In many important ways, sales is just like dating…
For example, when you’re not doing well on a date, the person never straight-up tells you what you’re doing wrong…they just ghost you and disappear forever.
This is the same exact thing that prospects do to salespeople who make a consistent series of mistakes during the sales process.
Prospects never take the time to tell you, “Here are the 5 reasons why I’ve chosen not to do business with you. And here’s what I think you should do differently.”
All they do is disappear.
However, they never give you direct feedback.
As a result, salespeople rarely get the opportunity to understand the biggest sales mistakes they’re consistently making.
Biggest Sales Mistakes #1: Hoping for leads.
This is one of the most common—and obvious—mistakes that salespeople make over and over again. At the time of writing this, we’re in a particularly unstable market where there’s a lot of transition. Much of the business world is in upheaval. During times like these, the huge mistake of hoping for leads is more pronounced than at any other time.
That’s because when the market is unstable and the world seems to be going crazy, lead generation tends to take a back seat for many salespeople. They end up just hoping that leads will come in without any effort. Or, they hope that whatever small amount of lead generation they’re doing will yield much better results than is realistic to expect.
As a result of just hoping for leads, salespeople see their sales take a massive nosedive.
And the same is true for salespeople who are using lead generation strategies that simply aren’t working.
No prospect will ever come right out and say, “Hey, if you changed your strategy in this way, by tweaking this specific language, you’d be a lot more effective.” Instead, just like a date who decides they don’t like you, a disinterested prospect will simply disappear and you’ll continue making the same lead gen mistakes.
The way around this is to have a consistent, well-thought-out lead generation machine in place. I like to call this your prospecting blueprint.
This blueprint is your lead generation strategy, from first identifying a prospect all the way to getting them on the phone. And then, once you connect with the prospect, it’s about knowing exactly what steps to take to close them.
You must have that entire process laid out, from start to finish, in an easily repeatable way. When are you making calls? What does your script look like? What do your emails say? How will you potentially automate your outreach? How ill you use social media? Your prospecting blueprint should answer all of these questions, taking the “hope” out of lead generation and replacing it with a real, hard strategy.
Because if you’re just hoping for leads, you’ll be broke very soon.
Sales Mistake #2: Trying to educate your prospect.
There are a bunch of sales gurus out there who say salespeople should be educating their prospects. I want to be very clear: I strongly disagree with that.
In fact, trying to educate your prospect is one of the biggest sales mistakes you can make.
While you do need to demonstrate insight and show prospects that you are the expert, that’s very different from trying to educate your prospects. When the goal is to educate, salespeople tend to lose focus on the ultimate goal, which is simply to engage the prospect in a conversation.
The best way to get prospects engaged in that conversation is by demonstrating some quick insight up front to get them thinking, “Oh, this person knows what they’re talking about, so I’m willing to talk with them and answer some of their questions.”
But we don’t want to educate.
When you try to educate your prospect, the conversation becomes all about you and what you know. That’s not the point. They are not yet a customer; they are a prospect. You can educate your customers, but you should focus on demonstrating insight with your prospects. No exceptions.
Mistake #3: Pitching your offering.
The idea of pitching your offering actually goes back to the year 1887, when National Cash Register (NCR) launched their initial sales training. That first training was all about pitching the NCR cash register—literally a manual cash register, which so few of us ever even see anymore.
But the pitching approach was really effective for selling cash registers—and basically everything else—during the late 1800s and through the 1900s.
However, in more recent years, buyers have become incredibly wary of the hardcore pitch. It’s an automatic red flag for most prospects. And for that reason, pitching is now one of the biggest sales mistakes you can make.
The goal is not to pitch your offering, but instead to demonstrate insight and then engage prospects in a conversation so you can understand what’s going on in their world—and how your offering might actually be able to help them.
If you’re starting that conversation by focusing on your offering, or if your slide deck is about your company and your products or services, you’re in trouble. Throw that out and start engaging prospects in a real conversation about them—not you.
Sales Mistake #4: Going for the close.
It’s crazy to me that there are still salespeople out there who are exclusively focused on how to close their prospects.
One of my sales mentors always used to say, “If you start strong, you will end strong.” This is so true. If you’re having an issue with closing sales, there’s a 99.9% likelihood that you’re making your biggest sales mistakes earlier on in the sale.
Those early sales mistakes are what cause you to fail to get commitment from prospects at the end of the conversation. Perhaps you’re not taking the time to really understand what’s going on in their world, or you’re pitching instead of focusing on engaging them in a conversation. Or maybe you’re failing to demonstrate insight that proves you can solve their problems.
Then when it comes time for you to try to close the sale, the prospect might say something like, “Oh, this was great, but I really need to think about it,” or “I need to run this by my partner,” or “I need to share this with my team before we can move forward.”
Those excuses, and others like them, are really just lies. These objections at the end of the sale are merely proxies for what the prospect really thinks, which is: “I don’t want to do business with you. I don’t find this compelling and I don’t want to move forward.”
Old-school closing techniques that focus on getting the prospect to sign the dotted line at the end of the conversation are just putting tons of pressure on the prospect—and that will only further repel them from ever doing business with you.
Instead, you need to be focused on avoiding the biggest sales mistakes earlier on in the sales process, so that you don’t get objections at the end. Start strong, end strong.
So don’t focus on the close. If you have a closing problem, remember that it means you’re making mistakes earlier on in the sale that are leading to that problem. You’re likely not using the right sales process to get prospects to say, “Yes, this makes sense. Let’s do business.”
Biggest Sales Mistakes #5: Blaming the marketplace for lost business.
Blaming the marketplace for lost business is another one of the biggest sales mistakes that salespeople make. I’m hearing this excuse from salespeople a lot right now, at a time when the market is unstable and there are some crazy disruptions going on in the world.
No matter what the circumstances in the marketplace, though, salespeople have one of two choices. They can either continue to blame the marketplace for lost sales, or they can take control over their financial and selling destiny.
The salespeople who are blaming the marketplace right now are the same salespeople who will not be in sales one year from now. You must stop blaming external factors and instead focus on what you can control.
Here’s what you can control: how you’re prospecting and thus setting appointments; how you’re selling to people that are in front of you; and how consistently you’re getting out in front of those people. What you can’t control is everything that’s going on in the world.
Don’t worry about all that stuff and instead focus on what you can control. Take full ownership of your sales and your lead generation. Have a process and a system that you can follow time and time again so you can repeatedly and reliably set enough meetings and close as many deals as you need to in order to hit your sales goals.
There are salespeople in every single industry who are crushing it right now. Don’t give into the sorry excuse of blaming your lost business on what’s going on in the world. Focus on what you can control.
So, there you have it. Now you know the 5 biggest sales mistakes to avoid that you absolutely must know. Which of these sales mistakes did you find most useful to learn about? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section to join the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.