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Why CEOs Are Failing Account Based Sales Reps

account based salesAre sales managers really at fault?

Salespeople used to say “I carried a bag” to prove that we knew selling. We were the feet on the street—literally. You don’t hear that phrase very often anymore, but account based sales reps still carry a bag. They’re expected to land and expand within their named accounts. But it’s their managers who are left holding the bag when reps don’t meet or exceed quota.

According to CSO Insights, only 55.8 percent of sales reps made quota in 2016. The problem is that many sales managers were raised in Sales 1.0 or 2.0 environments. They don’t have the skills or tools for success in a Sales 3.0 world.

Account based sales reps are the only feet on the street anymore. Much of the sales process has been shifted to inside sales, which requires different skills. So, perhaps we should stop pointing fingers at sales managers and look at a different culprit—upper management.

I love this blog post by Colleen Stanley, founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc. Colleen has carried many a bag, and she’s managed sales teams. According to her, sales is not a department; it’s every department. Find out more in this month’s guest post:

Five Ways CEOs Screw Up the Sales Function

By Colleen Stanley

There are a lot of places to examine (and blame) if your company isn’t consistently achieving sales goals. The blame often goes to the sales team or sales manager; however, I contend that missed revenue targets start at the top with the CEO.

CEOs can talk a good game about sales and growth. But if you walk through their sales department, you will discover the basics are missing for achieving consistent and sustainable growth. It’s not a sales department. It’s a hope and quote department.

CEOs, it’s time to apply the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness and reality testing and ask the tough question: How serious are you about achieving sales results? Here are a few areas to examine in order to answer the question.

1. Belief Systems: You believe salespeople are born, not developed.

CEOs have grand visions of hospitals delivering babies with the doctor joyfully announcing, “Mrs. Jones, congratulations. You have a new salesperson in your family.”

Because of this belief, CEOs invest more money in beer Fridays and office supplies than training their salespeople, sales managers, or any other department that interfaces with the customer.  

Here’s a reality check. You aren’t serious about revenue growth.

2. Development Philosophy: You subscribe to “one and done” training.

OK, so you are a CEO who has designated dollars towards sales and sales management training this year. Congratulations. The training is conducted and you check the box on training and development.

Your team is now educated—for the rest of their life.

The real irony of this scenario is that CEOs are always looking for ways to make sure their companies are relevant. They invest dollars in upgrading ERP Systems, marketing, equipment, and software each year, but for some reason, they don’t see value in upgrading the education provided to their sales and service teams. I’m not so sure you are serious about revenue growth.

3. Denial: You accept mediocrity.

A recent study by CSO Insights shows that only 54 to 57 percent of salespeople achieve their sales goal. Companies often accept this statistic by saying, “It’s hard to find good salespeople.”

What other department in your company is allowed to operate at this level of inefficiency? This lack of quota attainment is often due to lack of sales systems—such as a defined selling approach, on-boarding new salespeople, on-boarding new clients, account management, and customer service. Are you serious about revenue growth?

4. No Defined Hiring Process: The sales candidate had a pulse.

Well, let me recant this statement. You do have a system for hiring. It’s the hire-from-the-gut or shoot-from-the-hip system, more commonly known as the intestinal and Wild West approach to hiring.

If I were to ask to review your hiring manual, I would be met with a blank stare. Your “hiring team” comes up with their own questions, many of which do not even test the key competencies, values, and behaviors needed for success in this sales role.

I’m thinking you’re not that serious about achieving increased revenues.

5. Tunnel Vision: You believe sales is a department.

Time to walk a mile in your prospect’s or customer’s shoes. What’s it like to do business with your organization?

A study conducted by the Forum Corp. and published by Fortune indicates that customers change suppliers 68 percent of the time because of employee indifference. Companies spend all this money attracting new clients, only to have them go right out the back door. How skillful is your customer service team at creating fans and advocates? Sales is not a department. It’s every department that interfaces with prospects and clients.

I recently walked into a prospect’s office and stood in the lobby for a good five minutes. I was clearly in the line of sight of three employees, but I couldn’t get anyone to look up to acknowledge or greet me. It made me wonder if that is how they treat their best customers walking through the door. You got it. This company wasn’t serious about revenue growth.

If you aren’t happy with your company’s growth, look no further than yourself. Leadership, expectations, and sales all start at the top.

(Note: This article originally appeared on SalesLeadershipDevelopment.com and has been reprinted with permission from Colleen Stanley.)

About the Author

colleen stanleyColleen Stanley is the president of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm. She is the author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success, now published in six languages and Growing Great Sales Teams. Salesforce recently named Colleen one of the top sales influencers of the 21st century. She has also been named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers, Top 10 Women in Sales Experts to Follow, and Top 30 Global Gurus. Clients include Harvard Business Review Poland, Salesforce, Xerox PARC, First American Title, and HomeAdvisor.

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