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Nine Mistakes to Avoid When Expanding Government Sales Teams

A fellow named Mark Roberge wrote a book called The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology and Inbound Selling to Go from Zero to a hundred million dollars. The book is not focused on government contracting or local, state and federal markets like we are. But, holy moly, his concepts apply to the government space and winning government contracts.

We’re always talking about sales acceleration. By now, you’re likely familiar with our sales acceleration formula that identifies the traits of top government sales performers. If not, check out some of our previous Myths of Selling Government episodes or send me an email to rick-at-gov-selling-dot-com and I’ll send you a copy of the white paper. Or better yet, go to the resources section of this website and schedule a time for a brief chat. No charge.


In his book, Roberge cites nine mistakes companies make when building their sales teams. And, we’ve seen them all in the government space. They all apply.


Mistake One: Hiring salespeople with your gut. Roberge says you need to give thought to what really works in your organization…then, use those thoughts to establish the right criteria and how you’ll identify folks who fit. In other words, don’t wing it. We agree. That’s one of the reasons we spent the resources to develop our survey of top performers in winning government contracts.


Mistake Two: Roberge says a big mistake is under-utilizing the sales compensation plan. We couldn’t agree more. If you want to get salespeople to move strategically, make your compensation plan reflect what you’re trying to accomplish.


In the government space, you have to take into consideration the long sales cycle and the nature of the business. Perhaps add other elements than sales closings to your compensation plan. Maybe, pipeline growth. With government sales cycles being so long, you may not want to wait until a deal closes to compensate (and evaluate). Again, make your compensation plan reflect what you want the sales team to accomplish.


Mistake Three: We love this one. Mistake number three is mis-aligning sales and marketing. You’ve heard us talk about this before. Sales and marketing must work together. What you don’t know is that this belief led to creation of two businesses, a bog (this one), a podcast and soon, a series of YouTube videos. Lorin Bristow and I met each other when he was head of marketing and I was head of government sales for a company. When he and I arrived, sales and marketing not only didn’t work well together; they really didn’t like each other. We changed that. Lorin and I worked exceptionally well together, and we really liked each other. Still do. We changed the climate…and the results…in that company. And, have done the same for other companies since. That led to our book, Seven Myths of Selling to Government, which has a chapter devoted to the sales and marketing relationship, which led to this Myths of Selling to Government podcast.


Back to Roberge’s book. He talks about how they created sales and marketing alignment at HubSpot, where he was Chief Revenue Officer, through a Sales and Marketing Service Level Service Level Agreement. Marketing commits to certain things, like production of leads, and sales commits to certain things, like following up on those leads quickly. Results are measured and discussed.


Mistake Four: Not planning far enough in advance. I suspect this one is more important when trying to win government contracts than in other endeavors. Roberge talks about outcomes of today being the result of what happened months ago. Now, imagine how true this is in the government space where sales cycles are so blasted long. It takes time for your efforts to pay off in sales…especially in government sales. That’s one of the reasons you have to be very deliberate in what you do, and establish measurements along the way.


Mistake Five: Making forecasting, rather than coaching, the sales manager’s primary focus. Ah, good one. The way we look at it, you need to establish process and procedure that helps facilitate forecasting. You need to put aside a bit of time to go through the forecast with your team members. But, all of this should be routine work…once you figure out the routine. The creative work is looking for and seizing coaching opportunities for each individual. What does a specific person need to hear or learn at a particular moment? And, by all means, don’t forget about your top performers. They may be particularly good at what they’re doing, but they need coaching, too (and generally appreciate it.)


Mistake Six: Motivating through fear rather than metrics. You want to run off a potential top performer? Then micro-manage them and use fear. That doesn’t work, certainly doesn’t work these days…probably never has. Roberge says create an automated dashboard that shows everyday accomplishment of metrics for all to see. You’ll see that the metrics will provide motivation and discipline. Motivating through fear is not necessary.


In our survey of top government sales performers, we found that the best in the business don’t like to be micro-managed. They get real frustrated when asked to explain the ins and outs of a complex government contracting opportunity, only to be told that they need to do better. They’d rather be coached than micro-managed.


Mistake Seven: In his book Roberge, says it’s a mistake to let new salespeople shadow top performers. Top performers have their own unique reasons…their super power… for being at the top and the newbie may have other super powers that can make them a top performer. Instead, says, Roberge, make sure you have a sales process and measure how each person does on each stage of the process.


Mistake Eight: Buying technology for management rather than the front-line salespeople. Roberge says, there’s been an explosion of technology that benefits the salesperson, while capturing data management needs to run the business. (Um, perhaps he was referring to HubSpot, where he worked.) And, yes, these tools can provide good management info, but make sure the tools are genuinely helping the salespeople win government contracts.


Mistake Nine: Not experimenting enough. Roberge says devise and execute experiments. Iterate and improve. Sounds good to me. In the government space, expect those experiments to take longer. Meantime, in our opinion, you develop a plan, work it, adjust as necessary. You can see quick results, as long as you’re realistic about what results you’re looking for.



Set up a free consultation on winning government contracts by going to the Resources section of the Government Selling website.


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