Top 11 Reasons Why Salespeople Fail to Close Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 @ 12:09 PM

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Today I coached a salesperson who thought he had call reluctance - but I didn't agree.  He was pushing through, making calls - although not as many as he should.  He has some need for approval - but since he needs approval from his boss he needs to make the calls in order to get it.  He needs some approval from his prospects but can't earn that unless he gets prospects on the phone and impresses them. So he actually has reason to pick up the phone and make calls.

I wondered whether he loved selling - enough.

I wondered whether he was committed - fully and unconditionally.

I wondered whether it was something else entirely...

The reason I'm bringing this up is that in most companies, when certain stages of the sales process are not being exectued as they should, executives often don't know why.  That's one of the many reasons why we evaluate Sales Forces - to identify root causes of the known (and unknown) problems.  The second reason is that problems are often misidentified.  For example, half of the calls and emails we receive each day ask us to conduct workshops/coaching/training/seminars on closing skills, even though closing skills are almost never the reason why salespeople fail to close sales.  With sales and salespeople, you need to work backwards from what you know, and ask many "could it be?" questions to identify the real problem and more importantly, the reason for the problem.

For instance, problems with closing (delays, put-offs, losses to the competition, pricing, etc.) happen for any or all of the following reasons:

  1. not a qualified opportunity
  2. salesperson did not present an ideal solution
  3. lack of urgency
  4. salesperson did not create/build value
  5. no compelling reasons to buy
  6. lack of posturing
  7. timeline misunderstood
  8. not selling to the correct person
  9. salespeople lack opportunities so they continue to work the lousy ones too
  10. salesperson presented too early in the process and then went into chase mode
  11. prospect never agreed to spend the money required
Even if you identify which of the reasons are responsible for the closing problem or challenge, you must go through that same process and identify 10 more possible causes for each reason - and go through that process repeatedly until you have identified the root problem.  The root problem will probably have nothing to do with selling skills!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, closing, prospecting, cold calls, presenting, sales assessments

Most Salespeople Suck at Selling - Is it Worse Than Ever?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 @ 06:08 AM

vacuumLast year I wrote this short article on the difficulty that salespeople have getting their voice mail messages returned.  In May, this article addressed the subject in a different way. Two years ago I posted a related and very powerful and popular post about Lance Armstrong and how he uses metrics.  Last month, a member of a LinkedIn group, Sales Management Executives, posted this question:

"What is your approach to get people to call you back after you have left 2 or 3 messages?"

In the past month, there have been 47 comments, one of the most popular topics I've seen there.  Some of the replies have been on target but most are embarrassing to read.  These are sales management executives and this is a "what salespeople must learn to do in their 1st week in sales" topic.  Most salespeople do not have the skills to consistently get new prospects to the phone!

Yesterday I met with a national sales manager from India and we reviewed the sales candidate assessment he would be using to recruit a national sales force there.  We were talking about skill sets and I pointed out that it might not be realistic for him to expect the candidates in India to have well developed consultative skills.  He asked why and I explained that even here in the US, it's not realistic to see it.  Companies and their sales forces are able to talk about the concept, they say they are doing it, but the data suggests they are not.  Objective Management Group's data from 100,000 salespeople assessed most recently, shows that on average, salespeople possess only 22% of the attributes of consultative sellers.  They aren't doing it.  When I observe salespeople who are supposedly selling consultatively, they ask one or two questions before jumping into a presentation.  If performed correctly, a salesperson who is selling consultatively should spend the first 60-90 minutes of a sales call asking questions to completely understand the issues, problems, impact, cost, and compelling reasons to invest in a solution.  Most salespeople are only asking for 30 minutes time and since it's what they are most comfortable doing, they want to make sure they have enough time to present something.

So most salespeople aren't reaching prospects, aren't selling consultatively and, as you could tell from last week's post about qualified presentations, they aren't qualifying either.

So the two questions are:

  1. Why?
  2. What Can be Done?
The why is simple.  It's not really a complete lack of skills as much as it is a combination of weaknesses that prevents salespeople from doing things they need to do.  As a result they resort to what's comfortable for them, even though what's comfortable is rarely effective.
In order to solve the problem, you must evaluate your sales force, identify which weaknesses are causing the problems, determine on a salesperson by salesperson basis who can be saved, what it is required from a training, development and coaching perspective, what your ROI will be, and provide the 8-12 months of development required to get them doing things consistently and effectively.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, closing, prospecting, cold calls, presenting, sales assessments

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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