Idiot Hill: A place where salespeople go to be comfortable

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

Newness is a relative term when it comes to sales methods; many salespeople stop doing the things that work for them so they can make their life easier. In good times, experienced salespeople get on the hill by not showing up early, like they used to; not calling old customers with new ideas, like they used to; not targeting high-potential markets (never did this enough – but now do it less); not researching what their targets need (never did this enough); and not going after targets with offers that match their needs. They stay on the hill by waiting for the old marketing tools and messages to work from the home office instead of from their own efforts.

They get imprisoned on the hill by reading about new ways and new technologies, yet worry more about improving their golf score than putting in the time and commitment to improving their skills – instead of doing more networking armed with new messages and getting back to the fundamentals of selling. They are using one excuse after the other for everything.

How do we get on "Idiot Hill" anyway? What makes old pros so complacent or such idiots? What causes the best to stop learning and growing? Does rejection take its toll? Is discipline just for elite performers? Who knows?

What is important is that we realize salespeople get on the hill and that we do something to get them off, for their benefit and ours. We need to quit wasting time telling our associates old war stories and what we know and get them back to doing what we want new people, and all our people, to do, and that is to practice the fundamentals of selling every day and to keep doing them – to be digging for business, calling targets at least an hour a day with attractive and compelling attention-getters. For those who had these habits before, they are still doing okay. They just have to work harder! For those who don’t – well!

We’ve been coaching, training, and developing our clients’ salespeople since the ’40s, and we still see the following scenario:

Salespeople not working hard enough to match their offering to what the prospect/customers really want and need. Instead they have slick presentations (and they have gotten slicker) around what they think customers want. They conduct presentations with the latest incredible technology, thinking the more information they give, the better the chance of a sale. Well, good luck with that. This leads them to thinking that they have to fill the air with their talk, their expertise, and more descriptions of what they have. No one cares about them or what they have or how smart their company is. Prospects need someone to actually listen, to research how to solve their problems and take them to where they want and need to go. So few salespeople stuck on the hill will get what I just said. They don’t need to wish it was easier! They need to wish they were better! For things to change for them, they need to change – now!


1. Let’s get off the hill (if you or your team is on it). Get them learning again. (Attend workshops or enroll in courses, give them coaching.)

2. Let’s reach in and pull out some fire in the belly to research what our industries need, what our clients want, and then give compelling attention-getters to all old customers and new prospects in a very consistent way – let’s say at least one hour a day.

3. Let’s get back to what works, and that is simply good professional selling, not just slick presentations or just boring information-giving that turns everyone off.

4. It’s never too late to change your habits. It can be exhilarating to create a new plan of activities and stick to it. It’s great to realize you can be self-directed.

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