CEOs understand that the importance of the sales organization extends much farther than just closing deals.
Because the sales organization represents the first point of live and personal interaction with your buyers, it’s critical to your brand perception. Because your sales team directly affects how a customer feels about your business, it’s essential for building customer trust and loyalty. Because sales has the first insight on spending changes, it’s the best barometer that you have for monitoring market shifts and your own growth.
However, if you talk to many CEOs about sales today, you’ll find that they’re frustrated by their sales organization, and here are five reasons why:
Without strong sales leadership, you cannot build a strong sales organization. Yet, bad sales leadership is an endemic frustration for CEOs and remains a common cause of poor sales performance.
You need to be sure that your sales managers have the leadership skills needed to manage a sales team. Just because someone was a great salesperson does not make him or her a great sales leader. In fact, the skill sets are quite different.
Sales leaders must have adequate training or experience to be effective. If they’re a new manager, they need to be mentored and given time to build their leadership skills.
CEOs also need to work closely with sales leadership. You need to identify the right sales processes and target customer and understand your available resources – so that you can optimize processes, repeat, and scale.
Too many sales leaders rely on sales data provided to them by their sales people about whether a deal will close or not. Companies cannot rely on subjective sales data or ‘gut instinct’ to make critical business decisions.
To succeed, sales leaders need timely and accurate data about their pipeline. They should be able to see how their team engages with prospects and the level of activity in real-time. If they don’t have this insight, they’re simply passing inaccurate and subjective data up the food chain to the CEO where it can cause bigger problems for the business.
One clear outcome of subjective sales data is bad sales forecasting – arguably the biggest frustration that CEOs have with sales. If the forecast data that the sales leader gives the CEO is wrong, it negatively impacts every aspect of the business. If you’re a manufacturing company, you make key decisions regarding your supply chain and manufacturing resources based on what you’re told that the sales team is going to sell. If that forecast is wrong, it’s a costly mistake.
Once again, it’s critical for sales leaders to have insight into the activities and activity level of their organization. Without concrete data on what’s really happening – monitored on a daily basis – your sales leaders are just pulling forecasts from thin air.
CEOs want faster and more accurate qualification. When sales people sell in the wrong places to the wrong prospects, things move at a snail’s pace, and the business loses. Additionally, by wasting time looking in all the wrong places, sales misses the right opportunities – the ones that can really mean something to your business.
First, sales and management must agree on their buyer. Then, they need to look at best practices to speed the qualification process – including a combination of automation and analytics. With automation, sales people can reach more people, faster, and then leverage analytics to quickly prioritize them.
If you’re reading this blog, you already know about the discord that oftentimes exists between these two organizations. But, CEOs need every single department in the business to put its weight behind the goal of winning customers.
Organizations need to make sure that marketing and sales are partnered together toward this end. For starters, get marketing and sales on the same system. If you’re using disparate systems – or they aren’t shared – they don’t have full access to the same data and are misaligned. Because there should be no excuses that they’re not on the same page, they need access to the same information.
As a CEO and a life-long sales person, these are the top frustrations that I’ve seen – and they are all tied closely together. For strong leadership and an accurate forecast, you need timely and concrete data. For improved marketing and sales alignment, you need visibility across systems. According to Forrester, insights-driven businesses will take $1.2 trillion a year by 2020. To get those insights for your sales organization, you need automation and analytics.
Graham Curme is CEO of LiveHive, Inc., provider of an open and extensible sales acceleration platform that powers businesses to drive higher sales growth and deliver greater customer value. Curme is a senior business executive with 25 years of experience in technology sales, including senior management roles at both multinational public and private startup companies.