Everyone in the world who has ever lived has made mistakes at their job. I’ve sent an email to an audience of over 75,000 subscribers with broken links and slipped typos into hard copy print collateral.
One time, early in my career, I accidentally unpublished a blog and it 404d all paid advertising links pointing to that page. Anyways…moving on.
Failure is part of life and work. This is something that’s applicable to all career paths, whether we’re content marketers, salespeople, or C-suite executives.
So, prepare yourself. When you fail, always remember to fail fast and fail forward. Quickly take responsibility for your actions, learn a valuable lesson, and move on.
In the sales world specifically, life moves at a rapid pace. That can lead to some common sales mistakes and sales problems that happen more naturally and often. This can be especially difficult for younger reps who are just getting started with their sales career.
Often, inexperienced salespeople mistakenly believe that during the sales call, they should be perfect in every way. As a sales leader, it’s your job to teach them that’s not going to happen. Show them how to roll with the punches.
That’s no small task. But that’s why we brought in the perspective of a seasoned, veteran sales leader from PhoneBurner—Lindsey KoneffKlatt, VP of Sales.
Let Lindsey’s expertise show you some of the most common sales mistakes she’s seen throughout her career. Each of these sales mistakes is paired with some guidance on how to overcome them as well.
Also, each one is paired with a funny GIF. Have some fun while you learn!
Avoid These 16 Common Sales Mistakes
1. Talking Too Much
I’m going to make a broad, sweeping generalization here: most salespeople are great talkers. It's a strong sales characteristic, but it's also a double-edged sword.
On one hand, they can expertly convey product knowledge, organically weave features into conversation, and push prospects with passion and empathy. The flip side of the coin is that sometimes they keep going, and going, and going.
To help, focus on asking strong questions that deepen your knowledge of both the prospect as a person and the specific pains they deal with. Not only will this give you insider knowledge on how to tailor your sales pitch for them, it’ll also begin to lay the foundation of a lasting relationship.
As your prospect answers your questions use your active listening skills to internalize what they’re saying and participate in the conversation. You don’t want to zone out—you want them to feel that you really care about them.
2. Rushing Through Silence
As a salesperson, silence can be your strongest ally. It can be awkward to have moments of silence on your call, but don’t run from it. Embrace it.
If your gut reaction is to immediately rush a response to your prospect, it can come off as needy and desperate. For example, look at the difference between these two mock conversations:
Rep: So, what do you think about that product feature?
Prospect: Well, I’m just not sure if it’s something we need.
Rep: That’s OK, we have plenty of other features you’ll love.
Rep: So, what do you think about that product feature?
Prospect: Well, I’m just not sure if it’s something we need.
Prospect: …Maybe there’s something else that will help though?
Rep: Sure, I’d be happy to show you more.
Your silence invites the prospect to continue the conversation before you push them down a specific path. They have a sense of ownership around the direction now.
Silence can open up pathways and doors in the conversation you didn’t know existed. You just have to give it time to work.
3. Making It About Yourself
You’re not on the phone to brag and boast about your company’s awards, your personal achievements, or even flashy product features. You’re here to help, so don’t showboat.
Above all else, focus on how your product or service can legitimately add value to your prospect’s life and solve pains or challenges. People will buy that value.
4. Jumping into a Conversation with No Courtesy or Permission
Just because someone picks up your cold call doesn’t mean they want to have a full-scale sales conversation. The best sales reps know to open with a courteous greeting and an ask for permission to continue.
This is where the art of sales come into play. You can’t just say:
“Hey, my name is Will and I hope your day is going well. Can I talk with you for a bit about PhoneBurner?”
Expect a hang up with that opener. Heck, I’d even hang up on that one.
Instead, you could try working an opener like this into your cold calling script:
“Hi Dwight Schrute, my name’s Will Schmidt and I’m calling with PhoneBurner, we’re a power dialer for outbound reps. I’m just calling with a question. Do you have a minute?”
The courtesy here is your professionalism, you’re not showering them with platitudes. State who you are, who you’re with, and the reason for your call.
Then, ask for a quick minute of their time. Be straightforward, direct, and professionally polite.
This opener comes from our partner, Greg Woodward of Woodward Strategies, who works with our own sales team here at PhoneBurner. If you want more cold call script resources and templates like this, download our eBook Outbound Sales: 10 Strategies to Close More Deals.
It’s packed with more content on outbound sales from Greg and four other sales experts.
5. Assuming Things About Your Prospects
As they say, when you assume you make an [REDACTED] out of you and me. You know what word we’ve redacted right there, it’s not blog-appropriate. If not, Google has your back on this one (thanks Google).
You need to know details about your prospect before going into the call. If you don’t, you’re destined for headache, embarrassment, and a tanked deal.
Do your research beforehand. Where did they go to school? What does their company do? What are the key roles and responsibilities for their position?
From these questions you can begin to draw conclusions as to the challenges they face. Then, on the phone, you can have a conversation around your hypotheses and gauge how accurate you were with the prospect.
You may still get a few things wrong. Nobody’s perfect. However, you won’t be so far off the mark that your credibility comes into question. Further, this tactic invites an organic and interesting conversation with your prospect.
With so many tools available online, there’s no reason you should lack for any relevant context on your prospects. Make use of LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, or any of these other prospecting sales tools to help.
6. Talking About Price Immediately
What if someone cold called you right now, and when you answered the phone, they said:
“Hey, my name is Will, and I can sell you a power dialer software for as low as $150 a month.”
This is what Jason Bay, CEO of Blissful Prospecting, refers to as the “pitch-slap.” And if you do this, you’re going to get hung up on. A lot.
Before you even think about bringing up pricing, uncover the value you can offer your prospect. Specifically, how can your product or service help them overcome pains and challenges?
Breathe. Be patient. Enjoy your conversation. Learn about your prospect. Cultivate genuine interest. The time to talk pricing will come.
7. Promising Things You Can’t Deliver
Your role as a sales development representative or account executive is not to sell at any costs. With the changing nature of B2B sales, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, your role is that of a trusted advisor to your prospects.
There’s no faster way to destroy that trust and credibility than by promising things you can’t deliver on. Whether or not these are flat out lies, or you’re merely uncertain about details on something, it’s a guarantee that your relationship with this prospect will be short.
Further, it’ll have a lasting, negative impact on your company’s brand and your personal reputation. What happens when this prospect goes to LinkedIn and posts about the negative experience?
Always verify and double check, even if it means the sale won’t go through. Your integrity and honesty count for more than anything. And, trust me, it’s going to help you close more deals in the long run.
8. Mishandling Objections
You’re going to get objections. There’s no getting around it. You can work your way through them though.
Anticipate the moments when prospects often object during your pitch, and what they typically say. Then, build a sales strategy and script that handles the objectives and brings the conversation back to something constructive.
Haylee Taylor, Senior Associate at ClozeLoop, talks extensively about objection handling in our eBook, Outbound Sales: 10 Strategies to Close More Deals. Check out this soundbite:
“The way to come back from objections is through social proof. And if you’re going to reframe an objection, you have to be careful that your language isn’t too strong. Use phrases like ‘I understand’ and ‘That’s not a problem.’ Words matter here, and it’s all about your tone, delivery, and confidence.”—Haylee Taylor
We have an entire section of the eBook dedicated purely to objection handling. If you want to become an expert, be sure to download your free copy right now.
9. Arguing and Getting Aggressive
What’s your reaction when someone in a customer-facing role gets angry with you?
Do you want to keep talking to them? Probably not.
Do you want to stick around? Nope.
Are you going to buy anything from them? Absolutely not.
This is something that needs to be said, no matter how obvious it might seem. Don’t get angry and aggressive with your prospects.
Sometimes, prospects will get in your face and bark at you. It’s easy to lose control and bark back. But if you do, your sale—and maybe your career—are done.
If you find yourself having difficulties controlling your emotions, speak with your manager or sales leader ASAP. Spend some PTO to unplug and refresh on vacation or sign up for meditation classes to calm yourself down. Do what you have to do to stay in control.
10. Avoiding Your Competition
Even if they’re not on your radar, your company has competitors. And your prospects know who they are because they research you and your company as much as you do them.
Beat your prospects to the punch and address your competition earlier in your conversation. If you don’t, you lose control of the conversation’s direction. It might end up somewhere you don’t want to go.
There’s no need to call anyone out by name, unless that’s part of you sales strategy. You can simply say something like:
“Similar products in the market have the same feature as us, but our product goes a bit further by adding in these two other features as well.”
11. Using Filler Words
Um, filler words are, uh, well…you see, they’re difficult to not use in, like, everyday conversation.
Let’s be real. Filler words won’t tank your deal, but they can certainly make you sound less confident.
If you’re able to, sign up for public speaking groups like Toastmasters and learn how to remove them from your vocabulary. Sales leaders, this is a great professional development investment you can make on your team.
After training to eliminate filler words, your speech will become stronger and more confident. Your prospects will respond accordingly and will be drawn further into conversation. That, in turn, can increase your chances of closing the deal.
12. Playing the “Lone Wolf”
Being a “lone wolf” sounds pretty awesome, but it’s a terrible approach to sales. You’re on a sales team.
In a healthy, high-performing sales organization, teammates will often lean on one another. Whether you’re facing motivation issues, having trouble handling objections, or your prospect needs incredibly technical details that you don’t understand—your team is there to help.
Don’t ever be afraid to call on your peers, managers, VPs, technical team, marketing, product managers, engineers, or even the C-suite executives. They want the deal to close just as much as you do.
13. Not Knowing Where You’re Going
What’s your end-goal with this conversation? Are you trying to send a contract, or are you trying to schedule a demo of your product?
If you don’t go into your call with an express call to action in mind, and a firm understanding of where this deal is in the sales cycle, you’re going to run into issues. Know what your call to action is, and always steer your conversation to that end.
Then, you can confidently make your ask of the prospect when the time presents itself:
- “I’d like to meet again on Tuesday next week at 10:30.”
- “Please sign and send the contract back to us by EOD to lock in your price.”
- “Let’s schedule that demo right now, while we’re both here.”
14. Closing Too Early
If you try to push your close too early, like right after a product demo or even before the deal is passed from SDR to AE, it’s going to fall through. Admittedly, there are times when the sales cycle goes faster than anticipated.
However, in those situations it’s often as a result of the prospect pushing it quickly. Not you.
Stick to your sales strategy and work hard to fulfill all the necessary stages of your sales cycle. The close will come when it needs to.
15. Making the Close too Comfortable
If you want to close a deal, you have to turn on the pressure. If there’s not enough, your prospect might not feel a real sense of urgency to sign and walk away from the table at the last minute.
Even worse, if they’re too comfortable they might hit you with the classic non-decision. It’d be better to lose the deal, confident you gave your close your best shot, than get hit with a gray wave of neutrality.
Put prospects in a state of mild discomfort. Let them make the decision.
16. Focusing on One Close
Any salesperson worth their salt knows their ABCs. Not the children’s song, I’m talking about “Always Be Closing.”
There is no single, perfect moment where the opportunity to close is going to magically present itself. You need to be closing throughout all of your conversations leading up to the final contract signing.
Each touchpoint in the sales cycle has a different “close.” In the first conversation, it’s to set the next meeting, then in the following conversations it’s to set a demo, send a contract, or return a signature.
Don’t focus too hard on the one, ultimate moment of close when you can go into Salesforce and update the deal to “closed-won.” Always be closing.
Overcome Common Sales Mistakes
Look, sales can be really difficult. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that takes you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
The common sales mistakes in our blog here can further compound the lows on the rollercoaster. So, as you go out and hit the phones hard, I want you to remember a few very important things.
First, don’t be discouraged. When you fail, take some time to lick your wounds but then get back up on that horse.
Second, you’re not a bad salesperson if you fail. You might just have some bad sales tactics that need to be leveled-up or changed.
Last, remember that the only true failures in life are the ones in which we learn nothing. Always seek to learn from your failure and carry that lesson forward with you into the future.
And keep this blog handy as a fun, friendly reminder of what not to do when you’re on the phones. All of us at PhoneBurner are rooting for you!