Don’t Blame Your Sales Team: Evaluate Your Process

SalesblogWith poor earning reports, executives from leading software companies quickly pointed the finger of blame at their sales teams. In the past, TIBCO reported a 50-percent drop in profit and only a 5-percent increase in revenue, falling short of the $242.3 million predicted for that quarter. The software giant quickly put its sales force to the sword, stating that the decline was due to a lackluster performance from an expanding sales team.

TIBCO followed in step behind Oracle, who also blamed its growing sales force for ongoing misses in its revenue targets. ‘What we really saw was the lack of urgency we sometimes see in a sales force, as Q3 deals fall into Q4,” Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz told analysts. “Since we’ve been adding literally thousands of new sales reps around the world, the problem was largely sales execution.”

Rounding out the group in the sales blame game is IBM. On a conference call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge said, “On the software side of the house [sales] had a very good list of deals and I think this was just pure execution. We should have closed those from a sales side.”

And while the uptake in cloud computing had a hand in the negative effect of these organizations’ top-line growth, a deeper look behind the scenes reveals several breakdowns within the sales organization. However, since execution is the key issue seen by the CFO’s quoted in this post, let’s evaluate just a few of the components that can deter a sales team from properly executing.

Sales Training is Not a One Time Event

Many organizations offer a one-off training program that provides a number of guidelines, branding statements and motivational buzz to onboard new reps before releasing them into the field. But what happens when the company makes the decision to shift its focus to a new line of products? Such was the case with Oracle when it shifted its sales focus from one product suite to another.

Proper training is key; however, when a sales force is scattered across the globe it’s nearly impossible to gather the team for a formal training session. Sending training materials via email is largely unsuccessful as there is no guarantee that a sales rep will review the material in a timely manner. Of course, that is, if the email breaks through the sales rep’s inbox clutter.

The support provided to a sales team to sell a specific product or service should receive as much focus as the company’s focus on winning the deal. In other words, a one-off training session or an email attachment will not lead to the results a team of executives expects. In fact, in a research study performed by the Chally Group, 85 percent of sales training fails to deliver a positive ROI.

One solution to this issue is to provide a mobile sales training solution. With the right platform, new training materials can be delivered in real-time to an entire sales force — no matter the team’s location. Content compliancy rules can ensure every sales rep downloads and reviews these materials while the product marketing team can send reminders about the documents in the form of push notifications.

We understand that one solution does not apply to all. But with the ability to create and deliver mobile training binders with the right collateral to match a rep’s skill level, organizations can keep an entire team on the same page.

The goal here is to place pertinent information right into the hands of your sales team, which leads right into our next point.

Provide the Right Information

Loughridge stated that the IBM sales team had a “very good list of deals.” However, we need to pose the question: How were those deals communicated to the sales team?

In large enterprises, key sales collateral is siloed, stored across unconnected document repositories organized according to the hierarchy implemented by one or another department. With so many systems and an abundance of irrelevant documents, a sales rep can spend close to 3 hours per week (according to the IDC) searching for collateral produced by another department. In other words, a sales rep can lose 144 hours or 18 days of productivity searching for the right content to send to prospects.

The truth of the matter is that not many sales reps will continue spending the time to track down materials. The pressure to sell and hit quarterly sales goals will force them to abandon their search and revert back to old collateral and selling methodologies.

Giving a sales team access to the right materials in the right format is a key to success. A sales rep can’t properly execute without the right information.

A sales enablement platform can easily span all of an organization’s document repositories and bring them into one integrated location. And by offering a mobile app connected to the platform, sales reps can easily access the right information from wherever they are.

Understand the Blocks in the Sales Process

Loughridge’s quote about the sales team not being able to execute on a list of very good deals doesn’t seem to align with a partner’s view on IBM. In an email sent to, the partner wrote, “Our competitors are able to deliver discounted proposals in hours. IBM resellers — and direct sellers for that matter — have to wait days and frequently weeks to get a price approval.”

Providing the right information or training the team was not the issue here. Instead, the partner expected a shorter sales cycle.

Multiple factors can create points of failure in the sales process, leading to the inability to execute. We only discussed two factors today but many more exist. In addition to understanding where blocks are occurring in the process, a sales platform or mobile app can help solve some of these issues and help the organization move forward with a possible solution and improve the sales team’s ability to execute.

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