12 Most Obvious Reasons I Suck at Sales
“If you can’t laugh at yourself, then how can you laugh at anybody else? I think people see the human side of you when you do that…” ~ Payne Stewart
I have read several good books on sales, and I discover that I still cannot follow the rules to high sales bliss. By the way, three books that I think are excellent reads include You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike At a Seminar, Close the Deal and Secrets of Question Based Selling. The coaching is great; however, the ability for me to put that excellent teaching into action still has room for improvement!
Oh, I’m an accidental salesman alright… and here are the 12 most obvious reasons I suck at sales (I hope this post generates plenty of comments from people in the same boat):
1. I am an Introvert
I do not mind speaking, teaching/coaching – or even singing – in front of a lot of people. Some say I love an audience. However, I am still an introvert that does not just strike up a conversation at a networking event without really conquering my tendencies (like preferring to stay home and read a book or share a glass of wine with my lovely wife).
2. I am too Technical
I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. I have been writing software and developing data architecture since 1992. When it comes to social media, I like statistics and trends. In a lot of cases, a prospect does not care for my over-explanation of how things get done. I need to keep the technical explanations to a minimum and simply assure them our solutions will make their pain to go away. David Sandler states that the most successful salesmen learn how to “dummy it up” and that it is OK to not have all the answers.
3. I Love My Solutions
I am both technical and a proud partner in a company that provides software solutions. I love our employees’ technical expertise and creative genius. And I swell up with pride when talking about Mantis Pulse Analytics for social media monitoring. But I keep forgetting the part where I am supposed to pause and ask you questions about your specific needs! Prospects do not want to hear about my solutions before I hear about their problems. Why do I keep putting the cart in front of the horse?
4. I Hate Cold Calls
Remember that introvert part? So why on earth would I pick up a phone and call a complete stranger to sell them something? Am I now a glutton for punishment and denial? A good salesmen needs to be a good hunter versus just a farmer of existing relationships. That means picking up the phone or activating the Three Foot Rule while in public.
5. I Have not Mastered Negative Reverse Selling
This is where you let the prospect close the deal for you. Here is a great snippet from David Sandler’s book:
PROSPECT: I think I like what you are saying
SALES: Interesting. Based on what you have been saying up until now, I would not have guessed you had an interest in my product. What did I miss?
Now you open the door for the prospect to enumerate why they are interested in your solution. That implies they are no longer adopting a defensive posture against an obvious sales cycle.
6. I Cannot Beat the Incumbents
I continue to run into this scenario. I have great products and solutions at competitive market rates, and I have an easy-going attitude that people like. However, a lot of companies now have Vendor Management groups with approved vendor lists. I always bring up the point “but how did people get on that approved list unless you gave them an opportunity to deliver”. BOOM, door slams. Do my competitors have incriminating photos or something?
7. I am Lousy at Qualifying
I will schedule a product demonstration in a heartbeat, and I will invest hours in crafting a good presentation to knock the prospect’s socks off. They tell me how excited they are for the presentation, and they gush over the presentation and daydream about how they will solve world hunger with our great solutions. Then they tell me they need to talk to the decision-makers about budget. Could I do another presentation in a week? Wait, you are not the decision-maker with the budget authority? AAAARGGGH!
8. I do Not Like Talking About Money
At some point, money has to change hands. In order for that to happen, the prospect has to have the budget to afford what you are selling. I am more comfortable with showing them the solution, and then have them pull out the checkbook. Good salespeople know the answer to the money question, and have the customer acknowledge their “pain” …before they show anything.
9. I do not Establish Up-front Contracts
The Sandler approach is to always establish up-front contracts. This could be as simple as agreeing to the next step in the process or establishing a concrete date for the next appointment. The key is that prospects become accustomed to being agreeable throughout the process. You do not get stuck in limbo with “let’s schedule a follow-up call later” or “send me your brochure”. I am still naive enough to think that every prospect is genuinely interested in having that follow-up appointment or reading the information in my snazzy brochure… when they are really just brushing me off.
10. I Want the Relationship
One reason I quickly adapted to social media is that I enjoy the relationships. Yes, it is funny coming from an introvert, but I have embraced the possibility that I can develop friendships with depth via Twitter and Facebook. Locally, my best business development happens over a beer and a game of pool (I came up with an event concept called BI Over Beer). I enjoy doing business with people I like and trust, and I assume others feel the same way. However, the harsh reality of sales is that you could develop a lot of friendly acquaintances yet still have no money to keep the roof over your head. At some point, I need to issue a call to action that results in a closed deal or a closed door so I can pursue other deals.
11. I am a Researcher
Before I ever make a purchase, I’m reading Amazon/CNet/eOpinions reviews, checking out Kelly Blue Book or Car & Driver, and googling for best prices that still provide high customer satisfaction. Therefore, I easily accept my prospects doing the same thing without establishing a timeframe. I need to work more on identifying the prospect’s pain, showing how my solutions can alleviate that pain, and generally establishing my company as the trusted advisor and partner in the prospect company’s success. Otherwise it becomes a Feature Matrix comparison where the lowest price wins…and that does not always equate to the best solution.
12. I am Reluctant to Walk Away
I hate losing. As a leader in a small company I loathe walking away from business no matter how small the rewards or even how abusive the client. You can find several examples of “How to Fire a Client” in the blogosphere. Sometimes you have to recognize your intrinsic worth and step away from a client before they exhaust your resources with endless business lunches to discuss possibilities and demands for “free consulting”.
BONUS: I quoted a lot out of David Sandler’s “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar”, but here is another concept I loved from “Secrets of Question Based Selling”: discover what motivates your prospect. Do they run fast towards gold medals (reward based decision making) or do they run faster away from German Shepherds (fear based decision making). Discerning the decision making process helps you craft a better sales strategy.
So there is a harsh self-analysis of my selling shortcomings. I definitely prefer engagement and marketing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (and occasionally Google+). I also really enjoy blogging. However, actual sales determines company longevity. I better keep working at it!