Here’s a sales story for you.
A business owner accompanies her top salesman to a sales meeting with the “big fish” client the rep has been working to reel in for months. The rapport is great. The salesman hit a homerun with the presentation material. But when he asks for the sale, the client says, “Well, I’m not able to make this decision, but I’ll take your information to the right department for review.”
Moral of this true story? The salesman spent months trying to pitch the wrong person. He missed a critical step in the sales funnel that calls for research. Had he done his homework, he would have properly identified the decision maker they needed to connect with in the first place.
Keep reading. This is the blog where we highlight all the sales mistakes your teams and maybe even you, make. We’ll show you how to spot these missteps and what to do to fix them before they adversely affect your bottom line.
Nervous-Nelly reps will sometimes just explode with unnecessary information, overwhelming a potential prospect with details they don’t need. If you or your sales reps are talking in industry jargon about all the company features without slowing down to address client benefits, you’re losing sales.
This type of sales mistake can happen right under your nose, without you even knowing about it. The only way to really spot it is to be present when it happens. And don’t assume this “word vomit” response only occurs in person. Salespeople can send lengthy email responses that offer no value, too.
Don’t be too hard on them, though. Usually, this common sales mistake is a result of excitement or enthusiasm. When a rep finally lands an opportunity to have a conversation, he or she might just be getting excited about not hearing a “no.” So when you address these issues with your teams, make sure you don’t stifle that enthusiasm because, in the end, you can’t teach people to be excited.
Unless you’re selling toilet paper, not everyone needs your product or service. Make sure you and your sales teams are using your well-developed buyer personas and properly identifying the target customers. Wasting time on non-essential prospects will ultimately cost your bottom line. Sales reps who fill up their sales funnels with the wrong types of prospects will be misleading in your metrics, as well.
Nothing is worse than calling on a new prospect and getting the name wrong. And there are plenty of horror stories and lessons-learned tales from sales reps who flubbed all kinds of details in the big presentation. Customer research matters, both in studying company information as well as contact information. Knowing your prospect’s business ahead of time will allow you to speak intelligently about solving his or her problems. It also demonstrates to a potential client that you cared enough to do your homework before trying to “sell” anything. To help yourself and your teams better prepare, consider creating templates with routine information each rep should research before connecting.
Piggybacking on the last sales mistake, it’s also imperative that your sales teams not overlook the importance of the discovery call or the time-out call. Eager to skip to the presentation and the close, sometimes sales reps skip this critical fact-finding conversation step. Your company offering can’t be the best solution if you haven’t yet uncovered the customer’s core problem.
If your sales pitch feels like champaign should begin falling from the heavens or the seas should be parting, it might be a little much. No one likes to be sold anything. And over-embellishing the conversation with lofty promises, larger-than-life gestures and miracle solutions will absolutely feel like a sales pitch.
Remember your mission, your WHY and your company vision. This storytelling method of sales will keep your pitch grounded in reality. It will also inspire an authentic connection as you roll out your practical solutions.
Some sales reps, who don’t know how to sell, will default to price selling. And they’ll constantly be asking for approval on deals, discounts or incentives to close their deals. If you have one of these in your organization, you’ll probably want to enact another round of sales training to promote how to sell the solution and value proposition. When customers think it’s all about price, it means they think your company is like every other competitor, and the only differentiator is the cost. It’s an indication, too, that your reps aren’t telling your company story well or inspiring a solutions-driven decision.
Meet Frank: Frank’s new sales rep had some success in his first few weeks. But the momentum seems to be slowing. Frank talks to his rep about what he thinks is stalling his progress. The sales rep doesn’t know why no one is responding all of a sudden. Frank asks him to demonstrate his sales pitch, and it’s clear, his agent is spending way too much time talking about price and not enough time conveying customer value.
While it’s important to let your prospects talk, it’s not a good idea to give up control of the conversation. Some reps are intimidated and allow the potential customer to dictate the engagement. Make sure your teams know how to take back the process whenever necessary in a way that doesn’t aggravate the prospect. In the end, a customer who’s in control won’t align with your proven sales funnel process and timeline. And you’ll likely fall short of delivering since they’ll set their own expectations, not your reps.
Make sure your sales teams aren’t out there writing checks your company’s ass can’t cash. In desperation to meet quotas and close deals, sometimes sales agents will agree to things you just don’t want to get in the habit of providing. In some cases, they’ll promise something you can’t do entirely. These sales mistakes can be really detrimental because customers won’t have the right expectations upfront. And when you fail to deliver, you’ll create a negative customer experience.
Some sales mistakes come down to timing. And if you have reps who are really great at getting appointments or funneling prospects through to a consideration phase but can’t close, there’s a problem. It could be they’re asking for the sale prematurely, resulting in a “no.” Worse yet, are those reps who forget to ask for the sale at all and really just need your guidance on closing techniques.
Some rookie sales professionals, who maybe don’t have the thick skin that you do, mistake a prospect’s objection for a “no” and walk away. When you’re training your teams, make sure they understand the difference between these two and have the tools they need to address objections and identify a hard “no” when they get one.
When your sales force tries to close a deal before everyone’s at the table or funnels prospects incorrectly based on timelines, it’s an indication the team doesn’t understand the prospect’s process. Maybe there’s an approved vendor process or purchase order system. It could be that buying decisions can only be made quarterly or in an RFP bidding event. Make sure your reps know HOW decisions are made so they can engage appropriately and timely.
Meet Abby: Abby’s new sales rep is coming back to the pizzeria with an awful lot of “not interested” responses lately. So she talks to her rep about why customers might be saying “no.” She discovers that the representative is actually hearing “we don’t have any meetings planned” and not a “no.” Abby takes this time to re-educate her new rep on the importance of the buyer’s cycle, and sales funnel. If they’re not interested right now because they don’t have a need, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a good prospect down the road. She also reinforces the difference between an objection and “no,” offering rebuttals for when these objections present themselves.
Another common sales mistake, especially for reps who are driven by numbers, is the customer experience. Depending on your business model, there might be some follow-up required after the sale to ensure a smooth transition. If your sales teams are neglecting these liaison efforts, your customers won’t have the ideal experience you need them to have. And it may backfire into a client conflict or poor review.
Sales is an ever-changing dance that requires reps to constantly learn new moves. Your veterans might fall into this trap of “I know what I’m doing and don’t need training” mindsets. If you notice someone among your ranks slipping, it could be an indication that refresher training or sales improvement coaching is needed.
Remember, engaging prospects requires a conversation where both sides engage and share information. If your sales pitch is entirely comprised of statements and no probing questions, it’s a mistake. Soapbox sales pitches never work because, essentially, you’re talking at your potential client, not conversing with them. Evaluate how your teams engage and make sure they’re asking enough relevant questions throughout their process.
When you tell your company story, it’s convincing. But if someone else hasn’t bought into your vision and tries to tell the same story, it won’t pass the “so what” test. Storytelling with passion matters because if your prospects don’t care, they won’t buy.
Nearly every salesperson struggles with handling the awkward pause after asking for the sale. Silence doesn’t mean objection. It means reflection and consideration. Interrupting that thought process with more sales talk can result in a “no.” Make sure your teams know how to embrace the post-ask silence.
We mentioned the mistake of trying to close too early in the process. But some reps have a really hard time asking for the sale at all. In some cases, reps will revisit prospects over and over, building that relationship but never asking for the commitment. This time is wasted and indicates your agent needs help with sales efficiency strategies.
Take your “no” and go. Tying back into the difference between an objection and decline, some reps don’t know how to take “no” for an answer. You don’t want your teams hounding prospects into never doing business with you. Instead, carve out a guide for them to use that will help them understand a firm “no” when they get one and how to put those declines in the sales funnel for follow-up in the future after enough time has passed.
Avoid these mistakes in your sales strategy and always be looking for ways to improve your prospect engagement. With all the right tools, funnels and training in place, you can now look to 2022 success. In our final installment of this “intro to sales” conversation, we’ll tell you precisely what you need to do to set attainable sales goals. As always, if you need help identifying mistakes in your sales strategy, let Awareness Business Group be your guide!