Most Salespeople Suck at Selling – Is it Worse Than Ever?


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Last year I wrote this short article on the difficulty that salespeople have getting their voice mail messages returned. In May, this article addressed the subject in a different way. Two years ago I posted a related and very powerful and popular post about Lance Armstrong and how he uses metrics. Last month, a member of a LinkedIn group, Sales Management Executives, posted this question:

“What is your approach to get people to call you back after you have left 2 or 3 messages?”

In the past month, there have been 47 comments, one of the most popular topics I’ve seen there. Some of the replies have been on target but most are embarrassing to read. These are sales management executives and this is a “what salespeople must learn to do in their 1st week in sales” topic. Most salespeople do not have the skills to consistently get new prospects to the phone!

Yesterday I met with a national sales manager from India and we reviewed the sales candidate assessment he would be using to recruit a national sales force there. We were talking about skill sets and I pointed out that it might not be realistic for him to expect the candidates in India to have well developed consultative skills. He asked why and I explained that even here in the US, it’s not realistic to see it. Companies and their sales forces are able to talk about the concept, they say they are doing it, but the data suggests they are not. Objective Management Group’s data from 100,000 salespeople assessed most recently, shows that on average, salespeople possess only 22% of the attributes of consultative sellers. They aren’t doing it. When I observe salespeople who are supposedly selling consultatively, they ask one or two questions before jumping into a presentation. If performed correctly, a salesperson who is selling consultatively should spend the first 60-90 minutes of a sales call asking questions to completely understand the issues, problems, impact, cost, and compelling reasons to invest in a solution. Most salespeople are only asking for 30 minutes time and since it’s what they are most comfortable doing, they want to make sure they have enough time to present something.

So most salespeople aren’t reaching prospects, aren’t selling consultatively and, as you could tell from last week’s post about qualified presentations, they aren’t qualifying either.

So the two questions are:

  1. Why?
  2. What Can be Done?

The why is simple. It’s not really a complete lack of skills as much as it is a combination of weaknesses that prevents salespeople from doing things they need to do. As a result they resort to what’s comfortable for them, even though what’s comfortable is rarely effective.

In order to solve the problem, you must evaluate your sales force, identify which weaknesses are causing the problems, determine on a salesperson by salesperson basis who can be saved, what it is required from a training, development and coaching perspective, what your ROI will be, and provide the 8-12 months of development required to get them doing things consistently and effectively.


Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Overall agreed. But 60-90 minutes? As a benchmark, regardless of situation?Like often; it is not about quantity. The issue is not the time spent asking questions nor the amount of. It is the quality of the questioning. And yes. There is a lot to learn and to practise.


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