Seven Deadly Sales Mistakes That Cost Business Owners Big Money - And What To Do About Them

1. LOOKING for a "quick fix" to close more sales ? sales aren't closed, they're opened.

Solution: You must learn how to open the sale; build rapport with your prospective customer and develop an understanding of their business or of their lifestyle first. Only when you have some understanding of where they're coming from can you even hope to advocate a solution that they will be interested in.

For years sales trainers have been talking about "closing the sale" and employers still advertise for salespeople who can "answer objections and close the sale". Every week recruitment adverts appear in newspapers seeking salespeople who are "strong closers" to sell products with high consumer demand.

OK, so if the product is in high demand, why do you need to be a heavy closer to sell it? If you're using "closing" techniques that come from a manual with a copyright notice more than 15 years ago, you're out of touch! Your buyer is not going to appreciate you using any manipulative tactics to get them to buy.

Would you like your accountant to be using 15-year old tax laws to do your tax return?

2. DECEPTIVE PROSPECTING TACTICS ? don't sound like a bad network marketer.

Solution: before you call a potential new buyer, consider what their reaction to your call might be. People are busy today so calling to ask if you can drop by for a chat or to talk about a mystery is pointless. Why should someone give up their time unless they believe you can do something for them?

What are you going to say that will cause them to stop their current train of thought, stop what they're doing and open their diary to enter a meeting with you. You will need to spend some time planning what to say. What you have to do is identify the key product benefits that will apply to this buyer before you call and then use those benefits in your conversation in order to gain the appointment.

3. NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFYING PROSPECTS ? don't bother selling to folk who don't need what you sell.

Solution: develop a buyer profile; know who is likely to want what you sell and what their buying process is. Identify the key person or people and look to provide answers to their wants and needs. If you can't reach the key person, whoever you can reach has to become your ally or advocate. Talk in their terms!

4. FOCUSING ON THE PRODUCT NOT THE CUSTOMER ? what they're buying is the sizzle not the sausage.

Solution: learn to talk about benefits and what that benefit will do to ease their pain or solve their problem; how it will make or save them money. To do this you must be able to relate how each aspect of everything you sell benefits the customer.

If people quickly grasp the idea and benefits of your business, it's considered to be infectious. Do people nod knowingly as you describe your company's products or services, or do they look puzzled and quickly excuse themselves? If it's the latter, you're not selling benefits.

5. TALKING, NOT LISTENING ? how can you listen when you're talking?

Solution: You must learn to ask questions ? use open, closed and "tell me about ?" to gather information and look for pain! Otherwise you're trying to "convince" ? who wants to be convinced? Guaranteed to get claw-backs. Essentially you're getting into a struggle with the customer and this is a struggle you'll never win.

6. IGNORING THE CUSTOMER ONCE THE SALE IS MADE ? forgetting service, and back-end business opportunities. (Back-end business is the business you generate from a client after you've made the first sale to them.)

Solution: you must understand the lifetime value of a customer. Take two simple examples: The men's hair salon (OK ? Barber's Shop) I go to once a month. Over 15 years, that's a total of 180 haircuts; so over ten years I've spent over $2,500.

My Optometrist. My wife and I both wear glasses and over the same ten year period we've averaged one pair of glasses each per year. I guess we've spent over $5,000 with our Optometrist in that time. Plus my mother and my sister shop there.

My point? They've created close to $8,000 in business from my family alone, not to mention the dozens of referrals we've generated for them.

What value is your customer worth in revenue and referrals over five or ten years?

7. IGNORING TESTIMONIALS AND REFERRALS. In other words, always using cold prospecting techniques to find new clients.

Solution: develop "warm" enquiries and leads. New business can come from a variety of sources:

Cold calls Advertising including Direct Mail and the Internet Loose reference groups like the school P&F, family, friends Tight reference groups such as referral clubs and business associations.

Develop a referral strategy for your business. Try a "customer loyalty" scheme such as get one free after paying for five. Offer customers entry into prize draws for referring new customers. I know of a hairdresser who buys you dinner at the Hilton for introducing 5 clients.

I know I said seven mistakes but let me make just one more observation?

I frequently see businesses spend huge sums of money on marketing ? brochures, adverts, direct mail etc because their belief is that if they increase their enquiry rate, they will make more sales. That only works if their salespeople are capable of converting those enquiries into business.

Before you spend money on marketing in the attempt to gain more sales, consider how many sales opportunities you'll miss if your staff can't convert the extra leads you generate into business.

Wouldn't you be better to invest in some quality training to make sure you significantly improve your conversion rate? After all, a missed sales is a sale for your competitor?

© James Yuille, Brisbane, Australia, 2004.

About the author:

James Yuille is a sales and marketing consultant and trainer with over 32 years experience. He is based in Brisbane, Australia. His free weekly sales and marketing newsletter provides topical information for business owners and salespeople. Find out more at

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