Why Johnny Can't Sell

  By Terri Roeslmeier  |    Monday May 1, 2018

Category: Columns, Expert Advice


All of the boxes were checked: good education, personable, impressive resume, professional and fairly solid work history. Couple short stints were bad luck layoffs or poor career choices that dictated a quick change.  No one would expect someone to stay at a job if they were miserable.

Everything started out fine.  The eager beaver was there right on time for the first day of work.  Seemed to relish learning and asked a lot of good questions. Appeared to get along with everyone in the lunch room, quickly attempting to make friends with co-workers and always the first to line up to celebrate someone’s birthday.  What a guy!

A few weeks past when the first red flag reared its ugly head.  Sales calls were low.  Was there something he didn’t understand?  What can we do to help?  Does he need more training? Just getting a slow start?  He assured us that soon we would see results like never before seen.  Ok, we can wait if this stellar performer just needs a bit more time.

Calls improved a bit but now we had a problem with appointments.  The appointments booked were low hanging fruit and tire kickers that other competitors didn’t really want to spend time on.  But Johnny did. He spent quite a lot of time on these “dud leads”.  He took some better ones that came in from ads and marketing but never was able to finalize. Was it the presentation?  Our product was solid and other reps were very successful.  Why couldn’t Johnny sell?  

In a short time, it was determined that Johnny would not be successful at our company and sadly, he had to go.  He was very confused why he was being let go and did not understand why we couldn’t give him more time. Johnny said he was just starting to get hot.

We have all seen people like this and there are many reasons why certain people are not successful at sales.  Rarely does it have to do with the product, the territory, the price or the other common excuses that these people make when they have difficulty closing deals.  It may be best to review some of the basics when selecting talent and understanding why some sales reps close more sales than others.

  1. When selecting talent, read between the lines of the resume.  Although bad luck and bad choices do come into play from time to time and bad things happen to even the best, it’s a bit unusual for one person to have 2 or 3 career mishaps.  Watch out for this no matter how polished and professional the individual may seem.
  2. There are a lot of great actors playing the role of “star sales rep”.  Many of this type simply want to slide along without putting any real effort into the job.  Generally, they talk up a storm and sound pretty good but there is little substance behind the words. Often, they walk around the office talking to co-workers instead of being on the phone talking to potential customers.  They are not getting their job done and distracting others from doing theirs.

3. Then you have those that are making calls and getting appointments but have difficulty finalizing the business.  They will sell every now and then but should be closing much more based upon the volume they are bringing through the pipeline. More than likely they have not bothered to learn enough about what the prospect’s pain points are.  They are busy illustrating all of the whistles and bells of their product rather than listening to what the prospect needs.  Poor listening skills are a detriment to sales.

  • The most important aspect of any type of selling is relationship building.  This key component will make the difference between a mediocre sales rep and one that is hugely successful.  This type never gives up.  Even if a prospect does not have an immediate need, they call from time to time and strike up conversations, each time finding out a bit more about the person they are dealing with.  It is important to know the person in order to establish how they prefer to work, what products they are using currently and what it would take to get their business. People buy from people that they know and trust.  This is one of the oldest lines when talking about sales. If a prospect has spoken to a sales rep multiple times and they feel like they know them, and they like them, a good portion of the battle has been won.

Obviously, a great sales rep has a combination of talents as described above. They are knowledgeable about their product, enjoy getting to know people, develop long-term relationships and understand pain points and how to address them.  The chances of making a call to someone that is immediately ready to buy is slim.  Your best prospects are those that you get to know over time.   That’s why they call it “pipeline”. 

Someday prospects may be ready to buy and you will be fully prepared to help them with their needs.  If they are not a buyer they may recommend you to a colleague or friend. If neither happens, perhaps you gained some knowledge about the industry or some other information that may be valuable.  However, be cautious about spending a lot of time on prospects that are not the right profile for what you are offering. This is pointless for them as well as for you.

Communication via multiple mediums is very important.  Talking to people by phone or in person is imperative if you want to be in sales.  Other means of communication such as email, text and social media are supplemental ways to keep in touch. Electronic communication is a fantastic thing but you will never truly get to know someone without a conversation. You are selling to people.  People have emotions, preferences, ideas and feelings.  We can’t lose sight of that.

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