Whether they’ve called you with a terrible pitch, annoyed you in a shop or you’ve had the great pleasure of working alongside them, we’ve all come across really bad salespeople in one way or another.
In fairness though, nobody’s perfect, and there’s no such thing as a completely good or bad salesperson. Everyone just has their strengths and weaknesses (some more than others). The question, though, is: what makes a bad salesperson? What are the most common weaknesses and, most importantly, what are the weaknesses you should be focusing on to improve your performance?
1) Being pushy
The worst trait any salesperson can possibly have is that of being pushy. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to take no for an answer. It’s very important to realize that you’re unlikely to get the sale at the first, second or third time of trying; not succeeding in doing so doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
But if you’re pushy, forceful and won’t take no for an answer, not only will you not get the sale, you’ll make the prospect dislike you. That’s even worse because, even if they do like your products, they’ll probably just go and buy them from a competitor.
Think about it like this: if you were at a bar and you spotted someone you found incredibly attractive, you wouldn’t expect a yes if you just walked over and said “Come home with me.”
Before any of that, you have to talk to them, make sure you’re right for each other, do some rapport building and then find out if they’re interested in you.
Always remember that trust is something that must be earned over time. You can’t just click your fingers and expect the prospect to fall in love with you.
2) Not being persistent
As I mentioned above, not getting a sale first time around doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Failing is just giving up altogether.
In that sense, you have to be a bit of a pest to some extent because if you don’t keep trying, you definitely won’t get the sale.
The key here is a balance between the two: don’t annoy the prospect into hating you and buying from a competitor, but don’t let yourself fall at the first hurdle.
Just remember that it isn’t a bad thing to be putting a little pressure on someone. You shouldn’t be afraid to press someone to find out if they’re really interested or not, just as you shouldn’t be afraid to take it on the chin and say “okay, you’re not going to buy from me this time” and come back again for another attempt later on.
One of the key challenges salespeople will face is apathy, and the best way to deal with it is to be straightforward and ask someone straight up if they’re interested or not.
3) Forcing squares through round holes
Not many prospects are circles.
Most are squares, some are triangles, and a few are even a kind of weird, octagonal shape.
Unfortunately, what you’ve got is a hole. A perfectly circular one, and nothing will fit through it but a really well rounded shape.
What’s more, it will more than likely take a few interactions before the prospect warms up. Until then, they can’t even begin to change shape.
Bad salespeople try to warm the prospect up, change their shape and force them through the hole, all in the first phone call. Most of the time, this just doesn’t work. It’s just frustrating for you and can be quite painful for the poor, triangular prospect, who simply isn’t ready to be pushed through that round hole yet.
Great salespeople realize that time is as important a factor in moving someone through the process as what they’re saying and how they’re saying it ever could be.
The best way to make sure that time is on your side is to ask yourself before every phone call, “what’s the bare minimum I need to convince the prospect of on this call to take the sale a step closer?”
Maybe your first step will simply be qualifying them and making them aware that you exist.
Once you’ve established that, the next call will have the goal of discussing a few basic industry problems that you know they must face and how your products or services can solve them.
Breaking up your sales pitch over numerous calls into a sort of checklist is a really smart way to make sure that your prospect’s mind is filled with the right thoughts about your company.
If you miss stages off the checklist, then there are certain things they’ll fail to grasp which are key to the success of the sale.
But if you can focus your phone call on that one key piece of information that you want them to go away with that day, they’ll be a step closer next time you call.
4) Not aligning with marketing
Leading on from that last point, your marketing team can seriously help you to make and reinforce some key points.
Marketing and sales are, after all, two sides of the same coin; both are trying to raise awareness, boost your company’s reputation and, ultimately, sell.
The two should go hand in hand and help one another, something that the greatest salespeople know very well and use to their advantage.
Poor salespeople, however, forget that the marketing team is there to help. Marketers have strengths that salespeople do not and vice-versa, so working together is key to the success of both departments.
If you really want to get more sales, use the expertise of your in-house marketers to create some good looking email templates, downloadable whitepapers on key industry topics and landing pages that really illustrate how your products or services work.
Making these dedicated to each part of your checklist (previous point) also makes a lot of sense, as you can send something to reinforce your last call as soon as it has ended.
So if, for example, the next stage of the process involves you convincing the prospect that you’re an industry leader and already work with companies like them, you can call them, say your piece and then, as soon as the phone is down, can send over a case study singing your praises.
Without marketing tools, you’re essentially just a salesperson from the ‘90s with a CRM system from the 2000s and a LinkedIn profile from today. But use your marketers to full effect and you’ll find closing deals far easier than ever before.
5) Losing your appetite
Change is a constant feature of every industry in the world. Not being able to keep up with change will result in you falling behind your colleagues and behind rival salespeople in the industry too.
It’s important to keep learning and improving if you want to stay ahead of the game. Reading blogs (this is a good start), guides and talking to your peers about what’s going well and what’s not will really help you in the long run.
Always be open to the idea that someone else has a better way of doing things than you. Just because something used to work for you doesn’t mean it always will.
Great salespeople also don’t get too excited when they close a few deals. Of course you should enjoy your wins, but don’t let them make you cocky, big headed or blind to the reality that there’s always work to be done. In a nutshell, what I’m saying is simply stay hungry and stay humble.