Ten Reasons Why Sales People Don’t Work Out

Guest Contributor, Steve Morahan

There are ten key reasons why most sales people don’t work out. The consequence of any of these reasons is poor results, negative growth, a continuous cycle of churning salespeople at your expense, and frustration on your part.

Let’s discuss these reasons, and then in a free download at the end of this post, entitled ‘Feeding the Hungry: A guide to hiring and keeping great DOOH sales people‘ I discuss in more detail the right way to recruit, develop, and retain top salespeople.

  1. Abandonment

    Abandonment means that you fail to take any responsibility for the success of your sales pipeline, and dump everything into your salesperson’s lap. In other words, you shift the responsibility and the blame for poor results to anyone but yourself. Abandonment happens frequently; especially with technically-oriented business owners who don’t want to be involved with selling, and let’s be honest our industry is rife with these types of companies and owners.

    When you abandon your salesperson, you provide no leadership or support to your salespeople. You set up them — and your company — to fail. As we’ll soon see, if you employ salespeople, you need to stay close to them and be involved.

  2. The silver bullet solution

    Many business owners furtively hope that a salesperson will be the answer to their prayers, the instant panacea that will catapult their company into the stratosphere. While a good salesperson or sales force can make an enormous difference, they are rarely silver bullets. You still need to invest considerable time and resources to market your company, and to manage and develop your salespeople. Sorry, but there is no silver bullet.

  3. Poor conveyance

    In a growing and emergent industry such as DOOH a persistent problem happens when the sales team hands a deal over to the technical team. These hand-overs lead to both internal miscommunication and prospect/client frustration. Salespeople and technical people speak different languages. Equally, salespeople often don’t sweat the details of scope when they close a deal, while technical people always do. Salespeople sometimes make promises to clients in order to edge out the competition, while technical people would rather under-promise and over-deliver. The end result of this situation — if it’s handled poorly — is that both your clients/prospects and your employees are unhappy during the transition from proposal to actual work. Whenever this happens your reputation is guaranteed to suffer.

  4. Not communicating expectations

    As the owner of your company, it’s up to you to set specific revenue targets for your salespeople, and to identify expectations about the types and frequency of activities that your salespeople should undertake. That way, everyone knows if they’re meeting expectations. Unfortunately, many owners fail to communicate expectations clearly to their salespeople. When that happens, it’s common for salespeople to think they’re doing fine, while you sees them as failing to perform.

  5. The wrong remuneration increase the wrong sort of turnover

    Salespeople are mercenaries at heart, and of course that’s a great thing for your business. So you may think keeping them happy is simply: pay them! However, though it sounds straight forward, coming up with a compensation scheme that works for everyone is a challenge. Some remuneration plans are so generous that salespeople lose their hunger. Others are too stingy to attract top salespeople and keep your top performers. The wrong remuneration plan will lead to increased turnover – of your best people.

  6. Scared to pull the plug

    The only rule in sales management that has always held water is that out of every ten salespeople, three will be duds, five will be mediocre, and two will be superstars. It’s costly to waste your time with the three duds and five mediocre salespeople. If you have a mediocre or poor performer trying to sell your products or services, you cost yourself lost sales, and hurt the morale of more productive employees. Still, many business owners keep poorly performing salespeople around too long, instead of pulling the plug and finding a superstar.

  7. Hiring the wrong type of salesperson

    There are two types of salespeople: those who generate new accounts, and those who develop existing accounts. Most business owners want salespeople who can generate new business, because they’re already good at developing relationships with current clients. They want the type of salesperson who can make cold calls, build new relationships, and close a deal with a new client (or bring a deal to the owner, so they can close it). Unfortunately, those same owners are often unclear about exactly what kind of salesperson they want. They get the wrong type, and are disappointed.

  8. Lack of convention to discuss the sales pipeline

    Just as you need a language to discuss the process of designing and building a Website, you also need a language to discuss sales. Without this common language, you have no idea whether your salesperson is performing or not, or how much business has a reasonable expectation of closing.

  9. Not being equipped with the tools to do the job

    Study after study shows that cold calling simply doesn’t work in isolation. Salespeople need solid marketing collateral, messages, and campaigns that get prospects interested to meet with them supported by an up to date CRM system which centralises all sales contacts and marketing activities. They also need a solid understanding of the services or products you offer. If you don’t provide this support, it’s your fault when they fail.

  10. Trusting them with the baby

    Finally, and importantly salespeople are professionals and they need to be trusted. You’ve employed them to a job so let them got on with it. Listen to their ideas and give them the freedom to prove their ability and hunger.

Feeding the Hungry: A guide to hiring and keeping great DOOH sales people‘ has been produced for business owners and management of companies operating in the DOOH industry.

It provides practical information to help you build and grow your sales effort and meet both the typical sales challenge as well as counter the unique demands of the DOOH market place.

Download it here.

3 Responses to “Ten Reasons Why Sales People Don’t Work Out”

  1. Phil Austin Says:

    What a fantastic and accurate reflection of the life of a media sales professional!

    What you detail here reflects life at most of the DOOH companies around the world. It is however not the case everywhere. At Can Media we adhere to all of your suggested principles which is why we never lose GOOD sales people and why our sales team CONTINUES to grow.

    Our comments below

    Abandonment :

    At Can Media we constantly, train, educate, monitor and assist our team of sales people to develop and generate more sales.

    The silver bullet solution

    We do not pray, we simply recruit quality sales people to deliver our story in a consistent manner, our story not theirs. Understand our business and sales people find it straight forward to sell our services.

    Poor conveyance

    > 5000 locations > 28m clearly defined veiwers ( demonstrable audience beyond legitimate dispute) and growing by the day, needs an operational infrastructure unsurpassed in the industry, which in turn needs great partners such as BT and Scala.

    Not communicating expectations

    Fantastic management structure. No more to BE said to avoid requests for pay increases.

    The wrong remuneration increase the wrong sort of turnover

    Salespeople are mercenaries at heart, and of course that’s a great thing for your business.

    It has to work for the sales force and the company which is why we provide a variety of divisions to sell on and rotate where required.

    Scared to pull the plug

    We have a slightly more refined recruitment policy than the norm.

    Hiring the wrong type of salesperson

    As above

    Lack of convention to discuss the sales pipeline.

    Not at Can Media. Well developed and robust pipelines emanate from a proven product line with A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER of diverse clients

    Not being equipped with the tools to do the job

    Not at Can Media. The highest quality “Tools of the trade” in the industry by far, all based on historic deliverables such as reems of research and more endorsements than a formula one drivers license. True back office support pas excellance.

    Trusting them with the baby

    We sell media not babies 😉


    Our top earners earned > £135k each last year with newer disciples earning > £48k

    Our various divisions need a further six sales people based regionally around the UK.

    CEO The Life Channel
    Can Media Group

  2. Peter Miles Says:

    I totally agree with Phil that this is a really interesting article and finding and retaining great sales people is always the challenge.

    It seems that we are all currently hiring …………..

    Peter Miles – Subtv Ltd

  3. Nicole Miller Says:

    I agree with your point that a sales team needs an updated CRM system. Another article that you or readers may find interesting is “Choosing a Business Solution”. Check it out; http://blog.suradocrm.com/2010/03/04/choosing-a-business-solution/

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