Reading Time: 4 minutes

Unsuccessful sales organisations unwittingly continue to repeat the same behaviours, year in year out.

Whilst most CEOs are reading and learning about how to make their companies more successful, it is well worth a person’s time to stop and take a moment to consider the habits of those companies that are not as successful, so as you can avoid those same mistakes.

The sales organisation is a major contributor to the success record of a CEO. If you don’t get the top-line right then the bottom line can only stay positive for a short period in time and a failing bottom line affects profits and shareholder values.

With the daunting fact that some 78% of sales leaders fail to deliver, CEOs must ask “what are the constants that place sales leaders in that position?” Are they untrained, unmanaged, or just plain unlucky? When you look more closely at the issues you can see it is actually that they have developed bad habits. There are many lessons to be learned and warning signs to take heed of when you look inside the habits of those sales leaders that are just not delivering.

Through all the hundreds of reviews I have conducted over the years there are constants that appear that can alert you to problems ahead or maybe those problems have already arrived. If I break down to the raw facts of where the sales leaders have often failed, it can be defined as these habits. There are six key habits that hinder any sales leader’s ability to deliver a successful sales strategy.

1. They have underestimated how much the market has changed around your company and your company is now playing catch-up.
2. They are measuring the wrong indicators and are not responding quickly enough to the market changes around them.
3. They have not set or did not set enough milestones along the way within their strategy.
4. They have not re-evaluated the strategy along the way.
5. There is a lack of urgency
6. There is a lack of follow-up

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #1 – Your Playing Catch-Up
Many companies are extremely busy doing business and not looking at the business. Once the sales strategy is set down, sales leaders breathe a sigh of relief and just start charging forward. If the plan was not deep enough or sufficient information gathered to develop the plan, then most of their strategy is based on subjective or anecdotal information on the market which leaves them exposed to surprise changes in competitors, customer demands, and economies.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #2 – Measuring the Wrong Indicators
They are measuring revenue and margin as their indicators and very little else. This may sound unusual as they are both important measures but the problem is for most technical-based sales companies is that the financial results are historical and you can’t change history. The next challenge is technical based sales companies often have a sales pipeline extending some six-plus months into the future. It is full of proposals already in play that have set the pricing and offers that need to be delivered if the proposal is successful. Those pipelines may well have written the script of failure. It is hard to turn around a business that has a long pipeline of the wrong business.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #3 – The Missing Milestones
Sales leaders look at milestones typically through revenue eyes rather than looking deeper into the business to ensure the right behaviours and practices are occurring that will contribute to the milestones. They are unsure of what months one, three, five, six, etc will even look like. If they are introducing new products, opening new sales channels, then milestones become critical elements and must go well beyond the traditional revenue view.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #4 – Re-Evaluation is Lost Along the Way
Sales leaders are the best at selling themselves on their good plan or strategy. They are even better at selling those around them. Many sales leaders become so engrossed in their sales strategy and where they are heading; they don’t stop and check to see what is really happening. They fail to shift from seller mode to analysis mode. In short term sales strategies, this can be less of a problem, but in long term sales strategies surrounding new products and sales channels, this becomes a major problem. They need to be re-evaluated regularly to ensure their effectiveness in the market and how you taking them to market is also the most effective.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #5 – Lack of Urgency
The larger the organisation the more likely there is a lack of urgency. Sales leaders often ride on the wave of momentum that has been created by the longevity of the business. They have a feeling of comfort that the business will continue to flow and therefore their priority of time and action is waylaid to focus on the small items of the day to day rather than the mid-larger items that require more attention and time to complete.

Unsuccessful Sales Organisation Trait #6 – Lack of Follow-up
Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest decay points of any unsuccessful business. There is a feeling of assumption across the sales leaders that as they have asked for something to be done then it must have been done. It may well be that is their own personal work ethic but it is certainly not the ethic of those working around them. What is not follow-up upon is most likely not going to be completed.

These simple habits can have catastrophic impacts on companies over a sustained period of time. These habits are all that are referred to as ‘slow burners’. Meaning they will not stand out major problems at the time but as evidence, over time and in hindsight you will look back and see their presence caused the slow decline of the sales organisation. Your company may already be in a state of decline without you really pinpointing the contributing factors.

You may have seen other habits that you would like to add to this, we would be interested in your comments.

If you are concerned over your sales organisations ability to deliver, then contact us to discuss your business and how we can review your sales organisation and its execution process and put in place the right disciplines to ensure your sales leader delivers.  Contact our office to discuss your specific business requirements.

If you found this article helpful, follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to Our Insights on the right-hand column of this page, to make sure you don’t miss new posts.

© 2012 Sales Focus Advisory All rights reserved.