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Apathy at the Top: Why Senior Management Has Given Up on Its Sales Force Confused by Internet hype, confounded by fads, companies must put customers back at the center of their strategy, where their salespeople can serve them

By John Holland Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A disturbing trend that I am seeing in the marketplace is an escalating level of apathy at the senior executive level as it relates to the effectiveness and value of their sales organizations. In other words, more and more executives seem to be "throwing in the towel" when it comes to salespeople actually being able to move the revenue needle.

As I dig deeper, I see two (2) fundamental causes for this:

1. They've tried and failed one too many times in training their salespeople

After repeatedly turning to various sales methodologies and sales trainings looking for the "magic bullet," and despite investing significant amounts of money, nothing has changed from a revenue or performance perspective. Time and time again, I see companies latch on to the newest, sexiest "training du jour" (can you say "Challenger Selling?") in the hopes that this will finally be "the one." However, they repeatedly make the mistake of viewing the training as the end of the process when, in reality, it is just the beginning. Measurable sales results, no matter what methodology you subscribe to, are directly correlated to the commitment of first-line sales management to actually implement what the salespeople have been trained on. Too often, with no commitment to the heavy lifting of real business process change, once they go 9 to 12 months with no measurable results, they decide "that must not have been the right training," when the reality is that they were never really committed to it in the first place.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Your Sales Training May Fail

2. They've over-bought how much the Internet has revolutionized the sales process

There are multiple, different studies that have documented what we all know: the Internet has changed the game for vendors. With so much information available online to potential buyers, vendors have decided that the best they can do is manage, and worse, encourage inbound inquiries. What they fail to recognize is that no matter how compelling your marketing messaging may be, the best that will likely get you is a seat at the table. In fact, I see many sales organizations that have pivoted back to leading with a demo. That was a flawed approach 30 years ago and it is a flawed approach today. From a fundamental buyer perspective, when a vendor leads with a demo, having never taken the time to understand the buyer's needs, all they are doing is throwing garbage against the wall and hoping something sticks. Additionally, without proactive salesperson interaction (i.e. understanding the unique needs of any given buyer), they fail to build any unique business value, and even when selected, are relegated to negotiating solely on price.

Related: The 2 Psychological Factors Motivating Customers to Buy

Salespeople, ultimately, are the only ones who truly can help a company move the revenue needle. The question is, are companies and their senior executives willing to acknowledge that there are no quick fixes? Or are they just waiting for the next "groundbreaking" research and approach to finally provide the pixie dust?

Put customers back at the center, where they belong

I'll leave you with this thought: As companies race to develop new technology, better products, and the latest, greatest features, the ones that will succeed are those that recognize it's not about them -- it's about the customer. The days of relying on your product for competitive differentiation are over. Even if you come out with some groundbreaking feature, you have to realize your competitors have access to all of the same information on the Internet that your prospects have. They will figure out how to either replicate the functionality or how to sell around it in very short order. The path to success in 2016 will be creating a superior buying experience for your prospects by focusing on helping them achieve their goals, solve their problems, and satisfy their needs. 2016 will be the year of using HOW you sell as the true competitive differentiator. Whether or not senior management will get behind this concept is up to them.

Related: Why the Future of Retail Will Blow Your Mind

John Holland

Chief Content Officer of CustomerCentric Systems

John Holland is co-founder and chief content officer of CustomerCentric Systems in Sutton, Mass. His company provides sales process consulting and training.

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