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Why Salespeople Fail...

After nearly 20 years in direct sales, I think I've finally isolated the top 5 reasons why salespeople fail to achieve a return on their investment for the companies they are employed by, and most importantly, themselves. In my humble opinion (hmmm...), I truly feel sales is an art. The mechanics of taking a potential prospect to a closed sale can be a cumbersome one. We all know that! It's the art of devising a game plan for a prospect and carrying that plan out on the field (with sheer intensity) is where you see so many competent salespeople fail. 

In no necessary order, here are the top reasons why I believe potentially great salespeople fail.

Top 5 reasons why salespeople fail

Sales Management 

Top sales managers know how to motivate, inspire, and truly go out of their way to help their team; by building a relationship with them. They know the personalities of their players. They know what's important to each one of them and they know how to earn their respect/support.

Many of the sales managers I meet in business have developed an "ego mantra" that filters down to their staff, blowing the wind right out of their sails every day. A great sales manager helps their team define their market and offers their team the tools, training, and techniques. This supports the team with what they need to present the company in its best possible light and then trains them to ask for the business.

Salespeople are supposed to look up to their managers with ultimate respect and want to "play hard on the field" every day for their team. Sales managers generally do not have "building a relationship with their staff" as one of their ongoing objectives. A mistake that truly costs tens of thousands of dollars in lost recurring revenue to many companies every month. 

Lack of Self Training 

It never ceases to amaze me, that there are salespeople out there who consider themselves consummate sales professionals, who have never studied the art of being one. I can ask 10 salespeople what the 5 steps to effective sales are, and I'll get 9.5 who won't even know what I'm talking about.

It is simply something we learned in Sales 101 in our first year of college: Prospect, Qualify, Present, Close, and Service (Substantiate). The most consummate sales professionals live, eat, and breathe this every day, and they do it seamlessly.

They know their products and services. They know their target demographic. They know how to find that target demographic and they present their case in the most professional, organized manner that they can. And most importantly, they are truly genuine and truly care about substantiating their sales first and how it benefits the purchaser.

They're willing to fill their pipeline every day with qualified prospects by playing the NUMBERS game. They do this every day by consistently reaching new prospects with a combination of communication mechanisms (telephone, voice mail, email, fax, postal (thank you cards), personal visits, etc..). They win business by training themselves to be great salespeople first, and then they educate themselves on everything about their products and/or services, more than enough to be considered a professionals at what they do in their respective industry. 

Lack of Research 

Too many times I see salespeople run out to meet with a client completely unprepared as to what their prospect does and how their products and/or services can HELP that prospect achieve their objectives.

One of Central Florida's finest sales trainers Dave Rothfeld of Creative Sales and Management, Inc. calls this selling from a "features and benefits" standpoint. Think about how effective a salesperson could be if they took the time to do some research on the company and matched up their needs to the products and/or services their company provides.

Woah! What a concept! These salespeople who effectively learn about their potential clients and have their best interests at heart are the most successful. That is the bottom line. 

Time Management for salespeople

There is still an age-old adage going around that says: "Plan your work and work your plan".

How many salespeople do you know that have no idea what they are going to be doing tomorrow? I was lucky enough to experience the working atmosphere of about 55 salespeople on a floor of a major organization recently. Maybe it's the 80/20 rule taking over, but 20% of those salespeople were making 80% of the money and visa versa, simply because they planned their work and they worked their plan.

Sales is a lifestyle, not a job, and as a salesperson, you have to feed off the intensity of getting a deal. I truly believe that innate nature or the Type A personality is something that cannot be taught, it's inbred. With email, voice mail, reporting, internal meetings, etc... nipping away at your precious "face-to-face" time with clients, you'll lose on making your quota if you don't plan well.

Those salespeople, who have adopted the best system for themselves to work productively every day to produce their numbers, are the ones making 80% of the money. You can see it in their eyes at both 8 am when they start their day and at 7 pm, when they are finishing their day. And they know what they are going to be doing tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after....etc... 


I know a consummate sales professional who has never taken a salary and/or a draw in over 15 years of direct selling. In fact, he's turned down positions that offered him that revenue in turn for higher percentages on the deals he closes. The company gets their share and he gets his, and he moves on to the next sale. He equates his 35-50% more in annual salary by putting him in the position to HAVE to close deals to eat every month. Therefore, he works that much harder and feeds off the challenge.

Consummate sales professionals thrive off their ability to hunt in an open forest and come back with dinner, every day. Companies that offer base salaries and draws need to "spell out" their costs for "carrying" someone and see if they can achieve a return for each other. I see the base salary/draw as an easy way to make the rent/mortgage payment and not perform to someone's ultimate ability. If things go bad, and a salesperson gets dumped within 3-6 months (sometimes less) they simply move on to another position that offers them enough to make their payments. If they need more, they'll work for it, (if they deem it necessary that month). Not a good mantra to have.

Surely salespeople need to make a living, but I find too often that companies give this salary/draw up front and do not task that salesperson to return that each and every month BEFORE they get paid another dime. With proper, ongoing, professional sales training, the salary/draw idea should not even be a consideration for consummate salespeople who feed off the challenge of making as much as they possibly want. 

To employ top-shelf, consummate sales professionals, companies need to work hard at building relationships with their teams by motivating, inspiring, and most importantly, training them. Not only with in-depth product knowledge but also with the mechanics of how to be a great salesperson

To be employed by a company where you've earned ultimate respect from the management staff, a salesperson needs to understand "elbow grease" and how to make something happen on the field. Playing the NUMBERS game is not easy; it's playing the CONSISTENT NUMBERS game that matters. 

Bringing the two together is what creates successful businesses and great, manageable careers for salespeople. It's not all that hard if you think about it... 


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