While the “Seven Deadly Sins” of just about anything can be found throughout the web, I have still decided to write my own focused in the area of sales. Having been in sales and sales management for over 30 years, I continue to see sales professionals making the same mistakes over and over again. Take some time to go through this list, I bet you will find one or two of which you are guilty as “sin”!
1. Believing that great service (alone) will get the deal. The idea that if I am an attentive and pleasant sales rep the sales will all come my way has some serious flaws. First, clients don’t always recognize or perceive great service and they are always comparing it to their own expectations which can vary widely. Second, there are other sales people out there who are actively trying to take your customers away by making promises that they will give better service than you do. And third, the person to whom you are giving all this great service doesn’t always make the buying decisions.
Solution: Continue to provide great service as a common practice, but make sure that you employ strategic selling techniques, exploring client needs and bringing new solutions.
2. Believing that industry and/or product knowledge will lead to sales success. No salesperson wants to appear ignorant or be embarrassed when they can’t answer a question about their product or service. To circumvent this, and with the encouragement of management, new salespeople spend a vast amount of their time leaning about their product and their industry. We also believe this knowledge is important. As a matter of fact, becoming an industry expert can enhance your stature for the whole industry. However, it can lead the salesperson to be one dimensional in their process (i.e. the smartest person in the room) and not build relationships or conduct good discovery.
Solution: As you build up your industry and product knowledge, also build your key selling skills. Together these make an unbeatable combination.
3. Talking instead of listening – telling instead of asking. One of the great challenges of knowing too much (see point two) is that you will have an inordinate desire to show people how much you know. The great television interviewer, Larry King, once said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” This is also true for sales professionals.
Solution: Develop the ability to ask thoughtful, interesting questions and let the client tell you how badly they need your product or service. Good discovery is the key to effective selling.
4. Spending productive time on unproductive clients. It is a fact of life that all customers aren’t created equal. Therefore, they cannot be treated equally by the sales staff. This is not to say that we give some customers poorer service or shoddier product. On the contrary, no matter the size of the purchase, we always give our best. But when it comes to the attentiveness of the sales team or value added services, the high producing and high potential customers should get more and better attention.
Solution: Rank your clients by their value (or potential value) to the organization and develop service levels that fit their productivity. And quit putting your productive time into a client that doesn’t value it.
5. Being afraid of “no” so you accept “maybe”. Be honest with yourself. How much time have you wasted on a deal where the prospect told you he was ”Thinking it over” only to get told “no” weeks later? Well you aren’t the only salesperson to get taken in by a customer who can’t make a decision or is afraid to tell you, “No.” In his book How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling, Frank Bettger discussed how he discerned and overcame this issue.
“The records showed that 70 percent of my sales were made on the first interview, 23 percent on the second, and 7 percent on the third and after. But listen to this: 50 percent on my time was spent going after the 7 percent. ‘So why bother with the 7 percent,’ I thought. ‘Why not put all of my time into the first and second interviews?’ That decision alone almost doubled the value of each call.”
Solution: Take the time to understand the sales cycle in your industry and what the optimum amount of time you should take for each deal. Use this information to know when to move on and spend your valuable time finding a more fertile opportunity.
6. Going to solution mode too quickly, usually with too little information. The impulse for salespeople to solve problems quickly comes from a need to prove how much they know and an overeager desire to get this sale moving forward. Unfortunately, this usually ends up in an incomplete solution that isn’t valued by the customer.
Solution: Resist the urge to blurt out the first solution that comes to mind. Instead, continue to ask more penetrating questions designed to find out more about the needs and motivations of the prospects.
7. Talking about the “product” instead of the “results”. Customers buy your product not because of what it is, but because of what it will do for them. If you can’t help the client understand how they will benefit from the purchase, they will not buy. The best analogy I ever heard that clarifies this idea is: No one ever bought a drill because they needed a drill. They needed a hole! But because you can’t go to the hardware store and buy a 3/8 inch hole, you go and get a drill and a 3/8 inch bit.
Solution: Put yourself in the customer’s mindset and talk about the results they will get from purchasing your product or service.
How did you do? Did you see a couple of areas where you are “sinning”? Well I know I did. These sins are easy to fall into and they require a vigilant mindset to avoid them.