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Why bad sales happen to good people

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13th Mar 2015
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There’s good and bad in all professions. Sales is no exception. Surveys show the only thing lower than a salesman in the minds of many Americans is a politician.

Here are 10 common mistakes made by know-it-all salespeople (who actually know little or nothing at all):

  1. Prejudging the prospect. Either by looks, dress, or speech, you have made up your mind what type of person this is and whether they have money or will buy.
  2. Poor prospect qualification. Failure to ask the right questions about what the prospect wants or needs before the selling process begins.
  3. Not listening. Concentrating on a selling angle instead of trying to understand how the prospect wants (needs) to buy.
  4. Condescension. Acting or talking above (talking down to) the prospect. Making the buyer feel unequal in the selling/buying process. Lack of respect.
  5. Pressure to buy today. If you have to resort to those tactics, it’s because you are afraid the customer might find a better deal elsewhere. Also indicates a “no relationship” attitude.
  6. Not addressing needs. If you listen to prospects, they will tell you exactly what they want or need. Sell back something that addresses those needs, and the prospect will buy. Don’t sell in terms of you; sell in terms of the prospect.
  7. Telegraphing closes and hard selling. “If I can get you this price, will you buy it today?” is a repulsive sales line reserved for salespeople in need of training, or salespeople who like losing sales. When you close, don’t make it obvious.
  8. Making the buyer doubt your intentions. If you change from friendly to pressure at the end of the presentation, or change terms or prices, the buyer loses confidence – and you lose the sale.
  9. Lack of sincerity. Sincerity is the key. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made, is an old sales adage. It’s half true. Sincerity is the key to building trust and establishing a relationship with a prospect who will become a customer if you are successful at conveying the feeling.
  10. Poor attitude. “I’m doing you a favour by selling you. Don’t ask me to go out of my way, because I won’t.”

Characteristics of sales career failures

Here are 19 recurring characteristics and traits of people who thought they could hit a home run in a sales career. But they struck out in their attempt – many of them with their bat on their shoulder – failing to swing at the ball as it passed them by for a called third strike. How many of these apply to you?

  1. You don’t believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can do it, who will?
  2. You don’t believe in your product. Failure to believe that your product or service is the best will show. Lack of conviction is evident to a buyer and manifests itself in low sales numbers.
  3. Failure to set and achieve goals. Failure to plan. Failure to define and achieve specific long-term (what you want) and short-term (how you’re going to get what you want) goals.
  4. You’re lazy or just not prepared to make the sale. Your self-motivation and preparation are the lifeblood of your outreach. You must be eager and ready to sell, or you won’t.
  5. Failure to understand how to accept rejection. They’re not rejecting you; they’re just rejecting the offer you’re making them.
  6. Failure to master the total knowledge of your product (failure to know your product cold). Total product knowledge gives you the mental freedom to concentrate on selling.
  7. Failure to learn and execute the fundamentals of sales. Read, listen to CDs, attend seminars, and practice what you’ve just learned. Everything you need to know about sales has already been written or spoken. Learn something new every day.
  8. Failure to understand the customer and meet his or her needs. Failure to question and listen to the prospect and uncover true needs. Includes prejudging prospects.
  9. Failure to overcome objections. This is a complex issue. You are not listening to the prospect; you are not thinking in terms of solution; you are not able to create an atmosphere of confidence and trust suitable enough to cause (effect) a sale.
  10. Can’t cope with change. Part of sales is change. Change in products, tactics, and markets. Roll with it to succeed. Fight it and fail.
  11. Can’t follow rules. Salespeople think rules are made for others. Think they’re not for you? Think again. Broken rules will only get you fired.
  12. Can’t get along with others (co-workers and customers). Sales is never a solo effort. You must team with your co-workers and partner with your customers.
  13. Too damn greedy. Selling for commissions instead of helping customers.
  14. Failure to deliver what you promised. Failure to do what you say you’re going to do, either for your company or your customer, is a disaster from which you may never recover. If you do it, word will get out about you.
  15. Failure to establish long-term relationships. Trying to make commissions leads to failure through insincerity, failure by lack of service, and failure to be motivated by anything but money.
  16. Failure to understand that hard work makes luck. Take a close look at the people you think are lucky. They (or someone in their family) put in years of hard work to create that luck. You can get just as lucky.
  17. Blaming others when the fault (or responsibility) is yours. Accepting responsibility is the fulcrum point of succeeding at anything. Doing something about it is the criterion. Execution is the reward (not the money – money is just the by-product of perfect execution).
  18. Lack of persistence. You are willing to take no for an answer and just accept it without a fight. You are unable to motivate the prospect to act, or are unwilling to persist through the 7 to 10 exposures it takes to make the sale.
  19. Failure to establish and maintain a positive attitude. The first rule of life. 

If you’re weak in any one of the above 19 areas, it’s urgent that you make a change. Sales weaknesses are like cancer. Mostly self-inflicted due to bad habits and neglect, easy to uncover, and hard to cure – but not impossible. It takes outside help and regular treatments to maintain excellent sales health. Failure is not about insecurity. It’s about lack of execution. There’s no such thing as a total failure.

This is an edited extract from Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource, Published by Wiley, £13.99, Paperback, e-book, ISBN: 9781118985816.

Jeffrey Gitomer is a global authority in sales and customer service. Jeffrey gives public and corporate seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts live and virtual training programmes on selling, attitude, trust, customer loyalty, and personal development. Jeffrey writes a weekly column, Sales Moves, that reaches more than four million readers and a weekly e-zine, Sales Caffeine, with over 500,000 subscribers. He was inducted into the National Speak Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame in 2008.

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