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The 25 biggest mistakes salespeople make. - by TimC

There are only 3 ways to sell more - Do more right, do less wrong or do both.  The following are excerpts from my best selling book, 91 Mistakes Smart Salespeople Make.  The following are in no special order of importance.

Stop learning and growing

Every year thousands of salespeople start of the new year with big goals and wonderful intentions.  However, at the end of each year thousands of these same salespeople can be heard asking themselves, "Where did I miss the boat?  What did I miss?  Why was this year not much better than the previous one?"  

Over the years, one common denominator I have observed in successful salespeople is their willingness to invest in the continued improvement of their skills, attitudes and philosophy.

What did you invest last year in yourself? Not your bank balance, home improvements, travel or daily maintenance.  If you are excelling in selling I will guarantee you have invested more in yourself than you have in going out to dinner.

Life is a relationship between paying the price and winning the prize.  Between self-investment and rewards. Between investing time in personal development and your ultimate success. It is never too late to begin an aggressive on-going self development program.  Take full responsibility for the quality of your life and learning, and I strongly urge you to do it now.

Lack of purpose
Loss of purpose in selling is akin to a loss of faith or patience in your ability to perform effectively and successfully.  It is a feeling that no matter what you do it will not be good enough or soon enough.  It is nagging questions that keep popping into your consciousness.
Purpose is the single most important motivator in a salesperson's life.  It keeps them keeping on regardless of whether business is good or slow.
Losing your passion

Passion is the great equalizer.  It can make up for a lack of experience and knowledge.  I am not suggesting that you not develop your sales knowledge or people skills, only that until you do your passion will be interpreted by others as a strong belief in yourself, your mission and your products.

Passion is not an act.  It is a way of believing.  Passion, real passion for who you are, who you are becoming, where you are, and where you are going,  what you believe in and stand for shouts to the world, "I am here to stay, I am here to make a difference, I will leave my mark in this world.  It may take me my entire life, but I will not give up until my purpose and destiny are realized."    

Giving in to self-imposed limitations

It has  been said by many people smarter than me, "that the only limitations we encounter in life are those self limiting ones we place on ourselves."  If this is true, and at this point I am neither agreeing or disagreeing with this premise, why then do so few people reach their full potential?  Why do so many people feel stuck, out of control and without hope in their lives?  Why do so many people, give up, quit, settle, resign themselves or operate out of blame, anger, guilt, resentment and self pity when it comes to the quality of their life?    

Each of us came into this world headed for greatness in some way.  We were engineered for success at birth and conditioned for failure along the way.  There is nothing we can not do if we put our mind and all of our energy and passion to it.  The skeptics out there are thinking, sure Tim, I can fly.

What inner mental images are you holding in your consciousness that may be holding you back?  Is it the fear of failure or success?  Is it the fear of rejection or public scorn?  Is it an inner feeling of unworthiness?  Or is it some other emotional issue or scar that you have failed to recognize or deal with?

Being pessimistic and negative

Is the glass half full or half empty?  Will this new product sell?  Can I really achieve my dreams or am I living in fantasy-land?  These and hundreds of questions are asked every day by well meaning and hard working salespeople.

You can't measure optimism.  You can't bottle it, regulate it, run out of it or manufacture it but you can learn to develop it if you will only take the time and effort.  Some people feel it is better to be realistic than optimistic - why set yourself up for disappointment?  Tell me what is realistic?  Looking back over the past 100 years.  Where would we be if: Edison, Bell, Gates, Ford, Land, Disney etall. were realistic?  If their attitude had been, it hasn't been done yet so I guess it can't be done!
There are numerous benefits to having an optimistic outlook.  And just as many pitfalls in not having one.  
Lacking integrity

Integrity and trust go hand in hand as qualities for sales success. It is not possible to have one without the other. If you trust someone, it is most likely because they are trustworthy, they have ethics or integrity. If a person lacks either of the two, they generally will lack both.

The question we must ask ourselves when we consider doing what is NOT right vs. what IS right, is - can I handle getting caught?  Is the price worth it?  How will I react to getting caught?  Wouldn't it just be easier to deal in truth?  All the time?  The answer is yes, so why do people misrepresent, lie, tell little innocent fibs etc.?  I don't know.  We are all guilty - at least one time in our lives and most of us several times - of shading the truth with what we feel is a justifiable cause. Is this wrong?  I am not a moralist. But I do believe that character and integrity are related.

Letting sales slumps get you down
Every salesperson at one time in their career experiences a slump.  

You might think that the only symptom of a slump is a period of reduced sales success - regardless of its nature or length. It is not quite that simple. There are a number of ways a salesperson can be in a slump.   What good does it do, in the long run, to have great closing skills if you are never in the presence of good prospects?  What good does it do to have excellent products if you can't get effectively present your products? What good does it do to have a good prospect if you can't ask for the business?  Notice I didn't say ask for the order - but the business.  You can experience a sales slump in any one of these areas.  Regardless of the issue, the results will generally be the same.  Low sales. Low margins.  Lost customers.  Vulnerable to competition.  

If you are experiencing a slump, you can't just look at the big picture. You must look carefully at your approach, strategies, strengths and weaknesses in each of the five categories. You must learn to ask yourself the right questions, if you hope to get accurate information that will help you out of this negative sales period.  Knowing the characteristics or causes that contributed to the current situation will also help you prevent future slumps.

Lack clear goals
There is one major reason for setting goals - goals give your life direction. Daily, weekly and yearly direction.

Don't be attached to the outcomes - only the process. One example. Diets. The key to weighing your ideal weight is not to take in more than you can burn off. That's it, folks. Eating carrot cake every night and not exercising is moving in the wrong direction. Guess what? You can't reach your ideal goal (weight) if you travel in the wrong direction.

What direction are you moving in as you travel down the highways of your life?  There are 7 highways that we are all on. They are: a financial highway, a family highway, a spiritual highway, a mental highway, a career highway, a social highway and a physical highway. One of the biggest mistakes most people make, as they travel into their future down each of these highways, is to sacrifice one for another. Or, to not understand that to avoid one of the areas will cause an interruption in all of them at some point in your future.

Acting like you need the business
Sounding pathetic is one of the surest ways to ensure that you customer will lack confidence and respect for both you and your organization.  People buy when they are ready to buy not when you need to sell.  It is essential that in every sales situation that you always put the prospect or customer ahead of your needs.  

Begging is not attractive.

Saying things like;

We're the best in the business.  Instead of, let's see our product will solve your problem.

When can you let me know your decision.  Instead of, let's set a time to discuss your decision.

Can I call you in a few weeks to follow-up.  Instead of, I'll call you in a few weeks to discuss your questions and further interest.

There are thousands of ways to sound insecure and unprofessional.  All of them send the message that you lack confidence in your ability to perform and your credibility.

Believing people buy only from people they like
Has selling really changed all that much in the past 50 years?  Those of you who have been selling for less than 5 years most likely will answer that question with a "no."  Those of you with battle scars going back into the 70s, 80s and even the 90s, may answer with a resounding "YES."  Then there may be those of you who just are not sure or can't articulate it.  

Some things have changed. Some have not. What has changed, from my perspective with over 35 years selling and teaching sales?  Here are a few:

·    People have better, quicker and easier access to information about your products/services and those of your competitors.
·    People want you to help them make better informed decisions.
·    People will not live very long with poor quality or poor service. They will do business with your competitor.
·    Your prospects have an increasing number of options, choices and vendors to purchase from.

How about what hasn't changed?

People buy from people they trust.  Stop trying to get people to like you.  Get them to trust you.

Letting lost business go without a fight
We all lose business - sales that are not closed, customers who decide to buy somewhere else or any number of other valid reasons.  You cannot sell everyone and you cannot keep customers for life. It is a myth, no matter what you may have heard or read. The key is to not lose them because of poor performance, poor quality, poor service, or poor sales skills.

Some salespeople, when they lose a sale or a customer, go into a variety of irrational emotional reactions:  they blame someone or everyone, they make excuses, they sulk, they get angry, or they run and hide.  Successful salespeople understand the ebb and flow of business and relationships.  If you have good sales skills, a good product or service, a positive attitude, a good prospect - sooner or later you will sell them.

Here are a few suggestions to use when you lose a sale.

·    Follow-up with a thank you note or letter.
·    Follow up with an after-sales critique or evaluation.
·    Follow up with additional proof sources, i.e. testimonials, articles, etc.
·    Find out what your competitor did better than you to get the business.
·    Don't assume it was price if that is what they tell you.
·    Don't let it negatively affect your attitude. Keep at it.

Being afraid of rejection
What is the number one cause of failure in sales? The inability to overcome the fear of rejection. Why do people let this fear negatively influence their behavior?  Here are a few thoughts to consider.

·    Not everyone you try to sell to will want to buy from you.
·    Expecting everyone you meet to like or accept you is to live in fantasyland.
·    If you don't ask for anything, something - it is unlikely you will ever get it.
·    Does it prevent you from asking probing questions, asking for an appointment, asking for the order.  
·    The fear of rejection is an attitude issue and can only be overcome by strengthening other attitudes - such as confidence, self-belief, patience, trust, and self-image.
·    The fear of rejection is symptomatic of a need for acceptance.

Does the fear of rejection ever prevent you from:

1.    Asking for the business?
2.    Asking difficult probing questions?
3.    Asking for referrals?
4.    Asking for a bigger order?
5.    Asking for a letter of testimony?
6.    Asking for more responsibility in your position or a raise?

Talking too much

One of the biggest mistakes poor salespeople make is THEY TALK TOO MUCH. The second is: THEY GIVE INFORMATION BEFORE THEY GET IT. When you make these mistakes, you will tend to turn off most potential customers or clients.

The key to your success is to discover what your prospect's needs, issues, concerns, problems, wants, desires or attitudes are. Then, deliver only that information that they need to make an intelligent buying decision now. Give them the rest of the stuff later - if they want it.

When you talk too much, you will give unnecessary or wrong information. Learn to let the prospect drive the process; not the control of it, but the information portion.

Not asking elevator questions
What are elevator questions?  Let me ask you a question - If you were told by a prospect that you had sixty seconds to sell them what would you do?  Would you condense your sales message into a one minute presentation or talk about your organization and its strengths and history? Would you ask a few thought provoking questions or sit or stand their dumbfounded wondering what to do or what to say next?

I recently met a prospect on an elevator in a hotel in Las Vegas at a speaking engagement. He looked like he was a business type person so I asked him, "What do you do for a living?"  He responded I am in the insurance industry."  My follow-up question was, "What do you do in the insurance business?"   He said he was the president.  (Keep in mind, I don't have a lot of time here, we are on an elevator.

My follow-up question was, "Do you know what your lost sales are costing you every year?"  (Elevator Question)

He responded with a pause then, "I am not sure, what do you do for a living?"

I said, "I am in the business of helping organizations reduce their lost sales revenue." (Elevator Statement)  An elevator question is any question that cuts to the heart of your prospect's challenges, concerns or fears and makes them think.  It also implies that you or your organization may have a possible solution for his or her problems.

Lacking a call back strategy.  More often than I can state over the years when I have followed up with a prospect who has been considering my services, I have heard, "Thanks for getting back to me. I had every intention of calling you, but have just been too busy. Let's get this purchase complete.  Why don't salespeople follow-up? And what are the benefits of an effective follow-up strategy?  These are two critical issues that will determine the success of salespeople. Why don't salespeople follow up?

1. They fear a 'no' or a rejection.  2. They are too disorganized and are not even aware that they should follow up.  3. They know the prospect is not going to buy.  4. They lack confidence in themselves or their organization and its services or products.  5. They believe their competitors are going to get the business anyway.  6. They have nothing else to say.  7. They knew they had a poor prospect anyway, so why bother? Guilty of any of these?  It is easy to fall into the no-follow-up trap.  Here are a few ideas to consider when you next follow up a sales call.

Don't open with a closed ended question like, "Have you made a decision yet?" Rather, "Where are you in the decision process?"  

Not asking for referrals
It is easier, less stressful, less costly and less time consuming to sell to qualified referrals than to just sit in your store waiting for walk-ins.   It is amazing how many salespeople fail to make asking for referrals a regular part of their selling behavior. Getting referrals is not rocket science. Although there are several methods to generate referral business, the best way I know of is to just ask.

I have surveyed my sales audiences for over 25 years by asking them how many would like to have more referrals. I always get a unanimous show of hands. My next question is, "Why don't you have them?" and the answer is always, "I don't ask." Referrals can come from anywhere: customers, non competing salespeople or suppliers, friends, relatives, your banker, neighbor, and even Aunt Sally.

Selling features rather than benefits
Product or service features are the characteristics of your products or services.  Product benefits are what the features do for the product.  Customer benefits are what the features and product benefits do for the customer.

Prospects need to know what the features are but they buy because of what those features do for them - the customer benefits.  Most salespeople sell features.  A few of the better salespeople sell product benefits.  The very successful salespeople sell customer benefits.
What's the difference?  Here is a simple presentation of all three.

Just giving the prospect a list of features may educate them on your product but it won't get them to buy.  Giving them the product benefits will help them understand the value of your offering, but it won't get the sale closed.  The key is to develop a presentation strategy that covers all three from the customer's point of view.  There are two problems when it comes to a feature based presentation.
Not relating to the prospect

If you have been in sales for more than six months you have most likely heard from a manager or some other salesperson - you have to start every presentation with some small talk.  You have to break the ice, get to know them or make them comfortable. Yes and no!
Some prospects want to get to know you and you them while others just want their problems solved or needs and desires satisfied.  Spending time in - getting to know you - with prospects who do not want this is doomed to cause you to fail or at least lose valuable selling momentum.
The key is to know how your prospect wants you to relate to them.  I recommend that you begin every presentation with a simple question.
"Ms. Prospect, I don't know how I and my organization can best be of service to you, the only way for me to determine that is if I can ask you a few questions.  Is that O.K?

This approach does two very important things in the sales process.

1)    It gives you control.  (The  person who asks the questions controls the
 conversation.  The person who talks the most dominates it. And in a sales situation you want to control it not dominate it.)
2)    It gets the prospect talking and keeps them talking.
Seeing each sale only as a transaction
Poor salespeople focus on just closing the sale. Successful salespeople focus on creating relationships. Which is your approach?

Successful selling is not about only closing the current prospect on a sale now, it is about building a trusting relationship and partnership with them.  

You must first evaluate your selling intent or philosophy underlying the sales process, and how it impacts your ability to close this sale and the future relationship. If your focus is on the short term vs. the long term, your intent is most likely only on moving more products now. If your intent is to develop a long-term mutually beneficial relationship with this new prospect, you may not sell this order, but that does not prevent you from beginning to build a positive relationship that can one day end in success.

Invalidating prospects
What is an invalidator?  It is a person who puts other people down, insults them even subtly, disregards their opinions, does not listen, let's their own ego try to control the other person, is emotionally manipulative, or negates their feelings.  How do you know if you if you tend to invalidate people?

1. Do you interrupt prospects while they are talking?
2. Are you an active listener regardless of who is speaking or how?
3. Is your ego - the need to be right, look good - getting in your way?
4. Are you more concerned with your need to make the sale than the prospect's needs?

What are the consequences of being an invalidator in sales?  Let me give you a couple of illustrations that I witnessed in actual live sales presentations.

There are hundreds of ways salespeople invalidate prospects every day.  Here's a simple one, they say "Let me repeat." Assuming that the prospect is deaf or stupid.

Not listening
Hearing and listening are two different things.  Hearing is a physical act.  Listening is a mental one. The ears collect sound waves and send them to the brain for interpretation  If you don't have a hearing problem, it doesn't necessarily mean you are a good listener.
One of the biggest complaints many prospects have about salespeople is that they don't listen.  I  Why don't people listen?

1. They don't care about the other person.
2. They are more concerned with their own ideas or thoughts.
3. It takes too much work to listen, so they just fake it.
5. They don't know how to listen.
6. They think they are listening.
8. Their ego (the need to manipulate, control or look good) gets in the way of their listening.
9. The other person's non-verbal communication style get in the way.
10. They think they know more about the subject than the person talking.   
11. They are preoccupied with their own stuff.

One of the greatest compliments you can pay a prospect or customer is to be willing to listen to them regardless of their speaking style, pace, education or emotional circumstances.

Are you a good listener?  One way to find out is to ask others to comment on your listening willingness and ability.

Seeing objections as a problem
Prospects want several things when they make a purchase. Fair price, a quality product and professional . Consumer surveys say that most customers want: responsive service first, quality products second, and low price third. It is vital to understand the difference between price, cost and perceived value. Price is what people pay for your products or services when they buy it. Cost is what they pay for what they buy, over time.  In other words the cost of poor quality from a low priced product will be remembered long after the benefit of low price is forgotten.  Value is what they want for the money they spend.
Most consumers tell salespeople that what they want is low price - when what they really want is low cost.  

People object to price when they feel that what you are asking them to pay is higher than their perceived value. Most poor salespeople, when they get price resistance, lower the price. Most of the time, it is not a price issue, but one of too low perceived value by the prospect.

Not asking for the order
A number of years ago Sales and Marketing magazine did a survey and their research indicated that 60% of the time when in a sales closing situation, the salesperson failed to ask for the order.
Consider this - During every sales presentation a sale is closed.  Either you sell your products and services to the prospect or they sell you on why they don't need it, can't afford it or don't need it now.
Why don't salespeople after going through all of the time, energy and effort to present their product ask for the order?

I have discovered that there are five main reasons:

1. They fear a no or rejection.
2. They feel if they have done a good job presenting the product that the prospect will buy.
3. They don't know how to close the sale.
4. They don't have a closing strategy.
5.They never got control of the sales process from the beginning and   don't know how to get it at the end of the sales process.
Well, how would you rate yourself on the above 25 areas?

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