In the 16-plus years I have worked with salespeople, I have learned that there are many ways to blow a great sales opportunity. Here are nine things that can derail a sale.

1. Arrive late

It doesn’t matter if you are only five minutes late. Late is late. Decision makers are busy and showing up late is a sign of disrespect. Plan your schedule to ensure that you arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early.

2. Being unprepared

Busy decision makers expect you to be prepared for your meeting. This means planning your questions in advance, knowing what solution is best for their situation and being ready to answer tough questions.

3. Opening with social chit-chat

You may think that talking about non-sales related topics is a great way to build rapport but decision makers don’t want to waste time on social chatter. Get to the point quickly and don’t waste their time.

4. Ask weak questions

I know, I know…you’ve heard this before. But the reality is that most salespeople don’t ask tough, penetrating questions that really uncover a prospect’s problems and challenges. Weak, feeble questions fail to engage people in a meaningful conversation and do little to separate you from your competition.

5. Launch into your pitch right away

You may have the best solution in the world but if you fail to present it in the most appropriate manner, you will lose the sale. Take a few moments to verify or validate your research before you start your pitch.

6. Spend most of the allotted time talking about your company

This still seems to a difficult concept for salespeople to grasp. Talking about you, your company, or your products will seldom help you achieve the results you want. It is far more effective to ask your prospect a few high-value questions before you present your solution.

7. Go over your allotted time

Before every sales call, make sure you clarify how much time your prospect has allotted for the meeting and do everything in your power to finish on time. Better yet, end early. No one will ever complain that you concluded early. Never.

8. Focus on your company’s achievements

Your prospects don’t care about you or your company. Focus every sales conversation on how you can help them solve a particular problem. If you feel the need to talk about your company’s achievements, awards, or accomplishment, prepare a document that you can leave behind.

9. Complain

People don’t care about the traffic jam, how tough things are, or any other complaint you might express. Stay focused on your main objection (you did establish a clear objective, didn’t you?) and forget the rest.

These are just a few of the things that can derail a good sales opportunity. What others can you think of?

For more on sales techniques, see:

Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at http://www.Fearless-Selling.ca.