Are sales leaders clear on what prevents their salespeople from executing what they’ve been trained to do? In a series of posts, we will be discussing the five major hidden weaknesses that can neutralize a sales professional’s strengths and training all at once.
Have you been frustrated by your sales force when the first reference about an account or a prospective account isn’t the relevant account info, but the fact that the decision maker likes them on a personal level? This is the first major hidden weakness: The need to be liked.
It is one of the most prevalent weaknesses among sales professionals, and largely depends on where they fit into the personality spectrum of extroverted versus introverted. In a majority of these cases, a team member’s natural behavioral style is the cause. It is a select few that have become aware of this challenge and have been diligent enough to overcome it, with good managerial help.
This need to be liked can neutralize salespeople by discouraging them from pushing a prospect out of fear of damaging the relationship. These people will often avoid trying to close a sale again on a prospect after the first “no,” when the sales process is just beginning. Since research has consistently shown that it takes three to four attempts to close 80 percent of prospects, this lack of push is clearly a problem.
In new business development in particular, the need for approval causes a lot of wasted time. Many salespeople focus on getting the prospect to like them rather than buy from them. Hello! One does not lead to the other! They compound the issue by providing inaccurate sales forecasts because they think the prospect is going to buy. What happens to your sales forecast when it turns out that a big chunk of this salesperson’s numbers aren’t going to come in?
The need to be liked also causes salespeople to miss goals out of a tendency to find “safe haven” with accounts that like them. These accounts make them feel good about themselves, as opposed to having the ability to buy and help them make their sales goals.
The good news is that, like many other weaknesses, awareness is the first step. Once salespeople are made aware of this weakness, they can work on overcoming it through consistent coaching, whether from their sales manager or an outside sales development expert. A key aspect of this coaching is the use of short-, medium- and long-term goals.
Motivating the salesperson to work through this behavior change issue is never easy, especially for someone who’s been selling for a long time. But, with three to six months of coaching, combined with the “right” motivation, salespeople can make great strides in overcoming this weakness.
Alex P. Bartholomaus is managing partner at People Stretch Solutions and works to help small to mid-sized companies drive growth and profits. He combines a non-traditional approach of psychology, behavioral science and emotional intelligence to help sales forces and leadership teams perform at higher levels.