Five Plus One Catastrophic Mistakes Sales People Make

Five Plus One Catastrophic Mistakes Sales People Make


Salespeople are the lifeline of any organization since their work entails generating revenue for the business yet this group of people is often the least developed or empowered to do their job. Without proper training and development, sales teams tend to make some grievous mistakes that end up costing the business through loss of revenues that otherwise would have been banked had the salesperson involved been empowered sufficiently. These losses are even more sickening where the non-performing sales team collects handsome retainers every end of the month.

Here are some of the most tragic mistakes I made when I was starting off my sales career and the simple measures I took to turn around what would have been disastrous results and eventual demise of my very propitious career.

I Believed the Client was Always Right

This was one of my greatest misconceptions, “The Client is Always Right” was the first thing I learnt from my supervisor as his mentee as I followed him everywhere enthusiastically, eager to learn the secrets of the trade. Clients being right sounded right and respectful and seemed to be the correct approach to dealing with clients, but as we went around meeting clients I realized that we were accumulating a lot of happy and respected contacts but very little conversions. We had a horrible conversion rate of 2% by the end of our time together. This meant that, for every fifty clients in our pipeline, we managed to convert only one into a customer within the quota period and the supervisor’s explanation was; its normal, sometimes it takes time for clients to make up their mind, we are not selling peanuts you know. These explanations didn’t add up for me. If I was going to make any living from commissions earned from these sales, I was convinced I needed to find another sure way of making better conversions.

Then one day while on a doctor’s visit, I had a million-dollar revelation; every client who visited the clinic was a sure sale, even the patients that didn’t take long in the consultation room still paid the same full amount without negotiating. This doctor had a 100% conversion rate and I knew that’s the kind of a salesman I needed to be. During my examinations, I learnt a few keys to his success in selling his services. The first being all his clients had a need to get better, something they believed the doctor would help them with. Secondly, he asked the questions and the clients religiously answered giving details and extent of their problem. Third, he did examinations and tests which at times delivered more pain to the patient than the illness ever could. Finally, he prescribed treatment which none of his clients disputed or argued with and further, he charged whatever he felt like and each of his clients paid without question. I concluded that his power lied on the fact that his clients believed he knew what was wrong with them and, therefore, the only person who knew how they would get better. From that day I became a doctor to my client’s problems by being the one who is always right recommending what would best solve the problem they were in.

I Sounded Like a Sales Person

In my early years as a salesman, I tried to learn how to talk fluently, sound enthusiastic and always carry a happy-happy feeling around; smiling weirdly at every potential client I met in my efforts to get them interested in what I had to say, nevertheless, I kept getting turned down more often than not. Some conversations ended the moment I finished my first sentence which usually went Like “Good morning Mr. Pondamali?” Some even didn’t wait for me to finish the intro, they rudely interrupted me with “not interested” even before I told them my name leave alone the product I was offering. This demoralized me enormously and created in me a fear of approaching new clients, making cold calls and doing door to door sales. I resulted in the less harsh email selling which yielded zero fruits. I was a frustrated salesperson indeed.

In my frustrations, I stopped caring what outcomes I would get from client interactions, I expected to be rejected every time, so I made no effort to impress or even sound excited in the least. My tone changed to a more casual one, I became a respecter of no persons and called all my clients by their first names. Surprisingly, my conversations now lasted longer, I got to talk about my products and got actual feedback about the product – not just turn-downs immediately I say Hi. Though I didn’t convert all the clients that listened, I managed to get a few to buy, which was obviously better than I did before. I eventually regained my self-esteem and turn around my overall performance simply by losing the salesman’s tone and talking in a casual and more familiar tone. Sounding relaxed and authoritative gave them the impression that I was accomplished and content, giving my listeners a sense of security and surety that I wasn’t after their money and the only reason I would be looking to engage with them is to add value to their lives or bring them to the same level of fulfilment that I was in.

I Believed in the Power of Persuasion

As most salespeople would say, I believed effective selling was all about being able to persuade someone to make decisions that they would otherwise not make. The ability to sell ice in Iceland or water to the ocean. This worked perfectly for me at first then I started to notice a trend where clients didn’t want to deal with me the second time they came, if they ever came back at all. They refused to send me referrals even when I politely requested. They didn’t pick my follow up calls. In some cases, if I didn’t close the deal during my presentation, I lost the client for good. Within a very short time, I began to lose nearly every client I handled due to sounding overly needy or being too pushy an issue occasioned by the pressure to deliver. Before long I lost my job for non-performance.

During my job search period, I often took time to reflect on what I did wrong or didn’t do that was supposed to be done regarding my handling of clients and I came to the realization that, while persuasion is good for sales it should be applied with a lot of caution. When one focuses on being overly persuasive, there is a high chance that they are selling people things that they don’t need. They either only buy to get rid of you or due to the immediate excitement of the moment but thereafter, they even wonder why they bought the product in the first place. I realized it’s better to focus on offering real, cost-effective and sustainable solutions to your client’s needs as the only sure way to thrive in sales for the long run. Don’t sell anyone anything they don’t need even if you have targets to beat.

I Did Not take NO for an Answer

This is another big lie that I and as many other salespeople believed in. It’s a very close relative of persuasion power, where I believed a client saying NO just meant they were not convinced enough or did not understand my product. My immediate reaction to this was to try different angles of product presentation which I 100% of the times still go a NO. Then I would result to desperate measures of intimidation and or playing the sympathy card of “please promote me and buy at least one” these moves were obviously futile and even worse, left me feeling like a mendicant.

It was only after I began reading books on sales and following some of the greatest salespeople in the world (some of which eventually ended up being my mentors) that I learnt that there are three responses to a call to action initiative, these are; A YES, A NO and AN OBJECTION.

A YES is a sold client and doesn’t need any further initiatives to accept a transaction, one should not waste any more time with this type of clients, get the paperwork done, collect the money and deliver the goods or services. A NO is a client who is not interested in your product or doesn’t have a need for it at the time being. One should stop all call to action initiatives and revert to social mode with any such clients, build a relationship, share success stories of other clients, ask for referrals etc. One may occasionally check on them to see if they have changed their minds but never dwell.

The last type is AN OBJECTION to a call to action initiative, these are clients that are somewhat interested, agree to having a need and have displayed the ability to purchase but still give excuses not to buy. These excuses usually resemble blame directed either towards the product, the salesperson and or the people behind the product. Examples of these objections are; ‘the price is too high, I can get cheaper elsewhere, the product isn’t sufficient, I don’t know you people and many such like responses.’ This doesn’t mean the client doesn’t want your product but that they have a higher persuasion threshold over the salesperson, it means they are just not convinced enough about either the product, salesperson or the company he/she represents. This here would call for more persuasion combined with reasonable pressure and use of proper sales closing tactics and the client would “Enter Box” soon enough.

I Made Too Many Assumptions About My Clients

This is one of the biggest time-wasters for any salesperson, it can be explained as ‘selling the wrong thing to the wrong person’ because of lack of information. When I started off as a salesperson I paid a lot of attention to product knowledge and doing amazing presentations hoping to convert every person that encountered my awesomeness, shock on me, the results were not as majestic as I thought they would be, reason being, I sold to everyone who cared to listen, gatekeepers, receptionists, competitors, people posing as clients and many such like characters. This wasted a lot of my time and I ended up with long lists of follow-up clients that never bought anything.

It was not until I started interrogating my prospects that I realized I had been doing this all wrong. I started asking cleverly crafted questions to all prospective clients to ascertain; needs and their gravity, ability and willingness to buy, the seriousness of a client engagement, whether the person I was dealing with was the decision-maker or not. Asking questions helped me to process and prioritize clients, guided the approach angle of my presentation. This saved me a great deal of time and helped me focus on more productive engagements and in turn, my numbers shot up drastically.


I Often Forget to Ask for the Order

Forgetting to ask the client to buy is the worst mistakes any salesman can do and I did forget I tell you, a whole bunch of times. I would do everything right, from background checks, ability and willingness analysis, need evaluation and everything else that comes with these, all up to doing an amazing graphical presentation to which clients would be dazed and at times applaud my work, but I would then close with asking if there are any questions or comments and sit back down expecting the client to come running after me and shower me with orders. Well, I learnt the hard way that it doesn’t work like that.

I had to stop this stupidity of collecting praises and thumbs up for being such a good salesman doing show stopper presentations which never translated to money in the bank for my employer. I have to admit it felt very nice to be the best but performance-wise, I was hopeless, broke and losing value to my employer fast.

Closing a sale and collecting the money is the whole objective of any selling activity, selling is a process yes but money in the bank is the ultimate goal. Without collections, there are no sales and all activities remain as marketing initiatives not selling. For one to sell they must ask for the order, ‘Nikufungie ngapi?’ is what am talking about. This is where the line is drawn between marketing and selling. The moment you ask this question you enter another level where your client is going to be uncomfortable because it involves them losing something. This is when objections start flying around which you have to handle to the full satisfaction of your client in order to get the order you came for. At times you may need to ask for the order a number of times before the client gives in especially where there are too many objections. Remember to ask for the order after every complete handling of an objection, don’t just stand there and wait for another objection or comments like “We will get back to you”.


Note: During these hard times, did you know that clients are still buying? They are just not buying from you. Equip yourself to be the best through my full Course on Psychology of Sales and understand your clients better, learn to creep inside their mind and influence them to buy from you.