Making and learning from mistakes is a natural part of any position. By working through new iterations of your process, trying new techniques and seeing what works, and talking to your customers and clients, you can learn just how effective your sales process actually is. But while mistakes can be great teachable moments, taking extra precaution to put preventative measures in place is the best way to ensure you don’t lose sales or make costly mistakes.
Think about it; you wouldn’t purposely wait until you have a cavity to see the dentist. You’d want to maintain healthy oral hygiene practices to avoid going to the dentist for corrective surgery. The latter fixes the problem and teaches you a lesson, but the hurdle can be avoided altogether. This same proactive approach should be used in sales, too. Understanding mistakes that other sales employees tend to make can help you avoid making the same mistakes. With that in mind, here are five of the biggest mistakes that sales employees make:
Forgetting the Company Mission
Every company begins with a mission statement. Leading business plan writers agree that if you’ve written a business plan (a must), your mission statement should be an integral part of the executive summary section. Unfortunately, far too often, after a mission statement is written and a business plan is complete, companies dive headfirst in revenue-generating strategies and don’t look back at the foundational mission they put in place.
Your mission statement is a crucial navigational tool that identifies the purpose of your business and guides all of your goals and milestones. It doesn’t just define the beginning of the business; it should stay with you throughout all stages of the company. A strong mission statement aligns with your sales operations team to ensure you’re always going after the right opportunities for the right reasons and saying no to opportunities that don’t align with your mission statement.
Disproportionate Talking vs. Listening
One of the most common sales mistakes is doing too much talking and not enough active listening. According to an extensive study conducted by SalesHacker, top-closing sales professionals in the B2B industry had a talking to listening ratio of 43:57. This means that, generally speaking, you should be doing roughly 40% of the talking and 60% listening.
To achieve this, ask open-ended questions about the client’s needs, goals, and their company (if applicable). Ask them about solutions they’ve used in the past and what they did and didn’t like. As you speak to them, practice active listening; listening to understand versus listening to respond. Be genuine and authentic in your replies. Customers know when they are being sold to and can be easily turned off by overly pushy sales pitches.
Not Tailoring the Solution
Even if you have one core product, chances are there are different customer segments and use cases for that product. Far too often, sales people go on describing all the features and benefits of the product without creating a presentation that caters specifically to the client or customer in question.
For example, let’s say a web design company is looking for an enterprise video solution to send their clients progress updates via video-embedded emails. In this case, they wouldn’t need to know about all the additional features of your video product, like video prospecting, onboarding, etc. By focusing on too much at once, the problem the client is looking to solve gets lost in the pitch and suddenly, your product feels too complicated to use.
Some sales employees overpromise potential clients in an effort to close the deal. Often, the salesperson has good intentions and plans to follow through on those promises. However, what usually happens is the salesperson doesn’t have the time to deliver on that promise, needs to rely on other people (like the development team) to deliver the promise, or simply doesn’t have the resources to execute.
No matter how good the excuse is, the customer will feel lied to. When you underdeliver, the client feels scammed and the relationship is negatively affected, potentially damaging your reputation. Instead, try different alternatives like offering a free trial to customers on the fence, or under promising and over delivering.
Ignoring Prospects in the Pipeline
The sales pipeline can make or break your entire sales strategy. If you’re having a good month, it’s easy to concentrate on potential clients that are likely to buy or high-value prospects that have shown interest. However, in the process of chasing the close, it’s important not to forget that prospecting is still an integral part of the process. Don’t neglect the sales lead pipeline to make a good month; otherwise, chances are, a bad month will follow.
Striking a balance is crucial. For example, you might dedicate a chunk of time in the morning to prospecting and lead generation, and dedicate your afternoon hours to working with interested clients (or the other way around).
Answering Questions You Don’t Know
If a potential customer asks a question you don’t know the answer to, refrain from answering it. Some salespeople are afraid of seeming ignorant or uninformed about their business, but this is natural, particularly when dealing with technical details. Instead, it’s best to let the prospect know that it’s a great question, and you’ll get back to them as soon as you speak with a product expert. Be sure to follow through with this as soon as possible; it builds trust and let’s them know that you are committed to giving them exactly what they need.
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