Posts belonging to Category motivation

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

Feel Naked and Embarrassed About Your Numbers?

There is nothing in this world as embarrassing as sales meeting when you don’t have your numbers! You might  as well be naked!  If you sold long enough, you know this feeling.  Read on….


As a first year sales rep I never looked forward to the dreaded sales meeting. As always, unit results would be reviewed early on in the meeting and my production, which was severely lacking, would stand out like a sore thumb. The sales meetings were also tough because the unit was not doing well, not to mention that my production “sucked”.

In front of the other sales reps, the regional sales manager, and God, they focused on the results for the month.  Quite frankly, it was ugly, I felt as if the world, and everyone in it was looking at me when they read the results.

I don’t have to go much deeper into this story as I think you get the picture.  This scene plays out in sales meetings across the globe, and will continue to do so. It may be lessened with ‘virtual’ sales meetings, but the feeling is the same.   Poor results, for even a portion of the year, affect you in the form of embarrassment and performance hampering stress.

Motivator? Yes or No?

No one wants to surrender to this condition.  Is it a motivator?  Can you use this to increase your energy level and effectively change your situation? Your ability to deliver job saving, high-level results can be at risk when you put up your defenses, or even retreat because of this condition.

There are better, more effective ways to be motivated. See Black Sales Journal Getting Motivated – What Motivates You? Just maybe it is one of those items that has a life of its own.  It might just be part of the landscape of sales that will always be with us.

Does this act as a motivator?  It probably does.  Black sales professionals consistently battle with the perception that they will have difficulty in the corporate sales world, and the bright lights of the sales meeting seems to have the effect of amplifying that if they are having some sales difficulty.  You cannot only succeed; you can make money and enjoy the spoils of a good job.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.  If you are good, you only need to survive the difficult periods.

What Can You Do?

No one wants to be embarrassed by disappointing sales numbers.  If you are in sales for a long period of time, it will happen to you and often it is just situational, a matter of timing which will solve itself at some point.  No matter whether short or long lived, there are some things that you might want to consider:

  • Look Confident – as if you know it is going to change.  If your co-employees and management can tell you are embarrassed by your performance, your customers will be able to tell also.
  • Body language is important
  • Your expressions will make you transparent
  • You will live through this…there are others just like you in the room
  • Be Productive – I know, this does not solve the pain, but this is the only way to make sure that you won’t have the embarrassment in subsequent sales meetings.  Work through this issue.
  • Thicken your skin – As best you can, harden your exterior as you are in the most measurable occupation out there and you will continue to be measured by your peers, your management, and yourself.

The Shoe on the Other Foot

To be sure, there are some things that you will not be able to control, and this is one of them.  Practice on your ‘poker face’, and recognize this is a ‘place in time’ and with good work ethic and some good luck, things will change.

Think about what happens when the fortunate ones that do have great sales results ‘spike the ball’ in the sales meetings as opposed to taking a nod of the head and accepting praise.  We know that this happens, and it can be embarrassing as well.  When you do sell remember to act like you have been in the end zone before.

Above all, always be prepared.  It is natural to have pride in what you do.  If the numbers are not there, it can be a fleeting moment.  You will get over any embarrassment and move forward.

Your comments are appreciated.  You can reach me at Michael.Parker@Black .