Pump it Up for Sales Performance


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Perhaps you thought I was going to write about the inflatables locations called Pump it Up, where young children go to birthday parties.  I recall that we hosted a couple of parties there when our son was small and probably attended several more for his little friends.

This is not an analogy about inflatable trampolines, but it is about the analogy between pumps and sales and for variety, it will be two separate stories instead of one culminating in pumping up sales.

The Pump Story

On one corner of our property we have a small pond with a waterfall.  It’s what one of our clients would call a water feature. Last week I reconnected the pump that sends the water to the top of the waterfall and the next morning I checked to see if everything was working properly.  It wasn’t.  Overnight, the pond lost a few inches of depth because a high pressure stream of water was escaping the pump and landing in the yard.  Initially, I thought it was a problem with my connections, but it was actually a hole in the pump itself.  The rust on the big metal pump, which looked more like a small bomb, had penetrated through to the inside and formed a nice hole for the water to escape through.  It was time to replace the pump.

Of course, the drama with the pump could have been avoided and I could have replaced and upgraded the pump from the start if I had done these five things:

  • properly evaluated its condition
  • checked to make sure it was working properly
  • considered the degree to which it underperformed last year
  • remembered that I had to intervene on a daily basis last year to keep the water flowing
  • recalled that the pump was eight years old and made from metal

The Sales Story

A client has a small sales team in the northeastern US.  Last week the CEO reconnected with the sales team to check if everyone was selling properly.  They weren’t.  The team had lost a few customers because a high pressure competitor was stealing their accounts.  He initially thought there was a problem with the connections between the sales team and its customers but it was actually a gap in the sales team’s selling skills.  The sales team was rusty, having rested on their laurels for years, and the lack of initiative to replace clients they had lost was glaring.

Of course the drama with the sales team could have been avoided and the CEO could have replaced and upgraded the team from the start if he had done these five things:

  • asked us to evaluate the sales team
  • checked the pipeline to make sure opportunities were being added
  • considered the degree to which they underperformed last year
  • remembered that he had to intervene on a daily basis last year to keep the team motivated
  • recalled that the team was getting old

The Analogy

Both stories are true on their own, but if you didn’t notice, the stories are nearly identical.  The only real difference between the two stories is the substitution of the sales team for the pump.

The analogy between the sales team and the pump is an important one. In the past thirty-four years, I have personally evaluated hundreds of sales teams and my team has evaluated hundreds more.  The sales teams came from companies of all sizes, from companies with three salespeople to companies with thousands of salespeople; from start-ups to companies more than one-hundred years old; from companies generating less than $5 million USD to multi-billion dollar enterprises; and in more than two-hundred different industries. While every sales team is unique and incredibly different, there are ten reasons for under performance that are fairly common and they include:

  • Sales Selection – sales hiring mistakes
  • Sales DNA – strengths required for sales success are weaknesses
  • Motivation – some salespeople lack the Desire and/or Commitment to improve
  • Sales Management – promotion mistakes
  • Sales Coaching – lack of and/or horribly ineffective coaching
  • Accountability – salespeople not being held accountable
  • Hunting – lack of outreach for new business due to call reluctance
  • Pipeline Velocity – opportunities not moving through the pipeline because salespeople were transactional and not consultative
  • Pricing – salespeople were not selling value so conversations were always about price
  • Roles – salespeople were not in the roles for which they were most well-suited

In addition to those ten common and generic reasons, we usually identify dozens of additional reasons, specific to a company, for the sales team’s under performance.  Most importantly, once the evaluation has been completed, and the reasons have been identified, issues can be rectified very quickly and the pipeline flows even stronger than before.

If your sales team isn’t performing as it should, let’s discuss whether it makes sense to evaluate the team and get to the bottom of the performance issue.  We can get sales pumped up pretty quickly after that!

Image copyright 123RF

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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