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The 7 habits of unproductive sales teams

Are you seeing stagnant sales figures even though your sales team looks busier than ever? It could be because your salespeople have fallen into bad sales habits and unproductive activities which hamper sales performance.

Whether it’s obsessing over knocking out low priority tasks or slipping into a monotonous voice while making phone call after phone call, it’s easy for salespeople to get off track in the sales process.

“The irony is that the sales profession is all about talking with people, but there’s a willingness to prioritize anything that involves not talking to the prospect. Salespeople need to focus on the tasks that are related to helping customers make a decision. That’s their job. Anything other than that, they should get rid of.” – Andy Paul, Founder at Zero-Time Selling Inc.

Alice Heiman, founder of Alice Heiman, LLC, believes that while unproductive sales behaviors are a major problem in sales offices, they aren’t always the fault of salespeople. “In a lot of cases, what they’re doing is what their sales managers told them,” she said.

Wherever poor sales behaviors originate, sales managers need to be vigilant and keep an eye out for these seven bad sales habits that can hinder sales productivity.

In this article, we’ll run you through seven bad sales behaviors and how to avoid them.

Table of contents

  1. Dialing for dollars

  2. Sticking to a script

  3. Treating all your prospects the same

  4. Not selling to the right person

  5. Letting email rule the day

  6. Doing work that should be delegated

  7. Poor time management


1. Dialing for dollars

Calling customers and prospects when you don’t have a valid business reason is a waste of time.

“Everybody’s heard the term ‘dialing for dollars’ before, but towards the end of any kind of quota time, sales managers will yell at their teams to get on the phone,” – Alice Heiman, founder of Alice Heiman, LLC

It’s a bad sales habit Heiman has seen her clients implement without success. In one of her case studies, for example, the business owner (who was also the sales team manager) decided that every sales rep should call every customer four times a week to get sales and boost the bottom line.

“That’s unproductive,” Heiman said. “In fact, it might really irritate people so that they will not take your call when you actually have something to say to them.”

As sales leaders, it might be time to reevaluate your sales strategies. Consider your motives before all sales calls and think about whether your conversation will truly push the deal forward. This will greatly improve your sales behaviors.


2. Sticking to a script

Nothing turns a potential client off faster than a salesperson who cold calls and simply sticks to a script.

“I can’t stress enough that selling requires deliberate, mindful action. You’ve got to go off script, you’ve got to be engaged with the customer’s concerns and understand how you can serve them. Sales is hard mental work. You have to bring your A-game absolutely every time you reach out and touch a prospect.” – Andy Paul

Too often, sales professionals have a set list of questions to ask, and they spend so much time thinking about crossing off each question on their sales pitch template that the customer feels their concerns are being ignored. This rarely leads to successful sales and could make you look like a bad salesperson that prioritizes profits over relationships.

Successful salespeople focus on listening to the customer’s needs rather than accomplishing their own agenda. This way, you’ll build trust and put yourself in a better position to win them over with an aligned solution. Plus, you’re more likely to receive positive referrals which could lead to more business.


3. Treating all your prospects the same

Believe it or not, sales is a creative profession, one that requires a good salesperson to be constantly thinking about the best approach for a particular prospect rather than trotting out cookie-cutter B2B sales tactics.

Salespeople need to be aware that the ways prospects gather information, evaluate pricing, navigate sales tactics and wish to be sold to can vary wildly. Therefore, they have to try different sales techniques for different prospects.

“Many salespeople want to find a process, something they can repeat that works. It just doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t mean that you need to do everything 180 degrees from each other, but you have to be aware that they are different,” - Andy Paul

The way you achieve sales success is to approach prospects with an open mind, so you can be ready to tackle anything they bring to the table.


4. Not selling to the right person

Salespeople can waste time by not connecting with the right decision makers within a prospect’s company, whether that’s selling to someone too far down the decision-making chain, or bypassing the true decision maker in an attempt to sell to the C-suite. (The latter is a big problem.)

“A lot of times, sales training uniformly tells sales reps that they need to ‘sell to the C- suite’. It really does a disservice to the salesperson to make them think that they really need to oversell this product when the actual decision makers are much lower.” - Andy Paul

Before going in, salespeople need to conduct research on the prospect’s website, via social media networks such as LinkedIn and through their own customer relationship management tool (CRM) and lead generation software, to ensure they reach the best possible person for the job at hand.

Finding qualified leads and making accurate contacts will avoid your initial message getting diluted or lost down the line, as it won’t get passed on from person to person.


5. Letting email rule the day

Many salespeople are trained to jump at every incoming email when undergoing sales coaching, but that can create an unproductive rhythm of reacting throughout the day, rather than prioritizing the work that should take precedence.

Instead of letting email rule the day, Heiman trains her clients to turn off notifications and only check email at certain intervals. She recommends that salespeople spend time prioritizing which tasks are important first thing in the morning, and then do those first.

“After that, you can take an hour and you check your email,” Heiman said.


6. Doing work that should be delegated

Spending time and energy on tasks that are outside the salesperson’s job description is another bad habit.

When Heiman noticed a client’s sales team entering their own orders, a task that customer service was supposed to be doing, she learned that the sales force had gotten into the habit because customer service was taking too long.

Once sales and customer service had agreed on a deadline for order entry, the sales team was freed up to spend more time on the phone. This improved functionality and allowed them to follow-up on more prospects and close more deals.

“We also taught customer service to let the salesperson know that the order had been typed in, so the salespersons could stop worrying about that. Because worrying takes up time, too.” – Alice Heiman

Delegating tasks that are specific to a team member’s strengths will eliminate unnecessary burden and create a smoother, more efficient workflow.


7. Poor time management

Time spent not selling is a huge problem, according to Heiman.

When she worked with one client’s sales team to analyze their time, she found they spent less than 20% of it actually having conversations with customers.

“Salespeople are busy every minute, but they’re not always doing the right work. They really need to prioritize all the work that they’re doing, schedule the priority work on the calendar, then fit everything else in around it.” – Alice Heiman

If you’re looking to get rid of bad sales habits and replace them with good sales habits that will boost your sales productivity and metrics, a sales management tool like Pipedrive offers a streamline visual pipeline that motivates actions and helps your team complete the required activities so they can close more deals faster.

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