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Warning: Sales Tips are Hazardous to Your Wealth

In the case of sales tips, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

How many salespeople do you think regularly seek out tips about selling on websites, in magazines and books and newsletters? If the number of available resources out there offers any indication, a whole lot of them.

What’s wrong with regularly skimming sales tips from those sources? Same answer: a lot.

What’s wrong with sales tips?

Many salespeople think that these “tips” are all they need to win. Read enough articles and books and digest enough of these tips, they think, and they’ll never lose another deal. For other sales folks, it’s that ever-elusive silver bullet that they seek. They scour book after book, website after website, anxious to unearth that single gem that will transform them into a winner. (Just imagine how many copies of this book I could sell…)

Don’t get me wrong. I think that many of the hundreds of sales experts out there have something valuable to say. I certainly felt that way when I wrote How Winners Sell, in addition to dozens of articles aimed at helping salespeople sell more.

Sure, some self-proclaimed experts shamelessly copy what others have done before them. And sales tips that other so-called sales experts are writing or speaking about have been proven ineffective years ago (like asking your prospect what keeps them up at night—these days you’re expected to have learned that by they time you meet with them the first time). But all in all, I’m not questioning the advice contained in the sales tips available today. Most of those tips make sense, and if used at the right time and in the right way, they can be quite effective. That’s not the issue.

Tactics alone won’t support consistent sales performance

This issue is that these self-paced sources of learning (websites, articles, sales books, e-zines) focus almost exclusively on tactics. Sales reps need tactics. Tactics are required to win. But tactics alone won’t get your people where they need to be. The more tactics a salesperson reads about in the form of tips, the further he or she gets from the real key to winning—developing and executing a strategy—a higher-level, overall plan to win. Your salespeople have to be able to zoom out to that higher level. Sales tips focus them on zooming in.

If they don’t support the execution of a strategy to win, sales tips are high-fructose corn syrup—the empty calories of professional selling.

There is another problem with collecting sales tips. Since many salespeople don’t have the knowledge and experience to determine what works and what doesn’t, and no one is providing them with a curriculum, or testing them on what they’ve learned and applied from these tips, they generally choose only the tips they perceive are easy to accomplish. And, if they try a tip once and it doesn’t work they’ll likely reject it—without giving themselves an opportunity to perfect that skill or technique. As a result, they aren’t even availing themselves of what might be the best tips for them and their circumstances. Learning-by-sales-tip is one of the reasons why sales people struggle, year after year, to achieve mastery.

Sales tips are hazardous to your wealth

How do I know I’m right on this issue? Books and articles about sales tips have been around for a generation, right? So why, according to ongoing research, do only 50 to 60% of B2B salespeople make quota? There are certainly other factors at play here, but it’s clear that the companies that have a formal, institutionalized sales methodology (read: strategy for winning) consistently sell more effectively than those that don’t. These are the facts. Jumping from tactic to tactic doesn’t win deals unless they are easy formulated to support the execution of a strategy and therefore integral to an overall plan.

To the point

So, if your salespeople swear by those valuable insights from their favorite sales experts, do your reps, your company, your customers and yourself a favor. Integrate the best, most relevant tactics into a strategic, documented sales approach. It’s harder than trying trick after tip after trick. But you’ll be glad you did.