In my observations over the past year I have seen many reasons why salespeople (and thus the companies for which they work) LOSE sales. Here are the TEN biggest reasons why:
- They’re focused on what they sell rather than what the customer needs.
The typical salesperson comes into almost every sales interaction with the same intent: To tell the prospect as much as they can about the product or service that they offer and then get them to buy it. It’s no wonder that customers hide behind voicemail and screen us out! Who wants to be put through that? Sales professionals need to understand that customers are only talking to you because they have needs that they wish to have met. Instead of throwing up on the customer, the salesperson needs to find out what those needs are and how the customer wants them to be met. How can this be done? SHUT UP AND SELL! Ask questions and listen! (Diagnosis before prescription!)
- They have little or no pre-call planning.
We wouldn’t expect our attorneys to go into court on the 1st day of a trial winging it, would we? We don’t expect our doctors to go into the operating room without a plan. We assume that the sports teams that we watch have a game plan that they execute for every opponent, don’t we? If we wouldn’t expect any of these professionals to “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes time to earn their pay, why in the world do we allow our salespeople to do it?
The most valuable asset that our customers have today is their time. And salespeople are getting less of it–especially salespeople that are coming into the sales call unprepared and without a clear strategy and plan to execute. In what areas can your people be more prepared? Here’s a great question to ask: What is the purpose of the call? Without a clear purpose for the sales call, the salesperson will invariably waste their time and the time of their prospect, customer, or client.
- They act and sound just like everyone else.
Too many salespeople knock at the same doors and say the same things as all of their competitors. They show up and throw up and do “information dumps” on the customer, expecting that the customer knows how to “pick a winner.” Here’s the reality: 80% or more of sellers sound the same! Let your approach be your main differentiator this year. Don’t dance the same dance and sing the same song as the rest.
- They do not LISTEN to the customer.
The customer has all of the answers as to why they want to buy. One major problem, however, is that most people (prospects and customers included) do not volunteer information all of the time. Therefore, it is naturally incumbent upon our salespeople to ask solid questions to pull information (answers that we seek) from our prospects and customers. Throughout this “dialogue” process, (when the customer is talking) I have witnessed salespeople merely going through the motions of listening. They sit still, nod, and look introspective as the customer speaks. (They aren’t listening…they are just waiting to talk!)
Many sales are created, many accounts are opened, and many careers are built upon one small piece of information that may come up at one precise moment in a sometimes lengthy sales cycle. So, PAY ATTENTION! The customer may just explain your business to you.
- They try to sell to someone who cannot buy!
Trying to get a decision, an order, a contract, or P.O. from someone that does not have the authority to buy is one of the biggest reasons why salespeople fail. Ask the right questions early in the sales process to understand the customer’s decision-making process including WHO and WHAT’s involved. Just because the guy on the loading dock will listen to you doesn’t mean he can make a decision.
- They bring NOTHING of value to the table.
Salespeople today need to understand that simply being there to take the order is no longer enough. Anybody can do that! A true sales professional in today’s marketplace needs to become a valuable asset to the customer by adding value at every opportunity. A salesperson needs to be “in the know.” They need to offer guidance, wisdom, and ideas to the customer. They need to know the customer’s marketplace as well or better than they do.
Whether it is through suggesting the occasional article, referring a piece of business, assisting in the training of customer employees, or simply grinding out a late night next to the customer, the sales professional must understand that the value that they add must create the perception of difference in the mind of the customer. It is the difference between being a vendor and being a partner.
- They are unaware of who (or what) they are up against.
The competition for a prospect or customer’s time, attention, and money is greater now than it ever has been. We not only are up against competing companies and vendors in the marketplace, we are also up against things like internal competition, the current vendor, internal pressure to fund something else (another project), and indifference (no action). When we are up against others, we need to be aware of who they are, how they sell, what they say, what they offer, and what it costs. Getting blindsided by any competition is a direct result of lack of preparation (you need to know what your going to run into) and a failure to listen to the things both said and un-said by our prospects and customers.
- They lead with price and cry when price resistance comes up.
This is a big one. I have hundreds of salespeople every year complain about customers getting more price sensitive and cheap. Too many times, it is the salesperson that actually brings up price very early in the conversation. They say things like, “Mr. Customer, we want to make sure that we get you the very best price that we can” or “I promise that we will definitely figure out the best way to save you money on this purchase” or “We have the best price in the industry.” These are the same people who get mad when the prospect or customer brings up the fact that they need a lower price! Well who do you think planted that seed?? We must be prepared for price concerns, but we cannot lead with our wallets! The more you focus on the benefits of ownership, the more they will.
- They don’t have enough opportunity in the pipeline.
It has been said that the best sales strategy is a full pipeline of business. What does this mean? When salespeople have a lot of prospects that are in their pipeline of business, they intuitively make moves that position themselves and their companies in more of a positive, confident light. They do not waver or buckle to terms or pricing demands of customers. They have a greater tendency towards action. In contrast, a salesperson that has very little in his or her pipeline tends to come across desperate. These salespeople tend to bow to the pressure and buckle to the demands of prospective customers. Instead of working from a position of strength, these salespeople work from weakness and hope!
- They are simply not the right person for the job!
Salespeople today need to have well developed skills that were not as necessary in years past. Today’s economy demands a higher level of thought, strategy, and preparation. It demands an acute level of awareness of the buyer’s environment. Many of yesterday’s thoroughbreds are today’s donkeys. Some of them were adequate when the economy was healthy and robust but are severely lacking the skills necessary to consistently perform today. The marketplace of today (and the customer’s that you seek from it) demand and deserve a professional with BOTH the skill and the will to do what’s necessary. Do you have what it takes? If not, they/you need to move on!
Take a look at the performance of your sales team over the past year. How many of your salespeople are going to reach their goal this year? How many of them are heading out into this competitive market half-cocked? How many are “winging it” every day in hopes of divine intervention? How much value do they add? How well do they differentiate themselves and thus your company from the competition? How often do they run up against the “wall” of price resistance?