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Head of learning and development, Lance Mortimer is concerned about the issues sales directors are dealing with. Mortimer advises that a research paper recently published by Silent Edge on The challenges facing sales management has shown a surprising "consensus in terms of the primary challenges that sales directors face with their sales forces".
The report revealed that only 49% of businesses are successfully closing deals. It also found that almost half of managers surveyed felt that even the deals that do close are taking too long; the sales cycle is increasing.
The ever-growing sales cycle is an acknowledged problem. Inc.com has also published similar results: in the last four years, the B2B sales cycle has almost doubled in size, ballooning from an average of six months to 12 months.
The two main challenges identified were lengthy sales cycles and pipeline mismanagement. Of the managers surveyed; 22% also cited loss of pipeline as a serious sales concern. It would be easy to dismiss these issues as just another effect of recession; consumers less eager to spend, products harder to push, but the answer may lie within the companies themselves.
By analysing the current evaluation practices and performance of sales managers, the report found several areas that could be contributing to the closing issue. Three key factors were attributed as management capability, evaluation and training.
Management capability was shown to be suffering from a lack of investment and training. Nearly half of managers that took part had received less than two days training in the last two years. The paper puts forward the view that this is a significant problem when we consider that over 80% of managers are promoted from sales positions, arguing that “great players don’t make great coaches”.
Mortimer makes an impressive case for the importance of coaching and adequate training "there are many important differences between the skills required of salepeople and managers. A good seller is often competitive and target driven, a manager must be something more; they must be a leader and increasingly, a coach, more team-focussed and person centred".
He goes on to make the implications of ignoring these facts clear "It is essential to identify whether your salespeople have the right knowledge, skills and behaviours; to provide them with the best opportunity and ability to close the pipeline. If managers do not receive the necessary training and develop coaching skills, teams may be unaware of misguided practices or necessary training that could be extending the sales cycle".
Evaluation was identified as the second most influential cause of failure to close. Mortimer is keen to express the vital nature of evaluation "without accurate knowledge of how a team is operating, and how well, decisions about talent management and recruitment cannot be made with any great judgement. To obtain this knowledge, objective evaluation measures need to be in place".
The report found that 58% of sales managers evaluate staff based solely on KPI’s and targets, a further 13% don’t use any empirical evidence to inform their staff assessments. This means that the opinion of the manager forms of the bulk of the assessment, making it both subjective and unreliable.
Mortimer outlines the clear consequences of such a system on performance management "without an objective understanding of the ability and skills gaps of staff, directors are unable to see which practices are not working and how improvement can be achieved. This can mean that practices such as mismanagement of the pipeline, continue unchecked".
The paper presents a strong argument, extoling the need for, and virtues of, effective evaluation and management skills. In his parting comments Mortimer suggests the recipe for success requires that "accurate objective evaluation be translated into effective performance measurement and analysis. Ensuring best practice techniques are maintained and skills gaps are plugged. Then you can focus on closing those deals".
For further information or to request a copy of the white paper discussed, please contact:
01892 500 812