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This is the Biggest Problem in Sales


What is the biggest problem in sales? That seems like a very tough question. There are a lot of problems, right? Competition, covering a big territory, customers who won’t make time for us, not enough opportunities, getting beat up on price, and so on. No, it’s none of those. The answer is easy. It’s a no-brainer. The biggest problem in sales is that the typical salesperson does not have control of the sales process. That’s it. Solve that and sales becomes a different ballgame.

Salespeople MUST control the sales process. Do you have some head trash around that? Many of us do. But it’s vital that you have that belief. It all comes down to the presumed Parent-Child relationship of customers/prospects and us. As salespeople, when we allow the customer/prospect to control the process, we can guarantee that:

  • We will have a number of “milk run” calls because we don’t have an objective or purpose. If our purpose is to “stay in touch”, we are wasting valuable time and resources. We are hoping they like us enough to give us a cookie.
  • We will be misled.
  • We will miss many opportunities because our questions are “intrusive.” We don’t want to risk upsetting our prospect or appearing too greedy. Meanwhile, our competition is asking the questions. They uncover problems that we haven’t learned and they take our business.
  • It will be routine to provide free consulting with no promise of next steps. Our time and knowledge will be devalued.
  • We will play chase. We’ll have no next steps. We’ll be led on and in due time, any opportunity will just fizzle away.

When customers control the process, we are in a subservient position. With this Parent-Child relationship, we fail to achieve equal business stature. As a salesperson, you have to believe that you bring value. Our prospects have problems, issues, and challenges that you are, no doubt, equipped to solve. You can help them grow their revenues by thousands (or millions) of dollars. The relationship must be Adult to Adult. Two business people have a conversation to decide if it makes sense to work together.

What’s really going on? Unless we proactively assume control, we essentially take the role of a Child. How do children behave? They are emotional. They are timid. They see monsters under the bed and hear things outside the window. They get overly excited. They want to be liked and have the right answers. That’s spells trouble in sales.

“Yes, sir Mr. Customer. I think I can get them to drop the price. You know I’ll do everything I can do to take care of you.” Sometimes, we take on the role of the Rebellious Child. “The nerve of that guy. He just doesn’t get it. These idiots have no idea what they are doing. I’m glad we aren’t doing anything with them.” These are signs of a subservient relationship. The prospect is in control. We answer every question they ask (even if we don’t know the true intent of the question) because that’s what good little boys and girls do. We seek their approval – and change our behavior to get their strokes. Sales is not a place to get your emotional needs met.

Bottom Line

You must foster and cultivate this belief to achieve anywhere near your potential as a salesperson. YOU CONTROL THE SELLING PROCESS! But wait…not the customer? I mean, it’s their money and all? NO! You control the process! THE CUSTOMER CONTROLS THE DECISION. And let them control the decision. We become wanting and needy when we try to control their decision. It’s their decision; yes, no, let’s meet again…that’s all up to them. But we control the process. We help them through the steps to either being a qualified or unqualified buyer. When we control the process, “milk run: calls are a thing of the past. Sales cycles don’t go on forever. They respect us more because we show up like a professional salesperson, not the charming, “good ole boy” who wants to take you to the game to get your order. We often forget. Our solutions have a tremendous value. Our expertise has a tremendous value. Embrace the idea of equal business stature. Without that, you can only be the prototypical salesperson that none of us wants to be.

Great sermon but show me the money. How? It’s actually simple. You control the process by controlling the first two minutes and the last two minutes of the call. After we do a little Bonding & Rapport, get re-connected, and comment on their beautiful weather we’ve been having lately… and then it’s time to get down to business. These first two minutes will set the tone. We have to take the lead – not arrogantly or aggressively – but with a solid Up-Front Contract, which is a discussion about agendas and outcomes of the interaction.

Remember that the customer wants to know 3 things: How long is this going to take, what are we going to talk about, and what are you going to ask me to do at the end? By addressing this in the beginning, you are now set to have a productive conversation. If you can’t set an Up-Front Contract, chances are you have no objective. That’s where I do the ole “Why am I here?” thing in my head.

Fast forward to the end of the call. My UFC stated that we’d have some outcomes. Here’s where I follow up on that. “Joe, good chat today. Sounds like we should continue the conversation. Let me grab my calendar and see if we can find a time for the next meeting. I don’t want to be stalking or playing phone tag. Sound good?” In your words, making sure that you get a clear future will help you avoid the whole hide-and-seek thing that we go through.

Salespeople have forever been portrayed as the charming, insincere, needy soul who will say and do anything to make the sale. It doesn’t have to be that way…..wait, it shouldn’t be that way! Learn to create equal business stature and control the process of the sale.

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Robin Green

Robin Green

Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., a certified and award-winning Sandler Training Center in Richmond, VA. He specializes in helping companies of all sizes to develop the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Techniques that will help them reach new levels. Robin is a keynote speaker and podcast host. You can reach him at We help companies and motivated individuals with sales, management and customer service training.