The Sales Profession Can’t Be Fixed

Apr 5, 2024 | Blog

The Sales Profession Can’t Be Fixed

Could it be that the most common problems we all see across sales organizations will never be fixed?

Today’s sales organization problems are EXACTLY the same as 1920-1960’s problems. Why haven’t we fixed any of them? I believe I now understand the heart of the reason why…and that we may never be able to fix those problems across the entire profession. 

The problem – how can we fix a profession where the causes of the problems are quite literally what systemically gets measured and rewarded in the profession? We reward the behaviors that are the problems themselves!

“Salespeople are gross and cannot be trusted”

Yup. Many still are and will be forever. Why?

Because misleading customers can often create short-term wins. Win now, and deal with the consequences later. In almost every organization, at the micro-level, the representatives themselves are incentivized and measured by their short-term performance. Quarterly targets. Compensation is based on the sale, not the long-term value. At the macro level, investors and markets are focused on short-term everything! Lie now, and deal with the ramifications later. That’s how the system is set up.

“Bad managers create mental health issues for salespeople”

Yup. Many managers continue to lead by fear and negative pressure. Why?

Because fear does motivate. If you’re in a canoe being chased by a shark, you will paddle like you’ve never paddled before. Fear and pressure create high short-term activity. As mentioned above, it creates short-term wins, which is what gets measured and rewarded.

“Spam-cannon outreach is a terrible approach”

Yup. And many will continue to use it forever. Why?

Because it’s easy and so cheap that just one response pays for it all. Send out 1M emails with a .00001 response rate, which equals 10 responses. If one win comes from those 10 responses, that’s a high ROI, which is what gets measured and rewarded.

“Less than 50% of salespeople made their quota last year”

Yup. And while maybe that percentage goes up this year, that’ll be because of the economy, not the quotas themselves. Why?

Because quotas are and will continue to be set top-down one-size-fits-all instead of territory-specific bottom-up setting like what occurred before the VC & PE world took over. 100 years ago, most organizations set territory-specific quotas based on data. They did so much more research using so much less available data than we have available today. Books were written on the subject. In the 1920s, “Sales Quota Specialist” was an actual job title. 

“We have to be buyer-centric in all we do”

“Forecast accuracy is a big problem in our organization”

Yup. And we won’t be buyer-centric anytime soon, and as a result, our forecast won’t be fixed anytime soon, either. Why?

Because all of our CRM stages and sales process stages that create the endorphins in our salespeople’s brains are based on what the seller is doing, not on where the buyer is in their process. The stages in most CRMs are Qualification, Discovery, Demo, Proposal, Close, etc., are all seller activities. So, the system focus is on what the seller is doing…

Every buyer is going through a Why Change / Why You / Why Now process. It’s not a difficult problem to fix – to create processes and forecasting stages that are based on recognizing buyer behavior instead of checking boxes on seller activities. No wonder we’re not buyer-centric when we measure and reward seller- activities. 

“We need to stop discounting so easily and so much”

Yup, but we probably won’t. Why?

A large deal at a massive discount and lower margin gets paid more than a smaller deal with no discount and a high margin. That same deal that gets the larger reward also reduces the upsell opportunity and erodes the long-term value of the account. But that’s just how it is…”bookings” or “revenue” focused compensation plans and quota attainment. Discounting wins, and will continue to win. 

This list goes on – the problems and challenges from yesteryear are the problems and challenges of today. We’ve made very little progress on any of them, and I believe it’s because the systems, measures, and reward mechanisms are the cause, not the actors within.  

Transparency fixes so many of these problems.

  • When we’re transparent with our customers and prospects, it helps the buyer predict. Buyers buy when they can predict, not when they’re convinced. The results? Faster sales cycles. Higher win rates. Working the deals you should be winning, and losing the deals you’re going to lose anyway, just faster. Making it harder for your competitors to message against you.  It creates short-term metric lifts, while also winning the long game!
  • When we negotiate transparently, confidence is contagious. It results in faster closes, less discounting, trust build at the goal line versus eroded, and more accurate forecasts. 

The problems won’t be fixed across the board in organizations. That’s an improbable outcome. But…

…you can differentiate easily in the way you sell. The organizations that win consistently and over the long-term are the ones controlling what they can control. You can fix each one of these issues – and it’s not a massive undertaking.

At least I will never stop trying to push this boulder up the mountain. 🙂

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I’m a sales keynote speaker who also teaches revenue organizations how to leverage transparency and decision science to maximize their revenue capacity. It’s what I do…teach sellers, their leaders, well…entire revenue organizations how we as human beings make decisions, then how to use that knowledge for good (not evil) in their messaging (informal and formal), negotiations, and revenue leadership. I wrote a book Book Authority listed as the 6th best sales book of all time (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦), and a second award-winning book (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳).

Reach out if you want to discuss The Transparency Sale sales methodology, or really…anything else (sales kickoffs, workshopskeynotes, the economy, history, etc.)! Email or call 847-999-0420.

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