The path for anyone brave enough to embark on a journey in sales has always been (and always will be) a rocky one. Even though salespeople make up a huge segment of the workforce, it’s rarely an easy feat, though the income potential and relative freedom can make it worthwhile. The evidence of this is everywhere: people who are successful in sales rarely, if ever, leave the profession.
But just how many of salespeople’s struggles are avoidable? We are, after all, not an island, and there’s no shortage of resources to help salespeople stop suffering and spinning their wheels. The question then becomes: are you willing to adjust in order to become more effective?
Some of the ways salespeople tend to get in their own way are quite obvious. Others, not so much. But at the end of the day, there’s no excuse for salespeople to be making the same tired mistakes in 2021 — there are simply too many resources out there that can show a better way.
Here are seven mistakes salespeople need to stop making immediately:
1. Avoiding the price discussion
Some people seem to be under the impression that if you simply avoid discussing price, or pivot the conversation away from it, then the prospect will forget about it and pay whatever you bill them. This isn’t just absurd, it’s also counterproductive.
Discussing price early is a good thing, not a bad thing, because it gets you on the same page with your prospect and helps weed out people whose budget isn’t in alignment with your offering. Discuss price early, be straightforward, and fearless. Otherwise, you’re playing a game that can only backfire.
2. Working without a process
If you’re new to sales, then it’s probably okay to try to wing it until the training wheels come off. But if you’re more than a few months into it and are still working without a process, then you’re not taking yourself seriously, and are unlikely to ever break through.
A process should be comprehensive and repeatable, covering your schedule, approach, and planning for any eventualities. Processes can (and should) be adjusted when they’re not working. But unless you take an active approach to your day-to-day, then you’re always going to be reacting, disorganized, and at the whim of your own moods, not where any professional ever wants to be.
3. Prospecting without a clear goal
Far too many salespeople pick up the phone or type up an email or LinkedIn message without thinking about their intended goal. Of course, the ultimate goal is to close the deal, but unless you’re a wizard, it’s unlikely that you’ll walk away from any initial contact or discovery call with a signed contract.
This is why it’s so important to have a goal for each contact, whether it’s a first, second, third or fourth meeting. Goals can range from scheduling the next meeting with all stakeholders present, to getting a verbal or written commitment. But you need a goal every single time, otherwise you’re just communicating indiscriminately and hoping things fall into place on their own.
4. Poor or non-existent questioning
Even though salespeople know they shouldn’t spend the entire meeting talking, many of us seem unable to put a cork in it long enough to let the prospect tell us exactly what we need to know in order to close their deal. The solution is almost always to ask better questions, and it would behoove most sellers to work on their active listening skills too.
Salespeople should learn how to ask open-ended questions, then stick to the plan when talking to prospects. The fluid nature of conversations can make it difficult to use a prescriptive approach, but once you train yourself to ask the right questions, it becomes much easier to keep the discussion flowing in the right direction.
5. Not taking advantage of time-saving tech
The old maxim, Work smarter, not harder, still holds true, but far too many sales reps (and their managers) don’t prioritize time-saving technology the way they should. Not only are there tools out there that can save sales teams tens of hours per week, but much of the new technology can completely eliminate busywork that takes time away from selling.
For instance, most companies have a CRM. But not all CRMs are created equal, and some, like Salesforce, require a lot of time and effort to update. Dooly can eliminate the majority of that legwork, allowing you to update Salesforce ten times faster, saving you over five hours per week. So if you’re not taking advantage of new technology, you’re literally wasting time.
6. Blasting messages indiscriminately
Anyone who has decision making power is used to receiving messages from a myriad of sales reps offering solutions for anything and everything. This is why it can be so difficult to break through, and why blasting mass messages without personalization is so ineffective. We’re all so used to being pitched that unless somebody stands out, our brains are likely to ignore the message altogether.
Before sending your next outreach message, ask yourself whether there’s anything unique about it. Did you do your research on the prospect? Did you personalize the message? Is it any different from the dozens of other messages they’re likely to get that week? If the answer is no, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
7. (Only) using the phone
Salespeople have long been associated with phone calls, the same way they were once associated with going door to door while holding a briefcase. And while door to door sales reps still exist, their numbers are a fraction of what they once were, serving as a perfect example of what’s happening with the phone: it’s (slowly) becoming obsolete.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t make calls, you should. But people are spending so much time in front of their computers that using email, LinkedIn, industry networking groups, and other digital platforms can be much more effective than calling a company’s main line and trying to get through to a decision maker. So while the phone should still be a part of any B2B seller’s arsenal, it shouldn’t be the only tool, not in 2021.
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