Why Sales Teams Fail

Sales teams are failing for two reasons: beliefs and sales processes. The first reason is inside the salesperson; sales professionals worry about how they are coming across in selling, and this worry costs them dearly. They have limiting beliefs about what sales work is, as well as about what they personally can (and should) enjoy as the seller. The second reason B2B sales aren’t working is outside the salesperson; it is the salesperson’s actual sales process, how the seller takes a prospect from the initial interview to closing of the deal.

You might be reading about this scenario I’m painting and think, What’s wrong with those people? If I had a full pipeline of interested leads, I would close them. Not likely. Sales success is about so much more than just needing more leads. Closing new business and selling more products or services requires two things that most people—even professional salespeople—lack: healthy beliefs going into the sale and a step-by-step process to do the job.

By a “sales process,” I don’t mean the technology you use. I want to focus instead on the clear, step-by-step process you consistently follow with every prospect. There are amazing ways of automating various steps in the sales cycle available to us now at prices accessible to almost every company. Companies of all sizes invest heavily in tools like their CRMs, lead scoring marketing automation software, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. And most of the time, executives think these tools will be the magic wand that will make their sales process transform. But without a consistent process, a sales team can have all the latest “bells and whistles” technologically and still not close the client because the team skipped key steps in the process.

In other cases, a sales team may have a well-defined process to follow but still doesn’t close as much business as they’d like. The same two problem areas—beliefs and process—are the culprits. First, no one’s sales process is as clear as it could be, I promise. In the second half of this book, I outline the steps I teach so you can tighten up how you run your sales conversations. Second, if you really have a perfectly clear sales process and you are still not closing clients as consistently as you’d like, then I would direct you back to the other half of the equation—beliefs—and say the problem is likely found inside of you. Healthy beliefs about sales are essential for outstanding sales performance, and this area of beliefs is where science helps us understand why we do what we do. These two elements for successful sales—your beliefs and your sales process—are sophisticated concepts.

A significant part of sales success is “getting out of our own way.” In selling, as in much of life, we are our own most important ally and our own worst enemy.

Salespeople believe people buy from them because they can prove how smart they are. When you think people buy based on how smart you are, you must always prove it; you look for ways to demonstrate you’re smart through the prospecting emails you send, the voicemails you leave, the LinkedIn posts you create. Trying to look smart often makes us hard to understand, since we are using fancy language to “prove” how much prospects need us. Prospects don’t buy from salespeople who use the most impressive technical language. They also don’t buy from us based on how perfectly we explain every single aspect of the product or service we sell. Prospects buy for other reasons.

Think of yourself as a buyer. Most of us buy everything we own without understanding every detail of how the product works. So if people don’t buy from salespeople who have proven they are the smartest, why do they choose one salesperson over another?

First, prospects buy from people who make the buying process easy. (I’ll cover this information further in later chapters.) Second, prospects buy from people who establish trust by focusing on the needs of their customer instead of talking about themselves and trying to look smart.

The more technical a product or service, the more likely it is that the sales team believes the products’ attributes and specifications are what make or break the deal. They rely on things like demos and technical white papers to help them in their sales cycle. The fact that surprises most salespeople is that the buyer doesn’t care if you are smart. They care if you care about them. In the end, even Fortune 500 C-level executives are still people just like you and me. These people buy (just like other people do) for emotional reasons and for the value of what you are offering—and value is a subjective thing.