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Identifying Barriers to Sales Growth

By Tim Deuitch

Can you identify the moveable barriers facing your sales team? In this video, Tim Deuitch and Bo Smith discuss the four barriers to productivity for your sales team.

Tim Deuitch: 00:01 Hi, I'm Tim Deuitch with Strategic Enhancement Group and I'm joined by my fellow performance consultant, Bo Smith.

Bo Smith 00:17 It's great to be with you today, Tim.

Tim Deuitch: 00:18 Thanks for joining Bo. What gets in the way of your sales team's success from selling more? Some things we can't change, but some things we can, and that's what this is about. The key is to identify the moveable barriers from your sales team, the things that we can influence or control as a manager, there are two steps to doing that. One is to confirm the very specific barrier and the next is to do something about it. Here's the scenario, a salesperson calls you or walks into your office and they're frustrated with their results. And you ask them, "Well, what's getting in the way?" Typically there are four barriers to productivity for the salesperson, but most of the time your salesperson answers with one of three barriers – skills, resources, or processes. There's a fourth barrier, will, that they rarely say out loud, that we'll talk about soon. Bo talk first about the skills barrier.

Bo Smith 01:20 Tim, skills are typically what we tend to think of first. And the good news is as a sales manager, you have some control. Rather than letting your sales people just wing it, take control and get them professional training. They'll become more competent and confident as a team, and this will grow their sales. But that in itself isn't enough. Research shows that 40% of employees say their manager doesn't help them grow their skills. So even more important than getting them the skills may be timely coaching by their manager after training. Even when skills have been taught a salesperson still needs to know how to best use them.

Tim Deuitch: 01:58 Absolutely. And I'll give you an analogy for that. Imagine being on a sports team where you go to practices before the season starts, you get all ready to go, but then you never practice again after that. How good would your team be over time if you didn't practice between games?

Bo Smith 02:14 Terrible.

Bo Smith (02:14 So let's move to the second barrier and that's resources or better called, timely resources. Your salesperson might respond to that question you asked with, "Well, the support materials are inadequate," or "The CRM system SAPs all my time," but most often expressed, the resource problem they express is, time itself. Managers should pay attention here and remove as much time wasting activity as possible. Bo, you told me of a company that requires its salespeople to attend a meeting every weekday morning and how a salesperson you know there has been missing out on leads because of it.

Bo Smith 02:52 True story.

Tim Deuitch: 02:54 Unless a meeting offers critical information, I've never heard a sales team complain about less meetings on their calendar. In any case, priority is key here, so put your salesperson in charge. Ask them, "What's one resource change, that if you changed it, would have the greatest effect on their results?" Work on that one.

Bo Smith 03:16 That's a really good point, Tim. You know, the third barrier is company processes. They're supposed to enhance performance, but sometimes they don't. Things are changing so fast in business today and sometimes processes don't keep up. Learning new skills is critical, but you won't be able to take full advantage if you've got old ineffective processes. It's common for salespeople to complain about potential time wasters, such as excess paperwork, reports and unnecessary meetings. I know an organization that was suffocating under too much required reporting. The managers agreed to tackle this issue and reduced the numbers of reports from 60 a month to four. That was huge. The time freed up was enormous for the sales people. This is where it's important for sales managers to recognize what they can control and what they can't. When you get legitimate feedback and take action over what you can control to remove obstacles, it can be very motivating for your team, go to bat for them.

Tim Deuitch: 04:15 Absolutely. So let's move to that fourth barrier, which is will or motivation or commitment on behalf of the salesperson. Again, very few salespeople will tell you that they don't want to do the job you've asked them to do. Your challenge though, still, is to identify when will is actually the true barrier. This is often easiest when you've exhausted all other barriers. You've trained them. You've given them new resources. You've tweaked processes. At that point, if they still haven't succeeded, it's fair to ask if they really want to do the job as assigned. Be prepared to ask them what else you can do that is in your control that would have the greatest effect on their commitment. But sometimes they'll genuinely just need more time and you can discuss how to make it work. That's your call. But if they have no answer, it may be time for a truly honest conversation about the job and it's fit to them.

Bo Smith 05:17 Tim, the good news is thankfully that doesn't happen too often, but it does happen. But you can't assume that your salespeople are making excuses. Remember, it takes guts and a high degree of trust to tell the boss what he or she may not want to hear. So it's important to hear them out. When you do, keep these four barriers in mind and they'll help you hone in on solutions faster to grow your sales. Take the time to listen to your sales people and don't make assumptions.

Tim Deuitch: 05:44 Bo, I'll go one step further. I encourage managers to openly discuss the barriers with team members. Literally take the barriers and put them on your wall. This allows you to point to them and ask them, "Is this a resource issue? Is this a skill issue?" And ultimately you can partner with them to work on the barrier together.

Bo Smith 06:04 Tim, that's something I really like and I think it's a really key point. So thanks for the idea and thank you for your insight today.

Tim Deuitch: 06:10 Thank you, Bo. If you'd like more on topics like this, go to our website,

Published: September 7, 2022

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Tim Deuitch

Vice President - Client Success

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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