Three Ways Experienced Sales Reps Typically Fail

Whether you've worked in sales for decades or you are brand new to the role, you're bound to make mistakes on the job. It just comes with the territory. While you might think rookie sales reps are more prone to errors, experienced sales professionals also slip up.

Jeff Hoffman, a sales executive and entrepreneur, often sees seasoned reps make some big errors. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we explore these errors and the steps to avoid them.

1. Over-qualifying. Successful salespeople pay attention to their customers' commonalities. This helps them home in on the most lucrative buyer personas and disqualify poor fits. Unfortunately, they believe there's only one recipe for a good customer. In other words, they over-qualify. Hoffman recommends that at any given time, 10 to 15 percent of the deals you're working on should be risky. If you have 20 in your pipeline, at least two should be opportunities you're not comfortable forecasting. This way, you'll maintain a predictable revenue without leaving valuable money on the table.

2. Leaning too heavily on existing champions. Many salespeople, as they become comfortable in their role and territory, begin to develop strong relationships with certain customers. The longer a salesperson stays in a role, the more account champions he or she usually has. However, Hoffman warns that familiarity breeds complacency. As soon as the rep gets comfortable and assumes she's guaranteed her customer's business—both current and future—she exposes herself to the competition. Smaller, scrappier companies can kick out long-standing vendors because the incumbent stops truly working the account. To avoid this fate, Hoffman recommends using a multi-threaded approach. Every month or quarter, ask yourself:

  • "Do I know who all of the current customer stakeholders are?"
  • "Who's left since I last surveyed the account? Who has joined? Who has gotten a promotion? Who has moved teams?"
  • "Which business units, departments or office locations should I target next?"

3. Stop learning. HubSpot research reveals that most salespeople with more than five years of experience say that when they find something that works, they don't change it. This is a problem, says Hoffman. While a tactic or technique may have been incredibly effective in 2010, 2012 or even 2016, technology, industries, jobs and people change. Continual success depends on continual learning, practice and evolution. To ensure you keep your skills sharp and current, read industry publications, subscribe to sales podcasts, attend training, proactively request feedback and guidance from your sales manager, go to sales conferences and networking events or ask the other salespeople on your team what's working for them. You probably don't have time for all of these, so pick two or three strategies to focus on.

No matter how long you've worked in sales, you can watch for common mistakes and take the steps necessary to avoid them.

Source: Jeff Hoffman is a sales executive and entrepreneur who consults with industry leaders on the topics of sales, sales management and sales operations. The author of Your SalesMBA, Why You? Why You Now?, and The Seven Basho Strategies sales training programs, Hoffman presents to sold-out audiences around the globe.

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