Having some sales problems?
As a team embraces the inbound philosophy, it’s important to recognize opportunities to re-engineer processes around sales best practices. Many techniques once favored in old-fashioned outbound sales will make you look like a door-to-door vacuum salesman today.
To get the most from inbound, sales teams must work with cross-functional partners and build value for prospects before they become customers. Though this is the most customer-focused sales strategy, it can take some getting used to.
With that in mind, we’ve developed this: A look at the most common sales problems from the inbound perspective. Here’s 25 of the top sales problems and how to resolve them.
1. Problem: Long Sales Cycles Is Reducing Effectiveness.
Most enterprises surveyed report their sales cycles are getting longer. There are many reasons, but the need for agreement between a greater number of stakeholders is the big issue. Achieving a consensus sale means having sales material each stakeholder relates to.
While you can’t force prospects into decisions, you can take steps to ensure your brand is “top of mind” when they are ready to buy. Put together a follow-up process so you can meet prospects where they are throughout their research, no matter how long it takes.
2. Problem: There Is Not Enough Organic Web Traffic to Support Sales Efforts.
Web traffic might seem arcane for the sales team, but it’s a vital asset. Your company’s Web properties can do a lot of the work in supplying you with a steady stream of qualified prospects – but they must incorporate the lessons you’ve learned about your customers.
Review sales and marketing material available on your company site and look for gaps. Particularly, make sure that web content reflects all of the different buyer personas and use cases you’ve become aware of by talking directly to prospects and customers.
3. Problem: Sales Follow-Up Is Ineffective or Non-Existent.
This problem cuts across B2B and B2C: Many potential customers make contact only to find that the sales team never returns their call. While some prospects are clearly not qualified, follow-up is the key to maximizing value from all your other efforts.
Figure out what part of follow-up is the most taxing – in time, technology, or plain old mental resources – and use technology to simplify it. Most teams can double follow-up rates and significantly accelerate the time it all takes by implementing a modern customer relationship management (CRM) system.
4. Problem: B2B Buyers Don’t Find Brand Trusted or Reputable.
In a truly efficient inbound sales process, your Web-based sales and marketing collateral should do a lot of heavy lifting. By the time prospects talk to you, they should have a sense that they know and trust the brand. If they are noncommittal or closed off, it represents one of the big sales problems.
Diagnose your messaging strategy to figure out the root of the issue. Are prospects finding your content on publications and platforms they know and trust? Is your brand active in developing its thought leadership credentials on sites like LinkedIn?
5. Problem: You're Spending Too Much Time on Unqualified Prospects.
In a year, unqualified prospects can eat up thousands of hours. Ideally, every prospect who reaches out to the sales team will be qualified. Although it’s hard to reach perfection, the right strategy can ensure 90% of all prospects are qualified.
Work with your marketing colleagues and web designers to enact a “progressive profiling” strategy. By inducing prospects to submit more details about themselves throughout the sales funnel, you’ll learn whether they are qualified long before you make a call.
6. Problem: Team Members Are Working at Cross-Purposes.
No matter what your sales philosophy is, everyone on the team should be pulling in the same direction. While some competition can motivate better performance, it’s possible for sales pros to drift apart into separate bubbles and miss opportunities to work together. This leads to huge sales problems.
Make sure every member of the team is getting the business intelligence they need to see the big picture. Shift to a modern CRM. If there are enterprise tools used by your sales team, be sure that everyone knows how to use them. Leave Post-It notes and Excel spreadsheets behind.
7. Problem: Prospects Are Consistently Asking Unexpected Questions.
Weird and unexpected questions come from two directions. Sometimes, prospects are subject matter experts who want deep, technical information. Other times, they may be out of their area of expertise and reaching. Either way, a good answer from the sales team creates credibility.
Partner with the marketing team to review and refine buyer personas and gain a better understanding of where each type of prospect is coming from. Consider developing an internal knowledge base and a public FAQ to address questions for each persona.
8. Problem: Unclear Relationships Exist Between Website and Sales Outcomes.
You know your website is doing something, but ... what, exactly? Although you may not be directly involved in expanding or maintaining the website, it should be providing actionable info to you: In particular, what content your prospects have read and how recently.
Push for a modern data analytics suite across all web properties. Good analytics will not only tell you how prospects get to your site, but what they do once they’re there. A weekly analytics report can give you a heads up on prospect thinking.
9. Problem: Individual Sales Productivity Is Too Low.
Chairs, jackets, cookies – all of these and more have been set aside “for closers.” Some people can sell ice cubes to a polar bear in winter, but sales pros do best when they get the right support, resources, and data. There comes a time to figure out what’s missing.
Although there are many explanations for low productivity, start with the core of the inbound mindset: Are your team members creating value for prospects? Discovery calls should be used to learn more about the prospect, not turn up the pressure and force a commitment.
10. Problem: The Sales Process Falters After On-Site Demo.
Sales teams with sophisticated solutions often need to execute demos at the client office. The demo shows stakeholders that your solution not only works, but will work well for their specific needs. A botched demo leads to huge sales problems.
There are two common reasons an on-site can sap your sales momentum: Either the solution doesn’t work as expected or the sales team can’t answer prospect questions. While you can sometimes recover from the latter with a quick follow-up, the former may require retraining of sales engineers.
11. Problem: Poor Post-Sale Support Hinders Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
Customers are most motivated right after they buy from you. They want to give you the benefit of the doubt, justifying their purchase decision. While many sales pros move on at this point, it is a terrible time to leave new customers feeling abandoned.
You work hard to build rapport with customers; now use it. Check in after a week and again after a month to make sure that things are going smoothly. If you’re not the expert who can solve their problems, put them in touch with that person. Stay friends now to avoid sales problems later!
12. Problem: Referral Business Is Low Despite Satisfied Customers.
Referral business is a terrific asset, particularly in B2B. It can reduce your cost per customer acquisition and give you a steady stream of customers with shorter cycle times. But, mysteriously, referrals can fail to show up even if your current customers are happy.
Remember, people don’t usually take the action you want unless you make the next step clear. It’s true on your website – remember calls to action – and true here. Find creative ways to incentivize and motivate referrals, such as special pricing.
13. Problem: Unsatisfied Customers Are Causing Negative Online Buzz.
In both B2B and B2C, people look for reviews they trust before they take action. Sadly, unsatisfied customers are much more likely to speak up than those who are thrilled. If they are the only ones talking about your brand, it makes a bad impression.
In the sales team, you’re probably keeping an eye on mentions of your brand, products, and hashtags. If you see someone raise a ruckus, don’t be afraid to engage – especially if it is one of your customers. Alternatively, escalate it to a customer care rep or other who can help.
14. Problem: Your Website Is Not Turning Visitors into Prospects.
Although it’s usually seen as a marketing asset, a good website makes selling easier. By automating lead generation, it takes some of the burden off your shoulders. If none of your prospects mention they came through your site, it’s a red flag.
This common sales problem is usually traceable to a lack of targeted landing pages. Each of your offerings should have a tailored landing page, starting with your lead magnet. New visitors should be driven to your mailing list for long-term development.
15. Problem: Identified Prospects Are Not Moving Toward Sales Calls.
So, you have lots of prospects but they just aren’t moving forward. Maybe you can see them on your analytics suite, reading pages but not responding. Maybe they’re sitting on your email list, clicking but not taking action. What’s the deal?
Make it easier for prospects to take action. Consider advanced features like chatbots that can capture user questions and connect them to sales pros fast. Likewise, be sure you are communicating new offers and discounts to your mailing list.
16. Problem: Your Website Is Not Turning Prospects Into Strong Leads.
You’ve finally reached the point where your site delivers consistent, qualified leads – but its conversion rates aren’t going up. This means you’re not getting as much value as you could from your web traffic generation efforts. Non-converting traffic adds cost and overhead.
Revisit your web strategy and ensure you have content for every step in the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Collaborate cross-functionally to develop new, tailored offers that spark interest from those with underserved use cases.
17. Problem: New Products Are Failing to Gain Traction.
You’ve got a new product to sell, but no one seems too thrilled to buy. That may well divert time and money from more successful offerings while setting your team up to miss quotas.
Although sales pros alone can’t rescue a bad idea, they have lots of expert insight that can make things better. Take the feedback you get from customers and clients and communicate it to your colleagues in marketing and product development to refine the offering.
18. Problem: Leads Are Pleading Budget or Authority Issues.
There are few sales problems more frustrating than chasing a lead all over the globe only to find that they really don’t have the juice when it comes to making a final purchase decision.
Start at the beginning of the sales funnel to verify your collateral signals with the right prospects early on. Then, make sure you’re getting useful data from them at each step in the sales funnel so you can prioritize the best-qualified buyers.
19. Problem: Sales and Prospecting Emails Are Going Unanswered.
Email is fast, convenient, and all but free – so learning to use it as a sales tool will make your life that much easier. If too few of your emails are getting answered, some quick adjustments can help get you back on track.
Always start by making a relevant, timely connection based on something prospects really care about – a “trigger event” at their company (like the opening of a new office) or something you share in common with them. This shows them you’re willing to do your research.
20. Problem: Your Team Is Experiencing Sales Anxiety.
There's a lot of pressure on your team. Reps are facing daunting quotas while they experience rejection on a regular basis. Some reps might even get burnt out on making calls. The truth is that sales anxiety can manifest in many ways. No matter the source, it can be extremely detrimental to your business.
Sales leaders need to know how to address this without giving a "suck it up" talk. Telling someone to get over anxiety is not productive.
Instead, help them gain a new perspective on feeling rejected and improve how they manage their time. By helping them feel better prepared and supporting them on a human level, you can reduce the impact sales anxiety causes.
21. Problem: Onboarding New Sales Team Members Takes Forever.
Building your team requires a lot of time seeking out great candidates, interviewing them, screening them, and making them an offer. Then, when it comes to getting them up to speed to hit the ground running, that ramp up time feels like forever.
You can't rush onboarding and training, but you should set them up for success with all the resources they need to get up to speed fast. Make sure you have your sales process documented, and create some hands-on training early on.
Also, encourage them to keep learning on their free time by giving them access to educational resources, like online course or sales books that help them in their day to day.
22. Problem: There's Internal Disagreement About New Processes.
As you update your processes over time, you're bound to experience some resistance within the sales team. Change can be uncomfortable, especially for legacy salespeople. Bottom line: In order for your new processes to work, you'll need buy in from everyone.
Training is essential, but it can only get you so far if reps are not interested in learning new tactics. Instead of just saying, "deal with it" or "that's the way because I say so," focus on highlighting the value of your revised processes or new tools.
Then, set attainable goals centered around these new updates and praise them for successes. When they see it work in action, they'll be more excited to master the new process.
23. Problem: Moving On After Another Lost Deal.
Losing deals sucks, plain and simple. And it can take an emotional toll on your team. On a bigger scale, those lost deals hurt your potential revenue.
This is where win loss analyses come in handy. When you create this type of report, you gain a ton of insights about the history of your sales touchpoints, demographic information about prospects, and much more. Ultimately, you can see how to approach deals in a more effective manner to reduce losses.
24. Problem: Prospecting Efforts Are Falling Short.
The process of seeking out prospects calls for a lot of time and resources. And unfortunately, that investment can fall short if your team isn't getting in contact with the right kinds of prospects. You can't simply cast a wide net because you might be connecting with people who are nowhere near making a purchasing decision.
Sales reps need prospecting tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to streamline the process of finding and engaging with potential leads. Also, they should be gathering data about prospects to identify where potential leads' watering holes are. They might be engaging in online communities on Twitter or Facebook groups.
When your team can find where they're talking, they can jump in on the conversation and deliver value with prospects. That can be where a meaningful relationship starts, which can lead prospects toward more in-depth sales discussions.
25. Problem: Staying Ahead of the Competition.
No matter your industry, you're facing an uphill battle. Competition can be fierce, so those sales your team loses are likely going to your competitors. This is hands down the biggest problem plaguing most teams.
The marketplace is constantly evolving, so you need to as well. Encourage your team to update their pitches on an ongoing basis.
New technologies are emerging. Your buyers are more educated. New competitors are popping up. So how will you stand out? You need to find innovative ways to position your value proposition and seek how to update your messaging so it has a bigger impact on opportunities to get them to trust you, see you as the most credible resource, and ultimately buy your products or services.
Sales problems come in all shapes and sizes, but the solution is usually found in this simple inbound philosophy: Always create value for your prospects, leads, and customers. That can mean going the extra mile to resolve an issue they’re having or simply taking an authentic interest in them.
Make this your mantra and sales problems, no matter how tough, will melt away!