Reasons Behind Sales Success or Failure

Published: 06th July 2010
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One of the primary concerns of Sales Management is the development of sales talent through targeted delivery of sales training. By doing this the Sales Manager seeks to develop a talented team who can consistently deliver the sales results required. But in sales - as this article explains - talent, however well developed, is no substitute for hard work.

A number of investigations into the reasons for success or failure for people in selling have been conducted. As a rule, these investigations ask questions about factors like motivation, understanding of the sales role, closeness to the company, the amount of sales training received or the quality of the sales manager's leadership. Until now, no one has answered the closely associated question as to whether the salesperson who works harder than his or her colleagues is also more successful. This was the reason for an American research project, which studied 380 sales people in the durable consumer goods line.The study looked at five factors in sales success, namely:

Competitiveness. The successful salesperson gets much satisfaction when competing with others and desires to win.

Self motivation. A successful sales person works completely independently and has the ability to constantly motivate himself afresh.

The conflicts of a career in sales. It is only human to have doubts sometimes about the point of one's career. For the sales person it is a question of how moral it is to convince or persuade the customer to buy the product or service.

The conflict of roles. Almost every sales person has daily negative experiences. A pronounced conflict of roles leads to fewer customers being visited in order to have fewer negative experiences.

The hard work put in by the sales person. Positive and negative factors work together and influence each other. Competitiveness and self motivations correlate or influence each other by 65%, the conflicts of a career in sales and conflict of roles, by 51%. Thus, both the desirable and undesirable factors usually occur together.

The initial conclusion from the survey was that sales people who were motivated and competitive had fewer problems. In the study there was a clear negative correlation between competitiveness / self motivation and the conflicts of a career in sales (-22% and '29%). This means that salespeople who are motivated and get satisfaction from competition have less problems in their careers.

Whether a salesperson makes more effort than colleagues depends on their ability to motivate themselves. Ultimately, the sales persons success is influenced by two things. Success factor number one is the effort the salesperson makes (62%), success factor number two is their competitiveness (15%). It is interesting to note that there is no direct connection between a salesperson's success and their satisfaction. Whether a field sales person is happy with their career is entirely dependent on them not being plagued by too many problems of conflicting roles and on them making an effort.

Based on the above we can make two suggestions for managers:

1. When interviewing new sales people, you should focus specifically on how competitive they are. People with a "fighting mentality" will be more successful.

2. Be strict about the way your sales people work. For example, set them a certain number of customer visits each month, check how they are handling objections etc. Sales people who put effort into doing the right things to generate sales will be more successful.

In sales there is a simple truth, which is that "nothing will come of nothing!" Sales people and Sales Managers who really put themselves out will assuredly achieve success. As the Sales Manager you can provide sales training to enhance your sales peoples selling skills and then manage your people so that they put these techniques into practice.


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Richard Stone a Director for Spearhead Training Ltd that runs management and sales training programmes aimed at improving business performance.

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