Why Sales Systems Have Failed

Salespeople are not suffering from a lack of resources. Just look around. There are a ton of sales tools available today: tech stacks include CRM systems, digital prospecting tools, marketing automation systems… the list goes on. Don’t forget about the multiple opportunities social media provides to connect both online and in person. Remember the phone? There are more of them than ever, and they don’t even sit on desks anymore!

The real problem in the sales industry today is not that there aren’t enough tools, it’s that nobody knows how to sell.

The Birth Of The Sales System

Salespeople, especially those new to the game, seem to believe that there is a specific system through which they need to put people in order to get them to act. Not being intuitively familiar with such a formal system, they look for a user guide, a playbook, or a manual to walk them through the process. There are a lot of them out there, and a lot of them work.

They work because they accurately map and identify the steps in the process that lead to a decision being made. For a lot of people, clearly seeing these steps laid out helps them to understand what’s coming next, which makes the process both more predictable and consistent. If you’re running a business, ‘predictable’ and ‘consistent’ are two vitally important terms, and often describe your top performers. Best practices are codified, and the sales system is born. That’s the beginning of our collective mistake- we confuse a process with a system. We see success in a sample of the population, and we consider it a truth. “If it works for these people, then it must work for everybody.”

A process is a series of steps which are pretty easily identified. A system takes it a step further and makes assumptions. “If it works for these people, then it must work for everybody” is a fallacy. When the way you approach your profession is based on non-truths, things tend to get dicey.

The Systems Are Flawed

They’re flawed because they are forced. You can’t treat everybody the same way and expect the same result, yet that’s what we do with a prescribed system. Imagine a physician prescribing the same pain medication to everybody who had a headache (as if headaches had a singular cause). Sure, it might be a decent solution, but you haven’t really dug into the real problem. You’ll make a lot of people feel moderately better, until they wise up and realize they’re still hurting. Are they coming back to you a second time? Probably not.

Nobody wants to be ‘put through a system.’ The more people you try to treat the same way, the less genuine you are perceived to be. Your reputation begins to precede you, and fewer people want to talk to you, let alone trust you. It’s tough to be a great salesperson if you treat your prospects less like people and more like livestock being sent to slaughter.

With the advent of the aforementioned digital tools, we’re painting more customers with an even broader brush. It’s a pretty predictable formula. Like a few posts here and there, reach out and connect, and here comes the poorly scripted pitch. Bad offenders wait the proverbial 48 hours, and the worst ones do so immediately.

Do you really think that nobody can see through this?

You know immediately when you’re in someone’s sales funnel. You can also guess about how far into it they think you are, despite the fact that you have no interest in being funneled anywhere. Isn’t this ridiculous the more you think about it? How many times have you not downloaded that ebook or signed up for that virtual summit because of all the emails you were going to get? You can see it coming from a mile away. Your customers can too.

The Systems Have Failed

We’ve somehow duped ourselves into believing that instead of getting better at selling, we can just shout louder, and at more people. Hey, your job’s to put up a number, right? No holds barred, right? Meanwhile, you poison the well for the rest of us and give the profession a bad name because of your lack of imagination and general ignorance to what this profession is really all about.

Make no mistake, getting better at sales is not about mastering a system-in-a-box.

When you look for that how-to guide for sales, that formula for how many calls to make and which words to use, you do yourself a disservice. You’re literally asking what everybody else is doing, which makes it impossible for you to differentiate yourself. If you cannot differentiate yourself, then you cannot sell.

Selling is about connecting. It always has been, and it always will be. Your prospect wants a tailored message. Your prospect deserves a tailored message. They don’t want to feel like they know what’s coming next, or worse, that they’ve heard the same pitch before. You can do better, and you should.

Ditch The System And Use Your Brain

Selling is a pretty intuitive process. We’re born to sell, and you’ve been closing deals your entire life. Ever make a friend? You’ve made a sale. Are you married? That’s the biggest deal you’ll ever make. Did you use a system that you got out of a can when you created and developed those relationships? I didn’t think so.

No, I don’t want you to marry your prospects, and I don’t even recommend that you make friends with all of them. My point is that our approach to human interaction is pretty normal, and it only seems to get messed up when we try to force it.