We surveyed customers to find out the leading causes of why they decided not to buy from a particular salesperson. We compiled the results and ranked the worst sales gaffes by the number of times they were cited.
Gaffe No. 1: Talking too much and not listening enough
The biggest single complaint prospects made about salespeople is that they talk too much and don’t listen enough. Poor salespeople dominate the talking, while top salespeople dominate the listening. It’s possible for a salesperson to talk too much but it’s rarely possible to listen too much.
When salespeople are excellent listeners, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure with them. That pays big dividends when sales prospecting. They buy more readily and more often. There are several benefits to listening that can never be gained by talking:
- It builds trust. The best salespeople are good listeners who are concerned with customer needs and help them purchase the products or services in a cost-effective way.
- It lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of customers who realize they aren’t going to be pushed into making a purchase through force of words.
- Listening builds self-esteem for customers. It’s flattering for a customer to know that a salesperson is listening intently to what’s being said. It’s also good business for the salesperson.
Gaffe No. 2: Having a poor attitude when calling customers
It goes without saying that some salespeople can be arrogant, often making customers feel it’s a privilege being able to do business with them. Here are five examples of negative attitudes some salespeople display:
- Their approach is confrontational rather than consultative. When customers feel confrontation, they often feel provoked and challenged. Salespeople who are too anxious to close the sale or get their prospects to see their point of view, only decrease their odds of closing. Selling is not about getting people to see your point of view. It is about allowing yourself to see the customer’s point of view.
- Pressuring customers rather than helping them. When customers feel pressure, they feel that demands are being placed on them. Pressure violates customers’ trust when the salesperson doesn’t show respect for their ideas and opinions. Creating demand and force doesn’t work. Patience, respect and understanding do. When you’re able to turn pressure around, you become elevated to a level far above your competition. When you truly want to serve your customers, they know it.
- Display aggression rather than support. Customers don’t usually reward aggressive behavior. When salespeople are aggressive, their only goal is to share what is important to them — closing the sale. There is a big difference between aggressive and assertive behavior. When salespeople are assertive, they believe in the value of their products or services. Successful salespeople are self-assured and self-confident, but never allow their sales talk to overwhelm or push away prospects.
- Goals are self-focused rather than customer-focused. Customers today have a multitude of choices when it comes to how and what to buy, and they also have the opportunity to find and buy anything they want around the clock on the Internet. While they don’t need salespeople to be sold on what they want to buy, they often do want to work directly with a salesperson who can assist them, service them and educate them. Professional salespeople help, support and share knowledge with their customers. They pass along important information and ask customers to buy once they’ve demonstrated clearly how their product or service will help achieve the desired results.
- Taking customer problems personally and retreating when confronted with them instead. When a customer calls to discuss a problem or issue they are concerned about, some salespeople either wait to return the call or don’t return the call at all. Ignoring objections, problems or concerns won’t make them go away. Salespeople, who ignore problems or concerns instead of putting them out on the table and dealing with them, will lose their customers’ trust. It’s a much better decision to take action quickly.
Gaffe No. 3: Failing to ask good questions
The key to understanding your customers has more to do with the questions you ask than the answers you offer. Given the advantages of good questioning, you’d think sales professionals would spend the bulk of their time developing good questions and learning how to phrase them properly.
It doesn’t happen enough. Studies show that some salespeople do 80% of the talking during a sales call. They’re not asking the right questions and aren’t listening. Instead, they’re telling the customer something about their product or service that may not correspond to the customer’s needs.
The problem for many salespeople is clear: They don’t do the prep work to come up with effective questions. Take the time to walk through all the questions you might ask and the possible responses you could receive.
The key is being prepared for each response and being ready for the next question. The best time to think about how you’re going to respond to an objection or a prospect concern is not the instance before you say it. The best salespeople continually come up with questions that allow them to prepare the right answers to move the sales process forward.
Gaffe No. 4: Selling features and price rather than value and benefits
Salespeople who cling to the same value-added principles that worked 10 years ago may soon become dinosaurs in the 21st century marketplace. Research clearly shows that selling today demands strategies and tactics that deliver specific buyer-side value creation.
Working harder in troubled economic times is always a good thing. But working hard is not a differentiator in this market. Everyone is working hard. Effort is a given. Working smarter is what’s crucial, and it starts with adding value.
The better you understand a customer’s value criteria, the easier it will be for you to decide which concessions will have maximum leverage in leading to a successful close.
Just because times are tough doesn’t mean the prospect needs your product or service any less. It does mean their decision criteria for acquiring it may require different terms and conditions than in the past.
Value expectations of customers are changing dramatically. Customers not only demand more value than ever before but are clear about the kind of value they want.
The best value-added salespeople understand that value is a moving target. It’s anything a particular customer wants it to be at a given time. Seeing value through a customer’s eyes and selling it that way is the key to value-added selling.
Gaffe No. 5: Selling to weak needs
Some salespeople have a tendency to sell to weak customer needs. They rattle off a brochure-like litany of product or services features that have little or no value to the prospect or customer. Value isn’t delivered because they fail to meet their prospects unique and individual needs.
Salespeople now serve as more than just a vendor of product and services, but act as brokers of capabilities. They offer the full range of capabilities of their organizations in such a way that contributes to the success of their customers.
A good way to identify your value is to examine your past and current customer experiences. Consider the following:
- What are the problems you have helped customers recognize of which they were previously unaware?
- What unexplored opportunities have you helped customers exploit?
- How has your expertise allowed you to help your customers draw conclusions and develop solutions that they couldn’t have come to on their own?
- How have you leveraged the capabilities and expertise of your company to create value for your customers that your products alone couldn’t have produced?
Gaffe No. 6: Confusing customers with too much information
Some salespeople allow themselves to get stuck in a bog of information. They favor complex solutions over simpler and more effective approaches for their customers.
Salespeople who turn a complex issue into a simple one for their customers can be rewarded with more sales. By getting back to the basics and speaking in simple language, you can differentiate yourself in the minds of customers.
The word “simple” may arouse negative connotations in the minds of some salespeople. It’s easy to see why. Complexity feels smarter. If we don’t understand something that’s said, we sometimes assume we’re not as educated or intelligent as the person saying it.
For the most part, that’s not true. The greatest thinkers have always tried to make their ideas intelligible. The best salespeople have the ability to cut through the complex web of options and choices to find the right focus for their customers.
Using technical terms in an effort to “speak” the prospect’s language can delay or deter buying decisions, according to a recent study by the Global Consumer Advisory Board.
The study centered on an industry where tech terms and buzzwords are par for the course. If those high-tech buyers can be put off and confused, think of how that language would confuse prospects in less technical fields.