Avoiding sales 'sins' will close more deals

Increasing sales is not just a matter of raising quotas, adding new products, changing commissions or redefining territories. Your staff needs to know how to close more of your prospects and how to penetrate your current accounts.

Easier said than done? Not really.

With effective sales training, selling becomes a procedure and closing ceases to be a problem. By learning how to stay on a sequenced, logical path -- even through a long sales cycle -- the salesperson can take the presentation from initial contact to final closing in a manner that is comfortable and natural for the seller and the buyer.

All customers, regardless of what they're buying or the industry they're in, have similar reasons for selecting one product/service over another. Understanding how to treat the motives for buying, and to control the decision-making process, is the core of every presentation.

It's so easy to lose a sale. The salesperson can ramble on aimlessly, the presentation is to the wrong person or the buyer doesn't have the need. There are dozens of mistakes, or "sins," salespeople commit every day that cost you sales. These can be avoided and closing increased.

Here are some of the most-typical sins:

  • Talking too much, listening too little.

    A typical salesperson walks into an office, gives the official two minute warm-up -- asking about the fish on the wall or the family photo on the desk -- then, like a high diver, leaps into a hot presentation about this feature and that feature, the options available, the price and the savings. For the close, most do a belly-flop and end up with nothing but a big splash.

    Afterward, it's always the ex-prospects who are at fault for not understanding why they need the product or service.

    Knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them is the only way to find out if you're making a presentation to the person with the real need, the authority and the money. If you're not presenting to the right person you're wasting your time.

    A salesperson needs to find out the facts and the feelings of the prospect before an effective presentation can be made.

  • Selling the product, not the benefits.

    When someone buys a drill bit, it's not the drill bit the customer wants, it's the hole. People buy to satisfy a need. No one is willing to pay for a product or service that just sits and does not perform.

    Yet salespeople sell as if they will. Presentations continually focus on the width, height, weight, power, speed, buttons, bulbs or whatever of the product/service. It's just like selling cars with no gas, pens with no ink or computers with no software. The value just isn't there.

    A customer buys a computer for efficiency and profit, not for its whistles and bells. Be they individuals or committees, they buy benefits, not features.

    Prospects have hidden buying motives. There are reasons why they select one brand over another, why one product/service seems to fill the need better.

  • Never asking for the order.

    As a prominent study proved, more often than not, customers don't have to worry about a pressured close, because in 62 percent of the cases, the salesperson never asks for a sale.

    For most salespeople, selling is an uncomfortable experience because they don't know where to go in the presentations. They're afraid -- and rightfully so -- that with each sentence or gesture, they will destroy their chances of closing. So, like a voice-activated tape recorder, they just go on and on, recharging their batteries until the tape runs out. If the customer doesn't volunteer to "buy," then they just don't "sell."

    Should the prospect hesitate when asked for the order, alternate ways to bring the sale to a successful close are made available. In this situation, the salesperson must elicit additional information, respond to objections and look for openings to successfully close the prospect.

    When prospects say "No," what they're really saying is, "You haven't convinced me to buy."

  • Pushing for the close.

    Too often, the salesperson tries to "sell" rather than help the customer "buy." When the salesperson is ready to close, the order is asked for. When the first close is resisted, the trick closes begin.

    The customer has fears, uncertainties and doubts about the decision to spend company or personal money, and when closed too soon, reacts negatively to being forced to make a decision. Pushing too hard means the salesperson is forcing the prospect to build a defensive wall that won't come down easily.

    Following the sequence of a well-given presentation means asking for the order will come at the right time. After the needs are understood, the benefits described and the fees discussed, it is appropriate to ask for the order.

  • Wasting selling time.

    Selling is a problem for many salespeople because they don't know how to spend their time profitably. Selling is prospecting, cold calling and obtaining leads. It is traveling to meet strange people, having to write letters, make phone calls and hand out brochures. It is writing out the order form and servicing the client.

    Many salespeople look busy, but they're not closing sales. They suffer from lack of organization, and instead of using their time to be in front of qualified potential customers, they're spinning their wheels in unproductive work.

    There is only one way to insure you get all the way to the close, and that's by staying on an orderly, logical path.

    When salespeople know what has to be accomplished next in the sales process, they waste less time and energy and close more sales. When they don't know what information or reassurances the customer is really looking for, they tend to go off in all directions and have little success.

    During every sale, there is a defined, yet hidden agenda. If this is not adhered to closely, there usually will be no sale. This is why a salesperson should learn the process of selling.

  • Not identifying prospects from suspects.

    There are many people who will listen to a sales presentation. It may make them feel important or help them fill their time. Whatever the reason, it doesn't help the salesperson get any nearer to the sale. In fact, it takes the salesperson further away from the sale because time has been wasted and the point-of-entry into a company has been mismanaged.

    Presenting to people who are not qualified is just that -- presenting. It is not selling. And a company or a salesperson can't make a profit by just presenting.

    Probably the greatest misuse of a salesperson's time is presenting to someone who doesn't have the need, the authority or the money.

    Professional salespeople know the frustration of trying to sell where there is not a buyer. The salesperson must know how to properly qualify a prospect and determine if there is adequate reason to proceed with the sales presentation.

    Even if the initial contact is not with the decision-maker, the salesperson needs to take advantage of the opportunity to move up the decision-making ladder.

  • Making a sale, not a customer.

    For many salespeople, just getting a signature on the bottom line is the only objective. To accomplish this end, they use whatever means are available -- assumptive closes, promises of extra incentives, threats of price increases or whatever other tricks are in the bag.

    Salespeople like this sometimes walk out with signed purchase orders, but they don't sign on customers. In fact, the customers may be so resentful of the pressure and tricks, they may rethink their commitments.

    Even if the order isn't canceled, these purchasers will have no particular loyalty to your company, and likely will buy from your competitor the next chance they get.

A professional salesperson is someone who helps a customer satisfy a need. Everyone benefits from this.

The customer operates the business more effectively and profitably. The salesperson is rewarded.

And most importantly, your company can count on the loyalty of a new client -- one that will return with repeat and increasing orders.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.