Complacency in sales spells disaster – Part 1

This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales.  These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities.  Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.

Most sales people are prone to become complacent.  It’s to do with the nature of the job.  It is very hard work, it is stressful, it comes with regular rejection, it requires lots of patience and tenacity.  There are no short cuts to success.

Sales and Business Development, especially in the IT space, is not an easy option and experienced salespeople can become complacent, especially after they have enjoyed some initial success.

Complacency creeps into the lives of successful salespeople when they become over-confident in their abilities.  This leads to them taking a number of short-cuts in how they do their jobs.  The most likely short-cut is in trying to maintain their level of sales success while at the same time cutting down on their working hours.  This is a surprisingly common problem facing Sales Directors when managing their sales teams.  Complacency is often a by-product of success, although it can arise for other reasons.

Successful salespeople appear to start looking for short-cuts; they start thinking that some of the tasks they used to undertake with diligence, are now optional.  They are not and this is a key sign that complacency is setting in.

Let’s look at the 6 biggest mistakes that complacent salespeople.  Ensure you are not making them.  The first three are given below and the final three will follow next time.

Mistake 1: Lack of basic research.  In the current business climate, the prospects in your marketplace are bombarded with marketing messages from everywhere.  It is important that your approach to each prospect hits the right target.  The target may be a point of pain that your prospect is encountering or a solution that will improve profitability.  Successful salespeople will spend time before contacting each new prospect to carefully research the target organisation so their initial approach is likely to be met with a positive response.  This can largely be undertaken using the Internet.  Complacent sales people tend to ignore the research activities.  They believe that as a consequence of their extensive experience, they don’t need to invest in pre-call research.

For each target organisation, especially if you are selling into larger organisations, you are advised to have an account opening strategy (or a prospect penetration strategy).  This is an important step in ensuring that you approach each prospect in the most efficient way, using a multitude of different methods.  You will need a strategy to approach your prospect a minimum of 7 – 10 times over a period of a few months.

Mistake 2: Lack of preparation and personalised communications.  In some way, this critical mistake made by complacent sales people is the most common.  You turn up for a meeting with a prospect and you have done no preparation.  You plan to “wing it” and hope that your experience will help you carry the day.  When you are unprepared for your initial prospect meeting, you will have a tendency to ask your prospect something like “tell me about your business”.  This type of approach usually ends with disastrous results.

Successful sales people will always turn up for meetings with a series of pre-planned questions, open-ended questions that will draw the prospect into a conversation about their situation and help them to confirm the opportunities or pain-points on which to focus their attention.  Complacent sales people will turn up and talk about whatever they think about, most likely by asking the same questions they used in their previous meetings. They think of their next question as the prospect is answering the previous one.  As a result, they will miss some vital clues given out by the prospect that would enable them to make a sale.

Complacent sales people will make great use of standard emails, letters and proposals.  Cut and paste technology is a tempting shortcut.  However, a prospect or a client receiving a standard communication like this instantly feels devalued and less important.  In practise, you really want each prospect to think they are very important to you and  for each client to think they are your most important client.  Successful sales people do this by sending highly personalised messages that address the specific interests of their clients and prospects.

Mistake 3: Not listening very well (or at all).  Experienced sales people may fall into the trap of thinking they have heard it all before from prospects and clients.  Complacent sales people don’t really listen to what is being said and, instead, focus on what they will say next.  As highlighted above, this often occurs because of their lack of preparation.  The emphasis is often about what the salesperson wants, not what the other person wants.

Associated with not listening is little or no eye contact between the salesperson and the prospect / client.  Again, it is a small signal that you are not really interested in what the prospect has to say.

Prospects respond to this sales style by not buying.  clients feel they are no longer important to you, levels of client satisfaction drop and the number of client defections will increase.

Next time, I’ll look at the next 3 big mistakes made by complacent salespeople.

Posted in Sales / Business Growth