Selling isn’t easy under the very best of circumstances. There are things you can do to make it much more challenging without intending to. 

The following list of mistakes includes the root cause, providing you with the beliefs that encourage the error. Here are nine enormous mistakes salespeople make and their root causes.

Leading with Your Company: There are two reasons we teach salespeople to open a sales call by talking about their company. The first, and perhaps the original purpose, is that people think it establishes credibility. If the salesperson isn’t credible, the company’s credibility should be a strong enough substitute to convince the prospect to buy. The second reason is that marketers believe the company story is compelling and that prospects care. While these approaches may have worked in the past, you must establish your credibility by demonstrating your subject matter expertise, your business acumen, and your situational knowledge.

Allowing Your Client to Determine the Process: When your client has total control of the process, the result is a Request for Proposal, a process that isn’t likely to serve you well. It may also prevent your prospective client from making the right decision, often based on a one-hour presentation. Because you sell what you sell, you should have a better understanding of the conversations and commitments your dream clients need to make a good decision. In many cases (maybe most), you increase your chances of winning and your client’s making the right decision when you sell the process before selling your solution.

Speaking Poorly of Your Competition: Some people believe you should never mention your competition. More, however, wait to address their competition only when their contact tells them that their price is higher than the competition. At this point, the salesperson tries to differentiate themselves by describing all the ways their competitor is terrible. The result of this conversation inverts the outcome, causing the client to believe the salesperson throwing their competitor under the bus is terrible, as evidenced by their defensiveness. When you don’t know how to defend the investment you are asking your client to make, you might believe it is easier to tear down your competitor, in which case, you are wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with speaking about your competitors, as long as you say nice things about them as a way to differentiate yourself early in the sales conversation.


Going Faster Than Your Client: You don’t want to take longer than you have to win a deal, and you don’t want your client to have to wait longer than is necessary to produce better results and reap the benefits of your solution. However, going faster than your dream client can cause you to become disconnected, with you far ahead of them in the process. You may know all you need to know to provide them with the right solution, but your prospective client may need more conversations to move forward. When this is true, you bring the process to a halt. The desire to go fast cause things to go slow. If you want to go fast, you go slow enough that your prospect can keep up with you.

Choosing a Poor Prospecting Medium: All the mediums available to you have value, even if that value is contextual. Meaningful conversations are best held in person. Email works for following up meetings. For all the wonders of the information age and the ubiquity of computers, we have borrowed ideas from computers that don’t translate well to human interactions. Ideas like multi-tasking pretend human attention works like a chip. It doesn’t. The notion that efficiency is more important than effectiveness is to believe that the ease of effort outweighs the outcome. If there is no outcome, you are inefficient. The reason some salespeople use email for prospecting is that they believe it is efficient, while others believe it allows them to avoid conflict. The best medium for prospecting is still the phone, even if you use all the others as part of a campaign.

Emailing Pricing and Proposals: Your client asked you to send them a proposal and pricing, something you believe to be a keen interest in buying what you sell. So you submitted it to them weeks ago, and now, radio silence. Because you didn’t believe it was worth the time or effort to meet with the client to review your proposal and resolve their concerns, they flipped the pricing component, and decide to hold off. You disconnected the value of the solution from the investment by not presenting the outcomes. You know your prospect didn’t read your proposal, and you allowed them to say no without having to speak to you. Because you wanted to make it easy for you and your client, you ended up losing the deal—or causing a stall. The right answer is not to take yourself out of the deal.

Avoiding Difficult Conversations: Interminable. The difficult conversations you may have to engage in as you pursue and serve your dream clients are as many as there are stars in the sky. Asking your clients to change can be an awkward conversation, just as telling them the problem they have requires them to make internal changes can be, meaning it’s not you or their past partners. Discussions about the investment also offer a potential place for conflict or a complicated dialogue. You avoid these conversations when you believe they will cause you to lose a deal, but what makes you a trusted advisor is your willingness to engage in the challenging, messy, and complicated conversations necessary to better results.

Single-Threaded: Maybe you work on deals where there is only a single contact. If this is true, it is unlikely you work in business-to-business sales, and it is certain you are not engaged in a complex sale. In larger, complex deals, there is almost no chance that you are going to win without consensus. When you are working with a single stakeholder, you may believe you shouldn’t ask to bring other people on their team, especially an executive sponsor, assuming you will offend them and lose the deal. How you lose is by not gaining consensus.

Treating a Complex Deal as Transactional: If what you sell is transactional in nature, you should transact. What makes a sale complex is that it requires a decision your client doesn’t often have to make while also being significant or strategic in nature. When you treat the client’s decision as if it should be easy or avoid addressing the significance, your approach doesn’t match your prospective client’s needs. The approach makes it impossibly difficult for your client to move forward when they need information, insight, and help to ensure the decision is sound. Because the solution makes sense to you and you know it will work doesn’t mean these things are true for your client.

Avoid these mistakes by understanding the root causes. You are always better addressing things that are difficult and giving your chance to win than avoiding them and losing.