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Why the Sales Profession Is Broken and How We Can Fix It


With all of the technology and communication tools available to sellers, it's never been easier for salespeople to actually do their job. But the irony is that the failure rates in B2B selling have never been higher.

If it's never been easier to research and if there have never been more channels to engage, why are more and more salespeople failing?

One reason is that many salespeople have lost their way; they’ve made it all about themselves when it's really all about the customer. Positive intent is everything, but there’s also a major shift in the power dynamic: Customers feel they are in control, and they expect sellers to truly know them, personalize their experience, and be mind readers in anticipating their needs.

Customers have also become skeptical of the ROI claims touted. At the same time, average deal sizes are getting smaller, and sales cycles are actually becoming longer — not shorter. This is because of the rise in consensus-based decision-making and the demands from leadership teams for a rock-solid business case in order to secure funding and a commitment to change.

Salespeople also face a host of other challenges, including increasing competition and complexity due to the number of tools and technologies required to do their job. Frankly, sales isn’t rising to meet these new realities. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We can adapt in professional sales to meet today’s market challenges.

Return to timeless truths.

Salespeople are becoming very busy and ineffective. Stress levels are going through the roof, and that's manifesting in poor buyer engagement. To get back on track, sales reps need to return to the core principles of selling — timeless truths that they can blend with modern technologies to create greater success.

Sellers must be true believers in the value that they offer. Instead of becoming frustrated in trying to crunch the deal, close the prospect, and rush quota, they need to move away from all of that aggression and simply understand what they're really battling. It’s not the customer; it's not really even the competition. It is instead their own fears of rejection and the apathy that resides in most customer organizations.

At the heart of successful selling is a commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of customers, both personally and professionally. Salespeople should focus on helping customers see why an investment of time and effort is worth it for them. All sellers need to help buyers discover why changing the status quo is worthwhile so that they can achieve a far better state of affairs in their personal life and in business.

Be professional.

Too often, salespeople don't act professionally. Many earn the same money as doctors, dentists, lawyers, or airline pilots. Yet most salespeople don't keep their CRM system of records up-to-date. Imagine how you would feel if you went to a doctor and they weren’t accurately recording your medical information. It’s pretty unlikely you’d continue being a patient.

Being professional also means you are fine-tuning many of your sales skills and continuing to evolve them by reading and being committed to continuous improvement. We need to get back to masterfully executing the fundamentals masterfully. This includes having a great voicemail greeting — not an automated telco recording. Also, make sure you have a signature with contact details at the bottom of your email. Change your LinkedIn profile from being an online resume to instead be a personally branded microsite. Always be on time and have an agenda, actively listen, and take notes.

Professionalism, authentic curiosity, and good manners will always be in fashion.

Change your mindset and start executing for success.

Getting back on track in B2B selling also means that salespeople should have the right mindset and activity levels to achieve the success they believe they deserve.

An incredible level of passivity has crept into selling. Salespeople have drunk the social-selling Kool-Aid. They might think, "You know what, I really don't need to be on the phone that much anymore. I'll focus on LinkedIn attraction strategies. I’ll go digital and just send emails. I'll publish some content and comment on others’ content. Leads will come to me."

The reality is that for every B2B salesperson in the world, a good deal of their annual sales target is going to need to come from their own personal activity. Maybe marketing and other leads will give them 40%–60%, but the rest is up to them.

In order to achieve success, a fundamental mindset shift must happen — and then be habitually executed. Salespeople need to get back on the phone every day without fail. Everyone should be doing 30 to 50 calls a day with a combination of outreach: Phone, leave a voicemail, send an email, and even a text and InMail. It’s the multiple pieces of outreach, all done concurrently, that really get a customer’s attention.

Think about it this way: A person in a rowboat seeking to reach their destination needs to be pulling equally on both oars. One oar is the activity of building pipeline, and the other oar is the activity of progressing qualified opportunities. You can't do just one. You need to be doing both every day.  

Make changes today, or be left behind.

Sales has lost its way. The landscape has changed, and most salespeople are thrashing around being busily ineffective. They are creating more stress but fewer revenue outcomes.

Sellers have forgotten about serving the customer, and their narratives are lost in a fog of attributes about what they sell and me-centric talk. This has created customers who become bored and disengage. We’re prescribing solutions before we empathize, diagnose, and ideate with the customer.

To break this trend we need to get back to the basics of building a sales pipeline every single day. We need to turn up and listen with the express purpose of truly understanding our customers. We need to construct a narrative that focuses on the customer and their problems and opportunities, not on our sales pitch.

We need to effectively leverage the tools available and use all of the communication channels available to us: phone, email, and social. But we need to use technology to engage in human ways by personalizing the experience with relevance.

All salespeople should seek to create value for buyers well in advance of them becoming customers. Relationships of trust are earned by doing research and providing value right from the very beginning. To get B2B sales back on track, we need to be courageously purposeful in making a difference in the lives of customers.

At the heart of successful selling is a commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of customers, both personally and professionally.”

Tony Hughes | Speaker, Author, and Consultant

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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