New sales people today are so lucky that it makes me envious. They’re given an accessible abundance of training, documented success stories, automated tools, and a knowledge base of best sales practices to guide them towards success. But, even with all this support, what completely puzzles me is that these lucky new sales reps are repeating the bad habits of their predecessors – and making the same rotten mistakes. You see, there was a time – long, long ago – when an effective salesperson was one that was good at schmoozing, was likable, took clients out to expensive dinners, and closed lots of deals. But these practices went only so far. Since then, especially with the major advances in technology, buyers have become much more sophisticated. The sales profession clearly had to adjust accordingly.
The Days of Yore
Back in the olden days, management could spot good sales
people by how they dressed and carried themselves, or how
aggressive yet likable they were. They were “trained” by
others who also knew how to schmooze, were likable… you get
the drill. Sure, they closed a lot of deals, but their profit
margin per deal was very low or non-existent.
In those days of the dinosaurs, a “well-trained” sales person would go into a client’s office and a) read (upside down) anything that was on their desk, or b) comment about how much he liked golf/fishing/etc. if the client had pictures around showing them participating in these sports. Ugh. I don’t miss those days, and it’s almost painful walking down this particular memory lane.
New Sales People, Old Habits
But in these enlightened days, so much is provided to new sales people. There’s a ton of training, best practices and role-playing exercises available on account planning, objection handling, dealing with procurement, meeting planning, social selling, and engaging executives. Honestly, almost every area of sales is now either documented in numerous books or covered in some type of web-based workshop or classroom training.
So, why are so many new sales people still acting as if those dinosaurs still are flying? It’s disheartening to see bad habits in new sales people who are still:
- Doing little to no planning for upcoming client meetings
- Having next to no understanding of a customer’s goals, needs, risk tolerances, or priorities
- Racing to demos and providing proposals too early
- Selling products and services they THINK the customer wants, without understanding where the customer is spending their time, money and resources
- Targeting stakeholders too low in the food chain, where they’re relegated to selling features and functions
- Not establishing a way to move up in the client organization to better understand desired business outcomes
- Bringing tons of internal resources into meetings with little to no role in the deal
Two New Sales Reps, Two Different Scenarios
Recently, I met with a new sales person who had had the amazing opportunity to participate in months of on boarding and training. This included lots of communication and sharing with experienced, successful sales people to ensure the newbies started out on the right path. But, when I asked to discuss a deal in his pipeline, he had no clear reason why it was there in the first place. All he knew was that someone – not a key stakeholder – agreed to meet with him. Say what?
Pivot to another new sales person who had the exact same training. This person did research to get some understanding of what the customer was trying to accomplish. He worked hard to identify the key stakeholders to meet with and signed up for a conference where one of those key C-level stakeholders was presenting. He connected with the key C-level stakeholder on social networks and prepared, in advance, a brief yet impactful statement to introduce himself at the conference. And guess what – this new sales person got on the key C-level stakeholder’s calendar for 60 minutes to delve into the key stakeholder’s goals and priorities! Again, “say what?” But in a positive vein this time.
The Key to Success
So, for all of you new sales people out there, understand that the key to success is to use everything that is available to you. And then align yourself where your customers need you most. Be relevant. Be credible. And, don’t waste your time on deals that will never ever close. Learn from the mistakes of the old-timers and go out there and help your customers reach their business goals. It’s a whole lot easier than pushing that big boulder up that hill. Experienced and new sales people alike: I’ve love to hear about your own experiences!
And a SHOUT OUT to all sales managers: You are JUST as culpable to keep your new sales reps on track through guidance and coaching – but that’s a topic for another post!
Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership.