(reading time: 3 minutes)

Making a lot of money in sales isn’t easy, even when you use a sales automation CRM like Spiro. If it was then 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 sales jobs while others go down in flames? Here are the ten main reasons why salespeople fail:

1. 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 truly wants. If you listen attentively, and pay attention, the customer will tell you everything you need to know in order to close their deal.

2. Not understanding the value proposition

Sales is all about creating value. Many sales reps don’t understand this concept, and instead try to pressure the customer to complete the transaction instead of building up the value of whatever it is you’re selling in the customer’s eyes. In order to build value in sales, you must understand what your product offers that creates that value.

3. Inconsistency

If you’ve ever worked in 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.

4. 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 resume and start searching indeed.com for a new job.

5. The sales cycle is a bad fit

An often overlooked factor when looking for a sales job is whether or not the sales cycle is a good fit for a particular sales rep. Selling a car to a customer can take a few hours, while selling telecom 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.

6. 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 8-12 follow-up calls to close a deal, so sales reps who don’t hit those numbers are doing themselves and their sales careers huge disservice.

7. Focusing too much on the negative

There can be a lot to complain about in sales; the leads aren’t any good, the industry is in a downturn, the comp plan changed for the worst. It’s easy to complain, but it gets you absolutely 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 gotten to the top of any sales organization by complaining.

8. 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.

9. Not knowing the product and competition

To succeed in any industry, you absolutely 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. Sure, 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 or somewhere towards the bottom.

10. They don’t embrace being a salesperson

Possibly the biggest reason why some people don’t last long in sales is that they never embrace their profession. The general public doesn’t value salespeople as much as they should, and some people can never get past that. 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 salespeople love what they do.

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About the Author Adam Honig

Adam is the co-founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a natural sales leader with a mission to help salespeople make more money using artificial intelligence — or any sort of intelligence for that matter. Adam has been a founder of four companies which resulted in two triumphant IPOs and two legendary mergers. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the ‘No Jerks’ hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


  • Brad Wood says:

    Sounds like something a manager would right.

  • Margaryta says:

    Great article! Thanks Adam!

  • Matthew says:

    Great article – VERY ACCURATE!!!

  • its seams the 8 to 12 follow up call is a bit much considering most retail buyers buy within 72 hours. like cars and RVs just saying I would have to call my customers 3 or more times a day. otherwise everything else is dead on correct.

    • Adam Honig says:

      Hey Bob,

      Thanks for the comment. For retail sales, totally agreed. Some of our readers are chasing deals with sales cycles that stretch out over months. That’s when you need all of those calls.


      • Becky Sartain says:

        I am in an Enterprise Sales role, and I needed to hear this particular point! When a proposal is sent, and the customer goes silent, and there is only an one sided conversation happening through voice mails and emails, it is easy to give up after a couple of follow ups. Great article, thank you!

      • Donald Mead says:

        As a Sales Leader in New Home Sales, this article puts success and lack of success in perspective.. Face the brutal facts, but never lose faith.

  • Diane Rizzo says:

    I have a long sales cycle and 8 to 12 follow up calls are correct for me, it not move. I liked what you had to say had a lot of take away to stay focused.

  • All ten points spot on – great post.

  • Great Post and its very informative!

  • Chris Bates says:

    Great post! I think no.10 is the most important! 🙂

  • Michael Finazzo says:

    Great article! I have seen salespeople fall into all of these and would have to admit to falling into a couple of bad habits myself at times. I think these are all on target!

  • Mike Coffey says:

    I’m curious as to what valid reasons exist for salespeople’s failures. For instance, I often hear from salespeople who sell a product or service but the operations teams can deliver or support the product accurately, resulting in a lost customer and diminished earnings for the salesperson. Is that common?

    What other issues lead otherwise successful people to fail or, at least, fail to reach their potential?

  • John Swagger says:

    Adam. Nice article. On the money!!

  • Carl Susini says:

    It’s all about self discipline and self motivation. If you want to be successful, you will put in the time to be successful. These are great tips to keep in mind on a daily basis.

  • Kim Richardson says:

    You aint learning nothing when you’re talking.

  • shawn mayernik says:

    We are all sales people in one form or fashion. As a school teacher, I am selling. Many of these reasons can be applied to the classroom and education field. Great article and very practical.

  • Marco says:

    Thanks for sharing this blog, very helpful indeed.

    The most important process in Sales is lack of follow-up and NOT Listening to The Customer.

  • Adam, nice article and a good list of potential reasons, why sales people fail. Thank you for sharing.

    Mike touched on a great point that you should be able to help: validity.
    At least from all the data that you have gathered in your CRM system you should be able to quantify the the reasons for ‘lost sales’ as any good opportunity management has this category. How many opps land in this bucket (that is the inverse of your hit rate) but more importantly, what are the most often cited categories.
    CEB once published some data that a staggering 70%+ of sales are not lost to the competition but to ‘no sale’, I.e. the whole project stalled and got nowhere.
    Mike mentions that he feels deals are lost later, I.e. by operations not being able to fulfill the promises the sales person made (in my experience this is less than 1%, or at least should be).

    Do you have any data to back up the list of points you made?
    Is this based on a self-assessment of sales people or of sales managers or your gut feeling?
    I have my own list of reasons, why sales people fail…

  • kevin omolo says:

    Great article, I am in the clearing and forwaeding industry, how do i boost my sales

  • kaustubh says:

    Hi Adam

    Yep that’s correct as the above mentioned reasons are responsible in failure of reps when it comes to sales
    But going on the other side of a trainee is diligent and zealous and is achieving the given no.s , if he doesn’t achieve the next month he is sure to go for a kaizen approach too as to Why Was consistency broken plus in an organization his immediate manager should understand the same and not oppress him for keep on working and not giving a thought as why didn’t it happen plus in a few places the reporting manager are not from the sales background thus, they have no.s as their utmost primafacie and not as to how would their reportees achieve the same thus, leading to a failure.

    Hope I got my point noticed being a sales guy I came across the same issue.


  • Andrew says:

    Great Article, thanks Adam.

  • Chris Thomas says:

    Great article Adam and all the points are spot on. I agree wholeheartedly that Sales People are not valued, however as you wrote only ourselves can affect our own attitude and beliefs.
    I am proud to be a Sales Executive and of the job I do for my company and my customers.

    The main point I took out of the article was the number of follow up calls…suffice to say I will be increasing mine!

  • Jamie Meade says:

    Very true great article.

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