4 Phrases Sales Reps Say—and Sales Leaders Should Hate to Hear

Every sales team is prone to forming bad habits. The successful ones recognize and fix them; the unsuccessful ones entrench them deeper and deeper into their day-to-day processes until they’re effectively impossible to dislodge.

As the general manager of a sales technology company, I’ve seen plenty of the latter and not nearly enough of the former. Where processes for managing customer relationships are absent, poor behaviors can sometimes be almost an unofficial policy—reinforced by the practiced justifications of seasoned salespeople, who pass them on to their less experienced colleagues, who embed them even deeper into ongoing behavior.

So that salespeople can recognize and fix these habits, I’ve distilled them into four key phrases—all of which I’ve heard many times, and all of which are indicative of deeper problems.

1. “I made 100 calls today!”

The appeal of this phrase is easy to see. Though “I’ve made hundreds of calls” makes no reference, per se, to the result of those calls, it does convey that the speaker has expended a great deal of effort. They’re diligently working their way down their prospect list, and it’s only a matter of time before they strike gold.

It’s a dangerous attitude to have because it emphasizes an idea of salesmanship that’s not only actively wrong but also dangerous to a company’s goals. Working your way down a long list of disinterested prospects wastes your time and theirs.

Sales is surgery, not butchery: Precision is key. The aim should never be to make thousands of calls every week, but to call those who might be able and willing to do business with you. That means filtering out prospects that aren’t necessarily suited to your product due to issues with size, industry, location, or any other variable.

The result should be a prospect list that’s smaller yet more relevant to your company and what it’s selling. Making 100 useless calls when you could make 10 great ones isn’t a good use of anyone’s time.

2. “The customers will love this.”

This sentiment seems harmless enough until you really think about it. The problem is that it’s almost inevitably wrong in some way. Customers are not a homogenous block of like-minded people, but individuals with distinct needs and behaviors. A pitch that works on one may fall flat with another.

Of course, this is a problem shared between the sales team and marketing. Without building logical customer segmentation strategies, and detailed buying personas, sales reps are often flying blind and guessing at what their prospect wants. A lack of communication between sales and marketing can leave both departments struggling to do their jobs properly.

So if you’re on a sales team, communicating your requirements to marketing is essential. You want to be working from relevant buyer personas and then tailoring your communications from there—not flailing wildly in the hope that someone will eventually place an order.

3. “Yes ma’am, we can do that…”

Your existing customers are the backbone of your business. Retention is far more important, and profitable, than acquisition. Being able to prove your company worthy of a long-term relationship is far more valuable than being immediately attractive to your prospects with no long-lasting appeal.

That said, there’s a difference between cultivating relationships and taking routine orders. The loyalty of your core buyers is a terrific thing to have, but you shouldn’t be complacent. Always look to develop the relationship further. if you spot an opportunity for upselling or cross-selling, a way to make your customer’s life a little easier, seize it. Great teams don’t settle for what they already have. Use CRM systems and sales analytics to determine buying behaviors and identify new opportunities with your customers, then work with your colleagues to capitalize on them.

4. “I don’t need technology! I can do it myself.”

Technology is especially important in sales because of the profession’s technophobia. Those who overcome their fears and learn to use it will gain a considerable edge over their competitors. A salesperson who uses a CRM system has an end-to-end view of their entire relationship with a customer or prospect—giving them a unique window into their evolving behaviors and needs, and a special vantage from which to craft their next pitch. When combined with sales analytics, they will always be well informed in advance of their next sales call.

What’s more, the efficacy of these tools is provable. So when salespeople say, “I don’t need technology! I can do everything myself,” and express their preference for relying on gut instinct or old-fashioned methodologies, they’re hurting themselves.

CRM technology and techniques alike have progressed, and so too should sales teams. Consumer trends are changing and customer relationships cannot be guided by gut instinct. The best salespeople always stay current. Refusing to evolve is the worst habit of all.

Bruce Kopkin is the general manager of sales intelligence software company sales-i. During his 30-year career, Kopkin has held a number of executive sales and marketing positions in the technology, manufacturing, and distribution industries, including tenures at IBM, GT Software, IRIS, JDA Software, Lorentzen & Wettre, Indus International, and Honeywell.

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