One of my favorite sayings is an anonymous one: You buy them books and buy them books and all they do is eat the pages. Isn’t that the truth? There are literally thousands of books on sales techniques, management and process. Yet not a day goes by where someone commits one of these sales mistakes that should have been so evident. So, while this is an article, not a book, please don’t eat the pages. If you can merely remember these ten most simplistic errors of selling and the ways to avoid them, you will truly be better at generating super sales results.
1. Listening too little and talking too much.
2. Being inflexible.
3. Failing to plan the sales call.
4. Talking yourself out of the sale.
5. Giving canned presentations and closing techniques.
6. Failing to create value in the buyer’s mind.
7. Failing to ask meaningful questions.
8. Exaggerating delivery promises.
9. Lack of sincerity.
10. Failing to ask for the order.
Let’s take these sales mistakes one-by-one and look at some very simple, but fruitful, resolves.
Most sales people are naturally outgoing; it’s their nature to want to talk. Yet it is listening that provides the best leverage for what will end up being your more meaningful talk. Much in the same way that managers often spend too much time talking during a job interview, sales people do the same.
As a general rule of thumb, your sales call should be made up of 80 percent listening and no more than 20 percent talk.
Even then, at least 10 percent of the talk should consist of clarifying what you think you heard the buyer say. If you have truly listened and provided feedback for accuracy of what you have heard, you will be much better able to address your customer’s true needs, thus greatly enhance your opportunity for success.
When your customer has a behavior style much like your own, things just seem to flow easier. The problem is, a high percentage of those to whom you are selling will have a style different from yours; some diametrically opposed. Thus, it is extremely important to be flexible in how you present yourself. If you have followed step one and listened intently, you will be much more likely to detect the style of your buyer. If he seems to be slow and precise in his approach, slow down. If she seems to be annoyed by the time she’s spending, get to the point. If he seems to be withdrawn and hard to read, ask pertinent questions to get him talking. Be flexible enough to adapt your regular approach to their approach and you’ll get a lot farther along in the sale.
Let’s face it, the more experienced you are, the more you think you can wing it. Wrong! The best athletes never stop practicing. The best actors never cease to improve their delivery. So should you. And, the only way you can do that is to plan your sales calls. No two buyers are exactly alike thus no two sales calls should be anything alike. Know your clients and prospects and plan your delivery accordingly.
Never happens, you say. I’ll bet. Even the best salespeople get caught up in the process and while not intentionally, talk themselves beyond the sale. This gets back to listening. When you hear that acceptance signal, close it out. To elaborate at this point seriously risks getting your desired results.
The reality is that your customers are just as savvy as you when it comes to sales presentation. They know when you’re real and when you’re not. Canned is not. Much of this goes back to planning your call. When you’ve done your homework, you’ll address the sales call with more pertinence and sincerely and that will really count.
Unless you can resolve a problem, speed a process, save money or address a very specific issue that is pertinent to each individual buyer, you will not have created value in their mind. This requires homework, planning and very, very skilled listening.
Ever watch Barbara Walters do one of her interview specials? Few people are better at asking pertinent questions. Her style is impeccable which is why she’s snagged some of the most exclusive interviews in television history. You can learn a lot from watching her. Obviously you then have to adapt the process to your business and your clients. But consider brushing up on your questioning process, because this is one skill that can definitely set you ahead of your competition.
False promises merely diminish the good that has been done to get the order. While it’s a tired phrase — under promise and over deliver — there is a lot to be said for this. Nothing erodes the trust of your buyer like promises that never came true.
Regardless of the frequency with which you interact with your customer, today it is relationships that build successful selling. Even when a prospect fails to buy from you, if he liked you and felt you were sincere, he could easily become a referral. Being genuine and sincere in all your actions pays big dividends in the long run.
It’s the perennial fear — asking for the order. Yes, you can ask too early. But, you’d better ask. Timing is everything. So, again, listening plays a critical role. If you listen well, talk less, you’re more likely to hear that buying signal and then, don’t hesitate, just ask for the order.
If at this point you’re thinking — I’ve heard all of these sales mistakes and solutions before — think again. It’s like another old saying: Everything old is new again. Yes, you may have heard these things before; but did you really hear them and have you honestly been doing them? Start fresh and recommit to doing them. And when you do, chances are you’ll like the new results.