If even your most skilled salespeople are delivering poor sales results, the cause may not be a lack of skills, pricing or products. The problem may lie in multiple aspects of your overall sales and marketing processes. This may be a good time to conduct a top-to-bottom examination of every component and make incremental improvements in all areas.
When you begin to see poor sales results, the cause may not be a lack of effort by everyone involved. You need to dig into your overall sales and marketing processes to find the causes.
There are many reasons why sales effort, a great deal of time, allocation of many resources, planning and so much more can still lead to slow and even poor sales results.
Having been observing and teaching sales strategies and practices around the world for over 35 years and witnessing numerous stupid as well as genius tactics used by individuals and organizations, I believe there are five basic reasons why sales decline or are in a slump regardless of the economy, industry, consumer desires, and competitive philosophies.
Many sales trainers and sales experts might suggest that it’s just poor execution of Sales 101: prospecting skills, poor presentation skills, or the inability to effectively disarm objections and close sales. Although all of these traditional sales methodologies are important, I believe that even if you have all of these and lack the following five you will never achieve sustained increased sales results and income. I’ll keep this simple.
Here are the five reasons:
- A lack of consistent execution of a proven process
- Reliance on a single marketing approach
- Poor product/service messaging
- Over or underuse of specific communication techniques
- A lack of execution integrity
A lack of consistent execution of a proven process
To achieve sustained and lasting success, a process is required. It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking in the kitchen, operating in the hospital or building on a construction site. Wherever you see success, I will guarantee there is a process that is consistently being followed to ensure positive sales results.
The sales process is no different. If one minute you are selling this way and the next minute you are selling differently, I guarantee you will get inconsistent results. Let me give you a quick example.
Let’s say you have a prospect that needs and wants your product or service and you have been trained to sell it a certain way. But you decide that because this person seems more available or affinitive to you, you adjust your approach and get a bit more friendly and open than normal. As a result, you create a different sales environment that deviates from your standard approach, one you are unfamiliar with and one the prospect may feel is a bit forward. You have abandoned your process.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t tailor your sales message to the style or interests of each prospect. What I’m saying is if and when you abandon proven sales techniques, strategies, and approaches for something new or different, you will get less than historical proven positive outcomes.
I’m not implying that any or all processes are successful or the best approach or that any process should not be open to change, improvement and updating. I don’t want my heart surgeon sticking with the process when it’s his or her instincts to adjust or adapt, but I do want them to stick with protocols when situations or circumstances warrant it.
If you don’t have and stick with a proven sales process, I guarantee that you live with a great deal of frustration, uncertainty, unknowns, disappointment, and even regret from time to time.
Reliance on a single marketing approach
Yes, you need a website if you want to succeed and compete.
Yes, you need to do public relations from time to time.
Yes, advertising can help your sales efforts.
Yes, emails are necessary occasionally.
Yes, you also need to pick up the phone once in a while.
You need a successful blending process when it comes to marketing and its support and endorsement of your sales efforts.
When sales efforts rely on a single marketing approach, they will achieve fewer positive responses. When sales activity is not foreshadowed with some market exposure or not supported by follow-up activity, you are relying only on the sales effort.
To get better and more consistent positive results from any sales actions, it is wise to have both pre- and post-sales activity that reinforces the basic fundamental sales message and customer benefits.
Think about it: if Salesperson A shows up for an appointment to sell something and the prospect has never heard of his or her organization or product or service, they have got a lot of work to do. Salesperson B then shows up for their appointment and the prospect has viewed one billboard, heard one radio ad and read one ad on a website they were searching prior to the sales meeting. Which of the two appointments do you think will tend to have a better chance of success?
Poor product/service messaging
Have you ever watched a product or service commercial and when it was finished you were shaking your head thinking, “what was that all about?” Well, I have, almost every day.
I’m not sure how some of these ads make it past management, but someone needs to wake them up. They don’t do the product or service justice. No, I’m not going to cite specific examples, as I’m sure you have seen, read or heard your share of them.
If your messaging is confusing, contradictory or can be perceived or interpreted as negative or derogatory in any way, it will not contribute to your sales success in any way.
Over or underuse of specific communication techniques
Technology wants us to believe that the only way to sell to people today is with social media, emails or the latest Techno Whiz. Yes, these are important and can often be an integral part of lifestyle today, but let me assure you “word of mouth” has not lost its impact on the buying public or process.
When the average customer has a negative product or service experience, research tells us they will, on average, tell nine people.
And, those nine people on average will tell five people and this process just continues on and on. How many people over time do you think will get that negative message? How much money do you need to spend on promotion and advertising to counteract this negative exposure?
Just ask any organization that has lost customers, market share, and even gone belly-up due to negative press. In hindsight, they will admit they failed to anticipate the negative consequences due to this negative experience.
If you think you are going to hit a home run every time with a campaign of a new product or service relying only on your investment in technology exposure, you are living in a fantasy land. I’m not saying you didn’t need to use these media sources to improve sales, you need to not rely ONLY on them.
A lack of execution integrity
Talk is cheap today. People seem to throw commitments, promises and so many other things at customers, clients, friends, and even family members that in some ways they hope will happen, but are never 100% sure they will.
Ever left a message for a supplier who said they would get back to you in 24 hours and after a week, you still hadn’t heard from them? Ever have someone tell you they will meet you for lunch, a meeting, or coffee at a certain time and 20 minutes later they finally showed up? Ever been promised a refund by a supplier who said it would only take 24 hours and after a few days you are still waiting?
The common thread in all of them is a lack of integrity. There are far too many reasons and contributors to this issue in today’s sales (and general relationship) environment so let me just cover one simple concept: does this lack of consistency, integrity or commitment, in your opinion, contribute to poor customer loyalty, poor customer relations, poor repeat business, poor references and/or referrals, poor word of mouth and just a poor reputation in general?
If you want to avoid any of these “poor” outcomes, sales results, or consequences, it’s simple. Here are five things to consider (yes there are many more)
- Start meaning what you say and saying what you mean.
- Stop making excuses – just do it.
- If you can’t do it or are not sure whether it will happen, don’t promise it.
- If circumstances that are beyond your control cause a promise or commitment to not be delivered, fix it quickly.
- Learn from your communication mistakes. Stop repeating the same stupid behaviors that are doing nothing to improve your image and sales results whether as an individual or an organization.
Think closely about what may be making your team deliver poor sales results and make some simple changes to your way of doing things in order to turn things around.