If you’ve spent any time in sales, you know that selling is a complex process. New sales representatives make mistakes in the process of learning to sell, which can mean the difference between closing a deal and failing to close.
The good news is that it’s possible to sidestep these pitfalls through careful planning and education. Here are some of the most common mistakes new representatives make—and how you can avoid them:
1. Talking too much in conversations with prospective customers.
Conventional wisdom says that salespeople should talk no more than 70% of the time. But there’s empirical evidence to suggest that even that is too much chatter. According to AI analysis of more than 25,000 B2B sales calls, sales success is correlated with listening more and talking less during the discovery call. Top-performing sales representatives talked only 46% of the time. For average performers, that was 68%, while low-performing representatives took up 72% of the call with their own gab.
The reason for this is simple: Listening to prospective customers enables sales representatives to learn more about the prospect’s individual needs. To encourage the prospect to share, ask them open-noted questions, followed by additional questions that clarifying things. Show that you’re listening by summarizing what the prospect said before moving on to a new subject.
2. Going into the pricing conversation too soon.
The best sales representatives are able to make a sale by demonstrating value. Selling on price is a losing proposition because it encourages the buyer to simply select the company that offers the cheapest solution.
To prove value, take your time before entering the pricing conversation. Data suggests that the most successful sales representatives usually broach the subject of pricing for the first time between the 40- and 42-minute marks of an hour-long conversation. By that point in the conversation, you will have ideally started to establish trust and sold the prospect on the value of your solution.
3. Failing to fully research prospects before getting on the phone or sending off an email.
Contrary to the popular belief that great salespeople can sell anything to anyone, it’s best to be selective in reaching out to prospects. Before picking up the phone, you should have conducted thorough research on the prospect. This enables you to ask informed questions that impress the prospect instead of wasting time on the basics (and likely annoying the prospect).
Research should shape your entire approach to a sale, including how you approach the prospect, what content you share, etc. Reaching out to 10 prospects having done research is always better than reaching out to 20 with little or no research.
4. Neglecting existing customers in favor of chasing new business.
Satisfied customers are a great source of revenue growth. Many new sales representatives don’t spend as much time as they should nurturing those relationships. Additionally, losing a customer can have very negative effects on generation.
Even if you have a customer experience team working to keep customers happy, carve out time in your schedule for developing relationships with existing clients. Personalized contact is a great lead to repeat business.
5. Spending too much time on non-selling activities.
The average sales representatives spend only one-third of their time selling. This lopsided ratio means that most sales representatives are missing out on critical time to engage in core selling activities.
To address this problem, sales professionals need to implement—and utilize—a time management system. Although more than 60% of representatives have a time management system, only 23% actually follow it. Consider using productivity apps and other tools to keep you on track.
It is possible to reduce the amount of time you spend on administrative activities. For example, deciding that you’re only going to check and respond to email at designated times can make your entire day more efficient.
6. Not utilizing marketing for content and strategies.
Marketing teams develop content that help move prospects through the sales funnel, yet, many sales representatives fail to deploy that content in a way that helps sales strategy.
Invest time into learning more about the content available and develop a system for locating it quickly. Developing relationships with marketers can also be helpful.
7. Giving up on a prospect after a single contact, or only a few contacts.
Most sales prospects aren’t ready to get serious after one or two contacts—even if they’ve been pre-qualified by marketing. Don’t give up on the prospect if you sense that they may be qualified.
To make a sale, you may have to be willing to make multiple points of contact. Spread the contacts out so that you’re not irritating the prospect. Wait at least a week or so between contacts. It’s also a good idea to mix up the day and times you reach out the prospect, and your methods of outreach.
8. Failing to correctly identify the customer’s problem and how you can help.
New sales representatives tend to assume that the customer can give an accurate summary of their problem. In fact, the customer might not always be aware of the precise nature of the problem. It’s your job to diagnose the problem by asking relevant questions. A thorough conversation can reveal problems that perhaps weren’t immediately obvious—but still very relevant and painful to the prospect.
9. Not being 100% honest with the customer.
Hiding or glossing over problems with the customer is not an effective strategy. Ultimately, customers appreciate honesty. Get comfortable with telling them, “We aren’t able to do that right now but are working on it” or “We might not be the best solution for you if this is a big concern.”
10. Failing to conclude a call by discussing next steps in the process.
Every call with a prospective customer should include by saying, “Next, I’d like to do x” (or something to that effect). Then, you need to take action to make taking that next step easy.
Alex is the Executive Director and mentor at Women in Sales Everywhere. She was previously the Director of Talent at Bowery Capital, a venture capital investor focused on founders looking to modernize business through technology.