Why Sales Teams Frustrate CEOs and What You Can Do About It

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I’m writing this post as the result of a very interesting question that was posed to me. Specifically, one of my associates asked me why CEOs, who are troubled by the poor results that their sales team produces, continue to seek advice from that very same sales team regarding what should be done to improve sales.

Here are some ideas that you can use, if you are one of those CEOs who is frustrated with the poor results that your team is producing.

No Sales Experience

First, most CEOs that I’ve worked with, have never earned a living as a salesperson. As a result of their company’s growth, they are “beholden” to their sales team for future growth, but they don’t know how to coach that team nor mandate specific activities that predictably produce profitable results.

Consequently, these CEOs without a sales background tend to seek advice from the very people who are causing them their problem. Sub-performing salespeople clearly know that they can make their life easier by “selling” management on perpetuating the status quo.

If your team is causing you problems, you can’t be democratic in your approach to solving those problems.

A second reason which causes CEOs to have a love/hate affair with their sales force is a result of the fact that sales is credited with bringing in revenue.

Unfortunately, in many of the companies where I’ve worked as a coach or a consultant, I’ve observed that new orders come in for many reasons. Most of these reasons have little to do with the activities of the sales force. This is especially true when the company sells products and services, on a recurring basis, to a relatively static customer base.

A third reason, and this may be much closer to the truth, is that many CEOs are afraid of demanding that their team step up and perform in the fashion that the CEO believes they can and should perform. Frequently, this CEO accepts the excuses provided by the sales team.

Accountability and Activity

Establish activity objectives: Without activity objectives in place, it is impossible for a CEO to know whether or not their sales force is working for them or whether their sales force is the beneficiary of high-quality products, unique customer requirements, great marketing and/or just sheer luck.

Without holding your team accountable for the quantity and quality of activity, you will never optimize your top and bottom lines

Just contact the list broker of your choice and ask him/her to provide you with a count of demographically identical customers within the geography that wish you to analyze.

Once that’s completed, you will be able to compare your team’s perception of the size of the market versus the reality of the size of the market. That, in turn, provides you with the rationale to change your expectations regarding marketing and prospecting outreach.

Accountability: Too often, the sales force is, in my opinion, the department in many companies that is allowed to operate with little or no accountability.

For instance, as you read this, do you know whether or not your sales team is making sales calls? Do you know that they’re making the calls on the right customers? Do you know that they’re communicating the correct value propositions, in the correct form and fashion? More often than not, this does not occur.

Accountability must be established and can be established in many different ways. As mentioned above, hold your team accountable for the correct quantity of activities executed in the proper sequence.

As far as quality goes, there’s nothing better than good old-fashioned role-playing. The CEO that monitors sales role-playing and/or practice sessions is the CEO that knows, with confidence, that the team is performing in the way they’d like.

Your sales force must become as accountable for the quantity and quality of work that they execute as every other department within your company.

Bottom Line

I suggest that the CEO become the Chief Sales Officer (CSO) of his/her company. Set expectations from both a qualitative and a quantitative point of view.

Inspect that which you expect, and be prepared to take immediate action if you encounter a sales representative who either won’t do what you want them to do and/or can’t do what you want them to do.

At the end of the day, it always comes down to these two questions: “Can you do what I want you to do?” and “Will you do what I want you to do?”

In the event the answer to the “Can do?” question is negative, I believe you owe that sales representative some training. On the other hand, if they won’t do what you want them to do, why continue to pay them?

I hope that these ideas provide with you some food for thought. What steps have you taken?

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