The vast majority of sales trainers today use sales techniques that date back to the turn of the century. Yes, really! These old-school techniques are simply regurgitated ideas that first appeared in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Even though they simply don’t work anymore, they continue to be passed down to new generations of salespeople.

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You must avoid the following sales habits if you want to crush your sales goals. In fact, if you don’t actively avoid these dated techniques, you’ll never reach your full potential in sales. Here are the ten old-school sales techniques you must avoid in today’s selling market, no matter your industry:

1. Pitching your Product or Service

It might be tough to hear, but it’s true: Prospects don’t care about your product or service. They only care about the problems you can help them solve. Instead of pitching your product, ask effective questions to discover each prospect’s deepest frustration. Then present a solution to solve that challenge.

2. Overselling your Product or Service

This point is an extension of the one above. Prospects these days have access to enough research materials and resources to develop a solid baseline understanding of your product or service on their own time. That means they can approach their interactions with you with knowledge of your offering's specs.

Don't spend too much time harping on the features, bells, and whistles of the product or service you're selling. Prospects no longer rely solely on sales reps to give them that kind of information. Instead, sell on the value and overall benefits your product or service will provide to enrich prospects' lives

3. Selling to Anyone with a Pulse

Have you ever heard the phrase, "They can sell ice to an Eskimo?" People still use this phrase to describe great salespeople, but it’s absurd if you actually think about it.

Great salespeople don’t "sell ice to Eskimos" — they sell ice to people who actually need ice. It’s time to stop selling to anyone with a pulse, regardless of whether they’re a good fit for your product. Instead, only focus on talking to prospects who are a good fit for what you have to offer.

4. Persuading your Prospects

Persuasion is the most common focus in sales training, and that’s a huge mistake. The problem with persuading your prospect is that it assumes you’re talking to a good fit in the first place.

If you start a conversation by trying to persuade someone to do business with you, you can’t determine whether the person is a good fit for your product or service. Instead of persuading your prospects, focus on qualifying and disqualifying them.

5. Turning on the (Fake) Enthusiasm

Every well-meaning salesperson out there is guilty of faking enthusiasm. Prospects always recognize an overly cheery sales voice, and it scares prospects off right away. Instead, use a low, calm tone as you seek to discover what’s going on in their world.

6. Smooth Talking

Many salespeople try to sound especially polished and smooth when selling, but prospects don’t want a smooth talker. They want someone who’s going to be real with them.

Instead of smooth talking, speak to your prospects the same way you’d speak to a coworker or friend. Leave the smooth speech at the door, and just be genuine.

7. Begging to Give a Proposal

Never ask prospects, "Hey, can I send you a proposal to show you what we can do?" before you’ve taken the time to discover if they’re actually a good fit.

The prospects will think, "Sure, you can send me all of the free information you want!" and immediately see the offer as an indicator of low value. Only offer proposals to fully qualified prospects to avoid this pitfall.

8. Pushing Too Hard for a Borderline Deal

Some deals just aren't meant to be. You're bound to encounter some that are almost-definitely headed nowhere, straight off the bat. But every now and then, you'll see a glimmer of hope in one of those cases that you might think is worth pursuing. Salespeople are supposed to be tenacious, but there's a fine line between tenacious and pushy — and pushing too hard can have disastrous results.

If a deal seems like it won't pan out — no matter how hard you try — it's probably best to leave it alone. In some cases, a borderline deal can be closed with some extra effort, but if you make a habit of trying to force deals through, you can damage your reputation and create unnecessary churn risk.

9. Inundating Your Prospects with Calls and Emails

Remember what I said about the line between tenacity and pushiness? This is another instance where that distinction is key. The traditional, stereotypical salesperson saw merit in being relentless, but that "relentlessness" doesn't exactly hold up nowadays.

Your prospect isn't going to see the four emails you sent them in a single day and think, "Wow, this kid's got spunk! I admire that kind of persistence. Let me get them on the phone and see what they can do for me!" It's best to pump the breaks a bit. Try to work with a measured sales cadence, and go from there. Otherwise, you'll come off desperate and disorganized.

10. Leaving the Next Steps Unclear

Many sales trainers advise to wrap up a sales meeting by saying, "I’ll give you a call on Monday at 10 a.m. to follow up." Making a verbal date to connect simply isn’t clear enough to ensure your prospect won’t miss the call — and you won’t miss the sale.

Transform this old-school technique by actually scheduling the next call or meeting via an online calendar invite or email. Make sure it’s in your prospect’s calendar before you move on.

How to Know if Your Sales Process is Out of Date

Your connection rates are waning.

Monitoring your connection rate — the rate at which your reps connect with prospects against the number of attempts it takes — is one of the better ways to gauge whether your sales process needs new life.

If you're noticing that your team is having a harder time garnering any sort of initial interest or engagement with prospects, it could show that your outreach methods are dated. It might show that you're leaning too heavily on cold calls or emails or that your messaging isn't compelling enough.

Your connection rate demonstrates how well your sales process is performing out of the gate. It's also one of the metrics most easily impacted by outdated sales practices. If you're noticing some lackluster connection figures, it might be time to reevaluate your process.

You have very few warm leads.

If you're relying heavily on cold leads to feed your sales pipeline, you probably need to update your sales process. Practices like cold sourcing prospects based on their LinkedIn titles or purchasing lead lists are on their way out.

They ultimately lead to a base of predominantly uninterested prospects that might not even have any need for your product or service. If you're using those kinds of lead generation techniques, your sales process might need a serious overhaul.

Instead, look to leverage technology that offers perspective on potentially interested leads. Certain CRMs allow you to monitor prospects' activity on your company's website, so it could be worth investing in one.

After all, someone who's visited your website's pricing page five times in the past week is certainly a warmer lead than a "sales manager" whose contact information you bought from a service that scrapes data from LinkedIn profiles.

Your sales team lacks enthusiasm.

One way to tell if your sales process needs some tune-up is to see how enthusiastic the people who actually apply it seem to be about it. If you're noticing a lull in sales, ask your sales team for some feedback.

They could provide valuable insight into what aspects of your sales process are working for them and what parts seem unnecessary or burdensome. If the practices and strategies you're having them employ are grating and dated, they're not going to be effective.

Your sales reps are the ones who actually make something of your sales process. If they're struggling with or unenthusiastic about it, it might be time to reevaluate how it functions.

The sales landscape is constantly evolving, and it's in your best interest to keep pace with it. Though it can be easy to get complacent with your sales process and the tactics that shape it, you need to remain privy to the ways you can keep improving and moving forward. Shedding the techniques listed in this article is a good place to start.

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Originally published Aug 11, 2020 5:00:00 PM, updated August 11 2020

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