trying to figure out whether to keep the salesperson in the hopes that some dramatic change will occur or do the painful, gut-wrenching, time-consuming task of detailing deficiencies, developing a plan of corrective action, and possibly terminating the salesperson.
Inevitably, it comes. The time when the head of sales and the salesperson begin to play the “Say What You Want to Hear But Nothing Changes” Game.
Head of Sales: “Do you think you can (insert goal that must be hit or the world comes to an end)?”
Salesperson: “Yes, I know if I keep doing this or that it’s going to happen.”
Head of Sales: “We’ve talked about (insert new way of doing things and the number of calls that must be made and other activities). Are you going to be able to do these things?”
Salesperson: “Yes. I think if I just do the things you’re telling me to do, it will work.”
Head of Sales: (Some sort of open-ended question about where salesperson’s head is or how they feel about the situation/company): “Where’s your head on this? What’s your thought about (Company Name) and selling here?”
Salesperson: “I love my job. I see myself working here for a long time. I like the people I work for and with. This is what I want to do.”
Heard something similar to this at least a thousand times. I can specifically remember a ton of those people that ended up not making it at that company. Right now, I can’t name one person who successfully turned it around. Probably exists, just can’t recall who.
If you are the head of sales or the salesperson struggling to implement sales processes and a new way of doing things, either person, you need to be realistic. After sales training, coaching, role-playing and other one-on-one mentoring, the salespeople who are going to succeed will get it and be making a positive impact. Those who are not improving after significant mentoring and coaching for an extended period most likely aren’t going to change dramatically. This doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially good salespeople. But it does mean they most likely aren’t a fit for the current position and company.
At this point, both parties need to be fair to each other, themselves, and their company.
The head of sales needs to be honest and communicate clearly. Do the necessary and uncomfortable work of helping the salesperson move on.
The struggling salesperson must do an honest self-analysis. Do I want to be in the sales profession, or am I “trying” sales? Do I enjoy selling? If the answers are “Yes,” then develop a list of companies to target that might be a better fit based on selling style and sales cycle. If the answers are “Maybe” or “No,” take the time to figure out what you want to do with your career. Otherwise, you’re going to go through this again and again.