How do you fix a broken sales organization? First, ask yourself several key questions:
- Has the turnover been excessive? (I won’t define this. There are too many variables.)
- Are the sales flat for 2 or more quarters in succession?
- Does the closing ratio seem lower than it should be?
- Are the salespeople not getting enough appointments with new prospects?
- Is growth with current customers flat or decreasing?
- Do the salespeople wait for the phone to ring?
- Have the same opportunities been sitting in the funnel and not moved for an excessive period of time? (This is very industry specific.)
- Are the sales calls similar to a train wreck?
- Are sales meetings tense because no one has anything to add about opportunities?
- The salespeople don’t seem to follow an organized sales behavior plan.
If this is your sales department and you’ve been there for over a year you might want to get your resume updated. For the sake of this discussion let’s make the assumption that the economy and/or other outside factors are not relevant to the performace of the salespeople.
So what do you do? I would look at the following:
- Is the sales organization top heavy with younger less experienced salespeople?
- Is the comp plan fair? Is it capped so salespeople are limited in what they can make?
- Is the sales organization top heavy with more senior reps who have less incentive and energy to make sales happen?
- Is the competition, with no clear product advantage, kicking the sales departments backsides?
- Do the salespeople know how to sell? (Will influence # 4.)
- Is the camaraderie among the salespeople poor?
- Is there a rift between the sales organization and upper management or other departments?
- If the reps are remote are the territories too large?
These 8 reasons just don’t seem to cover everything that could be wrong. If you’re coming into this situation or you’ve been part of this it is essential to evaluate all the above. If there are some clear reasons that affect the performance of the salespeople then fix them. Start with the worst situation and work your way through the rest. I would document every reason for under-performance, thoroughly covering the cause of the situation and the effect on sales. If you have to rankle some feathers go ahead and rankle, but be diplomatic. Sell the changes to the salespeople and to management.
If you’re walking into this situation I wouldn’t make immediate changes unless the situation is critical. As people see what you are about and how you talk about sales some of the people will leave and some situations will clear themselves up. If they don’t then make the changes happen.
The Final Thought: Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. John Ruskin