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Sales Weaknesses that Are Holding Your Sales Team Back

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Written by John Doerr
Co-Founder, RAIN Group

There are thousands of ways to kill a sale. Some are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing trust, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers... the list goes on. These are all pretty easy to see and with some work and practice can be overcome.

Then there are the killers that hide beneath the surface that many sellers and sales managers do not even know exist. They are the sales weaknesses that are a part of an individual salesperson’s makeup that act like weights pulling them down.

Dave Kurlan, sales researcher, best-selling author, and sales development expert, has conducted extensive research into what holds salespeople back and has classified these as the five major hidden weaknesses. These hidden weaknesses often get in the way of your salespeople, killing the sale without you or they even knowing what hit them.

The first step to overcome these sales weaknesses is to know what they are and then to determine who on your sales team has them so you can fix them.

5 Hidden Sales Weaknesses

84% of people have some sort of self-limiting record collection.6

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” As long as salespeople’s thoughts are contradictory to good selling behavior, it will hold them back from the greatest success.

  1. Non supportive buy cycle: Your own personal process for making a major purchase influences how you support the buying process of your prospects. For example, if you like to shop around, do your research, and find the best possible deal when making a major purchase, then you’re likely to support buyers who do the same. This is called a non-supportive buy cycle. When the prospect says, “I have to do more research,” or, “I have to talk to 5 or 6 other people,” it makes sense to you and you allow them to do it.

    Salespeople with non-supportive buy cycles can be 50% less effective than salespeople with supportive buy cycles.1 Furthermore, 64% of people have a non-supportive buy cycle.2 If your salespeople have this weakness they are more likely to accept prospect put offs and let the sales cycle drag on, greatly diminishing their success rate.

  2. Need for approval: This means that your need to be liked is much more important than your need to make a sale. Salespeople who want to be liked and seek approval, often are uncomfortable asking tough questions or stating an opinion that differs from the prospects.  They don’t want to do anything that will upset the apple cart.

    Buyers don’t always know what they’re buying. Your salespeople need to say the things that buyers may not necessarily want to hear, but that they need to hear. They can’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and to dig deeper to find out what they need to give a strong recommendation. When they don’t do this, they are missing out on the chance to position themselves as a valuable resource and as a trusted advisor.

    Need for approval makes your salespeople 35% less effective.3

    You need your salespeople to be brave and to ask the tough questions that may not win them the popularity contest, but could win them the deal.

  3. Emotional involvement in sales: When you lose a deal that was at the altar that you were sure was going to go your way, how do you react? Do you get angry, sad, or become obsessed with what you could have done differently? Does it consume your every thought? Or do you move on to the next sale in your pipeline?

    Salespeople with a tendency to become emotionally involved in the sale get derailed when thrown a curve ball at any point in the sales process. 50% of people selling have a tendency to become emotionally involved and it makes them about 20% less effective.4

  4. Low money tolerance: As kids we were told that it was impolite to ask people how much money they make, how much they spend on things, or to ask about their financial situation in general. We were told, “It’s none of our business.”

    Flash forward to today. If you have been told the same thing, you are most likely still uncomfortable asking people about money – including asking prospects and talking about money and how much things cost.

    And you are not the only one. 50% of people have low money tolerance – meaning they are uncomfortable talking about money and this makes salespeople 20% less effective.5

    If your salespeople think that it’s impolite to ask prospects about money then they don’t know what prospects are willing to spend and they can’t help them come up with money if the prospect doesn’t have it budgeted. And if your salespeople don’t ask about money, they end up wasting time and chasing sales that have no chance of closing.

  5. Self-limiting record collection: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

    There are certain scripts that we tell ourselves over and over again about things we think we are good at and not good at. You can think of these scripts as little bits of songs that people sing to themselves in their head – a record collection so to speak.

    When records play in salespeople’s heads they can either help or hinder sales success. The ones that hinder, we refer to as self-limiting records. For example your salespeople may tell themselves:

    • I can’t talk to CEOs.

    • I won’t pick up the phone.

    • My sales cycle is long, I can’t shorten it.

    • I can’t sell without great sales collateral.

    • I don’t have time for prospecting.

The toughest part with these five hidden weaknesses is figuring out who on your sales team has them and what you can do to fix them. It's important to assess yourself get feedback, and improve consistently. Take this principle seriously and take a hard look at yourself and your sales team. Or better yet, use a validated sales assessment that looks at these factors and more to determine what’s holding your team back, and what they need to do to improve.

Last Updated February 9, 2024

Topics: Sales Management