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Five Dysfunctions of a Sales Team

June 8th, 2016

The Five Dysfunctions of a (Sales) Team

One of the most popular business books of the last decade is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, written by Patrick Lencioni.


As with any team, the objective is to be effective and produce results.   For a sales team, effectiveness means the ability to produce consistent, predictable, visible, profitable growth, quarter after quarter, year after year.  When mapped against this objective, most owners would agree that their team falls very short of the mark.  In other words, the vast majority of sales teams simply aren’t getting it done.


Throughout my career helping many hundreds of sales teams, it has become obvious that just about all of them possess the same five dysfunctions when I first encounter them.    I’ve listed these dysfunctions here, along with actions you can take today to begin to eliminate them.


1.   The wrong people:  Most salespeople go into Sales by default.  As a result, the profession of sales is rife with individuals who lack the skill, discipline, passion, training, or commitment to produce results.  Consequently, less than 50% of salespeople do not last a single year.  You’ll never win the race with the wrong horses, and most owners don’t even realize how bad their salespeople really are.   When it comes to recruiting great sales talent, the odds are stacked against you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win and hire excellent performers.   You just need to know how to do it.   You can attract the talent you require (both in Sales and Sales Management) by employing an effective, behavioral, objective, Locate, Land & Launch™ process.   


2.   Sales management doesn’t manage:  Most small private companies don’t manage sales at all.   Many that think they do are totally ineffective. Managers end up spending most of their sales management time doing all sorts of low-value activities rather than actually managing the salespeople and the growth of the team.   More than three-quarters of an effective sales manager’s time should be dedicated to coaching, developing, motivating, recruiting, and holding salespeople accountable to promises.   Is this how your manager spends time today?


3.   There is no Sales Process:  If you’ve been in business a while, you probably have processes for most functional areas in your enterprise.  You likely have processes for payroll, operations, distribution, manufacturing, and more.   However, most companies do not have processes for the one area that should be the most functional—Sales.  In the absence of a sales process, your team resembles a bunch of athletes running around a field without a game plan.   Good luck winning that game.  If you don’t have a sales process in place, the good news for you is that your competitors probably don’t have one either.   If you implement an effective sales process, you will begin to beat them consistently.


4.    Lack of understanding:  While all owners would like to improve their inconsistent, ineffective sales effort, most simply don’t have a clue how to fix it.   They don’t understand how to build a successful sales organization, don’t know how to identify where problems lie, and don’t even know where to start.  They may have attended a few webinars or read some books containing tips and tricks, then tried a few things and didn’t see the needle move.   As a consequence, many believe their sales team isn’t great, but may be as good as it’s going to get.   So they’ve have thrown in the towel and decided to just tolerate the mediocrity.   I know nothing about flying airplanes, but if I needed to travel overseas, I would find someone who did.  Fixing a dysfunctional sales team is no different.  You’re team can be much better, so if you don’t know how to fix it, find someone who does. 


5.   Lack of Commitment:  Upgrading your sales organization is not magic.   It is not easy, but it is simple.  There are no quick fixes, but it is totally formulaic.   If your sales team isn’t getting it done, start by assessing each individual’s commitment to generating results.  The members of your sales team are behaving the way they are behaving because they are choosing to behave that way.   Your salespeople are choosing their behaviors.  So is your sales manager.   So are you.   Most people hate to leave their comfort zone, so if you want to change results, start by leaving your own comfort zone.  Commit to building a world-class sales effort, declare to everyone that you are doing it, evaluate your team, and make it happen. 


Whether you are a sales development expert, or know absolutely nothing about sales, you CAN dramatically improve the effectiveness of your sales effort.   You are currently investing your precious time, money and resources somewhere.   If you’re like most owners, some resource may currently be directed to low-value areas that do not affect the health of your company nearly as much as Sales.   By re-directing some of those resources toward upgrading the effectiveness of your sales team, you’ll find the rewards will be well worth the effort.

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2016.   All Rights Reserved.