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June 2020

Why Do Most Salespeople Fail?

Having been in the throes of sales and sales leadership roles for a good chunk of my career, I’ve had my share of scars to accompany my successes, especially in the early stages. Fortunately, I didn’t let the scars from my failures go to waste, successfully learning from them over the years to improve my own and my teams’ performance.

Stemming from my own experiences as a technology services executive and managing teams, this short perspective article sheds light on why most salespeople fail. An alarming majority of salespeople either don’t succeed or have inconsistent performance throughout their career. Only about 3%-5% of sales professionals consistently perform by continually practicing basic principles, and as a result, earn cash compensation that surpasses most CEOs (not accounting for stock-based compensation). Most of these principles are likely ones you’ve heard about, but it’s the inculcation that’s alarmingly missing.

  • Basic Tactics: Persuasion is NOT a strategy. Tailor your process to cater to how the human mind works – buyers react positively to those who challenge their thinking, bring new ideas and market perspectives.
  • Early Commitment: Spend more time with prospects who are willing to provide an early conditional commitment to buy. Eliminate or de-prioritize those that don’t.
  • Allocate time wisely: Prioritize those prospects where you have a good handle on their buying intentions, financial capacity, the timing of need, and a good read on final decision-makers.
  • Trust versus Like: Most salespeople believe prospects will buy from them if they are liked. Focus on Trust instead – learn the techniques to get your prospects to trust and respect you. Building rapport is a derivative, not a starting point.
  • Respect Your Prospect: Do your homework! Never do a sales presentation without knowing what’s important to your prospect – they will feel neglected and disrespected. Cater your pitch to what they want, and sometimes, even better, addressing an unknown need.
  • ‘The Close’ is not an end-game: Artful sales professionals start closing at the beginning, and several times throughout the sales process, addressing needs at various intervals and marrying that with conditional commitment (above).
  • Overcoming Objections: If you do the continual close above, you really, really won’t need to be practicing techniques for “handling objections.”

To help with your success going forward, think about making dramatic changes to your sales process, not incremental changes to your current process. Step change is often the right panacea.

The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson is a superb publication that carries invaluable nuggets to help improve sales performance. If you haven’t yet, it’s a great read!

Having spent the bulk of my career in the technology services industry, I now focus on executive leadership talent for our clients at Kingsley Gate Partners – the fastest growing global retained executive search firm – where we are successfully disrupting the space, leading with the infusion of technology into our proprietary ‘Synchronous Fit’ process. Bringing hands-on experience into the executive leadership search process has been of tremendous value add to our clients, my focus being Sales leadership, Professional Services, Fintech and SaaS/Cloud & Cyber Security.

#sales #salesleadership #businessdevelopment #salesandmarketing @Kingsley Gate Partners