With all the current tools and platforms designed to assist salespeople, it’s easy to forget about the fundamentals of sales mastery. Technology helps us manage relationships and stay connected, but it’s up to us to stay “human” and authentic in our interactions.
Does it feel like you’re not as sharp as you used to be? Or maybe it seems you’re not performing at your fullest potential? If you find yourself wondering why some of your competitors or colleagues are outperforming you, it’s possible that you’ve fallen into a few bad habits. Here are some common sales “don’ts” to stop doing now
Being Less-Than-Transparent to Get in The Door
“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.”
– Zig Ziglar
Sales reps sometimes employ disingenuous tactics to get their foot in the door with a prospect. An example might be starting off with, “Hello, could I briefly speak with Joe, please? He’ll be expecting my call.” Using a line like this, even if the prospect isn’t expecting you, often leads to trust problems down the road.
Another example is asking to speak with a company representative regarding a product in hopes that they’ll think a customer (rather than a salesperson) wants to speak with them. Or maybe leaving a voicemail telling your prospect that you’re just “following up” on a previous discussion when you’ve never actually had a discussion.
There are a million-and-one ways to get around gatekeepers and put yourself in front of a prospect faster. But at what cost? Do you really want to start your sales relationships off with a lie – even a little white lie?
More often than not, your prospects will catch on to the fact that you’ve used some sort of Jedi mind trick on them right from the start. And this means that the rest of the sales relationship becomes an uphill battle to earn trust.
Top salespeople value honesty and transparency more than tricks, shortcuts and slick tactics. It’s best to build beneficial relationships through LinkedIn or other value-based means and leave the disingenuous tactics to your competitors. Such practices usually cause problems down the road.
Pitching Instead of Dialoguing
“It was impossible to get a conversation going. Everybody was talking too much.”
– Yogi Berra
The best salespeople are great conversationalists. Sure, they can spout off stats and features from memory. But they can also hobnob at dinner parties, ask questions that get people thinking, and have the empathy and insight to really listen.
Great salespeople know that a truly effective pitch isn’t really a pitch. It’s a dialogue. You and your prospect should feed off each other, conveying and receiving information, listening, learning and understanding the other’s perspective.
For many sales reps, the first key to improving their results is getting out of a “pitch” mindset and improving their conversation skills instead.
Fearing Silent Pauses
“Silence is better than unmeaning words.”
“Silence is a source of great strength.”
– Lao Tzu
To be great at sales dialogues, consider breaking your fear of silent gaps.
Ever notice how hard it is to remain quiet through a two-or three-second pause? Our inclination is to fill the silence gap with a rephrased question or other fillers. But effective salespeople use silence as an unseen force that drives the conversation into more depth and productivity.
When you let the prospect fill silence gaps rather than you, they’ll often provide valuable information you wouldn’t have otherwise had. Maybe they’ll reveal a business challenge you didn’t previously know of, or a question they’ve been hesitating to ask. The point is, there’s power in the pause! Embrace it.
Not Letting Your Prospect Talk More Than You
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
While sales pitches should be dialogues, that doesn’t mean each party should speak for equal amounts of time. Strive to give more talking time to your prospect and intently listen to them.
Being too chatty in a dialogue can make a salesperson sound self-centered or overly salesy. In fact, it can kill deals even when a prospect would have otherwise been ready to buy.
Letting your prospects talk more than you proves that you’re genuinely interested in their business needs. Further, allowing your prospects to steal the show fulfills their desire to talk about themselves and focus on their challenges and desires.
Many of your competitors talk too much during their sales dialogues. So, consider it an opportunity to gain the reputation of an attentive consultant who’s better at listening than competing sales reps.
Putting Your Company in The Spotlight
“I promise you… nobody cares about your business except for you. Nobody.”
– Arvind Gupta
Sure, giving a brief two-minute overview of your company is often needed. This is especially true when your prospect doesn’t know much about you or your company. But beyond that two-minute mark, focusing on your business can be counterproductive and a waste of time.
Your prospect could care less about you or your business, its backstory, its goals, awards or its clients. Your prospect cares about herself, her challenges, and how you can solve her problems. And that’s about it.
This obviously doesn’t mean you can skimp on research and company knowledge. After all, your leads might ask questions about recent company news or PR issues. Just don’t make your company a significant focus in your sales dialogues. Instead, focus on the things that keep your prospects up at night.
Leading with Your Product
“Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.”
– Elmer Wheeler
Many sales reps start their dialogues by shoving their product into the spotlight right out of the gate. This often makes prospects think, “How does this person know that their product is exactly what I need? They haven’t even listened to my challenges yet.”
Leading with the product can come off as a bit arrogant to your prospects. It gives the impression that you believe your product is so wonderful that you merely need to rattle off a feature or two and “bam,” the prospect will be hooked. But no product on earth is that enticing.
Effective salespeople lead with empathy, not their product. They take on the role of a trusted advisor. They build a strong relationship, focus on the prospect to determine their needs and then help them find solutions.
Asking Dead-End Questions
“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”
– Claude Levi-Strauss
Some of the worst questions you could ask are ones that produce one-word, yes-or-no answers. Yes/no questions rarely provide meaningful information, and you often know the answers before you ask them.
Common examples include things like, “Is (some product feature or benefit) important to your company? Are you satisfied with your current service provider? Is your company happy with your revenue growth?”
Instead of these, ask deeper questions such as: “What types of things do you appreciate about your current vendor and which things would you like to see improved?”
Also, ask questions that reveal your lead’s goals, so you can determine how your product or service can help. What are your lead’s personal goals? What are her department’s goals? What are her company’s goals?
Questions that help you uncover objections are also very important. If you sense some hesitation in your prospect, don’t let it go unsaid. Come right out and ask them what types of concerns they have about your product or service. Let them talk freely so you can gather as much information about their concerns as possible.
There are, of course, many other kinds of questions you could ask your prospects. Just make sure you’re asking questions that bring valuable insight, so you don’t waste a sales presentation on fruitless talking.
Small Adjustments, Big Results
If one (or even all) of these pitfalls sound familiar, don’t be discouraged. Even the most experienced sales pros need to assess themselves and purge bad habits from time to time. If you’re passionate about your product and driven by self-improvement, it’s never too late to sharpen your skills.
Remember that even the smallest nuances can make surprising differences. So, start improving one small aspect with every new sales interaction. Before long, you’ll find yourself miles ahead of the competition.