Every month, we interview sales leaders from a variety of industries looking for insights into what salespeople and sales managers are doing and can be doing to improve performance. A question we often ask is, what are the most results limiting habits you observe salespeople get into?
4 stubborn bad habits salespeople get into
- Too much talking on sales calls,
- Poor questioning…either too obvious, not relevant or not challenging enough,
- Inability to communicate compelling value and competitive advantages on what matters most to the prospect or customer and clearly defines what differentiates your company from your competitors,
- Inability to control the sales conversation and lead it to a desirable conclusion.
Mindy McIntosh, Director of Sales, Orora Packaging Solutions and Paul Kleinkauf, Regional Director of Sales, FinTech Industry shared some interesting thoughts on this topic with us in recent interviews.
Mindy McIntosh put it this way based on what she’s observed:
“The biggest mistakes I see salespeople make are they talk too much, they don’t listen, they’re unorganized and prideful meaning they think they already know what the answer is.”
When we asked Paul Kleinkauf what makes top performers different, he quickly responded with:
Top performers know how to ask the right questions. By asking the right questions, it not only shows credibility, but builds trust. -Paul Kleinkauf, Regional Director of Sales, FinTech Industry Click To Tweet
“Top performers know how to ask the right questions. By asking the right questions, it not only shows credibility, but builds trust.”
Paul and Mindy are hitting on what we believe are key focus areas that, for whatever reason, often don’t get the attention they need from sales management teams.
Think About Athletes…
We can probably all agree that the steadily increasing levels of performance that elite athletes achieve is nothing short of remarkable. Every year they get faster, stronger, and perform better and better under the most extreme pressure imaginable. This is made possible, primarily, because of the way they train. They train with an intense desire to improve. Their goal, each week, is to get better so that when they face competition, they perform better. Training and practice is built into every day, even the days they compete. It’s this rigorous commitment to training and improvement that is the catalyst for their ever improving results.
What We Hear from Salespeople
We interview salespeople every month and one of the questions we always ask is how they train, what their training habits and routines are and how often they practice with their sales manager. More often than not, this is what we hear:
- We practice once or twice a year when we get together as a team
- The coaching I get from my sales manager tends to be on pipeline review and how I’m doing against my goals or quota
- Our sales meetings rarely, if ever, have much practice in them
- I’m not 100% sure exactly what our selling best practices are because they’ve never really been shared with me
- The best training I got was immediately after I was hired in the new hire phase … after that, it has been pretty infrequent
It is rare that we hear from salespeople that they train and practice every week to improve. Mindy shares a profound insight on this…
Sales is like fitness. You don't just workout in the gym with the personal trainer and then stay in shape for the rest of your life. -Mindy McIntosh, Director of Sales, Orora Packaging Solutions Click To Tweet
“Sales is like fitness. You don’t just workout in the gym with the personal trainer and then stay in shape for the rest of your life. Even when you get into the best shape you’ve ever been in, you can’t quit and say, okay there we go, I’ve arrived. You have to stay at it and sales is like that. It’s one of those professions that you have to keep practicing on, you have to self-educate, you’ve got to read because it’s a self-educated profession.”
We agree that when salespeople acquire the weekly practice habit, their results improve.
The Talking Too Much Habit
This is where most salespeople should start and where most sales managers should focus their coaching efforts. It is nearly impossible to be effective on sales calls if you talk too much and don’t ask good questions and then listen. Fortunately, this is a skill nearly all salespeople can improve in.
Here are some immediate training ideas that will quickly break the talking too much habit:
- Learn 5-7 concise, clear competitive advantages and practice how to communicate them with persuasive impact.
- Rehearse and practice an asking and listening focused agenda before every sales call.
- Prepare for sales calls by thinking through some interesting and thought provoking questions you can ask.
- Rehearse a role play with a sales manager, record it and analyze how much listening really occurs.
- Work with a practice partner and train yourself to make your key points in 60-90 seconds…this takes repetition and a stopwatch!
Athletes Train With Coaches
It’s critical to remember that elite athletes nearly always train with expert coaches who correct their mistakes, demonstrate better techniques and provide immediate feedback. Paul reminds us of how important sales managers are in the process of building stronger sales teams…
“Sales managers need to have the skill to critique their sales teams effectively and positively. Sadly, there are too many managers today who have no training in how to critique their team.”
Basic Sales Fundamentals Include
Just like Phil Jackson taught his team a set of basic fundamentals, if you’re going to teach selling fundamentals and build a solid team that can execute, then you need to really focus on the teachable selling skills. Although there are many sales processes and sales cycles out there, these are the universal selling skills, the sales basic fundamentals, that matter most in terms of interacting with live prospects:
- How to start a sales call with a great, customer focused agenda
- Asking questions, listening and asking relevant and effective follow up questions
- Using effective insights to challenge the limiting thinking of prospects the right way
- Summarizing at the right time to check in and transition
- Using short, effective headlines to organize competitive advantages
- Tailoring the value proposition and differentiating factors to what matters most to that prospect
- Closing for clear action steps
- Maintaining control of the sales call and sales process
Mindy shared with us the higher level perspective on asking questions and creating the kind of shared discovery that opens up real opportunity…
“So often salespeople think they know the right answer, even though they’ve been trained to listen and ask the right questions they’re not really doing it. Even if the salesperson does know the right answer, the real trick is getting the customer to come up with that answer. Not telling them but getting them to discover and tell you what they need through the right questions so they feel like it’s their solution, not yours.”
Remember, One Size Doesn’t Fit All!
It’s important to remember that salespeople are individual humans first and we need to adapt to their strengths and needs. It is a mistake to try and get every person on the team to be the same or, even worse, to sell the same way the sales manager does. Different people have different strengths and can succeed in different ways. As long as they can execute the fundamentals, we need to be flexible to let their individual personalities and strengths shine. Paul reminds us of this with this key insight…
“Great sales managers have the ability to train people based on their personality disposition, always knowing when to push and when to hold back.”
The SalesGym is a research, consulting and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.