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  • Tracy Ring

5 Blockers Making Things Tougher for Your Sales Reps

This past year provided significant challenges to those in sales roles. And let’s be honest, sales can be tough in the best of times, especially for leaders and managers. You don’t have just your performance to worry about but your entire team, too. Throw in a global pandemic, sweeping budget cuts, furloughs, and a business world turned upside down, and it may seem downright impossible to reach your goals. The Hubspot 2021 Sales Enablement Report confirms this, finding that 40 percent of leaders missed revenue targets this past year. 

But it’s not all bad news! The sales teams that did perform well credited: 

  • Adapting their sales models
  • Enabling their team with tools and technology
  • Using data to focus on coachable opportunities 

Additionally, the beauty of an unprecedented event (I’m sorry, I know we’re sick of that word!) that impacted the entire global business ecosystem is that we can learn a lot, fast. So using recent reports, data, and lessons learned, we’ve put together a list of five overlooked obstacles that your sales reps may face plus actionable tips to overcome them. 

1. Not Offering Real Value to Prospects and Customers

Relationship building as a part of your sales cycle is nothing groundbreaking, but the best practices on doing so do change. Creating and maintaining a relationship starts with trust and continues by being a valued partner. 

Salesforce’s State of Sales report echoes this, explaining that 86 percent of sales reps report the increased importance of long-term customer relationships. Additionally, 83 percent report increased importance of building trust before a sale, and 80 percent say trust after a sale is just as critical. In simpler terms, all signs point to trust needed throughout the customer journey. Trust is built on a symbiotic relationship. LinkedIn’s State of Sales report found that 88 percent of buyers will ultimately do business with “trusted advisors.”

Bottom line, you need to offer real value to both prospects and customers. The tricky part is what’s truly valuable is different for everyone and evolves each year. So it can’t be a cookie-cutter process. 

Start asking your team questions to ensure they know how to assist and support prospects and customers. Encourage your sales reps to get creative and focus on how they can be an asset, not just another salesperson. Their approach needs to match the climate and customer.

For example: 

  • Does your organization produce industry reports that might be helpful for customers? Take it one step further and don’t just send a download screen, pull out specific data or insights that might help prospects/customers, and email it to them directly. 
  • What digital resources can you offer? Do you have free tools, templates, or downloads? Don’t just send it and forget it. How can you ensure that the prospect/customer understands and uses those resources? 
  • Are existing customers using your product or service to their full ability? Have sales reps connect customers with your support team for routine check-ins (or, if workflow allows, let sales reps check-in themselves). A customer shouldn’t speak to you only when they have a problem. 

2. Missing out on Coaching Opportunities 

What are your team’s best assets? If “me” isn’t one of your first responses, then you’re doing something wrong. Sales leaders must consistently support, mentor, bolster, and coach their team members, especially in a remote environment. We often get so caught up in the day-to-day minutia and operations that we forget a manager’s job isn’t just to manage but to teach.

In that same Hubspot report, Suzie Andrews explained, “The single most underutilized resource in any company is the sales leader. [In] 2021. All sales leaders should align themselves to ensure they are most efficiently managing their teams. Simply said, how much time are they spending one-on-one with their reps?” 

An often overlooked strategy is simple coaching. You got to your position as a leader for a reason; you did something right, you have experience and instincts. It’s your responsibility to consistently share that with your team. Andrews mentions a few real-world suggestions to put into practice:

  • Weekly one-on-one meetings
  • Pre-call and post-call planning
  • Ad-hoc coaching
  • Roleplay

3. Forgetting the Art of Conversation  

When the pressure cooker is on, your sales reps may feel like they need to get more aggressive in their approach. However, the best relationship with any prospect or client is a real one. Real relationships start with conversations. 

Many sales reps feel they need the in-person connection to do their best work, pitch appropriately, and close deals. But, odds are, that isn’t happening anytime soon. McKinsey research shows that 70-80 percent of B2B decision makers prefer remote interactions or digital self-service. Plus, that’s old-school mentality. We can still connect and have real conversations virtually. Especially after the year that most folks had, with remote work still the norm, people crave real dialogue. 

Take a beat to remind your team of the art of conversing. Ask them to tell you about a few recent prospect meetings and check-in on whether those interactions were authentic or pushy.

Use this article as a resource to understand (and train on) the difference between conversation and hard-selling: 15 Bad Habits That Make Salespeople Seem Pushy (And How to Correct Them)

4. Neglecting Adaptability 

Adaptability is a tough soft skill to teach. Some individuals thrive on routines, established processes, metrics, and benchmarks. But a silver lining of 2020 is that we all got a crash course on being agile. Whether it was shifting all your in-person meetings to virtual, perfecting the Zoom pitch, or working with marketing to create digital assets—we all got outside our comfort zone. And that’s great because rigidity might be an obstacle your sales rep didn’t know existed. 

That same LinkedIn report backs this up, finding that 70 percent of sales managers agreed the capacity to navigate change is more important than it was five years ago. 

Use this experience as a teachable moment for your team to keep adapting. When sales reps get too comfortable in their practices, they don’t know how to pivot should they meet a roadblock. Explain how 2020 made us all think outside the box, and while the pressure might slowly decrease, we should still keep that flexible mindset to innovate and navigate. 

5. Sending out Stale Proposals

The shift to digital means you can’t send out flat, boring PDFs to close deals and expect the same results. Most companies optimized their digital experience during the past year and that applies to everything from their website and social presence right down to—you guessed it—proposals. With the increased popularity of DIY design and automation tools, there’s no reason not to include interactive elements in your forms of communication, especially when you’re showing off your product or service to a prospect.  

Qwilr’s templates and platform allow you to create dynamic and unique proposals—no design experience necessary! While you can personalize for each client, the unified workflow also ensures that your team is consistent across the board with access to the latest and greatest information to include in their pitch. 

Help Your Team Overcome Roadblocks 

Just as the sales landscape evolves, so do the barriers your team faces. Whether its a lead, prospect, or customer, reps need to play the role of counselor, rather than pushy salesperson. As their manager, your focus should be on learning and development opportunities—both formal and informal. Remember that authentic conversation drives results more than annoying touch points, especially in the digital environment. Agility will ensure that no matter the roadblock (one on this list of otherwise), your reps can pivot and adapt to find innovative new approaches. Lastly, automation tools, like proposal software, helps your team send out a polished and relevant pitch each time. 

How are you helping your team overcome new challenges?

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