If you ask sales leaders and sales reps why reps fail, you’ll likely get wildly different answers. Reps will say marketing leads are bad or too scarce, that they have no time for business development (which is why their pipeline is dry) or they don’t have enough tools to be effective. Sales leaders will say it’s because they are inefficient, lazy, over-confident or simply lack the skills to sell. Who’s right?


A story about sales success

I have been in sales and sales leadership for over 20 years and remember way back when I first took a job at BEA. There was one particular account they wanted me to crack because the potential was so great and previous reps had failed to make any headway. They provided:

  • No business development team
  • No marketing support to get me in the door
  • No contacts at the company
  • No sales acceleration tools (i.e. auto-dialers, email trackers, lead scoring systems or marketing automation platforms)

The job came with zero pipeline, and no real support. One might ask why I even took the job, as many sales reps today are scared to take a job without an established pipeline. It was the challenge the position presented and also my way to break into enterprise software and make a name for myself.

I was determined to win the account but wasn’t sure how to get started. Sitting back and waiting for someone to call me or hoping a solid ‘in’ would magically appear weren’t options. So I did what any true sales person does: I picked up the phone—and not surprisingly, started getting in front of people within the organization. It took some work but persistence paid off.

You may have guessed how this story ends but I’ll tell you anyways. I closed a $40M deal.

I can’t tell you the the deal closed because of my mad sales skills. In reality I was pretty wet behind the ears. But picking up the phone, connecting with people, challenging the customer to look at their world differently was my only choice—and it’s the reason the deal was signed.

The real reason reps fail

So many sales people, especially new or younger ones, struggle to be successful. It’s not that they don’t have the skills, it’s that they forget that, regardless of all the tools and research, you still need to speak to a person. No deal was ever signed through LinkedIn. The connection may start there, but it’s the follow-up, the one-on-one conversations and your ability to solve their business pain that seals the deal.

Too many sales people forget that sales is about people and have gotten lazy, expecting everyone or everything to almost sell for them. They think they can do everything without doing anything. If the pipeline is drying up, reps need to get off the internet and pick up the phone. As FRONTLINE Selling CEO Mike Scher states, the phone is the original sales acceleration tool and it works better than any other tool in the market—period. Is it harder to call someone than to email? You bet. But high-performing sales reps know that it’s the only way to hit quota and achieve sales success.

Do you have a sales success story to share? I would love to hear about it.