A foundation of trust can build sales success

Sales people must lead the dance.

By Tony Hoslet, Sandler Training Green Bay

It seems like everyone in sales is an optimist. They could have settled for an easier job, but they went into sales because they believe they can be a top producer and earn the highest possible compensation. And “earn” is the operative word there. After all, salespeople face a career that consists largely of hard work, difficult conversations, and lots of rejection.

Yet, according to a 2018 Salesforce survey, well over half (57%) of all salespeople fail to hit their quotas. Most salespeople, in our experience, are not getting in front of enough qualified prospects. Most of them have a close ratio that is not what it should be. And far too many of them rely on discounting and other marketing gimmicks to close sales—a habit that cuts margins and hurts the organization.

Portrait of Tony Hoslet
Tony Hoslet

What’s going wrong for so many people in sales? And more importantly, what, if anything, can you do about it?

What’s going wrong for so many people in sales? And more importantly, what, if anything, can you do about it?

Sandler published a report that examines why salespeople fail. It looks at what keeps so many otherwise talented, capable people from reaching the top of the selling profession. It explains why some sales careers rocket to great heights and then suddenly sputter and why others never quite get off the ground.

The report is based on data and best practices from the Sandler Research Center, and on countless interviews with salespeople and sales managers performing in every industry and at every conceivable level of sales success. It consists of more than five decades of frontline sales and sales management training experience with over 1 million salespeople in over 25 countries and 15 languages.

The good news is that sales performance can be improved; dramatically and permanently. But to make that happen, you must know where to begin, and that means understanding the root cause of the problems. Too many sales leaders and experts focus on treating the symptoms of sales struggles, and not the causes.

While the telltale signs of sales underachievement may appear endless, the true causes are generally quite specific. Often, their roots can be found in the approach we choose to take to the selling process itself.

In his best-selling book, You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, David Sandler tells of a breakthrough moment: his realization that buyers had his number. They knew what he was going to do and say before he even opened his mouth. Not only that, but they had also already developed a system to defend against what he wanted to do in the meeting. Sandler had lost the battle before it began. That, he realized, is what happens to typical salespeople.

Sandler realized that in what he called the “buyer-seller dance,” there are always two systems at work: the buyer’s system and the salesperson’s system. To lead in this process, you must lead the dance, which means knowing and applying a selling methodology that works. Merely showing up at the sales meeting, serving, and educating your buyer is not enough.

Ideally, the sales process should be viewed as a win-win situation. But as any salesperson who has spent time in the trenches knows, buyers often see themselves as individuals with something to lose: their money, time, and/or reputation. As a result, they adopt an adversarial approach to salespeople.

Most salespeople tell us they are not even aware of the manipulative measures buyers take during sales calls. Most salespeople fail because they do not know how to take control of the selling process and lead buyers through it as a trusted advisor.

Contrary to popular belief, selling is a noble profession, the sales process can be something both parties enjoy, and helping others through your sales process is a real, tangible, and teachable skill.

Salespeople really can take the uncertainty, worry, and pressure out of the sales process—if they understand the psychology behind the sale and the qualifications necessary to make an opportunity worth their time. They must know where they are in the sales process and have a good idea about what will happen next.

When salespeople take a systematic approach to their work, they lead the dance. They regain control of enough variables to make positive outcomes more frequent and predictable. And last but certainly not least, when they establish a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship, both parties can operate from a foundation of trust.

Amateur salespeople rely on their “people skills” to control the situation. This usually fails. They end up feeling subordinate to the buyer, chasing them down, and doing anything to make the sale. They make the mistake of believing that high-pressure selling is the way top salespeople exceed quota. It’s not.

The amateur approach gives the buyer more control and leaves the salesperson in reactive mode with all the pressure. None of the responsibility is on the buyer, which ends up stressing out both sides.

What is needed is an effective, efficient sales methodology that changes the game. One that shows you how to work smarter, sell more, and sell more efficiently – break the rules and close more sales.

You may not always win every sale, but you will at least know what’s happening on each sales call. And more importantly, you’ll know what to do about it!

Most of the time, amateur salespeople do not know what is happening on the sales call. That’s because they are letting the buyer lead the dance.

Tony Hoslet is President of Sandler Green Bay. For a closer look at all of this please email Tony at Tony.Hoslet@sandler.com and he will send you the full report. 

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