It’s never been more important for salespeople to appear credible.
Buyers’ suspicion of sales reps is already high, and they’re more and more unwilling to connect with salespeople.
That means the instant you lose credibility with your prospect, your whole deal could be on the line.But the good news is that it’s easy to avoid this. Avoid the nine behaviors below that will tank your credibility and destroy your status as a trusted advisor.
1) Fumbling basic information
Calling your prospect by the wrong name, or messing up any facts you should have found out via a Google search is always unacceptable. What’s more, it’s an incredibly easy way to prematurely kill a deal.
Fumbling facts like these sends a message to your buyers loud and clear -- you don’t care about them. If they know you haven’t even made the effort to get basic information right, there’s no reason they’d believe you have their best interests at heart.
2) Asking prospects to repeat themselves
Whether you’re asking prospects the same questions multiple times or you keep asking, “I’m sorry, what?”, making your prospects repeat themselves is a big no-no. It’s one thing if you’re asking follow-up questions or digging deeper on a point you didn’t catch, but if you have to ask a buyer to tell you how many stakeholders are involved in a purchase more than once, it’ll be clear you aren’t dedicating your full attention to the conversation.
That said, it’s hard to keep track of many minute details when you’re simultaneously juggling lots of deals. Make sure you’re taking careful notes on your prospect’s company, challenges, goals, and plans, ideally in a CRM or other central place you can refer back to later.
3) Not actively listening
Not only do you have to listen to absorb information, you have to listen in a way that facilitates a real back-and-forth. You can’t just listen, say “Uh-huh” in response, then move on to your next question.
Even if you’ve understood what your prospect’s said, that method of communication doesn’t demonstrate that you’ve actually absorbed anything. To be as effective as possible, you need to communicate in a way that shows you’re involved. That’s right -- I’m talking about active listening.
Pete Caputa, CEO of Databox and former sales VP at HubSpot, teaches his reps the following four-step process:
Truly listen to the prospect.
Feed back the content and feeling of the prospect’s words.
Confirm you heard the prospect correctly.
Ask a relevant follow up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.
Active listening shows the prospect you’re present and invested in what they have to say.
4) Talking instead of asking
A close cousin of #3, telling before you’ve asked your prospect anything is a cardinal sin. You can’t possibly make useful recommendations to your prospect if you’re not informed about the problems they’re trying to solve.
It’s fine to make some assumptions when you’re in prospecting mode -- after all, making educated guesses about what a buyer’s challenges might be is necessary when you’re trying to provide value from day one. But once you’ve connected with a buyer, you should be in exploratory mode. Refrain from making sweeping statements or recommendations until you fully understand their situation.
5) Misstating information
Active listening is important because it confirms that you have the correct understanding of your prospect’s situation, which helps you avoid this mistake -- misrepresenting information your prospect has already told you.
You’re probably not doing it on purpose, but it calls into question how much weight you place on what your prospect says and wants. If you say, “In our last call, we talked about X” when really you just misunderstood what your prospect told you, you’re sowing seeds of doubt in your prospects’ minds.
Luckily, this problem is easily avoided through repeating back information to your prospect and getting their buy-in on your recommendations.
6) Using slimy closing techniques
Many traditional closing techniques call on reps to act as though the sale has already happened, and ask their prospect which of two options they prefer (the “alternative close”), which day they’d like to start implementation (the “assumptive close”), or trying to get the prospect to commit to a purchase if the rep answers a question (the “right angle close”).
Closing should be a foregone conclusion if you’ve done your job correctly. By thoroughly exploring a prospect’s situation, you’ll know by this point in a sales process whether they’ll buy or not.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask for the business -- of course you should. But trying to close a prospect duplicitiously won't do anything to endear you to them.
Oftentimes, your prospects will ask you about extremely specific use cases for your product, and you might not know the answer. It’s okay to not know everything -- you should be highly proficient in your product (see #8), but you can’t be expected to anticipate every single unusual use case it could have.
It’s only human to want to keep your prospect on the line and interested, so you might say, “Yes, we can do that,” without thinking. But if you find out later that you were wrong and have to backtrack, you’ve just lost authority in your prospect’s eyes.
It’s okay to not know the answer. Simply say so, then follow up once you’ve confirmed the answer. Prospects will be okay with waiting a few hours for correct information -- they won’t appreciate false promises.
8) Incorrectly describing your product
As a sales rep, your job is to be an expert. So when you can’t demonstrate how your product will fit a prospect’s situation or get basic facts about your product wrong, your reputation gets severely dinged.
Practice demos with your manager and study up on any areas of the product in which you feel weak. Have your manager or a tenured rep sit in on your calls your first few times around the block so they can step in when you’re unsure, then make notes of anything you need to work on.
9) Contradicting yourself or your team members
In sales, it’s a good rule of thumb to never promise or say anything that you don’t know to be true. Even if it’s an offhand answer, chances are if your prospect’s asking about it, they care about it. And if you give different answers on Monday than you do on Thursday, or if you and the other people involved in the sales process aren’t synced up on what you can and cannot promise, your prospect is getting an inconsistent, confusing sales experience. And just as importantly, they’ll feel misled and lied to -- certainly not emotions you want to invoke in your buyers.
To avoid this, take notes on what you’ve said during calls too, and make sure all stakeholders on your side are briefed and aligned before team calls.
Originally published Mar 17, 2016 8:30:00 AM, updated September 18 2017