“Bad habits are hard to break” may be better known, but the saying “bad habits are like a comfortable bed – easy to get into, but hard to get out of” should be a mantra of every sales manager. Often, bad habits come from the ease of a certain approach. In other cases, a lucky (or unlucky) success gained through a non-desired approach may cause an individual to stubbornly stick to it. Whatever the reason, bad habits can be a main cause for poor sales. To avoid them infiltrating your sales team, it’s important to recognize them and nip them in the bud. Here are 10 of the most common ones to spot.
“Camping” on an account.
A well known term amongst online gamers, “camping” refers to players who camp in a single location waiting for the easy kill, without having to apply much effort. It requires very little skill and is often frowned upon in the gaming community. Similarly, in sales, this refers to the habit of a sales rep “camping out” on a single, presumably large account, devoting all of his or her time and resources to it in hopes of a big payout, all the while eliminating the possibility of acquiring new and perhaps even larger customer accounts, and severely limiting growth opportunities for both the sales rep and the company. In the worst case scenario (regarding prospects still in the sales process), the sale could fall through, resulting in countless wasted man hours and zero revenue. In the case of an existing account, the customer could finally reach the inevitable end of the big sales and the overall need for his or her services, reducing any remaining requirements to maintenance or small re-orders. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an excellent way to guard against this as it can keep track of the time and resources being dedicated to each client.
Spending too much time talking and not enough listening
Sometimes, the desire to convince a customer of a product’s value can translate into a one sided interaction – which is definitely not in the best interest of the sale. Every customer wants to know a sales rep has their best interest at heart. This requires listening carefully, so that at the end of a conversation, a rep can recap what they’ve learned about the customer and his or her needs. Not being able to identify the customer’s true issues and desired results leads to shoehorning a partial or inadequate solution that is sure to include painful and costly consequences after the sale that will leave your customer unhappy and could even threaten your company’s reputation.
Selling a product when they should be selling a solution
A sales rep should know everything about the product and all of its advantages. After highlighting these, however, they now must directly address the problem the customer has challenged them with and present the product as the one and only solution rather than simply an object. A product is something that may be useful and a customer will consider purchasing. A solution to their problem, however, is invaluable and almost guaranteed sale. When you sell a solution, you’re adding value to the sale and exhibiting yourself as an expert in your field. You earn a position of trust. The results are much more reassuring than suggesting a purchase by pointing to a page in a catalog.
Failing to understand the customer’s needs
In many cases, a failed sale is not due to the rep’s inability as a seller. Rather, it is because a very capable sales rep has failed to understand the customer’s needs. Perhaps the rep has approached a prospective customer about purchasing your company’s flagship product. In refusing, the customer may very well have expressed what his or her true needs are – needs that another product offered by your company will perfectly address. Every sales rep should always be on the lookout for such information – and to keep track of each customer’s particular needs, CRM software is again the perfect tool and can provide you with data for existing sales to customers with a similar profile or needs. Tracking the performance of your products and services in your CRM is a good way to predict how they will be received in future sales, giving you a upper hand when it comes to better understanding your customer’s needs.
Not taking control of the sale
A sales rep should always be empathetic and connect with the customer. However, under no circumstances should the customer take control of the process. When this happens, a customer can begin to derail the sales rep’s delivery model and can quickly become distracted when listening to your message. A successful sales rep has a formula for closing the deal, a proven path they take their customer down toward the close, regardless of how long or short the sales cycle. Directing your prospect down this path has a much higher probability of closing the sales than following customer’s often random, erratic lead. A successful sales rep is sympathetic to a customer’s problem, but confident in his provision of the solution, thus keeping the customer in his process throughout.
Few things will shut a sale down faster than a seemingly desperate sales rep. When a rep begins to beg a customer for a sale it completely transforms the purpose of transaction. It becomes transparent the sale is no longer about the customer’s best interest, but those of the sales rep’s. This is a circumstance even the most naive customer would be quick to run away from. In the end it becomes more damaging than just losing the sale, it reflects poorly on your company and could even suggest the business is in distress.
Forgetting to follow-up
With each follow-up your sales rep is showing dedication and an interest in their customer. Well worded approaches such as “I wanted to ensure we’ll be able to solve your problem together” can quickly turn a maybe into a resounding yes. An added bonus is that it shows the customer the kind of service and loyalty they can expect when dealing with your business. The attention you give to your customer in the sales process is often perceived as the kind of service they can expect after the sale. This is an area where CRM technology truly shines. Follow-ups can be automatically scheduled, or reminders for manual correspondences given. CRMs can also be particularly handy if multiple people are involved in the selling process, so every interaction, plus future commitments, are available to anyone participating in closing the deal.
Being Too Pushy
It’s the stereotype that makes businesses avoid even using the latter word; that of the ‘pushy salesman.’ If acting desperate is the largest blunder a sales rep can make, being too forceful runs a very close second. Confidence is a sales rep’s greatest power. Pushiness is his kryptonite. Depending on your product or service, some customers may need time and even a consensus to make the right decision. It’s important to move the sale along, just know when not to push to hard.
Not knowing when to walk away
The phrase “anything to complete a sale” should not be taken literally – there are many things you should not do or commit to during the sales process. A sales rep who is unable to recognize that point where it’s time to end a sales pitch may find themselves in a position where they cannot deliver what they promised – or if they do, they might be negating the profitability of the sale altogether. Learn to assess and reassess the sale throughout the process. Does a potential customer seem exceedingly difficult from the beginning? If so, this may be one to avoid. Additionally, indecisive prospects can unnecessarily prolong your sales cycle, wasting your time and resources along the way until the sale fizzles to a loss. Remember that time kills all deals. The longer the sales takes compared to your average closing cycle, the less likely it is that you will close the deal. Know when to walk away and focus your attention on opportunities that have a higher probability of converting.
Failing to eventually ‘ask for the no’
This may seem counter-intuitive, but a great sales rep knows that there is always the real danger of becoming hung up on an account where the potential customer will neither commit nor clearly reject the ongoing sales pitch. If things do not begin to tilt noticeably towards a sale, the representative must skillfully get the customer to admit he has no intention of buying before valuable resources are drained into this tenuous type of account. There is no harm in requesting updates on where the customer is in their decision making process. Always know where your prospect stands in the sale.