Whether you're in the for-profit or nonprofit world, you have a front line sales team. It doesn't matter if they are selling products, services or the benefits of donating to your organization -- it's all sales. There are fundamental skills that make or break all salespeople, regardless of the category they represent. Likewise, there are often universal failures among those who don't find success in the field.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review reports that only one in three working salespeople is "consistently effective," with only one out of 250 exceeding their targets. Based on the sales reps I've coached throughout my career, here are five of the top reasons sales people fail. Check back next week for the next five to round out the top ten list.
Lack of discipline. Sales is a numbers game. The key to success is to develop an activity plan and work your plan every day. Start your day with the toughest task you dread the most. If that dreaded task is cold calling, start your calls as soon as you walk in the door and don't stop until you have set the number of meetings you're targeting. After that, the rest of the day will be a piece of cake.
Failure to leverage happy clients. Every quarter, invite your happiest clients to lunch. Find out what you can do to improve their experience, and then brainstorm about others they know that you can also assist.
Fear of determining real buying intentions. Too often, salespeople avoid asking the hard questions that ultimately qualify or disqualify a prospect, such as their intent and ability to buy. Ask these questions early in the sales process to avoid spinning your wheels.
Presenting vs. listening. Roughly seven out of 10 salespeople kick off a new prospect meeting by diving straight into their pitch. The better way is to start by listening -- asking open-ended, high-impact questions to learn what's important to a prospect, and then adapting your pitch accordingly. A universal truth in sales is that prospects are more inclined to buy when they feel listened to. The added benefit is that active listening affords you the opportunity to identify additional selling opportunities.
Greater desire to convince than consult and solve problems. Great salespeople don't walk into every sale assuming the prospect has a need for what they're selling. Instead, their objective is to ask good questions and learn what's important to them. If your prospect is in need of your services and you qualify them as a good customer, great. If not, see if there are other problems you can solve for that prospect which may ultimately create a loyal referral source down the road.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).