Why Do Underperforming Sales Reps Underperform?

By Jeff Beals

Why do underperforming sales reps underperform?

That question has vexed sales leaders since the beginning of time.  The consequences and manifestations of that question have caused many a sales manager to waste countless hours of precious time.

Below is a quick list of what leads to underwhelming results. The first couple of items are very difficult to fix.  The other items can be fixed but only if the sales rep has a strong personal desire to turn things around and succeed.

Mindset – Low performers often lack a love for sales and the competitiveness to go out and win deals.  They lack the self-generated motivation that drives other reps to strive for money, victories and a sense of accomplishment.  Furthermore, some people are actually embarrassed or ashamed to work in sales.  This is more common than you might think.  There are a number of people who work in sales but wish they didn’t because they don’t see it as a prestigious enough job or they feel guilty approaching strangers.  Finally, some sales reps just aren’t team players. They are difficult to manage and don’t collaborate well with co-workers.

Laziness – Sales is not rocket science, but it does take hard work.  Some people just aren’t willing to put in the effort that it takes.

Personal problems – Hopefully, these are just temporary barriers that will eventually go away, but it is awfully difficult to focus on your work when things are in shambles at home.

No understanding of client value – Underperforming reps are more likely to make product-focused calls, meaning they focus too much on the features and benefits of their products/services, talk too much about themselves and focus on how great their company is.  Instead, they should focus on what the prospect truly values and what outcomes the prospect seeks.

Questions – Poor producers typically don’t ask enough questions, and the questions they do ask are superficial in nature.  Successful sales reps ask probing questions and as many as necessary to understand what truly motivates the prospect.

Insufficient prospecting activity – In order to create new clients, sales reps must get on the phone, send emails and show up at prospects’ offices.  They must be willing to interrupt a stranger’s day.  Low producers almost never make enough “dials per day.”

Selling on price – Because low producers don’t build adequate pipelines, they tend to be too dependent upon any one prospect at any given time.  This can make them desperate and more willing to offer price reductions and discounts in order to close sales.  Additionally, underperformers are more likely to focus on price during calls and meetings instead of focusing on the true value the product or service provides.

Trustworthiness – At some level, prospects need to feel like they can trust a sales rep especially when it comes to complex or high-dollar sales.  If a sales rep can’t establish trust quickly with new prospects, he or she is facing a steep uphill climb.

Product Knowledge – When clients do have specific questions about a product, you better be able to answer the question confidently, accurately and quickly.  Many underperformers can’t or won’t.

Most sales managers spend an inordinate amount of time with their underperformers.  Except for new sales reps, it is generally counterproductive to spend a lot of time with your lowest producers.

If you’re trying to decide with whom to spend time, focus on your middle producers.  Those are the sales reps who are producing adequate results but have room for much more. Second, focus on your high producers, helping them maximize their already impressive results. Your third and final priority would be the low producers, determining which ones have potential and which ones should go work somewhere else.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales coach, I have signed over 20 top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

(402) 637-9300

Are You About to Lose Your Largest Client?

My friend and colleague, Lee Salz, has the #1 sales book on Amazon right now. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time to grab your copy: Amazon is selling the Kindle version of Sales Differentiation for only $3.99 in the U.S.

In honor of Lee’s brand-new book I have invited him to be a guest columnist for this week’s Sales Shape-Up.

By Lee B. Salz

For the last five years, a hardware supplier sold screws to a national home building company. Whenever the home builder ordered screws, the supplier delivered them accurately and on-time. If the home builder wanted Philips screws, the supplier delivered them. If they wanted flathead screws, the supplier had those, too. The supplier had screws of all types and sizes which allowed them to serve this national home builder client.

The supplier was proud of its performance, and the home builder was pleased with the customer service responsiveness. Over the years, this client grew to become one of the largest, most profitable clients in the hardware supplier’s portfolio.

One day, everything changed. The home builder stopped buying screws from this supplier. A competitor came along and took the account away.

How could that happen given the performance of the hardware supplier?

The competitor talked with the home builder, not just about the screws. The salesperson inquired about the tools they used to install the screws and the material in which the screws were installed. Interestingly, just like the incumbent supplier, the competitor could provide a comprehensive solution rather than sell a single product. Unfortunately for the incumbent, they never had a conversation about the full solution they could provide. They were complacent with the revenue they had and felt that their customer service would create client loyalty. Unfortunately for them, they were wrong.

They lost this account, and the competitor didn’t win it on price. They used Sales Differentiation strategy to position the value of consolidating suppliers with a comprehensive solution which made a strong business case justifying a change. The incumbent was merely a product-pusher and did nothing to provide meaningful, differentiated value.

This story parallels a dynamic I find in most companies. They have a fragmented client portfolio. They sell a product to a client and don’t develop a strategy to position the full solution they can bring to bear. They may have sold a single product to a company or a full solution to a division or location. In both cases, there is more selling to be done!

The key is to use a selling strategy I refer to as conquering accounts. Your client portfolio represents both opportunities and vulnerabilities which a conquering accounts strategy addresses.

The opportunity you have is to grow revenue with those you presently have a relationship.

The vulnerability comes into play when you don’t have a conquering accounts strategy as a competitor, just like with the hardware supplier, comes along and presents a compelling solution rather than pushing a product.

Have you ever looked at your client portfolio and asked yourself how much untapped revenue it represents? If you haven’t, you should! In my experience with clients, I find their client portfolio looks like a slice of Swiss cheese. There are unnecessary holes in their portfolio where they leave revenue on the table and themselves unnecessarily vulnerable to the competition.

Salespeople are pushed to hunt for new accounts, but who is tasked with going back to the existing clients with a conquering accounts strategy?

The first step in the development of your Conquering Accounts Strategy is to put together a Product Contrast Matrix as described below:

1. List of all of your products in the left-hand column

2. In the second column, identify who the competitors are for each product

3. In the third column, ask yourself who buys this product (market segments and the Decision Influencers within them)

4. In the fourth column, for each product, ask yourself the following question:
If they are buying this product, what other products of ours should be of interest?
(If the hardware supplier had asked themselves that question, they would have identified opportunities on both sides of the screw.)

5. In the fifth column, explain why the other products should be of interest by asking this question:
What is the synergy between the product they are currently buying and the related ones?

6. In the sixth column, list the competitors for the other product(s).

Once completed, contrast the data in this tool with your client portfolio. You will quickly be able to see opportunities and vulnerabilities which you can resolve by conquering the account.

Assign each account to a salesperson to develop a conquering accounts strategy and develop a timeline for execution of the strategy.

Your conquering accounts strategy allows you to play both offense and defense against your competitors. You drive revenue and keep them out of your accounts. Using Sales Differentiation strategy to conquer accounts leads to explosive, profitable growth.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.