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According to Huthwaite, over 50% of frontline sales professionals miss their quota. Whilst there’s many reasons why this is the case, including poor motivation, a lack of urgency, training gaps and insufficient management support, often the stalled sales rep is to all extents and purposes a highly skilled and motivated professional that any sales manager would be happy to have in their team.
So, why is it these reps stall? The answer is, of course, complex but in support of your own detective work, we suggest four areas for consideration to get the rep back on track and firing on all cylinders.
One of the biggest frustrations for a rep and their managers alike is the issue of the constipated sales funnel. Whilst the rep may have no problem meeting requisite activity levels and filling up their pipeline with high quality leads, for reasons they cannot immediately grasp, their prospects get stuck in the pointy end of the funnel, losing velocity at the all-important negotiation/close stage of the sales cycle. Typically, the rep and their manager have no problem seeing where their prospects are jammed up, but cannot fully grasp why their key point of contact at the prospect show no signs of moving towards signing the deal.
We suggest when this is the case that you closely examine your level of understanding of the decision-making structure within a prospect organisation to make sure all the relevant decision makers and stakeholders have been suitably engaged. In many cases, the rep simply hasn’t appreciated that more and more procurement decisions are now team-based, often involving people from a variety of areas within the target organisation and has failed to adequately scope the decision-making dynamic or pitched to enough of the appropriate individuals.
As we discussed in Sales preparation checklist – have you done your homework? speaking with the wrong person, or talking about the wrong things is one of the most common mistakes made, so we advocate consideration of the Miler Heiman approach for mapping the roles played by different members of a decision-making group as well as always engaging with more than one champion within an account.
2. Insufficient flow of new prospects into the pipeline.
Whilst a clogged funnel may be highly frustrating and ultimately the source of significant lost revenue, a more common reason sales reps stall and fail is arguably a lack of discipline and strategy when it comes to feeding new material into the top of the funnel.
At the root of a common cause of under-performance is a lack of time spent prospecting. To prevent sales stalling, the best reps understand the crucial role that systemic, ongoing prospecting plays in maintaining a healthy pipeline. They have a prospecting plan that ensures enough new prospects are added each month to reach their revenue objectives and are religious in their maintenance of their prospecting program, even adding a consistent number of new prospects to their working pool during periods when sales are well ahead of target.
3. Poor prospect qualification
Without rigorous BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) prospect qualification, a sales person is shooting in the dark and has little or no control over the outcome of their activities. When sales people fail to qualify a prospect on need they inevitably waste large chunks of time pursuing inappropriate opportunities or become guilty of closing bad deals.
Moreover, too many sales people stall because of a qualification approach in which they assume that a prospect has the same set of needs as its industry peers. In fact, as we discussed in Why Account Based Marketing should change how you do business, it is essential to view all prospects as a market of one, and irrespective of their seeming outward similarity, ensure they’re are scoped in detail for their need for your product or service.
If you are comfortable that your business is the right solution provider once a prospect has coherently answered key need qualification questions such as “What are the challenges you are struggling with?”, “What’s the source of that pain”, “Why hasn’t it been resolved already?” and “What do you think is the solution to your problem?” you stand a good chance of moving them along your pipeline. If you don’t, you’re better off stepping back. However, if the Need qualification stacks up and dovetails with the other constituents of BANT, you’re in with a genuine chance of a smooth and successful sales process.
4. Not taking the opportunity to close
With reps under constant pressure to hit their number, when times are tough it can be tempting for them to present a flush pipeline to management as an indicator of future success. Whilst a bulging pipeline might temporarily keep the sales manager off their back, it can be a sign that the rep has stalled and is becoming increasingly worried about the implications of losing deals.
Often when this is the case the rep is missing or even avoiding prime opportunities to directly ask their prospects for their business. This is a lose-lose scenario and it is essential for the stall to be arrested asap. It is at times like this that the sales manager earns their stripes. Now is the time for them to actively coach the struggling rep, directing them to bring negotiations to a head by asking outright closing questions such as “Can you see the benefit my solution can provide to your business?”, “Have I demonstrated enough value to you to win your business?”, “Is there anything that could stop this deal from happening?”.
An old adage, but one that still hold true…you don’t ask, you don’t get.