Five Ways CEOs Screw Up the Sales Function

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Posted: March 2, 2017

There are a lot of places to examine (and blame) if your company isn’t consistently achieving sales goals. The blame often goes to the sales team or sales manager; however,   I contend that missed revenue targets start at the top with the CEO.  

CEOs can talk a good game about sales and growth. But if you walk through their sales department,  you will discover the basics are missing for achieving consistent and sustainable growth.  It’s not a sales department. It’s a hope and quote department. 

CEOs, it’s time to apply the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness and reality testing and ask the tough question. How serious are you about achieving sales results? Here are a few areas to examine to in order to answer the question. 

1. Belief systems.  You believe salespeople are born, not developed. CEOs have grand visions of hospitals delivering babies with the doctor joyfully announcing, “Mrs. Jones, congratulations.  You have a new salesperson in your family.” 

Because of this belief, CEOs invest more money in beer Fridays and office supplies than training their salespeople, sales managers or any other department that interfaces with the customer.  

Here’s a reality check. You aren’t serious about revenue growth.

2. Development Philosophy. You subscribe to ‘one and done’ training. Okay, so you are a CEO that has designated dollars towards sales and sales management training this year.  Congratulations. The training is conducted and you check the box on training and development.

Your team is now educated---for the rest of their life.

The real irony of this scenario is that CEOs are always looking for ways to make sure their company is relevant. They invest dollars in upgrading ERP Systems, marketing, equipment and software each year, but for some reason, they don’t see value in upgrading the education provided to their sales and service teams. Not so sure you are serious about revenue growth.

3. Denial. You accept mediocrity.  A recent study by CSO Insights shows that only 54 – 57 percent of salespeople achieve their sales goal. Companies often accept this statistic by saying, “It’s hard to find good salespeople.”  (See below.)  Mr. or Ms. CEO, what other department in your company is allowed to operate at this level of inefficiency? This lack of quota attainment is often due to lack of sales systems such as a defined selling approach, on-boarding new salespeople, on-boarding new clients, account management and customer service. Are you serious about revenue growth?

4. The sales candidate had a pulse. You have a no defined hiring and selection process. Well, let me recant this statement. You do have a system for hiring. It’s the hire from the gut or shoot from the hip system, more commonly known as the intestinal and Wild West approach to hiring.

If I were to ask to review your hiring manual, I would be met with a blank stare. Your ‘hiring’ team comes up with their own questions, many of which do not even test the key competencies, values and behaviors needed for success in this sales role.

I’m thinking you’re not that serious about achieving increased revenues.

5. Tunnel vision. You believe sales is a department. Time to walk a mile in your prospect’s or customer’s shoes. What’s it like to do business with your organization? 

A study conducted by the Forum Corp. and published by Fortune indicates that customers change suppliers 68 percent of the time because of employee indifference. Companies spend all this money attracting new clients, only to have them go right out the back door. How skillful is your customer service team at creating fans and advocates? Sales is not a department. It’s every department that interfaces with prospects and clients.

I recently walked into a prospect’s office and stood in the lobby for a good five minutes. I was clearly in the line of sight of three employees, however, couldn’t get anyone to look up to acknowledge or greet me. It made me wonder if that is how they treat their best customers walking through the door. You got it. This company wasn’t serious about revenue growth.

If you aren’t happy with your company’s growth, look no further than yourself. Leadership, expectations and sales all start at the top.

Good Selling!

If your organization is serious about increasing revenues, your sales manager(s) should attend our next Ei Sales Management® 'Take The Lead' workshops.