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Mistakes often made in business are not due to our intelligence or sensibility but largely because we were never told our action was a mistake in the first place. Repeated mistakes are detrimental to business and often when the crunch time comes and it’s too late to fix, management is left puzzled wondering what went wrong and unable to quickly fix the fault.

Mistakes are made for all sorts of reasons. Inexperienced sales staff, hasty decision-making, budget constraints and poor planning… the list is endless. While we can’t avoid all mistakes and nor would we want to (we actually do learn from them), we can all agree our businesses would be better off without the consequences. Here are some top sales mistakes and ways to avoid them:

1. Being sales ‘unfit’

Prospecting is the beginning of the sales process and is integral to business growth. Just because you aren’t desperate for new clients doesn’t mean you should stop prospecting. Without a solid prospecting plan, there are no sales to be made and therefore no sales to be won.

If you prospect only when you feel the need to actively look for clients or customers you’ll find that you are “sales unfit”. You’ll lose touch with the current job climate and people’s needs and wants. Daily exercise keeps us fit and healthy and the same goes for our business success. Make the mistake of avoiding daily prospecting and you’ll start to see your business weaken as well as your confidence.

Prospecting is a daunting task for many but regular prospecting helps to “keep your hand in”. A clear plan is the key. Tick off these three simple actions for your business, and you will be on your way to keeping sales fit:

  • Identify your prospect (research them online, read articles, network etc. and keep a list)
  • Qualify your prospect (find out what their needs are and what your business can do to help)
  • Prioritise your prospect (diarise follow-up calls, when last contact was made and what discussions were had). Your priorities will start to emerge and the rest will become clear).

2. Overpromising

A sure way to ruin your reputation and make clients and customers unhappy is to say one thing and do another. Promising unrealistic results during your sales pitch will keep clients happy and hopeful… but only for only a very short period of time. The relationship will quickly decline and if you manage to salvage the relationship, the lack of trust in your word and your abilities will not make working together easy or enjoyable for either of you.

Selling is not spin. Selling is working together to achieve solutions and results based on your client’s specific need. Meet their needs and you’ve done your job.

3. Lack of sales plan

A plan is your foundation and what will ground you during your sales process. It should outline your goals and objectives, sales tactics and future aspirations, as well as limitations and provide an overview of where you fit in your current business environment.

Without a sales plan, you’ll find yourself aimlessly completing tasks without structure or vision. This leads to confusion and wasted time and money. Many SMEs make the mistake of thinking only larger businesses or those with 20-plus employees need a solid structure. This is definitely not the case. Every business big and small needs a sales plan to grow and a sales plan to review and amend as you grow.

4. Are you listening?

Are you a talker? Well stop and listen. A big mistake for many business owners is forgetting to listen. You can’t grow, impress people or meet client and customer needs without listening. If we’re to talk, we should be asking questions to find out more and to listen more. Only when we have all the information available should we start explaining what our business has to offer. Through listening and genuinely hearing our clients and customers we can then accurately help them with their specific needs. This is what will win them over.

5. Sales narcissist

The sweet-talking, “here to impress” sales person does not reflect positively in today’s business world. Confidence is one thing but narcissism is not. Avoid these types selling and promoting your business. Big mistake. The following are traits of the sales narcissist, do you have one in your midst?

  • Self-absorbed and attention-seeking: Talking about your business, your success, and becoming impatient and restless when you’re not the one talking, and talking about yourself.
  • Deception: Using ambiguous lingo to trick and manipulate others, and saying a lot but with no real value or substance to the content that’s being spoken.
  • Arrogance and superiority: Putting down competitors and implying that the customer or client is stupid for not wanting to be a part of your business.
  • Sense of entitlement and aggression: Bullying and intimidating clients or customers to take on board your ideas, product or service. You believe they solely exist so you, the business owner, can claim them.

6. Information overload

Less is more. Don’t make the mistake of providing too much information. Too much leads to confusion and can leave your prospects, clients and customers weary and irritated. When explaining your business, make sure you are detailing the aspects that are specific to the client’s needs, and prioritise and summarise the rest of the information you’d like to share.

The above tips are simple to implement and to keep in mind, yet they make a whole lot of difference to the way you sell and your results. By avoiding these mistakes now, your business will be all the better for it in the long run. You’ll find the small sales mistakes that currently exist will no longer hinder the long-term profitability and effectiveness of your business.

­Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today.

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