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3 reasons why sales teams underperform.

Your business can be doing just about everything right, and still have trouble getting the sales it needs. When growth depends on sales, it doesn’t matter how robust your marketing plan is, how many prospects are in your database or how creative your campaigns are. As each quarter comes to a close, if your sales aren’t where you need them to be, it’s worth looking at what’s holding the sales team back.

I’ve seen three consistent reasons why the sales teams aren’t performing like their executives would like. The good news is that marketing can help address these with the right training, sales enablement tools and programs; and provide results within a relatively short period of time.

  1. Salespeople don't sell what they don’t understand.

Here are a couple scenarios where sales fall flat before any attempt at selling is even done.  Fast-growing companies are scaling their sales teams by quickly ramping up new employees. Some are using distributors to add horsepower to the sales organization, or choosing to work with channel partners to enlist the help of salespeople that aren’t direct employees. In some scenarios, new salespeople are trained by experienced people that know the business so well they forget how daunting it can be to someone hearing it for the first time. Or, the opposite may be the case if the channel partners or distributors are doing their own training. They may not have the depth of knowledge necessary to explain your value proposition in a way that makes the right impression with the new sales folks.

We conducted a research study recently for a technology company to find out what the most effective sales training materials should look like, and we repeatedly heard that the training should be simple enough that “my mother would understand it”.

When you’re training the sales team, structure a program that starts at the most basic level. Especially if you’re selling a technology product whose immediate benefits are esoteric or impossible for the average person to discern. A fundamental understanding of your business and products is essential to building up to the sophisticated knowledge you’ll need the salesperson to have in conversing with your best customers.

  1. Salespeople don’t like to feel stupid.

If your salespeople can’t answer your customer’s probing questions or explain the details of your offerings on the spot, they are likely to feel exposed and embarrassed. Our research confirmed that feeling stupid was one of the biggest fears salespeople have.

It’s worth the effort and expense to arm your team with sales tools that dispel that fear. Even after effective training, salespeople are much more comfortable asserting themselves with the right presentations, videos, demos, or whatever may help them tell the story without risking their dignity. You pay a high price to get that salesperson in a face-to-face meeting with the right prospect. Invest in the tools to make that meeting a success.

  1. Salespeople must understand how selling will benefit them.

Everyone knows that the best salespeople are highly motivated to create success as defined by the company’s sales plans and incentive models. Yet many companies don’t make the effort to construct programs that motivate them to sell what you want them to sell. This is especially true in channel sales or distributor situations. The development of a program with a big payoff at the end gives people a prize worth fighting for. Ongoing communication to support your sales team in reaching their goal can direct their focus on selling your product, rather than another company’s. Compared to other forms of marketing, this is inexpensive and measurable. You can track the effectiveness of programs designed to inform and motivate your sales team then optimize them over time to get the results you desire.

Take a look at your training, sales enablement tools and sales programs with the intent to understand how they might be improved. There is often gold in making just a few small adjustments.

This article originally appeared in the Austin Business Journal.