Is Your Sales Force Really That Dumb… or Are They Just Misundersood?


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Ah, that pesky sales force.  Why don’t they:

  • Follow the selling methodology you’ve developed with much expense, and rolled out with great sweat.
  • Call on more senior level buyer, for goodness sake – don’t they realize those are the people with adult money and fat wallets?
  • Just use the tools you’ve developed for them –  all they need to know has already been figured out.
  • Sell more stuff to their existing customers – with so many things to sell, how can they NOT be successful?
  • Stay on your brand message?  It’s like each rep has created their own version of the truth.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?

No matter where you sit inside your organization (executive leadership, department head, marketing, etc) you cannot help but bring a strong bias that drives your perception of the sales force.  But, is that perception a reality?

Here is a synopsis of a conversation I’ve had dozens of times with a business unit leaders or CEO’s talking about their frustration with their sales performance.


The point here is that in a lot of cases, we’ve become conditioned to just blame sales – which translates into – its the fault of the sales people, if we fix them we solve our woes.  In actuality, there are major tectonic forces at work that are fundamentally altering the role of the sales person.  In our research on buying executives, we’re told how your firm engages with them at the point of sales (through sales people) is much more a differentiator that what you actually see. 

That’s a scary thought isn’t it?

So, if you accept the notion that how you sell is becoming as (or more) important than what you sell; doesn’t it make sense then to better understand what’s really going on in the trenches?

I get to speak with hundreds of sales people every year – I’ve yet to meet one that doesn’t want to sell more of the products and services your company sells.  

So, where is the disconnect?

The simplest way I can describe this condition of the misunderstood sales force is one word – bias.  Depending on your role inside the organization, you only see a small slice of what a sales person actually has to do each day to be successful. 

  • If you are a subject-matter expert – you don’t see how much energy went in just to get the meeting with that buyer you thought the sales person was so ill prepared for.
  • If you are a trainer – you don’t see how different the conditions are in the field that the highly generalized role plays you developed with internal thought leaders.
  • If you are a product marketing manager – you don’t see how different the conversations are at various stages of the sales process; or how they change as sales people navigate to different stakeholders.
  • If you are an executive – you don’t see how many random acts of sales support are pushed onto sales, the degree those resources are disconnected, and how much confusion that creates.

The point here is that many people in the organization are projecting a tremendous amount of their perceptions onto the sales force and calling a sales problem a sales person problem. 

In reality, all of the people who provide resources for direct consumption by the sales force are part of a selling system.  In order to understand how to fix the sales productivity problem, you need to first understand the challenges faced by the tip of spear. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Scott Santucci
As a principal analyst at Forrester Research, Scott Santucci has deep knowledge and hands-on experience working cross-functionally with product, marketing, and sales teams to develop innovative and effective integrated programs designed to improve the entire revenue cycle.


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