Beware the “Whittle” Effect When Selling

If your sales have leveled out or worse, have dropped off, maybe you’re suffering from the “Whittle Effect.”  Left unattended, your sales might continue to slide and sooner or later you’ll feel the economic (and perhaps professional) pinch.

What is the Whittle Effect?

The Whittle Effect is the tendency of reps to ‘whittle’ down their approach to selling. It means diluting, reducing or even eliminating certain skills or techniques.  It means taking short cuts. It refers to slicing away and trimming good, solid selling practices.   The net result is a  selling skill set that is drastically pared down to the bare bones.

But here’s the worst part: you don’t realize it. The Whittle Effect is like erosion.  It occurs slowly and over time.  You don’t recognize it but it gradually takes its toll.


Here’s what happens. Your sales level off and then they start to drop.  You dial harder and still they drop. You get frustrated. Your boss puts you on a ‘get well’ plan. You dial harder and yet the net result is minimal.  You get depressed. You blame the list, the product, the company, the price, the manager…the world. You feel victimized.  You know what I am talking about.

How to Determine If You’ve Whittled Your Selling Process

If you’re in a sales trough and feeling a little flustered you might be suffering from the Whittle Effect. There are three things you can do to determine if that’s the case:

First, you can record your calls and compare them to what you were taught in training or compare them to when you were doing very well. 

Listening to your calls is a powerful way to assess your situation.  It works even better if you can listen to some archived calls from a time when you were selling well. Of course, you must listen openly and honestly to determine if you’ve sliced and diced your calls.

The only trouble with this approach is not all companies record calls. If that’s the case, move on to suggestion #2 below.

Second, you can get your manager to monitor your calls. 

This is simplest and easiest method of identifying if you’re suffering from whittling. Get your manager to monitor your calls or role play with you.  Very quickly it will become apparent if you’ve trimmed your sales process down.  Not unlike going to a sports coach, your manager can monitor and observe and determine if you need to put some meat back onto your sales approach.

Finally, just be honest with yourself.

If you’ve been in a rut and your sales are down it’s no time to kid around.  Be brutally candid with yourself:  have you cut corners? Have you tried to steam line your opening statement? Have you cut a question here and qualifier there? Has your presentation/offer been trimmed and pared down so that it lacks ‘umph?’

If you’re like most reps I have worked with you’re probably guilty.  But hey, no problem.  You just need to back to basics.

What to do: Back to Basics

How many times have you heard that one?  You probably groaned when you saw this solution.  You might have even been thinking there was something “else” you should be doing because the basics seem so … well… basic.

But it’s almost always the issue. When an athlete or team falters inevitably they acknowledge to the world and to themselves that they must get back to the fundamentals. And almost inevitably, they get back on track.  Basics are the foundations of success.  They’re not necessarily new or sexy or advanced but they’re reliable.

Go back to your original training material. Go back to your original call guide. Go back to what made you effective.  Commit to the fundamentals again. Become more thorough and comprehensive.  Stick to the plan, put more ‘meat’ on your approach to selling, and eliminate the whittle effect.

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