We’ve all had interactions with salespeople that left us more irritated than eager to buy. Maybe they tried the hard sell too early on, or didn’t really listen to what your needs were. As good as their intentions might have been or how right the product or service was for you, you left the conversation with a distinctly negative impression.
Recently, we talked with a handful of industry experts who shared their insights about common “sales fails” — check them out here in our interactive guide. It got me thinking about some of the sales faux pas I’ve personally experienced, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I wouldn’t quite describe them as complete sales “fails,” but these habits won’t win you more business or impress your customers. Any of these annoy you too?
1. You don’t know or remember my name.
Really? It’s the absolute minimum you can do when you’re with a prospect or customer. A short story: Years ago, one of our vendors could not distinguish between two male colleagues. They looked nothing alike, but the rep was forever mixing up their names. At first, it seemed a little funny, but it ended up going on for years. After meeting regularly, multiple times a year, it’s not a joke anymore — it’s just rude. We wondered what else the rep was forgetting or was careless about.
2. You speak more than you listen.
Most salespeople are terrific conversationalists; it is a core part of the job. But a great rep knows that going into a meeting and pitching things left and right is a surefire mood-killer. If you’re speaking to a prospect like you’re on the TV show Shark Tank and they’re the Sharks, you’re making the assumption that you know what they need and what’s best for their company. It should be the other way around. Ask the customer to explain their problems and vision to you, so that you can respond with informed recommendations and solutions that fit the challenges they describe. When you listen more, you’re building stronger relationships and showing the prospect that you bring value to the table as a business advisor.
3. You call over and over (and over and over…)
Before the internet and email, one of the only ways to drum up new business was to cold-call. But since one call wasn’t likely to do the trick, sales reps began calling incessantly with the hopes that they would eventually connect with an interested party. That kind of tenacity might have worked in past, but selling has since evolved beyond a broad strokes guessing game. Customers no longer want nor respond well to repeat callers. Today’s CRM solutions can cut out the guesswork and let a rep know exactly where to focus their efforts, instead of annoying prospects and customers by blindly picking up the phone to interrupt their day with yet another call.
4. You’re not selling to the right person.
When I was working as an assistant, I used to get queries from all kinds of sales reps from everything from software, to office supplies, to brand partnerships. Most of the reps realized I was a gatekeeper of sorts, but many of them plowed forward anyway, trying to sell to me outright, despite my not having any kind of purchasing power or full knowledge of my company’s strategic plans. It wasted both of our times. Before going in, salespeople need to conduct research via a company’s website or social media to ensure they’re reaching the best possible person — and tailor the pitch accordingly.
5. You look at your phone during our meeting … repeatedly
Excuse me, do you have something more pressing going on? Maybe you do. Maybe you’re checking on the status of a very important deal or waiting for a crucial communication to come through. Staying connected and on top of all tasks is a priority, and it’s tempting to reach for our phones to sneak a peek, but resist! During a meeting, the customer you’re with and what you can do for them is your top priority. Looking at your phone conveys the insulting impression that your mind is elsewhere and that this meeting — and this prospect or customer — isn’t important enough to warrant your full attention.
6. You aren’t prepared when I speak with you.
I’m not talking about unexpected run-ins at a local restaurant, or even if I call you back at 5pm on a Friday as you’re heading out the door. I’m talking about when we have a scheduled meeting. Going into a sales call or meeting with no plan is a mistake that both novices and experienced sellers make. Take the time to think strategically about your desired outcomes, both for your prospect and yourself. It will help your interactions go more smoothly and you’ll accomplish a lot more.