6 Deal-Busting Sales Mistakes That Are Easy to Avoid

by Katarina Holmgren

Date

August 2, 2012 at 4:30 PM

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You've never made a mistake, right? We certainly never have.

It's a pretty big bummer, however, when those mistakes result in lost sales and wasted leads. Especially if those mistakes were totally avoidable!

This post will go through six common mistakes salespeople make, explain why they're so detrimental to the sales process, and discuss how to remedy them. As Winston Churchill said, "All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes." And since we're wise marketers and salespeople (or at least trying to be) we think it's prudent we learn about these mistakes, so we can stop making them already!

Not Researching Before the Call

Skimping on your prep work sets you up for an unsuccessful call, plain and simple. You need to research the company and the person you're calling to get a basic understanding of the company, and your contact's role at that company. Without this basic context, how can you ask relevant questions?

Context aside, doing a little investigation also shows that you give a hoot. You cared enough to invest time researching the lead and their company -- you don't consider them just another lead to cold call in your database of thousands.

So, how do you actually do that research? There are tons of ways!

Social Media: Try searching for both the company and the individual on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and any other channels that might be relevant for the company.

HubSpot's Prospect Tracking: Learn how the lead has navigated your site and what they seem to be most interested in. Look up how the lead found your site and if they did a search, what they were searching for so you know what to discuss on your call.

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Ghostery: This tool can give you an idea of a lead's online behavior, and provide details like how a company describes itself, and pages where they can be found online.

Rapportive: This free Gmail add-on tells you everything about your contacts right in your Gmail inbox. You can see what the person you are contacting looks like, where they're based, and what they do, plus easily connect with them on social media.

Data.com: This Salesforce feature provides not just data, but "business DNA."  It helps sales people to reach decision makers faster, stay on top of important changes within the company they are reaching out to, and use social insights to make strong connections with leads.

Not sure what to look for when performing your research? Consider these basic insights that help you paint a clearer picture of a lead:

  • Current events that relate to the industry, company, or individual
  • The lead's pain points -- does your product or service help solve them?
  • Decision makers within the company. Are you calling the right person?
  • Your lead's role within their company, or their career experiences
  • Insight into company financials. Do you think they can afford your product or service?

Selling to the Wrong Person

Because of all that thorough research you just performed, you probably have an idea of the best people within an organization to make contact with. Pitching to the wrong person is a poor use of everyone's time. Most organizations take one of two approaches: Sell to the decision maker, or sell to the "entry point."

Assuming your lead has the budget for your product or service, you could identify the decision maker and go straight to him or her. Consider, however, that the decision maker may be insanely swamped, and never even entertain purchase of a new product or service until someone else has vetted the company. In those instances, it behooves you to get in good with an employee at a different level of the organization -- the gatekeeper, so to speak. This may be mid-level management, HR, or an administrator who screens calls, only letting the best of the best get through to the boss.

Whichever approach you take, hone in on the reason why you hope to talk to the person you're trying to reach instead of just rattling off your pitch. In other words, find the value you can bring to speaking to the decision maker or phone screener alike -- and don't be afraid to ask the person you're speaking with if you should be talking to someone else within the organization to save everyone a bit of time.

Calling at the Wrong Time

This one's so simple that it's frighteningly easy to overlook. Don't interrupt people's lives unnecessarily. When you make a call, don't just assume it's convenient for the person on the other end of the line. Ask if it's a a good time. Schedule calls when it is convenient for the lead. Check their time zone. It's more likely for the lead to listen attentively and consider what you're saying if she isn't smack dab in the middle of something ... like sleeping.

Jumping to Conclusions

You know what they say happens when you assume ;-) This mistake really boils down to an inability or unwillingness to listen. You're there to help them, and you can't do it if you don't ask when they need. Not only will making assumptions not speed up the sale, it won't result in a happy lifetime customer -- because you totally missed the boat on how to make them a happy customer!

What kind of conclusions might you be jumping to? Oh, there are all kinds! Let's review some common ones, shall we?

  • Don't jump to the conclusion that you're speaking to the right person because you were referred to him or her. That's often just the "in" to a company who can then direct you to the proper contact. Take the few seconds in the beginning to ask if you're talking to the right person.
  • Don't assume your company is a good fit for the lead and can solve their problem. If you have your foot in the door already, you know there's some basic alignment between their pain points and your solution -- now it's time to ask more questions and dig a little deeper.
  • Don't assume a lead is ready to make a purchase right away. Just because your solutions are a good fit doesn't mean they have the budget at this point in time to commit to you, no matter how perfect you are for each other.

Getting Too Close, Too Soon

A sales person who just pitches without asking any questions isn't going to see much success. But the types of questions you ask, and when you ask them, has to align with the level of trust your lead has with you. When salespeople are accused of being pushy, one of the reasons is asking questions that are "too personal" before a lead has reason to believe he or she can trust you.

How do you get people to trust you? You listen to them, and you do what you say you're going to do. Ask your lead an "entry-level" question about something that's relatively benign, but an open-ended one to get them to open up a bit. The more they talk, the more comfortable they'll feel with you, and the more information they'll volunteer to you -- instead of you dragging it out of them with sheer force. Continue to build that trust you're gradually establishing by following up on time and with the information you said you'd provide, and you'll be able to ask more and more meaty questions that help you turn leads into customers.

Showing Your Cards Too Early in the Negotiation

Giving too much information away too early can cause lost revenue. Here's what not to do when negotiating a sale:

  • Don't start off by stating the price of what you're selling. The sticker shock might turn the lead away immediately. Establish trust, build value, and make sure the leads fully understand how your product or service will help them solve their problem first.
  • Don't lead with your closing line -- it's like asking someone to marry you on the first date. That tends to scare them away. Learn more about your lead first, and save the closing pitch for later, after you've formed a stronger relationship with the lead.
  • Don't lower the price before the person on the other end of the line has responded to your first offer. Silence is uncomfortable, but in sales, you have to get used to it. If you put an offer on the table, they pause, and then you immediately deliver a discount before any response is given, the lead assumes one of two things: you'll keep discounting if they hold out long enough, or you've been jerking their chain all along.

What other common mistakes do salespeople make during the sales process that can be easily remedied?

Image credit: FindYourSearch

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