Ep 48: Top Distractions That Harm Sales Close Rates

BuzzSprout Audio

“There is a line that we have to draw sales leaders out there. If the rep is too involved in things like transition, delivery, problems, issues, changes, where that is a true function of operation, well then the sales reps are gonna get bogged down, and they are not gonna be closing enough deals because they are completely distracted by something else. ” – Taylor Barnes



Josh Sweeney: Hi, I’m Josh Sweeney, joined by my co-host, Taylor Barnes. Taylor, how are you?

Taylor Barnes: Wait, who’s this? Who?

Josh Sweeney: Josh?

Taylor Barnes: Josh?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, Josh Sweeney. We talked before.

Taylor Barnes: Oh, sorry, Josh.

Challenge Illustration

Taylor Barnes: I was really distracted. I couldn’t focus on the right thing. I don’t know how that happened. Hmm.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, sorry. I’m so distracted by this conversation. I don’t know where to go.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: All right, so that bring us — that brings our leader challenge —


Challenge Follow up ( I too have been through this… )

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, I bet you I’m not the only salesperson that that’s ever happened to.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, right? Like that was my last sales call. What? That was a swinger, came in from right field.

Taylor Barnes: That’s right.

Josh Sweeney: All right. So, the challenge is your rep isn’t closing enough deals because they aren’t focused on the right tasks. All right, so, what are all the reasons why sales reps get distracted and aren’t focused on the right tasks?


The leaders challenge/purpose

Josh Sweeney: All right, so, what are all the reasons why sales reps get distracted and aren’t focused on the right tasks?

Taylor Barnes: So this is a daily thing for me and anybody that manages sales within our organization. It is the classic rep is too involved in other stuff. So, one of the big reasons I’ll say that they tend to be, you know, not focused on the right tasks. It probably comes from a good place in their heart, they want to take care of the deal, take care of the customer, take care of this and that, but there’s a line that we have to draw as sales leaders out there. If the rep is too involved in things like transition, delivery, problems, issues, changes, where that is a true function of operations, well, then, the sales rep is going to get bogged down and they’re not going to be closing enough deals because they’re completely distracted by something else. So I think one of the biggest reasons is that the sales leadership or the rep or a combination of both doesn’t focus the rep into things like business development, opportunity, creation, but they just say, “You sell the deal, you walk it all the way through.” Well, reminder, folks, when they’re walking it all the way through, what are they not doing? They’re not closing other deals, right? So that’s number one, Josh. What else do you think?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I mean, I’m going to piggyback on that one for a minute, actually, because I just had a conversation with a head of sales the other day and I think this gets harder the smaller the company is, right? Because the smaller the company, the more hats somebody wears. And so this person, you know, got eight different goals from their leadership and when I looked at him, you know, a few of them were in sales but the other ones were like operations and delivery and collection — it was like all this different stuff, and I’m like, “There’s no way you can close more deals and focus if you have all of these different jobs.”

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: I do like to throw in kind of the nuance of what you’re saying, you know, just for other leaders out there is it does depend — a lot of this does depend on how they’re comped, you know? So, are they a BDR and are they just comped on bringing in and scheduling meetings and they’re getting bogged down with all this other stuff they shouldn’t be doing? Or are they an account manager where they need to be bringing in new deals or closing new deals and they also need to, you know, manage upsells because they’re getting comps past the first year? So, the way that their comped can really drive where they’re focusing, because if I’m comped on any deal with any account assigned to me, yeah, I’m gonna have more distractions as opposed to I’m comped on the first year and then I’m passing it off to another team to take care of upsells and managing it from there. I’m really, you know, focused in that one area.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, and that nuance that you’re talking about really feeds into your earlier comment with the smaller the organization, they tend to be involved in a lot of different things and they wear a lot of hats. So, you know, I mean, just practically speaking here, let’s say that a sales leader or, you know, an organization heavily comps the individual salesperson on renewals. Well, if that’s so, then wouldn’t you, as a salesperson, do everything you can to make sure that the renewal stays intact? Okay, well, if so, then don’t be surprised if that sales individual spends time doing things like problem resolution, escalation, and really gets involved in heavy hand holding to make sure that that customer feels good about them, you know, receiving the renewal in the next year. I’ll be honest, Josh, not to get too off subject, but that’s quite the reason why I think a lot of organizations do not comp the people on the renewals because they want the renewals to be a successful function of operations. If we get the renewal, that’s because we’re performing well, right? Not because the salesperson wants to hold some hands. No, the salesperson needs to go out and get involved in other opportunities. So I fully agree that you have to look at the way that, you know, the individual is comped, you have to look at what their KPIs are, and if you’re creating the right behavior, then you can probably have them focus on the right tasks versus the wrong tasks. Another one, Josh, and I want to hear your feedback on this because I know that you spend a lot of times with organizations trying to recognize the ideal customer profile. I think a ton of time, reps are not focusing on the right type of customer which distracts them from going and prospecting and getting in and building this relationship that is not going to ultimately result in deal conversion.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely. I mean, I think in my organization, same as in your organization, like when you’ve been doing it long enough, you can just look at the deal, right? You can look at the person and the company and you pretty much have a good idea of where that’s going to go. And I think one of the biggest issues is like deals that are too small, right? That’s the first one where they don’t fit the ideal client profile and the company’s too small and they don’t have budget, but, you know, the rep just feels really engaged, “This person is engaging me and, you know, this is going to close,” and it’s like, “There’s no way this person has the budget to even do our minimum deal based on what we’re seeing, unless there’s something I’m missing so tell me what I’m missing,” you know? So that’s one is like the wrong customer on the deal size. And then I think we’ve had a ton of other episodes on, you know, just the other impacts of the wrong customer, you know? And that could be somebody that’s needy, you know? The wrong customer could be somebody that just needs way too much education, is too needy, you know? There’s all these different like red flags that are going up for the sales rep and they keep driving hard to get that net new deal in and what that’s going to turn into is a very needy client for operations —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — you know? That’s always causing challenges too. So, there’s different indicators through the sales cycle, I think, we get. What else do you see other than like deals that are too small or a needy client? What other things are red flags for the wrong customer where you see sales reps spending too much time?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, I think, and this very well may result in a red flag for the organization or the hiring manager or the sales manager, I think a lot of times, the rep gets really bogged down in researching. Researching the client, researching the deal, researching the industry, overeducation on solutions that they don’t really need to know because they’ve got someone that already knows it, all they need to do is really get out there and start hammering away at opportunity creation, right? So they get down and they say, “No, I’m doing a lot of research on the client, I’m doing a lot of research on the industry,” where there’s a possible hidden agenda here or an issue that they simply don’t want to make the calls because it makes them uncomfortable. And I see that a lot. So, I want to bring that reason out. The general reason is that the rep will be distracted by overresearching, overeducation on whatever. I do want to bring a tangent to that out that there is a possibility that you’ve got a hidden issue of an individual that simply just doesn’t want to make calls or prospects or go chase down opportunities. So I see that one a decent amount.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I’ve had this happen to me before where I sat with a rep one time and, you know, I was like, “Okay, well, let’s make some calls,” you know? I wanted to sit with them and have them banging the phones and go through it, listen to what they did and watch what they did and just observe. And, you know, they’re like, “Well, I have to research first.” I’m like, “So, okay, show me your process.” He’s like, “Well, I spend this time, you know, researching and then I call,” and I’m like, “Okay, well, what are you looking for in your research?” “Well, I just need to know the company,” and, you know, he was kind of going through different things he needed to know and then I’m like, “Okay, and how much does that come up on the call, you know, on your first call when you’re trying to just reach out and do prospecting?” And he’s like, “Well, it all comes up, you know, I need to know it.” “Okay, well, make the call now,” right? So we make the call, directly to voicemail, and it’s like, through all of those, 75 percent of them went directly to voicemail.

Taylor Barnes: Right, right.

Josh Sweeney: And I was like, “Okay, I believe in the research. I believe that you need to be knowledgeable if you’re going to call in and try and do prospecting. However, we need to know how to do this much more efficiently,” you know? You have like 60 seconds to do your research —

Taylor Barnes: Exactly.

Josh Sweeney: — what do you need to know and why and also, can we, as an organization, put that in a field at the top of the CRM so you have that data quickly, right? But, you know, like you said, there’s research for research’s sake and it really uncovers, as you said, again, the hidden issue, like they really just don’t want to go knock the doors, they don’t want to deliver the book, they don’t want to pick up the phone, and, you know, the volumes are low because they’re hesitant for some reason to really get in front of prospects.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I think we’ve given a bunch of good reasons here.



Taylor Barnes: We’re about to get into the solutions. So, what are the solutions when it comes to, you know, some of these things? We talked about rep is, you know, too involved in other things in terms of delivering updates, could be involved in account collections, as you said, Josh, smaller organizations have the reps wearing lots of hats, wrong customer profile, too much research or kind of unnecessary research. I think a lot of this comes down to what managers need a solution. So, what’s a solution against some of these problems?

Josh Sweeney: Sure. So, when the rep is involved in too many things, I like to just observe what they’re doing and, as a manager, look at the tasks and say, “Does that contribute to the goal that set out for them?” So, for example, we use Traction as a methodology so everybody has these three goals or Rocks and what I look at is I say, “Okay, is that a distraction? Is that taking away from what they really need to be doing or is it contributing to?” And then the other thing I find is — and the reason that this happens is, over time, the job role skews a little bit, right? You hired them for one role and then you asked them to do something else then you asked them do something else and they forgot about, you know, one of the earlier items or decided not to do it and so you really, as a manager, I feel like I have to at least go revisit the task list on a recurring basis in the execution and monitor and say, “Okay, what do I need as a manager to take off of them? Or what do I need to say, ‘Hey, you know, I see that you’re starting your day here and you’re spending two hours there and like when I envisioned that for you, I really thought of that as a 30-minute thing. How do we get it done in 30 minutes?’” And that’s all just being, you know, a feet-on-the-floor type of manager and understanding where that time is going.

Taylor Barnes: Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, along those same regards, once you find out, you know, once you do some research as a manager and understand that some of these tasks are taking a little bit longer, well, then, the action that you have to take on that gives you some different options. One of the actions is to add or outsource sales operation tasks. If you’re an organization that’s very small and you don’t have that, well, then, I’d recommend that you look at outsourcing it, in terms of, really, you know, sending that salesperson in a workflow where once they get to a certain point, they stop and then go out and look for the others, right? And then — but when they stop, they obviously have to have some sort of delivery mechanism to obviously get the customer fulfillment and whatnot. So, that’s, you know, just one just broad example if you’re a smaller organization. And if you’re a larger organization, you know, and you’ve got bits and pieces of sales operations, well, really look at what that looks like. Do you have a pricing desk, a transition manager, an onboarding team, a service delivery team? Whatever your current situation is, what can you add to those sales operations? What can you outsource for sales operations and take action to make sure that you’re going to ultimately keep that salesperson focusing on the right tasks?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. So, as you, you know, as the manager, when you’re on the floor and you’re discovering these things, the question is, okay, it still has to be done so who does it go to in order for my sales rep to hit their goal, right? If they’re only comped on the first year of deals and they have a million to quota, you know, then I want to get everything off their plate that doesn’t have to do with hitting that quota.

Taylor Barnes: Yep.

Josh Sweeney: And then it has to go to somebody else, like the sales operations team, like an outsource sales ops, whoever else it is.

Taylor Barnes: Yep. Yep, fully agree. You know, another one that I think is pretty good and I bet you run into this all the time, is, okay, let’s say that one of the salespeople are just doing what we just discussed, one of the reasons they’re distracted is because of the overeducation, they overresearch, I’m looking at every possible thing. Well, there are software programs out there, I’ll just mention one, DiscoverOrg, for instance, that will give you the proper list of ideal customer profile based on a certain set of criteria so that actually does research the client demographics, the firmographics regularly and updates your lists regularly to make sure that you’re prospecting the right people. So, one of the things that you could do is removing that kind of minutiae, that nuance of the research and the, you know, the knowledge of is this the right customer by bringing in a possible software, like DiscoverOrg or something like that, to give your folks the immediate list of people that you should be targeting. That one speeds up and really removes any excuse from the salesperson, or most of the excuses, I should say, from the salesperson if they get bogged down with unnecessary research.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely. I mean, that really gives them the data that they need at their fingertips, you know, while they’re working and I think also, in reviewing that, in looking at that data is really reviewing are we still talking and speaking to the right people? Like one of the concepts we can talk about in a future episode is the “door opener” and I hear all the time, people are like, “Oh, well, we have to talk to the CTO,” and then what you find out is really they talk to the admin or the IT director or somebody else and that’s really who got them in the deal and so they’re going to DiscoverOrg and they’re giving everybody the CTO in their CRM but, really, there’s another door opener. So, you have to really go back and review the client demographics and say, “How are we getting into deals? How did we get into those deals this year? Does the data that we’re pulling in or we started pulling in last year match the transition or the data that we’re seeing?” So, that kind of goes back to the sales ops is who’s looking at the, what we call the empirical evidence —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — to make decisions on instead of kind of feeling their way through and be like, “Oh, they have all the data they need. They got that new tool and, you know, they’re going with it.” It’s like, well, you just gave him the absolute hardest person to get in front of and, on top of that, that’s not even the right person, that’s not who we talked to first on most of our deals, you know? So it has that perception.

Taylor Barnes: Exactly, way outside the bull’s-eye —

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Taylor Barnes: — and speaking of a bull’s-eye, I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of this that I think, even at the individual salesperson level, that is a little bit misunderstood. It is important, don’t get me wrong, for everybody in your organization to have an industry knowledge and a product or service knowledge about what you do but that needs to be dangerous enough, not subject matter expertise. That doesn’t need to be down to the solution architecture, down to the granular details and service design. That’s not what salespeople are here for, right? So, as a sales leader, it’s very important that you communicate at all times and proactively that your salespeople, yes, they need to be dangerous enough to carry on a conversation and be able to handle minor objections, possibly some obstacles, I think that’s very healthy, but where it becomes possibly unhealthy is if they feel like they need to be dangerous enough to answer every single question, every single obstacle. Look, there’s a chance — when that happens, I love that opportunity because that gives our salespeople the ability to introduce more people from our organizations. “Let me introduce you to the right person. I don’t know the answer to that but I can get you to the right person,” and now, if you go back to some of our previous episodes, you know, I’m a big believer in this, now they’re going to feel that group hug. They’re going to feel that group hug from the organization and what started off as a single phone call, the single individual, they’re now going to feel the breadth of the organization and the depth of the organization when you start bringing in the people that really need to answer those questions. So, as a leader, communicating that they need to be dangerous enough but not necessarily subject matter expert I think will really get their mindset focused into the things that they should be focusing on.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, it’s interesting you talk about bringing in the other people and feeling the group hug like we did on a previous episode because, in a previous life, prior life, I was a sales engineer, I was an enterprise sales engineer, and, you know, the sales rep that I worked with in the southeast, he’s like, “Look, my job is to be the sales guy. They look at me as the sales guy. I’m here to bring you in as the expert.” He goes, “So you have all the information and you’re supposed to come from the knowledge expert place and I’m supposed to come from sales and we play our roles.”

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, that’s right —

Josh Sweeney: And he really had those roles defined. It was interesting the first time, you know, we worked together because I’m like, “Wow, he really sees this as, you know, it’s a production,” like, “Here’s my role in the play, here’s your role. Here’s how it should feel when you’re talking to them, you know, that everything you say is obviously 100 percent genuine and it’s all about the tech and the passion and I’m going to go through the sales and the benefits and the ROI and play your role and let’s, you know, let’s sell some tickets.” And I’m like, “All right, this is awesome” —

Taylor Barnes: I love it —

Josh Sweeney: — you know? So feel the group hug.

Taylor Barnes: Love it, and I love the analogy of, “That’s your part in the play, that’s my part in the play, it’s a production, it’s for the audience, we want the audience to feel the production. All we got to do is go sell tickets.” I love that. I might have to use that one.


Final Question

Taylor Barnes: That’s a great way, great segue into I believe what you’re about to drop as our final question.

Josh Sweeney: The final question. So, what are you doing to remove distractions so that your salespeople can focus on selling?

Taylor Barnes: And this has been Purpose-Driven Sales with Barnes and Sweeney. Now, go lead on purpose.

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