Selling is a crucial but tough part of any business venture. Whether it’s getting your foot in the door with new prospects, maximizing existing customers, or just simply selling enough ‘units’ of whatever it is you do to survive, sales success is where business success begins. However, it’s easy to make mistakes. After all, we’re all human – even the most dedicated of salespeople, whatever anybody says! – and we can’t be operating at peak efficiency all the time.
However, the first step to avoiding mistakes that could cost you money, profit and security, is to be aware of what could go wrong; you’re then in a much better position to avoid it. Here are some of the most common sales mistakes to avoid.
Lack of preparation
As the Scouting motto goes, “Be prepared”. Some of this preparation relates to product knowledge – you need to understand inside and out what it is that you’re selling: it’s features and advantages, how it differs to the competition, and its value to the potential client before you. Take some time to anticipate the questions you might be asked.
Furthermore, research the customer. You’re making a call, going to a meeting, you need to understand where the potential customer is coming from. What is important to them? What do they like/dislike? What challenges are they facing at the moment? How will your product/service solve their problem?
Failing to listen
Your pitch should be polished, concise, rehearsed, a thing of beauty. However, the drawback to preparing the product pitch is that you’re so focused on delivering it, you don’t notice the signs that it’s not hitting the mark for the person in front of you. Besides, when someone feels listened to, they feel important and your customer IS important to you. So take the time to listen – aim for a dialog not a presentation. That said, beware of drifting off-topic. Your time is valuable and so is theirs. Taking the time to build a relationship is one thing, spending an hour talking sports is another… unless you’re selling sports equipment, of course.
(The other advantage to genuinely listening is that it helps you avoid making snap judgments and assumptions about the customer.)
Going too fast
Building on the previous point about listening, a good sales conversation is about balance. Go too fast, jump to the point of sale too soon and the potential buyer will be put off by your eagerness. Take some time to talk about their needs and the product and how the two can complement each other. Establish a rapport and rein in your determination to make the sale. The customer needs a little room to breathe, they need to feel that they are making a decision to purchase rather than being railroaded into signing on the dotted line. There comes a point where you need to stop selling and let them finish the job.
Forgetting to close
That said, the other side of the balance is closing the sale. Ease off too much and the potential customer walks away with information but no product or service. Sometimes you just need to ask if the person is ready to buy – nothing too forceful, just a nudge.
When business is going well, with plenty of clients and orders on the books, and both profit and cash flow are healthy, it can be all too tempting to move marketing and sales down the list of priorities; especially if you’re busy filling orders and following through on agreed contracts.
But, you should continue to prospect for new customers. No business can afford to rest on its laurels (or on its current client roster) and a steady flow of new commissions is the lifeblood of your business. Similarly, you should always follow up on leads. Not every conversation ends in a sale but someone who isn’t interested now may well be interested later. Be proactive – don’t leave it to them to call you.