“You are the weakest link!,” the catch-phrase from the BBC’s popular game show, The Weakest Link was sharply followed by the word “Goodbye” from the blunt, no-nonsense host, Anne Robinson. What does this have to do with you or sales? In sales, there are several links in the chain that make up your role as a salesperson. In order to be successful, you often have to pass from one link to the next, shifting roles on demand. One minute you’re making a cold call, the next you’re negotiating a deal, and next you’re following up with a current customer. It’s like being in a one-person show!
What happens when you drop one of the links? The show doesn’t go off very well. In fact, if you’re on The Weakest link, you will hear the world “Goodbye” and be promptly led off stage. In sales, you may also hear “Goodbye”—or worse, crickets—if you are a poor negotiator, cold caller or closer. When you are not performing to the best of your ability in each role, or link on the chain, you are limiting your potential. By identifying the roles that are holding you back, you can make strides towards increasing your success as a salesperson.
Here are Seven Sales Roles and common forms of self-sabotage. See if you recognize yourself in any of them:
One of the simplest forms of self-sabotage in cold-calling is to avoid making the calls. Or perhaps you make the calls, but anticipate rejection or assume a lack of interest on the prospect’s part. Maybe you only call people you know are friendly, even though they provide nothing in the way of new opportunities. Add the pressure of a manager requiring that you make a certain number of cold calls each day or week, and you may find yourself “exaggerating” about the number of calls you’re making, which adds a whole new layer of discomfort.
Asking the hard questions is the best way to determine what the client’s needs are, if you are able to address them, and how. Many sellers are excellent talkers, but poor listeners. This combination can result in asking questions without really “hearing” the answers. Some sellers don’t ask questions and mistakenly assume silence equals agreement. They may fear opening the door to conflict or being unable to answer a question. Whatever the reason, a lot of important information is left locked up inside the prospect and precious energy and time is spent doing guesswork.
Presenting or demonstrating a product or service to a prospect or a group can bring on debilitating stage fright for some. That fear can lead to avoiding meetings with groups or higher-level executives, under- or over-preparing. The end result? A weak or ineffective presentation and a lost opportunity to make a compelling case for your product or service.
The ability to establish a natural rapport and engage a prospect is critical in sales, yet I know many sellers who fear they are not entertaining or interesting enough, and thus avoid opportunities to connect with clients outside of the normal business arena, like at meals or industry events. Maybe you repeatedly put off or “forget” to keep in touch with clients, or more commonly, rely exclusively on virtual contact. Not maintaining consistent personal interaction puts you at risk of dropping off their radar entirely.
Not too many people enjoy conflict and sellers are no different in this regard. But a fear of conflict in sales can lead to changing the subject at the first sign of a disagreement, creating a distraction or jumping at the first solution offered—even if it is not the desired outcome or in everyone’s best interests.
The ability to assist a buyer in making a decision without being too forceful or too subtle is a huge challenge for many sellers. Often sellers shut down their pitch too early when the water appears to be getting a little rough. Some may resort to being too pushy, running the risk of turning the prospect off entirely. Either way, it makes the next role more difficult, which is….
In an effort to avoid the possibility of being told no, I’ve seen salespeople do all kinds of creative, yet self-defeating dances: suggesting unnecessary additional steps, offering to return with irrelevant information, setting up additional appointments, waiting until the weather changes—even talking a client out of making a decision. All of these amount to prolonging the sales process and putting off the inevitable yes or no. Just like asking out that hot guy or girl, many sellers would rather hope there’s a chance than hear a definitive “no” and have all doubt removed. Going into a call with your fingers crossed, hoping that your conversation will naturally lead to a sale places a heavy reliance on fate and the fickle mood of the prospect. But even fate—and your client—need a nudge sometimes.
If you see yourself in some of these self-defeating behaviors, don’t despair. The good news is you are no longer operating on auto-pilot and don’t have to be ruled by your weakest link. Pick one or two roles that you want to improve and develop a strategy for strengthening it. For example, cold calls your downfall? Set a timer for thirty minutes a day and don’t put down that phone until it goes off. Compare your results in 60 days and you will be amazed. Self-knowledge is the first step toward curing self-sabotage.