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Top Five Mistakes That Salespeople Make 

By Joe Guertin

Nobody wants to be their own worst enemy. Sales is a demanding profession and you want to do everything in your power to make yourself more profitable.  After working with thousands of salespeople, I have found that there are mistakes many of us commonly make. Once eliminated, we can boost our sales and earning power dramatically.

Mistake #1: Getting Insufficient Information: In a courtroom, the judge would never cut the testimony short and make a hasty decision, based only on preliminary evidence, especially when more credible and detailed testimony is yet to come. But that is exactly what defeats many sales.

We cannot honestly say where we are in the sales process without a clear understanding of what is happening on their end. We wont often be privy to everything happening behind the scenes, but that’s no reason to handcuff ourselves by ending phone conversations and leaving meetings without a better understanding of needs, timelines and procedures.

What information do we need? In addition to product or service information, here are three critical points:

  • How important is this decision? Everyone has felt the sting of that ‘sure thing’ sale which, at the last minute, gets put on the backburner because something else came up. In any changing business, new priorities can replace old ones in an instant. Your sale was a top concern yesterday, but when an equipment breakdown or staffing issue arose, new priorities took hold. It happens, but only if the sales process drags on too long, or if its priority is too low to begin with.

  • What is their buying process? Is the buyer, alone, in the position to make the final decision, or will others be involved. Will approval go through a specific chain of command? Even door-to-door sales to consumers usually requires a second opinion, like a spouse, in order to complete the sale.

  • What is their timeline? Is a decision imminent, or are they gathering pricing information for next years budget? It’s amazing how often this one comes up and, too often, the salesperson is unaware because they didn’t ask.

  • Mistake #2: Assuming That Price Is The Answer: Low price doesn’t always win the sale. But go ahead and ask your customer their most important criteria and they’ll often say “price, of course.” They’re not lying. But they haven’t been sold yet, either.

When it comes to price sensitivity, consumers come in three clusters. The first is the low-price cluster. Some estimate this group to be about 15% of all consumers, business and consumer. They may have a directive to be frugal with the company budget, may have less means financially, or just a deep-rooted desire to get the most in any bargain, even if it results in a win-lose scenario.

Another, although smaller cluster, will always pay the higher price. They may want the best quality, and know that you get what you pay for. They may want the prestige that goes with owning the best. Either way, price, alone, is seldom an issue.

The third cluster, estimated to be nearly 75% of all buyers, live in between the low and high-end. They’re waiting to be sold. They want quality, they want service, and they want a good value. But, if there’s no clear distinction among their options, then the default buying decision becomes ‘price.’

To avoid becoming compared to others based on price alone, find their definition of value. Ask questions that will uncover their most important buying criteria. Sometimes, a basic question like “aside from price, what will be your most important criteria?” helps you find the way to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Mistake #3: A Lacking Of Personal Branding: Toyota, Heinz Ketchup, Hershey Chocolate. They’ve got branding. Their name says it all. Branding identifies a product, and its perceived value. Hallmark Greeting Cards built an empire with the phrase “when you care enough to send the very best.”  Branding is who you are in the minds of your customers. Too many salespeople focus only on method. They go through all the steps to the sale, from asking questions to closing, but never differentiate themselves from the competition.

Ask yourself “what, specifically, do I bring to the sale?” Everyone says they’re service-oriented and will work hard for the customer. Now ask yourself, “What CAN I bring to the sale?” Forget the non-substance answers like ‘I’m service oriented,’ or ‘I’m a terrific listener.’ Instead, find your own, personal value. If you consistently come to them with intelligent discussion, research and ideas, you brand yourself as a value-added consultant. Continuously remind them that you’re working in their best interest with articles or web page links that address their interests and needs. Over time, you’ll brand yourself as the kind of person they trust, respect and want to do business with

Mistake #4: Not Having Enough Time In Each Day: Do you accomplish everything you set out to do in a day? Time is today’s currency, and every one of us fights the daily battle.

Finding time is the challenge. Taking it is the solution. Nobody’s going to give it to you. No customer is going to call and say “we want to buy…and you just leave those little details to us.” The interruptions will not stop. Here are three strategies for finding time:

1)   Schedule it (this is pretty basic, but it’s critical). Block out several hours every week as though it was time for your best customer, and use that time to accomplish those important projects.

2)   Prepare for it. If new business is a priority, then print out a list of prospective customers, complete with name, phone and other notes, before the work week begins. Then you can spend your time taking action, not searching through files.

3)   Be disciplined. I like the health club analogy. On January 1st, we’re all committed to fitness. That’s why the lines at Bally’s are so long. But, by the 1st of February, you can fire a cannon through there and not hit anything. Do you stay committed to a plan after the initial motivation has worn off? Challenge yourself, week in and week out.

Don’t just find time….Take It. Grab that clock and out a choke hold on it. It’s yours.

Mistake #5: Not Asking For The Order: When did closing become a bad thing? Every day, countless sales are left ‘in limbo’ because the salesperson made their presentation, quoted the price, then left and waited for the customer to make up their mind.

There are two simple rules to closing a sale. Rule #1: you cannot force, trick or cajole them. Anyone who agrees to a sale today can easily talk themselves out of it tomorrow. Rule #2: the salesperson need to lead the close by leading the sale. That means being thorough throughout the selling process by uncovering needs, developing trust and presenting proposals that fill the customers’ surface and deeper needs, and then asking for the order. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just a straightforward statement like “if everything looks good, let’s get it started” or “should we go ahead and write up the paperwork?” This may sound basic, and it is. But it’s probably one of the biggest mistakes we make!

In every profession, from medicine to sports, professionals regularly work to improve their skills. Take 30 days to focus on these common mistakes and I can guarantee you’ll see and feel a tremendous difference.

Read other articles and learn more about Joe Guertin.

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