When Sales Lose Confidence

When Sales Lose Confidence

By Jeffrey Cartwright, Managing Partner | 4 min read 

The overwhelming concern for a great salesperson is to be trusted by the buyer.

Sales sell more than products, services or solutions. They sell trust. 

Successful sales isn’t always about strategy or technique. It’s not necessarily about cost or the quality of product or service offered. Numerous studies point to the fact that buyers aren’t looking to buy from the lowest cost supplier, nor do they buy from the firm that has the highest quality of product or even from the firm that offers both. The overwhelming criteria to close a deal is much more basic: “no hassles.” 

The Real Cost of Broken Promises 

Buyers who have the best deals yet cannot keep the manufacturing floor supplied, or the retail shelf stocked with products do not receive accolades for buying at the lowest cost. They are eventually terminated as the core business is disrupted. While the request for quotation process attempts to screen out vendors who might not be capable of servicing the buyer, it is often an ineffective tool to select reliable vendors.  

In financial terms, consider a product with a high gross margin of 50 percent that is ordered by a customer but cannot be shipped due to capacity or other limitations – it ends up yielding a net gross profit of zero. A 45 percent gross margin product that is shipped has a positive contribution of 45 percent. 

Failure to ship a product that is ordered may also result in the customer switching suppliers, particularly if there is an immediate need for the product or if the missedlate delivery of that product interferes with other steps in a large rollout or store reset.  

Sales’ Confidence is Paramount 

On the sales side of the process, it is absolutely essential that members of the Sales team have a high confidence level in the ability of the company to deliver. Salespeople are driven by several factors, but closing the deal and increasing revenue are what company leadership values most.  

But sales is also about relationships. If the salesperson believes the customer relationship will be damaged by selling a product or service in which they have a low confidence level of delivery, they will find ways to avoid presenting that product or service to their buyers. And, this problem can be easily shielded from upper management with a simple list of excuses — the buyer is not ready, the buyer does not believe in the product, other items were presented in which the buyer has real interest, the buyer is overwhelmed and not taking calls or appointments, etc. It is not difficult for a Sales team member to look busy and productive as there is usually a significant time delay in the selling process, when, in fact, the salesperson has stopped selling. 

One of the signs of a loss of confidence is that the sales person is spending more time at headquarters (seeking out information that would build his confidence level) or at one of his largest and most valued customers to which there is a long established relationship. However, what cannot be seen in this latter situation is that the time has turned more social and relationship-oriented and lost its focus on the sale. 

Loss of Buyer Confidence 

On several occasions, I have been involved in the resolution of major issues where order fulfillment or product shortages have led to a crisis with key customers. Whatever the cause of the shortages or late shipments may be, the customer is not only looking for a near term resolution, but assurance that the issue will not occur again.  

In most cases, the Salesperson is the only one interacting directly with the customer. On occasion, they are not equipped with the right information, nor do they have the buyer’s confidence that they can resolve the issue. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary for the senior operations leader to meet with the customer and the customer’s leadership team. In such a case, the buyer is looking for a short explanation — and most importantly, for a specific action plan — that will resolve the issues on a certain date. It is of utmost importance that the reality of the situation be addressed and that any commitments made are fully met. 

Loss of Sales Confidence 

Within the Sales organization, loss of confidence may exist for an extended period and well beyond the specific customer. It is incumbent upon the Senior Operations leadership to rebuild the confidence of Sales. They must bring the Sales department into the organization and not just make presentations; they must demonstrate an ability to meet expectations through factory tours, viewing equipment operation, or discussions with factory or distribution center teammates. In short, Operations must demonstrate not only their competence but their commitment to deliver. Sales will wait to validate that the Operations team has done what they said they were going to do. There is no leeway for a shortfall in commitments. Sales will begin to tentatively sell again when they see real results and their confidence is rebuilt. 

This analogy is also true with new products. When the Sales team becomes excited about the features and benefits that a new product has that will result in buyer interest, they must also have confidence that the timeline will be met. If they do not believe the timeline, they will appear to make presentations but will present to the buyer what is in the pipeline for development instead of what will be ready to be shipped. 

Confidence in Referrals 

When it comes to referrals, the situation is similar. If the individual who has the relationship lacks confidence in the well-skilled, personable individual’s ability to deliver, then the referral will never be made. The likelihood of being referred rests firmly on the likelihood of damaging the relationship with the referring individual by introducing one of their clients to an undependable resource. Again, it does not matter the product, the service or the relationship. It is a question of confidence in the person or company being referred. 

Taking Ownership of the Problem 

It is not only the responsibility of the Operations team to manufacture and deliver a high-quality product on time, it is their responsibility to deliver it with very few issues. When there are issues, the Sales team member spends most of the sales call on defense. The Operations team must perform at the buyer’s expectation level so that the Sales team can stop playing defense and start playing offense, which means presenting new products, promoting items and other methods of increasing revenues beyond price. Price is many times used to manipulate the buyer into staying with the product because of performance shortfalls. 

Are problems in operations causing a lack of confidence by your Sales team, and thereby resulting in reduced profitability? Shoreview Advisors can help identify the root cause of the issue and implement change that rebuilds confidence on the part of your Sales Department and customers. Contact us today to learn more.