This is more of a rant blog post, but maybe you can relate because I bet you’ve at least once been in the same position as this.

Far too often I see intelligent and hard working sales executives turn into victims of their own employer.

What I mean by this is there are frequently fundamental competitive weaknesses with a company’s product -and then sales executives are told to sell them. If you’re a sales executive you’ll be familiar with what I’m talking about. These fundamental product weaknesses can and do prevent the sales department from selling as much as they should, and then in turn management will blame the sales executives for low sales results. From there the performance improvement plans and job threats begin in management’s relentless pursuit of the ‘high performance sales culture’.

Welcome to the corporate jungle! 🙂

Sales executives can only be successful if other departments are doing their jobs first. So if there are fundamental flaws with the product or service then the sales effort’s success will be compromised before the first sales conversation even takes place! Some of these flaws can include (but not be limited to):

Pricing: It’s nice to have a premium product but it still needs to be priced appropriately for sales to be made. I have even seen mid-market quality products and services with a top-tier price tag in a highly competitive cut throat market. Sales executives are failing yet blamed for the lack of sales problem while the Product Management department who rolled out that product is NEVER QUESTIONED! Sales management’s usual answer for this problem is to tell the sales staff to ‘sell on value (or worse yet ‘make more cold calls)’. Their attitude is “if only our sales reps could properly sell on value then our sales would improve. We need better sales reps”. In some cases they might be right, in many others they’re wrong because the competition is thumping them.

Features: I have seen Product Management roll out products that are blatantly lacking features that are being demanded in the marketplace, and/or not keeping up with the competition. Sometimes it’s a focus on a feature that the marketplace doesn’t care about. Let’s take for example Blackberry. Blackberry arguably failed to adapt with market changes and demands. A move to a virtual keyboard was seen as trying to keep up with the competition rather than keep a push-button keyboard being a sought-after differentiator.

The notion that ‘if only Blackberry’s sales force were real solution-selling sales reps then the company would be successful today’ is laughable.

If you as a sales executive are running into these problems then it’s your duty and your right to speak up and speak up loudly to your management. You need to tell them what your prospects and customers are telling you. Product Management isn’t always ‘in the know’ and rely often on elaborate research reports on what the marketplace is demanding and at what price. In their defense some of this is trial-and-error and they are working with the information they have. One of their sources of information should be the sales force. If broad and blatant messages are coming back to them repeatedly then tweaks to the products/services need to be made.

If Product Management is slow to respond or won’t respond then we can easily see who is responsible for the lack of sales problem. These types of problems exist in EVERY company to some degree. Don’t take it lying down and speak up to whomever will listen to you. Sales and Marketing needs to communicate more anyways!

This is of course if you want to keep working with your current employer. If they’re not moving fast enough and you find yourself taking the blame for a lack of sales problem then perhaps it’s time to move on…

 

One Response

  1. John

    This article is spot on. What a nightmare corporate sales has truly become. Sadly it is very hard to have the conversation with management mentioned above and often only causes you more grief. Management often tells the sales folk they are just making excuses. I have friends who tried and were shortly after told their services are no longer needed etc. One was told by the owner of the company “Don’t ever try to tell me
    how to run my company again. Your job is to sell whatever we tell you to sell and at whatever price we decide. Don’t like it, there is a door over there and a pile of resumes on my desk of people who won’t make excuses.”

    Reply

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