Sales Management Digest

How to Tell if You're Burned Out on Selling
Gregory Lousig-nont
Perhaps more than any other profession, selling is a series of highs and lows, but one hallmark of potential sales stars is their love of selling and consistently positive outlook. A sour attitude and dishonest selling practices often signal long-term trouble ahead, so take a close look at your thoughts and actions for some insight into your success potential. Your honest, objective answers to the questions below and your attention to the comments that follow will help point you in the right direction on your quest for success.

Instructions: Take a few minutes to answer true or false to the eight statements below. After answering each question, take a look at the comments next to the answer you selected. The comments will help you understand which attitudes help you succeed and which ones hold you back. Keep an open mind and ask yourself if your answers and the comments that accompany them represent your real actions and feelings.

1. The biggest incentive for me to keep selling is personal profit.

2. Sometimes I have to tell a "little white lie" to help prospects stop procrastinating and make a decision.

3. My number-one goal in any selling situation is to see how fast I can close.

4. My product's high price and mediocre quality are holding me back as a salesperson.

5. I find that selling and motivational tapes, books and seminars just present the same old message over and over.

6. I think a positive mental attitude is one of the most important keys to sales success.

7. After I've given my presentation, if my prospect tells me he has committed to purchasing from another company, my next step is to go back to my office and research my competitor's product or service.

8. Even when I lose a sale, I still write a note thanking my prospects for their time and for considering my product or service.

Answers and Commentary

Question #1 TRUE: When making money is a salesperson's primary objective, the prospect's needs take a backseat to personal greed. Perceptive buyers will often shy away from salespeople who don't make their customer's needs the number-one priority. Putting money before people often saps your work of its meaning, which may lead to burnout.

FALSE: Successful salespeople truly enjoy sharing products or services that they know will improve their customers' lives. To them, happy customers, not money, are selling's greatest reward. The more satisfaction you get from serving your customers, the more you'll find that selling is a joy instead of a burden – an attitude critical to long-lasting success.

Question #2 TRUE: When faced with losing a sale, some salespeople may tell "harmless" white lies – "We only have one left" or "Our prices are about to go up, so you'd better decide quickly" – in an attempt to close fast. If you're frustrated or desperate enough to resort to such tactics, find out why. There's no substitute for sharp selling skills, a motivated attitude and confidence to ward off burnout.

FALSE: True professionals adhere to a high standard of ethics. They recognize that sales made at the expense of their integrity benefit no one. Repeat business and referrals, not the quick sale, are their goal, and they conduct themselves so that their customers want to do business with them and only them. By using books, videos, tapes and seminars to constantly improve their selling skills and motivation, they eliminate any need for lies or other underhanded tactics.

Question #3 TRUE: Salespeople who approach prospects thinking, "Close, close, close!" may face a burnout problem. Reducing the sales process to one result-oriented step also reduces the benefits of each sale. Eventually, close-hungry salespeople may discover that neglecting the important elements of the sales process takes its toll in profits and repeat business.

FALSE: After reaching a qualified prospect, competent salespeople know the sales process is just beginning, and that each step demands careful attention. They (1) establish rapport, (2) identify the prospect's needs and expectations, (3) make a benefit-loaded presentation, and (4) decide if the product or service will meet the prospect's needs and create a satisfied customer. If it will, the salesperson (5) closes politely but persistently, answering questions, concerns and objections, then (6) services the account and asks for referrals. Focusing on each step increases your odds of making the sale and establishes you as a competent professional who deserves your customers' – and their associates' – business.

Question #4 TRUE: To deflect responsibility for low sales and poor attitude away from themselves, burned-out salespeople may blame their product, service or company. Instead of seeking out ways to improve sales, they may moan about a slow economy. The same low motivation and poor attitude that cause the burnout prevent them from seeing problems as the disguised opportunities that they are.

FALSE: Successful salespeople sell well partly because they have absolute faith in what they sell. They know their products and services are worth their price, and that their buyers won't regret the purchase. If they have a need for it, many salespeople own and use the products they represent and endorse them personally. The best way to sell customers on your product is to sell yourself on it first.

Question #5 TRUE: When you stop learning and growing as a salesperson, you become more vulnerable to burnout. Salespeople who appear to be in a slump have often forgotten the basics that capitalize on the human aspects of selling that keep it challenging and interesting. The more focused you are on what you stand to gain from a sale, the more out of touch you become with the people who make it worthwhile.

FALSE: Sales superachievers are lifelong students. They constantly and continuously stimulate their minds and invest in education. Education affords them the opportunity to review the all-important sales basics as well as to learn effective new techniques. They take responsibility for keeping themselves informed and motivated.

Question #6 TRUE: Though a positive attitude is critical to sales success, great salespeople know that attitude is a means to an end and not an end in itself. To sell effectively you must team polished selling skills with the right attitude. Confidence is key to motivation, so keep your skills fine tuned, learn all you can about your product or service and make the customer your top priority. The knowledge that you're well equipped to meet your goals will help you maintain an attitude that maintains profits.

FALSE: A classic symptom of burnout, a poor attitude can be either a cause or an effect of the condition. Either way, once your attitude suffers, it's only a matter of time before your sales and everyone around you suffers as well. If you can't seem to pull yourself out of the depths of despair, you may be facing a serious case of burnout.

Question #7 TRUE: Burnout victims often use rejection to redirect their attention away from making personal contacts. They've lost the motivation required to pursue challenging prospects, and may take rejection personally. Low closing confidence may prevent them from asking for a customer's business to eliminate a possible rejection.

FALSE: Selling is fraught with rejection, but for super salespeople rejection and setbacks are a challenge – an opportunity to test the skills they've worked hard to perfect. They ask themselves, "How can I learn something from this? What did I do right? How can I turn this seemingly negative experience into a personal victory?" Even if a presentation ends with a "no," the winning salesperson appreciates the chance to meet a contact and practice presentation skills.

Question #8 TRUE: Successful salespeople build relationships – they don't burn bridges. A graceful thank-you note in response to a "no" may turn a rejection into a source of referrals. Presentations that end without a sale are often more effective learning experiences than those that end with a sale, so thank your prospects for their time and the chance to learn how to present your product more effectively.

FALSE: Many burnout victims don't bother with thank-you notes because they don't look for the opportunity in every contact. If they don't see an opportunity, they don't feel they owe the contact a thank you. Their gratitude is often prompted only by immediate financial gain instead of appreciation for the prospect's valuable time and attention.

Even those with the highest hopes and the loftiest ambitions can go only as far as their attitudes will take them. Your answers to the quiz above should tell you whether or not you're on the right track. If your responses point to burnout ahead, do what it takes to change your outlook and your direction. Your attitude – and your future – are up to you.
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