“While you can never talk yourself into a sale, you can always talk yourself out of one.”
That is some sage advice for any new sales rep. It demonstrates that in sales, what you don’t do is often more important than what you do.
Whether you are selling software, agency services, or anything else in the B2B space, there are some common errors to avoid that can ruin your chances with a prospect.
So, here you will learn the 11 problematic sales mistakes never to make on a call.
- #1 Selling for selling’s sake
- #2 Talking too much and not listening enough
- #3 Not asking enough questions
- #4 Using words and phrases that kill a sale
- #5 Selling things your prospect doesn’t need
- #6 Not focusing on value and solving problems
- #7 Not closing when the moment is right
- #8 Letting a prospect take the control
- #9 Making promises you can’t keep
- #10 Arguing with a potential customer
- #11 Not developing your sales skills
#1 Selling for selling’s sake
Some salespeople think they are a performer on a stage. They live to make incredible pitches that receive oohs and aahs from their audience (the prospects).
The problem with this mindset is that some salespeople get too caught up in the theatrics. They forget that their job is to turn the “audience” into paying customers and that the prospect took the call to buy their solution potentially.
That means the prospect does not care about your clever turns of phrase or slideshow transitions. They just want to see if what you offer is a good fit.
So, you need to go into a meeting acutely aware of the goal of the meeting: to come to a buying decision.
To accomplish that, you must focus on forming rapport and a strong relationship with your prospect while demonstrating how you can provide value to their business or solve their problems.
If the meeting is going well, keep your goal in mind. Because at some point, you have to actually ask the prospect to buy from you.
Sometimes they will. And if they say no, that helps too! They will give some objections that you can handle, and then you can continue your presentation and ask again later when they are more comfortable.
#2 Talking too much and not listening enough
When you have something brilliant to say, it can be hard to resist the urge to speak even if it means interrupting someone else. You fear that the genius thought might float away, never to return.
But, do not risk insulting your prospect to get your point across. While they are speaking, you need to listen actively. That also means you shouldn’t be thinking about your response to what they are saying.
Immerse yourself in their words, and when it’s your turn to talk (2 seconds after they have finished their thought), your witty response will probably still be there, and it will come off naturally.
This active listening without interrupting will make your prospect feel comfortable and understood.
Plus, you will learn their pain points and motivations that you need to pitch your solution down the line.
So how much should you listen?
The highest converting talk: listen ratio in B2B sales calls is 43:57m as discovered by Gong.io. That means that you (the sales rep) are listening for 57% of the call.
How do you get the prospect to talk so much? Ask questions.
The best sales reps weave open-ended questions into their conversations to fully understand their prospects and get them speaking.
In case you did not comprehend their response, ask for clarification. No prospect will be mad at you for trying to understand them. They will feel respected.
Caveat: If you are cold calling, the talk:listen ratio is different.
This analysis of 100,000 cold calls found that on a cold call, ideal talk: listen ratio for B2B sales reps is 54:46 percent. Cold calling requires more talking from the salesperson because your goal is to ignite interest from the prospect as quickly as possible.
If you are new to cold calling, check out these cold calling best practices.
#3 Not asking enough questions
Some sales reps throw a lot of product benefits at their prospects and hope something sticks, but that is a low probability game. You need some information before you can spin an effective pitch to your prospect.
Most of all, you must understand their needs and pain points. You can uncover that information by asking a lot of questions.
Some of your questions can be planned, but also make sure you ask some naturally throughout the conversation. For instance, if your prospect brings up a new process they have implemented—ask about it.
Not only will this give you material for your pitch, but it will also help you form a consultative relationship with the prospect. And the more questions you ask on a discovery call, the better.
Gong.io analyzed over 519,000 discovery calls and found that successful reps ask between 11 and 14 questions. So, make sure a good amount of them are focused on your prospect’s objectives or pain points.
In the analysis above, Gong.io also found that it is best to ask questions that get your prospects talking for long uninterrupted periods.
You can do this by forming questions like the following:
- Can you help me understand X?
- Tell me about how you do Y.
- Can you walk me through Z?
While asking questions is beneficial to your close rates, be aware of the words and phrases that leave a bad taste in your prospect’s mouth.
#4 Using words and phrases that kill a sale
In sales, some words should be avoided at all costs because they can negatively affect how your prospect perceives you and your product.
Here are four words to never use when talking with your prospects and why.
The word “discount” actually drops your chances of closing a sale by 17 percent, according to Gong.io’s call research.
That is because the word diminishes the value of your product or service in the prospect’s mind. They think, “If it’s going to solve my problem perfectly, why would it be discounted?”
Absolutely and Perfect
When used over four times in a call, these words drop your chances of a close by 16 percent. That is likely because if you say these words too often, you come across as a cliché, overly enthusiastic salesperson who will say anything to get the sale.
That diminishes trust. Your prospects can be turned off by this false positive attitude because, in real life, things are never that perfect.
When you talk too much about competitors, two things might happen. For one, your prospect might actually go check out those competitors you are blabbering on about—not ideal.
Or, your prospect might get the feeling that you care more about beating your competitors than you do about helping them solve a problem.
Following or starting a sentence with “honestly” shatters the statement’s credibility. In the prospect’s mind, if your statement is honest, you should not have to tell them that explicitly.
It also implies that other lofty statements you make about your solution are false if you haven’t included the word “honestly.”
If you are worried about your prospects believing you, remember, you are the expert guiding them through the buying process. They will usually resort to trust.
So, make your statements confidently and wait for their responses instead of filling the silence with unnecessary words like “believe me,” “seriously,” or “I’m for real.”
#5 Selling things your prospect doesn’t need
When you lecture your prospects about the amazing features of your product or service that they do not immediately need, they will lose interest.
Imagine going to get your tire fixed and the mechanic tells you all about his engines and paint job packages. You would be bored out of your mind, plus a little frustrated.
Your job is to solve the specific problem you found during discovery, not to create more problems (like wasted time) for your prospects. Remember that sometimes they can feel overloaded with information, especially when they are trying to buy a technologically complicated solution.
So, if you are giving a web-demo of your software, and the prospect is interested in a specific part, show them that feature first. Do this even if it is out of order of how you usually do your demos.
Sometimes, if they like the feature and it solves their problem, they will buy without even asking to see the rest of the software’s features, which is great!
Then, after they have signed the paperwork and are proud of their decision, you or their account manager can show them the rest of the software’s capabilities and make them even happier.
#6 Not focusing on value and solving problems
Most of the time, your prospect accepted a meeting with you because they need a specific problem solved. So, during your sales call, you must focus on learning about that problem and explaining to your prospect how your solution can solve it.
If you do this successfully, they will want to buy it.
To streamline communication, try not to get bogged down in the technical details or features of your product. A “cutting edge automated workflow engine” means nothing to your prospect. To most is just a fancy phrase.
Instead, sell the benefit of that feature: “A system that automatically assigns work to their staff so you don’t have to do any more administrative work.”
This way, you are showing the prospect how their lives will change with your product or service.
Here is another example of selling a benefit over a feature:
Feature: SEO services and staff of content writers.
Benefit: We will create blog content for you that will bring you x more traffic by ranking in the top 5 of Google’s first page. So, you will have more leads.
When you sell the benefit, you ignite more of an emotional response and paint a clear picture of how your prospect will get value from your offering.
#7 Not closing when the moment is right
Have you ever been on the verge of buying something but you decide to sleep on it? Then you wake up in the morning with second thoughts? As a sales rep, you do not want your prospects to feel that way.
You want to close when the moment is right— when your prospect is ready.
But how do you know when that is?
While it’s impossible to nail down the exact moment when your prospect is ready to sign the contract, you can still make estimations based on buying signs.
Buying signs to look out for
- Asking for the price – If this is the only hurdle left, you are in a good position. They like the product/service.
- Agreement to your sales points – If they keep agreeing to your ideas about how the solution will better their business, you have the green light to ask for the sale.
- Asking for customization options – They already see your solution in their hands.
- Relaxed tone of voice – People tend to relax when they know their decision. It is a weight off their shoulders to know your product is a good fit.
- Asking for onboarding details – They want to know how quickly they can get the solution and ramp up their team.
Through practice, you can form a sixth sense to spot these buying signals, and you will be on your way to sales stardom.
And, if you can’t spot any of these signals during a call, you can go by this general rule.
The best time to wrap up a sales demo or presentation and start discussing pricing and next steps is somewhere between the 38 and 46 minute mark.Gong.io
As you know, the prospect will rarely ask to buy the solution, so it is your job to ask them, or it may never happen.
#8 Letting a prospect take the control
If you lose control of the conversation, you lose the sale. You need to be able to guide them with the right questions to the point of buying while exuding calm confidence.
Maintaining control is so important in fact that it demotes the old sales trick of copying your prospect’s behavior and tone of voice to bad technique.
Throw that people-pleasing advice away and be confident in your personality. According to research, your prospect’s tone will actually sync up with yours about 2 to 3 minutes into the call, instead of the other way around.
Remember, you are the expert on this call. If your doctor kept asking you for advice, copying your tone, and making statements that sounded like questions, you would probably find a new doctor.
Besides controlling the flow of conversation, it is also critical to maintain control of the buying process. Do not let the prospect stall it.
Pretend at the end of your call, your prospect says, “This looks wonderful, I’ll get back to you next week.”
Don’t agree, hang up, and relax into your chair, imagining the commission. Because if you let a prospect take control like that, that check might never come.
Instead, propose an appointment for next week like this:
“I appreciate the chance to talk together again. But to avoid the back and forth, would it make sense to schedule some time for next week now? Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m pretty free.”
If your prospect is interested (or a reasonable human being), they are going to agree to schedule a time nine times out of ten.
#9 Making promises you can’t keep
Sales is all about building trust. If you make promises about your product or service that you can’t keep, your prospects will find out and leave.
Not to mention, if you hand their business over to an account manager after the purchase, your colleague is going to be pretty upset with you.
And even if the prospect does stick around to use your under-delivering product, you will have ruined your chances of ever upselling them in the next sales stage.
Making promises you can’t keep can sometimes occur by accident. For example, a lot of new sales reps will come into situations where they are asked a question by their prospect and aren’t exactly sure of the answer.
So, the rep will take the easy way out and make a bold claim even if they aren’t 100% certain of its validity.
Don’t do that. Instead, tell your prospect that you don’t know the answer, but that you will ask your team and get back to them in a follow-up email. This is better than accidentally lying to them, and shows that you are trustworthy, raising your chances of closing the deal.
As Don Miguel Ruiz wrote in “The Four Agreements”: be impeccable with your word and good things will happen.
#10 Arguing with a potential customer
To quote sales expert Dale Carnegie, the best time to enter into an argument is never.
But what if the prospect is a bully and defaming our company and honor? Shouldn’t I fight fire with fire?
Nope. If you argue with a prospect, they will become only more defensive and prideful, refusing to ever come over to your way of thinking. Arguments lead to polarization instead of what you want in a sales conversation—agreement.
So, if you have a difficult prospect that is attacking you or your company, take a deep breath and as hard as it may be, think of disagreement as a blessing. It is a chance to better understand your prospect.
And instead of fighting back or giving in to their commands, try using what Steli Efti, CEO of Close.io, calls friendly strength.
During an interaction with a hostile prospect, keep in mind that you are the expert in this product and marketplace. You have helped plenty of people deal with the problems that led this prospect to seek your council.
With that in mind, simply stay calm and practice confidence when responding to your prospect’s temper.
Use silence to calm the situation and avoid an argument. Silence in conversation makes people feel like they have made a mistake, which leads to the prospect reflecting on their outburst, like a toddler in timeout.
Example of an Avoided Argument
Hostile Prospect: “Your product is a gold dig! So overpriced. How do you expect anyone to pay for that?”
Hostile Prospect: “All your company cares about is earning money for yourselves, it’s a scam! I’ve seen salespeople like you before.”
Usually, the prospect will wear themselves out and realize they are being overly aggressive and unfair. After they have changed their tone, you can go back to your sales conversation and say something like this, using friendly strength:
“I’m sorry that the price is such a problem for you. But we are a legitimate business with hundreds of clients similar to your company, and we’ve helped them with your exact problem.
If price is really that much of a roadblock for you, I’m sorry but I can’t budge. I can definitely recommend some other services that might be able to help you, but I can’t promise they are going to be any less costly.”
Whether your prospect buys your solution or not, at least you have avoided an argument and the possible repercussions of an angry customer. For example, unhappy customers could tell 10 other people about their bad experience with your company.
#11 Not developing your sales skills
Some salespeople fall victim to overconfidence when they’ve had a strong quarter. While confidence is great, it shouldn’t stop you from practicing and growing your sales skills.
Investing in yourself is key to growing your sales, and there are plenty of ways to do it.
Don’t be afraid to ask to shadow others’ sales meetings.
No matter how experienced you are, you can always pick up a new skill, phrase, or question from a colleague. Additionally, you learn about the buyers.
Study your industry, product, or sales playbook.
This knowledge will allow you to have more conversation pieces in your repertoire during a call.
Plus, there is no better way to show your expertise than by discussing industry news at the beginning of a call. That will help you gain your potential customers’ trust as a valued consultant.
Listen to and analyze your past calls.
Athletes do it, why shouldn’t salespeople?
New technologies like Zoom allow you to record your calls so you can listen to them later by yourself. Even better, grab a second set of ears, a sales teammate whom you trust or admire. They will help you spot areas for improvement.
For example, maybe you were not succinct when explaining a certain benefit. Or maybe you did not know the answer to your prospect’s question or could not easily explain the differentiator between your service and a competitor’s.
Read sales books.
We’ve compiled a list of the best sales books out there. If you finish these books and apply their tactics, you will be an expert in no time.
Try learning about your best clients.
Find their common problems and motivations by creating and studying your Ideal Customer Profile.
Make a Change and Sell More
Every salesperson has made at least one of these sales mistakes, but what separates the great from the good is the ability to spot the errors and adjust.
If you can learn to avoid these common sales mistakes, then you will be on the right path to success and can turn your attention to learning what to do in B2B sales.