How to Avoid the Dire Consequences of a Missed Sales Target

The day has arrived.

You’re about to report your numbers to the board. And you know you’ve missed your sales target.

You’ve either over committed and under delivered. Or under committed and over delivered. Either way, the consequences are dire – you’ll lose your customers.

Imagine this…

You weren’t able to close that final deal in time. Now you’ve missed your target by R1 000 000. The company was therefore, unable to procure enough stock to meet orders. One of your customers was left waiting longer for delivery than agreed. As a result, that customer cancelled further deals with you. 

Or this…

You brought a deal forward. And the business wasn’t able to make provision for the stock required to actually deliver on the deal. This ended up with a delay in delivery to the customer. As a result, the customer was unhappy and swore to never use your company again.

But worst of all… YOU lose your credibility!

Now you’re thinking, “How did this happen?”

Where did things go wrong?

 

A survey done by Talk Business showed that 70% of Salespeople regularly miss targets.

That’s a scary number, and one that’s probably making you question the effectiveness of your Sales team. But have you really dug into the root of the problem? Let’s look at where things might be going wrong.

 

1. Lack of alignment with Marketing.

 

The first hurdle to making your target is getting leads. Right? Wrong! The first hurdle to making your target is getting the RIGHT leads. And those leads come from Marketing.

Does this sound familiar?

Sales:

 ‘I need local leads! But all these leads are from an internet cafe in Bangalore!’

Marketing:

‘But you never said that when you briefed us! You just said you needed 150 leads by Friday. And we delivered!’

Sales and marketing alignment

2. Salespeople don’t speak the same language

 

Salespeople are optimistic by nature. Some will walk in after the first meeting with a new client bragging, “that deal is going to close. It’s going to close tomorrow. And it’s going to be huge!” But it never happens like that. Companies don’t spend millions of Rands at the drop of a hat. There are steps that must take place before a customer will spend money with you.

That’s why your sales process is vital to the success of your Sales team. If each sales opportunity is handled differently, the results are hit or miss. And if you’re not making your targets, we’re guessing it’s a miss.

 

Sales funnel

3. Your Salespeople are misleading you

 

Salespeople are naturally intuitive. That’s what makes them good at their jobs. But it also means they can get away with a lot. It’s not hard for them to buck the system. To move deals in the pipeline, or shift them out. They’ll do whatever it takes to get out of a difficult conversation.

Sales funnel

4. You don’t have actionable insights

 

Actionable insights are crucial to meeting your targets. For example, knowing how fast deals move through the sales pipeline allows you to accurately forecast when it’ll close.

According to CSO Insights, the average sales forecast accuracy is below 50%.

 

Sales Insights

How to make sure this never happens to you again.

 

1. Align Marketing and Sales Teams

 

Getting your Sales and Marketing teams working as one unit will ensure you’re handed the RIGHT leads. Giving your Salespeople a better chance at conversion. In our company, we align our Marketing and Sales teams by adopting a specific methodology. We put this into a free eBook that you can download here.

 

Aligning marketing & sales

2. Build a structured sales process

 

You want to ensure all your Salespeople are speaking the same language. So, you need a structured sales process.

Start by creating a step-by-step structure, with defined gates and stages. This will ensure your Salespeople know exactly where their deals are in the sales process. And because it’s so clear, it’s obvious what the next action is and how the deal will progress to the next stage.

Plus, now that everyone is speaking the same language (and entering data the same way) your reporting becomes accurate!

 

3. Refine your sales process

 

An important thing to remember is that the sales process isn’t static.

Keep evaluating and refining the process. This will guarantee you always have the most effective way to win new customers.

Many sales leaders fail because they don’t question. Asking simple questions like, “are we missing a stage?” or “do we have too many stages?” or “what else do we need at a certain stage?” gives you the insight needed to keep your sales process working for you.

These kinds of questions also allow you to refine your process. You never want to rush your sales process, but you want to condense it where possible.

For example, a CRM system allows you to send a quote right away. Reducing the time it takes to get the right information to your customer. Allowing them to decide sooner. Condensing the process, helping you reach your targets.

4. Encourage Salespeople to adopt the sales process

 

It’s your job as the sales leader to get buy-in and prove to your team that the sales process is going to serve them as well as the business.

Ensure your team are clear on each stage of the process and why it’s there. Show them (as simply as possible) how each stage affects their deal.

Try reinforcing the importance of the process. Tie rewards and recognition to implementing the sales process (rather than strictly to wins).

We also recommend employing a method of coaching. It’s easy for Salespeople to fall back into old habits. So, effective sales coaching is an important element of sales success. Evaluate each Salesperson’s needs and set coaching sessions accordingly. And remember to ensure they schedule customer meetings around their coaching sessions.

“You have to ensure that the learning is reinforced so Salespeople don’t forget what they learned.” – Mike Schultz (President of RAIN Group)

 

“You have to ensure that the learning is reinforced so Salespeople don’t forget what they learned.” – Mike Schultz (President of RAIN Group)

 

5. Embrace technology and Machine Learning

 

Technology is all about simplifying our lives. Take CRM systems for example. They’re designed to help you meet your targets. How? By giving you an easy way to track your pipeline, apply your process, and sell more! Yet many companies are still relying on spreadsheets to store important sales data.

Did you know? 82% of top-performing Salespeople said, sales software is “critical” to their ability to close deals.

Machine learning is the evolution of customer experience. Machines are now learning how people interact and communicate. Opening the door for Sales to take advantage of “engagement recommendations”. Enabling them to provide the most relevant information to the customer. Which will help them close deals.

How it works:

Machine learning uses data based on a customer’s preferences and social activity. With this data, Salespeople can get real insights into the best time and channel to call or visit a customer. And get suggestions on the most relevant content or offer to send to a customer.

The best part is, this isn’t some futuristic idea. Recently, Microsoft announced their plan to integrate LinkedIn data into Dynamics 365. According to Microsoft, the upgrade will help Salespeople become more efficient. Using data and insights from LinkedIn’s 500 million professionals.

Remember it’s all about the customer! So, the more you know about what your customer wants and needs, the easier it’ll be to sell to them.

Machine learning

Missed targets have dire consequences for the entire business. Whether you under delivered or over delivered, missing your target is never good.

Remember, sale targets influence forecasts. And each team in the business works off your forecast. That means that problems run downhill, and might affect customer experience.

And as the sales leader, YOU’RE the one who loses credibility!

So, look at the reasons why you’re missing your target. Where did things go wrong? The moment your sales process started? Is your process structured enough? Did you have the insights you needed?

Once you’ve unpacked the problem, use the steps discussed in this article to fix them:

  • Start by aligning your Sales and Marketing teams.
  • Build a structured process and keep refining it.
  • Encourage and coach your people to adopt the process.
  • And embrace technology and machine learning.

 

Want more sales insights? Read the second article in our Sales Series.