Sales managers scratch their heads. “Right from the start, I was so sure Carl would be a top performer. I would have put money on it. But before I knew it, he crashed and burned.”
It’s an old story, one that often ends with the same words, “I wasn’t cut out for sales.” Maybe. But probably not. Poor training, inadequate support, and unrealistic expectations can each play a role.
Even so, what causes potentially good salespeople to fail has little or nothing to do with poor sales skills. The real harm is self-inflicted. Salespeople sabotage themselves. And here’s how they wreck their sales careers:
1. Tell a customer they will take care of something and then don’t do it. Why worry about it? It’s nothing an “I’m sorry,” a little schmoozing, a bouquet of flowers, or a gift card can’t correct. Anyway, it wasn’t that important. That’s not how customers see it. Their actions reveal the truth of who they are.
2. See themselves as special. The “salesperson’s disease” is catching and it’s transmitted by rubbing shoulders with other salespeople. The major symptom is the belief that they’re the reason for the company’s success so that gives them permission to break the rules, and to look down on everyone else. Oh, yes, the disease is fatal.
3. Puff up their record. No salesperson needs to take a course in “The Fine Art of Amplification.” Whether it’s with customers, each other or the boss, exaggeration comes naturally for too many salespeople. And, then, they come to believe their own baloney.
4. Avoid asking for help.Many salespeople see themselves as operating on their own, beholden to no one, and totally responsible for their destiny. And that includes asking for help, which they view as a sign of weakness and something they can’t live with — even when it costs them customers.
5. Criticize but don’t contribute.You know these salespeople, they’re quick to tell you what’s wrong in every part of the company: why revenues are down, what’s wrong with the product line, or who in management should be dumped. Yet, when asked to contribute their ideas or make suggestions, they have nothing to say. Such behavior pushes them out the door.
6. Do enough to get by. They’re guided by some preset internal gauge that sets strict limits, letting them go only so far before banging on the brakes. These are outliers to be sure. They’re ignored when there’s a crisis or unexpected crunch. In a word, they’re superfluous to the company’s success.
7. Ignore deadlines. It started out early in life. Their school projects were always late and they always arrived with an attached excuse. Now their reports are predictably late, along with customer proposals, along with just about everything else, even expense reports. It’s as if deadlines were made for others, not for them. And they can’t figure out why the boss has it in for them.
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