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No matter how rapidly and dramatically external events may change, the top sales challenges seem to stay the same. Why aren’t salespeople and sales organizations able to make much headway in overcoming these common struggles?

It’s not for lack of activity. Training is regularly implemented. New sales techniques are tried out. The latest and greatest technology is implemented as the surefire antidote to a complex, competitive marketplace.

But the sales challenges persist. The “top 5” doesn’t budge.

In fact, the real issue is that only a few organizations have made the commitment to plan and grow the kind of positive, well-defined sales culture that will create sustainable high performance.

The Top Five Common Sales Challenges and What You Can Do To Change The Narrative

Sales Quota Achievement

 Research consistently shows that more than half of sales representatives are expected to fall short of their quota each year.

When salespeople fail to meet their sales goals, it’s the result of a series of unproductive actions occurring throughout the pipeline. Each step of the way hinges very much on what that individual rep believes is possible for them to achieve. This is why you can’t improve quota attainment just by implementing some new selling techniques or installing a better forecasting tool. Sales success is a product of both skill and will.

Sales training is important. Too often though, companies offer training that fails to acknowledge those pivotal yet hidden forces that determine success and the ability to push through the next plateau.

The fact that quota achievement rates are a continual challenge, underscores the fact that organizations need to rethink the kind of support they’re providing to their sales teams.

To achieve more, salespeople need to learn how to overcome their self-limiting beliefs. They also need sales managers who are equipped to coach them effectively in this area.

Retaining Top Performers

 Top-performing sales reps are a hot commodity in good times and in bad. Even more so in a tough economy when you need a highly engaged, purpose-driven team.

Why do people leave? The LinkedIn Talent Trends finds a discrepancy in what professionals say will cause them to change jobs versus the actual reasons they make a change. Employees may say it hinges on compensation, benefits and work/life balance, but when they actually make the change, they report that greater opportunity and better leadership were the driving forces.

Ambitious employees want to work for companies that have a strong vision and committed leadership. Companies that invest in building a customer-centric sales and coaching culture have much higher rates of employee engagement, loyalty and productivity.

They’re also more likely to attract and retain the best talent. And when employees receive effective coaching and development, they’ll achieve higher levels of performance — and the resulting increased compensation.

Sales Process Consistency

 It’s a common complaint: We’ve taught our salespeople the process and skills, but they’re still not doing it. In one study we conducted, less than 19% of companies said they believed their salespeople consistently follow the established sales process.

Well, as we often say, you can’t teach people to sell by teaching people to sell. For training and skills to turn into a way of doing business, they must be hardwired into the culture. Establishing a common language and culture around the sales process helps reinforce the importance and adherence to the process.

When it comes to sales training, this means you need to focus on aligning a salesperson’s view of selling, their values and their abilities with their belief in the product/service and a commitment to their sales activities. This kind of sales congruence not only increases process adoption, it improves performance and engagement.

Demonstrating Value

Especially in today’s highly competitive, technology-enabled world, building value for a customer isn’t about giving them information; it’s about truly understanding needs and delivering solutions. Finding out what a prospect wants and needs should precede any attempts at selling.

This means salespeople have to be good listeners who:

  • Ask the right questions
  • Understand the customer’s goals
  • Deliver value beyond the services they are selling
  • Demonstrate the uniqueness of their products and services compared to others.

If you’re among the 80% of sales organizations that are struggling with this issue, consider whether your salespeople’s attitudes and beliefs are aligned with a customer-focused strategy. That’s where demonstrating value begins.

Building Trusted Advisor Relationships

Most of us chafe at the thought of being called a “vendor” when our customers talk about us. The truth is, the distance between vendor and Trusted Partner is a long road. To be trusted advisors, your representatives must establish a trust-based relationship and be viewed as a source of valuable advice. Customers must come to believe that they understand them, they have their best interests at heart, and that they’ll treat them honestly.

Trust in sales can only be built by demonstrating trustworthiness. This is about taking a long-term perspective rather than seeing a customer as a short-term sales prospect. It requires being genuinely inquisitive and seeking to understand their realities. It’s the work that has to be done to truly understand what value looks like from their perspective. Let them know how you can support them, not just sell them something. Once you earn their trust, when price increases or other challenges come along, the conversation will be much easier.

This takes time, patience and motivation. But everyone wins when salespeople become trusted partners to their clients.

As companies continue to struggle with these same common sales challenges year after year, your organization has an opportunity to stand apart — and gain a huge competitive advantage — by taking steps to overcome them once and for all. What will you do to change the narrative before this year is out?

About the Author
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Will Milano

Chief Marketing Officer

Will has driven brand and content marketing strategies for leading professional services companies for two decades including 16 years’ experience...
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