Not to be overly dramatic, but most people who find out they have caner or any terminal disease, will immediately seek a cure, take steps to change their lifestyle or habits to alter their fate. Rarely or ever would they ignore it or make changes to unrelated things as a means of healing the illness. Well, most except some VP’s of Sales or sales leaders.
You would not believe the number of these folks I meet with, who unprompted, without “probing” or cajoling, share with me their concerns about the state of their team’s pipelines, and the lack of new opportunities. When I ask what they attribute that to, they tell me:
- Their people are ineffective at prospecting
- Preferring to spend time with existing customers
- They spend all their time researching on the web and social media – very little time leveraging the research by actually putting it to good use
- Or just not wanting to do it at all
This of course leaves them in precarious position, while there may be good organic growth that they can coast on for a while, the new revenue coming in is only slightly ahead of their natural client attrition rate; leaving them only one breath away from a client leaving, and the whole year going pear shape.
You would think that once they examine and understand the symptoms, the risks and severity of the situation, they would address the cause as directly and effectively as possible. But no, the VP”s/Leaders in question, seem to feel that it is better to focus and deal with something else, some other element of sales as a means of addressing the issue. It sometimes reminds me of an old joke, where a farmer is suffering greatly with a tooth ache, as a cure, his friend and fellow farmer suggests that he drop a cement block on his toes, “Ya, you’ll forget that tooth ache in no time at all.” Now I have nothing against alternatives to main stream medical care, but even I know there are only so many toes you can break before you have to see a real doctor.
Seriously, they will deal with and change anything than what counts, i.e. their people’s ability to properly prospect. A popular favourite, probably due to visibility, is to focus on the “leads”; yup, “better leads”, or “more leads”. That’s the ticket, they are ignoring the leads they have now, or making at best a token effort, so let’s give them more to squander. A variation on the theme, “lets hire a lead gen firm.” So one company locally did that, and their reps came back:
“The leads suck”
‘The guy said he is not ready for at least six months”
How long is your sales cycle?
“About 4 months” (Data pulled from their CRM by sales ops showed just over 6 months)
But even if it was four months, seems like the right length of runway to unfold the sales properly at a relaxed pace. But it seemed the preferred method was to wait, till everyone is all over the buyer like white on rice, and then engage, just around the buyer has made their choice and is looking for pricing.
Another leader who after deciding that his people needed to prospect more regularly and do it better when they do, put the team through a presentations skills program. I guess his theory was that if any of the team ran into a prospect, (by mistake), they would be adept at presenting.
If prospecting was cancer, most people would deal with it directly, regardless of the effort required. Seems to me that having a continuously anaemic pipeline, or one full with names growing fungus like the orange we forgot in the back of the fridge, points to the fact that you have a cancer in your sales organization: deal with it, before it deals with your career.