Why Can’t Johnny Sell?

Why Can't Johnny Sell?

What makes the difference between those who flourish in a sales career, and those who struggle?  It is probably going to be one of the points you will find below.  Read this and let me know what you think. Why can’t Johnny sell?  Let me count the ways….


We all know great looking sales people or sales position candidates like Johnny, who have the appearance of premier sales professionals.  You can line them up and it would look like a privileged and capable sales force ready to distribute any ready product in any sales territory.

The truth is that Johnny and many of these candidates will fail.  Failure should not be a bad word in sales; it should be known as the occupational filter that it is.

A great education, a solid appearance, a good product, and skills training are all things that should help, but there are some important things that play heavily on someone’s ability to sell effectively.

Not For the Faint of Heart

Sales can be lucrative as a profession, but when you are without a couple of these skills or attributes, you are going to be at a disadvantage.

Johnny will continue to struggle or even fail if he:

  • Does not want to be in sales, and is unwilling to adapt
  • Doesn’t communicate effectively
  • Cannot form meaningful relationships
  • Avoids success by avoiding the most uncomfortable aspects of the sales job
  • Repeats the same unproductive activities over and over again
  • Frankly does not want to put in the work
  • Cannot deal with measurement and competition
  • Does not have a winning attitude

Does not want to be in sales - If you do not what to be in sales, and are unwilling to adapt to it, you are in the wrong place, and won’t be there for long. If you just need a job, find something else to do.   As a sales manager, one of my interview questions was, “If we choose another candidate for this position is there a job in this organization that you would elect to do if that position is available?”  If the answer was yes, that individual wanted a job, not a sales position.  They lose in the job search!

Doesn’t communicate effectively – This one is not just the spoken word, but the presentation particulars as well.  Communications skills, including listening are ultra important.  For those of you who do it well, you probably take it for granted, but for many other sales professionals communication skills are not top notched. Johnny cannot show well against those who perform on a high level.

Cannot form meaningful relationships – You have heard me say it before, “Relationships are everything” when it comes to most professional sales.  You might refer to Black Sales Journal 1/13/2011- Deepening Your Customer Relationships for more information on this important topic.  Relationships give you preference, and preference in a business relationship is where you want to be.  You don’t ‘work’ the relationship angle, you live it.  If you develop enduring relationships you will benefit for years.  Relationship skills make all of the difference in the world, and are a major reason why some reps cannot sell.  In a sales environment that requires implicit trust such as a large ticket sale situation, you must be able to develop relationships that give preference.  This kind of preference is important, as it ‘trumps’ racial preference as the buyer knows and trusts you.  But there are people that have a tough time with relationships, and have not mastered the process of developing relationship basics.

Avoids success by avoiding the most uncomfortable tasks – You will not be successful if you avoid the tough stuff.  Prospecting is a good example.  Avoid prospecting on Tuesday, and something might come up on Wednesday, then you have a sales meeting on Thursday.  You have successfully avoiding sourcing prospects for 3/5ths of the week.  This activity is something that you would want to do almost every day.  Avoidance happens, but not for long, as you will begin new job hunt activities if you continue to avoid important tasks.

Repeats the same unproductive activities over and over again- Whether it is the habitual coffee break, long lunch, or even Friday afternoons off, unproductive activities have a way of repeating themselves.  The consummate professional has an ability to stop this madness and focus on productive activities.  Many sales professionals review the weekend with colleagues on Monday morning.  What can be more unproductive than a review of everyone’s child’s soccer games when money and a job hang in the balance?

Frankly does not want to put in the work – There are those reps, which appear lazy, but in truth it normally is something less vexing such as the point above.  This individual  ”avoids” success by avoiding the most uncomfortable tasks.  Laziness does find its way into many sales reps lives, and usually they get away with it for a while because of the requirement that they work without close supervision.  If you don’t want to put in the work, get out of the way and let someone else have a chance.

Cannot deal with measurement and competition – There are many individuals that quickly find that they are in the most measurable job that exist.  Being constantly measured and in competition with their peers gets to them and distracts them from cold calling and building relationships.  It does not seem as impactful as some of the others above, but it makes a difference.  You can be a ‘social worker’ in many different occupations, including management, but you cannot afford to feed the hungry and take in the needy in sales, as you are going to be measured objectively for the most part.  Lack of mental toughness in the face of the competition is the reason many falter.

Does not have a winning attitude – I saved this one for last as it speaks to why many sales professionals don’t make it.  You have to have perseverance and a belief that you will prevail.  A positive outlook is the most important ‘attitude’ that you can carry with you on a call, and in the office.  I know that this sounds light, but armed with a positive and winning attitude you can do so much.  I know a Black sales professional who I mentor (I will call her JP) who keeps a positive outlook through difficult situations.  The employer sees it, the customer recognizes it, and her family feels it.  The sales professional wins in the end.

Is There A Magic Pill for Johnny?

If you have some of the problems above you can still find success.  If you have all of them, you might want to consider another occupation. If Johnny should not be in sales, it is understandable.  Many of us cannot be successful engineers.  Review this post, BSJ 2/23/2012– The Smartest Person in the Room, to understand why.

This list is not exhaustive, but contains the major reasons. Black sales professionals can conquer so many business and societal ills on the basis that they are strong and adaptable.

Put these points to use and make the difference. Your comments are welcome.  Please reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

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