Are Your Salespeople Guilty of This Sales Sin

To quote from the Darby Bible translation of Judges 15:16, “And Sampson said …with the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.”

Sadly, in the over 40 years I’ve been in sales, I’ve seen the same number of sales slain by the exact same weapon.

When a Gift Becomes a Sin

When it comes to selling, the gift of gab isn’t so much a gift as it is a sin. Too many people, including some salespeople, still believe in the old cliche that “telling is selling.” They feel that the number one criterion for being good at selling is that they are good at talking to people.

How many times has someone told you that you should consider a person for sales because he’s good with people, or that he has the gift of gab, or that he really likes people? While these are all endearing qualities, none of them are a prerequisite for being successful in sales. Indeed, they can be a detriment.

The Sin

Talking isn’t a sin. Talking too much is, particularly as a salesperson. There is a time for a salesperson to talk but that’s after he’s listened to the prospect to determine what he should be talking about.

There’s a big difference between talking with a person and talking to a person. When you’re talking with someone, the conversation is generally equally divided between the two people. When you’re talking to someone, the other person is doing very little talking, and ultimately, very little listening as well.

The Birth of a Misconception

Many folks think that good salespeople are good talkers. What they fail to see is that this “good talker” is good because he’s saying things that are of interest or of value to the listener. They forget the many times they were bored to tears by the salesperson that wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let them buy.

The myth that a good salesperson is someone who can sell an icebox to an aboriginal stems from being mesmerised by a glib individual who dazzles us with verbiage and won’t quit until we buy. I’ve always suspected that they bought the icebox just to get rid of the fast-talking salesperson.

Of the 18 basic selling styles identified by our Sales Temperament Assessment, four, or over 20%, fall into the social or over-social category. This means that, unless you’re careful, you have a one in five chance of hiring a salesperson that probably talks too much and sells too little.

Here’s another piece of bad news for you. Another two of the 18 selling styles interview well but probably shouldn’t be in sales at all. That means that about 33% of the 18 selling styles are likely to produce marginal, if any sales results. These are not good odds when trying to hire a sales winner.

In fact, of those people who earn their living in sales, these folks fall into the category of the 55% who should be doing something else.

Why They Get Hired

You might be wondering how these people get hired in the first place. The answer is easy. These people are charming, likeable, and interview well. Once we give them the opportunity to sell themselves to us, they do an excellent job. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only thing they can sell.

I’ve lost track of the number of business owners who have minimal sales experience who get sold on these smooth-talking charmers and then work at trying to convince me that the person will make an incredible salesperson. In fact, the business owner got sold a potential bill of goods.

The Warning Signals

Sales managers, or business owners with good sales experience, make better hiring decisions because they can often detect the warning signals. For example, if you ask a candidate to tell you about himself, and he starts back at the age of six when he had a paper route, you’re in for a long answer and one that may indicate you have a talker on your hands.

Another sign of a potentially talkative candidate is the penchant for giving overly long answers to short questions. Many of these people don’t have the words “yes,” or “no,” in their vocabulary mix.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you only hire salespeople who give monosyllabic responses to questions but beware of essay-type answers to simple questions.

Your Existing Sales Team

The best way to find out if you’ve been blessed with a bunch of yackers is for you to go out on sales calls and watch and listen to their interactions with the prospect. Is there a good balance between the talk/listen ratios? Does the salesperson really hear what he’s being told and is he responding appropriately or is he simply waiting for his turn to talk next?

Here’s some more bad news. Yackers rarely learn how to shut up. Once a yacker, always a yacker. It’s part of their basic temperament. They’re hard-wired to yack.

S,o if you’ve got one, you’re stuck with him.

The Bottom Line

It’s best to find out before you hire, not after, whether you have someone who will talk more and sell less.