• Duane Cashin

Focus On The Causes of Sales Issues, Not The Effects

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

There’s a common tendency among football fans to turn on their quarterbacks.

We’re seeing it now in Carolina. Cam Newton was “Superman” just a few seasons ago. This year, he’s described as “over”, “washed-up”, “done” as he battles injuries, too much time without practice, and a host of other issues. Cam joins the ranks of every quarterback that’s ever gone through a rough patch.

Football fans are tough like that. Even the greats like Manning, Brady, and Rodgers will be described as “terrible” following a Sunday that didn’t go as planned.

Truthfully, it’s usually not solely their fault. A bad QB performance is typically less about the QB and more about the offensive line who didn’t give him the time he needed to make a play, or about receivers who didn’t get open, or about the young rookies who made mistake after mistake. Football is about cause and effect. Give a good quarterback the right setup and he’ll do great. Give a good quarterback a bad setup and he will seem like he has no idea how to throw a ball. It’s all about the situation around him which equates to the “root causes”.

The same is true in sales. 

When we speak with potential clients, they most often tell us that they need help with:

  1. Selling Value

  2. Negotiating

  3. Presenting

  4. Forecasting

  5. Closing

These are all fine items to focus on from time to time, but these are not root causes of poor sales performance as much as they are effects. In fact, these five items are the sales equivalent to what stands in a quarterback’s way of a great day (his line, his receivers, etc.). 

You would never say Tom Brady looked terrible because he didn’t score enough points. No, he had a bad day because he had no protection and no receivers. Because of that, he couldn’t score enough points.

Do you see the difference?

Each one of the 5 “troubles” above is an outcome, the effect of many factors that must come together in order for a sales rep to be effective.

If you want to improve your results, you have to focus on why reps are struggling with these issues, not just that they are struggling with these issues.

Let’s review them individually:

Selling Value

Selling value to a customer so they can see the link between their needs and your solutions is an outcome based on a collection of competencies: supportive Sales DNA that allows reps to be comfortable talking about money, not needing to be liked; consultative selling skills that allow reps to establish a peer to peer relationship resulting in the rep differentiate themselves from the competition and uncovering compelling reasons to buy. It’s also the confidence in themselves to challenge the prospect when needed. ​ Tackling those issues -- preferably before the rep ever onboards -- is key to improving this issue.


Negotiating should never be something you aim to improve. It’s something you should aim to avoid! 

If your sales reps are struggling with too much negotiation, it’s because their Sales DNA is weak. Specifically, they are unable to stay in the moment, handle the “price objection”, and they have an overwhelming need to be liked. 

To uncover the prospect's compelling reason to buy and differentiate themselves from the competition, your sales reps need to have the conversation that nobody else is having with their prospects.  They must be able to quantify, cost-justify, and provide a compelling argument for ROI. They must possess excellent qualifying skills which will support them in their efforts to orchestrate an agreement.


A presentation is only as good as the timing of the presentation, what is presented and who it is presented to. Most salespeople present features and benefits instead of solutions, present too early in the sales process, fail to present to the decision-maker, and present for the wrong reasons. 

The real cause here is a faulty sales process that focuses on demos and presentations as the strategy to elevate a prospect's interest. The presentation is a much more powerful tool when it serves the purpose of linking the prospect’s compelling reasons to buy to your unique capabilities as an organization. 


We forecast using sophisticated software applications.  The problem is not with the software but with the humans that enter the data and override the variables. 

The real blame in inaccurate forecasting must, therefore, be given to sales process and lack of qualification. Sales processes that have been inappropriately staged and sequenced will always cause forecasting nightmares.  

When it comes to qualification, there are usually two issues: 

  1. salespeople regularly fail to thoroughly qualify because they only hear what they want to hear (as Dave Kurlan puts it, the dreaded “happy ears” syndrome), and 

  2. reps often present solutions too early in the sales process before they have uncovered the prospect's compelling reason/s to buy.  This approach sabotages the rep's ability to truly understand where they stand which results in inaccurate forecasts.


Many sales leaders place “closing” at the top of the list of the most important skills for a salesperson to have, but science says otherwise. 

Closing is an outcome that occurs naturally and easily after salespeople have effectively navigated all of the prior milestones and stages in their sales process.  

An apparent lack of closing skills is really caused by an ineffective sales process, insufficient Sales DNA, a large skill gap, and most importantly, an inability to effectively qualify and to sell consultatively. 

If you’re ready to drastically improve your numbers, you’ll have to stop chasing effects and focus instead on the root causes -- poor Sales DNA, poor sales process, skills gaps, and other factors mentioned. 

Our process is designed to help you identify what’s really holding your organization back and get you moving on a path forward.  ​ We look forward to hearing from you. 

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