At this point, sales advice is a dime a dozen. Social media and the rise of tens of thousands of self-proclaimed “sales trainers” have flooded people’s inboxes and news-feeds with endless (and often contradictory) sales advice. And that’s not counting all of the advice you get from coworkers, friends, and other salespeople.
But a lot of sales advice is wrong and just plain bad. Just because someone says something catchy doesn’t mean it’s true. I’ve heard it all in my decades-long sales and entrepreneurship career, and some of this bad advice just keeps on being repeated. Here are the ten worst pieces of sales advice I’ve ever got:
1. You need to be outgoing to be a successful salesperson
Everyone assumes that the most successful people are outgoing, in-your-face, type A personalities. This is patently false. In fact, oftentimes it’s the more reserved, thoughtful salespeople who close more business because they’re better listeners and make the customer feel more comfortable. Top producers come in all shapes and sizes, and have varying temperaments, so if you’re an introvert who is considering sales, don’t be afraid of giving it a try.
2. Cold-calling is dead
It’s true that prospecting and selling has changed, but cold-calling is not as obsolete at some would have you believe. Although digital marketing has changed the way many industries sell, there are still a myriad of people who can’t be reached simply by running ads, and others who make it impossible to get in contact with them through any other method. The day cold-calling becomes obsolete is the day salespeople will need to start panicking, but it’s still a long way off. This is one of the worst pieces of sales advice, because calling is key.
3. It’s a quick and easy way to make money
If someone tells you that sales is quick and easy, you wouldn’t be wrong to laugh in their face. Sales takes enormous hard work and grit, and is by no means easy. Of course, it’s not as physically taxing as manual labor and not as dangerous as law enforcement and the like, but it’s one of the most stressful and demanding professions and will take its toll on you. Remember, sales is usually simple, but it’s not easy.
4. That I’d never be any good at it
After graduating from college and getting into the sales world, I would constantly hear criticism from friends and loved ones about how I wasn’t cut out to work in sales because I wasn’t confident enough and didn’t have the right background. But sales is a skill that can be learned through trial and error, if you’re willing to take the risk and aren’t afraid to embarrass yourself here and there. I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there and ignored the nay-sayers, eventually making it my career.
5. There are shortcuts to sales success
Gurus love to tell you that they have tips and tricks to help you become a top-selling salesperson without putting in much work. It sounds appealing – after all, who wouldn’t want to make more money while doing half the work? But shortcuts don’t work in business and they don’t work in sales. Of course you can find ways to be more efficient by incorporating technology (such as Spiro’s AI-Powered CRM) and prospecting more effectively, but there is no substitute for hard work, and unfortunately there’s also no way around it.
6. You should always make the biggest sale
Some people say that you should try to sell the most expensive version of your product or get the customer to commit to the biggest deal possible, but this is not good advice. In many cases, by pushing the customer above and beyond what their needs and wants are, you’re jeopardizing getting any deal at all. Of course, upsell someone if you can, but don’t risk losing a good deal because you’re too focused on trying to land a huge one.
7. That activity is the most important thing
There’s an expression, “Don’t confuse activity with results,” that’s very applicable in the sales world. If you’re working your butt off making calls, giving presentations, and following-up but your numbers aren’t reflecting your efforts, no one is going to pay you for trying. Of course activity is critical to success, but never confuse its importance with actually hitting your numbers. If a coworker is prospecting half as much but closing more deals, they’re a more successful salesperson no matter how hard you’re working. Similarly, if you’re working hard, but someone is working harder and closing more deals, they’re getting the results and you’re not.
8. Everyone can be sold if you’re good enough
This bit of sales advice is annoying because it’s perpetuated by movies, where scripts are written by screenwriters and not actual salespeople. It’s absolutely false that everyone can be sold. Some people are genuinely not interested even if they did happen to call or fill out a lead to waste your time, and no amount of pressure will change that. An expert salesperson can uncover a need that a prospect didn’t know they had, and then guide them to a sale. But if there’s no need, then no amount of sales skill can change that.
9. The customer is always right
The customer is not always right, because to believe that would require you to suspend all belief in an objective reality. Of course, you want the customer to do business, so they need to feel like they’re being heard and taken seriously, but how many of us have talked to customers who spout nonsense and then expect you to just go along with it. As Henry Ford famously said: “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” Sometimes you need to explain to a customer why they’re wrong.
10. Fake it ’til you make it
This advice is bad because “faking it” indicates pretending to understand rather than actually understanding. There are many sales circles that perpetuate the narrative that being full of shit is somehow an acceptable way to achieve your sales goals. The problem with this thinking is that people who believe it usually have very short sales careers. It’s ok not to know something, but if you choose to pretend to understand instead of taking the time to learn, then you have no intention of ever being successful.