SALES

5 Bad Sales Habits to Avoid

Make sure your sales team is avoiding these toxic behaviors.
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The most successful salespeople are always experts at working with the people in their own firm.  They make certain that their company provides the right products, the right support and the right hand-holding, so that the customer has the best experience possible.

Some salespeople, however, have exactly the wrong idea.  They see the people in their own firm (including their own management) as obstacles or as irrelevant.  As a result, they end up irritating the very people who will keep customer happy.

Make sure your salespeople are avoiding the following bad habits, which can alienate customers and fellow team members.

1. Playing the Lone Wolf

The sales rep hides the size of the opportunity (or even the opportunity itself) from the rest of the organization and try to develop it alone, hoping that he'll get all the credit if it closes (but no guff if it doesn't).  Unfortunately, if the deal does move forward, there's no support from the rest of the team for making it happen.

2. Overscheduling

The sales rep stuffs her pipeline with so many complex deals that she's hard-pressed to keep them straight.  She's hedging her bets, because she's sure at least some of the deals will close.  However, she's also putting your firm's reputation at risk: What if all those deals close and your firm ends up with more projects than it can possible handle?

3. Denial

The sales rep gets so enamored with the size of an opportunity that he keep slogging away at it, even when it's unlikely or even impossible that he'll get the business.  He continue to communicate a (false) sense of confidence to the rest of the team, all of whom make decisions based upon the assumption that the deal will close.

4. Overpromising

The sales rep underestimates the complexity of the opportunity and closes the deal by promising something that your firm can't deliver. If I had a dollar for every time this way of thinking screwed up a customer relationship, I'd have, well ... I'd have a whole lot of money. 

5. Showboating

The sales rep treats other employees shabbily because she forgets that her success is dependent upon the quality of her relationships. Yes, your sales team is important. But it's foolishness to believe that any sales rep can be successful without a supporting team.

Encourage Better Habits: 3 Rules

How to deal with these negative behaviors? Here are three ways.

  • Stop hiring "sharks." If you're looking for predators when you hire, you're going to end up with people who will do anything–including screwing your company–in order to make the sale.  In other words, take responsibility for creating the problem. Then fix it.
  • Ignore third-rate sales "trainers." A depressing number of sales trainers encourage these habits, especially on blogs that promote their sales training.  Hint: Anyone who speaks positively about "A.B.C." ("always be closing") is probably a first-class jerk.
  • Keep communications open.  Bad behaviors flourish in environments where everybody (including management) plays their cards "close to the vest."  They're much less common inside firms with open communications–places where non one ever shoots the messenger.
  • Focus on customer satisfaction. And make sure your compensation, at least in part, backs this up. That way, you encourage a long-term view and keep the sales team from indulging in behaviors that make quarterly figures look good–but create problems down the line.

The "habits" part of this column is loosely based on a conversation with Sharon Daniels, CEO of the sales training firm AchieveGlobal.  I'm doing a webinar for them in the autumn of 2012; I'll keep you posted. The "advice" part of this column is based on my own observation of sales teams–ranging from the good to the bad to the truly ugly.

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IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Apr 5, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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