I don’t believe that salespeople intentionally decide to use an ineffective approach or tactic. However, there are several bad habits that salespeople develop over time that prevent them from increasing their sales.
- Setting low goals. The best salespeople I know set high, ambitious goals. They don’t wait for their managers, bosses or companies to set targets and quotas. They are proactive in determining what they want to accomplish in a given month, quarter or year. I know you don’t want to set yourself up for failure or have to set an even higher goal for yourself next year, but top performers constantly push themselves to do better and achieve more. As a result, they usually do. And for salespeople, this leads to making more money.
- Making excuses. “Our competitors are cheaper.” “The economy is bad.” “My territory is too big/too small/too spread out.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of making excuses about why you’re not hitting your targets. But the bottom line is that it is your responsibility to find a way to succeed. You will seldom catch top salespeople complaining about things that are out of their control. Instead, focus on what you can do to achieve your desired results.
- Pitching before understanding. Walking into a prospect’s office, firing up a laptop/iPad/tablet and launching into a sales pitch before having a solid grasp of a prospect’s unique and specific situation is one of the worst mistakes salespeople make. Although it is essential to be prepared with a solution, you also need to validate or confirm your understanding of the prospect’s situation before you start your sales presentation. As Stephen Covey so wisely said, “Seek first to understand.”
- Lack of preparation. Preparation is a key factor in closing more sales. Effective preparation includes knowing as much about your prospect as possible, planning your sales call opening, outlining the key points you plan to make during your meeting and anticipating potential concerns and objections.
- Inability to handle sales objections. Objections are a natural part of the sales process. However, how you handle and respond to sales objections will determine your sales effectiveness and influence your ability to close sales. Most salespeople encounter objections yet very few take the time to prepare effective responses to their prospects’ concerns. I once worked with a salesperson who had developed excellent rebuttals to every objection he encountered. Not surprisingly, he was one of the top performers in his company.
- Not getting a commitment. Not every sales interaction is going to end in a deal, but every conversation should conclude with some form of commitment for the next steps. Unfortunately, many salespeople leave the door wide open and say something such as, “OK, Mr. Smith, I’ll get that information to you by tomorrow and follow up with you next week.” In their eyes, they are moving the sales process forward. However, this approach does not confirm a specific day and time to reconnect with the prospect. As a result, they often do not connect and lose the sales opportunity.
- Not clarifying vague statements. Prospects often make vague statements such as, “We’re not on track to reach our targets,” “Traffic is down” and “Productivity is lower than it was last year.” In many cases, the salesperson takes these comments at face value and interprets them differently than the prospect intended. Top salespeople assertively clarify vague statements to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of the prospect’s thoughts and concerns.
- Interrupting. Salespeople often interrupt prospects in mid-sentence to interject their own perspective or to pitch their product or service. (I have to admit that I’m guilty of this bad sales habit, usually because I feel compelled to comment on something my prospect has said.) Let your prospect finish his or her thought before adding your own.
Earn more respect and credibility—and close more sales—by eliminating these bad sales from your approach.