Is My Company Experiencing a Sales Breakdown?
by Dave Stein

Have you ever asked yourself, "Is my company experiencing a sales breakdown?"

No matter how strong a sales professional you are, if the infrastructure and operations supporting you are not in place, your performance will be inconsistent at best.

One of the challenges strong sales people face is being part of an organization that is stumbling along by the seat of their pants from a selling and sales support perspective. If you are one out of let's say 25 reps and six of them underperform, regularly losing to competitors or selling business that will result in unhappy customers, the impact on you will be substantial. You'll get dragged down in many ways.

Some reps will underperform no matter how strong the team supporting them is, but even the best reps will never achieve their full potential unless all the pieces are in place. That's what this piece is about.

Here are a number of the key components of an effective sales operations infrastructure. If your company is not tuned up and ready for action, you'll be left exposed, under-supported or left to waste your precious time on unproductive activities:

1. Marketing Support of Sales

  • Approach to target market, pricing/fee validity. Is your company approaching their market correctly? Can they specifically state what that market is? Are your prices and rates relevant to market demands and conditions?

  • Clarity and consistency of value articulation. Are you able to clearly and succinctly state what the specific value your products and services will provide your market for their investment? If not, your marketing team has some work to do.

  • Effectiveness of press/analyst coverage. Is your company, however large or small, doing what is required to assure that they have the name recognition and reputation necessary to advance, not inhibit your selling efforts?

  • Demand creation activities and initiatives. Is your company generating demand so that your time can be spent managing the opportunities?

2. Opportunity Management

  • Sales methods, practices and processes. Does your company employ a standard sales process? If not, performance consistency across the team will be limited.

  • Qualification processes and effectiveness. Does your company provide you with a set of current and relevant qualification criteria? If not, you may be pursuing business you can never win.

  • Forecasting methods and effectiveness. Do consistent forecast shortfalls leave you in the position of having to heavily discount for your company to make their numbers?

3. Sales Tools

  • Corporate presentations. Have you been provided with an updated corporate presentation targeted for the industry, level of person and business issues your prospects face? If you are wasting time creating (rather than customizing) Powerpoints, you'll need some assistance from your organization.

  • Collateral materials. Do you have clear, compelling and concise collateral materials at your disposal targeted at articulating the value to be gained by the different constituencies within your prospect's organizations?

  • Competitive tools. Does your company provide you with specific information about your competition at the company, product and rep-on-the-street levels and exactly how to use that information?

  • Customer proposal quality and value articulation. Are the proposals you provide to your prospects of sufficient quality to be credible at the board level?

  • Customer testimonials. Has your company made the investment in customer/client case studies to provide you with the additional credibility you need to establish your company as a contender?

4. Sales Execution

  • Causes of closing, discounting, slippage. Does sales management know why deals slip, who you are losing to and why and how to circumvent last-minute dramatic and destructive discounting?

  • Process improvement mechanisms. Does your company employ a feedback mechanism so that what is learned from each win or loss is used to build a more effective operation?

5. Ongoing Account Management

  • Transition from pre- to post-sales. How smoothly and efficiently does your company transition a company from prospect to customer? If you are not over-delivering in this area, a solid foundation for repeat business and strong referenceability will not be easy to build.

  • Long-term account goals and approaches. There are a lot of challenges and opportunities here. Here is one simple question: Does your company focus on the customers with the highest levels of potential value to you or the ones who scream the loudest?


Your job is to drive revenues for your company. If your company inhibits rather than enables you to achieve your sales targets, your goal is to get them to invest the time, money and resources required to provide a solid foundation for sales effectiveness.


Construct a value-justified business case for presentation to sales management. Include what you need and their return for providing it to you. Earn sponsorship from them and their assistance to bring that case all the way up to the board room, if necessary.

Dave Stein is the CEO and Founder of ES Research Group, Inc. providing independent, authoritative advice about sales performance improvement programs and the companies that provide them. Dave Stein is the author of the Amazon best selling business book: How Winners Sell: 21 Proven Strategies to Outsell Your Competition & Win the Big Sale, Dearborn Trade Press, May 2004. For more information visit: or call +1 (508) 313-9585.

Many more articles in Sales & Marketing in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Dave Stein. All rights reserved.

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