Solving sales problems is crucial to sales growth, development, and success. When there are gaps in understanding and communication, organizations suffer. Learning to create trust and make agreements that everyone keeps is essential to a close, connected relationship between management, sales, and the customer. We call fixing this: “bridging the disconnects.”
One of the major causes of disconnects is differing priorities and conflicting pressure that push people to act inappropriately.
Here are five examples of what cause disconnects in sales and what you can do to solve sales problems in your own organization.
Solving Sales Problems: Reconnect the Disconnect
1. Sales manager not in sync with the seller
If you are one of those sales managers that goes in to meet your salesperson’s prospective customer and you haven’t taken the time to understand the dynamics that have driven the relationship so far, then you’re doing everyone a disservice, including yourself. I’ve heard too many stories of regret, with many of them ending with the prospect telling the salesperson: “Thanks, but don’t bring your manager back!”
What to do?
- Take the time to ask questions such as, “What’s the customer’s behavior style? Bottom-line? Analytical? Trusting? Team player? “ For more information on determining buyer behavior, refer to our article on using assessments.
- Ask your salesperson what their goals are and align your actions to support them. This might include providing technical expertise, giving advice on moving a deal forward, or specific actions to take in face-to-face meetings or conference calls.
- If you’re doing a joint sales call, let your salesperson run the show. This is counter-intuitive for people who believe the senior person should be in charge. I think the opposite is more beneficial. Let your salesperson take center stage and give you the spotlight as needed. Doing this makes you look professional and instills confidence in the buyer.
- Be patient! Yes, everyone knows you have numbers to make, but don’t push your reps so hard that they blow deals because their customers find them too aggressive to deal with. Don’t confuse giving your seller advice about operating with a sense of urgency and treating everything like an emergency, which makes you and everyone else look desperate. Understand the realistic timing of each deal in your pipeline and adjust your coaching accordingly, so you can forecast more accurately.
2. Salesperson not reading the tea leaves
If your salesperson is going to guide you and them to communicate more effectively, make sure they understand how your buyer wants to be sold. Some want a lot of data, while others want just a picture. How much emphasis does your buyer place on trust and getting to know your seller personally? How much does he or she care more about the product, price, terms, and conditions? In other words, what are their hot buttons?
Don’t assume everyone your salespeople sell to is equally appreciative of one way of selling. The better your salespeople read their buyers, the easier it is for the manager to follow their lead, as per the topic above.
3. Customer’s agenda doesn’t get the most out of the salesperson
Many buyers don’t know how to run a productive meeting–which is key to solving sales problems. They give too much detail or not enough detail. They make it difficult for their salespeople to stay on track with what they are saying because they are too long-winded, or keep digressing. Most buyers have their guard up and to protect themselves, disclose small amounts of information because they don’t trust what the salesperson will do with this information. Many buyers want the salesperson to talk about the details of their offering right away, which doesn’t always address the buyer’s needs.
The best sales calls are run with a well-structured and well-paced agenda. This agenda starts with establishing rapport early, communicating the buyer’s (and seller’s) goals for the meeting, and discussing possible next steps if these goals are achieved. This now sets the tone for the meeting and establishes an objective.
The most important item on the agenda comes next, which is discussing the buyer’s key concerns. This is where the customer and seller’s interests connect. The customer allows the seller to ask good problem-probing questions and provides answers with pertinent information so a good proposal can be generated. Once the objectives and concerns are understood, then a discussion about the budget and decision-making process can take place. Numbers don’t have to be discussed, but enough information should be uncovered to get a sense of work scope and budget to pay for this solution. Hand in hand with this comes a discussion about decision making, which involves who is involved and how a decision is made.
The last step in the agenda involves the seller providing a response to all the information gathered, ideally in the form of a solution. If the meeting went according to plan, then the buyer should be able to give meaningful feedback on their impressions of the solution and whether or not it could be a fit for their needs.
4. Everyone not adjusting to changing conditions
When it comes to solving sales problems, failure to adjust to changing conditions can cause major disconnects. Wouldn’t it be nice if a deal progressed in a linear fashion? For example, a meeting happened, needs were clearly established, a good presentation was made, a proposal followed with a detailed scope of work, and pricing was given.
At this point all that’s left is some negotiation and a decision made to move forward. If your sellers operate with these preconceived expectations, then they are setting them and you up for frequent failure! As many of us have heard in sales: you should expect the unexpected.
I go a step further and say: “prepare for the unexpected.”
Deal conditions can change quite a lot and quite unexpectedly. Decisions get put off, prospects go radio silent, new players come out of the woodwork, etc. Anyone who has been selling a while knows this. If the manager, salesperson, and customer adapt effectively to these changing conditions, then the deal can progress, despite changing conditions.
If these three constituents all stay focused on reaching the initial and any new objectives in a consistent way, while maintaining clear and timely communication, then the odds are that this opportunity will close successfully.
5. Sales manager having their own agenda and giving bad advice
- If the manager is driven by ego, e.g. to be the hero in making the sales goal, or to be loved by their salespeople, then they are making their job too personal. By taking the attention off their own ego and on what’s needed to hit the team’s goals, then their focus is directed to unifying the salesperson and the customer’s goals. Their attention is also focused on helping the salesperson get more opportunities and on providing them the support they need to make their jobs easier to perform.
- Being driven by pressure from above, from below, or from anywhere results in cutting corners, staying anxious, poor decision-making, and burnout. The sales manager’s best resource is communication. Give and get feedback from everyone involved in making business move forward.
- Claiming superior knowledgeable means you as a manager have little to learn. Don’t rely on your knowledge and don’t wear it on your sleeve. It disempowers your sellers, who think you are out of touch. Hold back on relying on your knowledge and maintain a fresh inquisitive mindset, which will allow others to teach you, even if they have less experience than you. Speak to their bigness, not their smallness. You will be surprised at how many people will surprise you with new ideas and approaches that you may not have thought of that produce the results you and everyone wants.
Lastly, unresolved disconnects eventually catch up with you. Think about creating a process that continues to resolve disconnects and develops a culture of collaboration on your team. Solving sales problems is all about planning, focus, and strategy!