5 Mistakes That Salespeople Make

Nobody wants to be their own worst enemy. Sales is a demanding profession and you want to do everything in your power to make yourself more profitable. After working with thousands of salespeople, I have found that there are mistakes many of us commonly make. Once eliminated, we can boost our sales and earning power dramatically.

Mistake #1:
Getting Insufficient Information: In a courtroom, the judge would never cut the testimony short and make a hasty decision, based only on preliminary evidence, especially when more credible and detailed testimony is yet to come. But that is exactly what defeats many sales.
We cannot honestly say where we are in the sales process without a clear understanding of what is happening on their end. We wont often be privy to everything happening behind the scenes, but that’s no reason to handcuff ourselves by ending phone conversations and leaving meetings without a better understanding of needs, timelines and procedures.
What information do we need? In addition to product or service information, here are three critical points:
* How important is this decision? Everyone has felt the sting of that ‘sure thing’ sale which, at the last minute, gets put on the backburner because something else came up. In any changing business, new priorities can replace old ones in an instant. Your sale was a top concern yesterday, but when an equipment breakdown or staffing issue arose, new priorities took hold. It happens, but only if the sales process drags on too long, or if its priority is too low to begin with.
* What is their buying process? Is the buyer, alone, in the position to make the final decision, or will others be involved. Will approval go through a specific chain of command? Even door-to-door sales to consumers usually requires a second opinion, like a spouse, in order to complete the sale.
* What is their timeline? Is a decision imminent, or are they gathering pricing information for next years budget? It’s amazing how often this one comes up and, too often, the salesperson is unaware because they didn’t ask.

Mistake #2:
Assuming That Price Is The Answer: Low price doesn’t always win the sale. But go ahead and ask your customer their most important criteria and they’ll often say “price, of course.” They’re not lying. But they haven’t been sold yet, either.
When it comes to price sensitivity, consumers come in three clusters. The first is the low-price cluster. Some estimate this group to be about 15% of all consumers, business and consumer. They may have a directive to be frugal with the company budget, may have less means financially, or just a deep-rooted desire to get the most in any bargain, even if it results in a win-lose scenario.
Another, although smaller cluster, will always pay the higher price. They may want the best quality, and know that you get what you pay for. They may want the prestige that goes with owning the best. Either way, price, alone, is seldom an issue.
The third cluster, estimated to be nearly 75% of all buyers, live in between the low and high-end. They’re waiting to be sold. They want quality, they want service, and they want a good value. But, if there’s no clear distinction among their options, then the default buying decision becomes ‘price.’
To avoid becoming compared to others based on price alone, find their definition of value. Ask questions that will uncover their most important buying criteria. Sometimes, a basic question like “aside from price, what will be your most important criteria?” helps you find the way to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Mistake #3:
A Lacking Of Personal Branding: Toyota, Heinz Ketchup, Hershey Chocolate. They’ve got branding. Their name says it all. Branding identifies a product, and its perceived value. Hallmark Greeting Cards built an empire with the phrase “when you care enough to send the very best.” Branding is who you are in the minds of your customers. Too many salespeople focus only on method. They go through all the steps to the sale, from asking questions to closing, but never differentiate themselves from the competition.
Ask yourself “what, specifically, do I bring to the sale?” Everyone says they’re service-oriented and will work hard for the customer. Now ask yourself, “What CAN I bring to the sale?” Forget the non-substance answers like ‘I’m service oriented,’ or ‘I’m a terrific listener.’ Instead, find your own, personal value. If you consistently come to them with intelligent discussion, research and ideas, you brand yourself as a value-added consultant. Continuously remind them that you’re working in their best interest with articles or web page links that address their interests and needs. Over time, you’ll brand yourself as the kind of person they trust, respect and want to do business with

Mistake #4:
Not Having Enough Time In Each Day: Do you accomplish everything you set out to do in a day? Time is today’s currency, and every one of us fights the daily battle.
Finding time is the challenge. Taking it is the solution. Nobody’s going to give it to you. No customer is going to call and say “we want to buy…and you just leave those little details to us.” The interruptions will not stop. Here are three strategies for finding time:

1) Schedule it (this is pretty basic, but it’s critical). Block out several hours every week as though it was time for your best customer, and use that time to accomplish those important projects.
2) Prepare for it. If new business is a priority, then print out a list of prospective customers, complete with name, phone and other notes, before the work week begins. Then you can spend your time taking action, not searching through files.
3) Be disciplined. I like the health club analogy. On January 1st, we’re all committed to fitness. That’s why the lines at Bally’s are so long. But, by the 1st of February, you can fire a cannon through there and not hit anything. Do you stay committed to a plan after the initial motivation has worn off? Challenge yourself, week in and week out.

Don’t just find time….Take It. Grab that clock and out a choke hold on it. It’s yours.

Mistake #5:
Not Asking For The Order: When did closing become a bad thing? Every day, countless sales are left ‘in limbo’ because the salesperson made their presentation, quoted the price, then left and waited for the customer to make up their mind.
There are two simple rules to closing a sale. Rule #1: you cannot force, trick or cajole them. Anyone who agrees to a sale today can easily talk themselves out of it tomorrow. Rule #2: the salesperson need to lead the close by leading the sale. That means being thorough throughout the selling process by uncovering needs, developing trust and presenting proposals that fill the customers’ surface and deeper needs, and then asking for the order. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just a straightforward statement like “if everything looks good, let’s get it started” or “should we go ahead and write up the paperwork?” This may sound basic, and it is. But it’s probably one of the biggest mistakes we make!
In every profession, from medicine to sports, professionals regularly work to improve their skills. Take 30 days to focus on these common mistakes and I can guarantee you’ll see and feel a tremendous difference.

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Think Before You Speak !!

You are talking to a customer and after you present your product, service or solution, she asks, "What discount can I get?" or "What can you do about the price?" Think before you speak otherwise this innocent-sounding question will cost you money right off your bottom line. While it's tempting to offer a discount or better price resist the desire to do so. Here's why.

First, just because someone asks you for a better price, does not mean they expect to get it. Some people ask for a discount because they have been told to. They are often uncomfortable doing this and will seldom press the issue. However, professional buyers and key decision-makers know that many sellers will drop their price at the first sign of resistance so they ask everyone for a discount-and they can be aggressive in their approach. Plus, experienced negotiators lose respect for people who drop their price too quickly. Standing your ground and refusing to cave in right away is also a show of strength and executives respect this type of behavior.

Second, when you drop your price too quickly, you teach your customer to repeat that behavior in future transactions. Remember, everything you do now affects your customer's behavior toward you in the future. When I first started my private practice, I gave a client a discount on a package of services. The next time he contacted, he demanded that same discount which put me in a somewhat precarious position-did I give the same discount or risk losing the sale? A business executive once told me that she knew which of her suppliers she could browbeat into giving her a better price and she always took advantage of that perceived weakness. So, what is the best way to respond to a request for a discount or better price?

Professional negotiators will tell you to flinch. A flinch is a visible reaction to a request or demand and goes something like this, "You want a discount!?! Even though we have been working together for four years and you know our services will help you get better results you still want a discount?" When coupled with the right facial expressions and body language, this technique is extremely effective. However, I have found that most people are extremely uncomfortable using this approach and even I find it difficult to apply on a consistent basis.

An effective way to respond to a request for a better price is to ask, "What did you have in mind?" or "What were you looking for?" When you ask one of these questions, you get the other person to tell you how much of a discount they want. In many cases, their expectation will be less than you are prepared to give which means you will increase the size of the sale and save money at the same time-a double win. One word of caution here-an experienced negotiator will say, "Well, I want a better price than this" which means you need to be prepared to ask the question a couple of times.

This also applies to email correspondence. Many people will ask their sales person for a discount via email which makes it next to impossible to use some of the standard negotiating techniques. Before you respond by offering a better price, take the time to properly craft your email. Here is what you can say, "We might be able to do something for you. What did you have in mind?" The key is to give the indication that you have flexibility without committing to something you might regret later.

This sounds like an easy technique to use but it's not. You have to train yourself to listen for your customer's question and be prepared to respond with your own. I hate to admit it but I have fallen for this question because I wasn't expecting it. In one situation, an existing client asked me for a package price on some bundled services. Instead of responding by asking what price he was looking for, I automatically offered a small discount. I kicked myself afterwards because I felt that I should know better.

It is essential to listen carefully to what your prospect says and to think before you speak. It is also critical to practice asking your question until it becomes second- nature so you can respond quickly when a prospect asks for a discount or better price.

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Win the Battle, Lose the War

Dealing with customer concerns, problems and issues is a fact of life when you sell a product or service. And every person in sales has to certain customers who are more challenging to deal with. Some situations start as minor difficulties but quickly escalate into huge drawn-out battles. Unfortunately, many sales people unknowingly cause situations to escalate. Here is what I mean.

My wife overhead a conversation in a local grocery customer even though the customer's original concern was well-handled and properly taken care of. From what my wife could gather, the customer had bought some fruit (seven plums) that were not to her satisfaction. She wanted to exchange them and the "customer service" person told her to get the replacement plum and verify them her with before leaving the store. The customer did so. End of story. Problem solved. Quickly, easily and without hassle.

Well, not quite.
You see, as the store employee bagged the new plums she said a condescending tone, "You know, , we normally charge for the difference in price. So you're lucky today." I guess she was assuming that the weight of the customer's new plums weighed more than the returned ones or perhaps the price had increased since the original purchase. As you can well imagine, this did not go over well with the customer. She immediately exploded, "I should be happy? You should be paying me for my time and trouble and be happy that I'm not shopping at your competition. In fact, based on your tone with me, I will go to your competitor." And she stormed out of the store.

It was obvious to my wife that the customer service person made an unnecessary comment. The interesting thing is that this occurs more frequently than people think. Too many sales people feel that they have to point out a customer's mistake or get in the last word to show the customer how much effort went into solving the problem. But your customer doesn't care about that!

If the problem was caused by you, someone in the company, or a defective product, it was your fault! And if the situation is your fault then you owe it your customer to solve it quickly and without hassle. They don't need to know why the problem occurred or how difficult it may be to resolve. They just want a solution. Here is an example,

We used to buy two to four cappuccinos per day from a well-known coffee chain and the barista frequently added too much milk for our liking. When we questioned how the coffee was made we usually got a response like this, "Oh, it's made properly, you just want a dry cappuccino." No, we didn't because a dry cappuccino does not have enough milk. Because of the hassle, we invested in a cappuccino machine and now make our own.

From time-to-time, I get calls and emails from people who order my audio CD's. While I take great pains to ensure high-quality, sometimes the sound quality is less than perfect or the CD simply does not play. When someone contacts my office, we do not challenge them or ask them twenty questions before we issue a replacement. We send out a new item that day.

This may sound like a simple concept to apply. However, the challenge is your ego. Most people feel the pressing need to get in the last word. They want to make it clear to the other person where that individual went wrong because it helps them feel less taken advantage of. Many sales people have large egos. After all, this helps deal with the rejection and challenging customers. However, it is critical to recognize that these situations are not about you. They are about helping one of your customers get what they want and resolving their problems.

Behaving in a manner similar to one described above may make you feel better and lessen the pain of dealing with a challenging customer. But let's look at the financial impact for a moment. The comment from the baristas at the coffee chain caused us to buy our own machine which represents a financial loss of fifteen to twenty dollars per day for that particular coffee store. That's $5400-$7300 in lost revenue every year for that store!

Here is the bottom line. Getting in your last words may help you win the battle. However, even if you do win the battle, there is a good chance you will lose the war. That means your customer will find a reason to jump ship and shift their business to one of your competitors. Are a few last words that make you feel better worth that loss?

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Being a Professional Salesman

I am sure you have heard about salespeople earning $300-400k, a million or even more. Do you think this sales person is better than you are? They are not much different from you; they are not geniuses or impeccable experts in their field. They probably don’t know much more about their products or service than other salespeople in the same company. So you are probably asking yourself – how is it that they can make six or seven figures and you are struggling month by month to make ends meet and reach your quotas? The first and probably the most accurate answer is that they see themselves as professionals. How can you grow if you don’t adopt new ideas or learn about new things in business and in sales? How can you expect to advance to better, higher paid positions if you stop investing in your knowledge?

In my experience in sales, I have met many sales people who never bought a book about the sales in their life. They never attended a seminar about sales, which was not part of their company at the time. However, they were always complaining about how companies are not investing enough in their sales force, yet expect them to be perfect and up to date. That is the reason why they don’t want to invest in seminars on their own. They believe that if their company does not see the value in it, why would they pay for it by themselves? Also they feel they know everything about the sales, so there is no need for spending money on books and seminars, or finding time for reading magazines or specialized websites. Many of those people who don’t learn continuously wonder why they don’t advance in their career or are skipped over again for a promotion.
I am giving you perfect examples of how the amateurs are thinking while blaming everyone around them for being unsuccessful in sales. You are the one who is making the decision. Every morning, when you look in the mirror, are you seeing the reflection of an amateur or professional?
Sales professional is someone who invests in his knowledge, who reads magazines and web portals dedicated to sales people and attends seminars and conferences. A sales person who follows the trends understands how essential it is to improve him personally. Professionals are ones they know how necessary this is to start selling more. And of course – they are the ones who are earning more. Be different from the 95% of salespeople out there who are not investing in their knowledge, and you will start seeing the change. It will start first inside of you where you will be hungrier for the new knowledge. You will have a better conversation and better approach to your prospects and people around you will see that difference.
Your self-respect that you’ve gained with that new knowledge will make the world your oyster. Don’t wait for your employer to send you to a seminar. Be proactive, for yourself and your career. It will benefit you in the long term - with your career and most importantly you will see the difference in your wallet! You are asking your clients to make a change, but if you are unwilling to change yourself, how can you ask your prospects to?
Your sales process will also depend on your efforts invested in research and understanding your customer base, your energy and enthusiasm about your product. If you cannot transfer enthusiasm to your prospects, you are in deep problems. When you talking about something people can feel if you are insincere, or you really know what you are talking about.
It is not what are you saying but how are you saying it. What does it mean to be sales professional? I am not saying that you have to live, eat and breathe sales 24/7 every day for the rest of your life, but to start seeing your sales position as something more, something bigger than 9-5 job.
Whether you love your sales job or not, you have a choice to do it well or not, to be fully involved or back away, and if you have this attitude of choosing to do your work well, you will enjoy your job itself!
You can be very productive once you consciously choose to be in sales, and if you change your approach from get things done to actually enjoy what you do, you can get the job well done and be rewarded for your efforts. Fulfillment in your life comes with doing a great job, whatever you do. And your occupation, in this case sales profession, is just as important to your personal health as the right food for your body.
Invest in your knowledge; put the seeds in the small steps and watering your skills and constant caring about your sales knowledge. And when the time of harvesting comes, you will have the fruits of your efforts in front of you. To differentiate from majority of people who don’t like what they do, you have to actually enjoy what you do.
Start your day by doing your job the best you can, and try to do it for a week. Then come back next week and do it all over again. The best you can, not waiting for rewards, not asking for rewards. Don’t wait for results to come, just do the job the best you could. When first results came back, when you get positive feedback from your customers, when you close a new deal – ask yourself: What has changed?
You will start loving your job because success will come, first in small steps, but more and more day by day it will grow. Your customers will start seeing you as a knowledgeable person, your colleagues will see you with different eyes, and you will realize that all of that is important, but most important are feelings inside of you that start building – good feelings about yourself.
You will feel worthy, valuable to your customers, colleagues, and you will build that feeling inside of you that you are valuable part of your environment. And you will start feeling that you are helping others – your colleagues to be better, your customers to find the best solution, and by helping them you are actually helping yourself to become a more valuable member of the community.
Does it make sense? Natural order of things is in doing your best at what you do best, and the rewards will follow inevitable. Remember this - you can't fail how hard you try it.

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