18 Common Sales Mistakes To Avoid

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

mistakes to avoid slip up
We’re all looking for the silver bullet technique when it comes to increasing our sales but we can also learn a great deal from those salespeople who make the most mistakes!

We’re often looking for “what to do.”

Just as powerful is knowing “what not to do.”

Here’s 18 sales mistakes that poor salespeople make.

How many are you guilty of?

Sales Mistakes To Avoid

1. Lack of sales preparation.

It’s amazing how many salespeople simply wing it and don’t have the ability to state exactly what they are aiming for in the sales interaction.

Imagine that the client says to you “In one minute, tell me what benefits you can uniquely bring to my business and how much better it will be if we partner up.”

or even worse..

“Tell me about my company and what we do?”

Could you do it?

Yes, of course you could.

Because you’re well-prepared and your thinking is clear.

You resist the temptation to simply fly by the seat of your pants, because you know what would happen if you did.

You remember the saying…”An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.”

2. Having a poor structure to the sales interaction.

If you want the client to remember you, have some pearls of wisdom to discuss with your client at strategic points in the conversation.

Get some ideas to illustrate your points.

Paint those pictures with words so the client knows exactly what you want them to remember afterwards.

If you have a poor structure, they will get lost easily and have no inclination to take their interest further.

And this starts from the Most Important Part Of Your Sales Call.

3. Having nothing memorable to say.

Have you ever watched a film and the next day couldn’t even remember the title?

I have. Many times. I always say I won’t make the same mistake again, and I’ll read reviews before going.

But I’m always driven by the trailer, grabbed by the highlights.

Then I realise that the trailer had all the best bits and I have to sit through two other hours of drivel.

Many salespeople make the mistake of just delivering drivel, with no highlights, nothing that stands out and makes the customer think “Wow, this is great, I have to know more about this!”

Have something memorable in your delivery that stands out.

Otherwise the client will have to work it out for themselves.

And that might not be possible.

When asked “Who was that salesperson you saw yesterday, Frank?”, you don’t want them to say, “You know what, I don’t remember!”

4. Having little or no emotional connection.

Remember the radio station that every buyer tunes into…WII fm.

Yes, the buyer’s antennae tunes in when they hear something that generates interest at an emotion level, and you answer the question “What In It For Me?”

So, tune into your buyers’ imaginations and make the demonstration come alive.

It will give you the unfair advantage of building the emotional connection, which they can them justify afterwards with logic.

5. Talking at the wrong level.

What I’m referring to here is the level that your prospect is thinking at.

Have you looked down from a plane and seen how small whole cities look from up there?

You have a fantastic, big picture view, but you can’t make out any houses or cars.

Conversely, the people on the ground can see car number plates and shop signs.

Speak at the level that your customer is thinking.

With big decision-makers, they may not want to know the detail of how your widget works, but they may need to know how selling 10,000 of them to their customers would raise their operating profit by 6.5%.

6. Having a poor opening and close.

In psychology, there are two laws called the Law of Primacy and the Law of Recency.

Both have an impact, particularly in demonstrations.

The Primacy Law talks about how people remember the first and important aspects of a meaning they give to something.

If your cold call opening is shallow or weak, it will be lost. If the first words out of your mouth on a face to face or virtual sales meeting is weak, you are done.

Say something you have found out about the success of their company.

Congratulate them on a new contract or on their expansion.

Make the opening come alive so they remember it.

The same goes for the summary or close.

This is the last, or most recent, thing the client hears and so should stand out, as the Law of Recency dictates it will be remembered.

Practice you asking for commitment, out loud, in front of a mirror, so it becomes natural and you don’t fluff it.

If you want to know what to say then here are 3 Powerful Sales Closing Questions.

7. Not learning from your mistakes.

This is a real big one,

If things go wrong for bad salespeople, they won’t always have the business acumen to understand exactly what it was that made it go pear-shaped.

By not learning from what goes wrong, you run the risk of repeating the mistakes and undermining the relationship with the next customer, too

Identify what went wrong and convince yourself that you will notice when it happens again.

The saying “Repeating the same mistakes and expecting a different result is a sign of insanity” is apt here.

Benchmark Your Sales Skills & Competencies For FREE!

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Sales person on a laptop taking an online sales course

8. Not being punctual.

Being on time is very important to a customer.

You will most likely represent the first contact these customers have with your company.

First impressions are lasting ones and you need to make a good impression.  Being on time will give a good impression to the client and increase their confidence in your company.

9. Poor sales presentation.

Some sales people just do not have all their ducks in a row and simply do not present the product well.

A presentation is the first thing a customer will know about your product. If your product is not shown correctly to the customer they are very unlikely to buy.

10. Bad attitude.

Rudeness and unprofessional behaviour is not acceptable under any circumstances.

It is quite surprising that you will meet some sales people who are just plain rude and short with you the consumer.

This gives the potential buyer the wrong impression about your company. They do not get a proper picture of the product, as they will probably not even wait for the presentation to end. You will lose many sales like this.

Lack of sincerity is another issue. This will shine through very brightly, especially if you resort to ‘tricks’ that are easily seen through. Being sincere, honest and truthful will pay off many more times than not

A poor attitude, like lack of sincerity, will shine through every pore. If you don’t like your job, people will sniff this out and be affected, even at the subconscious level. The attitude should be one of helpfulness, curiosity and vision. These three will help you get the right answer o your prospect’s situation and problems

11. Not being articulate.

A sales person must know how to express themselves with confidence and fluency.

They need to be able to greet the prospect and introduce themselves with assurance. This will start the whole presentation off to a good start.

When you present the product you must be sure to do this in a confident manner. You should also be prepared to answer all questions concisely and well. If cannot do this, your sale will not go through.

12. Not listening to your customer.

You should always give your customer a good listening to.

There is nothing more irritating to the customer than having a sales person go on about their product or service and not letting them ask a few simple questions.

After all whose money is on the line here?

Worse still is when your customer does finally get around to ask a question and instead of giving a straight answer the sales person goes off on a tangent and have clearly not been listening to them.

This will make a customer angry and they will probably never do business with you.

This, in my opinion, is probably the biggest learning point for all salespeople. Poor listening equates to not really caring about them or their business and certainly doesn’t earn any respect or give them reasons to build confidence in you.

Our article What Is Active Listening And How Can We Improve It? will help you in this area.

13. Basing a sale on cost alone and not on value.

It is extremely risky for a sales person to depend on cost to close the sales.

The prospective buyer will be quick to take advantage when they see that the deal depends on the cost factor.

They will drive the price as low as they can and you will take a heavy cut in profits for the sake of a sale. The buyer may hold off and then not even buy.

Sell on value not on price.

14. Not knowing when to close a sale.

This is a common fault AND a lethal one. Many sales have been lost because the sales person did not know when to close the sale.

A good sales person is in tune with the prospective buyer and knows instinctively when to move to close the sale.

This is the one that most buyers tell me really turn them off. They’ve experienced all the closing techniques many times, so don’t use them. Instead, create reasons why they should buy and help them decide. You will be happier and so will the prospect.

The sales close should be a natural extension of the sales interaction instead of anything out of the ordinary.

If you’re looking for ways on how to transition to the close then our guide on 3 Great Examples Of Sales Transition Closing Statements will help.

15. Giving it the hard sell.

The “Hard sell” is when a sales person pushes the sale on the prospective customer.

Not one buyer likes the hard sell so back off!

This will make the buyer aggressive and they will try to get rid of you as soon as possible. It is a proven fact that nobody likes to be sold to.

Yes, you’ve got targets to meet, but reverting to the old-style ‘buy-today-or-the-price-will-be-adjusted-to-match-my-desperation-to-get-a-sale’ tactic will be often met with a snort of derision and a swift decision to buy elsewhere, thank you very much!

16. Being inflexible when selling.

A sales person should be aware of different personalities and various situations.

They must be flexible and able to adapt to different circumstances.

The presentation may be the same but the buyers are rarely the same. Each buyer wants to feel special and expects the sales person to understand their circumstances.

Inflexibility will cost you many sales. When a salesperson is too focused on their sales commission, they can become blinded.

17.  Not following up on your sales lead.

Follow up is very important.

It is actually plain good manners. You have spoken to a person who has expressed interest in your company’s product but may not have been able to make a decision yet.

It is courteous and good for business to follow up with hem. You may even make a sale this way. If your sales person does not know how to do this you will end up losing valuable customers and sales.

18. Lack of personal development.

By not taking your development seriously, you’re being left behind by those who do.

This is the career you’ve chosen for yourself, so why not take time to learn new ideas, research good stuff from those who know and keep up-to-date on your customer’s industry.

It’s the least you can do to earn respect from your customers and prospects.

Looking to improve your sales performance further?

Here are a couple of resources that will help you further. Our SalesDNA Benchmarking Tool is a FREE assessment that will provide you with a personalised 19 page report on your strengths and weaknesses as a sales person. You can also sign up to our 5 part video series that will teach you a lot of Sales Techniques to help.

We offer a full range of Sales Training and Telesales Training solutions that include both online and face to face options.

I hope this article was of use.

Happy selling!



Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Updated on: 15 May, 2020

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