Today’s contribution to Fatal Sales Failures comes from Barbara Hauser, The Whale Hunters Certified Partner in Weston, Florida and president of Barbara Hauser Associates.
As I work with accomplished sales teams and their managers around the world, I experience a common phenomenon that I see as a fatal mistake for their organizations. I see it as the fault line in many sales cultures that runs from the top down – and it shows up like the monkeys who can see, hear and speak no evil – no offense intended.
When business is on an upward, growth curve the monkeys can’t see the things that might threaten progress. The blindness often keeps the monkeys from seeing how misguided compensation systems create competition internally and drive a wedge between departments. It also tends to hide unnecessary costs and overhead and sees competition as a nasty speck of dust on their computer screens. After all, things are good!
The monkeys are also hard of hearing during these times. They listen to the opinions they agree with and filter out what they don’t like. In some cases, they are so focused on talking and delivering the business case, they don’t even slow down long enough to give the customer a chance to get a word in edgewise. Customer complaints are just static in the background, especially towards month end, a “no” isn’t really a “no” with legitimate reasons that could guide our offers– it’s an excuse to discount deeply to show the customer that they can’t make a good decision without our help.
The monkey habit that I think makes this a fatal mistake is that while things are on a roll, there’s a tendency not to speak up on issues that need to be resolved. With an attitude of wanting “solutions, not problems,” much of the early intelligence that sellers pick up from the market never makes it as credible data and evidence onto management’s radar screen. Instead, sales strategy that pushes people to do more of the same and try harder to perform arises from the insane logic (which seems totally reasonable at the time) that sellers could produce more if they wanted to – they just don’t have the “buy-in” and “commitment” they need.
3 things that will help you avoid the monkey trap
1) Hire an outside coach or consultant to challenge you and your team’s perspectives. Find out who your best competitors are in your industry and research what they’re doing differently.
2) Put feet on the street to listen closely to current and past clients. Use the net promoter score or similar tool to rate their willingness to refer you to others. Keep your focus on creating an outstanding customer experience.
3) Train your staff continuously. One of the greatest fears any adult performer has is to admit that they don’t know how to do something. Help people feel comfortable expressing their limitations by being a good role model. Make learning a number one team priority.