The 3 Most Dangerous Sales Clichés

Clichés can wreak havoc. In sales, especially, many clichés can cause damage in the hiring processes, the buying experience and the sales conversation. Here are three common ones that are dangerously wrong and drive me crazy:

"Sales is all about relationships."

Maybe that was true when Larry Tate and Darren Stevens were drinking triples on the 1970's show "Bewitched," but not so much anymore. I watch salespeople lose deals all day long and the bad news is delivered by that sales rep's "best friend ever" at the prospect company. Selling is about a lot of things, and relationships are only one sliver of it, and that sliver is shrinking.

If you want to improve your sales performance, don't assess the strength of your contacts by your "emotional connection." Rather, you will know you have leverage based upon your ability to influence the behaviors of your key contacts. For example:

  • When you ask for unique information about the prospect company, the decision-making process, the people at the table and how your company is doing, can you get it?
  • When you ask for unique access- a meeting, a phone call, an introduction, a tour or to review a document, can you get it?
  • When you ask for "most favored nation status" in the consideration process, (last look on pricing, final presentation position or a more executive audience for your proposal), can you get it?

If these requests are not possible, then the relationships you have are irrelevant, at least in terms of closing the deal. Relationships definitely will make the selling process more pleasant, but without leverage, they mean nothing when it comes to making the sale.

"Salespeople are born."

This is partly true--people, after all, are born, not hatched. But there are many traits that make salespeople effective, including being curious, good communicators, great listeners, leadership abilities, accessibility, integrity, and intelligence. But none of these qualities are specific just to "born salespeople." These are the qualities of effective executives of all disciplines.  So you need to look for effective leaders and effective executives if you want explosive sales, not the cliché of a glad-handing, joke-telling, hyper-extrovert.

"Sales is a numbers game."

Maybe in the world of the previous century, activity was equivalent to productivity. More calls, letters, emails, appointments all translated into more sales. However, this is no longer a causal link. If you want to become intimately acquainted with this fact, answer every RFP that crosses your desk and you will see that success is not guaranteed because of activity. Sales effectiveness is about efficiency and yield, rather than the mind-numbing belief that more in the top of the funnel equals more out the bottom.

Sales truly is a numbers game when the numbers you are watching are the right ones. If you are watching the inputs only - prospecting activities for instance, you are missing it. If you are watching the closes only- signed contracts and orders, you are missing it. In the large, complex sales you need to be watching the "WIP," (work in process). The key to this idea is knowing the distinct stages of your sales process and then setting performance expectations for each of the movements from one stage to the next in the process. By having an objective evaluation of the movements in the process, you are watching the full story - inputs, sales stage movements and outcomes.

Clichés hide the important truths, regardless of the topic. Don't be sucked into the sales clichés because they will lead to the wrong conclusions.

Tom Searcy is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and the foremost expert in large account sales. * Sign up for his weekly tips by visiting * Connect with him on LinkedIn * Follow him on Twitter * Friend him on Facebook Photo courtesy of