Is Your Sales Team Burning the Farmland?


At echogravity, we commonly associate sales organizations to farmers. Each year, farmers continue to sow their fields in order to reap the results from their back-breaking labor. Each Spring, they plant seeds in hopes of landing the big crops when it comes time to harvest. Farming requires a very specific process, with input from external resources and forces (pesticides, weather, machinery) in order to get things just right.

In sales, a very similar process occurs. The team plants seeds of opportunity in a targeted market and works the crop with input from external forces (pre-sales, budgets, proposals) with the hopes of generating revenue.

With farming, there is little room for error. The farmers know how to treat each season with the right touch, always making sure that modifications are taken care of in the appropriate way to get the desired result. Sales is no different.

I’ve seen many approaches to sales and have noticed a common set of habits that lead to burning up the farmland. It might be a good idea to perform a quick audit of these items to see if your sales team is setting fire to the market that your company relies heavily on for it’s yearly quota of revenue.

  1. Uncertainty with the sales pitch and value propositions. A great exercise to determine if this is the case is to have each sales person write down (or better yet, present to the team) what they believe that the companies elevator pitch and clear value propositions are. There is a very good chance that all of the answers will be different. (More information can be found by downloading this free Company Differentiation Template).
  2. Typos or poorly written communications. In today’s sales world, excellent writing is a must. All it takes is for one email full of typos to turn off a top prospect. You’ll never know why you lost the deal because nobody is going to tell you that your writing sucks. Get your team into a session to talk about the importance of writing clearly and effectively without errors. Make sure that spellchecker is turned on!
  3. Be certain that the entire team has mastered the dialog. If your inside reps are cold calling, they MUST have a well scripted approach and a list of detailed ways to handle objections. If they flub a call with a key decision maker, their chances of reentry are minimal. This process needs to be treated like a first job interview. Create, diagram and document the exact process and call flows in order to get the best results.
  4. Well-defined sales process. This is a common mistake that we see over and over. Each sales team should have a written and documented process for each sales stage. A simple walk-through of each sales stage and a clear understanding of the gates and information required to move prospects through the funnel will make a significant difference. From this exercise, agendas and expectations can be set and handed off to your sales team for execution.
  5. Researching target prospects. This is a sure fire way to char the fields. I have seen so many times where emails are sent as a follow up to a cold call, outlining the discussion, and making it clear that the rep does not understand the prospect’s business. It’s vital to BE PREPARED prior to meetings and to know everything there is to know about the prospect, their company,and any other relevant factor about the opportunity. The little time you have with the prospect is precious and it should be spent learning about the things that you can’t find readily available. Qualifying should be the main objective in your calls, not gathering data on the prospect. Train reps and frequently test them on their knowledge of their target market and how your company’s offerings fit with each prospect. If they don’t know the answer, then make them know it before calling/emailing a new prospect.

These are just a few examples of how sales teams could be burning the fields. Unfortunately, these items may be hard to identify because many business owners are lacking a transparent view of the dialog between prospects and the sales team. If the fields are being burned by poor sales practices, deals will die before they even have a chance to move through the sales funnel.

BONUS MATERIAL: As an added extra to this article, we also suggest reading our eBook on Nailing the First Meeting.

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published in June 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and completeness.