Don't let atrophy deteriorate the world of sales
In biological terms, atrophy occurs when we fail to exercise a muscle group to the point that the muscle group begins to weaken and deteriorate. The same thing happens in sales, in leadership, and in life. Behaviors and values we fail to use just slip away.
Here are several dynamics that add to sales atrophy:
- Line of least resistance
- Inertia of linearity
Much of the business world exists on a landscape flattened by the effects of commodity sales. Technology has played a large role in this flattening, with salespeople becoming more practiced in taking orders over the Internet and working against a fixed price rather than discussing customer needs and working with clients to discover solutions. Some companies are advancing rapidly in automating the more labor intensive aspects of customer relationship management.
Here are the top 4 sales atrophy mistakes to avoid:
Most organizations and salespeople are quite adept at mastering “push” or transactional selling. Because transactional selling is more tangible and measurable, it gets taught in formal training programs. “Pull” selling, on the other hand, is often considered a natural talent, something that can’t be trained and can only be picked up by “getting old”—that is, through years of experience. It is also often considered a "soft” skill, a behavior to be absorbed as opposed to knowledge to be taught. In this most likely scenario, transactional sales techniques are taught and “pull” techniques are ignored.
Many people simply don’t have the capacity, the interest or the time to get beyond the technical aspects of sales. We have all seen the employee, for example, who is an incredible tactician but for the life of them just cannot wrap their heads around strategy. The same applies for sales—some people excel at the “push” selling but are never able to expand past it. It’s not that they are poor performers; they may be excellent at what they do, but they never grow. They, and their managers, eventually become the Willy Lomans (death of a salesman) of the world, holding on to ineffective sales models while the world sails by.
3. Line of least resistance:
Transactional selling is easy. A salesperson will learn the fewest steps necessary to land an order and they will follow those steps every time. Becoming an experienced advisor can be complex and unsure, as well as difficult to forecast. At times you need to risk the sale in order to make the sale, and risk represents more steps and inherent uncertainty.
4. Inertia of linearity:
A sales culture of linearity creates an organizational drive to keep delivering short-term results. It’s hard to plan out the game when you are tied up in a constant stream of “dive and catch” plays where in the last minute of a desperate situation one high-performer makes a stunning effort and wins the day. In a culture of linearity, the sales force is focused on making this week’s, month’s or quarter’s committed sales; leadership is focused on making sure that is what the sales force is focused on. Everyone has their head down and leadership is commanding the charge. It’s an illusion to think that increases in sales from intense short-term drives is permanent, because the market can shift, the economy can tank, and products can become commodities. It will be time to exercise a different type of sales muscle, but companies will realize too late (or not at all) that their true sales muscles have atrophied.
Pulling all these scenarios together on what sales mistakes to avoid, it’s easy to see how sales atrophy can take root. Atrophy leads to entropy and in entropy an organization’s collective ability to compete deteriorates. You need to keep employees engaged though social collaboration and gamificaiton.