The 6 Worst Decisions Sales Leaders Make

December 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM

“With every mistake and failure, not only mine, but of those around me, I learned what not to do.” – Mark Cuban

As we conduct research across 19 different industries, patterns emerge.  Over time, we see trends - some good, some unfortunate.  Think of this article as a holiday gift.  Use it to compare your thought process to that of other executives.  Are you ahead of the curve?  Is it possible you have a problem?

Bad Decisions buyers journeyBad decisions can cause your company to miss the number.  When the decision is made at the top, the collateral damage is multiplied.  Below are six of the worst decisions we’ve seen senior sales leaders make.  Accompanying each is a link to an article where you can learn more. 

As a bonus, you can click here to receive an exercise developed especially for an SBI client.  It will help your team better understand how your Customers make a decision.  (Deciding to better understand how your Buyers buy is a GREAT decision!)

1.       Failure to Map the Buyer’s Journey

Again and again, we encounter sales leaders who are certain they know their customers.  Their teams sell a certain way because that’s how the customers have always bought!  Only problem is – the Customer is changing.  Today’s Buyers are educated.  They have the power.  They do research online and are less inclined to agree to a F2F appointment.  Without researching how customers make a purchase decision, your sales force could be misaligned.  They sell one way – your Buyers prefer to buy differently.

2.       Too Much Love for the Legacy Sales Organization

This one is also related to the Buyer’s Journey.  The senior sales leader knows and loves the current sales force model.  Sometimes he grew up in it.  Sometimes he designed it.  Either way, it works, right?

Many times, comfort with the current sales force structure hurts the senior sales leader.  Call it inertia. Legacy sales forces can be based on “feet on the street.”  This model is incredibly expensive.  Headcount, benefits, car packages, travel – all cost a fortune.  The result – your average sales price (ASP) must be higher.  You have to charge more to achieve the desired profit margin.  Could you sell with a different model and drive expenses down?  The answer lies in understanding how your customer buys.

3.       Ignoring Content Marketing

When your Buyer "self-educates" before engaging with you, where do they go?  They usually go online.  When they do, do they “bump into” you?  What kind of an opinion do they form?  “Content” means blogs, whitepapers, webinars, slide shares, tweets, reviews, eBooks, podcasts, case studies, etc.  Content “sells” your product before your Buyer meets with your rep.  It generates leads by pulling people to your website (and in other ways).  Don’t let the first time a Buyer hears about you be from your rep.  Give them a chance by engaging your Buyers virtually early in the process.

4.       Let’s Buy Some New Technology!

We all like shiny new things.  However, don’t decide to buy new technology before figuring out how to enable it.  Otherwise, you end up with an expensive system that acts as a frustration multiplier.  Take the simple example of Marketing Automation technology.  It can be wonderful for helping you stimulate and manage latent sales demand.  But wait – you must build a process before deciding which technology to buy.  The process defines your demand generation and lead management workflow.  Only after that is complete can you choose the technology and optimize it correctly.  Here are the steps:

  • Build a process
  • Choose a technology
  • Find the right people to manage it
  • Create compelling content for it (see number three above)

5.       My Gut Tells Me Who To Hire

Jim is a highly successful Chief Sales Officer.  He has hired hundreds of people.  He has a gift for identifying talent.  However, Jim has not trained his team to follow a hiring process.  He just assumes his sales managers share his natural gift, since he hired them.  Bad decision.  Unfortunately, Jim’s gift is not replicable.  As Greg Alexander writes in Topgrading For Sales“Sales has too long been an art.  It is perhaps the last bastion of aimless, gut-feel decision making in the business world.”  Jim should decide to implement Topgrading and upgrade the organization.  Why entrust your success or failure to the “gut-feel” of your managers? 

6.       The Selling Starts When My Rep Walks In

Finally, the worst decision of all – deciding the world has not changed.  20 years ago Sellers had all the power because they had all the information.  The Buyer’s feeling of being in control was an illusion.  The internet has flipped the balance of power forever.  And yet, as we conduct our research, we still see companies who pretend otherwise.  They decide to sell via their sales team only.  They dismiss research showing that 57% of the Buyer’s purchase decision is made without a sales rep present. 

World class companies understand the virtual world is the new sales and marketing battleground.  Why?  Because that’s where Buyers are going for information.  When they go there, they need to run into you.

 

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Topics: Develop Sales Strategy, Sales Force Structure, buying process, Content Marketing, Sales Leader, VP of Sales Resources, marketing automation, CSO

Posted by Mark Synek

Mark Synek
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