Making a lot of money in IT sales isn't easy. If were, everyone would be doing it. Not everyone can handle the pressures of the job, and many of those who give it a shot end up quickly leaving with their tail between their legs.
So why do some people thrive in IT sales jobs while others go down in flames?
Here are the 10 main reasons why some IT salespeople fail:
Not listening enough
Being a good listener is probably the most overlooked sales skill of all. Many sales reps spend far too much time talking, and nowhere near enough time listening to what the customer wants. If you listen attentively and pay attention, the customer will tell you everything you need to know in order to close their deal.
Not understanding the value proposition
Sales is all about creating value. Many IT sales reps don't understand this concept, and instead try to pressurise the customer into completing the transaction instead of building up the value in the customer's eyes of whatever it is you're selling. In order to build value, you must understand what your product offers that creates that value.
If you've ever worked in IT sales, you've almost certainly worked with sales reps who go from the top of the board one month to struggling for deals the next, part of a vicious cycle. Those who last in sales understand that producing consistently is the key to a successful sales career, and that constant ups and downs can make sales feel more stressful than it already is.
Being too timid
While the fast-talking, overbearing salesperson annoys most customers beyond belief, a timid salesperson won't last longer than a few months in the profession. If you're scared to call people, too shy to approach them, and don't have the courage to ask for the business, you might as well dust off your CV and start searching for a new job.
The sales cycle is a bad fit
An often overlooked factor when searching for an IT sales job is whether or not the sales cycle is a good fit for a particular sales rep. Selling an HP printer to an end user can take a couple of hours, while selling cloud services to an enterprise client can take months or longer from start to finish. Some sales reps thrive on the quick sale, while others can handle a longer cycle.
Lack of follow-up
It's amazing how many sales reps give up after only one or two follow-ups to a lead, or a prospect that they've already pitched. Research has shown that it typically takes between eight and 12 follow-up calls to close a deal, so sales reps who don't hit those numbers are doing themselves and their sales careers a huge disservice.
Focusing too much on the negative
There can be a lot to complain about in IT sales; the leads aren't any good, the IT industry is in a downturn, the comp plan changed for the worse. It's easy to complain, but it gets you nowhere. Successful sales reps put aside all negativity and excuses, and make things happen. The leads are bad? Go out and find prospects yourself. The comp plan changed? Sell twice as much! No one has ever got to the top of a sales organisation by complaining.
Not setting daily goals
Every salesperson has a sales goal that's set by the company. But not every salesperson sets achievable daily or weekly goals for themselves in order to achieve that bigger goal. If you want to close a certain number of deals per month, it will take measurable daily activity to get there: prospecting, calling, pitching, and following up. If you don't get in the habit of setting smaller, consumable goals, you won't come anywhere near hitting the bigger ones.
Not knowing the product and competition
To succeed in any industry, you have to understand your product inside and out, as well as what your competition is offering that you aren't, and what you're offering that they're not. You could try to get by on likability and wit alone, but the smart buyers that you'll inevitably run into will make the difference between being at the top of the board and somewhere towards the bottom.
They don't embrace being a salesperson
Possibly the biggest reason why some people don't last long in IT sales is that they never embrace their profession. The best salespeople embrace their position and own it, understanding the role they play for their companies and their families, at the front lines of the workforce. To put it simply, the best IT salespeople love what they do.
Marc Sumner is managing director of recruiter Robertson Sumner
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