The 7 Most Common Sales Problems — And How To Solve Them

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In a now-famous article published in The Wall Street Journal in 2021, author Patrick Thomas asked the question many business leaders have been wondering for a while now: Why are so few people pursuing a career in sales?

The article touched a nerve and went viral, getting shared over and over on LinkedIn and other platforms. 

The question was a valid one.

Despite high earning potential and a slew of openings, young professionals were not choosing sales as a career — and mid-career salespeople were leaving the field. Sales offers a lucrative career path, but it has its challenges both as a career and as a responsibility within an organization. 

Whether you’re a young professional looking to get started in sales or a veteran sales rep hoping to solve some of your persistent challenges, this article is for you. 

Below, we’ll cover:

  • The state of sales today
  • Six common problems sales teams face
  • How to solve them

Whether you’re a sales rep, sales manager, marketing team member, or business leader, this information will help you chart your course forward. 

Let’s dive in together.

The state of sales today

The sales industry is full of myths and misperceptions. If you’ve never worked in sales, you likely have an image of a used car salesman in your head, complete with a phony smile and aggressive sales pitch.

If you have worked in sales, you know it can be a stressful job with hard-to-hit monthly quotas, but it’s also rewarding work that puts relationships at the center of everything.   

sales-relationships

In reality, modern salespeople are relationship builders. They guide and educate prospects as they move toward a purchase.

There’s a lot less pitching and a lot more listening than there might have been 20 years ago. According to research from Salesforce, nearly 90% of salespeople say that selling today is more about listening to the customers than it is about talking to the customers.      

Sales reps are not just listening. They’re answering questions, they’re managing emotions, shaping expectations, and building trust with prospects. Taking these steps helps eliminate many sales problems from the very start.

To watch a good sales rep in action is to see deft emotional intelligence on full display. 

Salespeople are a business’s gatekeepers

Salespeople are the face of your organization. They reach out, shake hands (often virtually), and bring customers into the fold.

salespeople-brand

In their role, they are always in the process of building relationships and providing guidance. Sales professionals who give off a pushy, arrogant, or aloof vibe make your whole company seem that way.

Sales teams that freely share the internal knowledge base of your company create bonds and build trust with their prospects and customers.

7 common sales problems (and how to solve them)

Whether they’re selling products or services, B2B or B2C, pros everywhere face the same challenges. There’s a reason these problems are so widespread: They’re notoriously tricky and hard to solve.

Below, I’ll lay out seven common challenges, as well as the solutions we at IMPACT have found to work. 

I’m not claiming I can instantly boost all sales performance. In fact, the solutions I present take time and commitment, but they should start moving you and your sales team in the right direction.

Here are the seven common sales problems — and how to solve them.

Problem #1: Each sale takes way too long

What it is

The bigger and more expensive the thing you sell, the more likely that your sales process will be lengthy. After all, there’s no sales process to sell a stick of gum, but bigger ticket items come with more questions, and buyers will need more information and more touchpoints.

Why it’s a problem

Long processes are a problem for a number of reasons. First off is the obiovus one, the longer a sale takes, the more time your team has to spend on it. This translates to fewer opportunities and fewer sales. 

But it’s not just that. 

Salespeople get emotionally bought in to every deal. They build relationships. Some companies have sales processes that last months. For a sales rep who invests six months into a prospect only to have the deal fall through, the effect can be devastating and demoralizing.

How to solve it

Answer prospect questions ahead of time with content

The fastest way to shorten the sales cycle is with sales enablement materials. Have your sales team compile a list of the most common questions they hear from customers. Then, work with the marketing team to develop resources that thoroughly answer these questions.

buyer-education

Sales enablement content could take many forms: blog articles, videos, buyer’s guides, research reports, product stats, or case studies. They should be suited to different steps in the sales process.

More broad, generalized content can be given to prospects early on, whereas case studies would work well with later-stage prospects. 

But this type of content only gets created if your sales and marketing teams work together on it, so get ready to collaborate.

Bonus tip: Align your sales process around buyer decision points

Your sales process should not be arbitrary.

Chart out the decisions a customer has to make in order to buy from you. Then, make sure your sales process aligns with these decision points. This will keep you from making a sales process that moves too fast or too slow.  

Problem #2: You don’t have enough leads

What it is

Every customer starts off as a lead — but not every lead becomes a customer. A healthy sales funnel has leads coming in all the time so that paying customers can come out the other end. 

Why it’s a problem

You need leads to have sales, and you need sales to have revenue. Without leads, your business is in rough shape. 

Sales managers should routinely check on each sales rep’s pipeline. While it’s exciting to see late-stage deals move closer to closing, it’s critical to pay attention to the other end of the funnel, too, to make sure good-fit leads are coming in.

How to solve it

Generate better leads with high-quality content — both on and off your platform

There’s no silver bullet to bring in more leads. Many marketing teams will seek to boost organic web traffic, hoping more traffic will mean more leads. Unfortunately, this often leads to fluffy content that might drive traffic, but not the kind you’re looking for. 

fluffy-content

Marcus Sheridan, author of They Ask, You Answer, started his career as a pool installer. He found that he could get thousands of visits to a blog post titled “Top 10 games to play at your pool party”, but this was not traffic with buying intent, so the high numbers didn’t really matter, from a revenue standpoint.

Instead, he found that thoroughly answering buyer questions was a better tactic. So, instead he’d write something like “Fiberglass pools vs. concrete pools: An honest comparison for your project.”

Sure, the traffic numbers weren’t as high, but the second article drove real leads to his website and gave his sales team a solid foundation. (As a secondary benefit, the same piece of content could be used with prospects already in the funnel.)

The key is being unbiased in the content, and presenting the information fairly.

You shouldn’t just rely on your website, though. Social media is more important every year. So is YouTube. And don’t forget about short-form video content for YouTube Shorts, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or any other spot your ideal customers spend time.

Presenting the same content in multiple formats can serve a wider audience. 

This is that same pool article I mentioned above, this time presented in a video:

Problem #3: Your leads are unqualified 

What it is

Sales success depends on a steady stream of qualified leads. That is, leads who:

  • Can afford what you sell
  • Are ready to buy 
  • Are decision-makers for the organization (in the B2B world)

Unqualified leads are just the opposite, and if your sales funnel is full of people who aren’t going to buy from you, all your other efforts will be for nothing.

Why it’s a problem

You can do everything right — great sales calls, good rapport, smooth presentation — but if the prospect can’t afford you, you’re not going to get the sale.

How to solve it

Commit to buyer education

The biggest factor in lead qualification is budget. If someone can’t afford what you’re selling, it’s best for everyone to know that as early as possible. Yet, thousands of companies are reluctant to address pricing on their websites. 

As a result, potential customers enter the sales process without knowing if they can actually buy the thing they’re looking at.

bad-fit-prospect

And it’s not just price.

Buyers have questions. The more questions you can answer on your website, the fewer unqualified leads you’ll have. Those who are not a good fit for what you’re selling will opt out and stop wasting your sales team’s time. 

Problem #4: You’re wasting your effort on bad-fit prospects

What it is

It’s often pretty easy to spot an unqualified lead. They usually can’t afford what you’re selling or they’re simply not ready to buy. Bad-fit prospects are a little different.

Think of a bad-fit prospect as a person who is sure to become an unhappy customer. They might have the money and the inclination to buy, but the fit just isn’t right.

Maybe they have unrealistic expectations. Maybe there’s a cultural misalignment. A bad-fit prospect might seem good on paper, but it’s just not going to be the right relationship for either of you. 

Why it’s a problem

Happy, satisfied customers build your brand and spin your flywheel, talking about your organization with friends and colleagues.

They leave positive online reviews.

They bring you referral business. 

sales-bad-fit

Unhappy customers do just the opposite. Selling to someone who will steer others away from your brand is worse than not making a sale at all.

How to solve it

Know exactly what you sell — and who it’s for

It’s tempting to say that what you sell is the right solution for everyone, but we all know it’s not true.

  • A pickup truck is the right vehicle for some buyers but not others.
  • An adjustable-rate mortgage is perfect for certain homebuyers but a nightmare for others.

And so on.

Every business needs to determine what it sells and who it sells to.

You never want to force prospects to buy something that’s not right for them — and the sooner you’re aware of a bad fit, the sooner your sales team can counsel them out of the sales process. 

Doing so benefits the prospect and your business, which will see an increased customer lifetime value.

At IMPACT, we teach our clients to produce “product/service fit” materials that sales reps can share with prospects. 

Look at this example from a business called Office Interiors. 

The video explains the product and provides information, but it doesn’t go for a hard sell. Instead, it explains who would (and would not) be a good fit for what they’re selling:

Problem #5: You’re spending too much time on low-value tasks

What it is

According to research from InsideSales, most sales reps spend only about 37% of their time actually selling

Why it’s a problem

Sales is a numbers game. If you want more sales to happen, you need to have more of everything that comes before a sale: more leads, more sales calls, more opportunities. This is not blanket permission to spray and pray — just a reminder that more time spent not selling translates into fewer sales. 

sales-reps-selling

On top of that, your sales team is compensated based on the deals they close. With limited opportunities comes limited earning potential — and this leads to anxiety, frustration, and resentment, compounding any sales problems greatly.

How to solve it

Sales reps need to guard their calendars

The statistic above should be a call to action for all businesses. Yes, there are always going to be meetings, training, and administrative work. But the fact is that your sales team likely spends 63% of its time not selling. 

  • For sales representatives: Advocate for yourself and guard your calendar. If you need time for prospecting, block it off on your calendar. Doing research ahead of a call? Block it off. If someone books time with you during prime selling hours, ask to reschedule. Your time is a vital asset. Don’t let other people squander it. 
  • For sales leaders: You will need to run point on this. Is there a meeting that could be an email? Could training and feedback come asynchronously? Could that 60-minute huddle be completed in 30 minutes? Take a fresh look at your team’s calendars. Get creative about how you can give your team its time back.

Problem #6: You’re not getting the training you need 

What it is

The success of a business rests with its sales team. But sales teams are over-stressed, undertrained, and subject to high turnover. 

According to data from Task Drive, nearly 70% of all salespeople say they have not received any formal training in sales. Instead, they describe themselves as “self-taught social sellers.”

Why it’s a problem

An under-trained sales team is less likely to be successful. They stumble in front of buyers, creating a poor impression of the brand they represent. And, in turn, the customer experience suffers. 

Research shows that 58% of buyers say that sales reps can’t answer their questions effectively. In the B2B space, it’s even higher, with 82% of buyers reporting that sales reps are unprepared.  

How to solve it

Make time for training

I know what you’re thinking — Didn’t you just say “guard your calendars”?

Yes, but there’s a difference between unnecessary meetings and highly-necessary training. If you really want to improve sales performance, it’s not just about getting more at-bats. It’s about coaching, mentorship, and a positive culture of feedback. 

The best sales training is personalized, continual, and supportive.

Some of the biggest problems sales reps face can be solved by putting the customer at the center of the whole buying process. 

Problem #7: You’re struggling to prepare for meetings

What it is

Sales reps’ time is precious, but with a calendar full of meetings, it can be hard to find the time to prepare for each one. 

Why it’s a problem

An underprepared sales rep is an unsuccessful sales rep. You always want to give your buyer the impression that you’re very well-versed in what you’re selling and who you’re selling to.

How to solve it

Use AI to improve your prep work.

Here in the AI revolution, you can find tools to help make your preparation more efficient.

My colleague Chris Duprey, an experienced sales coach, shared this list of AI-based tasks and activities for sales reps. 

  • Call review with AI. AI tools like Gong and Chorus will automatically record and sort your Zoom calls, and then provide detailed insights that range from the high level (think: how much time did I have my slide deck up during that one-hour meeting?) to the specific (how clearly did I articulate the ‘next steps’ at the end of the call?)
  • Role-play with AI. We all know that role-plays work — and we all know that people often don’t like doing them. With a few prompts, you can create a basic role-play scenario with ChatGPT.
  • Ask for feedback on a presentation. If you’ve been staring at the same text for an hour, AI can see your work with fresh eyes. Put the text from your slides into a chat and ask for feedback. Are there holes in your logic? Do you belabor certain points? Let a tool read the slide deck before you show it to a client.
  • Use an AI slide builder to create a rough draft presentation that you can fine-tune. I use Slides AI.
  • Research a company’s website. If you don’t have time to pore over dozens of pages, ask AI to do it. Use a ChatGPT plugin to access the internet and put in a company’s URL. It will come back with takeaways you can research further.
  • Write outreach emails much quicker than before. If you train AI on your voice and style, smart composers like Grammarly or Jasper can crank out emails that you’ll just need to polish.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are AI tools that can speed up any time-consuming task on your plate.  

Empowering your sales team for success

Today, buyers are more savvy and well-informed than ever. Unfortunately, some sales teams are holding on to outdated sales techniques that don’t fit the way today’s customers make purchases. They’re still stuck in the hard-sell mindset that’s turning off buyers — and causing so many young professionals to resist going into sales. 

The antidote to the vast majority of sales problems is education:

  • When we focus on buyer education, some of our most persistent sales challenges vanish. We shorten the sale cycle, build trust, and weed out bad-fit prospects.
  • When we focus on our own education, we stay up to date on new technology that can help us do our job better. But that’s not all. Education keeps us open to feedback, willing to grow, and more likely to collaborate. 

Before the internet changed how people buy, sales reps held all the information. This led to distrust and unhappy customers. Today, education can free the buyers and the sales reps from that highly flawed model. 

When businesses commit to solving the most persistent sales problems, it benefits both seller and buyer. 

At IMPACT, we train businesses to put their customers at the center of their marketing and sales efforts.

If you want to begin to see what’s possible, take our free course: The Fundamentals of Virtual Selling. Suddenly the sales outcomes you’re shooting for will not seem so out of reach. 

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