Mistakes happen, even in sales. But the pros learn from their mistakes and use that knowledge to their advantage. So today I’m highlighting a handful of sales pitfalls, some of which you might be doing daily. Take these to the bank and you’ll find yourself (or your sales team) closing more deals, and more importantly, building stronger relationships with your clients or customers over time.
But pay close attention, as each of these mistakes are deal killers, relationship killers, or both. You can’t get on the phone with prospects, or sit in the C-suite with business leaders, and fumble like this. Today’s leaders are far too emotionally intelligent to tolerate it. And you’ve got stiff competition who will gladly come in and treat Mr. Prospect with the respect they deserve.
And don’t worry, in this lightning-round of time-tested sales wisdom, I’m also going to share a few tactics and techniques to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chances out there.
So let’s jump into it. Here are the six biggest mistakes salespeople make… and what YOU should do instead.
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#1 – You Bash the Competition
This is a go-to for salespeople, and prospects hate it. Their thinking: “If you bash the competition, who’s to say you won’t bash me behind my back one day?” Imagine dating a woman and you start taking shots at her ex-boyfriend, telling her how ugly, poor, mean he is. You wouldn’t do that. At least I hope you wouldn’t do that! Bashing the competition — especially calling out specific providers — is a sign of weakness and immaturity. It’s a bad look.
Do this instead: Stand tall and be confident in your game. Grow the relationship with your prospect organically. If you talk about your competition, speak in general terms instead of specifics. But I recommend focusing on your prospect and allowing your work and attitude to speak for itself.
#2 – You Over-promise
Another sales pitfall is overpromising what you can deliver. I see this all the time in sales, mostly because SDRs and closers want their prospect’s attention and business. They want it so bad that they will exaggerate the truth to get ink on paper. They overpromise and underdeliver. Not good!
Not long ago my wife and I were buying a new vehicle, she had done her research and identified a beautiful car. I called the dealership and the salesman said “Sure, I have that car on the lot now. Drop by today and take it for a spin.” When we got there, the salesman was there, but the car was nowhere to be seen. You see where this is going. He overpromised (in a big way) just to get us on his lot. Needless to say we didn’t give that car dealership our business.
Do this instead: Dress your offer in its “Sunday best,” so-to-speak, but don’t go overboard by offering something that is beyond your abilities, knowledge, or expertise. Instead, underpromise and over-deliver. This will keep customers/clients on your roster for years to come.
#3 – You Focus on Price Not Value
Most salespeople fall into this pitfall throughout their career, and I’ve even been guilty of pushing price over value in my own organization. But I always catch myself. You know how? I hear “It’s too expensive” as the main objection. Stop trying to justify your price. When you do, you lose. You’ve probably heard it said that “whatever you focus on grows in size.” Focus on price, and your price tag grows. Focus on value, and your offer becomes ultra-valuable to your prospect.
Do this instead: Instead of focusing on price, speak to the value you provide. How will your prospect be transformed? When the value you offer is sky-high, and when the transformation is effectively communicated, the price becomes a non-issue. I recently wrote an article on value-based selling to learn more about this crucial concept.
#4 – You Argue Instead of Empathize
It takes something called “relationship equity” for give-and-take in any relationship. In sales, you can’t argue with a prospect or new client until you build trust. Even then, it’s ok to disagree, but not argue. I see a lot of salespeople with huge egos follow up a price objection with something like, “We’re the Rolex of the industry, not G-Shock… you can’t afford to not work with us…” etc. etc. And it’s the wrong approach.
Do this instead: Empathize with your prospect to earn their trust and build relationship equity. This means tread lightly and speak kindly with confidence. Over time they will see you as a trusted advisor, and trusted advisors are privileged to push back on things (at times). You can disagree, and you can respectfully let your client know you disagree, but only after you’ve laid a foundation of relationship equity.
# 5 – You Push Instead of Lead
Yet another mistake I see in salespeople is the habit of pushing or shoving the prospect past the finish line. Sales is about leading people, in a way that feels natural to them, to a place of certainty and trust. But here’s the thing – you can’t shove your prospect to a place of certainty. And you definitely can’t shove your prospect to trust you. Unless you want a reputation as a dirtbag salesman, then I strongly suggest you lead like a leader.
Do this instead: Instead of pushing your prospect past the finish line, your job is to clear the obstacles and let them run! Give them the satisfaction of “breaking the tape” on their own. How do you do this? Listen more, for starters. Remember that sales is 80% listening and 20% talking. But even 20% of the time when you’re talking you should be asking questions. Your prospect will tell you what they want, need, and desire. Take this and strategically frame your offer around it. It’s the secret to sales success.
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#6 – You Don’t Study Your Competition
Years back one of my clients gave me a solid referral. We had helped this particular client to multiply their sales revenue (we hit it out of the park!), so we figured this referral was an easy homerun. So… we didn’t do our homework like we should have. We didn’t research the competition in this particular sector, and didn’t even consider they’d be shopping around for a better deal, a better price. Well, they were. Needless to say, we lost the deal because we were resting on our laurels instead of spending the necessary time to study the competition.
Do this instead: Do some digging before every sales appointment. Who are the key players that you’re up against? What makes them different and/or attractive? Then ask your prospect if they’ve spent time talking to these other providers. Ask if you are competitive as far as pricing and services offered. If so, ask them where you stand. It’s best to be upfront and obvious here, as it gives you a chance to build up your value even more and overcome any objections.
These are the most common mistakes I see in salespeople in just about every industry. Of course, there are other mistakes that could be added to the list — like qualifying your prospect too late or failing to study sales objections and how to overcome them. (But those two mistakes in particular I’ll save for another article as there’s so much to them.)
You might have noticed a theme emerge throughout the sales mistakes I covered today. Nearly all of them relate to how you speak to your prospect or how you treat your prospect. Do you come across as petty because you bash your competition? Are you overpromising and about to burn a bridge? Are you focusing on the wrong thing (price instead of value!)? Are you argumentative instead of empathetic? Do you push your prospects to sign a contract? Be honest with yourself, as each of these are huge mistakes that can be corrected so that you experience a massive uptick in sales in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
Until next time…