Lifeless sales people – whose fault is it really?

“There’s a lot of lifeless sales people out there.” ~ Larry Levine, author of Selling from the Heart

Before we go any further, would you mind going back to that opening quote and just pausing for a moment?

That statement is such a profound truth.

Consider the following:

  1. Only 30% of firms have 75% or more of their salespeople hit their quotas (CSO Insights). Sales leaders are struggling to get their sales teams into sustainable high performance.
  2. 34% of sales teams leave every year (The Bridge Group). Sales teams are churning through their people.
  3. 77% of executive buyers claim salespeople don’t understand their issues and where they can help (Forrester). Buyers increasingly ignore the attempts of sales people to make any kind of contact – let alone attempts to engage in meaningful conversations.

Mirror moment: Do any of the above statistics hit a nerve for you? Are you seeing struggling sales performance, high levels of sales team churn, and/or increased buyer resistance?

I see all of this – and more – on a regular basis and I have to ask myself why?

Why are sales people struggling to perform?

Why are sales people leaving their companies?

Why do buyers increasingly resist sales people?

I keep coming back to the conversation I recently had with Larry Levine. In his words, they are all empty suits. Too many sales people lack the presence, competence, and – most importantly – passion for helping their customers.

You know the stereotype. All talk, no listen. Pitch, pitch, pitch. Me, me, me.

It’s both mind-numbing and irritating.

But is it really the fault of the sales person?

My gut instinct says no.

My gut instinct says that sales people have become what we have told them to be.

Be “busy.”

Be a CRM guru.

Be a demo machine.

Be challenging/assertive/pushy.

Say this.

Do this. Not that.

Don’t think. Obey.

And it’s destroying our revenue engines. It’s destroying our sales targets and customer credibility. And it’s destroying our sales people.

If you are leading a team of sales professionals, please consider that the potential gaps in your sales team performance are self-inflicted. Maybe it is not your fault. Maybe it is your company’s fault. Regardless, it’s your responsibility to provide the kind of proactive leadership that sets the tone and establishes the definition of success.

Be explicit about what matters most. And what does not.

Be present with your people as they press toward success.

Listen to their customer interactions.

Coach them on what you see/hear.

Teach them what you know/do to be successful.

Run downfield to knock obstacles out of their way.

Empower them to have presence, competence, and passion.

And be the example of what presence, competence, and passion looks like.

If you are an individual contributor, looking for leadership to make everything better, you only have two acceptable options:

  • Option A – You can become the leader that you want. Proactively create your own energy so that you inject presence, competence, and passion into everything you do as a sales professional.
  • Option B – You can leave your company and find a leader who will teach you how to accomplish Option A. Because eventually, you will have to own your presence, competence, and passion all by yourself. That’s what true professionals always do.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

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