Why Sales Reps Can't Close
If you have been in sales long enough, especially IT staffing sales, than you know there are a lot of reasons, reasons outside of our control for which deals can blow up and fail to close. But there are other reasons, reasons that are within control of the sales rep for why deals don't close. I’m going to share with you what I have found to be the most common reasons (that are within the control of the sales rep) for why sales reps can't close.
Failure to Check for Feedback Throughout the Sales Cycle
Checking, a core consultative selling skill, is the simple act of the sales rep consistently asking the customer for their feedback about what has been said and/or agreed to throughout the conversation or series of conversations (as is usually the case in selling IT staffing services). When salespeople fail to check with their client and ask them for feedback on an idea, solution, candidate or even a rebuttal to an objection, they make assumptions. When salespeople make assumptions they lose deals. Think about this as it relates to objection handling. If your customer raises a concern about your candidate and you offer a rebuttal but never ask the client for their feedback on whether or not your rebuttal addressed their concern, how do you know where you stand? How do you know if the customer is comfortable moving forward? So, why don't salespeople check and ask for feedback more frequently? Salespeople are afraid to ask for customer feedback because they're afraid of what they might hear.
Failure to Try to Close
I remember years ago working with a sales rep (who ironically has since gone on to become one of the one most successful reps I have ever coached) on closing. A client would call her and say some variation of the following, "Sandy, we really like your candidate, the interview went really well." The phone would then go silent. Yes, silence!! I would be jumping up and down and lip syncing to her what she should be saying to close the deal. But she, like most of the sales reps I have coached over the years was scared to "close." Instead, Sandy needed to hear the client specifically say "we would like to make an offer, when can she start?" If you always wait for those words to come out of the mouth of your customer you're going to miss out on a lot of deals!
Keep in mind that most of your customers are never going to be 100% dead set certain that your solution or your candidate is the best choice. They will most likely be about 80-90% certain your solution or candidate is the right choice. This means they're still "waffling on the fence" and need help with making the final decision. Well guess what, the entire sales profession is based on salespeople helping customers make decisions.
I see sales reps all the time essentially making no attempt to close their deal. I think the reason for this stems back to my first point, sales reps failing to ask for feedback to gain agreement. I think it is safe to say that all sales professionals would like to know where they stand with their customers. To use a sports metaphor, you can't get hits if you don't swing the bat!.
You will never know where you stand with your customers if you don't go for the close and ask for their feedback. I would much rather hear "no" (because at least I know where I stand and I tried to move the deal forward) than sitting around at my cube all day wondering if my client is going to pull the trigger.
Fear of Rejection
Most salespeople struggle with and are even unwilling to confront the emotional discomfort that takes place when trying to get the client to say "yes" or “no.” Salespeople would rather stay in the friendly confines of their comfort zone (no decision) than venture out and confront the emotional discomfort that comes with hearing "no" and rejection from the client.
One of the first lessons I learned in sales by my very first sales mentor was "Dan, you have to learn to remove the emotion." No doubt about it that money and closing deals is emotional. But, salespeople must learn to let it roll off their shoulders and make nothing of it. For me, I had to learn to avoid getting emotional myself. When it comes to negotiations, agreements, decisions and money (the close), people do get emotional and most of it is only an emotional response having nothing to do with you personally or your proposal.
Lack of Confidence in Solution (Candidate)
Sales reps must have confidence in what they're selling. If the salesperson doesn't have confidence in what they're selling or doesn't understand what it is that they're selling (this includes understanding the problem they're solving for the customer), then closing will be a monumental task. This is why I'm such a big believer in sales reps talking with their candidates throughout the sales process. If you have never spoken with your candidate than how can you speak confidentially about them with your client? How can you be willing to take a risk and push your client to hire your candidate if you don't have confidence in them?
If you're not sold yourself on your candidate, than chances are your client will sell you on going out and finding another candidate. In every sales interaction little sales are taking place and the one who is most passionate and most confident almost always does the closing.
Sales People Fail to Properly Set & Manage Their Own Expectations
Closing deals is hard work. I mean really hard. Believe me, I have had my teeth kicked in every way possible. Through all of that though I have learned how to properly set and manage my own expectations in relation to the opportunity. What does that mean exactly? Salespeople have an uncanny ability to underestimate the amount of time, energy and psychological stamina it takes to get a deal done. When salespeople underestimate this or fail to properly manage their own expectations they come up short because they're not prepared emotionally, physically or technically to generate the required effort to close.
Consider the following. Have you allocated the correct amount of time, effort, and staying power to lead your prospect from "stop calling me," to "yes, I will do business with you?" If not then you have a long road ahead.
Failure to Back Into Your Number
In general, most salespeople are money motivated. Most also have high level sales goals, but very few sales people have the discipline to invest the time to back into their number. What does it mean to "back into your number?" As a sales professional you probably have personal goals like save for a home, purchase a house or a car, save for your children's college education. The question is, have you mapped out how many opportunities you need to create and how many deals you need to close in order to achieve your goals? Do you understand how much commission each of your deals represents for you and how it will contribute to your personal goal(s)? Do you understand how many phone calls and how many face to face sales meetings it will take to generate your required number of opportunities?
Salespeople who operate without a detailed financial plan often lack the drive and motivation that it takes to close deals.
I learned how to use excel in 1994, my first year in sales. I learned how to use it so that I could track every penny of commission earned on every deal that I closed. That first year of sales I also sat down with my manager to make sure I understood how to calculate gross profit so that when I priced a deal I maximized my commission plan. This is what I refer to as operating with strong financial plan. I took the time (and still do today) to understand how many deals I had to close in order to reach my goals. That has helped me stay motivated all these years. It drives me. More importantly, I know what every deal means to me on a personal level. Heck, I just purchased a condo in Boston a couple of weeks ago. Every deal I look at now maps into the home improvement projects (master outdoor kitchen & entertaining area:) I have planned. Too many salespeople go to work everyday with no plan only to say to themselves years down the road, "shit, why didn't I have a plan?"
Separating Objections from Common Blow-Offs
Objection handling has always been a hot topic within the sales profession. But one of the things that I have learned over the years is that most (90%) of the objections IT staffing sales professionals hear are not objections but simply common blow-offs. Let me give you a few examples:
- "I have no time"
- "I'm not interested"
- "We have a vendors list"
- "I'm all set/I have no needs"
- "We're not adding new vendors"
You and/or your sales reps probably heard some of these objections earlier today or earlier this week. These are not objections but rather they're simple blow-off's designed to shut down the conversation. They're NOT reasons for not doing business with you or your company. The problem however is that salespeople treat them as objections. When salespeople treat these blow off's like an objection they validate the blow-off as a true objection, a reason for not doing business together. In essence, salespeople turn a little mole hill into a mountain. Instead, salespeople need to know how to treat these blow off's and sell through them.
Fear of Discussing Money
Money is a funny thing in our culture. If you think about it, it's sort of taboo to really talk about it. In general people don't go around asking other people how much money they make or what they paid for their house or car. That would just be rude! Money is also emotional. People have different feelings and attitudes toward money and how it should be spent or not spent. These attitudes and emotions go back to the way people were raised. As a sales professional however, we are required to ask our customers about their budgets and funding. For most sales people that is really uncomfortable. In fact, I would say this is a huge issue for most sales people, a fear of discussing money with customers.
Salespeople have to get comfortable discussing money and asking very pointed questions about a clients budget, funding and approval process. This is the heart and sole of sales. If you're afraid to push back or ask "tough" money oriented questions or challenge your client on money everything else is useless. Sales people who never overcome the fear of discussing money will struggle to close deals.
So there you have it, the most common reasons sales why sales reps can't close. Remember, overcoming all of these issues are within control of the sales person. That means all of these obstacles can easily be overcome with some passion, commitment and training.
What is holding you and your team back from closing more deals? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.