Failure is just part of life—and work. Here are 3 sales missteps and what to do differently next time:

Problem 1. Opening a sale. You need the answers to the following questions: Do you have a prospect for the service you offer? Do you have a prospect who wants to do business with you? Do you have a prospect who wants to buy now?

Failed methods: Long introductions about your experience, products and services; discussions of hobbies, office furnishings, the prospect’s background, sports, etc.

Reason for failure: These failed methods don’t provided answers to the above questions.

Successful method: Use an initial interview questionnaire. It only takes 5 minutes and answers all 3 questions.

Problem 2. Too few successful closes. You need a higher percentage of prospects to buy.

Failed methods: Elaborate, high-tech closing presentations; getting the prospect to repeat the word “yes”; power closes; overly ornate presentation materials (gold-embossed leather folders, etc.).

Reason for failure: The prospects’ needs are unknown and agreement regarding their problem areas has not been obtained. This can be caused by fact-finding methods and a failure to talk to all decision-makers.

Successful method: Use a questionnaire and have a conversation with all decision-makers.

Problem 3. A lack of continuous, high-quality referrals. You need a steady stream of referrals.

Failed methods: Not asking for referrals to your target market; telling clients that you get paid in two ways: sales and referrals; telling clients that they owe you at least 5 referrals.

Reason for failure: Lacking a systematic method for obtaining referrals; not having a well-defined target market; not using a questionnaire to capture future prospects’ contact information; not showing clients how their contacts will benefit from meeting you.

Successful method: Use a questionnaire to help you meet members of your target market.

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Nick Ray is a business coach who specializes in working with financial services professionals. He is the author of There’s More to Selling than Making the Sale as well as a workbook on target marketing. He can be reached at nick@coachnickray.com.