Most companies don’t know their sales department is dead until they begin to smell the corpse and see their sales numbers fall off a cliff into Lake Competitor.

Over the years it has been my job to identify sales issues, diagnose sales health and return sales organizations to top form. As a result, I have learned where to look for the signs of decay. Here is a rough version of the roadmap I use to find the problems.

Sales Metrics

How are the Sales Managers measuring their existing sales team’s performance? More often than not, I find that the sales organization as a whole is only using one sales metric consistently, final sales numbers.

You can’t steer a dog by its tail and if you try you will eventually end up stepping in it. The same is true of the Sales department.

The final sales numbers should not be a measurement tool because it is too late at that point to do anything about it. Final sales numbers are only a gauge, measuring your sales success for one moment in time. No different than a customer survey or comment card after a sale measures overall customer service on a single sales transaction.

A good sign would be to see multiple sales metrics in place and seeing Sales Managers actually use them to manage their business. (CRM packages setup and used properly are a great source of information assuming the stored information is current, complete and accurate.)

The Sales Managers

If the metrics are out of whack or missing I look for the Sales Manager to understand how he is managing his team and how he reviews his sales pipeline.

Typically I find that a struggling sales department has a Sales Manager that is spending too much time looking at the bottom of the sales funnel or has never been trained how to measure his team’s performance.

The Forecast

The next stop is the individual forecasts of the sales team, present and past if available. I want to understand how leads are collected and the process determining how a lead is converted to an opportunity and how it moves its way through the system toward a close. I want to know what specific information a sales representative used to rank every opportunity on his or her forecast.

Usually this will tell me there is no consistent process for converting leads in place and the present standard is a combination of guess work and wishful thinking.

I also want to understand what they are selling and equally important, what they are not selling and why. This helps me understand what other departments outside of sales I need to visit.

Sales Training Process

A look at sales training is next on my list. How are the sales representatives being trained? What methodology are they using? How do they get trained on new offerings? How have they been trained to manage opportunities through the pipeline?

The Services, Support & Systems Engineers

Next I want to meet with the services manager. I want to understand how he decides what he will train his staff on, how they maintain certifications, how skill sets are allotted to the various offerings the company sells, and if there is communication with Sales to keep them in lock step with what Sales is actually selling.

The Marketing Department

The marketing department, if there is one, is next. I want to compare the message Sales is sending with the message Marketing is sending. I also want to understand how they coordinate their efforts in the end goal of bringing in more business.

C-Level Executives

I want to understand the overall company direction. What are the company objectives? What are the company commitments to vendors and distribution relationships? What is the company sales message? Etc.

Summary

Decay in a sales organization can come all the way from the top, manifested in bad policies or poor communication that puts various departments in isolated silos. From my experience it is the well connected CEO, or oddly enough the lowly Sales Manager that is in the best place to diagnose these problems internally.

In the early days I only looked at the Sales department but as I worked through the challenges I began to expand my scope because many of the problems manifesting themselves in Sales I found were created by seeming innocuous decisions made in other parts of the company.

If your sales department is inconsistent, struggling or darn near dead, look at the quality and quantity of your leads, analyze your forecast, focus on managing the top of the sales funnel and take this list and use it to find the root cause of your problem, don’t get caught up treating symptoms.

The Services, Support & Systems Engineers

Next I want to meet with the services manager. I want to understand how he decides what he will train his staff on, how they maintain certifications, how skill sets are allotted to the various offerings the company sells, and if there is communication with Sales to keep them in lock step with what Sales is actually selling.

The Marketing Department

The marketing department, if there is one, is next. I want to compare the message Sales is sending with the message Marketing is sending. I also want to understand how they coordinate their efforts in the end goal of bringing in more business.

C-Level Executives

I want to understand the overall company direction. What are the company objectives? What are the company commitments to vendors and distribution relationships? What is the company sales message? Etc.

Summary

Decay in a sales organization can come all the way from the top, manifested in bad policies or poor communication that puts various departments in isolated silos. From my experience it is the well connected CEO, or oddly enough the lowly Sales Manager that is in the best place to diagnose these problems internally.

In the early days I only looked at the Sales department but as I worked through the challenges I began to expand my scope because many of the problems manifesting themselves in Sales I found were created by seeming innocuous decisions made in other parts of the company.

If your sales department is inconsistent, struggling or darn near dead, look at the quality and quantity of your leads, analyze your forecast, focus on managing the top of the sales funnel and take this list and use it to find the root cause of your problem, don’t get caught up treating symptoms.

Val, is founder and chief Business Development Alchemist for sales consultancy AlchemyEngine, using his field tested sales experience amassed over 20+ years of developing, teaching and managing hundreds of sales professionals across a diverse set of industries.

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