The physicist Niels Bohr once defined an expert as “a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” Here are some of the sales mistakes I’ve made over the years. You can either make them yourself, or learn from me and try to avoid them so you can start to become an expert in sales.
I worked with multiple distributors and commission salespeople. What made it complicated was that each distributor had multiple lines of products to sell. The good news was that my products were superior. The bad news was they cost more than my competition and the salesperson earned a lower commission than my competitors’. That was a challenge!
1. Sales Mistake: I didn’t channel my anger in a productive way.
I worked with one talented salesperson who I thought was supporting my work with him. We made joint sales calls. I only asked that when we worked on an account together he only discuss my products with prospects. Of course, when we weren’t working together he could sell other products to other prospects. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he switched one of “our” accounts to a competitor’s products. I was livid!
Instead of first asking him what happened, I immediately got angry. I told him I knew the account was using competitor’s products and was very disappointed that he was not respecting our agreement. My tone and volume clearly showed my anger. He told me why he did what he did, but he never told me why he didn’t tell me first before he changed suppliers.
I later learned that someone from my company made an aggressive presentation to senior management at this customer. The customer then told my distributor he wouldn’t work with my company. While I still think the salesman should have told me, my anger was misplaced. Someone from my company caused the change.
Next time something like this happens, I promised myself to always assume innocence first. Of course, I could get angry later, but would do my best to hold my anger.
2. Sales Mistake: I didn’t collect money soon enough.
It’s wonderful when you like your customers. It’s even more wonderful when they pay you on time for the products you sell and the work you do. I worked with a very interesting entrepreneur early in my career as a sales consultant. The work was challenging for me and very rewarding because it was so interesting. I was on a monthly retainer and for the first six months, the retainer arrived on time.
Then, the entrepreneur would tell me the check was coming, but delayed. I believed him. That was my mistake.
It is a mistake to work for free. You can decide if you want to be the bank for your customers and float them loans. I choose not to be my customers’ bank. I believe that if a customer values your work they pay you promptly without delay. You might find that some customers prioritize which suppliers they pay first. You want to be on that list. Don’t allow yourself to be on the loan list. Your customers might not ever pay you .
3. Sales Mistake: Setting the goal for perfection.
This mistake might be one that only some people make. Perhaps you may work for yourself and recognize that you are your company. That results in your working extra hard to be sure that what you do is perfect. You might work for a small company and you think that you are creating your brand image. You target your efforts to be perfect so you create the best brand image.
I am not promoting mediocrity. I suggest you ask yourself a question, before you burn yourself out. Ask, “Is what I’m doing good enough to get the job done?”
As I look back on my work I see that there are multiple instances where I could have done 20% less work with no impact on the result. Yes, experience plays a part in how much time you need to put into some tasks. I am simply suggesting that before you go overboard and work yourself unnecessarily, ask yourself, “Is this good enough?” Stop working when it is.
You’ll experience mistakes in sales. I’ve highlighted three sales mistakes that I’ve made. Just make sure you’re making different ones as you progress to become an expert in sales.