If you’re anything like most people that I meet you’ll have some idea, but would probably be horrified to learn exactly how the conversations go between your sales team and individual customers day to day.
Its hard enough if you’re managing internal salespeople, where at least you can overhear some of their telephone conversation but, if you’re managing a field-based team the problems become far worse.
Whether it’s just carelessness or a lack of focus, salespeople say the strangest things to customers without any thought of where it might lead them. Below are some actual examples of phrases I’ve heard salespeople say to clients or prospects either over the phone when I’ve been listening to calls directly in front of them or when I’ve been doing field visits with the salesperson.
SALES MISTAKE #1 – Telling the customer that they are wrong.
Customer: “I’m not convinced about the reliability of the machine. I’ve heard you can get problems when it’s been running for a certain period of time”.
Salesperson: “Well I don’t know who you’ve heard that from but that’s just plain wrong! This machine is the best of the market and never breaks down!”
Customer: “Oh really? That’s not what Jim said over at XYZ Machinery where you installed one last week and have been back to it twice already”.
Salesperson: “Oh… so you know Jim at XYZ Machinery? Erm…..”.
This type of response happens so often it’s frightening! The salesperson hears an objection, can’t deal with it, panics and makes something up on the spot in a desperate attempt to sound convincing!
The result? The salesperson loses all credibility in front of the prospect or client and is so embarrassed that, not only do they not get their outcome from this call, but they rarely feel like they can call this person back ever again.
SALES MISTAKE #2 – Not listening to the Customer.
Customer: “I’m sure that it’s a great system but I don’t think we need anything that complicated here”.
Salesperson: “It really is good. It’s the best system on the market and you can even program it remotely and configure it in real-time from an external location”.
Customer: “I don’t think we’d use that feature, it’s too complicated for us and we don’t have the budget for such an extravagance”.
Salesperson: “Oh so budget’s a problem for you is it? When will you get your new budget?
Customer: “Not until next March”.
Salesperson: “Oh, so we’d probably be better waiting until then, wouldn’t we? Shall I call you back towards the end of February?”
Customer: “Great, speak to you then”.
No, No and No! How on earth did the sales person mishear what the customer was saying to him? The problem is, most salespeople don’t listen to what the customer is saying to them, they’re too busy thinking of what they’re going to say next.
You wouldn’t believe how many conversations I listen to where buying signals are missed and critical information is ignored because people just aren’t listening. Even worse, the salesperson then left the call and wasn’t going to call back for a few months’ time. What do you think would happen in that time?
That’s right – a competitor would call the customer and actually listen to them, propose a solution more to their needs and close the business, leaving our salesperson to call back in February already having lost the business.
SALES MISTAKE #3 – Making the customer feel worthless.
Customer: “What’s the extra charge for?”
Salesperson: “That’s the small order charge. All order under $50 are subject to it”.
Customer: “But I don’t need any more than what I’ve ordered. I don’t see why I should have to pay a penalty for placing an order with you. I’m sure that some of your customers don’t pay that charge; is that right?”
Salesperson: “Well, our gold level customers don’t pay it, but that’s because they spend a lot of money with us”.
Customer: “So are you saying that you charge it to some customers and not others? Why is my business worth less to you than theirs?”
Blabbermouth strikes again! Instead of explaining what the small order charge was for and suggesting ways around it, our salesperson has now created an irate customer who feels that their business isn’t important to the company!
Anyone suggest a better way to get a customer to seek out another supplier?
SALES MISTAKE #4 – Making a complaint worse.
Customer: “Martin, we’ve been having a few problems with our xyz system, can you do anything to solve it? We’re getting sick of it going wrong”.
Salesperson: “We’ll I’d like to do something to help, but you’re outside of your warranty period, you see”.
Salesperson: “Well, we’d have done something for you if it was still in the warranty period, but it’s not”.
Customer: “So are you saying you’re not willing to help me?”
Salesperson: “Well, as I already said, it’s outside the warranty period, but we do have a great range of new machines you could buy…”.
How helpful was our salesperson in this scenario? Not very. Not only, by stubbornly sticking to “policy” did he annoy an existing customer and virtually drive them to his competition, but he also put in a very badly-timed sales pitch as well.
I’m always astounded how much effort salespeople will put into winning new business and then as soon as the customer is “on-board” they treat them like second-class citizens and virtually drive them elsewhere.
Not very helpful if you’re tyring to build long-term relationships and business with your customer is it?
How many opportunities do you think the average salesperson blows? How much money do they leave on the table every month? How many deals do they lose that they could (and should) have won.
From a management standpoint it is worth your while to find out. You don’t need to act like big brother and tap phones or ride gunshot on sales calls – instead take a proactive role in regularly undertaking refresher courses and small workshops to ensure your sales staff are on, and then stay on the right track. Your business and customers will love you for it.
By Andy Preston
Accredited Associate of the Institute for Independent Business
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