Recently, I've been doing some research on employee's approachability and coachability. One of my blog subscribers asked me if I was going to do a similar survey on coaching salespeople. It's a great idea. My subscriber asked me, "What do you think is the number one attribute a salesperson should have?" and it was funny because the response took me no more than a split second to think about. It's 100% honesty.This is not to say that salespeople are dishonest or lack honesty, but the whole industry breeds the theme "Please tell me only what I want to hear."
In sales meetings, does the sales manager really want to hear that someone truly does not believe they can hit their goals? When a salesperson's numbers are very good and you ask them "why?" they typically will talk about themselves; however, when things go south it has everything to do with anything except themselves, such as the industry or the bad economy. Let's take a typical situation where a salesperson is competing against another organization. The sales manager asks the salesperson, "Do you think we can win this deal?" "Do we know who we're up against?" "Do you know who the other salesperson is?" I'm willing to bet that you will never hear a salesperson say, "Yeah, I know that guy he's a really great salesperson and he asks much better questions than I do and boy that guy can out negotiate me." I share all this because this is reality, yet we encourage and develop salespeople to not look at reality.
I remember years ago when I sat in a room with 60 salespeople at an organization and I asked, "How many of you think you're going to hit your numbers this year?" and every hand in the room went up. That was 2008 during the great recession. I'm betting not all of them did! Again, I don't think the profession of selling is one that lacks integrity, but we have to to do a better job of letting salespeople know it's okay to tell the truth. According to CSO Insights annual study, about 50% of all salespeople never hit their sales goals each year. I guarantee if you went into any sales meeting in corporate America today and asked a team of salespeople, in front of their sales manager, if they were going hit their numbers, every person would say yes, most knowing they won't even come close.
A few years ago, I asked three sales teams in separate meetings who was truly invested in their careers. Every hand in all three rooms went up, indicating they were invested in their careers. I then asked how many of you are currently reading a sales book and only 11% of the hands went up; meaning, 89% in essence were fooling themselves. This is exactly what I'm talking about. It's okay to not read sales books but it's not okay to say you're truly invested in your career when you cannot back it up or demonstrate actions that support that statement.
I think our goal as sales leaders should be to help salespeople know it's okay to be honest with themselves and their leaders and organizations. Personal development would improve. Forecasts would improve. Relationships between salespeople and the leaders would improve. Selling cultures would improve. And much much more!