Cindy the salesperson was explaining to the owner of the company why the quarters sales results were 30% below the predicted forecast. “The customers keep saying our pricing is not competitive. In addition, the buyers lied and the competition convinced the buyers we have inferior offerings. It’s not my fault; I can’t control those things. Maybe our goals are unrealistic or are too aggressive?” Cindy then resorts to offering substantial discounts to her prospects but doesn’t get any more business. Ten months later the year ended with less than 20% of opportunities projected becoming clients. Cindy is now working for a new company.
Blaming external factors for a lack of success is a common sales phenomenon; funny how they never blame external factors for success. It’s always “I won the sales” and always “We lost it.” Funny how that works, isn’t it? A well-known and central tenet of Guess Free Selling is that nothing happens until someone takes personal responsibility. This death spiral is compounded when a company owner or sales management takes all of the feedback from the sales team as gospel and resists asking for confirmation of these assertions with facts or even to simply challenge the assumptions in the first place. Sales people tend to externalize The VERB in order to deal with a lack of success.
Victim (I am being taken advantage of, or Everyone is against me)
Entitlement (You owe me, or That is not my job)
Rescue (Help! I need you to help me or bail me out)
Blame (This is out of my control, or Someone is not doing their job)
Many discounts, special terms, or other offers that salespeople give away for nothing in return are cloaked in shreds of validity and reasons that are easy to accept as factual. However, this continues the dysfunctional cycle of Discounting and giving things away for nothing.
A fish stinks from the head down. Management must bring a winning mentality to the sales team. (Salespeople, listen up, too!) First, stop accepting excuses not backed by facts, and second start coaching sales people to recognize when they are using The VERB. Awareness always precedes change.
Sales leadership needs to challenge all assumptions when reviewing a salesperson’s pipeline, to ask the rep for answers to the tough questions the reps should have asked the buyers on the sales calls; not to allow sales to be forecasted without the buyer’s up front agreement a decision will be made at that time. Taking accounts off the forecast until the decision date can be confirmed by buyer conversations is the best way to enforce this behavior. In some cases you may have to make a “flip call” to confirm information directly.
This type of internal coaching empowers salespeople to be persistent of their sales calls.
If everyone is held accountable for sales success change will happen. From the CEO down, everyone should listen for The VERB and point it out when they hear it. When excuses and discounts are unacceptable there is a positive, supportive, growth-oriented environment. This attitude produces increased earnings and shorter selling cycles.