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What keeps good salespeople from achieving better results has little to do with techniques or the service you sell. You must spot the "sales killers," i.e., actions and attitudes that result in dead deals, wasted time, discouragement and making excuses for unacceptable performance. 

Lack of Balance: Many people cite relationship-building as the key to selling. While it's certainly one key, it's not the only one.  To be successful, sellers must balance relationship-building with defining and advancing the sale. Neither will accomplish the goal alone. Make sure you build a basis for decision along with the relationship.

“Skimming the Cream”: Failing to take all prospects seriously is sometimes called skimming the cream off the top. It means screening leads to get the "hot" ones, those believed to be immediate buyers. Once the "ready-to-buy-now" prospects have been called, there is still plenty of business--and someone will get it.

The key is to evaluate the prospects and create an ongoing plan to stay in touch with them until they become the cream. They will buy at some point, and the only worthy goal is to be there at the right time.  It's OK to skim, but make sure you're also cultivating the future cream.

Quitting Too Soon: One serious sales-killer is dismissing prospects too quickly.  Many sales are lost because the salesperson walks away before the prospect is ready to buy.  As a result, the sale is virtually handed to the next salesperson that comes through the door. Buying cycles are longer than ever, and each buyer has unique needs and an individual buying style. Review the three types of buyer needs to make sure that you probe for the needs that define this buyer's style.

Here are some things that very experienced salespeople know, but don't always share:

  • Rule of 45: About 45% of sales leads will turn into sales in the next 12 months (22-25% will convert in six months--either by you or by a competitor).
  • Follow up: Follow up on every lead until the prospect buys (from someone) or dies. If a lead is a few months old, there is still an 80% chance the prospect hasn't made the decision yet. After six months, there is still a 50% chance; 75% of people who inquire tend to buy. Yet somewhere between half and 88% of leads are not followed up thoroughly.
  • Older Leads Mean Fewer Competitors: Let others give up early, and you will boost your success rate, even if your skills aren't what they eventually will be.

Next week: Sales Killers, part 2.

Mike O'Horo

What's the most critical thing to focus on in your sales activity? Getting a decision. To learn why, download our free eBook, The Blind Spot that Prevents Lawyers from Doubling Their Income.