Fixing Complex Sales Problems

By definition, sales campaigns for complex products targeted at large business enterprises are quite susceptible to problems. To understand this reality one need only consider that these campaigns include many steps as well as a dense set of human contacts who each need to be qualified and managed.

Problems can arise at any moment in a sales campaign for complex products. If a campaign is not carefully managed then problems can compound with the result that repair can be a very difficult task of peeling back layers of ineffective sales effort to expose “root” problems. If the sales team is new to selling complex, enterprise products, then remedies may elude sales management. The end result can be a lot of wasted time and lost opportunity.

One of my clients had a largely ineffective sales effort for a set of complex products specifically targeted to very large financial services businesses. Sales cycles were not only long, but generally unsuccessful. The task of remedying this sales problem required a review of not only the sales process, but also the product marketing process. Specifically, we found that customers and prospects did not maintain a uniform and consistent awareness of the products; in fact, several products seemed to materialize “out of nowhere.” These ethereal offerings, themselves, were legitimate root-level problems requiring swift remediation. We gave shape to the client’s product list by constructing a menu for his complex offerings. The sales team was then instructed to limit proposals to only items included on the menu, thereby giving lending real tangible shape to the client’s market message.

Problems were found within the sales process itself. For example, we discovered that sales opportunities developed around prospects that did not fit the correct profile–a potentially fatal flaw that we remedied from within the lead development process, a step before leads were released to field sales staff. Once leads were communicated to field sales staff, sales personnel neglected to play assigned roles. Qualifying product-specific technical information about the prospect was intended to be the role of industry professionals, but this important step in the prospect qualification process had been usurped by Client Relationship Managers (CRMs) who lacked the technical understanding to obtain the correct information from the prospect. Neither were these sales personnel strong enough to keep campaigns moving forward. We recast the sales roles by having the sales staff discuss the facts among themselves. With everyone aligned around a natural interest in landing sales, the teams came naturally, to a “right” conclusion. Roles were recast in a more useful manner. Sales campaigns got back on track.

Once problems are palpable they must be remedied. As already mentioned, ineffective sales campaigns can sink a business. The threat of these dangers should provide all the impetus required to stimulate a thorough review of marketing and sales and, ultimately, the implementation of an effective remedy.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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