Sales Leadership: Why corporate sales fail in Ghana

BY: Mawuli Ocloo

Today’s article is inspired by a post entitled, “So Many Fail in Corporate Sales” that I recently read on SpeakUp Ghana! (http://speakugh.tumblr.com), a blog dedicated to “highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly about Ghanaian customer service.”  

The writer’s damning assessment and conclusion on corporate sales in Ghana is:  “Corporate Salespeople in Ghana do not know how to sell. They either do not believe in the product or do not know how to convey their belief in it. They are hugely unprofessional.” Ouch!

Buyer Experience

Below are the two buyer experiences quoted verbatim from that particular post: 

1. “I call to enquire about car insurance, you ask me for my car details, I provide them thinking I’m going to get a quote, you send a courier with my insurance docs and sticker, *then* you act all brand new when I tell you I hadn’t agreed to the policy and I’m not sure I want to pay for it…..” 

2. “A colleague refers you to us as a potential business banker, we schedule a meeting time for 3p.m. You Whatsapp me at 2.50 p.m. with ‘Madam, should we still come?’ When you finally show up at 3.30p.m., you don’t tell me about the various accounts and products available to me. You’re more concerned with getting me to fill the forms and trying to get company documents so you can set up the account. On what planet would that happen…..” 

The question is, am I surprised at the writer’s scorecard on corporate sales in Ghana?  My answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  I’ll answer ‘yes’ because there are sales organisations in Ghana who believe in their products, really know how to sell using a well designed sales process and are extremely professional in their dealings with prospects and clients. Indeed, these corporate sales teams employ the best-in-practice standards to meet customer needs.  ‘No’, because the vast majority of sales organisations, some ranging from SMEs through to Ghana Club 100, actually fit the description of “fails in corporate sales.”  

Why are majority of corporate sales failing?

In my consideration, here are three areas where if one or more are overlooked could result in corporate sales failure: 

1. Poor hiring practices

2. Lack of a sales culture

3. Product knowledge/Technical as sales training

Poor Hiring Practices

• Preference for “high -pressure” selling personality traits in candidates.  I’ve made it a habit to read sales recruitment adverts whenever possible and as a matter of fact the specific personality traits required by these adverts is indicative of the sort of corporate sales teams out there and how they fail.  

Recent ones I’ve seen required  the following personality traits - eloquence, results-oriented, aggressive, militant minded (I’m not kidding), ability to work long hours and without supervision, persuasive and presentable.  

With such requirements how do sales organisations in Ghana expect its salespeople to relate to prospects or customers?  On the other hand, great sales people have the following specific personality traits: courageous, competitive, hungry, problem solvers and enough intelligence to have the job done.  That’s the magic formula.

• The lack of a robust hiring process.  In my job as a sales trainer and coach, I’ve come across several salespeople who are neither trainable nor coachable.  

The reason is simple; they are not wired for a role in sales and shouldn’t have been recruited in the first place.  Successful sales organisations employ a robust recruitment process such as assessment centres which incorporate, presentations, role-plays, in-tray tests, psychographic tests, sales career profile tests,  as well as interview sessions to identify candidates who are “wired” for sales roles.  

Although very expensive, the opportunity cost of not making such investment is a bunch of non performing salespeople who will make your organisation go out of business.

Lack of a Sales Culture

A study recently conducted by Warwick Business School concluded that a sales management strategy is increasingly linked directly to a company’s competitiveness, as well as its ability to implement corporate “turnaround” in turbulent markets.  

A winning sales culture therefore should begin with executive management’s leadership, behaviour and attitude towards the sales organisation.  However, many organisations in Ghana which have deployed salespeople do not have their sales at an executive level. A few years ago while waiting at the reception of an organisation, I stumbled on an interesting conversation between a young graduate armed with his CV looking for a job and a HR executive who said “…there are no jobs at the moment. The only ‘thing’ available now is direct sales, are you interested?” Consequently, salespeople perceive there is no real buy-in, ownership nor support for their strategic role in the business; hence many of them while on the field, spend their time looking for opportunities to change careers.  

Product Knowledge and Technical Training Masquerading as Sales Training   

Whenever I conduct sales training, I would typically ask participants to tell me what sales training they’ve received and if so which of the methodologies they employ.   Predictably, the answers I receive suggest a heavy dose of product knowledge and technical training masquerading as sales training.  A case in point, a colleague decided to start an insurance agency and attended a 20-day agents training programme in which only half-day (i.e. 3 hrs) was dedicated to any form of selling skills.  So you can understand the behaviour of both salespeople referred to in the SpeakUp Ghana blog.  

The implication is that even where talented individuals have been recruited and a sales culture is in place, providing only product and technical knowledge is insufficient.Successful corporate sales organisations must provide direction, continuous training and coaching on needs-based, adaptive, consultative and professional selling skills which are all customer-centric and add value to the prospect or customer.

The conclusion

Sales leaders must understand that to ensure that their sales organisations become successful require re-thinking and an overhaul of their hiring processes, build sales cultures both vertically and horizontally within the organisation as well as ensure that continuous needs-based selling skills programmes are implemented. 


The writer is a Sales Consultant,

Trainer, Coach and Motivator


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