Effectively moving a prospect along the sales cycle and then winning the account is very difficult, very skilled work. And during an economic recession, the importance of a professional salesperson's skills is heightened.
While winning in sales is the culmination of literally hundreds of tasks done well, it only takes one done poorly -- or not at all -- to lose. Unfortunately, losing often happens unknowingly to the salesperson not keenly focused on an appropriate agenda.
Review the following common pitfalls many salespeople make that lose them deals, money and long-term customer relationships to ensure you capitalize on every possible opportunity to succeed.
- 1. Failing to continually sell the company.
Once a sale is made and a customer has been earned, many salespeople take the accomplishment for granted. They mistakenly assume that the "hard part" is over.
This couldn't be further from the truth. In all of my years of selling, it's clear to me that winning a customer is easier than retaining one.
One reason: competition.
A salesperson can deliver his product or service on time, every time, just as he promised from the outset. However, most salespeople believe that's all there is to keeping an account so they fail to continually sell their own company; to repeatedly reinforce to the customer all of the sound reasons for doing business with the company.
A competitor takes the customer away.
2. Competing on price.
Research shows that to an educated, informed and in-need buyer, price rarely ranks in the top five of the value hierarchy. Almost always ranked more important than price are value, service, communication, options and terms.
However, many salespeople don't spend enough time building the true value of their offering. Thus they regularly complain that prospects are always hammering them on price.
Yet, it's usually only the uninformed prospect that makes price an issue. In short: when prospects don't understand value, they naturally revert to price, and the salesperson loses.
3. Not anchoring to emotional triggers.
People buy emotionally and then justify their decision logically. A big mistake made by many salespeople is to jump into the solution phase (features and benefits) of their sales process before learning why the solution is important to the prospect.
Perhaps it's because they know their offering so well or that they've presented the same information so many times. Regardless, they run on autopilot through the sales process, oblivious to the need for anchoring an individual prospect's emotional triggers to the tangible benefits of the product or service.
For example, most businesses want to get more customers and save money. These are givens, but they don't have much emotional appeal on an individual level.
Consider this: A business owner may want to save money for many personal reasons that may be deceptive if just left surface deep. Perhaps her company is doing very well, and she wants to upgrade to a 70-foot yacht. Or, perhaps the company's struggling and she wants to avoid laying off a long time employee who's become a close family friend.
Can you see how not tying to the actual emotion of the situation impacts the likelihood for a lost sale?
Once an emotional trigger has been hit, it must be tied to a personal anchor of the prospect to increase the likelihood of sale.
4. No systemized referral process.
The time to request referrals is when your product or service has delivered proven value. Maybe it's saved a customer $50,000, increased sales 22 percent or helped open a new market.
As soon as good things happen, a salesperson should ask for referrals. But if there's not a system in place to capitalize on these opportunities when they arise, it's too late. Only with a systematic process in place can these small but hugely important tasks occur.
5. Poor follow up.
This is the ugliest of the list and is absolutely unacceptable. A professional salesperson should never make a contact -- let alone a sale -- and then fail to follow up.
Communication expectations must be established upfront and then executed. A prospect or customer should always know when next, and in what form, the salesperson will contact them in the future. It can be specific or general, but a timeline must be set.
And then, obviously, the salesperson must follow up. This may seem basic but I'm continually amazed and shocked as to how many salespeople blatantly ignore this step. My advice to them: Either follow up timely and professionally or get out of the profession.
6. "Buy now" as the only option.
Many salespeople give prospects few options outside of buying immediately. This proves to be problematic on many fronts.
First, for several reasons, most prospects won't buy immediately. Second, when a salesperson pushes for an unfitting close, the issue of price moves higher up the prospect's value chain, meaning price slashing will often occur. And third, by pressuring an uncommitted prospect to buy, a salesperson may well anger the prospect, ruining future sales opportunities.
A common flaw of many salespeople -- especially the inexperienced ones -- is to think only of the immediate return rather than the long-term potential return of a sound sales relationship.
Pressured to meet quota, earn a commission or simply to just sell anything, these salespeople go to nearly any length to make the sale. While they may well earn the sale today, this self-serving, short-sighted behavior will eventually scorn them.
A selfish salesperson can only burn so many companies in a territory until he runs out of companies to burn.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.