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The Number-One Reason Salespeople Lose Sales

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A few weeks back, I was sitting on a plane next to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and we got into a conversation related to sales training. I asked him what he felt was the area in which most professionals needed improvement. Without hesitation, he said, “Closing the deal. If every one of our people could just increase their closing ratio by three or four percent, we could double our business.”

Interestingly enough, this is what 99.9% of all CEOs tell me. Once they learn that I own a sales-training company, they always ask, "What do you see as the number-one reason why potential business is lost?" My typical response is that although the end result is lost business, that is really only a symptom and not the real cause of the problem.

Let me tell you, that response has caused more than one person to look at me in disbelief as if I were crazy. However, once I explain the real cause of the problem, they usually end up hiring my company.

The reason this problem is not obvious is really twofold: first, salespeople are too focused on the result (i.e., low or stagnant closing ratios); second, 90% of all selling professionals think what they are doing in this area is correct, when in fact what they are doing is losing business.

VantaEDGE has a free report that explains the top 10 selling mistakes and what you can do to avoid them. You will notice that the number-one reason is lack of understanding of the differences between features, benefits, and value. However, it goes a little deeper than that, and this article focuses on why people get forced into competing on price alone—the specific issue, or root cause, if you will, that leads people to lose sales.

The specific area has to do with value. What is value? Is it what you tell your customer? Or is it your solution? Is it your lead times, your service, the ROI they will receive? The answer is that there is no way you can tell the customer what value is; value is in the eye of the beholder (the customer). The only time you know what your customers value and how much they value your product or service is when they verbalize what your product or service will do for them. The problem resides with how to get to this point. How do you get the customer to verbalize the value you can provide?

Before the customer is ever going to verbalize the value you can provide, you have to lay a foundation. You have to understand his or her needs—the problems that keep him or her up at night and cost him or her valuable resources. Where most salespeople make the mistake is when they only uncover surface needs. Once they find out those basic needs, most salespeople immediately jump into the solutions that their products can provide, and then they tell the customer what value he or she will receive.

Well, guess what? Your competition is doing the same thing. If you were the customer and you continued to hear the same thing, wouldn't you just look for the lowest price? This area is the most misunderstood concept in sales, and it is the area in which 90% of all sales professionals don't do a good job.

To get past the surface needs, continue down the path of asking why. Why is this a problem? How much is this costing you? How is this impacting your business? During this process, you are getting the customer to recognize that there is a real problem and to verbalize the degree of pain this situation is causing. That's when the customer will have a sense of urgency to solve the problem.

Customers are dealing with adverse situations constantly and need help solving them. The problems they address are the ones they feel are having the most impact on their business. If they did not have any problems or needs, they would never buy anything. However, they get conditioned to dealing with problems on their own until someone shows them a way to remove the problem and how that process will be beneficial to them. But first they need to be reminded of the severity of their situation.

Knowing and understanding the customer's problems as well as the consequences or impacts those problems have on his or her business will provide a solid foundation for being able to provide the right solutions. And once you explain a feature or benefit and then ask the customer how it would address his or her situation, he or she will verbalize the value.

When your customers verbalize all the value they receive, they will then be ready to make purchases. When you follow this process, you will have an EDGE on your competition and be in the class of the top 10% of sales professionals.

About the Author

Henry Pellerin is the president and founder of VantaEDGE™ Inc. and co-author of The Strategic Selling Process. VantaEDGE™, Inc., provides customized sales training, consultation, and facilitation services. Henry personally has had more than 17 years of experience in sales, sales management, and business development, and he shares his expertise with clients to help them receive the same results he has attained year after year.

You may want to sign up for the VantaEDGE™ monthly sales tips newsletter, VantaEDGE Monthly, from which you'll receive valuable selling tips each month along with the special report "Avoid the Top 10 Selling Mistakes That Lose Sales." To do so, visit Henry can be reached at 864-254-9300 or via email at

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