Why Sales Teams Fail? And How To Ensure Its Success


The sales team’s culture and your organization’s strategy and execution create the customer experience. So, suppose your sales team’s culture fails, your sales performance does too.

Yet, high functioning teams are notorious for toxic culture cultivation but still have sales success.

So, why do sales teams fail? Sales teams fail for a myriad of reasons, but often the root cause lies in a lack of accountability and transparency within the team. A lack of either interferes with the innate competitiveness and team functions within a sales team resulting in breakdowns.

Continue reading to discover how your sales culture will determine your sales team’s risk of failure or success and how to create an accountable and transparent sales culture that outperforms all other organizations.


You need a team to achieve meaningful results. You will never get anywhere with one top sales rep.

Let me give you three definitions you should write down:

Culture: How your organization gets sh*t done.

Accountability: A clear commitment to getting that sh*t done to a satisfactory standard in the eyes of others.

Transparency: Providing truth to individuals that challenge them to grow.

What does that mean collectively?

sales team and sales leader

You need a game-changing team that is bought into the culture through transparency and accountability.

A major differentiator between a sales team and a game-changing sales team is that each individual has a defined role that supports the team’s goals.

Each member is held accountable for their target or job’s completion, and the sales leader holds every salesperson accountable.

Culture is how your organization gets sh*t done. And accountability is a clear commitment to getting that sh*t done to a standard deemed satisfactory in the eyes of others.

It leads to transparent conversations between sales professionals and leaders and enforcers action to ensure each individual meets agreed activity targets within the team.

It also further reinforces transparent expectations to the rest of the team.

“You don’t fulfill your role. You let the team down. You will be held accountable to the rest of the team.”

Accountability and transparency isn’t a skillset; it’s a mindset reinforced by healthy competition and structures.

sales team with sales leader


Sales is inherently competitive. And underlying structures reinforce that competitiveness.

On the other hand, sales teams rely on teamwork to achieve meaningful results.

However, the nature of each interferes with the other.

It is evident in other high-performing teams, such as Formula One.

For example, each Formula One team has two drivers, both high functioning individuals. They share the same team goal.

However, ultimately, they’re not on a team, as they compete against each other on the track for the number one position.

One person will win; one person will lose.

Yet they’re both supposed to work together.

This is why it never works out. Infighting is inevitable in Formula One teams.

A sales team parallels Formula One. Likewise, you can’t have two top-earning sales reps.

However, we mistake telling sales managers and sales reps they need to be the number one rep on the leaderboard. So, salespeople forget they are team motivated.

If you convey this message to your sales team, you’re effectively pitting sales reps against each other.

So the message “Let’s work together and help each other out” is illogical. It ignores the obvious.

Rose Garden Team Assessment

Rose Garden Consulting’s Team Assessment assists CEOs and sales leaders to improve and optimize sales performance.

Unhealthy competition problems

High-functioning teams are competitive.

Lack of competition does not simply lead to a sales slump; it’s more like an entire collapse.

But, unhealthy competition will interfere with the sales team’s function.

As a sales leader, you need to breed healthy competition.

A sales team parallels a Formula One team. Like you can’t have two number one drivers, you can’t have two top-earning sales reps.

Unhealthy competition amongst sales reps is an age-old problem rarely solved because we view the solution linearly.

It’s almost binary in the way we look to solve it.

Unfortunately, organizations and leaders seek to motivate salespeople in two ways:

  1. Money
  2. Competition with peers

That’s the wrong attitude. That is how you breed contempt.

I have seen it breed toxicity and contempt amongst the best sales development reps, sales function reps and even spread throughout the entire sales team.

sales teams and sales leaders


So, how do you create healthy competition in a sales team?

  1. Learn the cognitive abilities or work styles of each salesperson.
  2. Learn their true motivations and desires.
  3. Use work styles and desire to position members in teams and reinforce behaviors with structures.

Understanding Cognitive Abilities

Many leaders use intrinsic or extrinsic motivators to incentivize closing deals.

While I advocate using pay structures to reinforce an efficient sales process, an ability to close deals rarely has anything to do with intrinsic or extrinsic motivators.

A salesperson’s natural tendency to close deals primarily relies on cognitive functions.

Does this sound familiar?

A sales rep is slowly moving a new prospect through a deal, and they ask questions that seem immaterial to you.

Your sales manager labels that individual as lazy, an inconsistent seller, or inexperienced.

In sales meetings or performance reviews, we might say:

“This person just doesn’t have that killer instinct.”

My answer: maybe and maybe not.

sales hiring and sales team

Works Styles

Great salespeople simplify, adapt, and innovate. That defines their cognitive abilities and translates to their work styles.

For many salespeople, these abilities come naturally.

For others, their own abilities favor strategizing and systematizing. Their work styles seek to genuinely understand each prospective customer in their sales pipeline rather than move on a deal right away.

That’s a function of their cognitive abilities. That is their work style.

Things to consider here:

  • Work styles or cognitive abilities do not reflect their desire for sales success.
  • You can adopt cognitive abilities with specific training and a tight sales process.
  • Everyone can improve sales skills, prospecting skills, product knowledge, successful selling techniques, leveraging technology – a growth-minded individual is critical.
  • Different work styles can add value to the sales team’s goals, but you need the correct position and structures in place.
  • As a sales leader, it is your job to understand how your entire team functions and how to fill roles within the sales team.

The sales leader builds fail-safes within the sales process to ensure salespeople operate at their best selves.

Therefore, your fail-safe ensures the rep doesn’t move too slowly and loses the deal within the sales cycle.

sales team


It’s also important to understand that each team member is motivated by something different.

Remember, money is a soft motivator.

It’s only enough until it’s enough.

People are often intrinsically motivated by:

  • stability
  • achievement
  • recognition
  • freedom
  • combination of different things.

It’s essential to understand why your team members do what they do.

It’s essential to understand their affective desires because that’s how you will trigger them to want to move forward with accountability.

Simply by telling them: “You’re a team and that you need to work together” it’s not going to do anyone any good.

Once you know what motivates each individual, you can speak to them at a one-to-one level with complete transparency.

Then use your knowledge of the individual’s work styles and desires to help speak to them one-to-one to figure out specific roles and activity targets for each member.

I’ll never understand how you can work with somebody daily and not know how to communicate with them.

Rose Garden Team Assessment

Rose Garden Consulting’s Team Assessment assists CEOs and sales leaders to improve and optimize sales performance.

Reinforce with structures

The hierarchal structure within the organization reinforces a sales team’s toxicity.

Hierarchy is based on merit, further reinforced with a graduated pay scale: the more you sell, the more you make.

Other hierarchal structures may look like:

  • Competition
  • Bonuses
  • Leaderboards
  • Quotas, etc.

Let me be clear; the structure is rarely the problem; competition, pay for performance, leaderboards, and quotas are all part of sales. And they act as the forcing functions for accountability and transparency.

I will never advocate for participation trophies or even pay everyone the same.

That’s going to have an even more significant and disastrous effect.

There are no moral victories, and there can only be one winner, just like in Formula One.

Hence, I think there’s a better way.

sales leader and sales rep

You want to incentivize the behaviors you want, whether from an individual or a team standpoint.

Now, of course, paying commission commensurate to revenue sold is the first part, but you don’t stop there.

Remember, money is not an intrinsic motivator. It’s only enough until it’s enough.

An increase in earnings doesn’t always translate to a linear increase in sales.

So, pay your people enough to ensure that earnings are never the problem. Otherwise, the more you pay, the more they’re going to want.

Then using your knowledge of the individual’s work styles and desires help to speak to them at a one-to-one level.

Finally, apply that knowledge in the right lens and position each individual on your team accordingly with specific targets.

That’s what will allow your team to succeed without running any interference.


When your organization grows, you have to reinforce a culture of winning.

As the sales leader, it’s your job to identify areas in your company that need improvement.

Are your culture and structures causing problems?

Can you find creative solutions to these issues preventing progress?

Let me be clear, if the solution were in front of you, you would have solved it already.

It’s likely something that you cannot solve without support and help.

Rose Garden Consulting is solutions-focused, so if you want me and my team to ignite your revenue, we will do so with our Team Assessment and Sales Accelerator Process.

About the author:

Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.

Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.

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