I still remember the first two sales calls I made although they were almost two decades ago.
One was a cold call and the other was a face-to-face meeting. I think I made every mistake in the book but these two stand out the most.
Sales Blunder #1
It was 1995 and I was in transition.
I had left the restaurant business and thought I would pursue my dream of training and speaking. I created a seminar called, “How to Make Incredible Tips” and it focused on helping servers and bartenders increase their income. And, it would also help a restaurant increase its sales and make more money.
I knew I need to make appointments and had never cold called so I picked up and read “Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work.” I read the book, studied the principles and made my first cold call.
It was a disaster!
After I stumbled through my opening, my prospect growled, “What are you selling?”
I threw away my script and launched into my natural voice and told him about the seminar I had created. He said, “Not interested” and I heard a loud click in my ear.
As I hung up the telephone I thought, “This book is crap!”
However, I re-read it and eventually realized that I had overlooked a key point…
“Verbally practice and rehearse your opening so it sounds natural and comfortable.”
I had mentally run through my opening but when my prospect answered the phone it was the first time I actually stated my opening aloud. No wonder I stumbled and sounded like an idiot.
Sales Blunder #2
Later that week I managed to secure an appointment with the manager of a local restaurant. Although I was prepared (I had a nice glossy presentation prepared since PowerPoint hadn’t been thought of yet) and I arrived for my appointment a few minutes early, I completely botched the call.
Here’s where I made my next BIG sales blunder.
After the initial introductions, I sat down with the manager and spent 5 five minutes telling her about my business and my background (hospitality and restaurant). Then I talked non-stop for about 15-20 minutes (it quite possibly could have been longer but that’s what I recall!) and I walked her through each and every page of my slick presentation.
I didn’t ask any questions.
I didn’t know what the average sale was for the restaurant.
I had no idea if they did any type of training.
And I didn’t know if my seminar would actually benefit them.
I shudder when I think about it.
But that wasn’t all!
I hate to admit it but once I finished my pitch I just sat there wondering what to do.
My prospect said, “This sounds good” and then didn’t say anything.
After several moments of uncomfortable silence, I gulped and meekly asked, “So…would you like to go ahead with this?”
“Yes, let’s look at when we can schedule it.”
But, here’s the really funny point…
I didn’t have a DayTimer or calendar on me!
PDAs and Smartphones didn’t exist yet so I reached into my pocket and pulled out my package of cigarettes (yes, I smoked then and actually carried the cigarettes in my shirt pocket—didn’t everyone?). The cigarette pack had a calendar on the inside flap and we proceeded to schedule my first seminar.
When I look back on those situations I realize how much I have learned since then. Here are five…
1. Be prepared. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a cold call or a sales presentation, you need to be fully prepared BEFORE any type of sales call or appointment. In the mid-90s you could get away with winging it but that just doesn’t work in today’s business world.
2. Focus on the buyer or prospect. Instead of pitching your product, service or solution, focus on helping your prospect solve a problem.
3. Spend less time talking and more time asking questions. I know you’ve heard me say this before but it still one of the most common sales mistakes people make.
4. Ask for the sale.It sounds simple but I am continually surprised how few sales people actually take that step.
5. Be ready for the next steps. It is certainly much easier today with Smartphones but sometimes sales people don’t always manage the next step as effectively as they could.
The school of hard knocks is a great teacher and I firmly believe that everyone can improve their results if they take the time to learn the lesson contained in each botched sales call.
What about you?
What was one of the best sales lessons you learned from a mistake?
Earlier this week I received a message from a Twitter follower who told me that someone had plagiarized one of my blog posts and posted the content on SlideShare. I have no tolerance for people who deliberately steal material from others (it’s happened to me multiple times over the last few years) so I immediately checked out the presentation, and sure enough, it used the content from one of my posts.
Needless to say, I wasted little time taking action.
I sent the offender a direct message via Twitter and posted a comment on his SlideShare page expressing my disappointment and concern that he had used my material without attributing the source.
The following day he replied and respectfully pointed out that slide 33 (there were 37 slides in total) contained the proper credit. When I double-checked, I realized that I hadn’t reviewed the entire presentation and missed this.
Sales people make this mistake too and take a fire, ready, aim approach.
Quick to pitch
A prospect makes a comment and we jump to pitching a product or solution that we think will work for them without probing a bit deeper and learning more their situation or the impact of the problem.
Unfortunately, this usually means we end up presenting a solution that doesn’t fit the prospect’s situation or we discuss aspects of offering that are not relevant to their situation.
Waiting to speak
Many sales people believe that they aren’t selling if they are not talking. They wait for their turn to speak instead of listening carefully to the other person. As a result, they miss hearing valuable information that would change their approach or solution.
Responding to objections
Most sales people jump on objections as soon as a prospect expresses then instead of slowing down the sales conversation and discovering exactly what the other person means.
However, when you know what the objection actually means (it’s seldom what it sounds like), you can offer the appropriate solution.
Dealing with problems
Sales people often have to deal with customer concerns or problems and it is common to move to a solution before they fully understand the situation. We have encountered something similar in the past so we automatically think we have the appropriate solution.
However, without getting all the information we can’t effectively solve the problem.
Effective sales people avoid the fire, ready, aim approach when they sell.
They don’t jump to discussing a solution until they have a thorough understanding of their prospect’s needs, situation and concerns.
They don’t race through the sales conversation in an effort to close the deal as quickly as possible.
And they make sure they have all the information before taking action and moving forward.
Before you fire, make sure you ready yourself and aim properly. It can save you embarrassment and costly mistakes.
For the last eight summers I have played mixed three-pitch softball in two different leagues. One league is slightly more competitive than the other with new teams chosen every year and a slightly younger demographic (25-45 years).
On the opposite side of the coin is my Thursday night league.
It is very social and for the most part we don’t take the game too seriously. The average age of the players is 35-55 and our team has played together for six or seven years. However, that doesn’t mean we continue to improve.
Last week we just couldn’t get it together.
We missed easy catches, overthrew the ball and made a multitude of mistakes. All in all, it was a comedy of errors and needless to say we didn’t win. However, we did have fun at the bar afterwards.
Unintentional errors happen in sales too. And they can cost sales people money.
Here are four of the common errors I see sales people that relate to softball.
Pitching too soon
This is the biggest error that is so easy to avoid and it still flabbergasts me when I see it happen.
Showing up and throwing up is not an effective way to sell yet many sales people still launch into a pitch about their product, service or solution without fully determining if it is appropriate for their prospect.
A few thought-provoking questions can quickly help you determine if it makes sense to “pitch” your idea.
Not only can save you time, effort and energy, it can help you differentiate yourself from your competition and earn your prospect’s respect.
During last week’s game our pitcher made many poor pitches (we pitch to our own team) which made it difficult for batters to get a good hit.
In sales, we need to make sure that every sale presentation (aka pitch) is on the money and accurately targeted to each prospect. Otherwise, the decision maker will not see how our solution will help them solve a particular problem and we will miss the opportunity to move the sales process forward and capture the sale.
Communication is essential on the baseball field just like it is in sales. Infielders need to talk to players in the outfield and amongst each other to ensure everyone knows what to do in each situation.
Sales people also need to communicate to other departments and they also need to inform customers about delays, possible problems and other concerns. Sales people also need to be able to communicate their value proposition in terms that resonate with their prospect.
Lack of Focus
I was playing third base and a ground ball was hit to me. It was an easy play to make; however, I made the classic error of thinking about making the play instead of focusing on the ball. Needless to say, I allowed the ball to roll through my legs and I missed the play.
Sales people often think ahead to closing the sale, other appointments, and formulating a rebuttal instead of focusing their full attention on the prospect or customer.
Simple mistakes happen. However, you can avoid most of them with a little planning, forethought and focus. Don’t let little mistakes cost you big money.
I have written several posts about poor email prospecting practices in the past and when I received the following email I couldn’t resist writing another one.
Check this out…(the email was captured exactly the way it appeared in my in-box)
So, let’s look at this email and see what the sender did wrong and what he could have done differently.
1. Incorrect spelling
A minor mistake but an important one to a decision maker. I know this wasn’t a blanket email because it got through my spam filter which means someone had to respond to a “kick-back” email and enter a code to allow their email to get through. Take a moment to verify that you are correctly spelling the other person’s name.
2. Too seller focused
The sender used the company name 8 times in the email! You don’t need to mention your name 8 times in 350 word email. Plus, the email is loaded with the words “we” or “our”.
Take a look at the second paragraph, “Our goal at…” This would be much more effective if they dropped their company name and said, “Your sales reps will be more engaged…”
Remember, prospecting is not about you…it’s about the prospect.
3. The email was not well targeted
I don’t have a sales force or use a complex CRM system so I lost interest as soon as I started reading.
However, if the email had said something like, “As a sales trainer, you must hear sales people complain about how frustrating it is to use their company’s CRM system. We might have a solution…” I may have continued reading and opened their attachment.
4. The attachment
This email contained a 1MB+ PowerPoint file. There are a few things wrong with this point alone.
First, I will never, ever, open an attachment from someone I don’t know. I have a great anti-virus program but I will not risk opening a file from a stranger.
Second, I don’t know many decision makers who have time to watch a PowerPoint presentation.
Third, the file was too big. although bandwidth continues to increase, sending a 1MB file to a prospect–without their permission–isn’t a good practice.
The formatting of the email indicates that formatted for a mass email campaign. There is nothing wrong with reusing an email; however, you should take the time to clean it up and reformat it so it looks and reads properly.
6. Rework the opening
Your opening statement (or question) is either going to entice your prospect to keep reading or to delete your email.
Although the opening paragraph in this mail was satisfactory, it could have been a much more effective and powerful if they had asked a question instead of making a statement.
“What’s your sales rep compliance level with your current CRM system?”
“Compliance levels for CRM systems are as low as 40%. What yours?”
7. Call to action
The call-to-action was pretty weak as far as I’m concerned. I’d be interested to know how many people actually place an X in the boxes or request more information. Plus, “I look forward to hearing from you” is a completely ineffective way to close a prospecting email.
You must have a direct call-to-action such as, “I will call you at 10:15 AM on Wednesday morning to discuss how you could benefit from this system.”
Email can be an effective prospecting tool. But…you have to use it properly.
If you use email to prospect, please don’t make the mistakes this guy did. Do it right and achieve much better results while standing out from your competition.
We’ve all had that easy sale that got away. The deal we thought was in the bag. In fact, we were likely counting the commission even though the paperwork wasn’t signed, sealed and delivered.
There are many reasons why sales people lose easy sales. Here are seven of them.
1. They didn’t give it 100% effort
Sometimes it’s easy to get side-tracked from the easy deals and as a result, we don’t give that particular sale the attention it deserves. The size and scope of the opportunity may be small so we don’t think it’s worth the effort. Or, the opportunity may come from an existing customer and we think we are the only person in the running.
Which brings me to the next reason…
2. They didn’t think about the competition
I made this fatal mistake.
All because I didn’t ask my prospect who else they were considering for the project.
Had I asked that all-important question, I would have changed my approach, been more prepared for my presentation and taken a slightly different approach.
3. They were talking to the wrong person
I remember discussing sales training with someone several years and based on the way the conversation was progressing, I was sure it was a done deal, especially since I was talking to the CEO of the company. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask who else might be involved in the decision until it was too late.
Although my contact was eager to move forward, his colleague was not. Had I known that he needed to discuss the decision with someone else, I would have attempted to open a dialogue with his colleague, too.
Unfortunately, I was too late and the deal failed.
4. They didn’t ask the right questions
Had I asked the right question (Who else do you normally consult with on decisions of this nature?) in the above situation, I would have learned that someone else was involved in the decision making process and I would have modified my approach accordingly.
It sounds deceptively easy, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, we sometimes put blinders on and race forward with a solution when we should be asking another question or two. Before you jump to presenting your offering, ask yourself, “Do I know enough about this person’s situation to move the sales conversation forward?”
5. They thought the sale was a gimme
We often think that easy sales are gimme’s. In other words, we believe we have it in the bag and that we don’t need to worry about it.
6. They made too many assumptions
The biggest reason people fail to capture easy sales is that they make too many assumptions. See all the points above.
7. They didn’t follow-up promptly
Sometimes an easy sale is lost because we didn’t follow up as promised or as quickly as a competitor. In today’s world of instant communication, you can easily lose a sale to a competitor who responded or follow-up faster.
A few years ago I was booking hotel space for a sales training program and I contacted several hotels for information. The hotel that was fastest to respond ended up getting my business.
These are just seven reasons why sales people lose easy sales. I’m sure there are plenty more. What do you think?
A call with an upcoming guest on my “How to Succeed in Sales” podcast series reinforced the importance of finding ways to keep your name in front of a hot prospect.
It’s not uncommon for buying decisions to take several months—or longer—and keeping your name in their mind can help increase the likelihood of generating a solid sales opportunity.
However, how you approach that objective will influence your prospect’s decision to consider you when they finally make the decision to move ahead with the buying decision.
Here are three wrong ways to keep your name in your prospect’s mind followed by a more effective approach.
The “check-in” call
A common approach is for a sales person to make a “check-in” call—either by telephone or a face-to-face visit. The conversation usually sounds something like, “Hey, Mr Jones, just checking in to see if anything has changed or if you’re ready to discuss that project now.”
I could be wrong but I don’t know many sales people who close deals when they use this approach.
Sales people often send corporate brochures and other marketing materials related to their solution. They believe that these materials will give the prospect the information they need to make a buying decision. However, having worked in the corporate world for many years I can say that most expensive brochures end up in the circular file (aka trash can).
I’m going to step out on a limb here and suggest that if you use either of these approaches you’re probably not getting very good results. That’s because you are behaving like most of the sales people competing for the same business or that prospect’s attention.
The corporate newsletter
Many companies send newsletters to their customers. However, I have often found that the newsletter focuses on the selling company and contains information about new products, services, or other “stuff” that is largely irrelevant to the customer’s company.
It’s okay to send prospects information like this once in a while. But, if you really want to stand out from your competition, you need to give them information they can actually use to improve their business.
Become a valued resource
If you want to differentiate yourself AND keep your name in your prospect’s mind, you need to do something different.
Research trends in your industry and send your prospect an article outlining the top three trends that are affecting the industry. Even if they are aware of these trends, you will catch their attention and position yourself as more than a sales person.
You will become a valued resource.
What about you? What do you do to keep your name in your prospect’s mind and stand out from the competition?
Planning a sales conference, training program or other related event? I might be able to help. Give me a call and we can discuss strategies to help you achieve your goals. 905-633-7750
During my tenure as a sales trainer, I have seen sales people make countless mistakes. In fact, I have written articles and blog posts, conducted webinars and talked about these mistakes in my speeches and training workshops.
But many salespeople still make one simple mistake that costs them money. Money lost because a competitor avoids making the same mistake.
At first glance it seems like an innocuous mistake.
Too minor to make a significant impact on your results.
Too small to make that much of a difference.
Too insignificant to warrant a change in your approach.
However, I’m going to step out on a limb and say that if you make the effort to avoid this mistake you will notice a difference in your results that results in an increase in sales.
Here’s the mistake…
Launching into your sales pitch too quickly.
This might seem simple on the surface but it is still the most commonly used approach even by seasoned sales professionals.
After all, it just makes sense to start talking about your solution once you are face-to-face with a qualified prospect? Because you can’t close a deal if you don’t talk about your offering, right?
Unfortunately, jumping into a sales presentation too quickly means…
1. You haven’t demonstrated that you have done your due diligence and learned enough about your prospect’s key issues, problems, or concerns.
2. You didn’t confirm that the issues your prospect initially expressed as being important are still actually important.
3. You may spend too much time discussing aspects of your product, service or solution that are not relevant to your prospect or the buying committee.
4. You may use a shotgun approach and tell your prospect everything about every product in the hope that something will appeal to them.
Launching into a sales pitch too quickly means that it will not be as effective as it could be.
Sure, you might present a few reasons why your prospect should buy from you but it’s highly probable that their interest will wane BEFORE you get to those reasons.
The purpose of a sales meeting or sales presentation is to give the other person a reason to consider you versus a competitor. And quickly launching into a sales pitch seldom accomplishes this.
In fact, it often causes the opposite effect.
I help sales professionals improve their approach so they can close more deals and win more sales. Please feel free to contact me if I can help. 905-633-77550 Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca
A friend sent me an email exchange he recently had with a sales rep.
We are planning to build a new house in 2012. The goal is to make it as energy efficient as possible. The back roof is unobstructed, and would be dedicated to solar. Not interested in Micro-fit, and I don’t think we quite want to go off-grid, but am hoping to be able to create a system that will offset a large portion of our electrical usage, and will serve us if need be during power failures, etc. I don’t really understand the process well, but I’m envisioning a panel-battery system that draws off the grid whenever necessary. Is this something you can help us with?
I’m out of town on Monday, but if someone could call me later in the week that would be great (telephone number was included here).
Here is the sales person’s response:
PLS contact me,
Company logo Sales person’s name Address Telephone number Fax number Website
I was stunned!
This guy’s response was lazy and pathetic and it demonstrated a complete lack of professionalism and initiative.
Especially when you consider that my friend has budgeted $50-80,000 for this purchase!
I’m sure he gets frequent requests for information from people who aren’t serious but my friend is definitely serious about moving forward with this project.
Shouldn’t he be the one to set up a time to call rather than make my friend call him or make a random call in hopes that my friend will be available to talk?
This guy just doesn’t get it…
Could your team benefit from the concepts in this blog? Feel free to reach out if I can help. 905-633-7750 Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca
It took me a while to prepare the words and face the music. But, here we go…
I recently blew a sale I thought was in the bag.
This is a difficult admission considering that I write, teach, train and speak on the subject of sales.
However, no one is infallible, no one is perfect, and I am firm believer that we can all learn from our mistakes. Even experts screw up from time-to-time.
Here’s the scoop…
An existing client recently contacted me about delivering sales training to their team. Until this point I had been doing some consulting with the long-term goal of being able to conduct some training programs for them.
Needless to say I was excited that this opportunity was finally presenting itself. Woo hoo!
I spoke with my contact who told me an RFP would be issued to at least two other sales training providers and that each vendor would be required to present to a committee of people involved in the decision. I was confident in my ability to present the best solution and neglected to ask which other training vendors would be approach.
That was mistake #1.
I later learned who the other people were and had I known this beforehand, I would have changed my approach because I knew how good one of these individual’s was at landing deals.
Anyway, my contact gave me an overview of her goals, approximately how many people would be trained, the budget that was available so when the RFP landed in my in-box I quickly reviewed it then wrote and submitted my proposal.
I was confident going into my presentation because I had been through this process before and I knew the committee members.
That was mistake #2.
The committee had changed and only two of the seven people present were familiar. During my conversation with my contact, I had forgotten to ask a simple question…
Who will be present at the meeting?
I started my presentation by recapping my understanding of their situation and what they wanted to accomplish. The committee agreed with everything so at least I was on the right track…or so I thought.
Part way into the presentation, one person said, “This is basic stuff” to which I said, “You’re right, it is, but we all know that it’s not being executed.”
Mistake number three…
Unfortunately, one of the key words in the RFP was “advanced” and although my solution would have taken the basics and moved them into an advanced platform, I failed to prove that during my commentary.
Even though I was extremely familiar with my client’s business and how my program would move them from “basic training” to advanced sales training, I wasn’t successful in communicating it. It was clear in my head and I could make the connection…unfortunately, the committee members weren’t able to connect the dots.
In the end, the committee chose my competitor. During a subsequent conversation, my contact said, “It was really close but the committee felt that Vendor B could help elevate our sales to the next level.”
I was furious! (In fact, I’m still upset)
Not at my client…but at myself…
An easy sale–one that I should have closed and secured–went to a competitor with less experience in the industry. And all because I was over confident.
Sales people need to be confident.
However, when they’re over-confident, they forget to ask the right questions, they fail to position their solution properly and they lose sales opportunities to competitors who deliver a more effective presentation or proposal.
Even though I have spent considerable time nursing my broken ego, I am still disappointed that I lost that particular sale. However, it taught me a valuable lesson and will prevent me from making the same mistake again. Sometimes the most painful lessons are the most important.
Could your sales team benefit by learning some fatal mistakes they need to avoid? If you’re planning a sales meeting, conference or retreat, give me a call and we can discuss a program that will inspire and motivate your team to change their approach. Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca or 905-633-7750.
In the 16 plus years I have worked with sales people, I have learned that there are many ways to blow a great sales opportunity. Here are nine things that can derail a sale.
#1 Arrive late
I have often heard sales people complain when they arrive several minutes for an appointment. It doesn’t matter if you are only five minutes late. Late is late. Decision makers are busy and showing up late is a sign of disrespect. Plan your schedule to ensure that you arrive at least 10-15 minutes early.
#2 Be unprepared
Busy decision makers expect you to be prepared for your meeting. This means planning your questions in advance, knowing what solution is best for their situation, and being ready to answer tough questions.
#3 Opening with social chit-chat
You may think that talking about non-sales related topics is a great way to build rapport but corporate decision-makers don’t want to waste time on social chatter. Get to the point quickly and don’t waste their time.
#4 Ask weak questions
I know, I know…you’ve heard this before. But the reality is that most sales people don’t ask tough, penetrating questions that REALLY uncover a prospect’s problems and challenges. Weak, feeble questions fail to engage people in a meaningful conversation and do little to separate you from your competition.
#5 Launch into your pitch right away
You may have the best solution in the world but if you fail to present it in the most appropriate manner, you will lose the sale. Take a few moments to verify or validate your research before you start your pitch.
#6 Spend most of the allotted time talking about your company
This still seems to a difficult concept for sales people to grasp. Talking about you, your company, or your products will seldom help you achieve the results you want. It is far more effective to ask your prospect a few high-value questions before you present your solution.
#7 Go over your allotted time
Before every sales call, make sure you clarify how much time your prospect has allotted for the meeting and do everything in your power to finish on time. Better yet, end early. No one will ever complain that you concluded early. Never!
#8 Focus on your company’s achievements
Your prospects don’t care about you or your company. Focus EVERY sales conversation on how you can help them solve a particular problem. If you feel to need to talk about your company’s achievements, awards, or accomplishment, prepare a document that you can leave behind.
People don’t care about the traffic jam, how tough things are, or any other complaint you might express. Stay focused on your main objection (you did establish a clear objective, didn’t you?) and forget the rest.
These are just a few of the things that can derail a good sales opportunity. What others can you think of?
Could your team improve their approach? I conduct workshops that help sales people master sales conversations and win more deals. Give me a call for details. 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca.