When Sales Contests Are Bad For Your Business

I recently went to an RV superstore to pick up a few things for my camping trailer. A polite and friendly salesperson approached me and asked, “Can I help you find anything?” When I said, “Just looking, for now,” she proceeded to launch into a sales pitch to join their frequent shopper club. When, a few minutes later, a second “helpful” salesperson approached me, I knew instinctively a sales contest was underway in this store.

Why is it a sales contest brings out the worst in salespeople? Aren’t there enough bad salespeople in the world without adding desperation and greed into the mix? Could you be any more obvious that you’re running a sales contest?

While sales contests might be good (in the short term) for, um, sales, it is one of the worst ways to treat your customers if your execution is clumsy and self-serving. Sales contests, by themselves, are not inherently bad, but when the focus is on what you want versus what the customer wants, it’s a recipe for disaster. In the short term, you’ll have a few extra sales. But, in the long term, you will have fewer loyal customers. What we are talking about here is doing a bad job executing a good idea.

The only way sales contests are good for your business is if they are accompanied by a polished and professional sales approach. By “approach,” I mean how the salespeople interact with the customers. Here’s a cold, hard fact: the more you act like a salesperson, the less you will sell. That’s right, you heard me. The very best salespeople do not act like salespeople – using such obvious techniques as overcoming objections and attempting to close. You know the old lawyer joke about how you can tell if a lawyer is lying because his lips are moving? Well, guess what, sales guys and gals, we can all tell when you are selling because you are doing all the talking.

Executed properly, a sale should be a by-product of a much larger relationship – a relationship whereby the focus is on serving customers and meeting their needs. You can get anything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want. It’s just that simple. In the case of the RV Superstore, I very well might have joined their loyalty club if the salespeople on the floor hadn’t been so heavy-handed and obvious. I don’t fault the salespeople as much as I fault the management team who never bothered to train their salespeople properly. The cost? One less RV enthusiast will be shopping in their store. If you think sales training is expensive, just think how expensive NOT providing sales training is.

Posted in Dealing with Distributors.

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