Why Do Salespeople Fail?

Why Do Salespeople Fail?

Why Do Salespeople Fail?

Salespeople are the frontliners of your business. Their competence determines what light will be cast on your company. When they fail to be at their best, it doesn’t only reflect poorly on your company and brand, it also hurts your bottom line.

While there are superstars, there are also sales reps who grit their teeth and end each day frustrated. But, why?

I put together this list of reasons why sales reps fail. I’m sure there are more out there, but this should help you start troubleshooting.

No listening skills

Salespeople are often measured by how well they pitch–but active listening is probably one of the most underrated sales skills. Unfortunately, it’s one that many reps fail to develop.

Keith Rosen, The Executive Sales Coach, laments this fact. He notes that many salespeople don’t get skills training on effective listening. “Listening well improves the quality of the relationships you have with clients, friends, co-workers, or family members. Ineffective listening can damage relationships and deteriorate the trust that you have with your clients. The price of poor listening is many lost selling opportunities.”

Don’t understand value-based selling

Giving value is the key to getting the trust of our customers and prospects. However, the concept of creating and giving value is lost on many sales reps. What does this lead to? Cringe-worthy sales calls where your rep pressures the customer to agree to a transaction instead of demonstrating the value of your product.

Prospects need to feel like you understand their business challenges and that your product helps overcome those problems. This is the heart of value-based selling. Unfortunately, according to a Forrester Research’s Buyer Insight study, “only 13% of customers believe salespeople can demonstrate an understanding of their business challenges and how to solve them”.

Waiting for the huge client

If someone likes to complain, they’ll never run out of material. In sales, complainers spew all kinds of excuses: the leads are bad, the industry is not in a good place right now, now is a bad buying season. Absolutely unproductive.

Now one of the worst excuses I’ve encountered is one that is seldom verbalized–but as they say, actions speak louder than words. Some salespeople do not give a hoot to “small” prospects and spend their time daydreaming about that one huge prospect that they always think will be closed on this call. Sometimes it happens, often it doesn’t. The devil is in the in-betweens. When they fail to close deals, they always say that next week will be the one!

Be on the lookout for salespeople who are beginning to adopt this attitude. Keep them grounded and focused on the team’s goal; a goal that is achieved by a series of wins and not a single–often elusive–jackpot.

Don’t deliver on promises

Following through is vital in sales. If you tell a prospect you’ll call them before the week ends, do that. Promising and not delivering is one of the quickest ways to sour your relationship with a prospect. The practice of consistently doing what was promised is in every successful salesperson’s arsenal.

For Alice Myerhoff, VP of sales at Edsurge, following through is a crucial aspect of being a consistent salesperson who gets results. “Showing up when there isn’t a deal at stake is a great way to foster a strong long-term relationship. And clearly, following up after the sale is no-brainer if you are selling to someone that may upgrade, renew or purchase more products or services from you in the future.”

Don’t make second contact

It would be nice if most prospects said yes during the first touch, but that’s just very far from the truth. Only 2% of closed deals happen at the first call or meeting. The majority of successful transactions are a result of the gradual build up of trust across several touches.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons behind the failure to follow-up. Salespeople may be afraid to appear pushy; sometimes they just don’t think it’s that important. Others haven’t been trained to do so, or just think a prospect will reach out if ever they want to finally purchase.

No matter the reason, not following up is leaving money on the table.

Not enough support

Salespeople need support to be successful. Tools, training, coaching–all these are part of a support system that enables reps to reach and smash quotas. Without support, salespeople spend less time selling and more time dealing with tweaking processes and adjusting execution.

Sales operations teams are usually in charge of ensuring that sales reps are focused on what matters most. Without a properly functioning sales operations team to reduce the friction in the sales process, reps are always in between tasks and never in the position to deliver their best.

Of course, the sales team still holds ownership of their goals. However, without proactive help from sales operations, their managers, and trainers, reps’ growth will be stunted and they won’t develop skills required to solve unique sales problems.

Poor attitude

While the stereotypical fast-talking sales rep may not be the most likable, the timid and withdrawn salesperson doesn’t get anywhere. If you’re scared of making calls or creating opportunities for extended communication, sales is probably not for you.

According to Sandler Training, a salesperson’s underperformance is rarely due to external factors. “The majority of them don’t lose because of product inferiority, pricing excesses or poor sales technique. They lose because of low self-esteem!”

Apart from this, some reps also suffer from poor “self-image”. They tell themselves they’re bad at their job. Worse, some reps think that sales is the bottom of the proverbial barrel. “I’m just a lowly salesperson” is a thought that lives in their heads–that a job in sales is just a “stepping stone” to getting a real job.

The most successful salespeople are those who are confident–they believe in themselves and in their chosen profession. They take pride in helping clients ease and overcome their challenges.


Closed deals don’t come easily; that’s for sure. Everyone in the team must be willing to put in the work. Be on the lookout for these problems in your sales organization and nip them right in the bud. It’s best to arrest bad habits, traits, and practices before they balloon and blow up.

 

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Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.