In the digital age we are still losing sales for the same reasons we did forty years ago

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In previous blogs I have made mention of two things; the need for strong sales skills and, more to the point, strong relationships and relationship building skills.

I was reminded of these again this week when meeting with the owners of a company who we value as clients. In the meeting one of the people remarked what a difference it had made to their organisation to have someone who was in every sense a sales professional. Their view was that great sales people in an organisation are infectious.

It raised the question during the meeting of: what are the main reasons today that sales people lose sales? In considering a response I was immediately transported back a few decades to when I was a sales rep and I could clearly hear the words of my sales manager at the time. He was an uncompromising man but fair, and his belief was there were only three reasons why anyone lost sales:

  • You were outsold
  • You relationship with your buyer is not as strong as it needs to be
  • You are not adequately prepared so you should not have been there

I began to wonder if this was still true because many of the sales people I come into contact with in our work still offer the same reasons for lost sales as I have to admit to using all those years ago. Some of the common reasons still ‘going around’ today remain:

  • “Let’s face it, we’re too expensive, we can’t compete”
  • “Things were going just fine until I advised them we were out of stock of a key line”
  • “If I had known they were not the decision maker I would not have bothered”
  • “Our major competitor is really entrenched “

I can go on listing the excuses but it serves no purpose.

In today’s digital economy there are a myriad of people who write on this topic, from the globally renowned Harvard Business Review to skilled individual sales people who have shared their knowledge.

From all that I have read along with what I still believe to be relevant as much today as in the past, here are my five reasons sales why are lost:

  1. Belief in yourself and your product. If you don’t believe in your product why should your customer?
  2. Features and advantages receive too much emphasis. People buy benefits and value
  3. Lack of planning. Planning gives you the confidence to commit, take the required action and assume a position of strength
  4. Collapsing when obstacles are raised by the buyer rather than persisting and finding ways to overcome the obstacles: instead the sale is tossed into the “too hard basket”
  5. Last and, in my view, most important is mindset; are you are over-selling instead of serving? If you are serving you are aiming for three outcomes:
    • Consolidating and strengthening your customer relationship
    • Ensuring the benefits and value you offer serve your customers’ need
    • Honesty and integrity at all times. Once the “trust bridge” is burnt, it may never be possible to rebuild it. Your reputation is everything, why risk it?

If you approach every sale thinking your role is to close every sale you are piling incredible pressure on to yourself.   If you are sales manager who has this expectation of your sales team you are setting them up to fail. The outcome is to help and enable your customer, their team, or their company, to improve something and you achieve that by bringing value. If you can’t add value then it’s better to walk away until you can.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.

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