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Why Salespeople Fail (Part 2)


Written for The Nova Scotia Business Journal

Sales people Talk Too Much

Seek first to understand.

A sales VP recently told us, “My sales reps' listening skills aren't where they need to be—someone says something and they don't find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my sales people don't understand them or their issues. "

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filled them with features and benefits and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result. The marketing department has given the sales team the 'Corporate Pitch'-robust, extensible, user friendly, scalable, reliable-all from an industry leader.

So what's the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reasons, not the sales rep's reasons. Second, 80% of training provided for direct sales people and channel partners is product-oriented. Salespeople are eager to share this information and selling becomes presenting. The focus is on your product or service, and not on the buyer and her/his problem, where it belongs. These "Corporate Pitches" all sound the same to the buyer, and when they sound the same, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

Too much focus on price

Price is never the real issue.

The Solution?

If you don't believe this yourself, call us so we can show you why it's true. Sales people focus on price because it's often the first thing the buyer asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy your products and services to solve a problem they have or to change something.

If you are effective in asking questions and getting to real issues, price should not be the determining factor in winning and losing, and you can sell at a premium over your competitor's price.

Sales people fail to get firm commitments from buyers.

Understand the motivation for the buy. Salespeople are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a proposal, presentation, demo, etc. This approach is time-consuming and resource intensive. How many bids and proposals has your firm sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost you on an annual basis in misspent sales time, trial software, loaner equipment, bid and proposal efforts, etc.? Sales managers often contribute to the problem by monitoring the wrong statistics - quotes sent, meetings held, proposals outstanding - driving lots of activity, but little results.

The Solution?

Salespeople must learn what motivates people to buy (we call it pain/gain) and become masters of the skills required to help buyers become comfortable sharing their pain/gain (an example is the 'pain funnel' questioning technique). Other tools, like the Ultimate Contract letter, mini-contracts and post selling, help firm up and lock in your buyer's commitment and make your forecast reliable. Never do anything unless you know why, and it's in your best interest.

©2011 Sandler Training Inc. ( is an international sales, customer service and management training/consulting firm. For a free copy of Why Salespeople Fail and What to Do about It, call Sandler Training at 902-468-0787 or e-mail

Eric Fry

Sandler trainer