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Who Prevents Successful Sales?

August 4, 2010

In an article on the BNET site, Geoffrey James seeks to identify the top 5 groups that ‘cripple sales efforts’. In fact, his article ultimately concentrates more on the attitudes and behaviors that undermine successful selling – and he is not averse to blaming the Sales organization itself for some of the failures.

James’s comments are focused on selling complex b2b solutions, which he rightly suggests require a team effort. His five ‘sources of failure’ are:

  • Double-booking: operations groups over-commit against their support capabilities
  • Finger-pointing: sales organizations destroy teamwork by looking for scapegoats, people to blame
  • Penny-pinching: finance cuts so deeply into budgets that critical travel or training for required team members is not possible
  • Stove-piping: support functions pursue functional goals without understanding their impact on generating revenue
  • Showboating: sales people treat others badly because they beleive they are the only important function

I think these are all interesting factors and I am sure many in the world of contracts and negotiations have encountered them. However, I think the most fundamental issues are missing – and ‘blame’ is therefore being allocated in the wrong places.

  • Dysfunctional measurements: executive management fails to create the right management system to encourage collaborative behaviors. Remuneration and performance systems that maybe worked well in an era of commodity sales are still being used to drive (or frustrate) complex services and solutions.
  • Dishonesty: Sales organizations like closing deals. They often like it to the point that they do not mind whether the customer’s needs have been fully understood, or the risks of non-performance adequately assessed. The attitude is ‘ we’ll worry about that later’.
  • Poor communications: customers are often their own worst enemy. They are unclear about requirements; they frustrate in-depth discussion with vendor staff; they take the view that performance is the supplier’s problem. Sales are often complicit in this because they do not want ‘tough issues’ to be raised.

The good news is that Mr James did not highlight contracting as one of the big obstacles, except perhaps in the context of stove-piping. But wouldn’t it be great if our community was in fact associated with proposing solutions to the problems, rather than being part of them? After all, we claim to be good at risk management – and what greater risk is there than having our company struggle to close revenue?

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