Each year I contribute to the Chief Sales Officers Annual Performance Study. While they are a US domiciled organisation their survey covers most of the English speaking world. I received the annual results a couple of weeks ago and I have to say that the findings, from what are supposed to be the people leading selling around the world confuse me.

Those of you who read this newsletter regularly will know that we strongly believe that selling is a simple process, supported by strong selling skills and leadership, with the emphasis of everything we do being focused on the customer – the more company focus on the customer the better. Why, do we believe this? Because it works, it is repeatable, scalable and simple to understand, implement and manage. 

In the report it identifies a number of priorities and issues that are blockers to executing the chosen sales priority. Let me just identify a few of these as this is where my confusion starts.

 The top five priorities are:

 – Winning new accounts

 –  Sales effectiveness

 –  Increased lead generation

 – Current customer growth

 – Increase customer satisfaction/loyalty

 What this list tells is that there is insufficient focus on existing customers at a corporate and account management level. One of the points in the list below also identifies this problem. There is no doubt that one has to win new business. But why is it the top priority, especially when it is significantly more expensive and difficult than winning business in existing customers. If this is the top priority, it is no wonder that increased lead generation and improved sales effectiveness are key factors.

 The key issues and blockers are:

 – Inability to generate enough qualified sales leads

 – Difficult competitive differentiation

 – Sales times are too long

 – Close rates too low

 – Difficulty establishing Return on Investment (ROI)

 – Losing existing customers

None of these are new problems. In fact they are all long standing problems that re-occur every few years, and none should be difficult to solve. But what this list tells me is very much as above, and that Sales Leaders have probably become insular, lack business and customer knowledge and drive their organisation through the wrong metrics and/or approach. Why do I say this?
 – Losing customers is unacceptable. Most customers leave because of poor service. As I said earlier this is down to poor company focus and account management and who is responsible for account management?
 – Salespeople today have insufficient time with customers and on customer business. This contributes to the lack of account management, the inability to generate sufficient qualified leads, the inability to differentiate and to demonstrate  great  ROI. Insufficient customer knowledge is a competitive disadvantage. Who is responsible for how salespeople use their time?
 – Sales times being too long and poor closing rates are sales skills issues, and yes I am sure you know what the next question is!
I said earlier that I was confused by the report. What I should have said that I am concerned by it. The contributors are clearly identifying themselves as part of the problem. For me the solution is simple, and that is keep it simple. Warren Buffet, the sage of Omaha once said “The business schools reward complex behaviour more than simple behaviour, but simple behaviour is more effective”.