complaints-about-salespeople-resized-600#2 They Wait for the Phone to Ring

This is the second in a five-part series discussing the 5 most common complaints I hear from business owners and sales team leaders.  Read the first installment here.  If you have been in business for more than five or six years then you may remember a time when the phone rang and you had enough or more business than your salespeople could handle.  Since the economic downturn began several years ago, that dynamic has shifted to the point where most salespeople need to actually proactively generate some of their own business.  They cannot just rely on the leads to find them anymore.

If you have witnessed this change in your company, but your salespeople have not adapted to this new environment then you must share some of the blame.  What are your clearly communicated expectations of them?  If you are like many, you have communicated a sales revenue expectation but that is the extent.  Too many managers only evaluate salespeople based on closed sales.  You do need to start with a sales goal, but then you need to go deeper.

Once the sales goal has been established (and it actually would be more beneficial to hear from the salesperson the amount they need to earn to achieve their goals), then you and each individual salesperson need to break down that goal into a quarterly, monthly or even weekly goal.  Help the salesperson calculate, based on his or her closing ratios, how many deals need to be in the various stages of the pipeline to close enough business to meet his or her goals.  Then, the salesperson needs to create their plan.  What are the activities that they will execute every day, week or month that will generate enough opportunities?  Remember that activities are leading indicators and closed sales are lagging indicators.

You may have done all this, many sales managers do.  But the disconnect comes from actually holding them accountable to those agreed upon activities.  What are the consequences if they fail to do what they agreed they were going to do?  If you have not established agreed upon consequences then you can blame yourself for your salespeople’s behavior.  Start with the plan, and be sure to establish consequences of failing to execute the appropriate activities.  Then follow through with those consequences.  Here’s an example:  If it is a requirement that the salesperson generates a certain number of their own leads to be successful, but they fail to do it, you may be able to easily withhold company generated leads as a consequence.

If, however, you are doing all these things and the salespeople are still underperforming in their proactivity, then it may be that you have salespeople who may not be able to do what is necessary.  You may have hired based on a different environment when these proactive activities were not as critical.  Or maybe you thought they would do it when you hired them, but you are now disappointed.  Or, maybe they don’t have the financial motivation to generate more business on their own.  Do you even know if they can prospect and successfully get their own leads?  If they aren’t doing it now, can they be taught?  This is where utilizing an objective analytical assessment of their collection of strengths, skills and weaknesses comes in handy.  We use the #1 rated Objective Management Group battery of assessments.  Here’s a sample if you want to see the information provided.

As a recap, there are two simple solutions when faced with salespeople who wait for the phone to ring:

  1.  Set activity goals with consequences for failing to execute
  2. Objectively assess your sales team members to determine if they can actually do the proactive prospecting activity