There are numerous reasons why sales jobs have high turnover rates. Sales involves many habits people dislike: approaching strangers, questioning strangers, keeping up with those strangers, and genuinely caring about their needs. This is not to assume that the average person does not like people. But many people are too lazy or uninterested to actually fulfill these tasks. Maybe it is lethargy or embarrassment or awkwardness, but a more plausible reason, believe it or not, is that not everyone likes pursuing social interactions.
Meeting a client face to face is a golden opportunity. A salesperson can not afford to avoid conversation and direct eye contact with a client they run into. Because of this, sales requires boldness, awareness, and adaptability. These characteristics allow a salesperson to take advantage of chance meetings.
But then again, sociability is just one thing - one very learnable thing (as we will discuss later on). Sales is difficult because of factors like sales goals, deadlines, competition, and rejection. Sales inherently involves approaching people you do not know to sell them something they do not have. This means creating a sense of urgency and necessity in customers. While some will accept your reasons, others (most, actually) will initially reject them and find no value in your product or service. This is tough. At first, it’s discouraging. You might feel like you must not be charming enough, convincing enough, smart or deceptive enough. Rejection is the grim emotional reality for many new salesmen. I say “new” because experienced salesmen take rejection as something else entirely. To them, rejection is no longer a possible reason for quitting sales; it’s a quality of the environment, a color in the background, just one bump in a bump riddled road. By developing prospecting skills and improving persuasiveness, experienced salespeople encounter less rejection. This is why you need to overcome the initial fear of rejection in order to survive in sales.
The business environment of sales is another monster altogether. Salespeople are usually pressured with goals and deadlines that affect the entire company. Yes, every part of the company contributes to its success in its own way. But sales is literally responsible for selling the product (aka, the moneymaker). Pressure is the name of the endless game. Pressure from your sales manager who needs you to fulfill your quota. Pressure from the bosses way above because, you know, they want to sell their product. Pressure from customers that want more and better. And competition. Competition within the company. Competition against other companies. Competitions with your sanity to see who holds out longer. Competition everywhere.
I did not mean to leave you hating the sales occupation. The hard part here is becoming experienced. You have to remind yourself that, despite these difficult conditions, you can do sales. And you want to do sales because, at the end of the day, it is worth it. The benefits of sales can be immense. But getting there, crawling there is the hard part. That is why getting a little help is not a bad thing. Now that I have detailed the pains and difficulties and all the reasons why sales sucks, let me slowly guide you to individuals that can help. Whether they be individuals with years of experience or companies specializing in your suffering, there are people who understand the value of sales and who want to help you survive it too.
Most of these people have years, if not decades, in sales, in addition to ample experience in sales training. Sales is an occupation in which experience is truly a teacher itself. The more you see, the more you know. Brent A. Hillyer has over 20 years of sales and training experience. Others, like sales guru Tom Hopkins with a whopping 40 years of sales and training experience, have seen it all, heard every no, and sold the impossible. They might have a good thing or two to say about sales.
Lifestyle coach and speaker C.W. Zev Stokes’ approach focuses more on personal habits and outlooks. Training sessions in his I Am Better Than I Seminars and Workshops focus on changing paradigm views and eliminating bad habits and negative behavior in your life. This shift in mindset then affects your organization, reactions, communication skills, and more. Combined with a better understanding and improvement of your emotional intelligence, such an approach can alter the way you approach a sales session for the better.
Let’s talk about emotional intelligence for a bit. As salespeople, emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a crucial quality that should be improved as often as possible. Coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and Forbes contributor, Travis Bradberry defines EQ as a crossroad between personal skills and social skills, an awareness of self and an awareness of others. To make the story short for you (since this post is long enough as it is), Bradberry and Jean Greaves could not find an industry or job in which EQ was not positively linked to performance. This means that all the businesses they looked at somehow rewarded people who could interpret social interactions and act accordingly. These people used their own skills, combined with appropriate social responses, to make the most of professional opportunities (hence their higher performance). Their EQ may not be intentional. Some people just naturally respond well in social interactions. But for others, EQ has been accrued. Learning things like body language, facial expressions, verbal hesitation, and more is possible. Such subtle forms of communication can make or break a good conversation, affect the interpretation of character, alter a relationship, and mold the social path to success or failure. So yeah, EQ is pretty important.
Sales is a much more condensed form of EQ in action. Consider the average sales meeting. You walk in, greet your clients, and immediately turn on your hidden EQ sensors. Are your clients comfortable? Do they want to be there? Are they asking questions that show they are interested in your service? Are they nodding their heads off to avoid responding to your questions? Are they thinking about lunch already? These questions should persist along the meeting. And you should be appropriately responsive to those questions along the meeting too. And after the meeting. And along your entire relationship with the customer. Sales is the maintenance of a social relationship over time. EQ is just as important in the beginning as it will be in the future.
Peter Dodd focuses on salespeople’s need to understand the customer’s buying code. Dodd provides a simple training program that essentially primes EQ skills – the program teaches you to understand the customer, create certain closing tonalities, understand pains and concerns, create effective body language, and more. In fact, numerous mentors and workshops focus on EQ development alone. Fortunately, EQ is a chapter you will inevitably encounter in most sales training program.
Once your EQ has skyrocketed, we need to make sure you have the resilience to spread those amazing social skills further. To do this, it is crucial to not lose moral. Rejection, that glowering monster that feeds off of your fears, is partly responsible for weariness in sales. But even with this discouragement, instructors can help. Sales thought leaders like Dodd and C.W. Zev also leave their students with positive boosts of moral that can be applied to any aspect of life. Positive attitudes are difficult to maintain when rejection is the norm and when pressure is the name of the game. Keeping your moral is difficult, especially when starting off. Many of these sales leaders teach the development of positive, resilient attitudes for better long-term sales performance.
But let’s take a quick step back and look at sales departments more holistically. While moral and EQ are incredibly important for the development of individual salespeople, sales teams are just that: teams. Every member will hopefully be enriched with adequate skills to succeed individually. But the inherent role of sales is to make companies succeed, and that takes more than one person.
That is why sales managers are salespeople at heart, but their brain must be wired with crucial management skills too. Sales managers or leaders must hold more considerations in mind. While they are in charge of helping their reps develop skills, they must also respond for the numbers and give a face to the sales team. The big guys above demand more goals and due dates from the managers, and the guys below want to be helped and understood. Yes, it is worth it in the end (why do it if it wasn’t?). But it is hard. That is undeniable.
Sales teams are different creatures. Yes, they are a team. But in the end, don’t they compete with each other? Is everyone on the same level of sales savvy or are some struggling? If so, do they deserve more attention than top performers? What can make the team succeed as a whole? Sales strategy professor Steve W. Martin wrote in the Harvard Business Review that sales leaders or managers are often the ones that create the dynamics of the sales team. Their policies and approaches are the ones that set the environment for sales reps and ultimately affect their performance individually and as a team. Because of this, the manager has other responsibilities in mind. Their team should be encouraged and comforted by their manager-rep relationship. But in the end, sales is sales. The team’s performance should meet expectations for the good of the company. And a team’s performance is maximized with a healthy team. No matter how good one individual salesperson is, a healthy team is one in which all the reps can contribute in a balanced way. Otherwise, sales managers, you may have a problem.
So let’s consider qualities that teams could learn and groups that can help us with that. A sales team is dynamic and ever-changing. Each individual brings separate skills to the table and each skill should be maximized for the team. Let’s assume that you, the sales manager, have equipped your reps with all the EQ, with plenty of moral, and with all the responses to the sternest no from customers. Now what?
Maybe your team is ready to experiment different approaches. Corporate Visions believes that customer conversions come from great customer conversations. While many training sessions teach teams to imitate previous practices, Corporate Visions wants salespeople to articulate value in the products they are selling in their own way. To say the right thing, salespeople must be equipped with an enlightened understanding of their own product. So the focus here is looking at their product and their marketing plan with a sense of wonder to then communicate it to the customer. Transmitting this interpretation via conversations is the focus.
Other groups look at sales problems more comprehensively. Sales Performance International lists all the problems a team may have – lack of sales opportunities, missed sales opportunities, failed sales meetings, failed sales targets, and more – along with all the solutions they offer (consulting, training, research, etc.). One of their best features is the ability to solve the problem from various roles. They provide the CEO view, marketing view, and sales leader view. SPI understands the holistic nature of sales and offers solutions that benefit the entire company. Likewise, Performance Methods Incorporated begins its consulting process by understanding companies inside and out. They look at sales teams, sales’ role in the company, and customers. Whether your whole team needs help or if the answer lies in additional individual coaching, companies like SPI and PMI can help your team improve.
At the end of the day, you need someone that can help your team grow using its best skills. As Customer Centric Selling professes, sales success can only happen when sales organizations find a sales process that is as fluid as they are, and as repeatable as they need it to be. Industries are different so sales approaches are accordingly different too. Finding the right third-party associate that can help you fulfill your sales team goals can be hard but definitely worthwhile. Sure, motivational speakers are great for individuals. But they can also provide techniques that spill over to everyday life and create better habits. So for you stress-filled sales managers, consider these trainers. It could help you step into your reps’ shoes (reminisce maybe) and gain some savvy techniques to pass onto them. And as for larger-company-help, do not be intimidated by the profuse advise they want to give you. Consultants in these groups have years of experience and a deep understanding of what makes a business succeed.
We know salespeople tend to be driven and independent. That is, clearly, not a bad thing. But you have a hard occupation (remember the rejection and pressure and competition bit?). Don’t fret over letting someone give you hand. You’ll appreciate it in the long run.