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A Walkthrough of a Broken Sales Organization

Strategic sales management is often a weak link in solution provider companies. For the past 14 years, I have been working all across North America and internationally, meeting, speaking and consulting with organizations of all sizes and areas of focus. While every client engagement is unique, some problems are common to many corporate cultures and tend to prevent a company from reaching its business potential.

This month, let's take a walk through a hypothetical client site that illustrates many of the problems I've encountered over the years. We'll use "Law and Order" rules: "Although inspired in part by true incidents, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event."

Walking into the front office, there are a few chairs and a few outdated vendor awards on the walls, and employees pass visitors without offering a greeting or showing much expression or enthusiasm. This is not a good indicator for the type of reaction the office evokes from prospects who visit.

I ask for Bill, the president. I am warmly greeted and taken to the back office, where we begin to chat about his business, his vision, his frustrations and the lack of business profitability. My experienced ears hear: "They" just don't get it, "they" really don't work hard enough, "they" really don't know how to sell what we do and "they" don't seem to care about the business like I do. Bill is also concerned that his sales manager is focused on functions that have nothing to do with sales.

Vice President
Bill introduces me to his vice president of professional services: During the first 10 minutes of a 45-minute interview I hear a lot about how much time the sales engineers have to take to help the salespeople in every engagement and that the sales teams get all the credit. "They never take the time to learn the products. If it wasn't for my team and their expertise we would have no sales." When I ask when the VP last held a training session for the sales team, I get a shrug.

As I conduct interviews with each member of the sales team, either face-to-face or on the phone, I begin to connect the dots between what they're saying and my meetings with the president and the vice president. The salespeople say things like: "Management always seems to dominate every opportunity; they're always micro-managing what I do; the sales meetings are brutal, everything seems so disorganized; proposals are a joke; management seems to change what we do every 90 days; and they never seem to know what is going on."

Something else emerges from my recordings of each salesperson. Every representative tells a different story when asked, "Why do people buy from you?"

Assessing Your Own Company
While these scenarios are exaggerated, these are conversations that sadly take place among many clients we have served. Does anything here ring a bell about your company? As you read this in January 2012, it is an excellent time to assess the morale within your current organization and create a plan for the remaining portion of the year to fix elements in your company that need to operate more effectively.

A few concrete steps can go a long way. Create an ongoing sales training program; run monthly company meetings for all employees to bring teams together, increase communication and recognize achievement; make sure management meetings are organized to improve the focus on achieving corporate objectives; and make "soft" cultural improvements to increase morale and teamwork. In some cases, the list of projects can be quite long. Take a few each quarter and focus on those topics.

Creating a great organization takes time, vision, energy and a commitment to continuous improvement -- which, by the way, is the definition of leadership.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM


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