Selling Skills – The #1 Reason WHY people fail to meet sales objectives

What’s the number one reason most sales people fail to meet sales objectives? Many sales people will blame unreasonable objectives. Sales managers and business owners usually claim lazy sales people, the economy, or some other excuse.

This question plagues many a thinking sales leader. Is it a question of fit (product or company)? Is it that some people are just not cut out for sales? Is it a question of skill, motivation or talent?

Could it just be laziness? Is it a certain type of personality? What is it that causes so many people to fail at selling or simply just miss their sales numbers month in and month out?

Well, let me ask you this…What would you think of a professional athlete who told his coach or manager that they had made a decision not to train anymore? No more practice. They have decided to cut out all advance preparation and learning, but they are still certain of their ability to perform like a superstar on the playing field.

No doubt you’d find the whole idea quite ludicrous wouldn’t you? Well why is it any less preposterous that your sales people choose to neglect their training and capability development?

Actually, not all sales people neglect their capability development. The professional sales person never stops the growth process. As the saying goes, “the more they know, the more they know they need to know.” Unfortunately, these individuals are increasingly rare. Most sales teams are made up of sales representatives.

As Steve Young wrote in a terrific article for, “Unlike other professions such as accounting, the profession of sales is not formalized; there is no required certification process, and therefore, no criteria defining the differences between the levels of proficiency existing among those in the profession. While these two groups—reps and pros—perform many of the same functions, the differences between them account for many of the problems business owners have in growing their businesses.”

The difference between a sales rep and a Sales Professional is similar to the difference between a varsity high school football player and a National Football League player or the difference in sound quality between a Sanyo system and a Bang & Olufsen system. It’s akin to the quality between a Mercedes versus a Kia. They both will get you to the destination, but which would you rather ride in, all things being equal?

So, a sales rep may present your products and services to prospective customers, identity, qualify, follow-up on sales opportunities, and they will occasionally walk into a sale. In direct contrast, the sales professional will tackle the exact same tasks with a completely different approach and mindset.

Sure the sales rep has the same or similar sales goals as the sales professional, but the sales professional implements the sequence of events with great distinction.

Let’s take the goal of asking questions as an example.

Now, both the sales rep and the sales pro will ask sales questions. The difference between the pro and the rep is in the types of questions the pro asks. The professional asks thoughtful questions and listens intently to the response. Then they follow up the response with a further question. They end up with a far different result.

On the other hand, the sales rep will ask a question (if they ask questions at all), or a series of questions that they “have been told to ask” with the express purpose of looking for a hook to hang their presentation upon. Their focus is typically on themselves and what they need to do, whereas the professional sales person’s focus is completely on the customer.

How does the sales professional know what questions to ask? Experience? Sure that’s one element. The big reason that the pro asks different and thoughtful questions is because just like any product quality program where there is an emphasis on constant and never ending improvement, the sales pro is constantly looking for ways to improve their output or results of their questions.

Try this exercise. Ask someone on your team whom you perceive as an average sales rep, what was the last sales book they read and when, or what was the last sales tactic they learned and from where, and you’ll very quickly see why their sales are so stunted. Ask the sales pro the same question and what you will find is a hunger for knowledge.

Take sales preparation as another example. The sales professional grooms themselves with a wide breadth and in-depth knowledge about the prospect and the sales opportunities the prospect represents prior to a call. What they don’t know, they hunger to find out. When it comes to pre-call preparation, the pro will invest quality time on researching the prospect and the company. This is not a chore to be done to keep the boss happy, but rather an essential key for them to ensure a successful outcome. The professional will often even attempt to anticipate issues the prospect may raise during the call that would impact the call’s outcome.

Contrast this with the sales rep who as often as not, will show up with maybe just a quick glance through the prospects website…maybe!

For the sales rep, selling is just a numbers game. A game they hope will eventually lead to something coming from all of their “hard work!”

Here’s another good exercise. Compare the preparation done by the sales rep you believe to be a professional, to your average sales reps.

The bottom line is this. In the majority of situations, where you have a sales rep involved in a competitive selling situation, they will lose to the competition’s sales professional who is better prepared.

Selling professionally requires a vast multitude of skills and knowledge. Knowledge of people, persuasion, influence, behavior, corporate politics, psychology, buying behavior, sales process and the list goes on. Those sales people who make it their business to, as Jim Rohn would say, “Work harder on themselves than they do on the job” will win the business.

If you have a sales rep who doesn’t know how to sell the real value of what you offer, then all they can sell is your price. They must lose out to the sales pro who knows how to convert cost into real value that the customer will be able to measure. To sell value you have to possess and refine your knowledge and skills to present that value in a highly compelling way.

Constant and never ending knowledge and skill improvement is how people become top performers. Most people employed in sales, however, rarely invest the time and effort to improve their capability and knowledge, and thus, remain ill equipped to succeed consistently. Hence most fail!

What are you doing today to ensure you are fielding a professional sales team tomorrow? Did you know you can measure the characteristics demonstrated by professional sales people? It’s true. An ADVanced Insights Profile will identify the characteristics of your sales team. You will be able to see WHAT natural talents your sales team possesses, WHY they are motivated to use them, and HOW they prefer to use their natural talents.

For FREE ADVanced Insights Profiles, use this link for your sales team:

Or for more FREE information on creating a professional sales team, contact Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc. at:

Or visit us at:


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About davegregory

Dave Gregory, Chief Learning Officer for Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc., believes in the power of the strengths movement. During the past 15 years, Dave managed the Learning Solutions activities of Qwest’s Mass Markets Group, including call centers, retail stores, indirect retail, e-business, collections, alternative markets and the small business teams. Mr. Gregory graduated from Creighton University’s School of Law in 1993 earning a Juris Doctor. He completed his undergraduate education receiving a BSBA with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1990. Mr. Gregory has more than 25 years experience in business development and consulting.

One response to “Selling Skills – The #1 Reason WHY people fail to meet sales objectives”

  1. gerd diet says :

    This website stands out among the others, especially for this niche, please keep us updated with your phenomenal writing style. Have you thought of getting a facebook so we can keep up better?

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