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March 3, 2017 // 7:30 AM

How Managers Can Solve the 3 Sales Challenges Every Business Faces

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When your sales team is still young, even relatively minor challenges can have a huge impact. After all, you don’t have much margin for error.

Fortunately, some of the most common obstacles that plague growing companies have relatively simple solutions.

I’ve identified three recurring issues and the best strategies for fixing or preventing them.

1) Your Reps Won’t Adopt New Technology

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar. You find a great new tool that’s guaranteed to make your salespeople more efficient, informed, organized, or persuasive. Even though it’s expensive, you’ll get an unbeatable return.

Or you would have -- except barely half of your team ends up using it.

Sales leaders often put too much energy into acquiring technology and not enough getting buy-in. If your reps don’t understand how an app or tool helps them specifically, they won’t adopt it.

When you set up a new system or delivers training, connect the tool’s function to its value. Does the tool shorten the sales cycle? Improve the probability of a close? Help salespeople identify best-fit leads?

It might be necessary to sell individual reps on the tool’s ROI. Before you roll out a new one, use your weekly coaching session or one-on-one to explain why that salesperson should use it.

For example, you could say, “Sarah, this past month you and I have focused on consistently following up with your prospects. We just bought a new tool that’ll make that so much easier -- it lets you create multi-part email sequences that you can schedule in advance.”

Setting clear expectations is important as well. Define the best practices for using the tool, such as, “Use this database every time you get a new contact; review your records for accuracy every month,” and so on.

If people aren’t using the tool, identify the issue. Ask the rep, “What’s preventing you from using [tool]? What can I do to help?” Then coach through the barrier.

While this approach requires time and energy, you won’t win team-wide adoption without it.

2) Your Sales Are Inconsistent

Can you predict what your monthly or quarterly sales will be? Far too many businesses see their results change without warning or clear explanation.

If you want predictable profits, first review your sales process. It’s common for companies with undefined or unclear processes to have dramatically shifting results.

Make sure every rep is following the same steps with their customers -- and that everyone agrees upon the definition of the stages.

You can identify salespeople who are “going rogue” when they’re unable to accurately forecast their deals. Perhaps one of your reps consistently tells you buyers are going to commit soon, only to have purchases drag out for multiple weeks. They’re likely taking shortcuts along the way that hold them up at the finish line; for instance, maybe they’re skipping the discovery call to “save time,” but then they wind up waiting for the appropriate decision maker to sign off.

Making special requests is also a sign. When a rep frequently gives pricing, payment, and/or implementation or delivery concessions, they’re probably rushing through the sales process and then making compromises to close.

When you notice someone deviating from the playbook, sit down with them to identify the issue. Are they skipping steps because they’re impatient? Do they struggle with a certain part of the process?

It’s possible they have a legitimate reason for going off the beaten track, so don’t automatically dismiss their answers. For example, maybe they’ve started splitting the demo into two sessions because they’ve found customers are overwhelmed by a single long call.

I recommend reviewing your sales process once a year, if not more.

3) Your Reps Are Discount-Happy

Most sales leaders wish their reps pulled the “discount” trigger less often. Rather than addressing their prospects’ concerns, salespeople often throw in additional services or drop the price. While they win the business, the company’s profits suffer.

Avoiding the discount trap requires both skill and confidence. Train your reps on resolving objections: At least once a quarter, get everyone in a room and review the most common ones they’re hearing, along with the most effective responses.

You also need to instill confidence in your product. When salespeople truly believe in the value of what they’re selling, they’re far less likely to discount. Again, hold a team-wide meeting to discuss your solution’s features and benefits. What makes it different and better than the competition? What type of returns are your clients or users seeing? Some companies bring in customers to discuss their experience, which is a great way to hammer home the impact your offering has. If you can’t bring someone in or arrange a call, read grateful customer testimonials out loud.

Account reviews are also an option. Have your reps sit down each quarter and call your customers to learn how they’re using the product and the results they’re seeing. It’s always a confidence boost to hear about the specific value your clients are getting.

In addition, reviews give your salespeople an opportunity to build a repository of success stories. When a rep needs a case study, example, or testimonial to share with a prospect, this library will be invaluable. Make sure your salespeople are documenting their customer interviews and that these are available to the team.

Using these techniques will drive down the frequency of discounting.

Don’t let these three common problems sabotage your company. A thoughtful strategy will help you overcome them -- so you can focus your efforts on the truly tricky issues.

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Topics: Sales Management

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