I have yet to meet a sales professional who doesn’t want to succeed, who doesn’t want to exceed quota and make more money. But the reality is, salespeople still fail. Sometimes it’s a temporary slump, sometimes (unfortunately) it’s a career-long trend.
In the work we’ve done with sales organizations, managers and individual reps, these are the 10 most common reasons why salespeople fail.
1. No experience
Honestly, this is a bit of a false crutch & excuse. If you have the right drive and make-up, you can succeed with zero previous sales experience. I’ve seen it happen countless times. Of course, a raw, unexperienced new sales professional can’t succeed without the proper support, training and management to help them accelerate through the learning curve.
2. No plan
If you come to work every morning waiting for the good leads, you’re going to fail. If you’re waiting for the phone to ring, reacting to what comes into your email inbox, that’s not exactly a recipe for success. And yet, many salespeople work without a plan – reactively and opportunistically going through the month or quarter without a strategy. Just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean you’ll always follow it. But if you don’t have a roadmap, how do you expect to get where you want to go?
3. No discipline
Sales is incredibly difficult. Oftentimes, it’s not even fun. The daily grind, the never-ending activities required to get through the “no” answers and find the ready-to-buy prospects, that not only takes a ton of work but requires daily discipline to stay focused and actively on the path to success. Look at the most successful reps and you’ll find men and women who get up early, power through their calls, and do what it takes – every day – to make their number.
4. No training
This is more than just product training, which is critical. Every rep should know the details of their product or service, but that’s table stakes. They also need to understand the market into which they’re selling, as well as who their target prospect is – what they care about, what their problems are, and what they’re trying to achieve independent of your product or service. And this training needs to happen far more often than the annual sales kick-off meeting too. For world-class sales organizations, training and reinforcement is a regular, ongoing habit.
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5. No support
To be successful, sales professionals need tools to help them work smarter. They need sales support and operations resources to provide the infrastructure, tools, processes and other execution best practices so they can spend more of their time in front of customers. And they need a proactively supportive management team, including managers who know that coaching requires more than just reinforcing process, but also proactively helping reps solve unique sales problems.
6. No leads
This is another place where many sales professionals find a perfect excuse for why they’re not hitting the number. In some sales organizations, reps are given leads for follow-up. Some leads are qualified, some are not. But even when reps aren’t handed leads, they’re responsible for finding their own. Yes, this can be a pain-staking, inefficient process. Yes, this can directly impact an individual reps ability to close more business. But you have two choices when face with no leads – get some yourself, or go somewhere else.
7. No motivation
Motivation can come in a variety of formats, of course. It can be material, such as a new boat or stereo system or exotic vacation. It can be fundamental, like putting your kids through school. But whatever it is, motivation to succeed drives performance and ensures consistent execution for reps who don’t let failure take hold.
8. No adaptability
The way you were taught to sell 20 years ago might not be as effective today. The tools you used, the approach that once worked, might fall flat today. If you aren’t able to adapt to the changing market, the changing customer – you’re likely to see declining results. Successful sales professionals constantly adapt their strategy and execution to what’s changing and working around them.
9. No customer insight
Gone are the days of one-sided selling (if they ever existed in the first place). Gone too are the days when the prospect allowed you to ask them questions to which they already knew the answer. Reps today fail in part because they don’t take the time to understand their customer before making an approach. This is far more than just having a solid introduction or insights to break the ice. This is about getting to the root needs your customers has, and differentiating yourself as someone who isn’t there just to sell, but to teach and enable the outcomes the prospect needs and/or has envisioned in the first place.
10. No focus
There are so many things that can distract you during the day. Things that feel important, maybe even feel urgent, but are neither. It’s incredibly difficult to stay focused on what’s important, what will truly push your results forward. But that’s why so many reps fail, and so few consistently hit their number.