5 Cringeworthy Sales Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

October 01, 2018 | Alec Shirkey
5 Cringeworthy Sales Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Sales mistakes that frustrate buyers can haunt sales reps for a long time.

It’s every salesperson’s worst nightmare: you worked for days, weeks or even months to secure a meeting with a key prospect, only to ruin your shot by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sales mistakes like these can haunt reps for a long time. Buyers are more informed and have higher expectations. Sales cycles are becoming more drawn-out and complex. Real opportunities can be fleeting, and time is limited.

With so much at stake, unforced errors that irritate buyers – and cost your company deals – are the last thing sales leadership wants to see. But many sales mistakes can be avoided with the right training, coaching and preparation; the key is often identifying them in the first place.

Below, we've highlighted 5 of the most common blunders sales reps make, along with the approach needed to address each one.

1. Asking Questions You Should Have Already Answered

Can you tell me about your business? How many people does your company employ? What markets do you serve?

These types of questions can be answered in seconds by visiting a company’s web site, its LinkedIn page, or Google. By asking about basics, your reps are signaling to the buyer that they haven’t done their homework, and wasting everyone’s time in the process. If buyers don’t think your salespeople understand their business, why would they continue to engage?

Sales Readiness Tip: The more informed your reps are, the better their questions will be. That's why successful sellers keep a detailed checklist of what to do before, during and after their next buyer meeting.

Specifically, your reps should be looking for trigger events, such as a recent leadership change, acquisition, new product launch or growth initiative, to better inform themselves about the prospect's company. Publicly-available financial statements, press releases and news articles can be especially useful here. If you’re part of sales management or the sales enablement function, ensure these points are on your reps’ minds during meeting prep – and part of your sales training curriculum.

2. Holding One-Sided Conversations

Lazy questions aren’t helpful, but neither is playing a game of 20 Questions. If sales reps make a meeting feel like an interrogation, and not a sales call, then your buyers are only discussing their problems instead of getting any closer to solving them.

The same goes for salespeople who make the classic mistake of talking too much and not listening enough. Many refer to this as “show up and throw up” selling.

Sales Readiness Tip: Sellers need to balance asking questions with making connections to value, says Brainshark’s Chief Readiness Officer, Jim Ninivaggi. Moreover, the buyer needs to feel like the rep is guiding them down the path toward a solution – ideally your solution.

“Focus your questions on finding [the buyer’s] biggest pain, and who owns that pain,” says Chuck Searle, VP of partnerships and alliances at Brainshark. “Buyers have a greater urgency to purchase a solution that can solve their pain, rather than further their goals.”

As for talking too much, Brainshark Senior ADR Alex Roy says initial discovery calls should be about 90% listening and 10% talking. This rule of thumb allows sellers to not only listen with an intent to truly understand the buyer, but also spend time taking notes and formulating follow-up questions.

Consider role-playing a discovery call with your reps or assigning a formal video coaching activity, in order to assess areas of weakness when it comes to listening or asking questions.

3. Bad-Mouthing the Competition

Comparing your company or its solutions to competing offerings is not uncommon. Perhaps your sellers use a comparison chart to illustrate key features you have (or ones your rivals lack).

However, there’s a fine line when it comes to discussing the competition. By focusing too much on other products, reps risk neglecting the needs of the buyer and miss an opportunity to discuss your product.

Sales Readiness Tip: The buyer is looking for reasons to buy from you, and not arguments against buying from someone else. Ninivaggi says reps should be highlighting the competitive differentiation that will best resonate with the buyer, and then move forward from there.

4. Recoiling at an Objection

Maybe buyers are struggling to grasp a key benefit of your solution. Maybe they have a major criticism of the offering because it lacks certain features, or feel the pricing doesn’t match the value.

Whatever the case may be, failing to field that objection calmly and confidently can be a worst-case scenario for your salespeople. If the buyer is concerned or lacking information, and your seller can’t satisfy that need, the rep isn’t doing his or her job!

Sales Readiness Tip: Sales enablement should provide a formal training curriculum that helps sellers better understand how to handle different kinds of objections, and then reinforce their message to make sure it sticks.

Consider designing video coaching activities for reps, asking them to respond to some of your most common objections, and then provide feedback to improve their skills.

“The biggest mistake I see organizations make when it comes to managing objections is that they lump objections into one big category. And they handle objections as obstacles,” Ninivaggi says.

5. Bad Body Language and Too Many Filler Words

The importance of sellers speaking and positioning themselves with confidence is universal, and there are countless research studies detailing the effects body posture, eye contact, facial expression, tone and word choice have on any interaction.

Do your reps sandwich every sentence with “umm,” “you know” or “the thing is”? Are they unintentionally giving off a vibe of disinterest or discomfort by avoiding eye contact? If so, they could be hurting your team’s performance.

Sales Readiness Tip: While these aspects of selling often go overlooked, technology now gives sales teams more insight into rep performance than ever before.

AI-powered tools like Brainshark’s Machine Analysis engine for video coaching help managers uncover actionable insights into a rep's coverage of key topics, emotions exhibited, and other performance metrics through targeted coaching activities. Our platform will also automatically generate scores for each submission, saving time for managers and streamlining the coaching process. 

For more information on Brainshark’s new Machine Analysis engine, check out this short presentation or contact us for additional questions.​

Brainshark's AI-powered Machine Analysis solution helps sales enablement teams scale coaching efforts.

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