When you are in sales, you need to make the most of every single conversation, but when you’re just getting into it, you make tons of mistakes. You don’t know what you don’t know. Here are the six sales mistakes you should avoid at all costs.
A great salesperson enters into the conversation confident, and they are there to help the prospect out. Your job is to build trust and credibility and not try too hard to get the sale, because, at the end of the day, you will succeed if your prospect succeeds—it’s that simple. Help them out, and you will be helped out as well. If you’re a professional salesperson, you know the pitfalls. You know the things that come up that you can never expect. So let’s jump into the six mistakes you shouldn’t make.
Mistake #1: Not knowing enough about the client or their problem
Clients want to know how you can help them, so do your research in advance. Know the industry. Know the common problems that your prospects will face. Do research on the person you are sitting across from (whether it’s doing a quick Google search, going to LinkedIn, or calling up someone you know in common to find out a little bit about them). Doing these things will take you so far.
Let me tell you, as a client, it is insulting when someone sits down across from me and they haven’t even taken the time or courtesy to find out more about me. You are asking me for time, and then you won’t even take the time to find out the basics about me. Of course, I want to be helped, but if you don’t even take the time to learn who I am, how are you going to help me through this really complex challenge or problem? How can I even trust that you even know what you’re talking about? Credibility and trust can be lost in a second. Thus, the better prepared you are, knowing about your client, the better you’re going to be able to lead the conversation.
Mistake #2: Letting the customer drive the conversation
If we know mirroring and matching, we know that sometimes people can be passive. We want to be a little bit more A-type. However, if you sit down with someone who’s calling all the shots, who has all the questions, and who is taking you off-course and not even giving you an opportunity to respond to the last question before the next question comes up, you are in big trouble.
In sales, you have to be polite. You have to be considerate. You have to be thoughtful. You have to take back control. The easiest way to do that is to reframe the question or the challenge coming to you. When someone questions you or challenges you, you don’t want to sidestep it. However, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know what, let me ask you this first. I think your answer will be answered if we have this conversation,” or “You know what, I would love to be able to go away and come up with this plan, but I don’t quite yet have all the information I need to be able to provide you something of true value.”
If a salesman tells you that they can give you a proposal with a few details that they have, I don’t mean to be rude, but they’re going to be lying to you. They’re going to make a whole bunch of assumptions on your behalf. They’ll say they’re going to do this and they’re going to do that. If you’re in sales, just honestly say, “I would love to be in a position to help you, but I don’t yet have this.” There are tons of ways to take back control of the conversation if you do it politely and if you do it with their best interest in mind, but whatever you do, don’t just allow them to steal the process from under you.
Mistake #3: Providing irrelevant information
In sales, providing irrelevant information takes people off the path and changes the way they think about you. It makes them ask, “Do you even know what you’re talking about? Do you even know what’s important to me? Why are you talking about this stuff?” We all make this mistake. I can think back to when I first started in 2006. I was sitting across from someone, and I was completely nervous. They said, “What do you do?” and I talked about this and that and never asked them any questions. Then I randomly pulled out of nowhere a customer testimonial. I said, “Here’s what people think about us.” It was totally the wrong time to do it. He wasn’t asking whether we needed a reference. He didn’t even understand what I was talking about.
When you’re working with someone, the easiest thing you can do is ask them questions. The more you ask, the more you come to learn, the more you can push through, the more you can guide the conversation. How do you know if they have an interest? How do you know if they care? Ask them: “What do you care about?” “I want to talk to you a little bit about this. Do you have any interest in talking about that?” “You know what, a lot of people in your situation are really looking for this and this. Is that something that you’re looking for?” There’s nothing wrong with asking what they value and what they’re interested in and then having that conversation. It’ll destroy you if you take someone off to some path that they literally do not care about.
Mistake #4: Trying to persuade the prospect
People buy when they’re ready to buy, and they buy what they’re interested in buying. You can educate them. You can help provide context. You can lead a horse to water, so to speak, but do not try to get them to take action or pressure them into something. People don’t like that. People don’t like to be sold to. They like to be helped. They like to know that you have their back, but they don’t want you sitting across them, trying to sell them on something. Nobody likes that. So stop trying to persuade people. Start trying to help them.
What I do is I put myself in their situation. If I’m speaking to a business owner, I’d ask myself, “What would I do if I ran their business? Would I buy this product? Would I spend that money? Would I refer it to my mother? What would I do?” If I’m coming from that place and I still believe in it, I tell people, “For me, I would do this. I really would,” or, “I would spend this.” You don’t want just to sell for today; you want the customer for life. Put yourself in their situation so that you won’t have to spend a lot of time persuading them.
Mistake #5: Trying to close the deal too early
What happens when you try to marry someone on the first date? They will think you’re crazy. What happens when you tell someone you love them on the second date even when you don’t really know them very well? They will question your intentions. That’s what happens to you when you try to close the deal too early.
People are ready to move really, really quick if they’re A-type. If you understand them and they give you all the buying signals to say, “Let’s go,” you can try a trial closed. You can go ahead and say, “Is there anything that’s keeping us from moving forward with this?” You can try all those kinds of sales techniques. They’re ready to say, “Let’s go. Don’t drag it out.” However, the majority of people need to feel good about it first. They need a bit of time. So if you build a sales system where you expect to close everyone at the same speed every single time, you will lose tons and tons of opportunities. Respect the fact that some people move slower and require a bit more time, patience, and care while other people are willing to go right away. You have to adjust your approach based on where your prospect is at.
Mistake #6: Not scheduling the next step
Let’s go back to the fact that no one likes to be sold to. If I’m the customer on a call with you and you’re pressuring me for the next step on the prospect, I’m going to be a little slippery. I’m going to be a little vague. I have to go talk to someone. I got to be clarified about something that I’m not sure of. The truth is, it’s your job to have a framework of what the next steps are. You can say, “Let’s set something up. Can we hold a time when we’ll be able to speak?”
As a prospect, I need to understand what the next steps are and why these steps matter. Tell me what I’m going to do and what you’re going to do. You can say, “We’re going to come back together. How is next Thursday morning?” You don’t want to take up too much time because the longer it takes, the less momentum you’re able to build internally.
Here’s the thing: If a prospect is not willing to give you the time, if they’re not willing to meet with you, if they’re being super vague even when you’re being a little more direct, that’s a big red flag. I wouldn’t let that meeting go. I would address it right there. If they’re willing to give you the time but they cancel, I would call that right there. However, if they’re willing to pull up their phone and book the next meeting because you made a point of it, you’re a professional, and you’re following up while the iron is hot, that is a great indication that the person’s willing to move through the process.
Sometimes people don’t want to hurt your feelings. They don’t want to be honest. They want to say they’re shopping around. They want to say that they’re getting a bunch of different quotes and that they’re unsure. They’re not giving you the real reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for the real reasons. You can ask, “Is this important for you right now, or is this a long-term thing that we’re thinking about? Do you even have the budget set aside? I just want to make sure, because I got the impression that you wanted to move really quickly on this. We just spoke about all the ways that this is going to help you, and I’m worried that you’re gonna miss out on all these opportunities if you’re pushing back.”
If they’re vague and if they’re still not willing, you can try a few times and then let it go. But at least, when you’re walking to the meeting, you know exactly where you stand. Time is the enemy here. But whatever you do, do not leave the meeting or the conversation without clearly laying out the next steps—what you’re going to do, what they’re going to do, and when you are speaking next. Don’t say, “I’ll follow up with you next week.” It’s vague. Get a specific day you’re going to speak with them, and then make it happen.
So much of the six mistakes come back to how you work, how you think, and your level of confidence. Don’t try to sell on the first date, and like everything you do, the more you do this, the more micro wins you have, and the more confidence you’re going to carry into the next meeting. Allow your winds to stack upon each other. Don’t feel too bad about the micro losses. Go out there and make it happen.