Want to scale your B2B Sales Results? Avoid the Most Common 5 Mistakes.

Pretty much every CEO or owner of  a mid-sized B2B tech business has the vision to take the business to the next level. May it be from start-up to scale-up, or growing a mature business.

Whenever I start working with a CEO in the pursuit of scaling  sales, there seem to be some common patterns. Let’s be honest, most CEOs don’t start and grow a business because they love Sales. They do it to bring their passion, ideas and subject matter expertise to life and realise their vision to “make things better”. They go out and win the first customers, grow the business and, at a point in time, want to get out of having to close business by themselves and work more so on-the-business, rather than in-the-business. That’s when the need to build a high performing and predictable Sales Function comes to the forefront of business objectives.

There are, however, a range of common mistakes that most businesses leaders make when trying to increase sales revenue. They are costly, painful and slow-down the evolution of the business.

Here the 5 most common mistakes

  1. The hiring mistake: “To grow our business we hire Sales People with track record, they know what to do.”

It is a myth that sales success can be hired purely based on track record. Only 1 in 4 new sales hires deliver. Just because a pilot knows how to fly a commercial plane, doesn’t mean he can fly a fighter jet. The skills objectives, mindset and approaches are different. I don’t know how often I have seen the onboarding of a new Sales Person consisting of product training, an email account, and an encouraging “off you go, you know what to do”.

It takes any business time and a lot of experience to know how to successfully manage a sales process.   It is crucial to have this process articulated in a teachable and repeatable way. Include it as part of onboarding a new sales hire. This speeds up the onboarding process as well as ensuring the new hire will be successful. A thorough onboarding and 30-60-90 day ramp plan is of great value to accelerate their performance curve and saves you the mopping up after the firing 9 months later.

  1. The training mistake: “Sales training will sharpen and improve the performance of the sales team!”

One of the biggest myths is that sales is only a skill.  Even more misleading is the idea that sales people are born. Skill or talent may account for 20% of success and there are very reliable psychometric tests that can provide a very good insights in behavioural traits.

When performance is down, the worst misperception is the idea that two days of theoretical training about the latest methodology will make any lasting difference to results. Unless it is well integrated into the process and constantly coached by sales management it will be a waste of time and money. In a worst case scenario, applied the wrong way, sales “techniques” can cause more harm than good.

  1. The quota mistake: “I give my account managers a new business target.”

If you give a sales person a target, do you think they will focus on the easiest or the hardest sell? Exactly! They want to be successful and will do what’s easiest and most predictable. So ask yourself, why would an account manager with a customer base they have good relationships with and farm, choose to spend an in-proportional amount of time on hunting new business with longer sales cycles, harder competition and lower conversion rates? Not a great use of time to make the number is it?

The result is consistently the same: New business revenue stays flat and you don’t add fast enough new clients to your base. To win New Business requires focus and a certain skill set that is generally described as a “hunter”. Once new customers are welcome to the business, Account Managers have the right skills to nurture and grow them.

  1. The relationship mistake: “My products and services are good – I don’t have to worry about customer retention.”

A very, very dangerous assumption is that customer satisfaction equals loyalty. Loyalty comes only from perceived value and has not a lot to do with a high satisfaction score for fixing problems. Beyond the Customer Survey, NPS scoring has taken it to new and more realistic insights, but it is still a view in the rear vision mirror.

Equally misleading is the assumption that good customer relationships result in loyalty. Only a pro-active, consistent effort to enhance your customer’s perception of “value” is building loyalty and reduces attrition risks. Don’t forget, your customers are your competitors target market and may pay them more attention than you do !?!

Customer Satisfaction surveys are a snapshot in time. It never replaces the need to treat your customers as the crown jewels of your business and greatest, most predictable source of profit. A good question to pose is: outside of good service and support – how pro-active is your business in consistently adding value to your customer and increasing organic growth?

  1. The metric mistake: “I will manage the team better and set targets for calls, meetings and sales pipeline.”

The usage of CRM systems and pipeline spreadsheets has become increasingly the replacement for good sales management. I see Sales Managers spending more time crunching numbers, than in the field coaching and mentoring or planning the next strategic move. CRM metrics have been hailed as everything! The more the better, because they seem to provide transparency.

Command and control at its best.  If only the numbers would reflect the whole reality. If only activity targets and real time visibility would translate easily into higher performance. In principle they are great leading indicators, however they are insufficient to predict results and often cause push back from the sales team. Metric works better for transactional product selling, but definitely lack effectiveness in more complex solution selling.

And the moral of the story is:

There are no quick solutions or silver bullets when it comes to improving sales results. Unfortunately cookie cutters don’t work.  Sales is not a skill or even a process. It requires a Sales Operations Framework consisting of six interdependent building blocks: the sales model, revenue plan, structure, process, campaigns and performance management. Together, they build the foundation for robust and sustainable sales growth.


About Business Backstage:

Ursula Dauenhauer, Founder of Business Backstage, is passionate about helping medium sized B2B tech companies to scale sales and accelerate business growth. For over 15 years now, Ursula has helped business leaders to have more confidence in the pipelines, model repeatable Sales Processes and  build scalable sales operations. For an obligation free  conversation contact Ursula on 0401 147 493 or  ursula@gotomarketconsulting.com.au.