Summary: Sales and selling are changing. Rapidly. When sales growth slows, stalls, or falls, executives often describe the sales challenge as a “sales problem”. Using that broad term may make it harder to find, fix, and solve sales-related matters. In reality, the true causes of growth issues and sales problems are often less clear and more complex.
Selling, especially in business to business (B2B) and software as a service (SaaS), is in a cycle of rapid change. New competitors, innovation, and savvy marketing are creating new opportunities and new sales challenges. When sales results are soft, selling challenges get magnified. That makes finding the sources of problems even more difficult.
But determining the root cause of sales growth issues is hard. Despite the difficulty, a root cause analysis (RCA) is crucial to uncover the barriers of growth and performance.
Low growth or no growth is frustrating and affects many parts of a business. It lowers profits, limits investments, weakens sales culture, sand cuts your business valuation. Poor growth can also affect banking and partner relationship quality.
But high growth that is not well managed can cause problems too.
Without careful planning, high growth limits your ability to deliver quality customer service. It can also cause cash flow problems.
Aggressive growth is desirable when you manage it, instead of it managing you. It is hard work that requires deep thought, and it can create exciting new opportunities.
What to do when sales problems occur
Finding the source of sales challenges is crucial for business vitality and success.
Before assigning blame, it is worth nothing that more than one source may be at play. Moreover, any number of factors can contribute to sales problems. There can be hundreds of matters to test, and rule out. When many problems exist, uncovering sources and the root causes can be perplexing.
Let’s examine those areas, and discuss what it takes to solve them.
What Makes Solving Sales Problems so Hard?
The word sale is a simple, four-letter, one syllable word. But as you know, the overall path to get to a sale in a B2B or SaaS company is often long, complex, and can be difficult to predict. Studies show that even when selling to existing customers, 66% of customer sales cycles happen with 6 months. For new customers 66% require more than 6 month buying or sales cycles.
So when customers decision makers extend or defer their buying cycle times, “stage fright” can occurs when reviewing the data from your customer relationship management (CRM). Stages extend, quotas are missed, deals get delayed, or even lost. Those pain points drive the need to look within your selling organization to find the problem. That said, a selling organization has many moving parts to evaluate and consider.
Here are some common areas:
- Sales Teams – the size, quality, experience, skills, style, organization of sales teams
- Sales Coverage – geography, markets, segments, accounts,
- Sales Process – match, formality, criteria for each stage and step of the process, training, support, complexity, tools
- Sales Targets – qualification, competitive positioning,
- Sales Strategy – product led, service led, pricing led, technology led, quality led
- Sales Leadership – experience, focus, skillset, fit with team, fit with company, fit with scenario, technology, style
- Product or service – quality, position, reliability, reputation, solution fit, technology fit, completeness, complexity
- Pricing – structure, value, position, clarity,
- Promotion – marketing, outreach, partners, tools, methods, go to market, style, channels, tactics
- Company – market position, reputation, age, competitiveness, financial strength, leadership team, recruiting and retention strength
Is it a Sales Process Problem?
Sales process can be the cause a source of a sales problem. When a formal sales process is missing, or is poorly matched, poorly trained, or poorly enforced, your sales force may be losing sales or requiring longer sales cycles to close business. That drives up costs, and frustration.
Every salesperson has unique skills, style, and experience. A common, unified sales process helps align the sales actions and sales efforts required to pursuing and win new clients. Typical elements of B2B and SaaS sales processes often includes:
- Identifying markets and prospects
- Qualifying sales prospects for fit and readiness
- Discussing needs, problems, and requirements
- Presentations and demos
- Creating solutions and proposals
- Closing and negotiation
- “Land and expand,” finding new prospect opportunities in existing client accounts
A sales process defines, formalizes and guides these sales activities. With an effective sales process, sales leaders and executives can find common problems, and determine the leadership and development actions required to improve skills that results in sales growth and better results. While related, sales process relates to the general actions, not specific sales and selling skills.
To test if your sales problem is due to your SaaS or B2B sales process, examine what your sales leaders and sales people believe it is. If there are multiple acceptable ways to “run your process,” or if there are vast differences in sales stage times, sales cycle times, pipeline and forecast accuracy, your sales process may be a root cause.
What About Sales Leads?
First time connections with new prospects is difficult. The reasons vary. If the flow of high qualified leads into the sales organization is low, understand the reasons. If the sales team is expected to research, develop and qualify all of their own leads, that must be included into your recruitment and selection process, as well as your sales process. Tools and strategies like digital marketing and social media may help, but that must be confirmed to ensure that your prospecting methods match with the style and preference of your desired target audience.
Sales and marketing teams and functions are often at odds with each other. Ensure that pre sales teams – lead generation, marketing, PR, advertising and SDRs departments align well and genuinely complement your sales prospecting strategy. Also realize that lead gen and demand gen are related yet different activities. They are frequently treated and thought of in the same way, yet costs, times, skills and effectiveness can vary greatly.
Long Sales Cycle Times
B2B and SaaS sell and buy cycle time durations have wide variations. Generally, they are more complex than B2C and other market segments. Long sales cycles can appear to be a sales problem that is instead a customer reality.
The reason is that B2B and SaaS companies often use decision processes, tools and teams to understand, test and confirm that a low-risk, high quality fit exist before a purchase is authorized. That can, and often does stretch sales cycles.
But there are actions that sales leaders and sales teams can recognize and respond to those realities.
First, determine the conditions as to when the sales team gets actively involved. That means confirming that a company buy cycle is genuinely active. Define those conditions, and the process of a handoff to the sales team.
Second, recognize the process the client uses to assess and decide. Learning and understanding the terms, tools, teams and processes the client uses to consider and advance a potential change in process or product. Those insights can help sales teams to better understand and predict how long and complex the time and effort will be for a buy cycle – sales cycle decision to occur. That can help allocate resources and matters such as travel, sales engineering, professional services, partners, proposal teams, and legal to be prepared as a cycle moves to the next sales stage. It also helps for the management and finance teams to level set expectations for forecasting, revenue recognition, and discounting behaviors.
Prezos, Demos and Room Readiness Skills
Complex sales presentations – “pitches” and “prezos” – whether in person or via Zoom are a staple of B2B and SaaS sales organizations. But many customers and clients are less supportive, and consider these sales tools and tactics as a necessary evil.
While these skills are necessary and valued, they may not have the level of influence with customers and clients as they do with sellers and sales organizations. Many prezos and demos are long, complicated and do not clearly answer the questions that are most important to clients as they make decisions.
Do Demos and Prezos Actually Work?
Beautiful crafted, polished and well rehearsed presentation slide decks look and sound amazing. These tools, combined with content marketing efforts like white papers are useful and informative, customer decision-makers can become overwhelmed with data and underwhelmed with fit. Technology and tech related products make this facet more difficult.
When sales cycle statistics show that demos and prezos are not moving buy cycles forward with highly qualified prospective clients, it is worth looking further.
What are the room skills of your sellers? Can they read a room? How do they prepare? How do they – and you – test them to confirm they are room and audience ready? Those are easy questions to ask, yet the answers to these questions may surprise you.
How to Find, and How to Fix Sales Problems
Our services are tailored to the unique needs of B2B and SaaS firms. That is because SaaS or B2B companies are complex, and different. They have unique levers, cultures, metrics, playbooks, and terminology that require unique services.
Our services help you produce better results, and reduce the risks and challenges of change. Contact us. Let’s discuss how our services can help you. If increasing sales and reducing selling and SG&A costs is a priority for you, schedule a free 30-minute call. Let’s discuss your needs, our fit, and your goals.