I have a saying…”Numbers don’t lie and they tell a compelling story”.  If your sales are falling short of the targets you’ve set, it’s going to be right there in black and white—and maybe even some red.

The reasons for those shortfalls can be written on the walls or hidden and hard to see. It’s no wonder struggling CEOs have so much trouble identifying the source of issues. Better questions lead to real answers. If your sales are running short, begin by asking these three questions to bring into focus your problems and potential solutions.

  1.  How are you holding yourself and the sales team accountable for hitting the numbers? Consider great big scoreboards posted in the office, where everyone on your team can see the company’s progress. That kind of visibility keeps everyone accountable and focused. But you, the CEO, need to be held accountable, too.
  2.   Is your sales team properly trained and equipped? Do they understand your sales goals? Have they adopted them?   There’s only one sure way to ensure that your team is working towards the same goals, and that’s with an annual (or more frequent) planning session.  Checking in quarterly can help you and your team realign goals in a timely manner to adapt to changes in your business.  Celebrating successes along the way and minor adjustments can help you and your team stay the course.
  3. Who are your best customers and how are your taking care of them? Five-star customer service, including speedy product delivery and billing, are the important day-to-day considerations. However, the customers who can make or break your business aren’t just customers—they are key relationships that the CEO has to own. When was the last time you took your big buyers out for dinner, or offered some marquee sports tickets? Strengthening those bonds strengthens your business, and can lead to new opportunities, new connections, new products and new markets. As for your smaller customers, what percentage of their business do they do with you? Can you bill in advance annually or create a loyalty program to get those sales up?

If you ask these tough questions, you’re going to arrive at solid answers. Some fixes might be as simple as streamlining your billing process. Others will be hard, like replacing popular but under performing sales people. But if you ignore the conclusions that these seven questions lead you to, you’re just headed for another round of sagging sales, more questions and more trouble.