Is Your Team’s Poor Sales Performance Embarrassing? This Might Be Why

by: Luke Kreitner July 5, 2018

You know the feeling... the quarter is closing in days, but it’s obvious that it won't end in your company’s favor. You’ve noticed that some star sales reps pull the team along, while others struggle to reach their sales goals. The pressure's on for you to investigate the embarrassing turn of events that’s led to poor sales performance. Unfortunately, you don’t know what those “events” are.

Somewhere you heard that 55% of people in sales should be doing something else. While this idea seems tempting, cycling out more than half of the team during a sales slump can’t be good for the company, right? Before passing out the proverbial pink slips, consider these six checklist items:

  1. None of your reps are trained on effective sales strategies, or the sales process.

    Sales managers praise legendary sellers, and use speeches about them to motivate their sales teams when numbers are down. Problem is, not just any sales rep will be the next David Ogilvy when provided instructions on how to be a good salesperson. Simply telling your team about that million dollar sale may motivate them for a while, but won’t help them understand how to increase sales.

    To prevent poor sales performance, sales reps need structure. Structure is a result of proper training. Without structure, sales reps could wander mindlessly through the sales funnel, annoying prospects and losing deals. So drop the speeches, the books on how to sell without ways to implement it, and check your team’s diagnostics. How sound is the team’s structure? Do they understand the sales process? If the answer to any of these questions are a resounding “no,” think about training your team the right way.

    What’s so scary about ill- or untrained sales reps? Salespeople, more than other professionals, are incorrectly perceived as a group needing motivation only. But when sales reps aren’t well-versed in your company’s products, they may mistakenly mislead prospects on product specs or pricing. Or, fail to pull in even the easiest accounts and continue down the inevitable path of poor sales performance.

    Knowledge – especially of the sales process – is power. In fact, NASP reports that sales teams that follow a specific sales process averages 33% more in revenue than teams that don’t. Whatever your untrained sales reps lack, you gain in lost revenue, referrals and reputation damage in the market.

  2. Sales goals aren’t being met because reps aren’t following up frequently enough

    If you examined the lead records of every salesperson on your team (that is, if you have a dedicated way to measure metrics and rep accountability), what would you find? Possibly a shocking statistic. According to a recent National Sales Executive Association survey, 48% of sales agents never follow up after first contact with a lead. It’s likely that your sales reps fall in line with this recent study.

    The significance of follow up and following up multiple times is this: only 10% of deals are closed on the fourth contact while 80% are closed during the fifth to 12th contact. If your sales reps aren’t even arriving at the second contact point, their chances of closing a deal are beyond slim – it’s never going to happen.

  3. There’s a lack of accountability in your sales strategies.

    A core process in sales, following up has the ability to make or break sales goals and quotas. Yet many sales teams operate on assumptions and very little hard data when it comes to lead follow up. That is, sales managers and reps alike ignore the significance of documenting steps in the sales funnel, especially reconnecting with potential clients. If you’re not documenting follow ups, there’s no way to ensure that they aren’t happening in an effective and timely fashion.

  4. They aren’t accessing the prospect data they need to succeed, causing confusion and ultimately, poor sales performance.

    If you asked your sales reps to describe the ideal target customer for your company’s product, could they? Not knowing customer demographics, much like taking an exam without going to the lecture, creates an environment where salespeople scramble for answers and are met only by uncertainty. You need your sales reps to be ahead of the curve with prospects so that they can properly engage the right prospects and close the deal with confidence.

    When sales reps are unaware of the key prospect group’s needs, they may make up for it by seeing anyone as a prospect. Your company’s products and services are unique, and selling them to large pool of unqualified leads with no need for what you sell wastes time and money. The hours spent on chasing undesirable prospects lowers the reps close rate and sales motivation, and leaves your market share open to competitors.

  5. They have either low morale or low sales motivation.

    Motivation and morale aren’t the same. As sales leadership, you can train, start incentive programs and make other moves to boost low morale and sales motivation within your team, but you cannot motivate a sales rep that lacks drive. As the head of the sales team, it’s your job to differentiate between lack of skill and lack of will.

    Low morale could kill any sales reps closing rate. When sales performance drops, sales managers should consider low morale as a reason for it. Ask yourself these three questions:

    • Does the company culture have their backs? Some companies have cultures that clash with their sales reps needs and progress. Do a gut check to make sure your company isn’t among their ranks.
    • Do sales reps receive enough performance feedback from management? Sales reps thrive on ways to improve their craft. Management can help with this by not only giving feedback, but by also employing incentive programs to reward high performers.
    • Are your marketing and sales departments aligned on their goals? When sales and marketing disconnect on sales goals and practices, sales reps may grow frustrated with the one department that they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

    Low morale may be one of the hardest occupational hazards to turn around, but it’s critical to attack it at the root. As for unmotivated sales reps, you must abide by the 20-60-20 rule.

  6. You aren’t cycling out the sales reps that consistently undershoot sales goals – your bottom 20%.

    Maybe you’ve invested in strong training programs and the creation of a defined sales process. You’ve motivated top and middle-of-the-road sellers alike, and are proud to announce that leadership supports the sales team’s efforts. The only issue? Sales performance is still low. It’s time to revisit the pink slips.

    A sales team can be divided into three groups, respectively:

    Top-performing 20% Core 60% (average peformers) Bottom 20%
    These sales reps are star performers, often exceeding sales goals. The majority of your sales team, average-performing sales reps can be motivated to improve with incentive programs. These are your chronically under-performing sales reps. Often, they drag down the entire team’s efforts.

    According to Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, it’s that bottom rung of sales reps that need to be cycled out annually to avoid poor sales performance. Whether you’re keeping them on out of fear or to pad quarterly quotas, underperforming sales reps are costly. These reps negatively impact culture, sales strategies, team goals, sales motivation and morale. As the saying goes, one bad apple ruins the whole bunch.

  7. Improve sales performance the smart way.

    When sales teams consistently underperform, uncovering the cause of the problem can feel like an uphill battle with a decidedly urgent time limit. But poor sales performance isn’t forever. Getting your team back on track may be daunting, but with a little reorganizing your team can increase sales and get back to enjoying high close rates. How? Train up sales reps, build in accountability, cycle out the bottom 20%, and consider onboarding a sales incentive program that benefits the team.


About Luke Kreitner

Luke Kreitner is the VP of Sales at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B businesses accelerate growth, increase sales, motivate channel partners and retain B2B customers.