I have over 35 years in sales in a variety of situations, and I have seen many salespeople come and go.
When it comes to the ones who went, I have seen them lose their jobs in many ways, ranging from lack of urgency to outright dishonesty.
Here are the most common reasons sales pros fail, and how their shortcomings impact on their relationships going forward:
1. Lack of qualified activity
One of the early salespeople that I hired had so much activity. He would literally generate 40 to 50 new contacts every day. The only problem was he was lacking the questions that helped him get to a better understanding of where his prospect was in the sales cycle. Many of them didn't even belong in the sales cycle. When he figured out the right questions and qualified the prospect for solutions to their business, he started closing accounts and became one of my top reps.
Mark van Hartesvelt, managing partner at digital marketing company GCommerce, tells me that that there are three habits that are kryptonite for otherwise super salespeople: making the same pitch to everyone (i.e., throwing the same stuff at the wall and hoping it will stick), not following up sales calls and failing to identify specific sales opportunities.
2. No sense of urgency
Waiting for leads, customers to call and business to land on your desk is the type of sales complacency that will kill a person's enthusiasm, energy and career. No matter how successful your day, month or year you must act as if you're always climbing. Proactive movement must come by doing things that push you out of your comfort zone. One of the most common requests from my customers involves creating a program for their sales teams to gain access to net new business, and not constantly rely on current accounts Many salespeople that fail have a hard time making calls on new prospects.
We need a sense of urgency infused in everything we do when it comes to sales success. Life is really too short.
Having a sense of urgency doesn't mean you're engaged in your work 24/7, but it does allow you to relax with your family/friends knowing you have a plan and completed key activities for the day. We are much happier when we have action during the day that gets us closer to our goals.
3. Being unorganized
I was supposed to be picked up at my hotel at 7:30 a.m. by a sales rep I was scheduled to travel with to coach and evaluate. He was told about this travel day a week in advance. He arrived at 8:15am. When I got in the car, I had to move a few things around to find my actual seat. I'm sure you know where this is going. When I asked him what he had planned for the day, he looked at me like I had two heads. He was told to have several meetings set up, and we could cold call around those meetings.
He lasted until the end of the month.
All the other reps I traveled with had a printed out itinerary and description of the meetings. Some of them sent them to me in advance. When you're unorganized you not only have a problem generating new business, but end up losing business because of poor follow up.
If I look back at my business deals and how they were closed there was a tremendous amount of follow up and follow through on requests, research, new contacts and all the critical actions that begin to establish trust with a prospective customer. You earn their trust when they see how you follow up and deliver on the next steps you've promised. I don't know how any top sales producer accomplishes all they can by being disorganized. And I'm not talking about being a neat freak ... Plenty of great salespeople have had offices that look like they went through a war. They just had their own way of knowing what their priorities were for the day, and had a system for follow-up that worked.
4. Negative attitude
What you think about, you bring about. It is extremely difficult to become a top producer when your thoughts are negative. All new salespeople will go through scenarios that make it hard to stay positive. Deals fall through to more experienced competitors, prospects tell them "no" hundreds of times, and the ones who can't move past this will have a tough time with longevity in this business. Whether you like it or not, your attitude determines your altitude in life and in selling. This is such a fundamental asset for successful selling and dealing with all types of objections and obstacles. It's impossible to have a great day with a bad attitude. It's also impossible to have a bad day with a great attitude.
5. Poor work ethic
If you think salespeople are born not made, guess again. I have come across and worked with hundreds of successful salespeople who you would think from your first glance and handshake were never made for this profession. But they have a work ethic and internal drive that's second to none. As my sensei would always say, hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
Hard work creates so many powerful attributes. It creates solid confidence because of your own knowledge of the ground work that's been built prior to your presentations and sales meetings. And after all my interviews with my customers' customers, they will always bring up the quality of their sales reps work ethic and how they go beyond what's expected to create a strong relationship and deliver more value than is expected. When I ask sales managers for the No. 1 reason their reps fail, they almost always relate it to lack of activity and an unwillingness to do the work. Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don't like to do.
6. Doesn't believe in themselves or their product
This can stem from both the attitude problem and lack of work ethic mentioned above. If you don't believe in yourself, it's very difficult for the customer to believe also. And product knowledge and knowledge of your customers' business takes work and dedication.
I've seen many turnarounds for salespeople who had a rough time of getting into their business--until the business got into them. For some reason or another, something clicked. They worked weekends on a specific presentation and put the time into creating something unique about how they stood out from the competition. When the deal was closed they got a huge boost of confidence that re-energized their efforts and strengthened their belief in their product and themselves.
7. Honesty is not their policy.
It takes years to build strong relationships and just one little lie to ruin everything you've built.
I still to this day cringe when someone says to me, "Let me be honest with you..." Why? Why wouldn't everything you're telling me be the truth?
When salespeople think they will succeed by tricking, manipulating or deceiving the customer, they might just pull it off for that one time sale. But it will never last. I want to buy from people I like, trust and respect. Those are the three top reasons most customers buy from you.