MSP, Sales and marketing, Small business, VAR

12 Reasons Sales Don’t Grow at Small and Midsize Businesses

Craig Lowder
Craig Lowder

If you analyze thousands of VARs and MSPs, why are some of those IT service providers wildly successful and why are others laggards? Often (though certainly not always) the problems involve sales management.

With that reality in mind, here are the top 12 reasons why sales don't grow within small and midsize businesses, according to Craig Lowder, author of "Smooth Sailing Forever: Charting Your Company's Course for Predictable and Sustainable Sales Growth."

We've also added related ChannelE2E links where indicated.

12. No annual performance reviews. An annual performance review forces a manager to sit down and evaluate performance. ChannelE2E's spin: While some businesses are ending annual merit raises, there's still a need for annual performance reviews.

11. Over reliance on sales team to generate leads. Having sales reps fend for themselves when it comes to finding leads is an ineffective approach. ChannelE2E's spin: Check out Kendra Lee's 16 lead generation activities that can attract market development funds from your vendor partners.

10. Limited, ineffective sales skills training; sales mentoring is non-existent.  A sales leader should travel with each sales rep regularly–at least monthly–to determine their competency. ChannelE2E's spin: And don't forget -- a multigenerational workforce requires new training formats, CompTIA points out.

9. Compensation plan doesn't incent desired behavior. What gets rewarded gets done. The comp plan should provide the right activity- and results-based incentives. ChannelE2E's spin: Here are sample sales compensation plans designed for VARs and MSPs that are shifting to cloud and subscription services.

smooth-sailing forever

8. No customer relationship management (CRM) system. A first step is to determine the proper application of CRM for the team. ChannelE2E's spin: Think beyond CRM. For today's IT service providers, you're going to need a portfolio of solutions that spans PSA (professional services automation), RMM (remote monitoring and management), quoting and sales automation software and industry centric solutions.

7. Sales message doesn't differentiate from the competition. The company's sales message must distinguish the company from the competition by communicating unique value. ChannelE2E: But don't stop there. Remember. You need to build trust with potential customers in order to win and retain their business.

6. Sales team is not staffed properly. The sales team must be led by a sales manager who is focused on building highly effective sales reps versus securing individual sales to achieve significant and sustainable results. ChannelE2E: If you're the business owner, perhaps you should test your sales people before promoting one or more of them into a management role.

5. No short-term and/or long-term sales pipeline and forecasting tool. A sales pipeline and forecasting tool provides a bottom-up view for use by the company to forecast future sales, align costs with expected revenues, and accurately predict cash flow. ChannelE2E's spin: Ask software partners about machine learning and big data tools that can pinpoint upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

4. No weekly scheduled sales meetings for the group and one-to-one. These meetings should be a learning experience designed to share success stories, what's working and what's not working, as well as to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of making sales. ChannelE2E's spin: Once you implement those meetings, make sure all of your sale team members can truly analyze sales data to understand challenges and opportunities ahead.

3. Sales metrics are not clearly defined. Attention must be paid to how a company is keeping score of sales activities and results. ChannelE2E's spin: What key performance indicators should you embrace? Glad you asked. Here are 10 KPIs for your small business sales dashboard.

2. No defined sales processes. Each step of a company's sales processes must be clearly stated and documented. This creates a common language and understanding of sales success. It is vitally important to define checkpoints for each step in the sales process. ChannelE2E's spin: Check out these example sales processes for MSPs.

1. No detailed sales plan that is understood by the entire sales team. The number one reason holding companies back from smooth selling is the lack of a sales plan understood by all. ChannelE2E's spin: Don't forget to align your sales and marketing plans for continued growth.


Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.