8 Common Sales Mistakes That Need to Stop NOW
Much is written about how the role of the B2B marketers changed over the years due to the shift in the buying process. And while this is true, and has been mentioned more than several times here on this blog, I see very little being written or spoken about the role of B2B sales and how their roles have changed.
Perhaps this is just me not being as deeply ingrained in the B2B sales world, but by and large, I have not seen much in the way of the changing role of sales in the B2B process. Furthermore, when I speak to prospects and engage with customers, I find that sales believes the changes are needed on the marketing side, but that there is little that they need to do to adapt. They could not be more wrong.
I often talk here about the need for better alignment between marketing and sales. In fact, it is often cited as the biggest challenge for B2B leaders. As I continue to interact with many on the marketing side and am now also spending more time with those in sales leadership, I have seen some consistent themes that run across a good number (not all) of sales organizations. These mistakes must be corrected if B2B sales organizations are going to have any measure of success.
1. Creating Work to Keep Sales Teams Busy
I was on a call not too long ago with a client who said that they were going to start pulling industry lists from their house database and have their inside sales team begin a “call blitz”. Without getting into the specifics, I asked my client why they were taking this approach when the whole goal of us working together was to create a buyer-centric, perpetual demand generation program. The answer I received was “we need to keep them busy.” This is not the first time I have heard this plan for an inside sales team.
Simply creating work to keep a sales team busy is like running to the river to get water in a bucket rather than fixing the plumbing. It is a short-term fix that often supplies little in the way of results. The reality is that salespeople who are very well paid should not be the “fix” for demand generation. They should be poised to either truly sell via the phone or to qualify leads that have indicated via their behavior (and corresponding demographic data) that they are at a point in their buying process that they want to have a discussion. Simply creating work to keep salespeople busy is not only productivity problem, it is a sign that your demand generation engine is broken.
2. Focusing Too Much on Price
Stop believing that the price is everything and use it as the only sales tool. If you as a seller are convinced that you must always discount everything to get someone to buy your product or service, you quickly de-value it, and the prospect perceives a “Let’s make a deal” approach rather than purchasing something with inherent value.
3. Not Letting the Customer Talk
Talking and talking without letting the customer is not the way to build a sense of need and urgency with your prospect. Talking non-stop to let the customer know how well you know the product to get them excited and buy, only leads to poor sales conversion. The results obtained are less than adequate and will lead to a multitude of lost deals.
If you don’t let the customer speak, you’ll never understand the perceived value of your product and how it can potentially help them. You must listen to understand what their specific needs are and address them. Prospects want to know that your product can help them, not simply perform cool functions.
4. Overdoing the Sale
Do you use acrobatics and theater to sell your product instead of service that meets customer needs? Except for rare cases where someone wants something for pleasure rather than necessity, almost no one will buy things that do not meet a need. Do not attempt to WOW the prospect, but let them move at their pace to understand your product and its ability to solve their current pains and needs.
A related mistake is to discuss all the features of your product or service before you understand what the customer needs. Sell a solution to their problem, do not spend a lot of time discussing what it can do beyond that as the prospect quickly will lose interest as it is out of their scope.
5. Sticking to Your Sales Process
Not long ago I was meeting with a client and white boarding the buying journey. During this session the VP of Sales interrupted and stated, “I am not too concerned with the buying process. We have a sales process that will disrupt that and we will engage them when we need to.”
It was clear from his statement that he had no clue that the buyers do not care about an internal sales process. In fact, buyers determine when they are ready to engage with sales and buyers are no longer dependent on salespeople to research and determine the right time for them to buy.
While there is a need to establish a lead management process and salespeople should have a process they follow for the management of pipeline and revenue, too many sales leaders are in the dark about aligning their sales process to that of their buyers. As result, the unfortunate reality is that they are not converting potential buyers to customers at the rate they could be.
Demand generation is not only a marketing activity. To be effective, both sales and marketing must be active participants in the process and this means changing the way many sales organizations and sales leaders approach their buyers.
6. Having an Insufficiently Trained Sales Team
It is very common to ignore the importance of keeping up your selling skills and expertise of sales. Often very often, commercial companies focus their training efforts only on the product and its features. As I said, this will quickly lose the interest of your prospect. Therefore, it is a mistake not to develop the commercial skills that can align customer needs with product benefits or service being sold.
If your team isn’t trained in how to sell, they’ll never be confident of — or even fully know — their own strengths. Combined with product knowledge, confidence in one’s abilities is the biggest competitive advantage a salesperson can have over the competition. Increasingly, customers are more informed and are seeking to ensure no time is lost in verifying product features or beating around the bush.
7. Measuring the Wrong Things
Another client was telling me that the one key metric that their sales team is measured on is “call volume.” In his new role, he is attempting to move past this way of thinking and stress that quality far surpasses quantity, but he is experiencing resistance.
To be frank, measuring the volume of calls is one of the worst metrics any sales team could measure. When a buyer is in their buying process and ready to take a call, they often have many, in-depth questions. Buyers want to understand how the company’s solutions or services will benefit them, and want be sure their specific needs and challenges will be met. Calls of this nature can take 20-30 minutes or even longer and when done as part of a strategic demand generation program, will lead to a higher closed-won conversion rate, leading to increases in revenue. This is really what demand generation is about, quality over quantity. Call volume doesn’t matter.
8. Not Understanding the Sales Cycle
The sale isn’t meant to fulfil the salesperson’s need; it should fulfil the prospect’s need. Quotas are difficult and time is always of the essence for a salesman, but you must not push your prospect too far too fast or risk losing the deal. It is critical at some point to “ask for the business” but not until your prospect is ready.