5 Things Sales People Get Wrong

Wrong practices in sales? I could write a whole book about things that I have done wrong in my sales career. Moreover, I see plenty of salespeople make the very same mistakes as I did. They can easily be summarized by the following 5 principles that salespeople and organizations get wrong:

1. Not listening 

Salespeople love the sound of their own voice (you know I’m right). It took me a long time to understand and implement that sales calls are not about selling but figuring out what the need of the prospects are. What prompted them to contact you, sign up for the free trial, request a demo, etc.

I witness this regularly, salespeople talk way more than the prospect on a phone call, almost mimicking a human brochure of a product. It’s wrong!

While on the phone, prospects should be doing most of the talking, explaining their pain points and what have they done so far to fix the “issue” at hand. Sales person’s job here to guide the prospect in figuring out whether their product is a good fit for them and if indeed there is a mutual fit between the prospect and the product. 

I read statements like the following one quite often: salespeople should be talking only 20 percent of the time and let the prospect talk the rest of the time. I disagree! Because all it does is work as a general rule of thumb but that’s about it. 

Every sales call is different. Likewise, every prospect’s needs are different. Some prospects talk a lot some don’t, some give information without much effort, with others you have to pry the information out of them. The key here is adaptability. Adapt to each situation, because chances are there will be prospects that will need a lot more hand-holding than others. 

Listening however is ultimtely what it comes down to is, to answer the prospect’s questions and ask them more questions. Until you and prospect are satisfied that your product can help them without a shadow of a doubt. Next step? Demo the product and let them get their hands dirty with the product so they can see the value. Let the prospect come to the conclusion that your product indeed is a good fit for them. All you have to do is listen and point in the right direction. 

Fun fact: someone once told me that salespeople suffer from situational amnesia (I googled this, it’s made up). Meaning they talk a lot and forget important details about what they said over the call. Prospects, on the other hand, remember every tidbit you blurped over the phone. So, talk less and be empathetic.

2. Too focused on the sale

My personal favorite.

I get it, you love closing deals and earning that Quan (that’s a steal from the movie Jerry Maguire for all you non-movie buffs out there). There is nothing wrong with wanting to close deals fast. It’s when closing becomes the only thing in your head is when the trouble starts. 

Salespeople will give discounts, commit to creating features that the customer requests, heck they’d give the prospect a massage if that means they will buy today. 

Don’t embody everything depicted in the wolf of wall street. Practices such as those often don’t last very long and they leave a bad taste in the mouth for your customers.

Here’s why these practices are wrong: Committing to building features that are not in your product roadmap will add pressure on your product team. It will deviate the company from their roadmap and their focus. Just because a feature is requested by a prospect, does not mean that it will be used by all your customer base. You gotta think big picture!

Sell what you have and have what you sell.

Gijs Nielsen 

You should never commit to building any feature (until and unless it’s a multi-million $ deal). Instead, send the feedback to the product team, they can then review and see if it’s a popular feature and if it will fit the offerings of the product. 

*If you’re looking for a tool that can help you save and organize all the client feedback, have a look at productboard.

The same goes for discounts. Do NOT give discounts just so you can close a deal. It devalues your brand and this practice causes nothing but trouble. 

Focus instead on showing the value of the product to the prospect. Demonstrating that there indeed is a mutual fit and why they should go ahead with your product.

Keep your distance from the “close”. Take the emotion out of the sale and don’t get too vested. Always remember to sell on value and address the customer’s needs. 

3. Focused more on the presentation and features than selling the solution

You love the tool you sell (congrats!). However, the person on the other end of the line only cares about his or her pain points.

Time and time again, I’ve seen salespeople develop a certain script for how they go about giving a demo or selling the tool. They take the prospect through the whole platform, rather than just focusing on the sections that the prospect is interested in.

It’s kind of like having your gym trainer admire his/her own abs while they should be training you to get a bod like them.

A demo shouldn’t be about features, it should be about pain. By focusing on your prospect’s pains, you can showcase your product’s value and translate the features your product has into tangible benefits that resonate with your prospects.

Let’s face it. No one likes a showboat. So resist the temptation to showcase every single feature your product is capable of. Focus on the pain points of your prospect and prioritize which features to show accordingly. 

Going through that same old feature-centric demo pitch in not only boring for you but it also feels rehearsed to the prospect. Instead, use success stories about how one of your customers achieved success with your product which captivates and engages your prospect. 

Pro tip: Disable applications that show notifications, disable alarms, etc. It’s just embarrassing having that pop up on the screen. 

4. Not qualifying leads 

Did someone from Apple request a demo? Great! 

Do they get a pass on the qualification because of their ginormous size? NO!

The biggest reason why prospects go silent towards the end of the sales cycle is either because they are not qualified, or not qualified enough. I’m not recommending you BANT(Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) the hell out of the prospect. 

What I am recommending here to make sure that the prospect has the pain points that your product can help solve.

There needs to be a mutual fit before you jump into an hour-long demo and waste your and the prospect’s valuable time. They will end up not purchasing since they weren’t qualified, to begin with. 

No matter what the size of the company is or how big lead they are. They need to need to go through that qualification process to determine if it’s worth spending further time with that prospect. 

I can’t stress this enough. 

Once or twice this bad habit can be harmless. I get it, you are excited about the prospect of closing Apple. 

However, when it becomes a daily occurrence is when it starts to have negative effects on your sales funnel. Your sales velocity will decrease, you will end up with a low closing average. Moreover, it will hurt your KPIs and put you in hot water come quarterly review. 

Not to mention the crappy feeling you have when you realize that deals are not closing. It’s aggravating. I sympathize with that. But the solution is simple, if you start to see some sort of trend in your sales process, it means you are messing up somewhere along the line. 

Lead qualification is important because it saves you time, energy, and ultimately your bottom line.

5. They don’t understand the rule of sales

Out of all the reasons listed above. Perhaps this one is the worst one that affects almost every salesperson, but they don’t realize it. Most salespeople don’t understand the game of sales.

They think selling is about them and about their product. They think selling is about their competition. They think selling is about quota. They think selling is all about hitting their numbers and being the top rep. Salespeople look at selling in a lot of ways, but few actually get what sales is all about. They don’t understand the game of sales and it’s costing them and the company they work for deals and greater success.

Of all the misconceptions salespeople have, the biggest is they think it’s about them, their company, and their product. Look at most of their decks, pitches, emails, voicemail messages and the one-pagers they send out. They almost always, exclusively talk about their product and their company. What they don’t understand is that customers and buyers don’t give a shit about you or your product.

Sales is all about helping the prospect. Discovering what their needs are and supporting them by showing how your product can help them. 

Buyers care about themselves. They have problems they are trying to solve. Their business is suffering somehow and they need to stop the bleeding. They don’t care about you or what product you sell or how long your company has been in business. They care about their own world and it’s our job as salespeople to understand as much about their world as possible.

What salespeople struggle with understanding is that they aren’t paid to sell. They are paid to influence a decision and that can’t be done when you’re focusing on you, your product or your company.

Salespeople, it is time to change the way we sell. No pitching, no hard close, no manipulation, no bending the truth. It’s simply getting as much information as possible from the prospect and leveraging that in order to influence the sale.

So these are the 5 things that I see salespeople getting wrong quite regularly. To summarize:

  • Adapt to the situation, talk less and ask questions more
  • Take the emotion out of the sale
  • Focus on the prospects pain and guide them towards the solution
  • Always, always, always qualify the prospects
  • Help the prospect, it’s about them and not your product 

Happy selling!

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