7 Funny Mistakes Sales People Make & The Strategies You Need To Stop Making Them

Ever realize how much you can learn from watching other people screw up? Sometimes I think that watching the missteps and wrong moves people make can be even more helpful than watching them do it right.

This holds true in most professions and especially true in sales. When it comes to sales, I am obsessed. I believe to be good at sales you just need to embrace it is a life-long journey and a skill that you will never master. Having accepted that, I am always on the hunt, always observing how others sell, how I am sold to and what sales people do that works and what they do that doesn’t.

I take notes, keep a journal and keep a catalog of great techniques, major failures and funny sales people stories. Every now and then I review my journal looking for new ideas or just refresh my memory of what I can do to up my game.

During one of my most recent reviews, I found myself learning a lot and laughing out loud at some of the funny stories and screw-ups I have seen many of my fellow sales professionals make – me included. Below are seven of my favorites.

7 Major Mistakes Sales People Make

1 – Talk About Themselves – I had a note in a journal about a guy, we will call him Tom, who called me about some CRM software. I am not sure if he was surprised I actually answered the phone, or he was just too pushy. Hello was the only word I basically got out of my mouth. From the time I answered the phone until we finally hung up, Tom talked all about his product, his services and himself. Why do sales people do this? How do you even get started in sales without learning, early on, that the one person your customers and prospects are most interested in is not you. If you want your prospects to be interested in your products than you need to be interested in them.

2 – Lie to The Gatekeeper – I have to admit this is one of my favorites. One of my long time clients is named Robert. He is the CEO of a large manufacturing company. We have been working together for years, so I have gotten to know his assistant Lynn really well. When I call Robert for our coaching sessions, I usually spend a few moments on the phone talking with Lynn first. One morning I called, Lynn had just gotten off the phone with someone, a sales rep, calling to meet with Robert. Lynn could not wait to share the story. Apparently, this sales rep called to say that he had met “Bob” at a networking event, and “Bob” told this sales rep to call his “secretary” and set up lunch. Lynn was laughing because first and foremost Robert goes by Robert never by “Bob”, and she had never, ever known Robert to use the term secretary. Don’t lie to the gatekeeper, never underestimate the gatekeeper and if you want to succeed at sales never discount the power of winning over the gate keeper.

3 – Think They’re in Control – my husband was doing some research to buy a new piece of technology for his dental practice. He was looking at three companies who offered basically the same product. Now my husband is that customer that actually reads the pamphlets, does the research and studies every final detail. It takes him a while to make a decision, but when he makes one he is a customer for life. While two of the sales reps seemed to understand this perfectly, the last one was under the false impression she was in control of the sales cycle. She called, called and called again, finally telling Rob that if he did not make a decision in the next two days he would lose out on the twenty-five percent discount and the bonus items. All that she accomplished by thinking she was in control, was to help Rob speed up the decision-making process by eliminating her from the choices. As sales professionals, we have to understand that we are not in control of the sales cycle, and if we assume we are we will just push our customers into the hands of our competitors. Give the customers room to make decisions.

4 – Assume You’ll Stay – Every six to eight weeks I go in for the long process of getting my haircut and colored. A two-hour ordeal that while I love the result, I hate the time it takes. I had been going to the same salon for years, always asking for the first appointment of the morning so I could get in and out as fast as possible. While my appointment was always at 9, my stylist was routinely ten minutes late. At first I did not mind. I would go in, get a cup of coffee, pay for my appointment ahead of time and schedule my next visit. I was efficient. Then one day I was driving in to the salon, and I noticed a new salon was opening not far from my existing one. As I sat waiting for my stylist to arrive, ten minutes late as usual, I thought why do I put up with this? There are a million places I can get my hair styled. So, after being a customer for ten years, with no warning, no comment, no explanation, I changed stylists. The lesson, never assume your customers are happy, never assume that their needs are being met, and never just assume they’ll stay. We have to work hard at re-winning customers if we want them to stay.

5 – Don’t Do Their Homework – this one is so funny. I was making a call with a client, a CEO that I coach. I also train his sales people. He was getting so frustrated with their lack of progress, that he wanted to implement a new sales approach. Before getting started, I suggested we make some calls so I could see how he approached sales, and what exactly he was looking for in the perfect sales professional. He had not been on a sales call in years (first big problem) so he jumped at the chance. He chose a prospect that he had wanted their business for a long time. He set up the call, we met with the prospect, had an amazing conversation uncovering all types of needs. At the close of the call my client said “Miranda (the prospects name) what is it going to take to get your business?” To which Miranda replied, “I already do business with you.” My client had failed to do the homework and see that while the not the depth of customer she has the potential to be, Miranda had bought a product or two from my client. Lesson here, do your homework and be prepared.

6 – Forget to Dress the Part – sales is about getting people to know, like and trust you. In other words, making them feel comfortable. I was coaching a young sales professional in his first year on the job. He was selling solar panels to residential and commercial builders. Due to tax credits and incentives his product was in demand, and the competition was fierce. We show up the first day to get started, and he comes dressed in a suit and tie, and to add to it smoking a cigarette. In my opinion, we needed to start the sales coaching process right here and right now. First, he is selling to contractors, contractors that do not dress in a suit. Second, he is selling solar panels, alternative energy and things that are good for the environment. Smoking and solar energy do not go together. He assured me he would not smoke in front of a customer, and to that I had to laugh. Dressing the part means believing in and representing your product. You would not be a vegan who sells meat to grocery stores. You should not be drinking a coke while trying to sell diabetic supplies. And you can’t wear shorts and a t-shirt to present in a boardroom, any more than you can wear a heels and skirt to sell to farmer. Understanding that people need to you to believe in what you are selling before they will believe in it. You have to dress the part from how you act, how you dress, how you communicate.

7 – Expect You to Make the Call – last but not least, expect you to follow-up or make the call. I had a great conversation with a vendor and she needed to get a little information from me to move forward. I was definitely interested, so I was more than willing to set the follow-up call. However, she made the fatal mistake of putting that responsibility on me. She told me to give her a call in “about a week” when I had everything together. As you can imagine that follow-up call never happened. I got busy, I got sidetracked and bigger priorities hit my radar. When she eventually tried to follow-up two weeks later I had moved on. As sales professionals, we need to always control the calling process.

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