Sales can be a delicate science. But there are a few major pitfalls that most salespeople occasionally fall into and that can be easily avoided. Not making these common mistakes can set you or your reps apart and make your sales skyrocket. Make sure your team is aware of these 11 frequent missteps and how to stay away from them.
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Taking the time to make sure you are targeting the right leads is an extremely important task that many salespeople neglect. It is a much better use of your time to focus on the leads that are a good fit for the product you are offering than to reach out indiscriminately and wasting time on people who will never buy. Developing a reliable lead generation and qualifying process is an integral part of your sales pipeline.
The most high-impact thing you can do during a sales call is to ask the right kind of questions. When you seem to reach an impasse during a conversation, it is much better to ask questions until you get to the bottom of the issue than to keep talking and selling. Sales is all about finding out exactly what your prospect needs and how your product could fill that need.
Most salespeople are talkative individuals. This might be why talking too much is one of the most common pitfalls they fall into. If your presentations and pitches are too lengthy, your prospects will inevitably stop paying attention and lose interest. You will also be missing out on the most valuable information you can get, the prospect’s feedback. Give your prospect a chance to tell you what they want and how to sell them, and listen actively. Aim to spend at least as much time listening to the prospect as talking to them.
A corollary to this is the common pitfall of making your conversations all about yourself or your product. The conversation should be about the customer! If you don’t know exactly what the customer’s problem is and whether or not your product actually solves it, there is no point in talking ad nauseum.
Inexperienced salespeople have a tendency to get carried away and give overly flashy presentations. They can also tend to overuse gimmicks or sales jargon. The problem with this is it can make your prospect lose trust in you. Many people have the cliché of the unscrupulous, flashy salesperson in mind, and if you confirm this stereotype they will be less likely to buy. While boldness and creativity are important assets in a sales rep, you want to temper that with a straightforward, honest demeanor to generate trust. The flipside of this mistake - having a boring or monotonous delivery - is unfortunately just as common if not more, and should also be avoided like the plague.
Sales organizations often get too caught up in KPIs and outcome-based metrics, but the key to sales is having a consistent, replicable process that works well. You should set quantified, process-based goals to ensure you have an effective system in place. This is especially important during the training period, when outcomes might not reflect the trainee’s potential yet. You want to coach your reps to set and meet process-based goals as often as possible.
There is nothing that puts off a prospect as much as a salesperson who is clearly uninformed about the customer’s company and the problems they are facing. Another disastrous but all too common situation is a salesperson not knowing enough about their own product to answer difficult questions from an informed buyer. Needless to say, this comes across as very unprofessional.
Timing in sales is a delicate balance. Salespeople often try to rush a sale rather than reading the prospect’s cues to determine when they are ready. But moving too slowly can also be problematic- momentum is an essential element of sales. If a prospect is stalling, try a different approach and investigate what might be preventing them from moving forward.
Another common and easily avoidable pitfall is failing to follow up with the prospect in a timely manner. A surprising amount of sales fall through because the salesperson took too long to touch base with the prospect at any stage of the pipeline. The key to an effective sales process is swift transitions between the different steps- try not to give the prospect too many opportunities to stall or bow out due to lack of momentum!
People are skeptical, often with good reason, of salespeople’s exaggerated claims. Stay away from exaggeration or overselling, as you will often lose your prospect’s trust and seem desperate. Aside from this, you should of course never lie about a product or use manipulative or misleading tactics to get a prospect to buy. Aside from the obvious ethical reasons with these tactics, you will likely lose the sale as soon as the customer learns the truth.
Objections are one of the most challenging aspects of sales, and there is almost always an element of surprise involved. However, a bit of preparation can go a long way towards satisfying the prospect and addressing the issues they bring up.
Sales is a process of asking the right questions, listening to your customer’s needs and desires, and then following up with actionable next steps. We all make mistakes in sales; it's how we learn best practices that matter most. Take this list of 10 common mistakes as an opportunity for self-reflection on where you can improve. What are some other ways you've seen people derail themselves during their own sales pitches? Let us know below!
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Having a system builds mutual trust between salespeople and prospects. The salesperson is able to have better conversations and become a trusted advisor. The techniques are very effective because they are based on psychological discipline and focus on how people truly communicate, which leads to long-term relationships between salespeople and their prospects.
The Challenger Sale's emphasis on customer education makes it a timeless staple. Find out more about this sales framework.