Companies Surprised by Unexpected Remote Selling Challenges

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Forget Consultative Selling, Value Selling and Sales Process – the things I talk about most often.  The inability to sell that way is nothing – and I mean nothing compared with what I’m going to explain today!

For most salespeople and companies, the last three weeks has been an absolute roller coaster. Most companies expect their sales teams to be not only active, but proactive; to replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings; and to continue pipeline building so that there is business to close when we return to work.  But is that what’s happening?  In today’s article, I’ll blend my usual mix of statistics with some personal observation from the clients I have been helping for the past three weeks.  I also included three videos that I extracted from a sales training session earlier this week.  You’ll be surprised!

Yesterday, in a previously scheduled virtual training program to a global seller of test equipment, I learned that they weren’t handling the “new” objections (we’re not meeting with anyone now; we’re not spending any money now) in a way that was consistent with how I trained them to handle objections just one month ago!  This helpful one-minute video about handling these objections was extracted from the training.

I was further surprised when I asked them if they had moved their face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.  Only 3 of their 18 salespeople were doing that!  This two-minute rant about their lack of virtual meetings was also extracted from that training.

I was surprised again when I asked if they were making outgoing calls and building pipeline on deals they couldn’t close today.  Less than a third of them were doing so.  My final three-minute rant, extracted from that training, is about their lack of proactive calling.

Should I have been surprised?  Upset?

Kurlan & Associates had Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluate this company’s sales force last summer and the following bullet points are among the things we learned about their sales team that are still very relevant today:

  • Their regional sales managers weren’t coaching – ever.
  • Their sales managers weren’t holding their salespeople accountable and  83% of their salespeople were making excuses.
  • 75% of their salespeople weren’t motivated and 84% weren’t goal orientated.
  • Nearly half of their salespeople are fishermen (they won’t hunt but they’ll follow up on an inbound lead), half were potential hunters (they would hunt if someone required them to but as I mentioned above, the sales managers aren’t holding them accountable) and only one – one! was a pure hunter.
  • 75% of their salespeople had Closing as a weakness and their average score in the Closing competency was only 28!
  • Eleven out of twelve salespeople lacked commitment to achieve greater sales success
  • Half of their sales force was in the bottom 35 percentile of all salespeople
  • Only half of their salespeople were well-suited for working remotely.

Remember, these factors were discovered last summer and are still impacting their ability to get anything productive accomplished today.  In addition to these issues, they scored poorly in 9 selling Competencies other than Closing, 6 Sales DNA Competencies and 2 Will to Sell Competencies other than Commitment, Excuse Making and Motivation.  Click here if you want to see what the average scores are for nearly 2 million salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures, what they are in your industry, and what they are in your company.

Go back and review the last bullet point – suitable for working remotely.  In the old days – February 2020 – this finding only applied to salespeople who were covering a territory remotely from home office, and who worked for sales managers that didn’t closely manage them.  Today it applies to every sales person on the planet that is not being closely managed by a sales manager.  With existing salespeople it’s nice to know.  When you’re hiring new remote salespeople, it’s an important criteria of the recommendation to hire.  Under today’s conditions, it could be the most important factor aside from selling capabilities.  Three of the key attributes of working remotely are:

  • Self-Starter
  • Works independently
  • Works without supervision

I looked at the data on the most recent 61,000 employed salespeople that OMG evaluated and found that only 41% overall were suitable for working remotely. 

Sales Percentile Percent Suitable
for Remote Selling
Elite (Top 5%) 67%
Strong (Next 15%) 61%
Serviceable 51%
Weak (Bottom 50%) 33%

As you can see in the table above, even a third of the best salespeople in the world aren’t suitable for working remotely!  How will the bottom half perform?  And when two thirds of the bottom half can’t effectively work from their homes, and most industrial salespeople fall into the bottom half, they’re kind of screwed!

You can’t make a salesperson who is not well-suited for working remotely suddenly suitable.  But as with the Pandemic, you can mitigate.  Have a conversation over video three times per day instead of once per week!

These times are different enough.  You shouldn’t have any use for a salesperson who won’t double down, work twice as hard, and find business wherever they can right now.  

Comments?  Leave them here on the LinkedIn discussion.

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