You might be in tech, you might be in consumer goods, you might be in media, but you're gonna have to sell somebody.  Sales are at the heart of every business, and when they are lackluster, it can spell disaster. Unfortunately, when many business owners see the numbers coming up short, they rely on flash-in-the-pan tactics like short-term incentives for sales people, price reductions for customers, and sometimes just berating the sales team for non-delivery on goals. The rub with any of these techniques is that they are all bad for business. Incentives cost money and create only short-term boosts, if they work at all. Price reductions cut margins and diminish the value proposition of the product. And kicking the sales team when things are bad just demoralizes the staff and worsens their efforts. So what works? One thing--and every business owner can do it: monitoring sales calls.

Day 1. Start with an off-hours listen. If your company records calls, taking 1 hour to go back over calls from that day will show you how to put your sales back on course.  You will hear your sales reps using the wrong words, missing buying cues, giving customers incorrect information, and not asking for the sale. All of these things can be fixed, but only when they are discovered and taught around. Make a list of the issues and come in the next day and roleplay them with your team. Give them the words you want them to use, re-educate them on your product or service, and then practice questions they can use to close customers. Tell them that you will continue to take the time out of your day to listen because you know that together, you can drive sales.

Day 2. Live Listen to your Sales Reps calls. Choose 1 hour out of the day when your reps are generally busiest with sales calls.  Let your reps know that you will be spending time listening to their calls, because sales are the most crucial ingredient to making your company succeed. Make sure your reps feel that they have an important contribution to make. Then listen to calls as they happen. At first, don't interrupt the call. Just take notes and give the rep the notes at the end of the call, and talk about what was done well, and where things could have been better. After a few calls, begin making suggestions during the call using a chat.  When a salesperson doesn't pick up on a buying cue for example, point that out and include the phrase she should use to bring the customer to the close. As you help to bring a few calls to a sale, your sales rep will feel both the power of your suggestions, and understand that your monitoring is helpful rather than frightening.

Day 3. Ask your sales reps to monitor themselves.   At the end of the day, select 2-3 recordings and listen to them. Rather than telling the rep what to do differently on the call, ask questions to lead her to that knowledge herself. For instance, if a rep forgets to ask for the sale, you might say "can you listen to this call and tell me what words you used to see if the customer was ready to purchase?" As the rep answers, she will realize her omission, and remember to do it on the next call--because you have made her realize in an obvious but non-embarrassing way that her dialogue is missing something important. When she tells you that she did not make the ask, ask her how she thinks she might have done so. If needed, practice the word with her. Then encourage her to do it on every call for the next hour. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier with each call, and it will directly impact her success and your sales.

If you need sales and aren't getting them, you have to get down in the trenches with your sales team and diagnose what's happening. There is no substitute for it, and the person doing it should be the business owner rather than anyone else, because when the owner gets involved, everyone on staff understands that this issue is monumental, that it won't go away, and that addressing it is a positive event, rather than a blame game. Yes, it takes time out of a business owner's day,  and yes it can lead to scary and even painful discoveries, but ultimately, it is the quickest way to heal your sales and propel your company forward.

Published on: Nov 14, 2018
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