It's a well trod course - why do some salespeople fail? When we think we have done as much as we can to help, support, cajole, threaten, use any other "tool" (good and bad) why is it that some salespeople still fail? A wonderful summary in a recent HBR article summarises this really well. And it is based on research too - even better! This research was based on feedback from "buyers" who were asked the reasons why they didn't buy. Out of interest, and this was USA research so we can draw good links, 230 buyers rated 12% of salespeople "excellent," 23% "good," 38% "average," and 27% "poor." That's concerning. So below is my take on this, with thanks to Steve W. Martin, University of Southern California. The 7 reasons:
They are not trusted or respected. Customers can think of a salesperson as someone who is trying to sell something, a supplier with whom they do business, a strategic partner who is important to their business, or a trusted adviser whose advice is followed. Obviously the trusted adviser should be our goal, but in the past year the buyers met only 18% of salespeople who they could classify as trusted advisers that they respected. You may want to know how salespeople who are not trusted and respected, become so? Maybe the next blog! (but I warn you, it's not easy)
They can't communicate effectively with senior management. Salespeople will often spend much of their time talking to "lower level" buyers, but if they do have the opportunity to talk to senior people or shareholders, they have to nail it, otherwise they are lost. Buyers found that less than one in three salespeople held an effective conversation with senior managers. Again, I can think of how to work towards this as well - another future blog!
They are too self-centered. 44% of buyers felt that salespeople were only serving their own interests, whilst 25% felt the salesperson was only interested in making the sale. This lesson is clear - salespeople need to focus more on the buyer and ensure they look after their interests, not their own
They can't clearly explain how their solution helps the buyers business. This is sales 101 isn't it? These days buyers can gather huge amounts of information via the internet, so talking brochures haven't worked for a long time. Salespeople need to provide value and solve buyers problems. To do that they need to find out what they are! Only then can they effectively explain how their solution will help
They use the wrong closing strategy. We all know this don't we? Hard closes haven't worked for a long time, but they still get used too often. Ideally we shouldn't need to close - we have positioned our value in such a way that yes is the only response. But if we do have to close, do it softly!
They don't mitigate the risk of buying their solution. Buyers are skeptical about salespeople - the research shows this. They have been burnt in the past, so when buying high value items we must attempt to mitigate the risk to the buyer - the risk of the salesperson making mistakes, the solution not working, or the risk of a "disaster" to the buyer - we read and see examples of this often
They can't establish a personal connection with a buyer. Buyers listed 5 reasons why this "chemistry" doesn't develop:
The salesperson was too pushy
There was a difference in communication styles
The salespersons personality was not much different to mine (interesting!)
The salesperson was too eager to befriend me
There was a difference in age (also interesting!)
A number of threads link these reasons - communication, communication and communication! Our salespeople need to work at these skills. The recent work around "Conversational Intelligence" should be a "must read" for salespeople to be effective today. I intend to spend some time on this topic in future blogs as it will help all of us.
Keep well, stay focused and communicate!