Appeared October 2002 in Sales Pro News
What can you learn from others? Sometimes it’s what to avoid doing. These examples are mistakes that will cost you business.
1. Thinking you can do it all yourself. Selling used to be a numbers game. In the past you could spend your time smiling and dialing and that might have worked. Today too many people are too busy to listen to a pitch. Cold calls are a low probability and only worth your time if your time isn’t worth very much. The assistance sales people need from others is good solid leads and referrals to meet new customers.
2. Talking too much. Some salespeople think that the best salespeople are the best talkers. That’s not true. The best sellers are great listeners and they use silence well. Silence is really golden in selling. Use it when you want your customers to talk more. Silence is appropriate when you are listening so you don’t interrupt your customer. It’s appropriate to use when you think about what your customer is saying. This will enable you to give him a thoughtful response.
3. Doing the same things in all situations. One of the predictors of success is flexibility or the ability to do different things in different situations. Some salespeople start their sales calls the same way and act the same way with every type of customer. Customers are different and the salesperson needs to respond to the type of customer he is talking to. It is appropriate to get right down to business in a sales call with an assertive, more emotionally controlled customer. It is inappropriate to do the same with a customer who is less assertive and more responsive.
4. Expecting things to happen now. Patience is a virtue that salespeople especially need. Some things do take time. If you want a piece of business badly enough you may have to be persistent and try to make contact over a period of months. Be patient and don’t give up if the account is worth it. Negotiating may take time and impatience to close a deal can cost you money. Salespeople have to be able to deal with ambiguity and the unknown. Your patience is your power when it’s combined with persistence.
5. Not telling the truth. Salespeople need to be honest not only with customers, but with themselves as well. Some salespeople fool themselves that a sale is going to happen when the odds are it’s not. They tell their manager the sale will close soon because they hope it will. If a customer is still thinking when they could have said yes, it’s time to move on to the next account. Be honest with yourself. Let go and get going to the next prospect.
6. Not taking good care of customers. Selling isn’t asking a question to find objections and then beating your customer into submission for each objection. If it’s not a reasonable fit, forget the sale. Find the prospects that do need your benefits and value.
7. Thinking it’s easy. People think selling is easy only because the great salespeople make it look easy. I recently spoke with a sales master who sold upwards of $50 million worth of construction contract surety bonds over the years. He said he never prepares for a sales call. When I asked him what he meant he said that when he makes a sales call he knows a few things about the prospect’s business and general requirements. Then he asks questions about the areas he thinks might apply. I replied, “You may think you don’t prepare, but you’re using 30 years of preparation to sell.” Selling is only easy when you don’t know what you’re doing.
You can learn from your mistakes. It’s even better to learn from other people’s mistakes. Avoid these mistakes and you will make your selling more successful.