Salespeople who want to strengthen their skillset and optimize their process often seek advice from colleagues, managers, or experts. That’s a good thing — self-improvement is a noble pursuit.
But unfortunately, not all sales advice is good advice. In fact, some of it is downright awful, and can actually hurt the reps who implement these “helpful” tips.
Here are three pieces of common sales advice that can be damaging to salespeople. If someone ever gives you these pointers, ignore them for your own good.
1) To gain prospects’ trust, emanate credibility.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve read the phrase “trusted advisor” over the past few years. The reasoning goes: If salespeople don’t seem like they know what they’re doing, why would buyers trust them to fix a serious problem? Reps who buy into this thinking strive to present themselves as credible consultants who understand their prospects’ businesses inside and out.
But no matter how knowledgeable a given rep is, that attitude is an act — and buyers know it. How could you possibly know everything about a prospect’s business? Simply put, unless you work at that company, you can’t. And putting on this front inevitably feels false to buyers.
Instead of scrambling to prove your credibility, approach the prospect with curiosity. Reps who showcase their curiosity come off as more genuine and have an easier time striking up an authentic conversation.
2) Follow up on lost deals to learn what you did wrong.
Many sales experts recommend that salespeople hold a post-deal debrief with their lost opportunities to probe into the specific reasons why they lost and what they could have done better. No one likes to hear where they screwed up, but those who advocate for this practice argue that it’s better for salespeople to know their weak points. This way, they can improve upon them rather than making the same gaffes over and over.
Generally, I agree with this thinking, but calling on a lost opportunity is not a good idea. Why? Because the lost prospect has no interest in talking to the losing salesperson.
It’s kind of like a dumped boyfriend calling up his ex-girlfriend to find out what happened. Rather than welcoming that call, the girlfriend feels uncomfortable, and strives to end the conversation as quickly as possible. The last thing she wants to do is have a long talk about the break-up — she wants to move on.
Don’t put your prospects in this awkward position. Instead, call on the accounts you won, find out what you did right, and then double down on those distinguishing factors. Your new customers are much more motivated to give you actionable and thorough feedback than lost prospects.
3) Salespeople should concentrate solely on closing deals during the last day/week of the month/quarter.
Because most sales reps are held accountable to monthly and/or quarterly quotas, you can often observe them rushing to close as many deals as possible as the month or quarter draws to an end. And this doesn’t just hold at the rep level — managers and leaders can also be found pounding the phones or pitching in with demos.
The phrase “it’s not a good time right now” becomes an oft-repeated refrain in these final days. If it doesn’t have to do with closing deals, it can wait.
But is that right? In my opinion, the end-of-month scramble only serves to reinforce the dangerous hockey stick sales model, where reps close everything in their pipeline on the 31st and have nothing to work on the next day. This makes for unpredictable peaks and valleys that kill momentum and invalidate sales forecasts. Not a good way to run your business.
Sales isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you want to improve sales results over time — not just for one month or quarter — sales reps, managers, and leaders must work on the “non-urgent” parts of their jobs each and every day. Just because it’s the 31st and account management tasks, marketing alignment, or training don’t have to happen today doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Tossing aside the essential practices that strengthen sales in the long-term whenever you’re too busy is a recipe for disaster.
Before you heed sales advice, think about all the implications and play devil’s advocate. Where do the holes exist? Remember: Advice goes down best with a grain of salt.
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