90% of Salespeople Give the other 10% a Bad Rap

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Take a second and think of the last few times someone tried to sell you something. 

How did that experience go? 

There’s a reason “salespeople” have a bad reputation.  They’re usually bad 🙂  

This is one of the reasons lots of folks are afraid to even CALL themselves a salesperson these days.   Now we have consultants, relationship managers, account executives, account managers, sales directors, business development associates, territory managers, and a million other titles that try to slide under the radar of the buying public….and yet no one is being fooled. 

This disingenuous need to disguise oneself as something other than a person who sells (because so many are bad) is an unfortunate outcome of the 3 mindsets battling for the minds of salespeople today.  90% of salespeople have inadvertently chosen the wrong mindset.

They stack the odds against themselves before they make their first call.


The Mindset of  “Win at All Costs”

Thankfully, this sleazy segment of the population is a dying breed.  This approach is employed by less than 5% of the sales population today.

GET what you can, when you can, for as long as you can.  

Think sleazy tricks, tactics, and closing “techniques” and you’ve got it.  

If you’ve seen the movie Glengarry Glenross (or Boiler Room if you want something more recent) you’ll know what I’m talking about.  I’ve heard it said that GGGR was one of the best sales movies ever.  I couldn’t disagree more.  As a hard working sales professional I found myself feeling constantly sick at the lies and the tricks the characters tried to employ to make sales.   To me, that film demonstrates one of the primary reasons the buying public has historically hated salespeople; they can’t be trusted.  

If someone ever tries to let you in on a “trick” to doing something in your career, keep a critical eye.  

Don’t compromise your integrity for a faster result.

Most salespeople know this mindset doesn’t work long term and they’ve evolved.  

The trouble is where they went next. 


The Mindset of “Don’t Be A Salesperson!”

90% of today’s sales population I’ve observed in the last 15 years has seen the smarmy, sleazy tactics of the first philosophy, and decided that “If THAT is what salespeople do, then I will not be a salesperson.”

They have decided they’ll be a “consultant/business developer/account executive!”   

They won’t be pushy and aggressive, they’ll be super nice, incredibly polite, (unintentionally) taking this attitude to the point of obsequiousness and borderline/outright apology.  

They’ve swung the pendulum too far back in the other direction!

This type of thinking leads them to start sales conversations by saying things like, “Listen I know you’re busy so I’ll make this real quick.”  

Nothing amazing ever started with that kind of pitch.

They proceed to say a procession of things in the same apologetic and hopeful theme and as a result, they have a mediocre to poor sales presentation.  

They finish that weak and ineffective presentation by telling the prospect “Thank you so much for the time.  I know you’re busy so I’ll get out of your hair.”

Here’s the travesty; while this is a far nobler pursuit than the blatant lack of integrity in mindset #1, this approach is JUST AS BAD for generating results.  

Let me repeat that.  

Being too deferential; being overly polite to the point of apology, is likely just as bad for one’s sales results as lying and cheating.

How could this be?  They are trying to do right by the customer!  

Actually, they’re not.  

In my last 15+ years of watching salespeople, I have observed that in the vast majority of the time the salesperson is overly deferential…they are also massively hopeful.   The desperately hopeful mindset and the overly deferential actions are somehow always linked together.  

The problem with hope is that it is frequently based in selfishness.  

Someone that is hopeful wants the deal to work out for themselves.  

Customers can feel it.  They don’t like the feeling. 

The key to succeeding in anything, whether it’s sales, or life at large, is to be able to differentiate yourself: first by the way you make people feel and, in time, by the results you demonstrate. 

So this approach fails on 2 fronts: it results in distrust and lack of credibility in the salesperson, and it does nothing to differentiate the salesperson from the other 5 people who came through in the last 2 months with the exact same approach.

You can’t be different when you’ve chosen to act similar.

In my sales candidate interviews I am always fascinated when I ask questions about the sales training (or lack thereof) some of them have received at previous employers.  

You find out very quickly that even some Fortune 500 sales training tends to be led by people swept up in the mindset of Don’t be a Salesperson.   

I believe it is a sales pandemic.  It’s easy to catch and it’s hard to resist. 

And yet…there is still a glimmer of hope. 


The Mindset of a Real Professional 

This the mindset held by the final 5-10% of the sales population.   

These are the people at the top of the sales leaderboard in their companies.  These are the people who earn 2-3-5x more than the industry average.  

How do they do this?  

First, they work a ton.  Most importantly, they do proactive work…not reactive.

They do not act or speak in a manner that communicates that they believe they are less important than the customer. They have a pure hearted, burning belief that the customer needs them because of the ideas and conversations they are capable of generating, not that they need the customer to buy something.

Because they know they are needed, they aren’t hopeful a deal will happen.   They are there to actually contribute first and then to see what happens.  They don’t get emotionally attached to any outcome.  They understand the world is a numbers game and getting emotionally hung up reduces win rates.   

Must reiterate: they speak and act in ways that aren’t hopeful, but instead TRULY helpful.

Quite often, they have a very consistent daily routine and process that allows them to create predictable, repeatable outcomes.  This creates a volume of work that supports peace of mind and further prevents them from acting desperate.

Experience is their best teacher.  They pay attention to their results and constantly tinker with their approach so their skills increase. 

They take 100% responsibility for the results they achieve, not because they truly have 100% control, but because they want to ensure they’ll never allow themselves to become victims. 

They are generally extremely knowledgeable about their products, and the reason for that is so they can be 100% focused on figuring out how to provide the best ideas to serve their customer as well as is humanly possible.

They don’t need to give much thought to competition, because in the macro there really isn’t any competition.

This completely customer oriented focus allows them to let go of hope, treat customers as peers, and establish themselves as trustworthy business advisors.  

It’s actually surprisingly easy to establish some credibility when you aren’t saying and doing things that remind the prospect of the last 5 time-wasting salespeople that came through their office. 

10 years of doing this with consistency and they are the highest paid people at the company and many of their peers are mystified as to how that happened. 

Don’t be one of the mystified.  

Be one of the highest paid. 

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