There are a few ongoing debates around sales tactics and methods that seem to never die. Despite the growing evidence to the counter, there are sales leaders that hold onto these old tactics like a security blanket. Below are eight of these sales myths that I want to shed light on so that hopefully sales leaders can bravely address so as to provide a more productive and successful trajectory for their sales teams.
- Cookie-cutter, one-sized fits all sales metrics
The reason we measure anything is to achieve predictability in results and find opportunities for team and individual improvement. Unfortunately, when it comes to sales metrics, we often get too laser focused on the specific metric itself divorced from our overall objectives. The other mistake with management by metrics is that we tend to apply blanket goals without considering individual talents or the particular situation. Should you do 50 cold calls per day? Maybe or maybe not, but you need to test what works for your team and for members on the team and not what conventional “wisdom” tells you are the right metrics.
- Sales Development is a junior sales position
We often hear how important the first point of engagement between a prospect and the company is in determining whether that prospect eventually becomes a customer. Yet we staff our front line with the most inexperienced of staff without much more than a cursory “onboarding” and product training. We then expect Sales Development Reps to have business conversations with C-level executives. Really? We need to rethink how we deploy talent most effectively so that we are providing a superior customer experience at every point of interaction in the sales process. Instead of putting inexperienced staff immediately on the sales desk, have them train in customer support or do a rotational across different groups within the sales org or have each new rep work on a project that helps the team in some measurable way while also building experience and confidence in the new reps. This not only helps to set up your new reps for success, but gives your prospects a modicum of comfort that they are dealing with a knowledgeable and helpful professional.
- “Sales Stack” is all about technology
You may have heard that this is the year of the Sales Stack. You may also be led to believe that the sales stack means technology. That is certainly an important element, but all the technology in the world cannot help accelerate sales without even more fundamental components in place. The actual sales stack in built on a strong culture, the right talent, effective processes, and a test-oriented methodology. Once those pieces are solidified, you can then employ technology to make all the good stuff you are doing even more efficient and scalable. Let’s focus less on what technology we need and more on how we are going to achieve superior results across the other tiers of our sales stack.
- Cold calling is dead
This is like saying prospecting is dead. Do you really believe that to be true? You might not agree once you closely examine your thinning pipeline and lack of genuine opportunities. Prospecting is an absolutely necessity and a core sales skill. Prospects are not mysteriously appearing out of thin air to talk to sales reps about ready-made opportunities that simply require a warm body to close. The days of the order takers are over and it is up to sales people to find ways to engage, and that happens over the phone, email, social networks, in person, wherever you can meet your prospects. What has changed though is cold calling does not have to be “cold”. In this new age of sales, you have all the information and tools to avail yourself of in order to connect with better targeted prospects with more relevant messaging in a way that is more likely to elicit a positive response. So prospecting is not dead, what is dead is dumb, spammy, and ineffective spray and pray sales tactics.
- Inbound leads are all we need
At the low end of the B2B spectrum, that very well may be the case, where the product can be charged on a credit card. Then there are viral phenoms like Slack that have taken a market and truly do sell themselves. Everyone else needs to hit the streets and knock on doors. While content marketing is viable strategy, it takes time to generate enough pull to generate enough high quality leads. Before you can benefit from the pull of buyers finding your content, you need to create traction. That traction comes from actively prospecting into targeted markets with relevant content through various outbound strategies.
- We use Player / Coach sales managers
You are either a coach or a player. When you ask sales members to take on both responsibilities, you effectively diminish both activities. There are the rare individuals that can navigate both roles effectively, but most player/coach managers will never aspire to anything more than middling results. Why does player / coach not work in sales? Because it mixes two completely different modes of work; managers must be selfless with their time to coach reps whereas sales reps need to guard their time in order to focus on customer engagement and closing deals. Keep the two roles separate and maximize the effectiveness of your team. The best way you can ensure your sales managers are successful in leading their teams is removing the extra burden of closing deals.
- Commission is the most critical component of sales comp
It may seem blasphemous to state this, but paying commissions is not the only way to compensate sales people. We already see this in some form with compensation plans for SDR’s which are more bonus structured based on qualified leads generated and other activities. In most cases, commissions do make sense, but that does not mean you cannot experiment with other types of bonus and comp schemes. You have to evaluate what makes sense for your sales model, industry segment, and product / solution complexity. And if you truly value collaboration across your team and it is an important part of your culture, you might consider creating team oriented bonus structures instead of relying purely on individual bonuses and commissions. The point here is not to treat commissions as religion, think about intelligently deploying compensation that drives the correct behaviors and creates the right incentives for the sales team.
- Training is covered in our sales kickoff and onboarding
That is probably the case for most sales teams, but it is the flat out wrong approach. Sales training rarely gets the attention it deserves. Instead it gets relegated to bootcamps and kickoffs and onboarding activities that condense a ton of information into a couple of days or less. Most of the content in these sessions tends to revolve around product without much consideration to market trends, business issues, role plays, and core sales skills. This is not to diminish the value of product training, but the modern buyer is way more equipped. Simply pumping product knowledge without context is not going to fly when buyers expect more value from their engagement with sales. It is time to take training from the episodic to the ingrained and use active coaching to create repeatable habits across the sales team, habits that stick and get consistent results.
If you have any other sales myths you think need to be busted please do share.
Image credit: CC by Karlos Soler