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Root Cause Analysis For Deficient Sales

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 7/28/2015

If your company's sales are not where you want them to be, don't overthink things. Thinking about things at a rudimentary level of complexity will often let you quickly and easily see what the right answers are.

Most things in business are as simple as "buy low, sell high" -- but providers, consultants and thought leaders want you to think it's more complicated than that.

How to Fix Declining Sales

Suppose your organization isn't getting the sales it needs to be successful. If that's your situation, this article explains how to fix the problem.

I walked through this conversation with a senior executive at a company that sells enterprise technology solutions to CIOs. They weren't getting the traction they wanted, and he asked for my help. Believe it or not, this simple line of questioning brought clarity to my friend and allowed him to solve his sales problem. I used this for deficient enterprise information technology sales, but it can be used by a hot dog stand owner, a yoga studio owner, a magazine publisher or any business for that matter.

Simple Troubleshooting for Deficient Sales

The very first question to ask is: Are we having enough sales conversations?

If you are not seeing enough sales opportunities, the answer is simple. You need to focus on lead generation. You need to get more at-bats for your sales team. At this point, the questions to ask are:

  • Are our competitors getting sales opportunities? If so, how?
  • So why are we not getting sales opportunities?
  • How can we get more leads?
  • What's broken that needs to be fixed?
  • Does this problem have to do with the offering or with our sales/marketing approach?

Another scenario is that you have sales opportunities but they are not good sales opportunities. Sales reps seem busy but nothing closes. Maybe it's because the prospects don't have budget or maybe they are not really interested in your offering. In this case, the questions to ask are:

  • Why are we wasting time on low-quality opportunities?
  • How do make sure that we only sell to high-quality opportunities?
  • What's broken that needs to be fixed?
  • If we get rid of the low-quality stuff, will we have enough high-quality opportunities?

If you're still reading this article, then we haven't found your root-cause problem yet. It means you're getting enough sales opportunities with high-quality prospects, but the sales are not closing at a satisfactory rate. In this case, there are just a few more questions to ask:

  • Why are people not buying from us, even though they seem to be a good fit for us and willing to talk to our sales team?
  • Who are we losing to? Is it a competitor or is it no decision?
  • If we are losing to a competitor, why are they beating us?
  • Is the sales team doing what we expect of them? Is this just a people problem, in which we need better sales people?
  • Do we have a broken sales process? Are we selling the wrong way? Are we not communicating the right things to the prospect?
  • Is there something about our offering that is making us lose sales? Is pricing wrong? Are we missing a key feature that the market values?
  • Based on the answers above, what is broken and what needs to be fixed to increase the close rate and get our sales up to the level we want?

Wasn't That Easy?

See how easy it is to understand why you are not hitting your sales numbers.

Based on this exercise, you'll have a list of things that are broken that need to be fixed. The trick is figuring out how to fix things, but that's not all that hard either.

Prioritize your list based on the biggest bang for the buck as well as how easy the fix is. Then, wash, rinse, repeat, as they say. As you fix stuff, see if sales are improving. Go back to the questions above frequently, and see if you might have missed something or gotten something wrong.

Running a business isn't rocket science. You just have to create something people want and need, and then figure out how to get it in front of them so they can pay you money for it.

You're going to screw up, so you need to be able to survive your mistakes. Recognizing and fixing mistakes quickly ends up being the most important thing. When sales are down, that can be lethal, so jump on that one and fix it fast.

Don't let the fog of war cloud your thinking and obfuscate cause and effect. Believe me, having a successful company just requires you to do things that makes sense at a very simplistic level.

When we make it more complicated than that or lose sight of that fact, that's when we are most likely to fail.

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