21 Salespeople Reveal the Worst Sales Advice They Ever Got

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Aja Frost
Aja Frost


Bad sales advice is shockingly common -- and you don’t want to find out you’ve been misdirected the hard way. After all, every mistake means it’s harder to achieve your sales goals.

Yes, some mistakes you have to make firsthand. But if you’re eager to learn which suggestions you should never follow in the first place, read on for the worst sales advices these 21 salespeople say they ever received.

1) “Focus solely on activity.”

I once worked for a manager who put a great deal of emphasis on activity metrics rather than actual sales results. I was advised to send 1,000-plus generic emails per day to a list of contacts across various industries. Not only did this hurt my credibility as a salesperson and my company's credibility as a business, but it ingrained prospecting habits that are ultimately unsuccessful in the long term as buyers get smarter about what solutions exist.

-Mary Burbridge, senior inbound growth specialist at HubSpot

"Make at least 100 cold calls per day. Don't bother doing research, as you won't have time and it doesn't matter."

This is the cold calling equivalent of spammy email -- which is also not good.

-Evan DiLeo, senior partner strategist at HubSpot

“You need to make X number of sales calls a day.”

This doesn’t qualify what you did with the call. Did you get to speak to someone, or did you leave a voicemail? If you didn't do either, then does it count as a sales call?

-Sharen Murnaghan, key account growth strategist at HubSpot

2) "Go after everyone you can think of.”

While this advice may have worked in the age of the old days, modern salespeople need to focus on good fit customers. Before, the salesperson would close and move on -- never to be heard from again. Today's salespeople focus on good fit clients, understand the pertinent attributes of the segment or niche and make sure they are starting relationships with people who 1) will buy, 2) will get value from the product or service, and 3) are interested in establishing a relationship.

-Dan Tyre, sales director at HubSpot

3) "Call them back."

I’d given a 45-minute pitch about our product, we’d negotiated for about 15 minutes, and then they’d decided it wasn't best for them to sign up for the service. They eventually had to go and hung up.

My manager said, "Call them back."

In sales, you have to respect the person on the other end. If they choose not to sign up, honor that. Hounding and pestering them will make them even more annoyed and mad, which will solidify their decision of not signing up for the service.

You don't know who they know, and they may tell all their friends, relatives, colleagues, and/or peers about you and who you are. So, give them time to relax, maybe follow up in a few weeks or something -- but treat the prospect like a person, not a number to get on the board.

-Tyson Hartnett, sales development at LiveIntent

“Never give up.”

Sometimes being too insistent can cause rejection. In sales, it’s just as important to stop following a dead end as persisting with the right prospect in the right moment.

-Joaquín Flores, inbound growth specialist at HubSpot

4) “Combine the discovery and demo call.”

Discovery is so so important -- any time I try to combine the calls together, I end up missing a lot of important information and level 3 GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline) that helps me close the deal.

-Caroline Ostrander, inbound growth specialist at HubSpot

5) “Pitching is the most important part of sales.”

False. Sometimes young sales reps think the more you talk and pitch, the better. Couldn't be farther from the truth. I've found my most successful customers are ones who I had a clear understanding of their goals and challenges thus making my job easy in prescribing a solution.

-Brendan McCarthy, senior inbound growth specialist at HubSpot

6) “Trade up in jobs to get a promotion.”

Why is this bad advice? If you're in a company where they won't promote you, it is probably because of you -- you are not doing something required of you that will result in a promotion.

Smart companies always want to keep good people. If they aren't promoting you, then the next company won't promote you either.

Take the actions necessary to get promoted, instead of faking a promotion by changing companies without actually doing the work that results in a promotion.

You see it all the time with new employees who claimed success at their last company, only to find out that they themselves didn't actually initiate or complete the successful initiative.

-Andrew Kazakoff, director of business partnerships at Dispatch

7) "The best sales reps are always closing."

This person implied you’d be the most successful rep if you were some closing magician. I tried getting people to agree to purchasing no matter where they were in the cycle. It killed my deals.

I quickly found that the best reps are the ones that are laser-focused on solving for the customer (even if that means pushing or killing your deal). By caring about how you can help folks, you'll understand which prospects you should sell, and which prospects shouldn't buy (even if they'll take additional calls and meetings). Working with the right people naturally leads to the close -- the sales. Pushing everyone to buy has the opposite effect.

We should always be challenging and helping our prospects. With this mentality, we are bound to have a full pipeline and enhance our credibility before a sale is even made. If we are focused primarily on closing, we miss the opportunity to hear our prospects and respond accordingly.

-Caitriona O'Flaherty, senior channel account manager at HubSpot

8) “Go for the trial close.”

First, it never works with customers; they see right through that move.

Second, it reeks of desperation, something that you feel forced to use when you have not done the upfront work to establish need.

Lastly, it has nothing to do with helping the prospect make an informed buying decision, putting you in direct opposition with very person you are supposed to build credibility and trust with.

-Mark Birch, enterprise sales executive for Stack Overflow

9) “Hire more salespeople to increase sales.”

After a so-called audit on our data, a "sales expert" advised us to increase the number of AEs.

Looking closely at our numbers, we've seen that our real problem was with the number of qualified leads, not with the close rate.

So, hiring more AEs was a bad idea at that time, as the primary factor to generate growth in our situation was marketing qualified leads.

-Valentin Radu, CEO and founder of Omniconvert

10) “Follow up people to death.”

As a sales manager, I sell communication, first of all, and only then our products and services.

My main goal is providing a quality dialogue which can be helpful and useful, but it never ever an annoying message or a chase. The reminder is important. But at the end of the day, we are communicators, not hunters.

-Marina Kotenko, software business consultant at dFusion Tech, Inc.

11) “Lie if that's what it takes to get the deal done.”

I was appalled knowing that the prospect would figure out the lie the hard way.

-Anna Norregaard, partner executive at HubSpot

“Just tell them we can do what they want, even if we can't.”

Clearly not solving for the long-term or for the customer. It embodies more of the car salesperson mentality.

-Kevin Rich, senior account executive at HubSpot

12) “To be in sales, you have to be motivated purely by money.”

That is not true at all. You have to be someone who likes to help people and wants to solve problems. That should be the first thing we look for in sales hires, and we need to change the stigma of what being in sales mean. An after-effect of helping prospects with your product) is making money.

-Ali Powell, principal account executive at HubSpot

13) “You must handle objections.”

The end of the call shouldn't be a battle between you and the prospect. Objections should be eliminated during the qualification process so we only spend our time with those we can help and who want our help.

-Keith Grehan, channel account manager at HubSpot

"Sell through the objection.”

An objection is an opportunity to learn more about the prospect, not the time to keep pitching and selling my product. People that followed that advice never fared very well.

-Shaun Crimmins, account executive at Midaxo

14) “Call above to close a deal, even when the influencer specifically tells you not to.”

Following this advice will completely blow trust with your champion and potentially the decision maker.

-Pratik Biswal, sales manager at HubSpot

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