The 7 Top Sales Blunders, and How Modern Sales Pros Avoid Them

Today’s B2B sales professionals must navigate a new environment to best engage with buyers. Here are seven common sales mistakes they make and how to overcome them.

March 22, 2017

  • Businessman Jumping Over Obstacle

Sales is a competitive profession and the spoils go to those who hone their game. The top reps continually build their knowledge and craft their approach to ensure a winning performance. When they make mistakes that result in losses, they own the mistake. It becomes a learning opportunity.  

To get on that path to success and make the most of every opportunity, here are seven common mistakes, and ways to avoid them.

1. Relying on a Single Relationship

In the B2B space, the days of courting a single decision maker are long gone. You’re selling to a committee, and that means zeroing in on a single decision-maker could actually lose you the deal.

The more contacts you can add to your network, the better you can build relationships and provide value on the committee’s path to purchase. We call this the multi-threaded approach: establishing multiple relationships (6 or more connections on LinkedIn) at an account. And our research proves the value of it – multi-threaded sales reps focused on new business saw a 34% lift in win rates compared to those with just a single account contact.

2. Wasting Time with the Wrong Contact(s)

When you sell to a committee, you need to drive group consensus around the best way to solve their problem or achieve their goal. Whatever the solution, it will involve some type of change, and some committee members will be more open to change than others. In their research, CEB discovered seven key B2B buyer types, their role in the purchase process, and how to win each member over. In some cases, it’s best to let the passionate committee members help break down the resistance of others. Just make sure you’re focused on the right contacts and understand how to best serve their information needs and get them on board to change the status quo. You can identify those people using search capabilities on LinkedIn.

3. Always Be Closing

Some still hew to the principle that “Always Be Closing” is all that matters when it comes to sales. But that mindset can actually sink potential deals these days. In an era when buyers can access lots of information on their own, they bristle at hard sales pitches and people who come across as opportunistic.

A more effective way to engage today’s buyers is to cultivate relationships by positioning yourself as a trusted advisor focused on the prospect’s needs, not yours. Spend time reading and commenting on their posts and share relevant posts and content with them. Be sure to connect the dots – perhaps with a compelling InMail subject line – so they understand why it’s worth their time to consume what you pass along. Providing added context that saves time is a fast way to build trust and deepen relationships.

4. Offering Me-Too Information

With access to so much content and information, prospects frown upon reps that simply pass along more of the same. Conversely, they greatly appreciate a rep who can offer insightful commentary, ideas, and suggestions about how to apply the latest data, approaches, and solutions to their particular situation. That’s not to say you should push your solution on them. Instead, do your research to understand the company’s strategic initiatives and the relevant concerns and goals of each buyer committee member. Then tailor your conversations and the information you supply to speak to each concern or goal, keeping the focus on the prospect’s situation at hand.

As Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, says, “The modern sales professional is an information concierge and a content connoisseur.”

5. Waiting to be Engaged

It’s hard to argue that buyers are now in control as compared to the previous generation of buyers, but sometimes sales pros mistake this to mean they have no option but to wait for prospects to reach out. You’re wasting valuable chances to connect if you wait for the phone to ring. Rather, it’s in your best interests to inject yourself into the buying process by providing helpful guidance. Engaging in online social networks is an effective way to do just that. This environment gives you the opportunity to find out what matters to prospective buyers, what information they’re seeking, and what is proving problematic as they consider a change. It’s also where you can learn more about their companies’ top priorities and potential buying triggers. With these insights, you can engage with relevance.  

6. Not Exhausting Every Opportunity for a Warmer Introduction

We’ve all seen the reports: cold calls and cold emails simply get ignored. So how do you connect with someone who isn’t taking your calls or answering your emails? Through a warm introduction.

The fastest route to a warm intro is by finding someone in your network who is connected to your prospective buyer and asking for the introduction. But that’s not always an option. Fortunately, you can use social networks to learn about a prospect’s interests, preferences, and habits. Find a commonality and you might just open the door to a conversation. Even a subject line reading “Two questions from a fellow Parrothead” could pave the way for engagement.

7. Thinking Personality Trumps Valuable Insight

Don’t get me wrong – it’s important to showcase your personality. A strong personal brand makes you more likeable, which is still a huge plus in sales. But personality and schmoozing will only take you so far. Your often-overwhelmed buyers are looking for sales professionals who do their homework and offer valuable insights.

Consistently share knowledge and recommendations that are truly thought provoking and helpful to the buyer. Doing so will facilitate the buying process while establishing you as a highly credible, trustworthy professional.

At the end of the day, the fundamentals of selling remain the same: The ability to establish and nurture relationships and build trust is what sets the top-performing sales professionals apart from the rest. Today, sales pros who tap into social to extend their abilities are the ones closing the deals.

Don’t make the mistake of missing out on insight from three veteran social sellers. Check out The Post Cold Call Era: Combining Inside Sales Tools with Social Selling.