Monthly Archives: June 2018

The 3 most common causes of sales engine failure

The 3 most common causes of sales engine failure…

Much like an engine is part of an overall system (electrical, cooling, fuel, etc.), so is sales part of a larger system (marketing, operations, finance, etc.).

And just like the engine in a car, if sales performance is broken, the whole system is affected.

Unfortunately, many people – even experienced sales leaders – will work on fixing the wrong part of the engine to drive better performance.

They will inject new processes, new marketing campaigns, or even – tragically – new technology to get the overall business into high performance mode.

But these are often not the true issue at hand.

I will write more about each of these in future blogs, but let me offer three of the biggest root cause issues affecting your sales engine and – hopefully – get your team’s energies focused on the right things now.

Issue 1

The common symptoms:

  • Customers ignore your core messaging
  • Not enough “at bats” with the right customer altitudes
  • Sales teams consistently underperform/miss sales targets

The root cause issue: Lack of sales methodology alignment

The common fix: Shift your sales methodology from being centered on your product (or services) to being centered on your customers’ problems.

Extra tip: Want to test if your reps are product-centric or problem-centric? See if they can talk about ONLY customers and their problems for 10 minutes without mentioning themselves, your company, or your products/services. If your people cannot do this, your sales methodology is broken.

Issue 2

The common symptoms:

  • People fail to team effectively
  • Poor accountability
  • Managers complain that their teams are weak /ineffective/wrong

The root cause issue: Lack of goal clarity

The common fix: Implement clear definitions of success that include: (a) the desired outcome (b) how you will measure success and (c) all of your expected requirements to include in their efforts. Then empower people to pursue them.

Extra tip: Want to test the strength of your goals? Ask people to define their goals for the year/quarter/week and see they can define the outcome, metrics, and requirements for the time period you are talking about. If your people cannot be specific (and aligned) in their answers, your goal clarity is broken.

Issue 3

The common symptoms:

  • Customers reject attempts to up-sell/cross-sell within their organization
  • Processes consistently break down
  • People complain about “them” all of the time (“them” could refer to both customers and/or fellow employees)

The root cause issue: Lack of role clarity

The common fix: Redefine the roles of your customers FIRST – then redefine the roles of your sales team to align with EACH of the customer roles.

Extra tip: Want to test how aligned your sales roles are with your customer profiles? Ask people to describe how they “switch hats” when talking with different customer roles. If your sales team doesn’t all give you the SAME ANSWER for each customer scenario, your role clarity is broken.

What do you think? If you’d like to dive deeper into the health of your sales engine, leave your comment or question in the comments section. I totally geek out over topics like this and would love to engage with you.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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The ONLY two ways to fix your sales engine

It’s definitely one of the most common topics of my executive coaching conversations.

And while this topic has broad leadership applications, it is especially noteworthy for Sales.

What’s the topic? It is the difference between management and leadership.

And before you say in your head, “leadership is good and management is bad” – wait.

Because I do not believe that at all.

Without getting academic about it, let me simply say that true, effective management produces optimization. And true, effective leadership produces transformation.

Or to put in a critically different way, great management seeks to minimize disruption while leadership creates it. (Yeah, reread that last bit before going further.)

Now, do you see why this is so acutely critical to Sales?

When it comes to fixing your sales engine, you can only optimize it or transform it. Which means that you are committing to either minimizing disruption (e.g. making processes clearer, buying better software, cleaning out the organizational noise, etc.) or creating disruption (e.g. changing processes, redefining roles, giving people new ways of working, etc.).


How many of you reading this right now want to radically transform how your company does Sales? Well, you only have a glimmer of hope to do that if your company has given you the authority to truly disrupt. And even then, it’s going to be a long, uphill battle to get there (which is why having the freedom to disrupt is so important).

And your sales results will almost assuredly take a hit while you transform. That’s a normal part of the deal.

Don’t have that kind of mandate? Your only path is to commit to optimization, to minimize disruption. In some cases, to avoid disruption.

If, and I mean IF, that is the right thing to do.

Here’s the rub. Creating the disruption may be the only true path you have if you want to transform your sales engine so that you can:

  • End stagnation
  • Realign and revitalize your company
  • Delight your customers and release your true market value

I know that I may have just created more questions than answers for you with this post, but it is my sincere hope that you just got a huge dose of clarity into your current situation. And that, my friend, is worth its weight in gold.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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How healthy is your sales engine?

How healthy is your sales engine?

It’s an easy question to ignore.

I mean, in the grand scheme of running a business, the bottom line is often the emphasis. But anyone who understands how business really works understands this ageless truth: nothing happens until something gets sold.

Selling drives profitability.

Selling drives cash flow.

Selling drives growth.

So why are profitability, cash flow, and growth so difficult to maintain?

I can think of lots of reasons, but the main ones boil down to one common theme: how the company approaches the function of selling.

For some, selling is a necessary evil, managed by “those folks we hired to sell” so that “we” could do the important work of designing/coding/building/etc.

For others, selling is a pure joy, but nothing sophisticated because – hey – “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

But the most common perspective we see at Growth & Associates is that people have allowed their overall selling system – their sales engine, if you will – to get overly complex over time.

They started out with great intentions, and even a fair bit of true professionalism. But over time, with an added piece of technology here and a new process there, the engine itself can no longer perform the way it needs to.

And this approach to selling will eventually cause the sales engine to breakdown over time. Or, in different terms, it will cause:

  • Underdeveloped sales pipelines
  • Too many relationships with tactical buyers
  • Not enough market penetration
  • Poor execution of sales strategy
  • Weak recruiting and retention of top sales talent
  • And so on…

Hopefully, this is a fairly simple reminder for you. Hopefully, you already know this.

With that said, it is very easy to forget this stuff in the daily/weekly/quarterly grind of business. Even worse, it is very easy to make decisions that will only contribute to the failure of your sales engine.

To make Marketing happy.

To make Finance happy.

To make Operations happy.

And while those groups are part of our larger team, the most important stakeholder in this discussion is pretty straightforward.

We change our sales engines to make our customers happy.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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