Category Archives: Sales Turnaround Ideas

Keep Your Sales Healthy – Prevention is Better Than Cure.


Prevention is better than cure.  We have to prevent falling into the “not enough leads” trap. We have to prevent losing sales through the cracks through lack of following up. We have to qualify prospects. We have to analyse account data. We have to really know our customers. We have to prevent poor customer experiences that lead to lack of repeat sales. We have to provide insights and expertise. Sales managers need to be coaching. Really basic sales stuff. Not rocket science.

There’s no getting away from preventative maintenance in sales in order to keep our sales results healthy. If we are not consistently (aka on-a-daily-basis) staying ahead of the curve in what is really just professional sales basics, we will end up in ICU trying to resuscitate old quotes and neglected accounts that are flatlining.

Hunker down. Focus on pumping up your immune system. Get back to healthy sales basics – more often than not, it will provide the cure.

Another Worthless Appointment?

Problem: Johan was sitting in traffic. Again. His mind drifted back to his last meeting which had ended rather abruptly. The client hadn’t even looked interested in his presentation or his brochures, in fact the meeting took only 10 minutes and it had taken him an hour to get there. He could tell it had been a waste of time and blamed it on the new telesales lady who had set up the appointment for him. Another dud. Oh well … he’d just pop in to see one of his regular clients for a cup of coffee on the way back so that it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.

Advice: Time to face the facts Johan: Your sales time is worth money. Your money to be precise. Why on earth are you even contemplating going on a face-to-face appointment without first knowing if it is worth your time and your effort?

Don’t blame the telesales lady – if you’re fortunate enough to have someone making calls for you, then write up a list of qualifying questions for the person to ask the lead. Make them specific to the market sector. The answers will determine if a first appointment is worth your time. If the telesales lady doesn’t have the technical skill to ask the type of questions you need answered, then make the call yourself before you confirm an appointment.

The same principal applies to just “popping in” to see clients. Again, what a waste of your time when that person is out of the office, in a meeting or busy! It’s also unprofessional. The only time you may be welcomed is if that client is also at the level where they are generally happy to waste time chatting with unexpected visitors just to pass the time of day. It’s generally not appreciated at decision-maker level. At the very least, phone ahead to ask if they can see you and have a definite objective in mind for the visit.

Result: After taking this advice, Johan now only makes quality, properly qualified face-to-face sales appointments, he closes more sales, makes more commission and is a much happier guy. He’s moved up the rankings in the sales team.

Request our free Weekly SalesBrief here – a concise read and motivational boost on a Monday morning! Also great material for a discussion point in your sales meetings.

Poor Sales: Useless Sales Reps? Useless Sales Manager or what? Time for root cause analysis!

As many companies are battling on the sales front, there’s always a tendency to immediately blame lack of sales on salespeople. “They can’t sell”, “They don’t close”, “They’re chasing unqualified opportunities”, “They aren’t seeing enough customers” are just some of the comments I hear from sales managers and business owners in general.

Yes, most definitely there may be those on your sales team who need further skills training or an attitude ‘klap’ as we say in SA. However many sales issues stem from other root causes.

Here are the three most common that I’ve come across:

1. Ineffective sales management: If the leader of the sales team doesn’t know how to recruit the right salespeople in the first place, doesn’t inspire or motivate the team, isn’t coaching the team on their areas of improvement, isn’t tracking the pipeline effectively, doesn’t hold individuals responsible for sales results, etc. etc.  this could be the start of your sales problems.

In my experience it often boils down to incompetence – there are so many sales managers out there (with no formal management qualifications, let alone formal sales management qualifications) who end up doing nothing more than put out fires all day, or sit in their offices running reports and doing admin instead of getting out there with each rep and seeing what’s happening at the coal face with their customers.

Apart from lack of sales management know-how, another issue is the management style of the team leader. I’ve previously mentioned my firsthand experience of a sales manager who,  with a hangover, boast about starting a Monday sales meeting with a snarl that he was “in the mood to fire someone today”. Then wondered why he had a constant turnover of sales staff – many of whom had stellar sales track records at other companies and were indeed the right people who should have taken their sales to new heights. He put the high turnover of sales staff down to “slim pickings” or to their inability to sell, not even his lack of ability to recruit the right sales performers. They were all to scared to confront this volatile character. Time after time within months, each person mentally disengaged and focused on finding a new job. The general consensus from those leaving was that he was umm …..  ‘a self-centered, egotistical moron’ (to put it very politely). Sadly, five years later he is still there and the cannon fodder/revolving door approach to sales recruitment continues unabated. The company still putters along, thanks to a few low-profile long-term sales stalwarts who can tolerate the abuse and negativity as they benefit financially from being able to take over the accounts of all those who come and go.

2. Poor product or service quality
Could you confidently sell a product or service with serious flaws to a customer? One that didn’t deliver on the value promise? One that could burst into flames and seriously hurt someone?  One that you already knew wouldn’t do the job? Sadly, products and services like this are sold all over the world but does that make the people selling them sales stars because they made money for themselves and for their companies at the expense of the buyer’s interests? If it does, then no wonder the business world in general has a poor image of the sales profession. No wonder there is such a trust deficit between buyer and seller these days.

3. Systemic issues at the company affecting sales performance
A top new business developer with a stellar track record came to me for guidance on how to get her manager to see that the pure volume of administrative load she was carrying was preventing her from getting out there to make enough sales to hit target. The whole sales team was battling under a mountain of contractual paperwork that kicked in once the sale had been agreed. This was a systemic or structural issue within the sales department – once we put in enough sales support and took the admin burden off their shoulders, sales went through the roof.

Ditto for when we’ve sorted out issues like effective opportunity management, put in sales processes and streamlined CRM input requirements. Sales go through the roof

My message is simple – don’t simply jump to the conclusion that it’s the sales person’s “fault” that he or she can’t hit their target and replace with another warm body. The red flag here for management is the rate of sales staff turnover. The higher it is, the longer it continues, the more likely the root cause of poor or drastically reducing sales revenue lies somewhere else.

Take a step back, apply serious root cause analysis thinking before you go after your ‘non-performers’.

By Suzanne Burgess – please sign up for my free weekly SalesBrief here – quick read on a Monday, filled with tips, ideas and sales insights. In the market for a senior sales or sales management position in Gauteng? Is your company looking for sales achievers? – then get in touch with me too!

Three Ways To Increase Your B2B Sales (and Profits)

Tough economy, yet many B2B sales teams are still doing extremely well here in South Africa. What’s their secret?

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Here are 3 ideas to help you to increase your sales:

Idea #1   Run your sales analytics for the past 5 years

Looking back in order to plan forward is a good starting point. Take a  look at your sales stats in terms of how big your customer pool is in total and what number of customers are active on average every year.  Export your accounting database (which is often a far cry from your CRM database) into Excel and look at it from all angles. Frequency of purchase, average value, size of customer spend etc etc. For example: if you have 1500 customers on your accounts base and only 250 were active in the past 12-18 months, you most likely have a goldmine of neglected, inactive customers that could be a source of new sales.  It requires poring over customer details of those inactive customers line-by-line and separating out the “once-offs” vs. potential repeat orders, but it pays  dividends once you start targeting and reactivating those accounts.


Idea #2   Thorough research your active customer accounts

Figure out what your current ‘share of wallet’ is and if/how there are other products or services to offer each active customer. You’d be surprised how many times that my clients share their frustrations about their sales reps not getting their full ‘breadth and depth’ of offerings into their customer accounts.  This needs intense interrogation of what you are (and what you’re not) selling –  but should be selling – to each and every customer you have.


Idea #3  Prepare and plan like a sales professional 

Set a ‘commitment objective’ for each and every sales interaction with a prospect or customer. One of the weakest skills sales folks have is knowing that they should be advancing a sale but not being able (or having the discipline) to implement this effectively. It’s not enough to have an objective for a meeting – (many reps don’t even get this far), you need to have a crystal clear commitment objective for every interaction with a prospect or customer i.e. What do you want THEM to commit to i.e. a first appointment, organising a meeting with their CEO, a site visit to assess your strengths, etc etc.

If you need some assistance with this, then visit for great tips on advancing the sale. They’ve also got some short YouTube videos that will seriously improve your prep skills. Winging it is not going to increase your sales, if anything you are most likely losing hundreds of thousands of rands in sales because of lack of research and preparation.

Commit to actioning at least ONE of these three ideas in the next few days – it will, without doubt, increase your sales revenue.

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