Six Bad Sales Practices That Can Be Improved

Sales managers in software startups face multiple challenges every day. Maintain growth. Hit target. Manage people. Source leads. Close deals. Look after key accounts and partners. It never ends.

Without guidance or a strategy, bad sales practices can creep up, creating a culture more focused on panicking and pursuing every lead, viable or not, than scaling a successful sales team. Sales managers can not afford to make these mistakes.

Sales Practices to Improve

Founders, boards and investors depend on sales team leaders to hit quarterly targets. For managers under pressure, it’s about knowing how to identify problems, then solving them with the right tools. Before investing in anything that could ensure that salespeople perform better, managers ought to look at some of the bad habits, common amongst software as a service (SaaS) and other technology companies that are working hard to achieve ambitious targets, then seek to change them.

Here are a few bad habits that sales managers would benefit from kicking, transforming their team for the better.

1: Setting the wrong targets

Without targets, a sales team is lost at sea.

But what happens when they’re unrealistic? Let’s face it, any VC-backed startup is going to set high targets. If they’re set by the board, a sales manager should know what they are before joining the company, know what resources they have to generate sales (including marketing) and try to break down the key performance indicators (KPIs) into something achievable.

It can be too easy, for a manager under pressure, to set equally unrealistic KPIs for their team. Even exaggerating the revenue goals so that a “miss” isn’t really a missed target, not as far as the founders and board are concerned.

Setting inflated sales targets and activity KPIs (e.g. weekly number of demos/sales calls and meetings, etc.) is a bad habit not worth indulging. It can easily lead to panic and a stressed-out, underperforming team that can’t hit reasonable targets, much less an inflated and unrealistic goal.

2: An inconsistent sales strategy

Launching a sales campaign without a strategy is another common problem in startups. Once funding is secured, panic sets in. Hit targets at any cost. Not worrying about whether sales and marketing efforts are sustainable or going to result in productive results.

Another bad habit is when a strategy is decided, then abandoned when it doesn’t show results quickly enough. Test and monitor everything, but make sure what you are doing has at least one quarter (approximately 12 working weeks) of run time before revising and changing your approach.

3: Marketing not supporting sales

Sales people in startups often source their own leads. You need people who will hustle. But at the same time, marketing should be sending a decent pipeline of prospects through to sales every week. One of the biggest pitfalls is a time delay, between marketing getting a prospect email address and sales giving them a call, email, or jumping on a demo. Instant Demos are a remedy to this particular problem!

Research shows that you are significantly more likely to qualify a prospect and jump on a call or instant demo if you contact an inbound query back within the first hour. Make sure marketing and sales are aligned and communicating in real-time.

4: Insufficient real-time reporting

How can sales managers know how the team is performing without real-time data?

Startups run on data. But when you wait with sales reporting until the end of the week then you, as a manager, can’t act to improve performance. Reporting should be daily - whether you use a sales performance tool, a CRM or a simple email or verbal report - a sales manager needs to give his team guidance on the prospect pipeline to ensure they hit the target.

5: Not dedicating enough time to sales management

Sales managers who spend too much time focusing on their own pipeline will contribute to the team target, but the team could miss its overall target without leadership and mentoring.

Managers need to dedicate at least two to three hours actually managing, reviewing data, delivering training/mentoring and identifying ways they can improve performance and ensure marketing is generating more leads.

6: Weak understanding of the business and product

Sales managers and team members need to fully understand the business and product to sell the service successfully. This may sound like a basic point, but one too often overlooked. Sales teams that focus too much on what a product does, not the problems it solves for customers will lose more deals than they close.

Changing habits can be difficult. Even better is avoiding them - watch out for bad habits, especially in the early days of fast growth. Aim to cultivate good habits, practices and a culture you can scale as the team and company grows.