6 Common Sales Blunders (and their solutions)
Business-to-business sales is a vast, everchanging field of opportunities and perils. If you don’t keep moving and react to changes in the field, you can quickly get stuck in the mud. Here are some common sales shortcomings we’ve come across, with tips for avoiding them.
1. Not listening to the customer
Some salespeople are still stuck in the old mind set of only thinking about price and volume. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, a salesperson who can’t adapt, will get left behind. Today’s customers expect more than an offer on a given quantity of a given product.
Solution: Today’s salespeople should do their best to listen to and understand their customers to find what they really need and offer them something of real value.
2. Not getting the big picture
Sometimes salespeople think they know better than the people in charge and go off script and, on occasion, improvising can pay off in the short term. However, usually guidelines are there for a reason. Any organization worth a damn has a vision and a set of values and they expect their salespeople to be the ambassadors of that vision and those values. Salespeople who only represent themselves and not the company typically have short career paths.
Solution: The sales process should be directed with a central story. Management should create the story and provide the salespeople with the tools they need to lead conversations with that story in the center.
3. Looking at the wrong numbers
Remember, what you measure is what you get. If a sales director only looks at the number of meetings their team books, the team members are only going to try and book as many meetings as possible without putting in much effort into making the best out of those meetings. This leads to salespeople frantically running around from one meeting to another and not accomplishing anything of real value.
Solution: Management needs a way to measure and monitor not only the frequency of interactions with customers, but also what happens during and outside of those interactions. This way they can find the most effective methods and materials and improve the sales process.
4. Not knowing the products
Some companies only offer a few products or services, but some have a much wider variety. If a salesperson specializes in a specific branch of a large catalog of products and isn’t very familiar with the rest, a customer might still ask about another product. Maybe the salesperson remembers there being a set of relevant materials somewhere on the company’s network drive, but as they stare at their laptop, looking for the materials, the flow of the meeting is broken and a valuable sales opportunity may be squandered.
Solution: Salespeople should familiarize themselves, at least on some level, with everything the company has to offer in order to give a quick presentation on anything the customer might ask about. This also means that they should be able to easily find and present any relevant materials on all their company’s products and services.
5. Not taking pride in one’s work
Being humble is all well and good, but sometimes salespeople think of themselves as “just salespeople,” as if it was somehow lesser to, for example, the people who make the products they sell. It’s a strange and strangely common lack of appreciation of one’s own work, like a maître d’ feeling inferior to the cooks.
Solution: Salespeople should take ownership of their work and take credit when credit is due. Without them, there is no company. Management also shares the responsibility of showing their dependency on sales.
6. Forgetting it’s a process
When creating materials, marketing can concentrate too much on first pitches and forget that B2B sales isn’t a single meeting business. Too often salespeople will have lots of primary materials to present when initially introducing the company and their products on a general level, but have to scramble to have anything of value to show on the second, let alone third meeting.
Solution: Marketing teams should create materials in tandem with sales for every step of the sales process. More general information for the first meetings as well as something of more depth and detail for the latter ones. This way the sales teams are supported throughout the process and don’t have to waste time making their own materials.