Analysts show that 53% of a customer’s opinion of your company is formed prior to the close of the sale. And the truth is that prospects will look for any little reason to dismiss your product from their consideration. If buyers have an unpleasant interaction with your sales team, they’re less likely to want to move ahead with your organization.
Salespeople are receiving increasing pressure to over-perform, but even the best reps make mistakes sometimes. Some of these blunders can deter the prospect, stall a deal, or even ruin the opportunity. How do you prevent these pitfalls? Read ahead for 10 common mistakes sales reps make and what to do about it!
Mistake #1: Talking too much
Solution: Practice ‘active listening’
InsightSquared defines sales as “the process of actively listening to people about their pains and needs and then helping them solve that pain and need with your help”. Despite popular belief, selling isn’t about talking – it’s more about listening. If you talk too much or don’t truly listen to what your prospect has to say, they may lose interest or feel as if they aren’t being heard. InsightSquared goes on to tell us that many reps “push the sale and forget to listen” and recommends that a sales rep’s ‘talking-to-listening ratio’ be no more than 70/30.
Particularly the first time that you speak to a prospect, you should be asking questions and learning about their needs, challenges, and pain points. This is where ‘active listening’ comes in. Ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions to get them to open up. Then let them know you were listening – paraphrase what they said to show that you heard them and to clarify any confusion. You need to listen in order to gather the right information and demonstrate that you fully understand their business problems – don’t make any assumptions. Remember, you are having a conversation and talking with somebody, not to them or at them. A 2013 survey from Inc. Magazine showed that one of the top reasons buyers selected a specific vendor was “because they felt that the salesperson understood their needs best”.
Mistake #2: Trying to sell to everybody
Solution: Value quality over quantity
Your product or service won’t be a fit for everybody, and trying to sell to everybody will just waste your time and the prospects’ time. Instead, you want to find prospects who are the right fit for your company. The more targeted and qualified your leads are, the better your chances are of making a sale. With this clear vision, your efforts will also be much more effective.
Know your audience – who is the target customer? What are their demographics, psychographics, and geographics? What are their pain points, or what problem are they trying to solve? Use this information to predict who is the right fit for your company. Lastly, the best reps know that everybody won’t turn into a customer and recognize when it’s time to stop forcing a sale.
Mistake #3: Failing to do your research
Solution: Personalize your selling strategy
Today’s B2B buyer expects an individualized purchase process that takes into consideration their unique challenges and priorities. First, be sure to do your research about the prospect: who they are, about their industry, their needs and expectations, etc. Secondly, use this information to customize your sales strategy. This personalization goes beyond updating your standard sales deck with the prospect’s name and logo on the title slide. People aren’t stupid – they can tell the difference between a mass email and one that has been strategically tailored to them. According to Forrester research, “only 13% of customers believe salespeople can demonstrate an understanding of their business challenges and how to solve them”.
With this in mind, personalization must mean matching content, messaging, and strategy based on factors such as persona, need or problem, type of company, and stage in the purchase process. A sales enablement platform such as Seismic can use predictive analytics to recommend relevant, winning content and best practice strategy based on the sales situation.
Mistake #4: Selling the dream
Solution: Don’t lie; find the value
Never lie to your prospects or customers. Being dishonest to make a short-term sale won’t help you to build a long-term relationship – those won’t be customers for life or brand evangelists. If your product can’t do what you are promising it can do, they will find out soon enough. Lying ruins your credibility as a trusted advisor and will reflect poorly on both you and your company.
Instead, you should be able to clearly articulate the value of your product or service, as appropriate to the specific sales situation. If you can’t determine value for the prospect, then they simply may not be a good fit.
Mistake #5: Not developing your sales skills
Solution: Be open to coaching and self-evaluation
We all get caught up in the day-to-day pressures of our jobs, and it can be challenging to find the time to develop new skills or enhance old ones. But even the best reps know that there is always room for improvement. Always be on the look out for ways to step up your game: shadow a peer (such as an A player!), talk to your sales manager, set side time for self-evaluation. Reflect on your recent sales engagements and ask yourself what worked, what didn’t, why or why not, and what you would do differently next time.
Also be sure to leverage internal tools such as sales playbooks that offer coaching and best practices to ensure you have what you need to further the deal.
Mistake #6: Neglecting the customer experience
Solution: Build those customer relationships
The easiest customers are always repeat customers. Remember, it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than to sell additional services to an existing customer, emphasizing the importance of developing relationships. You want to position yourself as a trusted advisor or consultant, keeping in mind that you are helping people and solving problems, not merely making sales.
B2B buyers look for vendors who understand their business and the challenges they face. One of the best ways to build a relationship is to offer something of value, so be sure to create and deliver that value each time you speak with a prospect. Demonstrate an understanding of their pain points, offer insights about their industry, and disrupt their assumptions about your product or service. In fact, sales teams that challenge and engage prospects with value-add insights are twice as likely to hit their quota. An additional benefit? These people are more likely to help you in the future by referring your product or service to their industry peers.
Mistake #7: Ignoring the data
Solution: Leverage analytical insights
According to research from Domo, most sales reps spend more than 50 full days away from core selling activities each year. But by leveraging data, sales reps are able to optimize their sales efforts, increase their productivity, and boost their efficiency, giving them more time to get back to selling. In fact, those who use sales analytics increase their quota attainment 4x faster than non-users.
Before embarking on any metrics mission, make sure you have a solid understanding of what you are measuring, why it’s important, and how it affects your strategy and sales processes. Use KPIs to determine what works, what doesn’t work, and areas for improvement. Consider metrics such as call rate, win rate, sales cycle length, pipeline conversion rate, and average number of touches until conversion. These data points are essential for any sales team to understand what factors impact their successes, how to deliver the right content at the right time, and what changes will improve their performance.
Mistake #8: Not aligning with marketing
Solution: Trust your marketing team
Sales reps spend 30% of their day looking for or creating content – one of the biggest consumers of a sales rep’s time. But this truly isn’t necessary and is not a good use of time that could instead be dedicated to core selling activities. More often than not, your marketing team has invested the resources to create great content that aligns with your organization’s marketing messages, and they have insights into which content will drive prospects through the sales funnel.
Unfortunately, Forrester research shows that only 8% of B2B companies have tight sales and marketing alignment. The lack of communication can cause organization-wide disconnects, missed opportunities, and lost revenues. However, alignment with shared goals and metrics, can result in 25% increases in quota achievement, 15% increases in win rates, and 27% faster three-year profit growth, emphasizing the need for collaboration.
Mistake #9: Sending irrelevant content
Solution: Use sales enablement to recommend proven, winning content
A Forrester survey found that just 20% of sales people bring value to their buyers. Adding value to prospects means being able to provide perspective on the market that helps a customer see how to make their company better. It means knowing what to say to support a prospect’s business case. And it means being able to offer relevant content to help the prospect make a purchase decision.
Sales reps can offer value to prospects by sharing content that is appropriate to the prospect’s stage in the sales cycle and proactively offering them pieces that demonstrate the ability to solve a problem and show how ROI can be attained. Unfortunately, sales reps spend about 18 minutes on average to find each piece of content. Because of their inability to locate the right content, some reps will send the first pieces of collateral that they can find or even create their own. Sales enablement tools are able to automate this process and surface the right content at the right time based on the specific sales situation, saving time and increasing sales rep productivity and effectiveness.
Mistake #10: Being a lone wolf
Solution: Establish and follow an effective sales process
Sales people are often known for doing their own thing – they work their own plan, don’t follow best practices, and stray from strategy. But sales reps who follow a defined workflow are 33% more likely to be high performers. Outline a consistent sales process and then set sales objectives around those activities or related to specific sales goals.
In keeping with the strategy, it’s also important to follow a structured workflow for prospecting and follow-up. In general, salespeople give up pretty quickly; 44% of reps give up after making a single phone call, and 94% give up after the fourth call. Unfortunately research on sales behavior shows that 60% of all sales are made after four calls.