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4 Common Sales Mistakes to Avoid

In sales, it can be tricky to figure out which missteps you might be taking when trying to close a new client. If something goes wrong for a lead, more often than not, that person won’t tell you exactly what made them jump ship. They’ll just move on and purchase elsewhere. This can leave you pondering a range of unanswered questions.

What happened? And why?

Since you may not get a direct answer from the lead, your next best avenue for understanding how you can step up your sales approach is through self-reflection.

To help you consider where you can improve, we’ve listed four common sales mistakes and how to fix them. Use these points to fine-tune your strategy so you can close more sales.

Three people sit at a table in a meeting. One has a laptop

Mistake 1: Talking more than you listen

The best way to derail your chance at closing a sale is going on and on and on … without letting your prospect get a word in. When you talk at someone, they’re going to tune you out.

An underrated skill in sales is good listening.

As Richard Branson said: “Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.” To understand a prospect and meet them where they’re at, you need to listen to what they have to say. A lead doesn’t want to make a commitment when they don’t feel understood. When you take the time to have a conversation with them (instead of pitching to them), you’ll learn insights about their wants and needs you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Conversations are two-sided. That means you should get comfortable knowing when to talk and when to listen. If you find yourself dominating the conversation, ask some thoughtful open-ended questions to encourage the lead to participate.

Some sources say the ideal ratio for listening versus talking in a sales conversation is 80% listening, 20% talking. Others say the best ratio is 60% and 40%. While it may be helpful to have some sort of guideline in mind, we’d argue there’s not a one-size-fits-all rule. It depends on who you’re talking to, what you’re selling, and the context of the conversation. But the general principle of “listen more than you talk” is a good one to follow in sales.

Two people talking and sitting behind a computer. One is writing in a notebook

Mistake 2: Selling to someone who doesn’t need it

If a prospect buys something and later realizes they don’t actually need it, they might feel tricked. Buyers’ remorse can kick in and it may leave them with a bad impression of your brand.

To avoid this, establishing a narrow target audience is an important first step. If you don’t know who exactly you’re trying to reach, you may end up selling to anyone whose attention you manage to grab, which will waste your time and theirs. Focused audience segments will help you be more successful with your sales conversations. By identifying who’s actually needing what you’re offering, you’ll uncover groups of people who are more likely to buy from you and be satisfied with their purchases.

Even further, putting your leads through a solid qualification process can help you determine if your solution matches their needs. When you ask the right questions during that process, you’ll get an understanding of what the person needs and/or wants — which brings us back to the previous point: listen to what the person has to say. Their answers to your thoughtful questions should help you make an informed decision on whether or not they’d be satisfied with your offering.

If their expectations don’t line up with what you provide, there’s no point in moving them down your pipeline right now. Since your time is limited, you want to focus your attention on pursuing leads who are most likely to advance successfully through your sales process. It may be a disappointment to you and the prospect, but in the end you’ll both be glad you didn’t waste time trying to shoehorn a solution that doesn’t fit.

Three people in a conference room meeting. One is writing on a whiteboard.

Mistake 3: Making a promise you can’t keep

Making an exaggerated claim is never a positive way to start a business relationship. No matter how much you hope to close a sale, you should be reasonable about what you can deliver for your prospects.

If what a lead asks for is unrealistic or not part of your standard protocols, be honest about it. Respectfully explain why you can’t fulfill the request or, when appropriate, tell them you’ll take it into consideration for the future. But don’t make a commitment on the spot if you can’t follow through. As the saying goes, it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver.

Two people sit at a table working on laptops

Mistake 4: Not focusing on value

Customers don’t care about your product or service. They care about what that product or service helps them to do. Does it save them time? Give them more peace-of-mind? Make them seem smarter or more capable? Whatever it is your prospect cares about most in relation to your offering is what you should focus on selling.

People don’t buy products. They buy value.

There’s a difference between selling features and selling benefits. Selling features deals with what the product does. Those things are nice to know, but they don’t make a sale. On the other hand, selling benefits emphasizes what the product can help the person accomplish. It gives them a solution to their immediate problems and helps them envision a better future after they buy what you’re offering.

79% of B2B buyers say it’s critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep — who adds value to their business. Focusing on value is what makes a sale.

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