In 2011 Forrester CEO George Colony wrote a blog post titled, CEOs Want Better Sales Forces.   He said the chief executives he talked to gave their sales teams a ‘C-’, citing the following reasons for their low grade.

Four Problems CEOs Have With Their Sales Teams

1) “Speed.” The sales force is always 12 to 18 months behind strategy.

2) “Calling too low.” Sales reps aren’t getting to power.

3) “The sales force can’t tell the story.” The focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products.

4) “We have the wrong people.” Not smart enough, not tuned in to the market.

At 3FORWARD we also talk to a lot of CEOs about sales and hear similar complaints from many of them.  So what should they do about it?   Colony’s post outlines the steps company leaders told him they were planning to take, including in some cases “completely overhauling” their sales forces.   Maybe a complete sales transformation makes sense in some situations, but we generally recommend a more controlled redesign.

Three Reasons CEOs Need to Improve Lead Generation First

Where to start when sales results aren’t making the grade?  We often suggest optimizing lead generation as the first step in a B2B sales transformation project.  Here’s why.

1. Fixing Lead Generation Grows the Sales Pipeline

When CEOs complain about sales results they are really expressing frustration with revenue growth.  Expanding the sales pipeline with more qualified opportunities will increase the number of wins (assuming offerings and pricing are competitive).

2.  Effective Lead Generation Aligns Sales with Today’s Buying Process

Buyers no longer need (or want) sales to inform, educate or persuade them.  Getting serious about your lead generation model will steer you towards B2B best-practices such as content marketing, lead nurturing and scoring, and marketing automation.

3. Formalizing Lead Gen Process Increases Win Rates and Deal Sizes

Study after study demonstrates that establishing a formal, dynamic sales process for B2B sales teams increases both win rates and deal size.  Defining sales process also forces sales and marketing alignment on the ‘top of the funnel’ lead generation – yet another a proven best-practice.

If you’re a CEO who is highly displeased with sales results, keep in mind that there is only so much ‘change’ most companies can handle at one time.   Starting your sales transformation process with lead generation will pay dividends regardless of other changes that must be made downstream.