4 (Preventable) Mistakes That Kill a Sales Career

Terrible Salespeople Gun XRay

For quite some time, I thought there were only 2 major mistakes that salespeople could make that would cause them to fail.  I thought if they had all the boxes checked off in these 2 areas, winning was a sure thing.

More recently, I have come to the conclusion that there is a 3rd and 4th mistake that can derail your career just as quickly as falling down in the first 2.

Let’s go through all 4 mistakes together.  While you read, assess if you are rising up or falling down in that area.

The great thing about all of these is they can be worked on.  You can get better.  You can become world class if you will simply pay attention.

1.)  You’ve Developed a Poor Work Ethic.

A very good connector and technically savvy salesperson will fail if they don’t see enough people.

Everyone in sales agrees sales is a numbers game, and then immediately following their agreement, a HUGE portion of the sales population goes about their typical selling day as though it’s NOT a numbers game.

Do you realize what happens to your results if you double your daily sales calls?  I admit it’s a stupid sounding question, but a typical salesperson would vastly increase their income if they asked themselves that question every morning.

Speaking of the morning…what time do you make your first sales call of the day?  Would you be able to make the number of calls you need to accomplish your goals if you started an hour earlier?

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that warm bed is comfortable in the morning.  I can promise you a $5,000 bed (in your dream house) that you have the discipline to bounce out of every morning is even more comfortable.  The irony is that you have to be able to get out of this bed to get that one.

2.) You Haven’t Developed Your Selling Skills.

If you don’t know what to say, you won’t be very effective.  If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll be doomed to repeat them.

We all know this…yet millions of terrible salespeople haven’t added any new skills to their repertoire in the last 5 years.

Are you stuck in a rut?  Or are you learning new things all the time?

Are you actively refining your internal scripts to become better and better as the years go by?  Or are you dabbling in the same half ass “winging it” script you’ve used for as long as you can remember?

Are you better at negotiating than you were 2 years ago?  No one’s forcing you to do this, but if you (consciously or unconciously) choose to sit still, don’t ever be fascinated by the skills of a superstar that simply spent ten years refining their skills little by little.

3.) You Haven’t Developed Your Ability to Connect.

We’re fighting an uphill battle in sales.  We’re down a notch or two in the reputation realm before we even open our mouths to a prospect.

Because of the fact that we are selling something,  some level of mistrust is built in to the beginning of the relationship.   People have had bad experiences in the past and now here you are, another guy trying to get into my wallet somehow.

The ability to disarm the shield your prospects deploy, make a real connection, and build a trusting relationship is paramount to your success.

How many books have you read in the last year on building rapport and making conversation?  This also goes back to scripting and figuring out what language works and what doesn’t.  Making a first impression that includes friendliness and credibility usually requires a designed approach.

4.) You Haven’t Developed the Ability (or Wherewithal) to Qualify.

Some salespeople make friendliness the primary criteria of a prospect, BEFORE they will assess if its even viable.  Some salespeople will call on accounts they agree aren’t viable specifically BECAUSE they are friendly.

I have a newsflash for you.  You need to make viability your #1 criteria.  If an account can’t pay you what your time is worth, you are no longer being a salesperson.  You’re making social calls.  This can be harder for newer salespeople.  Sometimes they’ll lie to themselves by saying the account “has potential.”

It’s either viable or it’s not.  If you’re talking to yourself about its potential…you’re wasting time.

On the other side of the spectrum, some salespeople are intimidated by large opportunities.  They call on smaller accounts to avoid dealing with “the stress” of a larger deal.  It’s a strange mental block to me, but I’ve heard of a few salespeople who have failed because of this.

You could argue qualification is a sales skill, but there are salespeople out there that can do an amazing job of building a relationship, pitching their ideas, and successfully closing for an order with a prospect that is just not…quite…worth it.   Don’t waste your skills.  Learn to qualify.


 So how did you do?  Which one do you need to improve on?

If its #1: Work Ethic — Get an accountability partner or a coach, and be on the phone with them every morning, and every afternoon if necessary.  Report to each other what you accomplished today.

I have a friend that used to send his personal business coach a stack of $500 checks.  If he didn’t do his job, the coach would send one of those $500 checks to one of my friend’s competitors.

The coach never needed to send a check 🙂

If it’s #2: Selling Skills — Enroll in a selling skills class, or just buy some of the great books available on selling.  Spend an hour at lunch with one of the top salespeople in your company.  What do they do?  Can you replicate that?  Can you imagine the ideas they might drop on you for just the price of a sandwich?

If it’s #3: Connecting with People —  There are lots of books available on relationship building, rapport building, and making conversation.  Again, talk with the top salespeople at your company.  What do they do to build relationships?  There is no excuse for someone to stay a poor performer at any of this.

If it’s #4: Qualification Skills — Talk with your manager about what the word “viable” means.  Find out what to look for.  Find out what the red flags are that would cause you to disengage with a prospect.  Make a personal pledge to never call on something if it isn’t viable.  The goal is not to just have friendly conversations all day.  The goal is to sell.

The good news is if you work hard enough you will soon sell a ton to people that are perfectly happy to also make friendly conversation.

Good selling my friends!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.