The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling

Over the past 20 years, I have spent hours making sales, listening to sales, training on sales, coaching on sales and sometimes sadly losing sales. Now as a sales trainer and consultant I am constantly being asked ‘what do I need to do to be great at sales?’ and of course I have plenty of tips and tricks that will really make a difference, but from my experience it is very often not what you need to start doing but more importantly what you need to stop doing that will really change the results of most sales people.

Some of the bad habits that we all slip into when dealing with our prospects are the very things that undo all of the great work that we do to win the business. So here are the top seven things that really rob us of new business.

No Plan:  Selling is really about presenting an opportunity to a potential client that will meet a need or solve a problem for them.  If we dive into selling without a clear idea of our target market or a very clear offering for them we cannot hope to really demonstrate ability.    Setting up a sales campaign, however small, involves getting the right data in place, formulating clear objectives for the campaign, creating the right message for the market and then ensuring you have the right product and service to present to them.  You also need to consider what proofs you can pull together to demonstrate your ability and all of the supporting literature.  Each sales interaction in your business needs to be part of a plan otherwise you will not demonstrate to your prospects that you have what it takes to service them.

No Process:  When we work with our prospects we are taking them on a journey with our business, we want that journey to culminate in a decision to buy.  This means that your interactions with them need to be really clear and powerful enough to influence decision.  The key to this is ensuring that you have a simple flow of conversation that covers all of the necessary areas to really close that sale.  Moving seamlessly from strong fact-finding to tailored product presentations and then on to actually asking for the business is essential in order to lead the sale in the right direction.  When we deviate from this path we simply confuse our prospect and dilute our message.

Poor Introduction:  The opening sentence of any sales interaction sets the intent for the whole conversation and too often I hear really poor unfocused introductions.  We need to express our purpose quickly and succinctly so that our prospect has confidence that this conversation is leading somewhere productive.  ‘Oh Hi there I wonder if I can speak with whoever deals with your marketing’ simply does not cut it as an opening statement – that tells us nothing about the value that we may be about to receive.  Carefully crafted clear opening statements for all your key sales chats is key.

Poor Fact-finding:  Really good selling is all about solving problems and to really unearth opportunities for your business you need to be really adept at identifying these problems.  To do this well you need to be a very competent questioner and you need to be able to quickly and easily get a very clear picture of your prospects’ current situation and potential future needs.  The general rule of thumb here is that if you are not clear about the specific problem that your client has that your product or service will solve you have not dug deep enough.  Could you describe your prospect’s biggest challenges?  If not then you have not paid them enough attention.

Selling too soon:  A sales person’s job is to be passionate about their product, but often that passion translates into an over bearing desire to show off about what’s great about them.  Most sales people are really good at talking about their product and spend much less time and attention on listening to their client.  If you start presenting what you can offer before you really know your prospect you are confirming their worst fears – that you don’t really care what they need.  To sell really effectively in all situations your recommendations need to be seen as sincere and personal, and if you sell before you have gathered information this will never be the case.

Only being prepared to sell:  As sales people we want outcomes, we want to talk to people who want to buy from us.  However, the biggest mistake that we make is moving quickly on from those people who are not ready to buy right away.  Timing is everything in sales and if you ruin a relationship because the client isn’t committed at that moment you run the risk of burning business.   The intention of the sales person should always be to build solid relationships that are founded on a mutual understanding of one another’s business.  If you cut your leads off because they won’t help you hit today’s sales targets you will really limit your target market.

Sounding scripted:   Reading from a script is a real no-no in consultative selling – you cannot have high quality two-way conversations with a script as your starting point.  However even sales people who have long since dispensed with the script can come across as disconnected and robotic and this kills business every time.  Tone of voice and focus are key in selling, and even if you have had the conversation 100 times already that week your prospect will not have. so it should be treated with the proper attention.  Sound enthusiastic and engaged and you will have positive conversations.

All of the above sound obvious when reviewed in black and white but from experience these are mistakes that are just as common in seasoned professional sales people as they are in the reluctant salesman.

The best sales people in the world are those who are constantly assessing themselves for the next way to improve and the seven tips above are a great starting point for this.

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