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The world of sales has unique rules to follow. All salespeople have to maintain a delicate balance of promoting their product while keeping customers receptive.
So, if you’re confused about what counts as a blunder during the sales process, it’s understandable. We asked industry experts for advice, and they named 11 sales mistakes to avoid.
But before we get into the meat, here’s some background:
The professionals we surveyed depend on the sales process for their business. Nearly half of them have to sell marketing agency services, while the other two biggest groups sell in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) and professional services industries.
Most respondents also take their sales performance seriously. A whopping 90.2% told us they measure their sales reps’ activity. This can be done easily with the help of a sales dashboard.
We consulted experts from a healthy mix of team sizes, with most of them coming from smaller teams. The majority of marketing agency and professional service employees came from teams of two to five people, while most of the SaaS and ecommerce folks worked on six to 10-person teams.
All in all, we consulted more than 60 sales pros. And they advise you to stay away from these sales mistakes:
Business moves fast, and most customers are considering more than one solution to their problem. If you don’t keep up the pace, you could lose out on a sale.
“Nothing kills a deal faster than slow response time,” Nate Tower of Perrill, a marketing agency with two to five salespeople, tells us. “We’ve closed deals simply because we were the fastest to respond. And we’ve lost deals simply because someone else responded faster (or, to put it better, because we didn’t respond fast enough).”
Tower encourages you not to worry about how you come off to customers when you respond fast. “”Some sales reps have this idea that they shouldn’t appear too eager or respond too quickly because then it looks like they are desperate or not busy enough. I’ve never heard of a deal being lost because a sales rep responded too quickly,” Tower reassures you.
It’s okay to tell your customer that you’ll need to get back to them, too. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, at least acknowledge receipt and give a quick update regarding when the prospect can expect a more detailed response. But don’t ever wait to respond!” Tower concludes.
If you oversee a sales team or want to improve your response times, include your contact frequency in your productivity KPIs. Then, keep a close eye on them.
Some marketing advice also applies to sales, such as framing your offering as a solution to the customer’s problem. This best practice came up in many responses to our survey.
“Prospects need to understand why out of the solutions offered, yours is the best and most cost-effective,” advises Clever Touch Marketing’s Tori Bell, who works with a marketing agency sales team of two to five people. “Most prospects have already done their research and have a good idea of what they want or need before even reaching out to a sales rep, so the standard one-pitch-fits-all no longer works.”
How do you figure out your unique solution? “You need to know what their situation is and what their problem is in order to offer them a proper, valuable solution. Prospects are not really interested in the bells and whistles of what you are offering — they want to know what the benefits are,” Bell explains.
“One of the most common sales practices that kill a potential business deal is the inability to outline the problem your product solves,” SHEQSY’s Hays Bailey adds. As a member of a six to 10-person SaaS sales team, Bailey has some hot competition to deal with.
Bailey urges you to ask yourself a few questions before every possible deal: “…why would someone buy my product? What makes it unique? Your customers, obviously, know the problems they face and know various ways to resolve them; but why should they pick your way?”
According to Bailey, you should take some notes on positioning to feel confident presenting your solution. “First, you must be able to talk extensively about the benefits of your product and how it relates to the client. The best way to overcome this is to familiarize yourself with your products so you are very confident about your claims. Professionally scrutinize your products, find out the faults. Do the same for the current competition,” Bailey suggests.
If you haven’t framed your product as a solution yet, Mostly Blogging’s Janice Wald reminds you that it’s a common mistake. Wald works with two to five people in an ecommerce sales team. “Marketers are so excited about their products and services, that is what they discuss with the consumer,” Wald says.
But that mindset goes against the customer’s viewpoint. “The consumer wants to know how their life will be better as a result of getting the product or the service. Successful 2021 marketing strategies focus on a customer-centered approach. However, marketers are so concerned with telling people what they have, they don’t focus on how the goods or services will help the consumer and the potential deal falls through,” Wald explains.
Long story short — know your audience and your product, then use that knowledge to bridge the gap between the customer’s needs and your offering. At Databox, we consider packaging your offering as a solution an essential technique for improving your close rate.
If you’re the type of person to set up workflows and routines for every aspect of work, you can fall into the trap of taking the same angle to every sale. While it’ll make your life easier to follow the same steps for every sale, you’ll have more success with a more personalized approach.
Andre Oentoro from Milkwhale, a marketing agency with two to five salespeople, states, “By having a cookie-cutter sales pitch for every client, you risk killing your deal the moment it starts. Every client is different and requires different methods and solutions. Using the same template on every deal will make you sound salesy and not interested in your client.”
What kinds of different methods and solutions are Oentoro referring to? Personalized ones. You need to understand your client and tailor your methods accordingly.
Here’s how Mayank Batavia of QuickEmailVerification, a SaaS with two to five salespeople, puts it: “Often, fresh salespersons (and sometimes experienced ones too!) get in a hurry to close a deal. In this hurry, they don’t listen enough to what the prospect is saying, jump to conclusions instead and offer what they think is the best.”
Batavia highlights how a cookie-cutter approach can seem aggressive, explaining, “In a number of cases, the prospect is looking for something else. They see the salesperson is unreasonably pushy – and that’s where the lead goes cold and you lose a great opportunity!”
“A generalized approach for a potential client can kill the deal,” Leonardo Gomez from Run Ball, an ecommerce brand with six to 10 salespeople, emphasizes. “Always remember to customize the offer and approach for a potential client. They should feel special about your deal. If you use the same approach and pitch for everyone, it will not let you grow,” Gomez advises.
Of course, this advice doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch with every prospect. Consider keeping talking points for different types of customers in a spreadsheet, then using them as a jumping-off point. Stay efficient, but flexible.
When you’re trying to close a sale, it can become easy to get carried away talking about your product. But, throughout the sales process, you should balance that talking with listening to your customer.
“It may sound ‘old school,’ but I believe listening to and asking great questions of your customer is still the most important sales practice,” says Andy Brown of Vye, a marketing agency with two to five salespeople. “Listening and really hearing your customer will not only allow you to authentically engage with them, but will also give a deep understanding of their business needs. In the world of automated forms and questionnaires, you can really differentiate yourself with a good, old fashioned, Q and A sit down.”
Brown points out that listening will help you with our previous point — personalizing your approach to each deal. “A great listening session will give you awesome insight into how to best articulate the opportunity to your team and solve the problem on your customer’s behalf,” Brown explains.
Nikita Chen of LegitGrails, a professional service with a two to five-person sales team, points out that listening can also help you negotiate price and direct your conversation. “We recently started tracking the conversion rates of our sales team while testing different communication tricks. This practice helped us discover that it is best to not talk at all after the price of your offer is made and let the potential customer take the lead after that. They will eventually talk, and what they say can direct the conversation to your benefit,” Chen explains.
Traditional sales advice encourages us to push our products when we can, but this mindset can backfire. Sales pros across industries with larger sales teams advise you not to get too aggressive.
At marketing agency Louder Online, Aaron Agius’s sales team of six to 10 people learned not to go overboard when testing different sales methods. “Unfortunately, it’s a popular belief that sales aggression leads to more sales, but that’s just not true. If you have to force people to engage with your business, you’re likely doing sales wrong. Don’t let impatience get in your way. Respect your buyer’s time and needs and you’ll always have better results if you truly have something great to offer,” Agius suggests.
“Overpitching the client on the same thing kills a potential deal,” adds Hilda Wong of Content Dog, a marketing agency with more than 10 sales experts. “Everyone needs their own time to think and churn on the offers received. But when you overpitch or follow-up in a rather uncomfortable way, the client may avoid you.”
For Melanie Musson of QuotePittsburgh.com, professional service with more than 10 salespeople, it’s all about balance. “Too much pressure and your client may become turned off to the deal. At the same time, if you don’t use any pressure, you may never close a deal. It’s a fine line of balance, but it’s important to master,” Musson explains.
The right level of offer-pushing depends on the client and moment. “Your focus must be on the customer so that you can read their response and lower the pressure at the appropriate time,” Musson explains.
As you and a customer progress through the sales funnel, you should keep all steps of the process in mind no matter what step you’re at. And this is where using a sales funnel dashboard becomes crucial.
Consider how Mehvish Patel of Zen Media, a marketing agency with six to 10 folks on its sales team, explains it: “One common sales practice that kills a potential deal is not having a plan to go forward after the first meeting. From the get-go, you have to be prepared with a plan in place to present to your potential client.” You shouldn’t “wing it” as you go.
Harriet Chan of CocoFinder, a SaaS with more than 10 sales experts, points out that a good sales plan includes plenty of follow-ups. A“For example, when you make the first contact, and it is exciting, yet they didn’t buy it, you should do a follow-up. It is critical to stay in touch with a prospect as part of a lead nurturing process to closing a deal as sales isn’t a one-and-done activity,” Chan explains.
Chan continues, “The number of communications made by sales professionals can vary, but what is for sure is that failing to do follow-ups is failing to sell. You should step up the follow-up system and improve overall sales processes by building a priority plan.”
Editor’s note: If your sales team is following up with customers frequently enough, your call and email numbers should reflect that practice. Keep track of your team’s contact activity with the HubSpot (Sales Activity) dashboard for Databox.
Your customers want to know your price early in the sales process, but at the same time, you could justify a price out of their range with the right value. It’s another balance to maintain in sales.
“In my opinion, your prospect is concerned with two factors: value and pricing,” says Michael Robinson of Cheap SSL Security, an agency with six to 10 sales employees. “You must first express your value by defining how you address their problem before presenting your prices. Cost is only a concern if there is no value, thus no price is too high if their want or pain is great enough and you have a compelling solution.”
But, you have to be careful. “However, if a prospect requests a reduction or additional services, that means you’ve brought up the price too soon, which puts you in an unethical bargaining posture. When you do talk about pricing, don’t project your own concerns and values onto them by stating something like, ‘I’m pricey.’ Your prospect is not you. They have a distinct point of view,” Robinson explains.
When you’re trying to build a new client relationship, your first meeting matters. If you miss out on that point of contact, the deal could get away from you.
“I actually think that sometimes lowering the friction when it comes to booking a meeting can kill potential meetings,” says Alex Birkett from Conversion.AI, a SaaS with two to five salespeople. “When someone signs up for a demo or trial, but they get a calendar link to set up their own time, I’ve found this can reduce the attendance rate of the meeting (and oftentimes, they don’t even end up booking in the first place).”
So, what should you do instead? “My ideal way is to either immediately chat with them through live chat or jump on a meeting almost immediately, or more likely, to send a personalized email that convinces them of the value of attending the meeting and what value they should expect from it. It takes a bit more effort, but I’ve found this closes the gap between intention and action,” Birkett recommends.
For more advice on smoothing out the transition from prospect to client, check out our list of must-ask questions for your prospective client questionnaire. If you work in marketing or professional services, you know that client relationships are a back-and-forth process. Our questions will help you and your client understand each other.
When your prospect has the information they need to agree on a deal, remember that you don’t have to keep providing details.
“A common sales practice that kills a potential deal is not knowing when to stop selling,” states Will Lui of Ziflow, a SaaS business with six to 10 sales team members. “I’ve seen far too often where a sales rep will continue to sell their product and pitch more features when a prospect is already sold and sell themself out of a deal because they’ll introduce a function or feature the prospect wasn’t even thinking about which is suddenly a dealbreaker. Sometimes you just need to stop selling and close the deal.”
The sales process isn’t over until you have a purchase or contract. However, some salespeople get complacent too early and miss out on nurturing a lead to sale.
Let’s hear how Aquino Farmer from ZeroBounce, an SaaS with six to 10 sales pros, puts it: “One common practice that can kill a potential deal is assuming the sale. Too often, salespeople consider a demo or inquiry as someone who is already interested in buying. I’ve found that to not always be the case.”
Farmer recommends allowing time for discovery so you can identify pain points and offer a solution. “During this process of discovery, it’s essential to involve multiple decision makers because typically, decisions are made amongst a group of people. Not involving everyone and hearing their concerns will stall the deal. Stand out by including everyone in the conversation and showing that you care,” Farmer concludes.
“You don’t have the luxury to simply rest on your laurels as a seller in 2021,” adds Nathan Bliss of Kinsta, a SaaS company with more than 10 salespeople. “You have to be thorough and execute all elements of the sales process from first touch to getting a yes or no decision.”
Bliss continues, “And err on the side of appropriately sizing the amount of communicating that you are doing with your prospect. Too little means that you are likely to not get a decision at all. Too much and you’ll come off desperate and that could be a potential red flag to your buyer. Know your numbers and stick with what the data tells you works.”
Editor’s note: Are you getting too comfortable at a certain point in the sales process? Diagnose where you’re losing customers in your pipeline with the Pipeline Performance dashboard for Databox.
You might feel tempted to go straight to business when you start a new prospect relationship, but take it easy.
Sales trainer and coach Khabeer Rockely of The 5% Institute, a professional service with two to five salespeople, often sees clients pitching too early. “As soon as you go into pitch mode – your potential client goes into a mindset of should I believe what this person is telling me, or not? This is like playing roulette,” Rockely explains.
When should you start pitching, then? “We always recommend leaving your presentation to the end, after you’ve collected information about their pain, desired outcome, budget, timeline, and then prescribe your solution to connect the gap from where they are to where they want to be,” Rockely tells us.
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