Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

In my career, I’ve taken hundreds of trips around the country to spend time with sales reps. You know, riding with them in their territory, observing how they manage sales calls, their territory, and their day. Let’s be clear, requests by leadership for these visits only happened when the salespeople were struggling. Over that time, I developed a list of the reasons why I consistently saw salespeople in this industry struggle. So here it is, a list of three attributes that struggling salespeople tend to have in common.

Very Disorganized: As I’ve written about in the past, a mandatory skill for salespeople in B2B sales is their time and territory management skills. Disorganized salespeople tend to not have enough structure set up to properly manage their time and territory. They scribble notes, tasks, appointments, and reminders on notebooks, post it notes, restaurant napkins…you know what I mean. This causes a massive amount of wasted time looking for things and increases the chances that deadlines are missed, phone calls not returned, and they arrive late to appointments. A good time management system should include three parts. A calendar, task list and a place to keep notes. Most people today use an electronic calendar like Microsoft Outlook where appointments and reminder notifications are set. Having a task list of things you want to get done is important, but more critical is that you prioritize that list daily, preferably first thing in the morning. And lastly is a place to take notes during your day. I’m old school and still prefer a paper notebook. An important consideration is to read through your notes at the conclusion of each day. Were there things you committed to do? Did you document those things on your calendar or task list? You want to close out each and place any actionable items where they need to go within your time management system. This will help ensure that things don’t fall through the cracks. In addition, avoid redundancy at all costs!! You should only use one calendar, one task list and one place for notes. Duplication equals waste and waste equals missed sales opportunities.

Ineffective Territory Coverage: Most struggling salespeople did not have a written weekly and daily plan. Sure, they had an idea of where they were going and who they were going to see, but it was not documented. Think about it this way; if you don’t have a plan, then any phone call, email, or text can throw your whole day off. Without a plan, any communication from a customer can seem very urgent and you waste a lot of time putting out fires that could have waited for a day or so. Having a plan at least gives you an opportunity to politely push back on a customer’s request and attempt to move that to a time that makes more sense for you. Preparation is key to success and these salespeople were not prepared to succeed.

Think Transactionally: Most of these salespeople were too focused on the next quote, bid, or transaction. They pinballed from sales call to sales call with little thought of who to see next, why to see them, and if it makes sense to pursue this opportunity in the grand scheme of things within their territory. This can cause numerous problems for salespeople, such as wasting time on prospects who have little desire to change what they’re doing and being perceived as somebody who only wants to sell something, and not help people grow their business. Coincidentally, this transactional thinking only worsened as sale performance dropped. Desperation begins to seep in, and potential customers can sense that, causing a further deterioration of the situation. Quit trying to sell somebody something and start looking for problems to solve.

Here’s the truth of the matter: Struggling salespeople will continue to struggle, no matter where they work. The sad truth is that most of this struggling is needless. They just needed to make a few changes to their behavior. Some took direction, looked internally, changed how they acted and found success. Others didn’t. I am particularly passionate about this subject due to some similar issues I had early in my sales career. If anybody reading this sees themselves struggling in any areas from above, I would be happy to discuss it with you. My contact info is below…reach out, let’s talk about it and see if you can get on a better path. Happy Selling!!