You know your reps don’t always follow up with marketing leads. Sometimes, they read directly from a sales script. You don’t think too much about it.
Occasionally, you let salespeople off the hook for not following up with a lead from the marketing team. Other times, you hear salespeople reading directly from a script and don’t say anything. You think the behavior is harmless. It’s not.
When your salespeople slip into bad habits, they self-sabotage their sales performance and negatively impact the company’s bottom line. It’s your responsibility as a business owner or sales manager to help reps overcome bad habits, transform their approach, and achieve better results.
15 Bad Habits Sabotaging Your Reps’ Sales Performance
1. Clog their pipelines with “opportunities”
The opportunity pipeline in your CRM is your window into how Sales is performing. Salespeople who don’t regularly review their pipeline and remove opportunities that are unlikely to convert clutter it with false information.
Their pipelines become unreliable sources of information for you, making it more difficult to accurately forecast revenue and provide meaningful sales projections. Your company can’t project staffing and supply needs. You don’t know if you have enough B2B lead generation, sales activity, or real opportunities to meet targets. Holding sales reps accountable becomes a guessing game and so does your revenue goal.
Set up reports and show your sales team that you are using them. This simple act will demonstrate the importance of their maintaining a clean opportunity pipeline.
2. Don’t follow up on marketing leads
“Marketing generated lead” is not a synonym for “new client.” In services sales, only people who have an immediate need will become clients without first talking to a salesperson. All other prospects want to get to know the company and how you’d help them address their specific needs. They aren’t going to order your services like a product from Amazon.
Until a rep speaks with a marketing lead, they won’t know how qualified it is. That’s why there is a difference between MQLs and SQLs (marketing qualified and sales qualified leads.) Too frequently salespeople ignore MQLs or wait too long to follow up. They assume the prospect won’t be interested. If your salesperson doesn’t speak with the contact, odds are that decision maker won’t become a new SQL even if they do have a need you can solve at a very favorable profit margin.
Set the expectation that reps reach out immediately
Interest and desire are highest right after a contact fills out a web form or replies to an email. Contacting prospects quickly gives salespeople the best chance to connect with potential new clients and fill their pipeline quickly.
How they follow up and what reps say in their calls matters too. See #3, 4 and 5.
3. Focus only on the sale
While your sales rep may be following up on a marketing qualified lead or prospecting for new ones, decision makers don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to when your rep reaches them.
Salespeople who make prospects feel like they’re being sold to frequently lose genuine opportunities. And they don’t even realize what happened.
Coach your reps to prioritize relationship building and practice consultative selling in calls with prospects. Yes, they still have to gather requirements, but this isn’t a game of 20 questions. Don’t place a time limit on calls or measure your team on how quickly they can uncover an opportunity. This is the start of an opportunity – and a relationship.
Coach reps to:
- Ask questions about the prospect’s needs and funnel down using a conversational approach
- Show genuine interest and empathy
- Adapt their conversation to the prospect’s situation
If they reach a prospect, you want your rep to leave a positive memorable impression so that decision maker wants to work with them.
4. Don’t prepare for sales calls in advance
Whether prospecting, requirements gathering, or closing, sales call preparation is one of the fastest ways to improve sales performance. Inadequate meeting prep directly results in negative consequences, like poor first impressions, missed opportunities, and reduced credibility. At the extreme end, your salesperson could lose control of the call.
There goes your revenue generating potential.
Sales scripts are a common way to prepare for calls, but when used incorrectly, they can be a bad habit too.
Require reps to prepare for sales calls using the Call Guide for Prospecting & Sales Meetings in #5.
5. Over-rely on sales scripts
Reading directly from a sales script sounds robotic. Whoever your sales rep is talking to will think they’re a cold call telemarketer rather than a knowledgeable salesperson who cares about their situation.
Use an adaptable call guide template instead
Preparing for a call is critical. Your salesperson wants to know how to start the conversation, what questions to ask, and objections to anticipate. As a prospect responds, it’s easy for a rep to become so engrossed that questions are forgotten. An objection can quickly distract them. Suddenly, the call isn’t going the way they’d hoped.
Strike a balance between scripting every single point and allowing reps to fly by the seat of their pants with our free Call Guide for Prospecting & Sales Meetings.
Have reps use it to prepare for prospecting calls, marketing lead follow-up, requirements gathering, demos, and even closing. Periodically review call guides to determine if your reps are on track or need some sales training.
6. Talk too much
Your salesperson can’t hear prospects’ or clients’ needs if they’re dominating the conversation. Remember the old saying that you have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as talk. It applies to salespeople!
Coach sales reps to listen actively for problems and ask more questions.
Your rep might believe they won’t be able to ask every question they need to ask. However, by listening, they may get the answer they need without asking the question. The prospect now has an opportunity to expand on their thinking because the rep wasn’t rushing in to ask the next question.
7. Wait for prospects to make their decision and inform you
Your rep presents the proposal. The prospect says, “This was very helpful. We will talk it over and get back to you.”
What does your rep do next? They take a backseat, thinking, “The contact will reach out when they’re ready.”
A wait-and-see approach will not keep you top of mind. Your prospect probably has proposals from your competitors – and I bet they’re following up post-proposal because they want new business.
Require reps to follow up on every proposal until they get an answer.
8. Manage sales tasks in Excel or Outlook
The efficiency of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) cannot be replicated outside the platform.
Reps who work from Excel or Outlook:
- Do not have a holistic picture of their pipeline
- Easily lose critical information
- Waste time on tasks that could be automated in a CRM
- Lack the tools to effectively track leads, manage contacts, and close sales
It removes your ability to see what they’re working on and coach their sales performance.
Train reps to use your CRM to do the same tasks they’re comfortable doing in Excel and Outlook. Then see #9.
9. Forget to update the CRM
Getting reps out of Excel or Outlook is only half the battle. The next step is to get them using your CRM consistently.
There are many bad habits to watch for related to your CRM. Some salespeople enter opportunities or tasks into the CRM but never touch them again. Others wait to enter opportunities until late in the sales process – or after they’ve closed.
These practices render the CRM useless for both your team and you. It’s meant to be a sales productivity tool for salespeople and a sales management tool for you. But now you don’t know: Is the opportunity alive or dead? Was the action completed or is the to-do outstanding? No one knows and it’s unclear if the rep is on track to hit goals or falling behind.
10. Live in a sales silo
Sales silos wall reps off from valuable data-driven customer insights from the marketing team and, potentially, from each other.
In marketing, salespeople miss the opportunity to optimize their own emails or sales approach, with the messaging the marketing team has already proved is engaging prospects. In the sales organization, reps miss the opportunity to learn from each other.
Ask yourself if you’ve created sales silos:
- How frequently does our sales team meet with our marketer?
- Are sales reps scattered across the organization reporting to different managers who have no sales responsibilities? (This is common in SMB companies.)
- Do we have salespeople responsible for one product or service line who aren’t collaborating with those who sell different lines?
Encourage sales and marketing teams to share opportunities, feedback, and data with each other. Collaboration increases sales performance.
11. Don’t follow the sales process
Consistently full pipelines are not the product of a haphazard sales process. Salespeople who follow a sales process is one of the 3 legs of your revenue generating system.
Organizations and reps who have reliable pipelines follow a well-defined, proven sales process. This involves more than defining your sales process and presenting it to your team.
Give your reps a structured sales process and regularly check in with them
Use these 3 steps:
1. Document your sales process. Not as easy as it sounds, but once documented, everyone can sell consistently. Get help doing it. (Yes, if you’re wondering, we can help.)
2. Incorporate it into your CRM. Sales stages are consistent. Forecasting is more dependable. Sales performance can be easily monitored.
3. Watch where reps struggle as they sell using the process. Check in regularly and guide them. Get sales coaching and training or hire to fill gaps on your sales team.
The biggest challenge in sales is inconsistent results. A successful sales process, sales management, and regular sales coaching for your reps are the foundation of your sales machine. With them, your business will flourish.
12. Do anything but prospecting
Few people look forward to spending time calling people who don’t answer and sending emails that don’t get replies. It’s no wonder that reps willingly check in with happy clients, handle their email, and spend hours doing research instead of prospecting.
Ignoring prospecting directly impacts business stability
Ignoring prospecting means your revenue stream is reliant on your existing client base. Any attrition, and revenue drops without new clients to offset it.
When salespeople aren’t held accountable for prospecting, business growth is challenging. New business development is reliant on referrals, networking, and inbound leads. When the economy or industry is suffering, so will your pipeline.
Your salesperson must be proactive about prospecting for you to control your company’s sales success.
Minimize your sales reps’ distractions
Watch this Coffee with Kendra webinar to hear how you can increase sales prospecting efficiency for your team.
13. Fall behind on industry trends
When reps don’t know what’s going on in their target markets, they cannot effectively position products or services based on the latest trends or industry changes.
That reduces their ability to communicate the value your organization provides and makes it harder to establish trust with prospects.
Small mistakes hurt credibility and sales performance
You may not notice that your salespeople have fallen behind, until they make small mistakes in their conversations with prospects.
- Their value proposition will be off just enough to make them appear unknowledgeable.
- Questions aren’t focused on current issues in their prospects’ target markets.
- Recommendations they make don’t align with trending business problems.
These mistakes cause reps to be shut out of second appointments and lose proposals. Your salesperson won’t know why, but you will as you watch their pipeline shrink and their close rate fall.
14. Play the blame game
Reps who claim their poor sales performance was caused by external factors will never seek out opportunities for improvement. It’s always someone else’s fault, not something they did. They won’t see the need for training and will struggle to meet goals.
Sales performance analysis of top reps
We call this taking responsibility for success or failure. According to an analysis by Objective Management Group, the industry leaders in sales assessment and sales candidate screening, in the past 12 months, 69% of the top 10% of 8,500 salespeople evaluated took responsibility for their own success.
When something goes wrong, top sales performers look internally to determine what they could have done differently to improve the outcome. 82% will take the initiative and figure out on their own what they need to do. While they are already top performers, 80% are coachable and open to guidance from their business owner and sales manager.
These are the salespeople you want on your team.
15. Neglect client feedback
Client feedback helps reps better understand their prospect’s industry, how to frame solutions, improve their approach, and adapt to changing customer needs. Unfortunately, too few reps tap into this wealth of information because they never seek out client feedback.
As you define your sales process (#11), incorporate key points when a salesperson checks in with clients and prospects about how they’re doing.
Sales questions to get client feedback:
- Am I providing the level of support you need?
- What do you appreciate most about how we work together?
- What would you like to change about how we work together?
- What else should I be working on for you?
- What am I missing that I should be doing for you?
- Who else would you like me to be working with?
These questions give clients the opportunity to express where they’d like more from their salesperson. When asked proactively before there are issues, the conversation is not threatening. It helps strengthen the client-rep relationship and may even uncover some new sales opportunities.
Training and Coaching Is Necessary To Break Bad Habits and Boost Sales Performance
Breaking bad habits and improving sales performance can seem like a daunting task, but business owners and sales managers don’t have to do it alone.
KLA Group offers a range of coaching and sales training programs designed to help reps overcome their bad habits and enhance sales performance.
Set up a call with us today to hear how we can help your sales team achieve success.