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What Holds Back Small Business Sales Teams?
Blog / Sales Management / Mar 23, 2018 / Posted by Shawn Karol Sandy / 6777

What Holds Back Small Business Sales Teams?


My company’s clients are usually classified as “small businesses”—although I personally despise that term. It is these very same “small businesses” that actually power the U.S. economy! In fact the last census (2010) showed that small businesses (defined as having less than 500 employees) comprise 99.7 percent of the employer firms in this country.

So there you have it. “Small businesses” aren’t so tiny!

But returning to my point—the majority of our clients here at The Selling Agency have annual revenues that fall between $20 million and $120 million, and have sales teams numbering between 6 and 40 salespeople.

The reason I share these stats with you is that there is an issue common to all my clients—and in fact common to every small business sales program I’ve ever reviewed.

The majority of small business sales teams lack strategy, direction and support.

The fundamental reason for this is that in most of these companies there is little to no sales program infrastructure. Within these small sales teams there are contract sellers, or sellers performing multiple functions, or those having different titles that include revenue generating responsibilities. Often there is no direct sales supervisor with the primary responsibility of managing and leading revenue generation efforts.

Small businesses generally run “lean and mean.” It’s usually the owner/operators who are the main sales team managers. Although revenue generation is critical, how that revenue is achieved (or not) is not usually their singular focus. Pulled in dozens of directions, struggling with competing priorities, and even lack of sales proficiency are reasons why most small business sales teams are really struggling.

Not having a dedicated Sales Leader shows – in slow revenue, stagnant growth, and/or shrinking margins.

In your sales program, here’s what this looks like . . .

  • Sales reps struggle with knowing where and how to spend their time
  • Sellers are missing a roadmap to achieve their goals
  • Unproductive sales reps fly under the radar and stay much longer in the organization
  • Reps flounder without skills development and coaching
  • Sellers will resort to “easy” deals and “path of least resistance” which is usually less profitable business
  • Forecasting is difficult or impossible because pipelines are muddied or inaccurate


Do any of those scenarios ring true for you or your business? If they do, then you are missing major revenue opportunities and your sales program is struggling more than you realize.

Sales directors lead the sales program by driving revenue through strategy, structure, people, and processes.

Business owners and operators are certainly driven by revenue results but there are dozens of other functions that compete for attention on a daily basis. The sole purpose of a sales director or sales manager is about the “how” of getting to sales results:

  • How do we go to market?
  • How do we decide who will sell our offerings?
  • How do we determine what tools our reps need?
  • How do we train, coach, and support our reps?
  • How do we track progress?
  • How do we measure success?

In your sales program, here’s what this would look like. Sales directors are . . .

  • Collaborating with marketing and organizational leadership on the go-to-market strategy
  • Determining the training needed to implement the sales process that carries out the strategy
  • Tracking activity, progress, and results of sales efforts on a weekly basis
  • Determining lead generation tools and sales software to improve efficiencies
  • Pivoting strategy in competitive environments
  • Interviewing and hiring new sales reps
  • Onboarding and ramping up new sales reps
  • Developing sales reps skills through coaching
  • Guiding reps through tough deals or difficult customer scenarios

Running a lean organization is paramount to profits whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 enterprise company. In our assessments, most small businesses don’t have this layer of sales leadership because they believe they can manage the sales team, or the sales team doesn’t need any management – they should just sell, right? Or, they believe they can’t afford to hire someone who wears this one (critical) hat – as opposed to the usual 3 or 4 that most administrative team members wear in a small business.

What is this costing you?

Should you hire a sales director?

What would the payoff be if your sales team had a rock-solid strategy, were coached to improve their skills, and held accountable for their efforts?

A great sales leader hire could be a big return on investment that allows you to scale and grow.

Start crunching the numbers and see what you could be missing!

Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!

Pipeliner CRM totally empowers small business sales teams. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

About Author

Shawn founded The Selling Agency after a successful sales career working on building solutions for Small Businesses. Shawn's titles include: Market Director, Sales Director, Marketing Director, Development Director, and Entrepreneur. She focuses on organizational selling and strategies.


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