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The 7 deadly sins of salespeople

written by Natalie Davies

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No we’re not talking gluttony, lust and greed, but the typical pitfalls facing the modern day salesperson. From extortionate fibbing to being downright ignorant, the 7 deadly sins of salespeople are exactly that to your deals: deadly.

These rookie mistakes can be made by even the most seasoned of salespeople and can be so incredibly damaging to your reputation, your pipeline and your bottom line. Here are the 7 deadly sins of salespeople, and how you can avoid making them.

1. Dishonesty

The biggest and worst ‘no no’ any salesperson can ever make is to be dishonest. Lying, no matter how small a white lie, has the power to bring your reputation down like a ton of bricks. Stating your product can do XYZ just to get an order over the line can and will come back to bite you when your customer realizes you were dishonest.

Even worse than that is hiding areas of the pricing scheme from customers just to make something seem cheaper in the short term. This is absolutely the worst thing you can do. As soon as they realize that your price is higher than you’ve quoted them, you’ll hear a snarling tone down the phone and will have to do a lot to turn it into a smiling one.

Research by Sales Commando revealed that around 22% of salespeople have confessed to lying just to close a sale.

Under-promising and over-delivering is the key here. Rather than bending the truth about your ability to meet your customers’ needs or overselling the key features of your product, why not let your customers be pleasantly surprised when you come up trumps? You can watch your sales relationship blossom as you continue to deliver more than your customer was expecting.

And if you do feel as though you need to gloss over a few things with regards to your pricing, speak to your colleagues and see if they feel the same. If they do, the company might need to rethink its pricing strategy and therefore may not be your fault that a certain item or product line is hard to sell.

2. Being presumptuous

No one likes a smug so and so, nose in the air, thinking they’re the mutt’s nuts.

Presuming you know everything there is to know about anything is unprofessional and downright annoying. What’s more, it can make your customer hit the brakes on your deal before you’ve got the chance to utter a grovelling remark.

Salespeople that presume that customer X must face the same challenges as customer Y just because they have the same demographics as each other or operate in the same industry is one of the worst sins to commit. Every customer will be different and deserve to be treated as such.

Being smug and presuming that your product is the best for your customers’ needs can not only cost you a deal, but can cost your reputation. Forcing a deal over the line just to hit your target, even when your product may not be quite right for your customer will only see your customer leave for your competition as soon as they are able. Not to mention the fact that poor word of mouth can spread like wildfire in any industry.

Guesswork will not get you anywhere; it’s far better to put in some legwork, ask the right questions and, most importantly, listen to what your customer is saying. Which leads on perfectly to our next sin…

3. Ignorance

Ignorance has almost as adverse an impact on your sale as being dishonest. It shows a lack of care and professionalism if you don’t put in the legwork to make sure you’re armed with all the information you need to make this sale as smooth as possible.

Do you know who the key contact is at a company you’re targeting? What about the challenges they face? Doing your homework should be a given for any salesperson. How can you possibly sell your product if you don’t know everything about it, the challenges it solves and your market like the back of your hand?

Stammering and stuttering over your pitch because you don’t know enough about your offering will make you look unprofessional to your customer and can kill your deal before it has even got off the ground.

Being well informed before your next pitch or meeting will put you on the front foot to answer any questions or curveballs your customer might throw at you. Dig back through your customers’ past order history, check your CRM to understand past interactions and do your research on their company. Be fully briefed and confident enough to assure your customer that you really know your stuff.

“Umm’ing” and “err’ing” over a question will soon become a thing of the past if you put in a bit of legwork and fully prepare for your meeting – make sure you have everything you could possibly need at hand.

4. Lack of clarity

While a busy salesperson is often perceived as a good salesperson, this doesn’t always ring true. There’s no doubt that salespeople put in their fair share of hours, but a lack of clarity and targeted approach to their sales process can sometimes render all their hard work useless.

Being overwhelmed with things to do and customers to please can often mean that you don’t really have the time to craft personalized deals that are unique to each customer but you’re floundering and winging your way through every pitch and every sales meeting. Your customers expect more than a slapdash deal that has been thrown together 10 minutes before a meeting.

From not being able to pro-actively follow-up to simply not checking grammar and spelling in an email, overworked salespeople can quickly be perceived as unprofessional salespeople.

However, simply being armed with access to all the information you need to make smarter calls may give you the gumption you need to work more efficiently and meet your targets easier. This doesn’t necessarily mean making hundreds of calls, but making ones that are more personal and have a better chance of resulting in something positive. 10 well thought out calls are far better than 50 calls made from a Google search.

5. Pushiness

Being pushy towards your customers is the easiest way to belittle them and make them run a mile. Any good salesperson will know that they’re simply there for the customer as a trusted source of advice, guiding them towards making the right purchasing decisions, not just one the salesperson wants to make.

Becoming a trusted advisor for your customers will only ever work in your favor. Being pushy towards your customers should be the last thing on your mind and you should be focussed on becoming the ‘go to’ for your customers – both prospective and current.

At every stage of the buying process, you should be supporting them, answering any questions or pointing them in the right direction to find the information they need. You’re more likely to secure a lasting, profitable customer when you treat your buyer with respect, listen to their concerns and suggest a solution that will meet their requirements than trying to fit a square peg through a round hole by forcing a sale down their throat.

6. Selling features

Simply reeling off feature after feature to your customer will get you nowhere. A cardinal sin of many salespeople, feature selling, is really rather old-hat. A dated sales technique that your buyers won’t really care about anymore.

What they do care about is the benefits that can be derived from said features.

Feature. Advantage. Benefit. Thinking FAB whenever you’re discussing your product with your buyer will help your sale along nicely. Put yourself in their shoes: which features of this product or service will change my life? A good salesperson knows their product inside out and exactly how these features can benefit each customer.

If you get stuck, think to yourself: “So what?”

For example:

Feature: our latest laptop has an improved battery.

So what? The battery life will be much better.

So what? Users that are on the go can work for X hours more without having to worry about their battery dying on them.

Bells and whistles are great, but think about what they might mean for your buyer. Will they save them time? Money? Streamline their processes? Sell them this rather than how the product achieves it and you’ll be onto a winner.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole.”
– Theodore Levitt

7. Being a lone wolf

Me, myself and I. Three words that many salespeople live by. It’s all about ‘my performance, how well I’m doing and what I can get out of it’. While your commission may be at stake, not involving your colleagues can rule any commission out altogether. To their detriment, many salespeople don’t use the tools and talent of their colleagues.

The people around you can be a true asset to your sales process from beginning to end, making it a smooth, pain free ride for your buyer.

Use the tools and talent at your disposal. If your marketing team are a dab hand at crafting emails that will tempt your customers in (which they should be), use them. If you’re coming up against a wall on a big money deal, don’t be afraid to involve your director or even your CEO to help it over the line.

Written By -

I'm another marketing bod here at sales-i (that is marketing exec come social secretary, branded wardrobe, stationary cupboard, fixer of the printer and chief maker of a terrible cup of tea). I get to work with the two delights that are Chris and Steve who have taken it upon themselves to educate me on all things football and Star Wars. I’m a Villa or Birmingham City fan depending on which of them you ask. I really rather enjoy reading and writing (I'm not that great at the maths thing, as Chris will tell you). What I lack in Star Wars and football knowledge, I make up for with a keen eye for a good wine and a great impression of a Wookie.

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