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Small Compass Sound Sales: Three Big Mistakes Salespeople Make

By Mark McGlinchey - Written by Compass Group Solutions Founder Mark McGlinchey, this article first appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal

In 27 years of sales, sales management and sales training, I have witnessed hundreds of mistakes made by salespeople. As a sales professional, I’m certain I’ve made my fair share of mistakes as well. Not too many sales calls or selling cycles are perfect. It is only normal that as we look back on a sales call, we realize we could have or should have done something differently. However, there are three mistakes commonly made by salespeople, which often result in killing a deal.

Unfortunately, too many sales professionals continue to make these three mistakes over and over again – probably because they don’t know any better or they lack training in the areas of strategy, tactics and skills.

Mistake # 1: Selling Products and Services Rather Than Solutions

Obviously, all salespeople have something to sell – either a product or service, or both. Every product and service will have various features and benefits associated with it. The features and benefits are simply reasons why someone should buy a particular product or service.

Corporate America spends billions of dollars each year in the form of marketing and branding to highlight the features and benefits of their products and services. Often times, salespeople will try to capitalize on these marketing and branding efforts by developing a sales pitch that highlights their company’s features and benefits.

Here’s the problem: individuals and corporations “buy for their reasons, not yours.” When you constantly pitch features and benefits, all you are doing is giving your reasons. Again, most of the time, your reasons are irrelevant.

Individuals and companies also buy solutions rather than products and services. Frequently in sales, we do not spend enough time trying to uncover the prospect’s problems or concerns. Instead, we’re caught up in getting our message across about the features and benefits, or value proposition of our products and services.

Stop selling features and benefits. Instead, begin uncovering your prospects’ problems and concerns, and provide solutions with your products and services.

Mistake # 2: Not Understanding the Prospect’s Decision Process

More often than not, in a competitive selling situation, the salesperson or vendor who best understands the prospect’s decision process is the one who will win the business. Too often, sales professionals make inaccurate assumptions about the prospect’s decision process. They don’t ask enough questions or the right questions about how the decision will be made, or they completely overlook or ignore the decision process.

Begin applying the questions who, what, when, why and how to properly discover the prospect’s decision process. Who is making the decision? What factors and issues are driving the decision? When must the decision be made? (You must understand both the date of decision and the date of implementation.) Why is your product or service necessary? (Or, is it?) How is the prospect going to reach a decision? (What factors, issues or past purchases will influence their decision?) Simply put, you cannot affect or change anything you do not understand. If you do not understand the prospect’s decision process, how can you possibly influence it?

In major account selling, or if you have a lengthy selling cycle, it is an absolute must for a salesperson to understand and influence, whenever possible, the prospect’s decision process. If you ask all of the right questions about the decision process and your prospect is unwilling to share decision information with you, it should send up a red flag. In competitive selling situations, if the prospect is not whispering in your ear, you can almost be certain they are whispering in your competition’s ear.

Mistake # 3: Failure to Establish and Enforce Clear Time Lines

When a selling cycle begins with a prospect, it is extremely important to establish a clear timeline to follow for the remainder of the selling cycle. When salespeople do not establish a clear timeline, they are at the mercy of the prospect and deals are likely stall out or just linger in the pipeline. One of the most tried and true axioms of sales is that “time kills deals.”

It is essential to establish mutual agreements with your prospects concerning due diligence, follow up and critical dates throughout the process. You and your prospect must be on the same page as it pertains to “what happens next?” If you lay out a timeline with your prospect and establish a mutual agreement concerning that timeline, you have to have the strength to enforce it or challenge your prospect if they are not following it.


Keywords: Sales Tips, Sales Mistakes to Avoid, Selling Products and Services, Selling Solutions, Sales & Clear Timelines, Prospect's Decisionmaking Process, Sales Professional Development, Sales Leadership Development, Sales Management Tips, Sound Sales, Sales Consulting, Compass Group Solutions, Mark McGlinchey

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