SOS: Common Problems of Underperforming Inside Sales Teams

Q4 is here! This means it’s the season of looking back on the past nine months to figure out what could be improved.

Everyone’s scrambling to push for stretch goals–and here you are, looking at your team’s numbers. They don’t look good.

Cue what goes through every sales manager’s head in situations like this: Where did I go wrong?

Go over these problems and see which ones are plaguing your team.

You have a team of order takers

Salespeople must prospect. There’s no way around it. If you have salespeople who don’t proactively pull up revenue from existing customers and don’t seek new business, you have a bunch of order-takers. They look like salespeople, but they don’t sell. Everyone must prospect.

On the flipside, this may be on you. There are sales superstars, but on the average, a salesperson would only prospect up to the level that their managers expect them to. Did you instill a culture of prospecting in your team? Do you feel like your lack of added revenue is not a prospecting problem but a closing problem? That is where your problem lies. You can only close sales from the prospects that come in. If you are having your team focus on closing deals from a stagnant pipeline, you have a big problem

Too much time is spent on non-selling

Your reps can only close deals on the hours they spent selling. Unfortunately, many sales rep are awful at managing their time. You, as their sales manager, need to emphasize the importance of being on the phone as much as possible. Wasted time=wasted sales.

Here are the common issues that suck time out of your rep’s day:

  • Connecting with non-decision makers
  • Focusing on administrative tasks like paperwork during prime selling hours
  • Overeager to set face-to-face meetings over small issues easily resolvable over the phone
  • Establishing too many points of contact for a single account
  • Late to arrive at work
  • Calling unqualified leads

Of course, there is no exact science to determine how many calls a rep should make in a day. A good way to keep them on the phone is to set daily goals that are realistic but challenging.

Your reps don’t follow up

This seems to be a common issue across sales organizations. Reps are afraid to annoy prospects so they don’t make follow-up calls as needed. They rely on their subjective evaluation of a sales conversation. “I don’t think they’re interested,” a rep will argue. “They didn’t follow up with us.” As the manager, you should be alarmed by this type of behavior among your reps.

Instill in them the practice of persistent follow-up. Only 2 percent of sales in B2B happen at a first meeting. If your reps are not picking up the phone and keeping constant communication with prospects, you’re losing out on sales. Every follow-up should have an ask that moves the prospect along your sales funnel.

Get to the root of why your reps are not following up–and painstakingly address them.

Reps selling to the wrong people

How well do you know your target demographic? Many businesses fail to sustain sales growth because they are selling to the wrong audience.

While this is often a problem that needs to be resolved top level, reps need to be actively qualifying their leads during sales conversations. In sales, it’s important to put the right product in front of the right people. If your salespeople are not trained to match solutions with needs, your sales force will end up wasting a lot of time.

A huge chunk of lost opportunities is a result of poor qualification on the salesperson’s part. Making more calls without making the adjustments to effectively qualify prospects is a quick way to kill the team’s productivity.

It all begins with training them to ask the right questions that will uncover a prospect’s pain points and challenges. From there, they can assess if the prospect is a good fit for your solution.

Sales manager is not visible enough

You, as the sales manager, have the same objective as the rest of the team: Get those numbers up.

You want them to score more points–but why are you in the locker room in the middle of the game? If you are not watching your players, you have no way of telling why they are losing, why they are not making the shots. Sales managers must be in the frontline with their reps.

Are you relying on their subjective reports? Of course, you should be able to trust your salespeople. However, an invisible sales manager is a clueless sales manager. Sure, you can look at the dashboards and reports–but the truth is, to be an effective manager, you need to be highly visible not only to supervise but to spot the details and nuances of your reps. This way, you can coach them better. Not knowing what happens in the actual calls renders you as effective a coach as a blog post.

Your reps let buyers take over

Do your reps freestyle their way to a sale? Holding off price conversations up until the final proposal? Not asking for referrals pre-closing? If your sales process has outlined these steps and your team members are not steering their sales conversations toward them, you have a problem.

There is a reason sales processes are widely used in sophisticated sales organizations: They work.

If for any reason your reps don’t stick with your sales process, the buyer ends up controlling them. And, as a general rule, buyers do not like being sold to. They do not trust salespeople. So the natural inclination is for buyers to bring the conversation to an early halt. This kills your team’s win rates–and deservedly so.

Get your team on the same page about the importance of sticking to the plan. The missed opportunities that stem from not following sales processes have plagued many sales organizations. You don’t want to be one of them.

List down the challenges your team is facing and bring that to your next sales meeting. Ask your reps to discuss them and then come up with solutions with you. It’s always best to involve those in the frontline by putting their problem-solving skills to work. Encourage everyone to contribute.

Take the solutions you all have agreed upon. Focus on executing them. Since they were involved in coming up with the adjustments, they also take ownership of this period of rectification.

On your next sales meeting, evaluate. Rinse. Repeat.


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Dan Sincavage

Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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