The 7 Deadly Sins of Sales Leaders

Ask any sales leader and he or she will tell you: it’s a tough job! Sales leaders must motivate their teams, stay on the forefront of sales technology and earn the trust of hundreds of prospects, all while making sure they’re generating enough revenue to support the entire business.

With so many responsibilities and so much pressure, it’s no surprise that sometimes sales leaders can miss the mark. Here are 7 deadly mistakes that can have serious long-term effects on both your team and your business as a whole – and how you can avoid them.

1. Choosing a sales platform with low adoption.

With thousands of CRM and sales software vendors on the market, choosing the right solution for your business takes time, and depending on your selection, implementing it can take even longer. What’s more, total cost of ownership for many solutions can quickly escalate to be thousands or even millions of dollars. Yet despite this level of investment, 33% of enterprises still face low CRM adoption rates!

Without reps consistently using a dedicated sales platform, data capture suffers and sales leaders can’t have true visibility into performance. To avoid this pitfall, when evaluating vendors, be sure to ask about their average user adoption rate. Search for a solution that offers features like automatic data capture, drag-and-drop UIs and email integration to inherently drive adoption by adding immediate value within the sales process.

2. Failing to define a sales process.

According to a survey by Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association, companies that define a formal sales process see 18% greater revenue growth than companies that don’t! In fact, during his fireside chat at Forecast 2016, Andreessen Horowitz Partner Mark Cranney revealed that if he were interviewing a prospective head of sales and could ask only one question, he would ask about his or her sales process.

A clearly defined sales process outlines the exact steps a rep must take to move a deal from one stage of the pipeline to the next, providing a series of consistent data points that can be measured to understand and improve performance. For example, a sales process might require reps to have an on-site meeting and receive verbal confirmation that they’ve made the short list of competitors before moving a deal from a Qualified Opportunity to a Proposal stage.

3. Missing the mark on mobile.

A recent survey by Workplace Options revealed that 65% of American workers use mobile devices as part of their job, while 59% continue to work via mobile after business hours. Think of the amount of data that is lost by reps forced to use cumbersome or read-only mobile sales applications! By not giving sales teams the ability to easily enter data in real-time, businesses run the risk of reps forgetting to enter certain information once they’re back at their desks, or entering it in a less complete and accurate way.

Surfing the net before the flight

4. Coaching via play-by-play.

Many sales leaders use their 1:1s with reps to ask for play-by-plays of their weeks, trying to get a handle on what is happening, rather than understanding why it’s happening. Not only is this a waste of time, but it also leaves little opportunity for coaching and developing strategies to address performance issues.

Instead, sales leaders should focus 1:1s on viewing sales intelligence together with reps and digging into the impact of particular factors on their performance. For example, why are leads from a particular source closing 3X faster than leads from all other sources? Why might one rep be struggling to close deals in the financial services space compared to his or her peers? Asking questions like these leads to strategies and actionable next steps reps can take.

5. Forecasting based on gut feelings.

When it comes to forecasting, or the process of predicting future sales revenue over a given period of time, many sales leaders default to relying on assumptions and gut feelings. This is hardly a measurable or scalable process, and when something doesn’t go as expected (which it inevitably will), how can you understand what to do differently next time? No wonder less than 1/3 of businesses consider their forecasts to be effective!

To accurately predict sales performance, you must consistently capture and measure sales data across key conversion points over time. This requires a scientific sales solution built with the architecture necessary to analyze millions of data points and run countless what-if scenarios in real-time.

6. Gatekeeping reports.

Traditionally, sales reporting was a meticulous, time-consuming exercise that took place in spreadsheets guarded by sales executives. However, in today’s fast-paced, data-driven market, all reps need access to real-time information to independently track progress and make more strategic decisions. Scientific sales leaders are choosing sales software that has the power to capture and process big data, provide real-time analytics and offer robust permission controls. This way, reps are able to get their hands on the reports they need when they need them!

Photograph of a farm gate at sunrise.

7. Telling reps to “work harder.”

According to the author of Cracking the Sales Management Code, Jason Jordan, “The number one metric tracked by every company is revenue. But the reality is that you can’t manage revenue.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop some sales leaders from spurring reps to “work harder” and “stay later” to hit their numbers. What they don’t realize is that, if something isn’t working, why would doing more of it work better?

As Jordan puts it, “You can’t work harder to make revenue. You have to work smarter.” This means taking a step back and measuring the key conversion points within your sales funnel across various dimensions, such as sales methodology, lead source, stage duration and more. Isolating the impact of these specific factors on your revenue goal uncovers actionable, quantifiable insights as to the steps that can be taken to improve performance.

For sales leaders, avoiding these “7 deadly sins” is critical to building a successful, data-driven sales organization. For more advice on how to improve your sales performance and processes, download our latest eBook, “From Art to Science: 5 Steps to Predictable Sales Growth.”

Related Articles

3 Sales Blind Spots You Didn’t Know You Had

Sales Management

3 Sales Blind Spots You Didn’t Know You Had

The biggest dangers for your sales team are the ones you can’t see. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists, and often identifying the issue is more than half the battle.

Rachel Serpa

Rachel Serpa

October 12, 2016

Tips to Develop a Data-Driven Sales Culture

Sales Management

Tips to Develop a Data-Driven Sales Culture

While there are many elements to successfully becoming a data-driven sales organization, one of the most important is making sure that your reps understand, experience and uphold the value of sales data.

Rachel Serpa

Rachel Serpa

May 27, 2016

Subscribe to the Baseline Blog

Be the first to hear about product updates, as well as sales, productivity and CRM strategies.