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What’s Wrong With Articles Containing Sales Tips?

How many sales people do you think regularly seek out tips about selling on websites, in magazines, books, newsletters, etc.?  ESR\'s Sales Performance Solutions Continuum (c) ESRWe have not done any research on this (if someone has, let me know), but I would expect the answer is: “a lot.”

What’s wrong with it?  Same answer: a lot.

Here’s why.  Many salespeople think that these tips (almost all of them are tactics) are all they need to win.  Read enough articles and books and grab enough of these skills, they think, and they’ll never lose another deal.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think that many of the hundreds of sales experts out there have something valuable to say.  (I certainly felt that way when I wrote How Winners Sell, as well as a hundred or so articles.)  Sure, some have copied what others have done before them and represented that as their own.  And sales tips that other so-called experts are writing or speaking about have been proved ineffective years ago.  But all in all, I’m not questioning the advice.  That’s not the issue.

My problem is that too many salespeople collect whichever of these tips they think might work.  If they try a tip once, and it doesn’t work, they’ll likely reject it—without giving themselves an opportunity to perfect that skill or technique.  I’ve coached enough reps over the years to tell you that this is normal behavior for a rep.  If something is out of their grasp in terms of understanding, or the investment of time involved is more than they are willing to make, they don’t pursue that tactic either.  Again, however misguided that behavior might be, it’s normal as well.

Only because I have such regard for Tony Parinello did I allow our researchers to use his million-seller book Selling to VITO in our “Range of Sales Performance Solutions and Programs” graphic from ESR’s 2008 Sales Training Vendor Guide.  Look at the chart above.  If the primary sources of learning for a rep are self-paced and tactical, they are likely not going to see the whole picture and, as a result, ever hope to become more strategic in their sales approach.  Tony positions himself as a tactician.  He and I have talked about that on a number of occasions.  Sales reps NEED tactics.  They’re required.  But just tactics alone won’t get them where they need to be.

How do I know I’m right on this issue?  Sales tips books and articles have been around for a generation, right?  So how come recent research (CSO Insights and Sales Benchmark Index, among others) agree that 40% of B2B sales people don’t make quota?  And, the companies that have a formal, institutionalized sales methodology consistently sell more effectively than those that don’t.  These are the facts.

So, if your salespeople swear by those valuable insights from the great sales experts, do your reps, your company, your customers and yourself, a favor. Integrate the best, most relevant tactics into an overall, documented sales approach, which must take into account how your customers buy and must include, among other critical components, a comprehensive assessment of your customer’s situation, a S.M.A.R.T. sales objective, appropriate strategies and then, and only then, those very tactics that sales people spend millions a year in bookstores to get.

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