Good Sales Results Today Does Not Immunize Your Sales Team From Poor Sales Performance in the Future

By Mark Allen Roberts

Assuming since you have never experienced poor sales results you never will is like assuming since you have never caught the flu you will never get sick. I hear it all the time; “Mark your content about staying close to how and why your buyers are buying is interesting but we don’t have a Sales Problem to fix”. Congratulations, and I hope it stays that way. My personal experience for over 30 years now has seen however businesses operate in cycles. One predictable cycle you want to avoid is when the phone “just stops ringing” and you don’t know why.

The leading cause of why businesses experience poor sales performance is losing touch with their market, their buyers, and specifically how they buyers buy and the criteria they are using today.

I returned home from Walgreens after getting my annual flu shot and my mind was racing with all the misperceptions the others in line were sharing about the flu, how you get it, how to cure it and so on. Imagine my surprise when my own wife said “why do you get a flu shot every year?….I have never had a flu shot and I have never had the flu” I went on to share with her that I am happy she has never been sick with the flu, and that just because she has never had the flu it does not mean she never will. The flu changes, evolves and new strains are born everyday and she may have been immune to the past strains but that is no assurance she is immune to current or future viruses.

I will close out this train of posts on how just as there are myths about the flu we also find myths about sales, sales performance and how to prevent poor sales performance. Myths that become beliefs over time are dangerous as they often impede and impair the preventative measures that could have kept your business healthy. Businesses you do not stay close to their markets and their buyers run the risk of poor sales. If your business is in the practice of telling your market as apposed to serving your market are already infected and will experience a poor sales performance outbreak often at the least convenient time. As someone who helps businesses get back on track and build sales velocity, I listen for common statements that indicate a virus is present in the core of their sales team. I listen for comments like;

Our buyers don’t need that…

Our buyers do not value …..

No one in our industry does…so why should we?

Our customers are not smart enough to understand…

Everyone in our industry has this policy …

We have been in business for 50 years we know what our buyers need…

We can not afford to ….

And my recent personal favorite: No buyers in our industry use the internet or social media in making buying decisions.

As I have said before, (and will probably say again soon) you could say that…but you would be wrong!

As someone who spends time in markets, a variety of markets, meeting with buyers on a regular basis one common trait they all have is buyers use the internet to educate themselves. The role sales once played as keepers of the product features and benefits information keys is over. Industry statistics show  70%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer calls you today. Where are they gathering information about products that can solve their immediate problems? We see they are using the internet, social networks, industry trade group forums, and utilizing technology to gain product referrals and recommendations.

Not sold yet? Don’t believe me? Ok….In a recent Forbes article the author shared 19 things successful people do using social media. The article shares how 69% of adults admit to using social media. Ah ..I hear those voices again …”Not in OUR industry Mark”…Really?

Lets take a look at a recent white paper by HIS Global Spec titled; Social media use in the Industrial Sector. I really want everyone to download and read this report’s content. Some of the findings included;

  • 81% follow business / groups within their industry
  • 26% reference or read work related content
  • 36% had a Google + account
  • 47% view you-tube for work related purposes
  • 85% viewed you-tube product demos
  • 80% viewed How to video on you-tube

Why? Why and how are people even in the industrial B2B sector using Social media?

  • 52% keep up with the latest industry news and technology
  • 48% reach additional contacts and network
  • 37% find peer reviews and recommendations

If your business does not believe that up to 80% of your buyers are doing their homework on the web prior to calling your salesperson, or that your buyers are not using social media I can only guarantee you one thing; your company is invisible to a large number of buyers who are actively searching to solve problems your company can solve for them. Web sites that are basically virtual brochures that take up cyber space because we are supposed to have one because everyone else does do not help sales teams achieve sales goals or create a 21st Century Sales Pipeline.

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy, where they shop and gather information and leverage technology to insure their product or service solution is found.

Has anyone on your team said: “our buyers do not use the internet”?

Have you been in a meeting where a senior leader said we do not need to invest in that social media mumbo jumbo…?

How were your sales results from your last new product launch?

Are your salespeople asking for more or less qualified leads to meet with?

Some business leaders believe because they have never had sales problems in the past they never will and this is like believing if you have never had the flu you never will. The reality is just as flu viruses change over time so too will your buyers, their buyer journey and buying criteria. One change we all must face is buyers today are using the internet more than ever before and they are leveraging social media. To immunize your sales from future sales problems you must embrace the process of understanding how your buyers buy and strategically embrace new technologies the buyers are using today.

Improve Sales; Hiring Outside Help To Work On Your Sales Process Will Not Make Your Sales Results Worse


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask business leaders why they will not hire someone to help  improve sales performance and immunize their team from future performance issues we often hear a fear that the market work will actually hurt sales and cause sales results to get sicker.

Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal will get worse by hiring an outsider to help your team is like believing if you get a flu shot, you will catch the flu….it is simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, a sales management problem, or a poor economy alone. It is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance. One that always amazes is me is leaders who chose to go it alone and actually believe working on their sales process will somehow hurt their sales.

Hiring an outsider who conducts win loss analysis will add a tremendous amount of value quickly. They will interview current customers, past customers and buyers in your market you have always wanted to sell. Their mission, if they are good is to identify the buying process, buyer journey and buying criteria your buyers  are using today. They will compare how buyers are buying and want to buy to your current sales process and identify what I call “spin cycles”. Spin cycles in the current sales process are places the sales stalls and basically spins instead of proceeding to the next step. Spin cycles are resolved by adding needed sales tools and or adjusting your current sales process steps.

If your team fails to stay current with how buyers are buying in your market your team risks contracting a disconnected market virus. The longer the virus runs in course through your team the more difficult it will be to cure. There are no quick pills, quick fixes, and without senior management support to cure this condition it can become terminal.

There is only one situation where conducting market win loss work can and often does hurt your sales is when you interview a buyer currently in the sales process. Buyers in the current sales process must not be interviewed until the sale is closed or lost.

How about your team….

Have you noticed an increase in price discounting over the last three months?

Has your sales close % decreased in the last 30 days?

Are 60% or more of your sales team missing sales plan goals?

Have you lost a key account (or two) in the last 120 days?

The above are some of the symptoms your sales and specifically your sales process are sick and your team has a disconnected market virus. There are no quick fixes for viruses but the best defense is a strong offence. A flu shot will expose your body to a very small sample of the flu and allow your body to build your immunities over time. Staying current with how your buyers are buying and the buying criteria they are using to make buying decisions is the best way to immunize your sales from experiencing poor sales results.

I would be remiss if I did not warn you that win loss analysis and working on your sales process will likely have some side affects;

  • challenge assumptions your senior leaders believed to be true and they will become uncomfortable
  • expose disconnected and dated processes
  • can cause some emotional upset when you learn lost sales were not based on price
  • may give your marketing team heartburn when you find 80% of the buying process is done before buyers call you and your current web site is invisible
  • may make you feel ill when you learn how your salespeople believe their main responsibility is to protect the fort and not help buyers buy

The side affect will pass overtime and your team will quickly become stronger and your sales results healthier as you adjust your sales process and introduce new sales tools to help your buyers buy.

Improve Sales; You Can’t Have Poor Sales Performance because of “The Economy” Alone


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask your salespeople why you will often hear them rationalize  since “the economy” is bad  their sales performance is also suffering. Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal is solely based on a “poor economy” is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu…it’s simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, or a sales management problem it is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance.

I remember my mother telling us kids that if we went to bed with a wet head we would wake up sick. So we made sure we completely dried our hair before we went to sleep each night. We believed this to be true so we took action based on that belief. The strange thing is we still got sick on occasion and on those nights we did go to sleep with a wet head, we did not wake up sick the next day. (our hair may have had a mind of its own in the morning but we were not sick) However now as a parent I find myself sharing this myth with my children as if it were true. If you look into and investigate this myth you find that is it simply not true. (Sorry mom)

What myths do you and your sales teams believe to be true but make no sense?

One way salespeople today are rationalizing poor sales performance is; the economy. Specifically they share that the economy is the reason why they are not achieving their sales goals. It’s a lot easier to blame external factors than to look inwardly. Blaming the economy is actually a sign your team lacks accountability and is identified as one of the five sales management blunders. What is scary to me is so many actually believe this to be true. Admittedly the economy has an impact on sales performance. With the economic conditions  we have been living in buyers have changed. As the leader of your business you must understand those buying process and buying criteria changes and adjust. If you do not one day you will wake up with sick sales and your lack of market knowledge will be showingthis is usually where the “sales hunter” becomes the hunted.

As a leader you must not accept your sales team feeling like victims to the economy and you must position them to becoming victors in your marketplace.

How is your team performing to goal?

Have any of your sales team shared: “The Economy” as the reason they cannot hit their sales goals?

When was the last time you went on four-legged sales calls to see for yourself?

Do you know why buyers buy from you? Why they don’t?

Are you practicing “clean sales management”?

Believing “The Economy” is the main reason your sales team is not achieving goal is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu….it is simply not true. If you want to identify the truth cancel a few meetings and get out in your market and ask some questions. After about 6-8 meetings with buyers you will identify true “why’s” that are contributing to your poor sales performance and be well on your way to creating a sales improvement roadmap that will turn around your results.

Improve Sales; How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? Not a sales training issue


It’s that time of year again…sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Everything was going along well and then all of the sudden it hits you like the flu and your sales become sick. Sales are not hitting plan and worst of all not producing the planned return on investments made to support your new sales goals. How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? That is what I plan to discuss in my next series of posts. But before we can improve your sales, we need to quash some myths that many leaders believe to be true about improving sick sales.

I went to Walgreens recently to get my annual flu shot. I interact  so many people in meetings, airplane flights and trainings I am pretty much guaranteed to bump into someone with the flu each year so I always get the flu shot. As I waited in line I heard others asking each other questions about the flu and it gave me pause. So when it was my turn to be a pin cushion I asked the pharmacist some questions about the myths I just heard in line. I thought I would be much better off getting advice from an expert than listening to the people in line sharing the myths they have heard, believe to be true, and are now sharing with others. It was no surprise to learn everything that was shared in line was not true and this reminded me of how companies also can experience the flu , particularly early each year when the new sales goals are distributed, and like those people in line they too may believe some myths they have heard over the years.

The biggest misperception about the flu is that it can be treated with antibiotics. The fundamental mistake most people make is self diagnosing symptoms as a cold and not the flu. They believe they can pop a quick pill or a series of pills and cure the symptoms. The flu is a virus and antibiotics do not cure the flu. They believe having a national sales meetings and my favorite; “sales training” to cure their sick sales results will make their poor performance go away. Fixing and improving sales not a “how–to “problem. In the Rain Group report they found 90% of sales training initiatives have no lasting impact after 120 days. In addition companies believe they are providing “sales training” but what they are actually doing is “product training”. Product training is not sales training.

What are some symptoms your sales has the flu?

  • new product sales missing plan by 30% or more
  • key sales performers leaving after last year’s bonus’s are paid
  • gross profit decrease of 3% or greater in the last 30 days
  • loss of a key account
  • 40% or more of your sales team missing sales goals
  • Your competitor launched a new product that took the market by storm

If your sales have the flu or you wish to prevent your sales from catching the flu, the first place to start is to clearly understand your market, buyers, and their buying process. Like the flu shot this process that often entails win-loss interviews with customers, past customers, and potential customers takes some time to work. This is the best way to immunize your sales team from experiencing sick sales. If you fail to understand your market, your buyers and more importantly how your product is positioned to solve buyer problems you are forcing your sales people to assume the position with buyers and this leads to sick sales performance.

Is your team experiencing sick sales performance this year?

Have you decided to have a national meeting?

Does your team experience a sales flu early each year?

Are you planning “sales training” to improve sales performance?

Trying to mprove sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away… it does not work. You may mentally and emotionally  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable much longer than they need to.