More than three decades ago, NSCA’s Chuck Wilson attended his first board meeting. Back then, he was relatively new to the industry — compared to now, anyway! 🙂 — and he was surrounded by leaders who had lots of experience and expertise.
In an effort to help Chuck, one of these professionals advised him to spend lots of time listening—and maybe consider waiting until he had a few more years under his belt before speaking up in board meetings. (Chuck likes to say that this is the reason he talks so much now.)
The very next year—in 1989—that same person who offered Chuck this valuable advice sought him out on the NSCA Expo show floor in a panic: A speaker he lined up to lead a sales class never showed up. In less than an hour, there would be a room full of several seasoned sales professionals waiting.
Chuck agreed to help, even though he had never presented (or even spoken up) before, so he was shown to the Expo Office and sat in front of a typewriter to feverishly type up a presentation outline.
It was a 90-minute session, but Chuck rushed through his outline in about 10 minutes. NSCA Board Member Jack Toerner sensed his panic and started a valuable dialogue by asking Chuck to elaborate on each item. Thirty-three years later, and Chuck is still talking, offering valuable advice to industry leaders every day.
We recently unearthed a copy of his presentation outline from the “NSCA Vault” (what we lovingly call Chuck’s stash of old papers). Obviously, times have changed. The technology we offer is different. Managed services are top of mind. Jobs and roles exist that weren’t even part of the industry 33 years ago. But many of these sales mistakes are still very relevant today.
We’re sharing these 12 sales mistakes with you that Chuck first shared 33 years ago. Let us know what you think.
1. Not Following Up
It takes time to sell large jobs—sometimes years or longer—so it’s not uncommon to see a salesperson run a hard race and then never finish the last lap. He gets tired, distracted, or burned out. But if the competition is the only one following up, then guess who gets the job?
2. Not Listening to the Customer
If a customer asks for something, is it being provided? We’ve seen lots of situations where a sales professional who originally had the inside track on a job lost the business because he couldn’t (or didn’t) provide what the customer asked for, whether it was a list of pricing options or customization options. In many of these situations, if you’re truly listening to the customer, then you’ll understand that the real issue is peace of mind in knowing what different options will bring.
3. Misunderstanding the Difference Between Persistence and Pushiness
The secret to staying in touch is always having a reason to make contact. “Persistence” is acting in the best interest of your client, showing empathy for what they’re going through, and working with their timelines. “Pushy” is selling in the best interest of you and according to a timeline that suits you best.
4. Badmouthing the Competition
Slamming the competition is a good way to lose a job without ever knowing why. It can lead to a loss of respect and the loss of a sale. No one wants to work with someone who badmouths people they disagree with behind their backs.
5. Not Understanding the Competition
Sales professionals may think they have a job all sewn up just because the competition can’t provide exactly what they’re offering. But what if the competition steps in and sells the customer on something they can provide? In one instance, we saw a company lose a deal because they knew the competition couldn’t deliver a certain piece of equipment. But the competition stepped in and sold the customers on equipment they could deliver. The moral of the story: The sale isn’t closed until the check clears the bank.
6. Forgetting Who Controls the Decisions
A good sales professional always explains the reasons to buy now, but the customer ultimately makes the decision.
7. Incorrect Economic Analysis
Nothing kills credibility like an incorrect economic analysis for calculating payback or ROI. Make sure the information you provide to a customer is correct, and that they’ll receive the return you’re promising.
8. Neglecting Decision-Influencers
Just because someone doesn’t make the final decision or sign the purchase order doesn’t mean they don’t impact the buying decision. It’s important to establish a rapport with those people who influence the purchaser, too.
9. Dealing with an Unqualified Prospect
No matter how good it is or how much money it will save, many prospects can’t come up with the money for a project. Don’t waste time on those deals.
10. Lack of Industry Knowledge
Sales are lost every day because a salesperson doesn’t understand how to apply his company’s products and services to solve the customers’ problems. Make sure your sales team knows your products inside and out—as well as the problems they can solve.
11. Assuming the Sale Ends When the Agreement is Signed
If there is a problem—no matter what it is—then the customer expects the salesperson to handle it. A tremendous amount of future work is lost because a salesperson hands off the job and never bothers to check back in with the customer. You can lose future business this way, too.
12. No Attention to Detail
The little things matter. The way you answer the phone. Typos in your proposals or emails. One situation that stands out is when a service contractor was asked to respond to a limited request for proposals. The firm spent a great deal of time surveying the site and developing a great plan to complete the work. Even though they had the best plan and the most reasonable price, the owner threw out the proposal because the price had been “whited out” and written over in pen. The owner’s justification: “If the proposal is this messy, then I can just imagine how the job will look.” Sales are won and lost by inches, not miles. Every mistake, no matter how small, can kill a sale.
How many of these mistakes have you seen or experienced? What would you add to the list? We want to know! Tell us here.