Sales & Marketing

10 worst traits of sales staff

5 min read

07 March 2013

Over years in business, Jan Cavelle has developed her very own hate list of sales staff traits - you will recognise some, surely.

My business sells products to a very high end, niche market, predominantly through B2B sales and repeat business. One of the hugest battles I’ve had over the years is to recruit and train quality account managers to look after our customer sales and develop new ones.

We’re looking for a balance. We need the perfect mix of sales skills and customer relation skills, people who absolutely grasp the sales process but also give outstanding service to their customers.

Over the years, I’ve seen the same traits and shortfalls over and over again. Consequently, I’ve developed a top ten hate list in so-called “professional” B2B sales staff:

1. Not bothering to learn the service or the product

This lot can’t sell what they know nothing about. They can’t match your company to customers’ needs. They can’t answer customer questions. They lose sales or sell the wrong thing.

2. Still believing in the hard sell line of talking a customer into something – this way went out with the ark

I cannot believe so many people still believe in it. Good sales is about opening up a discussion that should lead to profiting both parties. Manipulative selling may convince the customer to buy something they don’t want once, but they will feel disgruntled, manipulated and never come back. You don’t win long term, returning customers that way, all you win is a bad reputation. This breed tend to have no respect for repeat business selling either, being too obsessed with showing off about their one off new sale – fatal.

3. Not listening

The gift of the gab is one thing, but not knowing when to shut up is another and a great deal more important. Whenever I am asked for the most important skill in sales, I always say listening. Without listening to your client’s needs, you can never hope to meet them.

4. Bad record keeping

No one’s memory is so good they can remember every detail about each of their customers and if the key to good sales is to know your customers, it is pretty wasted if you don’t write everything about them down and have therefore forgotten the lot by the next time you speak to the customer.

5. No sense of urgency 

Anyone getting a hot enquiry in this economic climate should cherish it. Yet, there are still plenty of sales people around, who don’t leap on these, do everything they can to help, and treat them like the gold dust they truly are.

6. Not even bothering to write down new enquiries

Companies have invested in marketing, they have brought hot leads to the sales man’s door. Yet, again and again, I have seen sales people not bother to write down the new leads for following up – seemingly expecting that if the prospect lifted the phone once, they will continue to do so. What heartbreaking waste for the company who has spent its all in developing the right products to see the sales being simply chucked down the drain through disinterest and bad organisation.

7. Not persevering 

Developing customer relationships takes time but too many sales people are into instant gratification. No immediate sale, apparently the customer is a waste of time. Rubbish. Average telephone sales orders take five calls – most sales people give up after two.

8. Faffing

It is tough out there! No sales people have time to chit chat, make multi coloured charts, write never ending lists. Every second not communicating to their customers is a second wasted.

9. Not understanding that their performance has a crucial impact on the rest of the company 

A company is nothing without sales and colleagues may lose their jobs, yet plenty of sales people live in some little glass bubble thinking they are special in some way. Appalling arrogance.

10. Too much or too little ego and too many excuses

Arrogance and insecurity both get in the way of sales and when it comes to sales, there are no excuses. You either get them or you don’t.

Jan Cavelle is founder of the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.