Choosing a career in sales could be rewarding and lucrative if you manage to find your foothold in it. Many people say that to be a salesperson, you need to have a set of innate characteristics that will make you win on the job. They call it Sales DNA. But, after learning the skills needed to function as a sales rep, all you really have to do is avoid sales mistakes. Keeping these mistakes at bay will put you on the right track, thrust you into being a competent seller, and help you crush your sales quota.
Unfortunately, there are some sales reps who possess potential but can’t seem to get over these humps. They consistently make sales mistakes, without identifying what they are.
When you identify and eliminate common sales mistakes in your everyday process, you can sell better and sell more. There is little that will be on the way of yourself and that sale. Hard to close deals will be a matter of routine to you. Yes, you will be equipped to face any sales situation.
Succeeding in sales means knowing what these mistakes are and doing your best to avoid them.
Here are some sales mistakes you’d want to mute out:
Not articulating the problem your product solves
Why do people buy? What makes them say that coveted yes to a pitch?
Well, the prospects have a problem that needs solving. Either they knew about this problem before you contacted them, or you made them aware of an existing problem that, when solved, would make their life—whether in business or personal matters—relatively easier.
To make a sale, you have to come to them with a solution.
They need to understand that your product will solve their problem. If multiple solutions are endorsed to them, they have to understand that your product is the most cost-effective and best solution available to them.
But buyers today are more discerning and informed than ever. In B2B verticals, buyers have already researched and threshed out features before even making the first contact with a brand salesperson. In fact, according to research, buyers are already at 57 percent of their decisions before even having that first touch with a sales rep.
Prospects have a lot of avenues to gather preliminary information from:
- Social media
- Internet search
- Reviews and other forms of consumer feedback
- Trade magazines and other media
- Products peers use
- In-store demos
Yes, prospects make an effort to find out about available solutions before making a buying decision. However, sales professionals must take into account that however “sure” prospects may seem about their purchases, there is always room to educate them.
The insights they’ve come up with on their own serve as a starting point. At most, through preliminary research, they can learn about product features and maybe some similar applications to their situation. But, they are still missing pertinent information: how a product can impact their specific problems.
No to verbatim sales scripts
The days of using a verbatim sales script for all buyers are gone. It’s about being engaging and connecting with your buyers, personalizing your pitch as much as you can. It is essential to research and understand all your buyers before even making a pitch and attempting to close deals. Get acquainted with their situation, their issues, their problems. This way you know how exactly your product can help them overcome their obstacles.
It makes sense. Buyers face different situations. It is very seldom that you find two people with the same problem, two companies facing the exact same issue.
This is an area for improvement for many sales professionals. A lot are focused on learning the ins and outs of their products but fall short when simulating their product’s direct effect on a prospect’s problems. Quoting data is great. It provides solid numbers, proof that the solutions you are offering have worked before. But buyers are more interested in the benefits you can bring them than the bells and whistles of your product.
Tailor-make your spiels
Being aware that you need to tailor-fit your pitch to your prospect and not just fire away features is a common mistake. Granted, sales is a high-stress job and you want to be reaching as many prospects as you can given the limited time you have each day. But wouldn’t you rather get quality touches and a higher chance of moving along the funnel than making loads of calls just hanging on hope?
Not closing fast enough (or not knowing when to close deals)
Knowing exactly when each buyer is going to say yes is an impossible feat, but approximatin buying moments is something sales professionals should strive to do.
It begins with recognizing that buyers have a process when buying, much like how sales professionals (should) have a sales process. Your objective as a sales professional is to navigate the situation so that the buying and selling processes line up with each other and the whole transaction closes in a positive outcome for all parties.
This is ideal. And, for sure, sales professionals will admit that sometimes things don’t quite line up so neatly. There are a couple of points where the misalignment can happen. For all of it, of course, the seller is accountable.
- The seller is ahead of the buyer, trying to close a sales way before a buyer is ready to purchase.
- The buyer is ahead of the seller, and the sales rep is missing all the buying signals the customer is sending her way.
What happens when sales reps think buyers aren’t ready to make a commitment when they are really already willing to take action? Buyers look the the other way. The sales rep will most likely unsell the product by turning off the customer, or the customer starts to doubt the product because of the sales representative’s apparent lack of confidence in their pitch.
Buyers are left confused. They want out of the situation as fast as they can.
There is a simple remedy to this situation.
Be aware of buying signals
Yeah, not that simple. But the response to this situation is clear-cut. When you know what the possible buying signals are, you know when to respond to it and lead the prospect toward closing.
Be alert for subtle signals from your customers that indicate their interest in closing the deal with you—so you stop selling and start closing.
A competent salesperson will know when to stop talking and give way for the customer to enter the buying zone. Novice salespersons can be totally unaware of this situation, and like mentioned, can completely undo the sale by getting the customer confused or turning them off in a couple of ways including the most common one: giving a long-winded speech.
Here are the signals you should watch out for:
- Relaxed tone of voice
- Constant agreement to your points
- Asking for calculations
- Further inquiries regarding product details
- Asking for a repeat demo
- Requests for customization options, delivery details, and payment programs
Don’t monopolize the time you have to engage with your prospects. Give them value through your words but always keep your ears open for buying signals like those mentioned. These are the moments sales professionals are gunning for, and once you miss them, there is a big probability that you’ve already missed your chance.
Not having a plan for follow-ups (on not following-up at all)
You’ve made the first contact and it looks like there is interest, but they didn’t buy. What now?
Follow-up. Don’t forget to follow-up.
It may come off as too general to most sales professionals, but it is problem that permeates many sales departments. Sales is not a one and done activity. The best sales professionals follow a process that has brought them closed deals. A crucial part of sales processes is the follow up.
Staying in touch with a prospect as part of a lead nurturing process is critical to closing sales. Sales professionals would love to close deals in just a single contact, but that’s just something that doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s rare. How many touches does a sales professional need to make in order to close? A number that gets thrown around often is seven, after Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Rule of Seven. Some say it takes even more just to qualify a lead.
Of course, it varies. But what’s for sure is that failing to follow-up is failing to sell. Step up your following-up system and improve your over-all sales process.
Depending on the type of contact, there is an appropriate approach. There is potential in each prospect you follow-up, but customers can be grouped based on the likelihood of closing a sale.
Build a priority plan for your follow-ups.
They’re not expecting you. Their contact details are acquired in a way that wasn’t opted-in. These people must be last in your priority list. Only contact and follow-up with cold contacted prospects when there is an offer that you deem they really would love to hear about. It can be a tip for more competitive pricing or a limited-time promo.
They are your best bet. Upselling existing customers should be part of any sales department’s plans of reaching sales quotas. Whether they’re repeat orders or upsells, existing customers will bring in numbers you need when you identify the right follow-up time and approach for them. Stay in touch with these customers, whether you have something new to offer, just checking for feedback, or just to keep your company in their radar.
Don’t drop a lead just because they didn’t purchase in the first contact. Keep a detailed record of leads and how they respond to your engagements. Use tools to jot down what was discussed in calls. There are a lot of tech solutions that will keep your sales pipeline filled with prospects to follow-up, while giving you the opportunity to keep these contacts warm. Know the last thing you discussed with a prospect and immediately get a foot in the door upon the next touch.
If you’re part of a company utilizes its existing customers to widen its reach, getting referral isn’t new to you. This type of contacts shouldn’t be treated like a normal prospect. There are two things on the line: this impending sale and the existing relationship with the referrer. These contacts were already qualified by your current customer. This should make the salesperson’s job much easier if he takes the appropriate steps to nurture the lead and close the deal.
Some useful tricks when following-up
LinkedIn’s Sales Blog offers up a lot of useful information for sales professionals. In an article from early this year, Alex Hisaka listed 5 follow-up tricks you can use to avoid annoying your prospects.
- Kill them with kindness and wow them with insight
Think of the buyer like a partner and build upon their ideas, while offering good insight. Buyers often feel like a salesperson is manipulating them into a sale. Avoid this kind of ideas by leading them into your point instead of telling them how to think.
- Use tactful persistence
Give a prospect time to form their opinion before following up. Keep yourself alert for buying signals and expressions of interest. Time is money and you want to contact prospects that show at least a bit of interest. When you give them time, you don’t waste hours contacting them only to discover that they are not interested. When a prospect expresses interest, don’t be afraid to ask for the yes directly.
- Find creative ways to stand out
Corporate buyers and decision-makers get a lot of sales calls. To stand out, you need to be creatively while keeping your pitches professional and non-gimmicky. Crafting a creative approach begins with researching your prospect well. This way, you can predict how they would react to your future calls and the creative route you choose to take.
- Change it up
In relation to the third point, as a salesperson, you have always freshen up the way you reach out to prospects. You don’t to be marked as the generic salesman. It’s about making a positive impression on your prospect.
- Broaden your list
If you’re seriously pursuing a sale, as you should, you should know that nurturing a lead goes beyond contacting just the person who will make the decision. Learn more about the company by getting to know company culture, other people in the organization, and the other vendors that sell to the company. Go the professional route by asking the prospect themselves to tell you about their company and maybe possibly connect you to other people in the organization that you can build a professional relationship with. Prospects love to talk about their own companies. Following-up using this method not only builds relationships, but also forges trust.
Avoid these mistakes and sell more
No matter how common these sales mistakes seem to be, you’d be surprised as to how much these mistakes are made in sales departments. It always pays to brush up on basic processes and things to avoid.
Are you making these mistakes in your department? Are you losing sales over these matters?
What are the other mistakes that are overlooked to the point of normalcy? We’d love to discuss with you and maybe put up another blog post on the other mistakes. Let us know in the comments below!