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The Four Biggest Enemies of Sales Success and What to Do

By: John Chapin

Sales success simply boils down to talking to enough of the right people the right way. The right people are people who have a need or desire for what you have, they have the ability to make a decision on what you have, and they have the means to invest in what you have. Speaking to them the right way refers to saying the right things all the way through the sales process from getting and keeping their attention on the first call all the way through closing the sale. All of that said, here are four major roadblocks that prevent talking to enough of the right people the right way.

Sales Photo

Enemy #1: Fear

Whether it’s fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, or another type of fear, this stops people from even getting out of the starting blocks to begin with. I’ve seen fear wrapped in perfectionism where the sales rep either has to know everything, have the perfect call, or know everything about the prospect before they call them. I’ve also seen fear in procrastination where there is always something else to be done other than making calls, it could even be cleaning one’s desk at 11 am on a Wednesday, during prime calling time. I’ve caught reps in a coffee shop for hours, at the movies, and otherwise hiding out during the day to avoid calls.

Enemy #2: Comfort  

This usually happens when a sales rep gets to a certain level of income where they are making enough money to pay the bills and have some money left over. I typically see it happen when the sales rep is making anywhere from $125,000 to $140,000 in income.

This can also happen when a salesperson is well funded. In other words, they have enough money in the bank, their spouse makes enough money, or their parents or in-laws are wealthy and generous with their money. The parents let the sales rep, spouse, and kids use the vacation house, they pay for the kids’ educations, they gift the family money regularly, or just in general serve as a financial safety net if there isn’t enough money for the sales rep to pay the bills. This also happens when new sales reps are living with their parents and the parents are still paying all the bills including the car payments, cell phone bill, etc. In other words, the rep just needs beer money for the weekend.

Enemy #3: Looking for the easy button

This one can be a result of Enemy #1: fear, but it is usually more a case of a sales rep who simply doesn’t want to work hard. They want success without the effort, they’re looking for the free lunch, the magic bullet. Like #1, they may send an initial-contact e-mail instead of making an in-person call or phone call. They also spend far too much time on social media. They’re always looking for a hack, a way to game the system, versus following the tried-and-true path and making lots of calls.

Enemy #4: Not working on sales skills

This one relates to the second half of the success equation: talking to people the right way. The average sales rep has mediocre to poor sales skills. I can walk up to a ‘seasoned’ sales rep, who’s been in his business for fifteen years, give him a standard objection that he’s been getting since week one, and what comes out of his mouth is usually gibberish… and typically starts with a long ‘ahhhhhhhh.’ You’ve got to know exactly what to say in each and every sales situation and have it committed to memory.

Okay, so now that we’ve outlined the problems, what are the solutions? For the salesperson, the solutions are apparent. Face and overcome your fears, have a powerful why along with accountability so you don’t get stuck at a certain level of income, stop looking for the easy way out and do the hard work necessary for success, and finally, get great at selling by working on your sales skills.

If you manage salespeople, here are the steps to follow:

First, hire the right people. Hire people with people skills, a great attitude, and a strong work ethic. Test for these in the interview process.

Second, set standards and hold people accountable to those standards.

Third, keep your eyes open and pay attention to when people show up for work, when they leave, and pay attention to their overall attitude and work ethic. Test them by calling them and sending e-mails off hours and meet them out on the road during calls. I know, a lot of people are going to hate me for that one, but it’s usually the salespeople who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to and the managers that don’t want to manage.

Fourth, and related to point three, micro-manage your new and struggling, or coasting, sales reps. You’ve got to make sure the new sales reps are on the right track and developing the right habits. You also have to ensure that struggling and coasting salespeople are doing the right activities.

Fifth, understand something about your sales reps and what motivates and drives them. Ask them in the interview process why they need to be successful.

Sixth, judge and pay reps based upon the bottom line. What gets rewarded gets repeated. And with sales reps, 99.9% will go to where the money is. If you want them to bring in new accounts and new business, pay them more for that and less, or nothing, for repeat business.

Finally, realize that the average human will not work harder than they have to. And the average sales rep, when they’re making enough money, is happy to go from salesperson to order taker and service person. Don’t allow bad attitudes and slackers. They’ll drag down the whole organization and ultimately the end user, your customers, will suffer.

John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or to have him speak at your next event, go to:  John has over 34 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia. You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place. E-mail:


John Chapin
#1 Sales Rep w 34+ years’ experience, Author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards) – also the largest sales book on the planet (678 pages).

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