We’ve seen so many operationally excellent companies that can’t operate nearly as well in the sales arena. Many are crushing it in every aspect of business except sales.

There are several reasons the sales department can be much more chaotic than the other aspects of the business.

  1. Belief that the same type systems or processes that work for other areas will work for sales. (Read All aspects of my business are running great, except sales, why?)
  2. Failing to acknowledge the reality that systems for sales are different but work just as well as operational systems.
  3. Treating sales as a people-first function instead of a process-first function. People are much harder to control than a system, yet many companies don’t invest the hard work needed to create a tight sales system and focus on sales training and accountability too early.
  4. Throwing bodies at the problem. We’ve seen many a company on the “Don’t just stand there, sell something” plan. It’s easy; you just hire someone and hope they can figure out how to navigate the obstacles and sell. It always works…a little, but never well.
  5. Sales isn’t black and white, and that makes it harder to manage. We always ask people, “If I gave you 3-1 odds on a coin flip, how much would you bet?” If they don’t say a large amount, we know they may struggle managing sales.
  6. Data, data, data. Everyone these days is overly focused on data. Sales is the least data-friendly area of a business because most measurables are quantitative, not qualitative. For instance, many companies track the number of contacts or appointments as a metric. However, weak appointments generate no sales; quality appointments do. But you can’t perfectly measure quality appointments. Companies fall two ways of thinking on this, with few in the sweet middle. Large companies tend to love quantitative data and rely too heavily on it to their detriment. Smaller companies don’t measure enough KPI data and measure the final output, sales. Sales pays the bills, but it’s not a KPI; it’s the result of KPIs that should be measured. The best companies rely on data but know that qualitative data matters as much as quantitative data in sales.
  7. Salespeople can be aggravating. Most CEOs were not professional salespeople, nor are they wired like one. This personality clash can make it hard to get the most from a sales team. CEOs throw around the term “herding cats” when describing their sales teams. When they do, we know there’s a disconnect and potential issues. Surprisingly, if CEOs get past their annoyance of the “salesperson personality,” they can see that salespeople are very predictable. They are generally self-centered, money-motivated, and individualistic. Start feeding Pavlov’s dog some pellets, and managing sales gets easier.