Everyone has an opinion about what it takes to succeed in sales today. Sales is only about relationship-building. Cold calling is dead. The more information you give the prospect, the better.
Whether you’re perusing posts from other sellers on LinkedIn or talking with colleagues, you’re bound to encounter these myths and more.
Many of them are based on kernels of truth but often get misconstrued through poor sales training, which only serves to make them more ubiquitous, said Wesleyne Greer, who runs her own sales consulting and training firm, Transformed Sales.
6 Common Sales Myths
- Sales is all about relationships.
- You just need to find the right price to close a deal.
- You can turn a no into a yes with more information.
- Cold outreach is dead.
- Procurement teams are the enemy.
- There’s nothing wrong with calling and emailing someone multiple times a day.
“[These myths] come from our preconceived notion of what we think makes people good at sales,” Greer said.
Taking them at face value can lead to bad habits that ultimately limit your success as a sales representative.
The truth is often more nuanced. Yes, cold calling alone can be ineffective, but paired with personalized emails and LinkedIn connections, it can still be the linchpin to a successful outreach strategy. And while client relationships are important, customers don’t buy from you because you’re their friend, they buy from you because your product offers value.
Though advancements in sales training and the introduction of methodologies like gap selling and solution sales have brought a more scientific approach to the profession, it can still be difficult to parse myth from truth. Just remember that for every opinion, there’s often more to the story than what gets passed along.
6 Common Sales Myths, Debunked
1. Sales Is All About Relationships
Sales is a people-facing profession first and foremost, so it’s not a big leap for people to proclaim that success is all about relationship-building.
This assumption gets reinforced through films like Glengarry Glen Ross, which glorify the wining-and-dining aspects of the profession and the commonly held assumption that you need to be outgoing to thrive in sales (not true).
“People think, ‘I have to have a strong relationship to close a sale. So I’m going to send a box of chocolates, I’m going to stop by, I’m going to go to lunch and make the buyer feel all warm and fuzzy,’” Greer said.
The problem is, relationships aren’t the only thing that matter in sales. In fact, when Greer encounters sales reps who prioritize relationships too much, their deals often stall out mid-transaction. She calls this the bloated sales funnel.
“People think, ‘I have to have a strong relationship to close a sale. So I’m going to send a box of chocolates, I’m going to stop by, I’m going to go to lunch and make the buyer feel all warm and fuzzy.’”
In a bloated sales funnel, a rep’s days are filled with dinners, happy hour drinks or just long phone conversations over shared interests. The rep thinks they’re advancing the deal because the buyer likes them and they’re having all of these meetings, but when it comes time to make a purchase, the customer ghosts them.
The reason? People don’t buy from their friends. They buy from people who can prove a product has value and solves their problem.
“The key is value, not relationships,” Greer said. “Instead of dropping off a box of chocolates, give me an article of something happening in my industry that’s going to help me achieve my goal.”
Relationship-building isn’t about making friends or being charismatic. Instead, it’s about qualifying the buyer, asking questions to understand their problem and then being transparent about how you can and can’t solve it. Those are the interactions that create trust, Greer said.
If you do find yourself with a lot of close relationships that aren’t going anywhere, the good news is you can still salvage the deal. The key is to restart the discovery process and ask them what you can do to move the deal forward.
Connecting with a buyer on a personal level can still be valuable, just make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of moving the deal forward.
2. You Just Need to Find the Right Price to Close a Deal
One of the most common objections you’ll hear in sales is “We don’t have the budget for this.” It’s easy to take that objection at face value and assume the difference between closing a deal and losing one comes down to finding the right price.
Lead qualification strategies like BANT (budget, authority, need, timeline) reinforce this perspective, encouraging reps to ask buyers if they have the budget before moving a deal down the pipeline.
“It’s never about the price, it’s always about the value.”
But closing a deal is almost never about finding the right price, Greer said. And focusing too much on a product’s cost will only lead to excessive discounts and a lot of rejection.
“It’s never about the price, it’s always about the value,” Greer said.
You need to go back to the discovery stage and properly assess the scope of the buyer’s problem. What is the cost for the buyer if they leave their problem unsolved? For example, if you offer a sales training platform and the team is turning over five reps a year, that might be costing them over $100,000. From there, you can couch the price of your product in terms of how much it’ll help the company save.
“If you help them realize the challenge is big enough and you can help them solve it, they’ll find the money,” Greer said.
If people still hesitate on the price, ask them for more information about what you might be missing. Just don’t get caught doing the “discount dance,” Greer said. Dropping your prices lower and lower may help you close a deal here or there, but more often than not, it doesn’t matter to the buyer.
3. You Can Turn a No Into a Yes With More Information
From the moment you join a sales team, you’re flooded with information about the product. You spend hours in training going over product demos to learn every feature, use case and value proposition.
This often leads to a common misconception, which is to assume that when a buyer says no, they just need more information. If they only knew about this or that feature, then they’ll reconsider. But, in actuality, sending more information means nothing to the buyer, said Marilyn August, founder of the sales training firm Profit GPS.
“But we never learn how to ask questions, we only learn how to give answers.”
“Salespeople are taught that the more they know, the more knowledgeable they are, the more likely they are to get the buyer,” August said. “But we never learn how to ask questions, we only learn how to give answers.”
Turning a no into a yes requires going against our instinct to always have answers and instead requires asking the buyer more questions, August added. To combat this, create a list of questions you can ask for some of the most common objections that you hear.
If you take the time to understand why the buyer isn’t interested, you’re able to send more targeted information that actually solves their concern. Or, in other cases, you can use that to take the sales cycle back a step, realign expectations and then move the deal forward.
4. Cold Outreach Is Dead
In the age of social media, leveraging your network and relationships with past buyers can be a powerful strategy for cutting through the outreach noise to reach a prospect. Introductions have never been easier to make and can speed up any sales cycle to the point that it can make cold calls, emails and LinkedIn inquiries seem like a waste of time.
But don’t dance on the grave of cold outreach just yet. The reality is, warm leads have their limits. If you disregard cold outreach entirely, you’ll end up missing out on a valuable source of new customers.
“You never want to limit the tools in your toolkit,” said Craig Canton, a director at Microsoft specializing in selling to financial services and capital market companies. “Of course, you want to reach out using a relationship as an introduction and something you have in common with somebody, but sometimes those don’t exist.”
Relying on warm leads often comes at the cost of efficiency. While you may have a great relationship with a buyer, they don’t always have the time to make an introduction to the buyer you have in common, Canton said. They might never reach out to the person and following up too much with them can end up disintegrating your relationship.
People also have an antiquated notion about what it entails.
“When you think of cold outreach, a lot of times you think of people who are cold calling you on the phone repeatedly trying to catch you in between meetings, which has incredibly low rates of return,” Canton said. “In that sense, yes, cold outreach is dead.”
But cold outreach can still be effective when it’s personalized and creative. Buyers respond when you’ve taken the time to understand their role and challenges and can relate how your product can help them specifically, Canton said.
For high value prospects, differentiate the format of your messages. Sending them a personalized video along with a thoughtful LinkedIn message can be a great way to stand out from the crowd, Canton said.
Still, sending hyper-personalized emails to every prospect takes time. For customers who are a lower priority, consider setting a timer for a minute to research the prospect to personalize your message. Then look up where they’re most active online and message them there — whether that’s LinkedIn, email or even Instagram. Doing so will help you stand out from the crowd, Canton said.
Ultimately, warm leads are great, but a diverse and personalized cold outreach approach is still key for maintaining a full pipeline of prospects.
5. Procurement Teams Are the Enemy
One of the most common sources of frustration among sales reps is the dreaded procurement team. Canton frequently hears sales reps claim that you have to treat procurement teams as the enemy, and he even believed it for a time, too.
There’s a reason for that. The procurement team’s job is to make sure their company limits its purchases and stays within its budget. They’re the ones who often push back on pricing or challenge a deal, which leads a lot of reps to approach their interactions with them like a battle.
“The myth is that you have to treat them like the enemy,” Canton said. “What I’ve found in my career, it’s the opposite of that. If you build good relationships with [procurement] and you have a good product, they can become your best friend.”
In past roles, Canton said leadership teams have asked him to give procurement teams an exaggerated price point for the product to trick them into settling for the amount he wanted after negotiating. But procurement teams do their research and know how much a product typically costs. They could tell he was manipulating his prices, which made them distrust him and his product, making it difficult to push a deal through.
The more transparent you are about your price and product, the more likely procurement is to trust you. Having a relationship with them can also help you expand your product within their company.
Canton will set weekly meetings with the procurement teams of his existing customers to understand what challenges they’re tackling within the company and ways his product can help them. This helps him identify opportunities where they can expand Microsoft’s suite of products and reduce spending on other vendors. And because he has their trust, they’ll sometimes come to him with new opportunities.
“If you get on the wrong side of [procurement], they’re not going to tell you about the opportunities that exist that you’re not seeing,” Canton said.
6. There’s Nothing Wrong With Calling and Emailing Someone Multiple Times a Day
From the moment you start working in sales, you learn that persistence is key.
People rarely want to speak with a sales rep unless they’re responding to an inbound lead. As a result, it often takes multiple calls, emails and LinkedIn messages to get a buyer’s attention.
This can lead to the misguided notion, however, that you can never overdo outreach. Calling a prospect three or four times a day is just persistence, right? But overloading a customer with messages can end up turning them off from doing a deal with you without you even realizing it, said Andrew Teichman, a sales consultant and founder of the home maintenance app Home UpKeepers.
“They said, ‘I wanted to talk to you and this was on my to-do initiative, but now I don’t want to talk because it’s borderline harassment.’”
Teichman recalled one high-profile customer he called and emailed several times over the course of a week. He assumed the person would note his persistence and reward it with picking up the phone and talking with him. The person, however, was on vacation and grew annoyed when he saw how many missed calls and emails were waiting for him.
“They told me very candidly, ‘You left me X number of voicemails and X number of emails, and I see how often you called,’” Teichman said. “They said, ‘I wanted to talk to you and this was on my to-do initiative, but now I don’t want to talk because it’s borderline harassment.’”
The moral, Teichman said, is that you don’t know what a prospect has going on in their lives. They may be getting your messages, they might not. But calling them multiple times in a row will only serve to overwhelm them and make you seem desperate. Limit your outreach to one call a day and give the customer a chance to get back to you.
Tackle One Myth at a Time
Ultimately, many of these myths are ingrained in a sales rep’s behavior. And bad habits can be hard to break.
So don’t try to course correct them all at once, Greer said. Spend a month focused on providing value to your prospects over grabbing happy hour drinks with them or try adding more research to your cold outreach.
“Take them one at a time, break them into little pieces because that’s what drives lasting change,” Greer said.