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Why Are New Sales People Making the Same Stupid Mistakes?

Why Are New Sales People Making the Same Stupid Mistakes? - SalesLatitude

Why Are New Sales People Making the Same Stupid Mistakes? - SalesLatitudeToday, new sales people have access to a ton of training, documented case studies, and information on best sales practices. Yet, I’m still seeing new sales people make the same bad mistakes as their predecessors.

You see, there was a time – long, long ago – when an effective sales person was defined as one that was good at schmoozing, was likable, took clients out to expensive dinners, and closed lots of deals. But these practices went only so far. Since then, especially with the major advances in technology, buyers have become much more sophisticated. The sales profession clearly had to adjust accordingly.

The Days of Yore

Back in the olden days, management could spot good sales people by how they dressed and carried themselves, or how aggressive yet likable they were. They were “trained” by others who also knew how to schmooze, were likable… you get the drill. Sure, they closed a lot of deals, but their profit margin per deal was very low or non-existent.

In those days of the dinosaurs, a “well-trained” sales person would go into a client’s office and a) read (upside down) anything that was on their desk, or b) comment about how much he liked golf/fishing/etc. if the client had pictures around showing them participating in these sports. Ugh. I don’t miss those days, and it’s almost painful walking down this particular memory lane.

New Sales People, Old Habits

But in these enlightened days, so much is provided to new sales people. There’s a ton of training, best practices and role-playing exercises available on account planning, objection handling, dealing with procurement, meeting planning, social selling, and engaging executives. Honestly, almost every area of sales is now either documented in numerous books or covered in some type of web-based workshop or classroom training.

So, why are so many new sales people still acting as if those dinosaurs still are flying? It’s disheartening to see bad habits in new sales people who are still:

  • Doing little to no planning for upcoming client meetings
  • Having next to no understanding of a customer’s goals, needs, risk tolerances, or priorities
  • Racing to demos and providing proposals too early
  • Selling products and services they THINK the customer wants, without understanding where the customer is spending their time, money and resources
  • Targeting stakeholders too low in the food chain, where they’re relegated to selling features and functions
  • Not establishing a way to move up in the client organization to better understand desired business outcomes
  • Bringing tons of internal resources into meetings with little to no role in the deal

Two New Sales Reps, Two Different Scenarios

Recently, I met with a new sales person who had had the amazing opportunity to participate in months of onboarding and training. This included lots of communication and sharing with experienced, successful sales people to ensure the newbies started out on the right path. But, when I asked to discuss a deal in his pipeline, he had no clear reason why it was there in the first place. All he knew was that someone – not a key stakeholder – agreed to meet with him. Say what?

Pivot to another new sales person who had the exact same training. This person did research to get some understanding of what the customer was trying to accomplish. He worked hard to identify the key stakeholders to meet with and signed up for a conference where one of those key C-level stakeholders was presenting. He connected with the key C-level stakeholder on social networks and prepared, in advance, a brief yet impactful statement to introduce himself at the conference. And guess what – this new sales person got on the key C-level stakeholder’s calendar for 60 minutes to delve into the key stakeholder’s goals and priorities! Again, “say what?” But in a positive vein this time.

The Key to Success

So, for all of you new sales people out there, understand that the key to success is to use everything that is available to you. And then align yourself where your customers need you most. Be relevant. Be credible. And, don’t waste your time on deals that will never ever close. Learn from the mistakes of the old-timers and go out there and help your customers reach their business goals. It’s a whole lot easier than pushing that big boulder up that hill. Experienced and new sales people: I’ve love to hear about your own experiences!

Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


Janice Mars5 years ago

April 03 2017

Thanks Brooke! Appreciate your kind comments. I plan on continuing to share my views and keep learning from others.


Brooke Harper5 years ago

April 02 2017

Exactly! I love reading your posts. Keep it up.


Janice Mars5 years ago

March 29 2017

Thank you Brooke for your insights. Agree they both had optimism but one was a wish and a prayer and the other had been researched and planned. I have seen too many sales people get an in and waste tons of their time and their precious resources time where the "in" either has no purchasing power, is just kicking tires..... But, you get that!


Brooke Harper5 years ago

March 27 2017

Very insightful post, Janice. I could say that those two new reps in those two scenarios both possess same attribute: OPTIMISM. They are optimistic that they got a “yes” and not a rejection, that no matter who opened the door, they got an “in.” Perhaps, they thought that they could work it out and close a sale. But, often, sales hit dead-ends when you are dealing with the wrong person.


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