Why Great Sales People Fail?

In my blog posts and articles I talk frequently about the disconnect between what businesses want to hire to drive sales growth – the ‘A’ players (the top 10 – 15% of sales professionals within their market / compensation level) and what they all too often hire – the ‘B’ and ‘C’ players.

It’s true that the ‘A’ players tend to be highly successful wherever they go, and also that they don’t tend to move jobs very often. However, rarely does someone have a perfect career track record in sales – even the very best.

With a high level of demand for exceptional sales professionals and the scarcity of these individuals, it is important not to reject highly capable candidates for the wrong reasons.

Here are some of the reasons why great sales people fail….and move on:

They were ‘sold a pup’ – We see this far too often – a hiring manager will oversell a position or make promises they can’t / don’t keep in order to secure a candidate. They may position an attractive OTE that is based on an unrealistically high target, or sometimes they overstate their position in the market or claim that the product or service offering is more differentiated than it actually is.

You could say that the sales person should have better researched their potential employer, and that’s true – a great sales person should excel at qualifying companies. However, in some cases the sales person simply falls for the hiring pitch themselves only to find out shortly after joining that what was presented to them is very different from the reality.

Since great sales people have options, they will usually admit their mistake and move on to an employer where they are set up to succeed.

Flawed sales structure or strategy – During my time consulting with corporates on organisational sales effectiveness there was a mantra that we used to use that I think says it all really:

“If you pit a good performer against a bad system, the system will win almost every time. We spend too much of our time fixing people who are not broken, and not enough time fixing organisation systems that are broken…..

All too often management relies on individual or team heroics to overcome fundamentally flawed processes”

Bad Boss – One of the most common reasons for failure is a Sales Manager/Director that fails to effectively lead. ‘A’ players tend to respect strong leadership and will be accepting of positive coaching and mentoring where this helps them to improve performance. However, what they won’t accept is weak or ineffective leadership, micro management that stifles their talent, poor/ineffective communication or failure to provide reward/recognition where it’s due.

Company Acquisition / Change – Significant change in company direction or an acquisition can cause a sales person who was over-achieving before the change to have a dip in performance.   This can be caused by material changes in what they sell, who they sell to or how they sell. It could also be down to a change of culture. I’ve been there myself, where a company I was working for was acquired by one of their biggest competitors. For me the change in culture caused a loss of motivation and a lack of belief in the company. This was just not tenable so I moved on.

There are many other reasons why a sales person may fail – and by that I mean fail to be able to deliver the expected results or fail to stick around to make it happen.

If this has happened to you then what were your reasons?

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