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February 12, 2016 // 12:00 PM

6 Ways First-Year Reps Become Their Own Worst Enemy

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First-year sales reps are in a tough spot. 

Not only is their new job challenging, but also their skill set isn’t developed enough (at least not yet) to excel in  it. 

So what’s a first-year rep to do? How does a rookie handle their day-to-day responsibilities without succumbing to stress and anxiety?

Maybe more important than what to do is what not to do. Below are six behaviors first-year reps should avoid. 

1) Focusing only on closing

Attempting to step into a sales role and only working your bottom of the funnel leads is a quick way to fall behind. While you do want to close deals in a timely manner, it’s also important to set yourself up for success in the months ahead. The long-term health of your pipeline shouldn’t be ignored for one glorious 30-day run.

In fact, research from Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association shows that healthy pipeline management results in 15% faster revenue growth.

Instead of approaching every day with an “always be closing” mentality, remember to spend time prospecting and helping leads who aren’t ready to buy yet. While you might exceed quota initially by only focusing on closing, you don’t want to find yourself without any potential buyers to connect with the following month.

2) Overworking

It’s easy for a newbie to think they have to work twice as hard as everyone else to make an impact. Yes, getting up to speed will require your maximum effort and a large time commitment, but working as many hours as you can doesn’t guarantee success.

First-year sales reps should work smarter, not harder. For example, reps can cut down on prospecting time without sacrificing results by identifying simple LinkedIn hacks to improve their efficiency. If rookies can get more done in less time, they won’t burn out a month into their job.  

My colleague Lindsay Kolowich recently wrote that for some employees, overworking can result in more on-the-job mistakes and negatively impacts your health. Both are detrimental for a first-year rep.

3) Judging yourself based solely on competitions

Many sales teams hold monthly contests.These contests help motivate salespeople to crush their quotas month after month and can play a major role in the team’s overall success. But for a first-year rep, learning is the top priority, not dominating the leaderboard.

After all, some first-year reps might find themselves at the bottom of the competition month after month simply due to inexperience. And this can have a detrimental effect.

“If the environment is too intense, sales reps near the bottom of the performance ladder can become discouraged, which is the exact opposite effect sales managers hope to inspire,” writes TechnologyAdvice’s Jenna Puckett.

While contests are appealing, competing against yourself every day is likely to produce better long-term results.

4) Ignoring your coaching

Learning the nuances of each phase of the sales process is challenging. Mastering effective prospecting doesn’t mean you’re going to be great at closing.

When times are tough, rookie reps won’t have to look far for help: Sales managers can likely pinpoint where in the sales process the rep is going awry. And after listening in on a few calls, leaders can provide powerful insights that spur a rep’s development.

Unfortunately, first-year reps can sometimes form a mindset of “I know best,” which hinders their development. Instead of heeding the advice from their managers, some first-years try to do everything on their own, falling behind in the process.

If you aren’t open to constructive feedback, you likely won’t last in your role because you won't develop. In most cases, it’s impossible to improve without guidance from sales leaders. Experienced managers know what it takes to be a great salesperson, and are eager to teach you. Take the feedback in stride and keep learning.

5) Making the deal about you and not the prospect

Some first-year sales reps make the mistake of thinking if they close a deal, their job ends there. However, just as important as closing the deal is the relationship you develop with the prospect afterwards.

In fact, research from Forrester’s Kate Leggett discovered that customer success is what’s behind increasing revenue and influencing new sales. Says Leggett, “Actively managing customer relationships to strengthen relationships has a quantifiable return on investment as measured by churn reduction, increased revenue from cross-sells and upsells, and new bookings. The industry recognizes this.”

By treating each customer’s success as your own, you set yourself up for a long-term relationship. This mentality builds trust and camaraderie, and benefits both the buyer and the seller. 

6) Focusing only on rejections

First-year reps are likely hearing “No, I’m not interested” fairly often. For most reps, this scenario has become commonplace. But for a rookie rep, this is probably the first time they’ve dealt with rejection so frequently.

While it’s easy to get down after being told “no” often, remind yourself that rejection is part of the job. Some prospects aren’t going to be a great fit, while others aren’t ready to buy. Instead of framing rejections as purely negative, treat them as a learning opportunity.

As Aaron Ross points out, “no” isn’t a bad thing, it’s a chance to learn. “If people aren’t buying, look at it as market research. Are you targeting the right people with the right need, right time, and right message? What needs to change to improve?” says Ross.

Take every lesson from a “no” and put it towards turning future calls into a “yes.”

Learning the fundamentals isn’t sexy, but it’s critical for first-year reps. While it’s tempting to step into a role and immediately try to prove yourself worthy, it’s likely those actions will have a negative effect. Being aware of the behaviors that you should avoid puts you in a position to be successful down the line. Sometimes it’s about what you decide not to do that makes the biggest difference.

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