When Sales are Not Working: Product or Sales Fault?

Using data analytics to diagnose the root cause of slow sales

Continuing last week’s theme of identifying root causes and why things happen, a common question I hear from entrepreneurs is why are we struggling with sales? Often, fingers are pointed from the product/tech folks at the sales people and from the sales people back at the product/tech folks. Let’s put process issues to the side for now; here are a few things to look into for this debate.

Different Sales/Product perspectives

When sales are not happening, the sales team often describes several problems outside their control: the product is not working, it needs more features, customers don’t see the value, the competitor’s product is much better, etc. The product team may describe a different set of problems: Sales can’t communicate; they are asking the wrong questions or saying the wrong things in the discussion; they don’t understand how the product works, etc. Based on this conflicting feedback, it becomes hard to know where the true problems exist.

Digging deeper

To dig deeper, you could look at things like sales pipeline, close rates, performance across sales teams, customer segmentation, NPS, competitive analysis, customer support tickets, etc. to see which of these claims may have some merit. There is usually some quick data analysis that can better inform where the problems may arise. This provides a much stronger base of information to validate certain statements or hypotheses.

Has it been proven

As a founder, you need to be the one closing the first deals. There is so much information to learn from your first paying customers. Being out in front of customers helps you really refine the sales process: the buyer, the message, the demo, the value proposition/ROI, the product, etc. You want to be able to prove that you can sell your product in a repeatable way before really ramping up your sales team. Without that, you may not know what it takes to sell your solution. If you have been the one selling the first deals, you often have a much better perspective into the fact that A) it can be done and B) why it might not be working well.

In the end, there are often several factors. But doing some quick data analysis based on internal and external feedback can more quickly and accurately diagnose the problem. If you have already proven sales can happen, it makes it that much more believable that your product is good enough to sell when making a few minor adjustments to the sales process or product.