While most of your development time should be devoted to learning practices and what to do, it can also be equally instructive to examine what not to do. Sometimes sales professionals don’t even realize what they’re doing is what’s costing them opportunities and deals. Thus, today, we’ll examine some sales strategies to remove from your arsenal (if you’re using them), or never consider employing them (if you’re not).
- Badmouthing the competition.
We know. It’s a hyper-competitive sales world out there. The global reach and information capabilities of the Internet have given buyers more options and more ease of research than ever before. Like the Game of Thrones, there’s rivals everywhere – both seen and unseen. The temptation to secure an advantage through the lowering of others is a strong one. But the truth is, it’s not an advantage.
First of all, it reflects poorly on your character. A prospect, hearing you being negative about your competitors, might silently wonder what rumormongering and gossip you’re going to engage in about them. Furthermore, it changes the dialogue from choosing the best from a series of great options to selecting the one with the least drawbacks, which dampens customer enthusiasm and potentially harms the relationship even if you do ultimately win the sale.
It’s important to be aware of the competition’s relative strengths and weaknesses, of course – particularly when it comes to positioning and differentiation against your own brand – but stay high-level and positive.
- Selling on features and benefits alone.
We’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s one of the central tenets to successful selling. Even in a B2C scenario, where a customer might need or want certain features of say, the insurance policy they’re wanting to buy, still don’t limit yourself to features and benefits.
Why? Because you want to sell to value and the solution. How will the product or service you’re selling eliminate or at least greatly reduce the problem(s), needs, and desires your buyer has?
I remember once I was in a cell phone store and I overheard an exchange between an older gentleman and a sales associate. The sales associate kept highlighting the features and benefits of the latest phones (which admittedly were very cool). The customer, on the other hand, kept saying variations of, “No. I don’t want all that. All I want is something I can call on and send text messages.” The sales rep countered with things like, “But with this phone, you can video chat with your grandkids out of state!” Finally, the customer ended up leaving the store without buying. Lost opportunity there. And of course, zero display of active listening.
- Asking obvious questions that don’t generate useful information.
A bout of insomnia’s hit, and you’re watching TV. The volume suddenly gets loud and an overly enthusiastic narrator asks, “Do you want to save time and money?” before launching into the infomercial of a product of questionable quality and origins.
These questions have obvious answers (Usually, yes) and therefore don’t uncover information that helps you with client discovery. They’ve also acquired the connotation of the gimmicky sales pitch and are regarded with suspicion. Yet, it’s something we still see salespeople do every day. Walk through a store where there’s people with clipboards selling TV subscription services, for example.
Instead, utilize open-ended questions that draw out intelligence about the prospect and help you home in on what to offer, or even if the customer is the right match for your products. Close-ended questions (those with a binary answer – often yes/no) should be reserved for confirmation and advancement to the next stage of the process.
- Not being wholly honest.
One of the biggest cardinal sins you can make in sales is to overpromise and underdeliver. Related: giving information that might be partially correct, but not completely. Note that neither of these are outright lies, because the vast majority of salespeople are honest. But occasionally one can fall into the trap of not being wholly forthcoming or correct for fear of looking foolish, or because of one’s own lack of understanding.
To avoid that, if you don’t know, say something to the effect of, “I’m not 100% sure, so let me check and I’ll get back to you as soon as I find out the answer.” That builds trust and credibility in the rest of your statements, because you’re making absolutely certain the client has the correct information. And always be sure to follow up!
Knowing what not to do can save you and your buyers a lot of grief, time, and hassle. While some of these might seem self-evident, a refresher is always good to have – a chance for you to examine your own sales process and see if you’re doing any of these things unintentionally.