Five big mistakes CEOs make when attempting to manage Sales Performance

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In our business (Kiss the Fish Ltd) as sales experts we see CEOs struggling with how to drive sales performance, some manage it very well, but most do not. Here are the BIG FIVE mistakes they make when running the sales operation themselves.

  1. Fail to apply regular targets (monthly) just for the sales team members.

    Salespeople are typically more competitive than accounts staff, warehouse staff, and even marketing teams and yet often a CEO will offer a bonus for the whole business based on GP. Now there is nothing wrong with targeting people on GP and certainly nothing wrong with sharing success by paying a bonus to everyone who contributes to the business. But salespeople are a little different from others in that they are driven by ‘shiny new things’ (they are starters, not finishers, and will tire of distant opportunities) and typically, they are motivated by their competitive drivers. Both factors make it imperative that they have an immediate target to go after and preferably more than one each month to keep them on their toes. I suggest three revenue targets (if you only set one, they will stop when they hit it) – and up to three supplementary targets (GP, Market Share or even just winning several new accounts. All bonus payments should be self-amortizing so set the first target above the budgeted figure and only pay out on supplementary targets once the first revenue target has been achieved. This way the sales team will be challenged right up to the end of each month to keep selling and to deliver all they can for the business.
  2. Failure to write and distribute a sales plan for the team and for every individual in that team.

    A Sales Director should write a strategic plan and a sales manager should enable each team member to write their own set of numbers against that plan. This should be based on what is realistic and what is an improvement on previous years. Each team member should know their performance metrics – how many prospects in a pipeline are required to deliver a sale how many contacts to those prospects will deliver a meeting etc..what their conversion ratio is etc. Failure to write the plan means a team is rudderless and just operating rather than being capable of being proactive. A strategic plan should provide the confidence to sell with a powerful value proposition and a clear method and approach to the market. Without this failure is inevitable unless you are very lucky.
  3. Fail to hold the sales team to account for performance against budget.

    Once the plan is in place, a budget has been set and the figures are clear (as long as they have been intelligently set with some due diligence and not just made up by the CEO), it is easy to manage sales performance as long as they are held to account for what they do. When I worked as the Sales Director for a Plc I knew that I had to be able to present to the board why our sales performance was either above expectations or below expectations and if I couldn’t I expected to be fired. So guess what? I made sure my team had done all the activities that I knew were required for us to achieve the desired figures. Family businesses often fail to hold each other to account – they are too ‘nice’ or too soft on each other. That’s all very well but it won’t help the sales team one bit. It isn’t that you want them scared but you do want them to realise that there will be sanctions for failure to do what is promised. A sales meeting should be an accountability meeting – when a team demonstrates why it is where it is in terms of sales performance.
  4. Fail to develop the team with training and/or coaching It is relatively easy to get salespeople to do more.

    You can ask them, threaten them, encourage them, or pay them but they will do more than they have done. Humans quickly find their own comfort zone and salespeople are just humans (no they really are even though some appear to be from a different planet!). The difficult part of sales growth is not making them do more, it is enabling them to be better at selling. The art of selling is a complex mix of human interaction with a vast array of variables to understand and improve on. We are learning about neuroscience and how buyers buy all the time – so we owe it to our people to invest in them, both to motivate them and to make them better at what they do.
  5. Fail to change the culture of sales!

    This is a tough one and a big one…it is in my opinion the single biggest reason why sales teams don’t achieve the desired growth that the CEO aspires to. Culture can best be understood as ‘embedded behaviors’ and let’s face it, anything that is ‘embedded’ is by definition likely to repeat itself. If you want sales growth, you’ll need to develop the culture to be better and more customers ‘interested’. Sales success will come from more effort for sure but significant and reliable growth will only come from better sales practice. Old habits need to be swapped for new behaviors. You will need to focus on making your team more ‘customer curious’ – do that and I guarantee you will see sales growth like never before. A good sales leader knows how to transform sales culture to deliver growth constantly. This is a highly skilled role which demands a lot of experience both in the sales process and also in the management of people. If you are struggling with any of the above and want to know how to avoid the pitfalls – get in touch.

If you want to discuss this further I’m happy to offer any CEO a free consultation on the phone or on Zoom to discuss how they can hold their teams to account. My email is my personal mobile number is 07880 558000.

I would be delighted to hear from you.

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