Why Sales Fail

Updated: June 08, 2010


Sales is a needs assessment and solution placement model. Everything you do in your job, everything you say, every problem you have with prospects, every objection you handle, is based on that one factor. In fact, the model of sales - whether you use Sandler or SPIN or Richardson - is based on finding a need and getting the folks with the need to choose your solution to resolve it. And unfortunately, sales treats an Identified Problem (or need, as you may call it) as if it were an isolated event - rather than the need sitting comfortably within a ‘system' of relationships and rules, people and policies, vendors and partners, that maintain it daily.

Buyers don't buy the way you sell - except the small percentage that do. And the sales model merely manages a tiny sliver of a buyer's buying decision - that very last piece that includes choosing a solution. That's right: sellers enter far too early in a buying decision cycle, and buyers have to go back - after they've already met you - and manage the off-line, private, internal stuff on their own. And this stuff (that we can never understand because we don't ‘live' there with them) is often unconscious and hard to get to, even for them.

Sales ignores the subjective, idiosyncratic place where buyers go and figure out, amongst themselves, all that they have to figure out. As a seller, you don't sit at the table when your prospect is at a meeting about next year's initiatives. Sales doesn't give you the skills to help your prospect with the new business partner who shows up with a partial solution and cuts you out of the picture. Sales doesn't help you convince buyers that the tech team cannot resolve the problem in the same way that you do - but they are cheaper, and know the users, so they appear to have a huge value add. Sales will give you the tools to understand the Identified Problem and present your solution effectively, but not manage the fight between your prospect and their Board. So you sit and wait, and hope that the buyer comes back after they've said the magic words: I'll Call You Back.

That's right. You sit and hope. Because you have no control over it. Because sales doesn't handle that end of the buying decision. You are out of the loop until they come back. And by then, they might not come back. You lose approximately 90% of your prospects.


We are now bringing in more prospects than ever. We have no idea of the real potential of each lead generated, but it's highly likely that we are wasting valuable leads when using conventional sales skills on them. Did they have a real need when they responded on line? Were they just curious? Can they be converted to a closed sale? By using conventional sales models, you will only close the same percentage you closed without doing lead gen, and take more time doing it.

Let's think about what's going on inside: If you were overweight and could seriously use a gym, would knowing details about the nearest gym help you decide to work out? Hardly. You would belong to a gym already if you'd figured out that you needed one. To make a different decision than the one you've already made (i.e. not join a gym), you'd first have to decide to lose weight or be fit, ask your spouse if s/he minded getting rid of the nightly pasta, wake up at 5:00 instead of 6:30, etc. The seller of the gym membership sees the pot belly and assumes the need and problem and voila! has the solution.

A seller actually has no idea what a solution should look like because only the people inside the system know all the ins-and-outs of what's going on. And herein lies the problem with sales. It causes unnecessary delays, needless objections, irrelevant price discussions because we are outside providers with unfamiliar solutions, pushing into a ‘closed' system, and not having an additional tool kit to help buyers navigate their behind-the-scenes decision issues. The time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. They need to do this anyway - they will do this with you or without you, so it might as well be with you.

Frankly - and this is scary but true - buyers don't have the skills to efficiently figure out how to go about managing the change that a new solution will entail. They can't end up with department heads not speaking to each other, or a software solution that the users won't use, or training that is ignored. Bringing in a new solution and ensuring that everyone and everything buys-in to the change, how to use it, ensuring it fits with everything else (all change is a systems problem after all) is an unknown. And so they fumble around and take forever. But the risk of them doing nothing and maintaining their status quo is much smaller than the risk of bringing in the ‘right' solution and upsetting their policies and relationships. Buyers often do nothing rather than risk creating an internal mess.

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