As a general rule, sales tends to mirror life. The same principles that govern outside relationships also apply to buyer relationships, and the same pitfalls that keep people from personal satisfaction also hold them back in sales. It's a good rule of thumb to use specifically with newer sales reps, who might be less certain about the most effective tactic to use in situations that they may not have encountered before in a sales context
Sales managers can't dictate what to do for every rep in every situation, but they can establish a set of guiding principles to act as a framework for future decision-making. The more familiar and relatable those rules are, the easier they'll be for new salespeople to apply. With that in mind, I decided co-opt one of the most established codes of behavior I could think of-the the seven deadly sins-and apply them to sales, to show how simple and universal these principles really are.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Sales
1. Greed: When you're new to sales, it's easy to get caught up in the thrill of the chase and abandon proper process in your haste to close a new deal. Salespeople tend to be naturally competitive, and the adrenaline rush of pursuing new opportunities can be hard to ignore, even if they know that there's a standard procedure they're expected to follow.
But sales methodology exists for a reason. If salespeople rush too quickly, they risk losing prospects, making mistakes, or alienating prospects. Speeding through pipelines can mean compromising control over the outcome of each opportunity-which can have devastating effects on your final numbers. Successful salespeople do move quickly, but they do so strategically and deliberately, focusing on closing one deal at a time.
2. Sloth: The first time reaching out to a new prospect is exciting. The second time is a little less exciting. By the time you get to your third, fourth or fifth follow-up on the same lead, almost all of the novelty of the opportunity has faded...which is why many sales reps never make it that far.
It's an understandable instinct...no one wants to expend energy working on a lead that doesn't seem to be leading into anything. But studies have shown that the optimal number of follow-up attempts to convert a lead is actually six. By giving up too early, reps pass up a valuable opportunity to win new business.
3. Gluttony: The opposite of letting leads go too easily-which can be equally damning-is hoarding opportunities in the pipeline. Reps who refuse to share prospects, won't let dead ones go, and never de-prioritize those less likely to close, are ultimately setting themselves back. They're cluttering up their pipeline and obscuring the true high-quality prospects with the highest likelihood of closing.
4. Envy: A salesperson's most important commitment is to believe in the product he or she is selling. You can't convince someone else that your solution is the best fit for their needs if you don't believe it yourself. That's why one of the most dangerous activities for new sales reps is getting too caught up in the hype about competitive solutions. It's important to be educated about competitors' products so you can know your differentiators, but if you focus obsessively on comparing yourself too early on, it could negatively impact your ability to sell. For new reps, the most productive approach is to focus on learning how your solution can solve your customers' problems. That's the real foundation of successful sales.
5. Anger: Just like any other professional interaction, selling at its core is fundamentally a business transaction. Because it's such a relationship-based discipline, it can be hard for inexperienced (or even experienced) salespeople to keep themselves from getting too emotionally involved in the outcome of a deal. That response is understandable, but extremely detrimental. Not only is emotional behavior unprofessional, but approaching a contentious deal with a calm rational outlook is often the only way to win a prospect over.
6. Lust: In a commission-based environment, there are few things more alluring than a nice, neatly wrapped up deal, but in their haste to get there, reps will often lose focus on higher strategy or take some ill-advised desperate measure to try to salvage a deal they think they're going to lose. Lusting after deals is just as detrimental as anger for your ability to work strategically.
7. Pride: Even the absolute best salespeople aren't going to win every deal. It just comes with the territory. To be successful, you've got to develop a thick enough skin to keep working in the face of rejection. If you lose a deal, swallow your pride and work twice as hard on the next one. If you can take your ego out of sales and focus on keeping your product or service front and center, you'll be far better off in the long run.
Sales remains an art as well as a science. It can be difficult to explain to new reps exactly what they should prioritize and why, but if you can arm them with a few solid and familiar guidelines that they can readily fall back on, it can help improve their processes and make the field as a whole a lot less daunting. Tell them to avoid these seven deadly sins, and they'll be well on their way to a killer sales career.