6 ways your sales rep could be doing more harm than good
And how your business might be paying the price.
The most important role in any business is sales. Without someone selling it, nobody is designing it, making it or getting paid for it. Sales reps are unquestionably the lifeblood of any business. It’s not to say that everyone else in your business, regardless of their role, isn’t important, but without sales reps hitting the streets, making the calls and bringing in the bucks, everyone else might not have a job.
Like most, during the lifetime of my career, I’ve seen great sales reps and not so great ones. In fact, some people I’ve seen in sales roles were real head-scratchers as to why they even chose sales as a career path, simply because they were so bad at it and never showed improvement. Hiring the right sales rep is a topic that can fill a library on its own. There are plenty of resources that can help you find the right person for your company. But make no mistake, it does start with hiring the right person, which is something you can address in your next recruiting effort.
There are a variety of circumstances in which you might find yourself dealing with underperforming sales reps. Sometimes we hire people that work out in the beginning, but things change for one reason or another and it impacts their sales performance. Other times it’s as simple as the person hired was just not the right person for the job. Regardless of the reason, when looking at the role of a sales rep based solely on their performance, this is often cut-and-dry and you can choose to address the issue accordingly.
But what about your sales reps that do meet their numbers, and perhaps even outperform the rest of your team? Could they be holding your business back and stunting your growth? Sounds odd, right? But this situation is more common than you might expect. Believe it or not, there are performing sales reps that prevent their company from achieving greatness, and not dealing with them might cause you greater harm than good.
The self-serving opportunist will put their best interests before those of the company. If you can’t see or do anything about it when you know it is happening then you’re contributing to a dangerous problem that will cap the company’s growth potential. Here a few examples of circumstances that can have severe impacts on the growth of your business.
Sales reps camping on their accounts
In the online gaming world, the term ‘camping’ refers to players who situate themselves in overly advantageous positions and don’t move from that spot, because they are safe. In these circumstances, the other opposing players usually don’t have a chance, because campers repeatedly ambush their opponents. In most cases, camping is often synonymous with cheating.
Sales Camping is similar in that a sales rep works a limited amount of accounts that are generally responsible for 90% of their sales revenue. While that’s great for their sales, in the long term it becomes a high risk for the company if those accounts were ever to be lost. There are a variety of scenarios that could jeopardize an account, including relationships with the customer changing or falling apart, competitors gradually penetrating opportunities with your customer, and your sales rep leaving the organization and taking their customers with them, just to name a few and none of which are far-fetched. When things are going great for the company, Sales Camping goes virtually unnoticed or nobody feels the pressing need to address the issue even if it is obvious. It’s when customer purchasing slows down considerably or when unforeseen circumstances show themselves, such as layoffs, budget cuts or mergers and acquisitions, that the problem hits-hard and could have a major impact on your revenue. It’s not impossible to see your number one sales rep end up with single-digit results.
Business Owners and Sales Managers should consider implementing sales models that make it beneficial to transition top tier accounts to house accounts over a period of time, while still rewarding their reps with a lesser commission for the accounts. Models like this help keep the rep hungry and potentially adding similar new accounts to the company’s portfolio. In the long run, they can increase their earnings considerably.
Servicing instead of prospecting
Companies that spend less time overseeing their sales teams are the ones that put themselves at the greatest risk of not meeting their sales goals. Most sales reps want to make sure their customers are well taken care of, especially right after the deal has been awarded. While that’s a noble gesture any customer is sure to appreciate, spending too much time with the customer after the sale will quickly sandbag future sales opportunities. Sales managers and business owners should implement hand-off processes that give the customer the support they’re needing while allowing your sales reps to do what they do best and pursue new business. Account Managers and Project Managers are ideally the right positions for servicing customers, not Sales Reps. A process like this supports sales enablement, and the more able you make your sales team, the greater the chance you have of doubling the size of your sales and growing your company, faster.
Develop a sales model that encourages growth and new business. Consider higher commissions on initial sales and rewarding sales reps for the number of new accounts they bring to the company over a period (quarterly, yearly, etc.). Incenting sales growth will keep sales reps hungry, resulting in greater sales revenue and company growth.
Straying from the processes
Even if you only have one sales rep, it’s essential that they follow the rules, and more important, they work within the parameters you set for them within your sales process. While it’s perfectly fine for people to contribute to the improvement and evolution within any processes, the processes need to be respected. If your sales process determines that proposals of a certain amount need to be reviewed by a senior consultant or manager, then they need to respect the process. If travel budgets are set for sales reps, then they need to travel within the guidelines stipulated. If sales reps are required to use the company’s CRM, then they must stop adding new contacts and email addresses to Outlook or their Apple Address Book, or tracking their leads in spreadsheets.
Having a solid sales process is critical to your overall success. It’s a road map that both your employees and customers travel with during their business journey. While there are circumstances that can possibly require a few adjustments, any adjustments are only the exception and not the rule. A maverick sales rep who cares little for structure and doesn’t follow the rules of the organization can do more damage to your business than good. As an example, when working in a silo, tracking leads in spreadsheets while everyone else is using a CRM is undoubtedly causing the rest of the team more work, including unnecessary double-entry. An unstructured sales process will be proceeded by a broken delivery model, and each will have a negative impact on your bottom line.
Having your sales reps follow your process and procedures, while not running-off along their own path, will also set an example to the rest of the team, not to mention new hires. Cavaliers who don’t follow the rules and become obstructionist to the greater good are bound to have a negative effect on your other personnel, which is a formula for building a toxic work environment with a chaotic, cumbersome workflow.
Know how much your sales reps cost you
Sales are great. Being profitable is even better. You should always know how much your sales reps cost you. When companies hire sales consultants the expectation is that the individual will be consistently closing profitable deals. Aside from the obvious margins and markup on the sale, the cost of a sales rep and the cost they can incur throughout the sales process can exceed their profitability and in some cases add more red to their ledger than black. Line items like travel and lead services can easily add-up, especially if these types of expenses are abused, overused, or simply don’t lead to winning the sale. Just because people are busy, it doesn’t mean they are profitable or breaking even. The world is filled with busy people working for companies that are broke and in debt. Watch the costs. A good rule of thumb to live by is for every dollar you spend, sell three.
While keeping costs in-line is everyone’s job, it’s something that has to be most scrutinized within your sales force. They are the one position that comes with ad-hoc and sometimes unpredictable expenses. When you hire a sales rep with grand expectations wrapped-up in a blanket of entitlement, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on their cost vs. their performance.
They resist using a CRM
Depending on their age or technical acumen, some sales reps in your organization might not be comfortable around technology, which will be great for your progressive competition, but not so much for you. When hiring new sales reps you should quiz them on their technology comfort zone. Find out what they are used to using in their sales position, why they use it and how it’s helped them. You might even get a few pointers even if you don’t hire them. If they aren’t comfortable with using the kind of technology your business depends on and that their peers are using, then pass. While there is a reasonable amount of training that comes with every new hire, teaching life skills that include tools of their trade that they should definitely be comfortable with is not one of your educational responsibilities. As for the current sales reps who are resisting technology (and your processes), make it an ultimatum. Either way, it will become a situation that will resolve itself one way or another.
Responsible Sales Managers and Business Owners alike are always paying close attention to the sales activity within their organization. CRMs not only make this possible in real-time but they exponentially reduce the amount of time required to manage and aggregate sales data across multiple channels, not to mention all the added benefits including mobility, automation, and compatibility with other software, making the sharing and transitioning of data seamless. Sales reps who exclude themselves from contributing to your CRM data are costing your company time in data processing, more lost opportunities and revenue. When sales reps manage their own data outside your CRM, they’re withholding valuable information that your company owns, in addition to compromising customer service by neglecting to update and share client information.
Teaching old dogs new tricks all depends on the dog and the trick
Everyone is always learning on the job. Imagine the changes you’ve seen in a decade and consider the impact they might have had on companies and their employees. The straight reality is that not every employee can adopt or embrace change regardless of how amazing your training programs are. Sometimes it’s generational, sometimes it behavioral. Teaching an old dog a new trick depends on the dog and the trick, so choose who you want to invest in. Invest in employees who are invested in the company. Everyone gets a fair shot, but in the end, time is money. The longer it takes to train an employee or even worse, selling them on what they’re being trained-on, the further you are from seeing an ROI. And at some point, that becomes a negative number for your company.
Business leaders and managers set the rules. Whether it’s managing expenses, ensuring that goals are met, or keeping the company culture in check, successful businesses are run by disciplined leaders. You can have discipline and a great work environment at the same time. That’s how respect is built. It’s all about setting expectations with your employees and your teams. The more people that play by the same rules, the stronger the links in your chain. People who can’t see that or resist proven methods in your organization aren’t making you money; they’re costing you money. Tolerate that long enough and it will cost you dearly, including the potential loss of better employees who lose faith in their management’s ability to make the right personnel decisions.