There’s no shortage of sage advice for salespeople. From books by sales trainers, to myriad corporate learning programs, to dedicated sales blogs like this one, those aspiring to become successful salespeople have access to resources like never before.
While advice on how to become successful is important, ignoring the characteristics of the unsuccessful only shows half the picture. In order to understand what to do, one must understand what not to do. And, if you look closely, you’ll see that most unsuccessful salespeople have a lot more in common than you may think.
We wanted to highlight some of these commonalities, so we’ve put together a list for you. Print it out and hang it above your desk, and remember that these are the things you want to avoid at all costs:
1. An inability to focus
Ask any wildly successful person in any profession or sport what contributed to their success and there’s a great chance you’ll hear the word “focus” in their answer. When we give our work our undivided attention, we move things forward, improve, and get closer to our goals. Many unsuccessful salespeople are unable to focus and instead let themselves get pulled in a hundred different directions, ensuring they never reach anything even resembling their full potential.
Almost anyone can have a good run in sales, whether it’s a solid week, a great month, or an outstanding quarter. But what separates exceptional salespeople from everybody else is consistency. Even when they have an off month, great salespeople make up for it the following month, instead of moping around or going completely off the rails. Consistency is achieved through constant, sustained effort, and by getting control over the negative voices in your head. If you keep pushing that boulder up the hill, eventually you’ll reap the rewards.
3. Poor time management
Not knowing what to prioritize has been the downfall of many a salesperson. If you can’t figure out what matters and what doesn’t, you’re going to have a hard time in a profession where you’re always racing against the (quota) clock. Calling a hot prospect is more important than spending an hour on the phone with someone in order to tell them they don’t qualify, and an effective salesperson knows to budget their time accordingly. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, the question is, how are you going to use yours?
4. Waiting for things to happen
Salespeople who only react will never achieve more than the bare minimum. Sales is a “hunter” profession, where one must actively go out and find new business. Yes, it’s hard… sometimes it’s really, really hard. But the rewards are aplenty for anyone who knows how to motivate themselves. Unsuccessful salespeople want leads, but they don’t want to prospect. Successful salespeople will prospect, call the leads they’re given, and ask for referrals without hesitation.
5. Not sticking around long enough to ramp up
Everyone knows a sales rep who has worked at nine companies in four years, and among unsuccessful salespeople, this level of job hopping is not an exception. While some industries do have a short sales cycle, most sales positions take time to ramp up, and without a serious commitment, it’s unlikely that a sales rep can achieve much if they’re only there for a short time. The salespeople who constantly switch jobs might want to think about whether the problem is the companies they keep leaving, or whether it’s something a little closer to home.
6. Not learning from mistakes
There are very few people who jumped into sales and soon found themselves making millions of dollars. Like anything else, it takes time, effort, and a lot of mistakes to figure out how to become great in sales. The difference, however, is that some people learn from their mistakes, while others are incapable, and keep doing the same thing over and over, no matter the outcome. To be sure, sales is complicated, and our “mistakes” might not be evident when there are so many variables. But if something isn’t working, successful salespeople will try to find a solution, while the unsuccessful ones will just continue beating their head against the proverbial wall.
Even if you don’t believe in the power of positive thinking, you can still admit that sales requires a level of self-confidence that many other professions might not. It’s a job that beats you down, and if you can’t convince yourself that you have what it takes to reach the pot of gold on the other end of your sales quota, then there’s no way you’ll manage to actually do it. Unsuccessful salespeople often harbor self-doubt that they never address. But self-doubt is not immutable. You can learn to believe in your own ability if you’re able to see the results of your own effort. So before you throw in the towel, ask yourself: am I bad at this, or do I just think I am?