by Mark Allen Roberts
When asked to help under performing sales teams, I always start by understanding the problem to be solved then working with their sales people in the market. One common role misunderstanding among salespeople limits their ability to achieve their sales goals; “Protecting the Fort”. Some salespeople, often those who have been with you for a number of years believe part of their job is “Protecting the Fort” and not selling.They envision the sales and buying process more as a battle and they have to ward off buyer advances. What I am referring to can be simply explained as;
Protecting the Fort; a sales behavior exhibited by salespeople that is inward focused, not market serving, that believes part of their job is to teach buyers how to buy according to their companies’ internal rules, needs, and wants or quickly disqualify them and move on to the next sale.
Salespeople who protect the fort miss sales goals.
I was asked to help an under performing sales team some time ago. I spent time with each salesperson and I was surprised how much business two of their salespeople were not closing. They both had strong pipelines, a defined sales process, and a great lead nurturing plan and yet they were not meeting their sales objectives. I decided to spend some time doing four legged sales calls and after a few calls with each salesperson I quickly understood the problem hurting their sales performance. I found both sales people followed a sales process, followed up with their accounts timely, but consistently failed to close because they spent more time trying to get buyers to comply with how their company did things. The buyers were trying to buy this companies’ product but were met with …”we can’t do that..” “that’s not how we do things…” and both were saying “ I could never get that approved” . The salespeople would quickly use their understanding of internal unbreakable rules and policies to disqualify customers and not close the sale. However when I asked the CEO if the salespeople had shared buyers needs and requests the answer was a quick..No. He even went on to say that some of what the buyers requested he would have gladly approved based on the customer and the size of the order.
Markets change and buyers buying processes and criteria change. Market leading companies are constantly sensing for market shifts and adapt…they must be more agile.
Teams that practice an Agile sales methodology meet and exceed growth goals.
Sales teams forced to sell based on …”the way we do things around here” fail.
So how about your sales team?
When was the last time you went on a four-legged sales call?
What internal rules do your salespeople think are acceptable to be deal breakers?
When was the last time one of your salespeople challenged one of your policies?
When you analyze lost sales , is their a common “internal rule” that is interrupting the sales process?
Are your internal rules for sales engagement market focused to help buyers buy…or designed to protect the fort?
I can hear the voice of past company owners I have served saying “ Ya but..” so let me address their concerns. I am not saying all the parameters you have given your salespeople should be allowed to be challenged. For example a lost sale is not the worst sale. The worst sale is one you work, nurture, close, deliver, and the customer never pays. So I am not advocating changing policies that insure buyers have the ability to pay. I am not advocating salespeople be permitted to sell products or services at a profit loss.
What I am saying is your sales team must understand their fundamental role; helping buyers buy not protecting the fort.