seven deadly sins of highly ineffective salespeople are: control,
narcissism, over-selling, too much emotion, need for approval, lack
of personal responsibility and undo excess (time, information, persistence).
These sins only become problematic when they are taken to extremes.
I purposely choose this list of transgressions because they are non-intuitive,
contrary and controversial. They underline some of the most divisive
beliefs that will make a salesperson’s career a living hell. I could
have shown the typical list of too much talking, not listening, no sales
process, etc., but they are pedestrian and predictable.
original seven deadly sins are: superbia, ira, invidia, avaritia,
gula, acedia, and luxuria. Or, in order: pride, anger, envy, greed,
gluttony, sloth, and lust. So here are Tangent Knowledge System’s
seven deadly sins of highly ineffective salespeople:
Sin of Control
salespeople know that the way you gain control is… you give it up.
When we are too controlling in the sales process, we end up being controlled
by the control we seek. Seeking control becomes counter-productive and
average salesperson tries too hard; the exceptional salesperson doesn’t.
Intelligent and selective effort attracts customers; over-the-board
effort and control detracts. Salespeople who learn to adopt this posture
become lazy like a fox.
think we are in control of a sales call, but we really aren’t. We
think we know what is best for our customers, but we don’t. We think
we can accurately interpret their lack of responses, but we can’t.
The good news is that once we realize all this, the mystery of selling
is greatly diminished.
mistakenly confuse giving up control for weakness and seizing control
for strength. Actually the inverse is true. “When you accept that
there is no effective way to control what another thinks, and that all
attempts at such control simply introduce static into your communication,
then you are better prepared to deal with people with differing points
of view (diversity),” says Susan Campbell.
like to refer to giving up control as the non-selling posture:
Nothing to prove, nothing to disprove. It is non-dogmatic and non-authoritative.
It allows customers the authority, the control and the independence
to seek their own answers and conclusions independent of the salesperson’s
sales, it is imperative that we give up control and temper our need
for recognition, validation, to stand out and to truly be heard and
listened to, so that we don’t compete and overshadow our customer’s
exact same needs. Nothing strengthens your customer’s sense of being
in control and sense of self than being right. Strive to consistently
make your customer right. Customers will have a strong need to make
you wrong when they don’t feel in control or feel they are right.
the purpose of the non-selling posture is to get your customer to change
their ego-state to a less demanding and inflexible posture. Customers
are far more willing to be open, frank and share the truth with you
if they believe they are in control. The non-selling posture works so
well because it asks so little in return.
non-selling posture takes the position that you don’t know what is
best for your customer. As long as you don’t know what is best for
them, you’ll spend a lot of time, care, empathy and focus on trying
to find out. The better you get at selling this way, the less you appear
to be selling. Average salespeople use their ego to sell, and it gets
them only average results.
ultimate journey to giving up control is giving your customer permission
and in some cases, encouragement to give you a “no.” If you think
giving up an addiction like crack is difficult, try giving up control
and going for “no.” “No, the word you have been trained to
fear, is, in fact, the word that will change your life for the better,
forever,” says Jim Lamp.
problem with the way most salespeople sell is that the more enthusiastic,
positive, best foot forward, excited, optimistic and, yes, subjective
you are, the more vulnerable you will be to getting “yes’d to death.”
Traditional selling is unfortunately fear-based selling. It is eternal
optimism run amok. A non-selling posture invites “no” as a viable
and realistic outcome. The non-selling posture and giving up control
is built on the foundation of good business decisions and not rampaging
emotions, wild assumptions and unrealistic expectations. If you can’t
get a customer to commit to say “yes,” see if you can get them to
commit to say “no.”
Sin of Selling
by its very nature produces so often the exact opposite effect. Selling
is repelling. The harder you sell, the harder it is to sell. Selling
has nothing to do with selling; selling has everything to do with asking
thought-provoking questions and honoring your customer with incisive
and benefit selling represents the granddaddy of them all as the biggest
offender of the sin of selling. Most companies and their salespeople
covet their value-add, their features and benefits, and their value
proposition as if it were the Holy Grail. The reality is that
all value propositions are inherently valueless. The feature and benefit
style of selling that has served companies so well in the past, no longer
works. It is tried, but no longer true.
(feature and benefits) selling is rooted in old economic conditions
using time-honored traditions; a sales strategy from another era entirely;
some unimaginable distant epoch of 5-10 years ago. This artificial style
of selling that, until recently, has withstood the test of time only
homogenizes your offering. Value proposition selling is just roll-the-dice
selling; you are on autopilot and you cross your fingers and show up
and throw up. It is driven by the love to talk and the fear to listen.
It is jargon on crack.
presentation syndrome is typified by ready, fire, and then aim. Shoot
and ask questions later. You are simply unleashing the product hammer
and as Abraham Maslow stated so eloquently, “if you only have a
hammer, you tend to see everything [problem] as a nail.”
operate under the quaint notion that it is their God-given right to
sell their features and benefits. Since it states in the Sales Constitution
that all products are not created equal, it is your solemn right and
salesperson duty to show customers the correct way to the Promised Land.
However, the reality is that no one has the corner on absolute truth.
irony is that all companies, big or small, sophisticated or unworldly,
in all industries, covering all products and all services, intangibles
or tangibles, sell the same way. They sanitize and whitewash their offering
by using common standards, open architecture specifications that multiple
vendors can easily meet. In the end, it becomes a wash. The very thing
that feature and benefit selling tries to protect against, it reinforces.
Salespeople’s self-indulgent presentations reflect mostly minimum
standards and lowest common denominators for being considered or just
staying in business. It is truly a zero-sum game.
the knowledge-based economy, the value of a salesperson is judged not
on what they know about their product, but on what they can learn about
their customers’ problems and critical success factors. Unlike the
Dark Ages, leading with your product information and solutions is now
looked upon with suspicion.
the Internet era, sales organizations can no longer get away with placing
pathetic faith and stock in their products and solutions. We eulogize
and romanticize our products and service offerings as if they were the
end all, the real thing. We can no longer afford to treat customers
as Pavlovian dogs that are trained to respond to only one stimulus –
our features and benefits. All products and services are intrinsically
valueless. We need to put more faith and value into our customers’
problems and their corresponding consequences, and learning the intricacies
of their business.
reason sales can appear to be so challenging and difficult is because
we carry this heavy burden of proof around. The more we think we must
sell our product’s features and benefits, the less we sell. It is
a cruel joke of the universe. Ironically, the reason we do not change
is because we would feel so guilty at how easy it is by not selling
– it would grate against our Puritan work ethic. We would feel so
cheated and shortchanged by patiently sitting back, listening, observing,
questioning, and letting the customer proactively do all the selling
as to why or why not they would be open to changing. What would you
do if you no longer had to be in charge? We take the path of most resistance
because we feel in control, we hate to listen, we are self-absorbed
and we love to convince and persuade, even when it is not necessary.
soon as salespeople conclude that they have nothing inherently special
or unique to sell, that is when they will truly differentiate themselves
from the competition and not have to rely on a flawed style of selling,
such as features and benefits selling. We should no longer treat our
product as if it were the means to an end. Our product and its attributes
are simply a vehicle to help us build trust and respect by learning
about our customer’s business.
Sin of Excess
time and overload of information represent the sins of excess. Any positive
action taken to an extreme produces the exact opposite effect. That
is the exact case with the sin of excess. The antidote for the sin of
excess is, less is more.
many well-intended salespeople have been schooled in the notion that
a good salesperson never quits. Actually, the difference between a professional
and an amateur is that a professional gives up early, easily and effortlessly
on losing causes. The problem is that too many salespeople use persistence
as a tool to mask poor selling skills and strategies.
indiscriminate persistence doesn’t work like it used to work in the
information economy because of the sheer technological barriers. How
can you hope to be efficient and effective while at the same time be
persistent with customers who hide behind email, national do not call
lists, voicemail, caller ID and an electronic secretary that has you
announce your name.
persistence to be effective, it has to be targeted and focused. I know
way too many salespeople who are extremely persistent with customers
who have no money, no authority, no budget and no problems, but are
more than happy to lead these gullible salespeople astray. Also, the
harder you pursue, the more you try to control, the less your customer
feels in control, the more they feel compelled to push you away. “The
salesman who knows when to walk away, lives to sell another day,”
says John Klymsryn.
many salespeople are guided by a private code or gospel of productivity,
aimless busy work or avoidance activity. When you unshackle yourself
from a superstitious reverence for the mysterious god named productivity
(persistence), you can actually get a lot of focused work done.
generally have stronger resistance than salespeople have stamina. “Decision
makers vote with their bodies. If they don’t return your phone calls,
or get back to you when they promise to, they’re trying to tell you
something. Their bodies are voting no. So-called persistence is nothing
more than a desperate need to find out what’s going on and to be in
control when all evidence tells you that nothing is going on,”
says Bill Brooks.
sin of excess also applies to wasteful allocation of time. We spend
too much time with the wrong opportunities and not enough time with
the right opportunities.
product life cycles due to rapid technological advancements in the global
economy are causing virtually every product and service to quickly become
a commodity. Given the warp speed economy in which we do business, nothing
is more important in salespeople’s work life than time.
is your single most important leverage. Unfortunately, it is a depreciating
asset that is non-recoverable. Once you’ve given it away, you can
never get it back. Since time is money, you should be discriminating
as to whom, when and under what circumstances you should allocate it.
Not only do we have to manage spending time on the right people, we
also have to work to shorten the length of time it takes to sell to
people. Equally important is the time it takes to lose deals. “Bad
news is good news when it is received early,”
says Bill Brooks. Too often salespeople operate under the belief that
“my time isn’t as valuable as yours.”
They would rather patiently wait for the occasional bones or crumbs
that customers throw their way than go out and look for better opportunities.
Customers receive this unintended message and they have no problem having
you go on unending fools’ errands. Many salespeople would rather chase
opportunities in the face of insurmountable odds and face inevitable
failure than to prospect for new business. A lot of misdirected use
of time is simply avoidance activity. There will always be more opportunities
to invest in than there are time and resources. Therefore, salespeople
should be discriminatory and selective with their time.
kills all deals, and shortening the selling cycle is critical to managing
time. The longer deals sit out there, the greater the chance they will
go south. Most salespeople operate under the exact opposite assumption.
They operate under a false sense of security that if they persist, outlast
the competition, show the customer they care, and are assertive, they
will ultimately prevail. In reality, this is simply not true. Professional
salespeople are good at qualifying their opportunities and cutting their
losses when they are operating under non-optimal conditions. They know
there are only two winners in a competitive selling situation:
the salesperson who was awarded the deal and the salesperson who lost
early and saved time.
today’s marketplace, selling is more about sifting, sorting and selecting
opportunities that have the greatest likelihood of closing, as opposed
to always trying to sell, convince, persuade and cajole. Salespeople
who take on a business owner mentality look at acquisition costs as
overhead that needs to be judiciously guarded and protected. Unfortunately,
80% of what salespeople are spending their time on has a low value.
Working in this way is a waste of your most valuable asset of time,
and is not consistent with a business owner’s mentality.
should also be viewed as an inventory control system. A business owner
who looks at inventory has one thing in mind: turn it as quickly
as possible, because time is money. A salesperson with a business owner
mentality sees their sales pipeline in the same way. They must move
their customers quickly and profitably through their pipeline while
at the same time keeping them comfortable and feeling no pressure. A
poor inventory control system in sales is a surplus in the pipeline
of accounts that aren’t viable, closeable and moving in a timely fashion.
Time-oriented salespeople know that the longer it takes to sell to customers,
the less time and money they have to invest elsewhere. “Time becomes
your enemy because it downgrades the value of your proposals, the likelihood
that priorities will shift and the money your customers can save or
gain by your proposal,” says Jim Holden.
MISALLOCATION AND OVERLOADING OF
last sin of excess is misallocation of information. Salespeople give
too much, too soon without any consideration as to its cost.
is your intellectual capital. Salespeople with a business owner mentality
plays their cards close to the chest and judiciously guard and protect
their information and dispense with it sparingly. As John Hirth says,
“What you know can hurt you.” The problem with all of our precious
and hard-won information is that there is an over-tendency to want to
give it out early, often and prematurely, resulting in salespeople being
reduced to “free consultants.” To minimize free consulting, guard
your asset of information. You allocate your information when your customer
is in a position to make decisions. Your information represents your
leverage and control points in the sales cycle. In the past, salespeople’s
value was firmly established by the information they brought to the
table. The information economy has changed all that. Since information
is accessible freely and widely, salespeople’s value proposition has
been neutralized and marginalized. Salespeople’s mandate now should
be to get information, not give it. This totally changes the dynamics
of a typical sales call.
are now paid and rewarded for your questions, not your answers. No longer
can you afford to build a product case; you have to build a business
case that is heavily influenced by your ability to garner important,
privileged and sensitive information from your customer.
is more about what you don’t know versus what you do know. The customer’s
information carries the most weight. Yet, salespeople act as if their
information is king and they invariably overplay their hand, in turn
diminishing the importance and dignity of their customer.
Sin of Lack of Personal Responsibility
who don’t take personal responsibility for their results don’t grow…
period. The beauty of not taking personal responsibility is that you
don’t have to change, and you get the distinct pleasure of pointing
more you justify your failures and point the finger, the more you hold
on to them, the greater the likelihood you will simply recycle them.
Taking ownership and responsibility always empowers us. Denying responsibility
will always disempower us.
ability to take responsibility also allows you to not take things so
personally. When you take 100% responsibility for rejection in sales,
it can be very liberating because all our negative thoughts that we
entertain are always putting the blame elsewhere. Since our own self-worth
only comes from the internal, blaming outside circumstances is simply
giving up responsibility. As Paul Ferrini states, our merit is the cause
of everything it feels and thinks. Our mind therefore is the only thing
we can legitimately blame.
Sin of Emotion
who can’t control their emotions lose perspective in a sales call.
They lose objectivity and patience and can’t properly determine if
they have a qualified customer. Because they are so emotionally involved,
they don’t listen and they miss out on critical information.
who are emotionally invested in a deal tend to be overly persistent,
waste time, and crash and burn when they get negative information. Keep
in mind, the salesperson that is the least emotionally invested in the
outcome of a sale will consistently outsell the salesperson who is the
most enthusiastic and gung-ho.
who aren’t emotionally invested in the sales interaction are neutral,
unbiased and aren’t afraid to hear “no” – they actually encourage
it in some cases. They sell from a business strategist position and
build a business case for change, not a product case. They have a quiet
confidence instead of an overly emotional posture, so they minimize
all the typical static of self-talk: “I wonder when they’ll
make up their mind; what if I don’t make this sale; what am I going
to spend my commission check on; what am I going to do if they want
to think it over?”
Sin of Narcissism
salespeople are self-centered, company and product-centered and lack
self-awareness. They believe in the art of enthusiasm in a sales call.
They aren’t aware that this traditional sales strategy has a fatal
flaw – you can’t be enthusiastic and gung-ho and be customer-centric
and understanding at the same time. How can you ask insightful questions
that get to the core of your customer’s business and problems and
be enthusiastic and upbeat at the same time? It’s totally out of context.
Sin of Approval
classic portrayal of a salesperson is someone who is very enthusiastic
and friendly; wants people to like them; is persuasive and talkative;
and is intelligent and persistent. The problem is, most salespeople
have taken this art form to an extreme. They aren’t willing to challenge
customers and risk losing approval. They avoid asking tough questions
that will get them the truth. They shy away from healthy confrontation
and getting their own needs met as opposed to getting the more important
need of making the sale. They are more concerned that customers like
them rather than respect them. These types are constantly used by their
customers for their expertise and solutions.
sevens sins of highly ineffective salespeople represent mindsets and
strategies that are flawed and put salespeople at a severe disadvantage.
These transgressions put too much focus on the wrong party: the
salesperson and their product. In order to be more productive and effective
salespeople need to be able to maximize their time and manage their
information more effectively. And they need to give up the hope of controlling
the sales process and being too emotionally vested in the outcome of