5 Reasons Sales Teams Underperform Like My Old Wiper Blades

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My windshield wipers were no longer getting the job done.  They were underperforming (leaving streaks and smudges), not clearing water from the windshield (failing to meet expectations) and I couldn't see the road properly when it was raining.  It presented a threat to our safety and an upgrade was required.  

I ordered Bosch Icon replacement blades, rated #1 by the NY Times, and after 30 minutes of unintentionally trying to put them on backwards, I finally got them installed. They were freaking awesome.  They exceeded my expectations in the rain, and last night they over performed in the snow.

The wiper blade adventure got me thinking about a few things. My car has 37,000 miles on it but the blades should have been replaced 17,000 miles ago so why did I wait so long? How is this similar to what companies go through when their sales team is underperforming?

I speak with a lot of CEOs and Sales Leaders from companies whose sales teams are underperforming.  One thing they seem to have in common is the mileage problem.  When I ask how long the sales team has been underperforming, it is usually the equivalent of 60,000 miles.  It's not a new problem, the signs have been there for YEARS but something recently changed to the extent that they couldn't tolerate it any longer.  The sales team's performance was finally presenting a threat (safety) whereby one or more of revenue, earnings, sustainability, personal income, stock prices, turnover, market share, morale and more were at risk.

What causes executives to wait so long?  Here are five potential reasons:

Hope - They hope this is the month or quarter that turns things around.  As everyone has heard by now, hope is not a strategy.

Misinformation - Their sales managers/sales leaders provide an overly optimistic narrative about how things are going.  "We have a great pipeline."  "We have some great opportunities." "Our salespeople are having some great meetings."  The keyword is great.  What makes the pipeline, opportunities, and meetings great compared to past months or quarters?

Fear - Sales are not very good right now, but what if we ask for outside help and we swing and miss?  Won't that be even worse?

Patience - They don't want to be guilty of a knee-jerk reaction so they wait a little longer.  After all, cash flow is still positive, so what's the harm in waiting?  Just another day.  Sure, another week.  Maybe another month.  Could we kick it down the road for another year?

Ego - They mistakenly believe that if they ask for help they will appear weak.  Executives don't think twice or worry about bruised egos when they need the advice of attorneys, accountants, bankers, commercial insurance agents, property managers, asset managers, wealth managers, etc.  Why does their ego start trouble when it comes to sales experts and their advice?

For every CEO and Sales Leader that do reach out, a third of them will remain in wait-and-see mode, failing to take action  commensurate with their underperforming sales team. They think that one big sale will solve their problem, but the reality is that one big sale will only further mask the problem.

A Sales Team evaluation helps executives - those who are ready and those who are hesitant - to understand why their teams are underperforming and what can be done about it.  You can learn more about a sales team evaluation here.

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