By Simon Hazeldine

How many sales are you missing out on?  How aware are you of the errors that could be costing you orders, commission and profits?  

In the course of training and coaching salespeople I see the same mistakes being made time and time again!  Review your performance against these seven areas and make sure that you are not making mistakes that are costing you sales.  

Seven of the most common mistakes that people make when selling are :

1.    Not planning and preparing
As obvious as this may appear very few salespeople plan and prepare thoroughly enough.  Far too many salespeople go into a sales call without having fully considered what they are going to do.  Have you conducted background research on the customer?  Have you set very specific objectives for the call?  Have you got all of the information and materials that you may need during the call with you?  Have you anticipated what the customer may ask you?  By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.  The elite of the selling profession are properly planned and prepared before every sales call.

2.    Not getting rapport
Psychological research shows that people are more likely to buy from someone if they like them.  Learning how to develop unconscious rapport with your customers is a powerful way of helping them to like you and to want to do business with you.  Utilising the technology of Neuro Linguistic Programming is a very powerful way to do this.  This approach is far more effective (and genuine) than pretending to be interested in what the customer is interested in.  Many people make the mistake of thinking that rapport is something that you “do” to another person.  True rapport emerges from the interaction between the salesperson and their customer.  You have rapport with the customer and they have rapport with you.  In this state communication flows easily and the salesperson is able to understand what the customer wants and needs more effectively.

3.    Not listening to what is important to the customer
Having established rapport it becomes easier to properly understand what is important to the customer.  Far too many salespeople are focussed on themselves and their agenda.  You must get your attention where it should be – on the customer.  

It is only when you understand what is important to the customer that you are in the position to sell them anything!  Attempting to sell before having done this is a waste of time.  

Your job is to firstly understand what is important to the customer and then secondly to see of your products and/or services can help them.

4.    Talking about your product or service too much
Sorry to be blunt but your customer isn’t actually very interested in you or your product or service.  What they are interested in is what your product or service will do for them.  

Far too many salespeople spend far too much time talking at the customer about their product or service.  A lengthy one way speech about all of the features of your product or service usually results in a rather bored customer. Telling is not selling.

You need to focus your presentation about how the specific benefits that your product or service possess help the customer to solve their specific problems and help them to get exactly what they want.

If you don’t fully understand the customer’s individual and specific requirements then you shouldn’t be talking about your product or service at all.  It is only after you have this understanding that you are in a position to know if the customer may need your help.

5.    Not understanding how much money the customer has to spend
If you don’t know what the customer’s budget is, you don’t know how much money they have to spend with you. You need to know specifically how much money the customer has available to solve the specific problems or challenges you have identified.

For a salesperson to be in a position to close the sale you need to know that your customer needs, wants and can afford your product or service.  Tackling the subject of money quite early in the call will also help you to separate the customer who is likely to buy from the customer who is just looking for lots of free advice at your expense.

A sale is not a sale until the money is in your bank account!  Make sure you understand what the customer’s budget is!

6.    Not closing the sale early enough
If you aren’t closing frequently then you aren’t selling – you are having a conversation.  Research shows that firstly it can take several closing attempts to finally close a sale and that secondly the customer expects the salesperson to ask for the order.

Perhaps due to a fear of rejection salespeople don’t make sufficient efforts to close.  Instead they rely on carrying on talking about their product or service in the vain hope that the customer will eventually offer to buy something.

By trial closing throughout the call (“Does this make sense so far?”), you get constant feedback about the customer’s readiness to proceed. You can then move up to test closing (“If you were going to install this where would you site it?”) before moving onto the final close (“Shall we get the paperwork done then?”) and signing up the order.

You must be a strong closer if you want to prosper in today’s competitive world.  If you walk out of the sale without having closed you may find out that your competitor didn’t make the same mistake.

7.    Not following up after the sale
How to lose sales and annoy customers in one easy step – don’t do what you said you were going to do.  Accuracy, or salespeople doing what they said they were going to do, was one of two factors identified by extensive research as being the most important contributors to customer satisfaction.

The salesperson that does exactly what they said they were going to do, follows meetings up in writing and delivers the goods is a rarity these days.  

If you always ensure you follow up you will get very happy customers.  A happy and satisfied customer is almost impossible for your competitors to sell to.   On the other hand an unhappy customer is very easy to sell to.  Make it hard for your competitors – follow up!

The commercial world may be getting more and more challenging.  However, far too many salespeople are making basic errors that are costing them business.  Please make sure that you aren’t one of them.


Simon Hazeldine is the bestselling author of four business books that have been endorsed by famous business leaders including Duncan Bannatyne from BBC TV’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ and multi-billionaire founder and CEO of Dell Computers, Michael Dell.

Simon is in demand as a keynote speaker; performance consultant and facilitator in the areas of leadership, organisational performance and sales force effectiveness.  He has a Masters Degree in the Psychology of Performance and extensive international business experience.

For more valuable information on leadership, sales, negotiation and persuasion including sample chapters from Simon Hazeldine’s bestselling books please visit http://www.simonhazeldine.com

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