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Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make

Years ago, I was newly promoted to a strategic sales position after a successful run as a territory rep. This new role included selling to Senior Executives and selling solutions that typically were “decision by committee”, rather than the single-threaded buyer relationships I had been used to. 

Our company had great documentation around the discovery questions I was to ask (kids these days call it Disco). So, there I was, in a meeting with 6 senior executives (the committee). I had my sheet of company-supplied disco questions and I went down the list, in order, ticking them off as if I was a robot. 

If this were filmed, it would have been a comedy. Not quite the level of Tommy Boy, but...Wow – I made so many mistakes. In fact, if you Google (or ask ChatGPT) about the top 5 mistakes salespeople make, I made all of them in that one meeting! These mistakes are timeless, appearing on lists of sales faux pas then and now. To avoid them, there are fundamental skills every successful salesperson must master, with no shortcuts.

Let’s review the top 5 mistakes (and how not to make them):

1. Not Understanding Your Client's Objectives: I was shooting in the dark because while I had “arrows”, I had no idea what the target was.  I thought the target was MY goal of getting the sale, not the goal of helping them achieve their objectives. 

Solution: Focus on getting into your customer’s operating reality, do your research about their company and industry, and begin your interactions and questioning by looking at problems and opportunities through their eyes, not yours.


2. Lacking Understanding of What Motivates Them to Buy:

Every customer has a 'why' behind their purchase. It could be a problem they need to solve, a goal they want to achieve, or a dream they wish to fulfill. Understanding this 'why' is crucial. It's not just about what they’re buying; it's about the story and the solution it brings to their life.

Solution:  Never forget the Butler Street motto of “solve your customers’ problems and you’ll solve your own!” You must understand what your solution will do for them personally. How will their life be improved because you helped them?  If you can’t answer that, you won’t get the right deal.


3. Selling Solely on Price:  

I never reached the point of discussing price in that infamous meeting, but had I, it would have been akin to responding to a cold RFP. I lacked sufficient understanding of their situation to shift the conversation to value and ROI.

Solution: It's essential to highlight the value and benefits of your product or service. Value = Benefits – Cost is the equation you must be able to articulate. Show how it's not just a purchase but an investment in solving a problem or enhancing their life. Selling price is a race to the bottom; selling value is the real deal. 


4. Not Setting Proper Expectations:

Everyone has expectations. It’s important to get them out in the open so you can meet or exceed them. Silent expectations are pretty hard to meet. As a salesperson, it’s your job to set expectations every step of the way – from having a clear agenda for each meeting to being very clear about what your product/service can and cannot do.

Solution: Honesty isn't just the best policy; it's the only policy for long-term success. Be well versed in your offerings AND how they match up to your customer’s situation and master the art of communication. See #5


5. Poor Listening Skills and Poor Questioning Skills:

Listening is the golden key in sales. It's not just about waiting for your turn to speak; it's about truly hearing and understanding the client's needs. Combine this with thoughtful, well-crafted questions that give you insight, and you have a powerful tool for uncovering their true needs and providing tailored solutions. 


Solution: Get in the habit of having a pre-call plan with goals to advance the decision process, create thought-provoking SIGN questions to move toward that goal, anticipate objections, understand any concerns they may have, and gain commitment for next steps.

Don’t wing it and use the company-provided list of disco questions and go down the list.  Trust me – it doesn’t work.

What does work? Our Sales Effectiveness training.  We teach these fundamentals and more.  We give you the tools and the processes to be in the habit of avoiding these mistakes. Contact us to learn more about our online learning, virtual training, workshops, and custom programs.

TempNet Group! Register for custom Sales Effectiveness training for TempNet members! Virtual, instructor-led weekly series starting March 19th. Includes foundational eLearning plus weekly best practices, coaching, and hands-on exercises relevant to your role (and how to utilize generative AI (like ChatGPT) like a pro for efficiency and fast results! 

Questions? Connect with Erika Bantz at the Annual Conference in Napa this March! 


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