The change in the economic climate in the last two years has affected everyone, and one of the more dramatic effects is the cultural impact it’s had on organizations. Employees no longer feel safe, and they don’t like it. They are feeling left out, they are angry to see their friends laid off and their pay cut, and all they hear as a reason is that sales have dropped 30, 40 or 50% – and they now demand to know more! They want to know why the results are so poor. They want to know what the leadership is doing to strengthen the company, and the unified voice of many of the employees in companies we work with sounds like this, “We’re working harder than ever and we’re picking up the slack for our fallen comrades, so what is the sales department doing to save us?!”
In years past, the sales department has been the secret domain for a select few in the executive suite, and frequently the salespeople were considered the untouchables in an organization. I have said many times that the reason team members in administration, finance, production and customer service so often dislike the sales team is because sales teams are the only group in the organization who largely remain unaccountable for their actions and results. That’s changing now! The economy has forced far more accountability by the entire sales team as well as the sales manager and CEO.
I do a lot of teamwork with companies. I’ve written a book on teamwork. We do assessments on teamwork, and one of the most noticeable changes I’ve seen in teamwork recently has been the demand by production, finance and administration teams to hold the sales team more accountable for their work. Many times people feel they are losing their jobs because the sales team is not doing their job! They want to know that the sales team is doing everything they can to keep the company safe.
In working with small and middle-market businesses, I talk with a lot of CEOs and sales managers about these issues, and I’ve found six barriers that create this emotional crisis between the sales department and everyone else in the company:
- Experience – most organizations have never been through an economy like this, and it’s more problematic because often the CEOs have no background in sales, and they defer to a VP of Sales or Sales Manager to lead and direct the effort. I tell CEOs, “You are the chief sales director of your organization and must own the results; and until you do, you are at risk. The CEO must take ownership of the sales results – stop blaming the sales team regardless of your experience.
- Weak Hiring System – don’t let anyone into your sales team that is not going to improve the organization. If you don’t know how to do that, hire a consultant or someone who does.
- Lack of Accountability – where did salespeople earn the right to be unaccountable? The rest of the organization is held to a high level of accountability, and they expect the sales team to be accountable as well. If your production team, your customer service team and your finance team were not held accountable to their processes and procedures, what kind of company would you be leading? Why should salespeople be any less so?
- Ego – most sales managers and CEOs simply have a mindset that they should know how to do this without asking for help, relying on tools, or following a process they like and feel more comfortable with; after all, they think they have done it before (badly, if you measure it by the percentage of underachievers they hire – fewer than half of the last ten people hired are likely achieving at an acceptable level). If your sales manager is not asking for help, you need to find out why.
- Money – every company pays its worst performer far more than it would cost to get the right process, tools, and skills in place. Even though every hiring mistake costs as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, some companies simply don’t view those losses as line items. However, they do see the cost of assessments and consulting as line items, and mistakenly they can’t spend the money.
- Fear – fear of the unknown, of being wrong, of change, of losing control, of being criticized, and of a learning curve.
In today’s environment, the sales team must be better than it was prior to 2008, and everyone in the company should focus on that success and be held accountable … including the sales team!