There are a few star performers in sales. The other 99 percent fall on a continuum from very good to poor. While this isn’t news to anyone, the common approach is to hold up the 1% as models for everyone else. “Strive to be a star,” they’re told. While that may motivate a few, it doesn’t help the vast majority of salespeople who want to sell more but don’t know how to go beyond where they are.
This picture isn’t complicated. For the most part, salespeople can do things that bother customers so they lose sales unnecessarily. Here are a number of them.
1. Trying too hard. A salesperson can be so focused on making the sale that customers feel pushed to make a decision. Even though they may want to say yes, they say no instead as a way to escape.
2. Inadequate preparation. Using “canned” or rote presentations that are so general they’re meaningless and emphasize the product or service without reference or relevance to the customer.
3. Ignoring the customer. Customers try to figure out whether or not a salesperson is genuinely interested in them, and the answer determines the outcome of the sale. Any answer other than “yes” means a lost sale.
4. Talking too much. When salespeople don’t know what to say next, they cover it up with more talk. Instead of using such moments to ask questions, they try to get on track with more talk, but it’s too late, the sale is dead.
5. Laying on the jargon. Some salespeople think it makes them seem more confident and competent if they use a “secret language” — jargon — to make themselves sound like experts, when it only makes customers feel uncomfortable.
6. Poor follow through. By placing the top priority on closing sales, little effort often goes into preparing the way to get there, including a failure to answer emails, making mistakes, not returning calls, forgetting to send requested information, and not meeting agreed upon deadlines.
7. Writing off prospects. How many times has a prospect become a customer long after the salesperson has dropped them? There’s no telling how many more sales a salesperson can make just by staying closer in touch with prospects.
8. Lack of enthusiasm. Whether it’s a clerk at a dry cleaner store, a server at a restaurant, a loan officer at a bank, or any other salesperson, it takes energy and enthusiasm to engage customers.
9. Not painting verbal pictures. Too many salespeople try to impress customers with “war stories,” and present “facts” when the customer wants to know how their purchase will change or improve their life, help them feel better about themselves, and fulfill a dream.
10. Playing a role. It’s never deliberate, but it happens. A salesperson’s words, manner, and attitude can cause customers to react negatively. Instead of acting normally, they come across as if they’re playing a part or following a script.