Every sales rep has been there. You mispronounce a name, botch a detail or go braindead at the worst possible moment. Sales call fails come with the territory. The best sales reps, however, are able to shake them off and jump right back on the phone.
Best-of-the-best salespeople make a game plan to prevent the biggest sales mistakes. No one’s perfect, but the right amount of preparation and strategy can help you limit common mistakes. Whether you’re a seasoned sales rep or new to the role, learning how to avoid the sales mistakes on this list will help you succeed.
Talking too much
In the words of Run DMC, “You Talk Too Much.” Limiting how much you say is the cardinal rule of sales. You may have the gift of gab, but sales is all about understanding each potential client’s problems and wants. There’s no way to do that without a healthy dose of active listening.
Don’t be afraid to let the sales conversation sit in silence for a few seconds longer than usual. Your prospect might have a critical thought that will push things forward.
Your sales strategy is too specific or too general
While listening to individual needs is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Individualizing too much hinders sales reps. They bounce from call to call without a dedicated strategy. A sales call framework helps reps get the conversation going, and provides talking points based on information the prospect provides. A sales framework usually goes something like this:
- Greeting/intro: Friendly banter to set the tone—friendly, courteous, and professional
- Discovery call: A series of questions that get to the heart of their prospect’s problem, use case, and goals
- Value proposition: Delivering the company’s or software’s value proposition and the benefits of your product or service, i.e. why the prospect should care
- Small steps: Setting up an introduction to another contact, scheduling a personalized demo, or nailing down timelines
- Follow-up or fallback: Backup plans if a prospect has a plethora of objections, an undetermined budget, or a general disinterest
Act! helps sales representatives execute their sales cycle framework by recording all prospect history and details, allowing sales teams to juggle multiple opportunities at once. If you’re looking beyond the sales call strategy, read about the seven-step sales process here.
Top sales professionals know the ins and outs of their products. They can anticipate customers’ needs and answer questions about features on their own without confirming with a team member. But this strategy can get risky if it’s the core of the pitch. It’s not necessary to discuss every feature during the initial conversation.
Prospects are going through a sales research process. After multiple demos, seeking referrals, and hours of research, they’re not going to remember what feature X does. They primarily care about solving their specific problems within their budget. Plus, feature-heavy presentations leave little room for conversation, question-asking, and information sharing.
Not dealing with objections
Whether you sell cars or perfume, overcoming objections is key to successful sales. Successful salespeople have to prepare for objections and overcome new ones on the fly. This is a mindset as much as it is a science. The sales process is about understanding the prospect’s pain points. Overcoming objections is a natural step along the way.
Not following up
Failure to follow up seems like an easy mistake to avoid—just make the call, right? However, not all follow-ups are created equal. Sure, persistence is important. But incessant, meaningless follow-ups make an account go cold.
Follow-ups should be sent with intention and purpose. Are you adding to the conversation or mentioning a recently discovered piece of information? If not, then don’t expect meaningful results.
Experienced sales reps also make sure follow-ups are not a gray area, meaning they ensure the call doesn’t end without clear next steps and expectations. No matter how you handle follow-ups, be sure you’re the one directing the action. Letting a prospect “get back to you” is the kiss of death for a sale.
It’s a bad practice to pretend competitors don’t exist. Google search is leveraged by even the most time-strapped prospects. Do your homework about your competitors, perhaps using a SWAT analysis, and consider creating battle cards so you are prepared to rebut your competitors’ strengths with why they aren’t truly important or walk them through how something plays out in practice.
Too much company hype
A company overview is great, but deep-diving into company history is a one-way street to sleep city. Prospects are researching multiple companies, and they can peruse your company website at any time. They care about their own problems, not extra hype about your company.
Many mistakes sales reps make come down to not having empathy for the prospect. Imagine the level of information you want from a vendor or a business in your daily life and adjust your strategy accordingly.
‘Free solo’ mode
Some see sales as an individual sport, similar to free solo mountain climbing. But the best sales reps rely on the subject matter experts around them. Product managers, sales engineers, product marketers, technical folks—any of these roles can make the difference between a lost opportunity and a closed-won.
Flirting with NINA
Sometimes sales mistakes don’t have anything to do with the call. The call could be spectacular but still detrimental to the overall sale process. The reason? NINA: no influence, no authority. These are individuals within a company who might say the right things and ask the right questions but not ultimately have the final say when it comes to purchasing. They’re not close to the budget or simply aren’t decision-makers.
These types of prospects should not be ignored, These conversations might lead to worthwhile connections with the right people. But you have to approach them with the right mindset. Determine a list of questions that help you understand the prospect’s influence within their organization.
With Act! CRM and marketing automation, salespeople can review, record, and update prospect details on the fly. Sales reps can provide the right amount of information for every call and easily manage their sales funnel.
Lack of preparation
Bad sales pitches compound mistakes. Several of the mistakes sales reps make can occur on one call or repeatedly throughout the day. Preparation is the most important tool for avoiding this. Ultimately, it comes down to three things:
- Research: Company info, history, prospect history, personal research—everything is on the table.
- Structure and goals: Research is great, but without structure, it can be overwhelming and useless. Setting objectives and goals allows salespeople to seize on the most important aspects of their research. Every call then has an informed plan of attack.
- Mindset: One of the most common sales mistakes has nothing to do with behavior and everything to do with the mental game. Just as athletes have to visualize success before they compete, sales reps have to stay sharp mentally. Confidence (not cockiness) reaps benefits throughout the sales cycle.
Lastly, good preparation carries over after the call. The best sales reps take copious notes and find a repeatable way to keep those notes organized. They also establish clear next steps for each prospect in the pipeline.