6 causes of sales failure

September 21, 2017



It has been my great pleasure over the years to work with a number of really successful companies. There are traits that great companies have that can be spotted. Many of these traits have been documented and the characteristics validated by those who model their proven practices. These companies show steady, consistent, predictable growth.


At the other end of the spectrum are the companies that struggle, or in many cases fail. These companies also have common traits that are recognizable. While it helps to model success, it can also be beneficial to understand what contributes to less than stellar performance. As mentioned, while I have been fortunate to work with some great companies, I have also worked for some that fall into the not so great category. Below are 6 common traits these companies all possessed that led to their unimpressive results.


1) A lack of common goals


This almost seems unthinkable. When you start a business, it seems second nature to have an established set of goals that are communicated throughout the organization and are being worked towards by the entire organization. Some companies however choose to believe that everyone just understands that they are in business to make money by offering a product or service. What is missed though, are the common goals that are broken down into short, medium and long time frames. 


2) A lack of strategy


So goals are created, we know where we want to go, the next logical step is creating a path to get there. Any destination begins with a map, and it helps to know and plan for stops and starts along the way. Sometimes it is necessary to adjust course. All of this can be planned for and adjusted with a well thought out strategy that takes into account factors that could impact success or failure.


3) No Sales Process


I could go on about this for pages. I am always blown away by the number of companies that I come in to contact with that don't have a clearly defined, widely accepted sales process. Studies from research firms CEB and CSO Insights point to the same conclusion which is, companies with a clearly defined process are as much more likely to hit their sales targets. It should no longer be acceptable for sales organizations to function without a sales process. 


4) No Sales Methodology


So a little distinction between process and methodology. Process is how you do something, methodology is what you do. So just as you must have a series of steps that you take, the way that you go about those steps, what constitutes an advance and how you measure movement, must also be clearly communicated and baked into the sales process and used to determine the necessary tools that are needed for support. 


5) No understanding of key metrics


This is another head scratcher but some companies are actually clueless when it comes to identifying the measurements that determine success or failure in their sales pursuits. Should you track phone calls or demos. Is the number of contacts more important than total talk time? Knowing what translates into closed business is a management super power. As management guru Peter Drucker famously noted,"you can't manage what you can't measure". Every company must understand and regularly access the data, or numbers in this case, that determines their success. They must track them relentlessly, to not do so is a recipe for disaster.  


6) A lack of adequate tools


How well you support your strategy, processes and methodology is based on having the right tools. If you need your sales team to make a large volume of outbound calls but don't have any telephony systems, success is challenged. If you need a steady flow of relevant content and don't have content management tools, you are doomed. You get the point, whatever actions you determine are necessary for success must be supported by the tools your team has in place. Sales tools are to a sales person what a scalpel is to a surgeon, it's hard to operate without them. 



Hopefully, this post has been as helpful for you as it has been therapeutic for me. These are pet peeves of mine because I see too many salespeople floundering to get results when the issues that prevent success can be in remedied. Correct these six issues and success becomes more predictable even if not guaranteed. 

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