How You Are Killing Your Sales Growth, One Excuse at a Time
How much sales growth has your company lost to excuses? Sales excuses may be born out of inefficiency, lack of resources, being pulled in too many directions, or simply having bad habits. Some combination of those conditions exists in just about any business (who isn’t pulled in too many directions?). In a growing business, something has to give — often; it’s sales. At a certain point, business owners learn to accept excuses, both their own and those of others, around sales performance issues. These excuses — and the flawed, sales-sabotaging logic they are built on — eventually create an organizational culture where the bar is set so low that sales under-performance is expected. Sales performance gets “broken” on the back of a thousand excuses.
A culture of sales excuses starts at the top, and trickles all the way down to the bottom. Here’s a list I put together of three of the more common excuses CEOs and business owners tell themselves about sales, along with why they are flawed.
3 Sales Excuses CEOs Make:
Excuse #1: “We don’t need to formalize a repeatable sales onboarding process. I think that’s more for bigger companies. Between our HR person and the sales manager, I’m sure our new hires will get the hang of it eventually.”
Why this is flawed thinking: Systematic sales onboarding is critical to shorten the time to productivity (and ROI) and to retain your salesperson (avoiding the high costs of turnover and mis-hiring). Heaping all the responsibility on a sales manager or lead salesperson to onboard a new hire, makes a sales manager far less likely to want to add sales talent to grow the business. And, if a salesperson is not onboarded quickly and effectively, they will not hang around and it will cost you dearly, not just in pay and benefits, but in your team’s time and frustration, as well as in the huge expense of opportunity cost associated with new salespeople who take too long to perform. In the security industry, where it is typical to have a multi-year contract, that business that the ineffective salesperson lost is not coming back.
Excuse #2: “We can’t afford a designated sales manager yet; I’m better off doing it on my own.”
Why this is flawed thinking: It can be tricky as a business owner to determine the point at which you can no longer afford NOT to have a designated sales manager. Sometimes it is just not possible to bring one on. But take care you don’t go without one any longer than you must, because it is difficult to nearly impossible to be effective as a sales manager while also running the business. An effective sales manager spends most of their time coaching the salespeople. They meet 1v1 on at least a weekly basis for the purpose of helping each individual salesperson improve (not just strategize about a particular opportunity). They ride along with all salespeople regularly, not to help close business but to observe and then provide critical feedback for improvement. The sales manager conducts regular sales meetings focused on helping the salespeople go forth and sell more (not reviewing the pipeline or having product demos). If you can’t do all these things, while also holding the salespeople accountable to specific activity plans and behaviors then you are stifling their growth and your company’s.
Excuse #3: “It’s okay that my sales manager is closing most of the deals; the most important thing is that someone is closing them. We can work on improving the other salespeople later.”
Why this is flawed thinking: The sales manager’s job is to grow salespeople, not to grow their own sales. The longer you let them sell, the longer you cost yourself sales Think about the exponential difference between a well-developed sales team all closing sales, versus one manager doing most of the closing. If the company is too reliant on the manager to close business, growth is stifled but the risk is even greater. No salespeople want to compete with their boss for business, so you could experience attrition of salespeople based on this, which creates a vicious cycle of reduced sales and more dependency on the sales manager to sell.
As the business leader, you have the power to determine whether your business is a place where sales excuses can thrive or where sales thrive. But they cannot co-exist. You set the tone for mediocrity versus sales excellence. You must decide to become a sales growth engine if you want a business that flourishes rather than flounders.