5 Fatal Sales Mistakes to Avoid

Is your small business selling as much as you should be?  If you’re missing your sales goals, you or your employees may be making one or more of these five fatal sales mistakes.

You’ve got a great product or service. It’s a bit pricey, but there is a market for what you sell. In fact, when you followed up with some of your prospects, you found out that they purchased from one of your competitors instead of you. What’s wrong? Why aren’t you or your salespeople making more sales?

The problem could be that you and your salespeople are so busy chasing the next “really hot” lead and are so focused on spending time with prospects that fit a certain profile that you’re all ignoring ready-to-buy prospects that are close at hand.

The story below is one example of customer profiling gone wrong. Sadly, it’s a situation that many shoppers experience because, to the salesperson, they don’t look or seem like the ideal customer. Although the story is about a car-shopping trip, it’s illustrative of serious mistakes that are often made by salespeople selling big-ticket items.

Here’s what happened:

I decided a couple of years ago that it was time to get a new SUV. The one I was driving was getting old, and I wanted to replace it so I wouldn’t have to worry about it breaking down. I also wanted the safety features available on newer vehicles. So, I set out by myself one sunny summer afternoon to look for cars.

Before I stepped into the first car showroom, I’d assumed salespeople would be eager to see a customer and that I’d be greeted if not with open arms, at least with a smile and a handshake.

But that didn’t happen in most of the dealerships. Instead, I left most of them wondering how they stay in business and how the salespeople feed their families. The reason? Most of the salespeople I encountered made one or more of these sales-killing mistakes:

Sales Mistake # 1: Ignoring the Customer

In several dealerships, I received a cursory “Hello” from a greeter sitting near the front door and was then pointed in the direction of the SUVs on the showroom floor. In about half of the dealerships I visited, I was ignored after that, even though I was sitting in the cars attempting to adjust seats, adjust mirrors to check on visibility, and lifting the tailgate to look at the size of the cargo area.

The dealerships I was shopping in weren’t crowded. In fact, I had made a point of going car shopping on a weekday because car showrooms in our area are very busy on weekends. And there were salesmen who seemed to be available in most of the dealerships. (The day I did most of my shopping, all the salespeople in the dealerships I stopped at were men.) Was I being ignored because I was a woman shopping alone for a car? I suspect that was the case in at least a couple of dealerships. The reason for my suspicion: when I returned to those dealerships with my husband on a busy weekend, there was no problem getting a salesperson to speak with us.

RELATED: 10 Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

Sales Mistake # 2: Profiling the Customer

A good salesperson qualifies prospects so they can focus their energies on those prospects who are most likely to make a purchase. Doing so makes sense. But profiling customers — in other words, deciding by a prospect’s appearance, instead of speaking to and qualifying the prospect — is bad for business.

And that’s what I think happened at two of the luxury car dealerships I stopped at. Besides being a woman shopping alone, I suspect I was ignored at those dealerships because I didn’t look like what they envisioned a customer to look like.

It was a summer day, and I had taken the afternoon off to go car shopping. So, I wasn’t wearing business clothes. And I wasn’t carrying a designer handbag or wearing brand-name clothes. I was wearing a pair of capri pants and a blouse that were neat and presentable, but nothing you’d see in this week’s Bloomingdale’s ad. At one of those two dealers, I was ignored even after I walked back to the greeter and asked to speak to a salesperson because I had some questions about features on the vehicle.

“Oh, I forgot about you,” she said. She picked up a phone on her desk and called a salesperson. “He’ll be right with you,” she told me as she hung up. Ten minutes later, no salesperson came to talk to me, so I left.

Sales Mistake # 3: Not Knowing the Product

The day my husband did come with me, I test drove a few of the cars I had seen and liked on my previous shopping trip. After I finished driving one high-end car, my husband asked the salesperson who was helping us a couple of question. To our surprise, the salesperson didn’t know the answers. The questions were things any car salesperson should have known, but this one didn’t. The individual’s lack of knowledge wouldn’t have stopped me from buying the vehicle if I had liked it, but I would have found a different dealership to buy from.

Sales Mistake # 4: Denying the Customer’s Objections Are Real

Overcoming objections is a skill salespeople work to acquire. But telling a potential customer that something they’re concerned about isn’t a “real” issue or isn’t needed is one of fastest ways to lose the customer’s trust.

One item that was high on my “essential features” list was blind spot detectors. At one dealership, I noticed the SUV I was looking at didn’t list blind spot detectors on the ticket on the car window. Instead of trying to upsell me to the company’s bigger SUV (which did have blind spot monitors), the salesperson insisted several times that the SUV I was looking at was “small” and didn’t need them.

A salesman for a different brand car, when asked about recalls, tried to imply that the recalls were being hyped too much by the media, and that most of the problems the media reported were really caused by the drivers, not by defects in the automobiles.

RELATED: 15 Ways to Overcome Sales Objections

Sales Mistake # 5: Not Following Up

Out of some 10 or 11 car dealerships I visited, only two followed up. One of those two follow-ups was from the salesperson I eventually bought my new car from.

Now, I didn’t decide on where to buy my car based solely on who followed up and who didn’t. But I had narrowed my choice down to two SUVs that were similarly priced and had similar features. And among the factors that influenced my decision was a gut feeling about which dealership would be more responsive should any problems develop. If a salesperson doesn’t care enough to follow up with a pretty good prospect, then I couldn’t help wondering how responsive the dealership as a whole would be should be any problems with the vehicle after I bought it.

RELATED: Why Salespeople Don’t Follow-Up and What to Do About It

Advice for Salespeople

Car salespeople aren’t the only ones who make these sales-killing mistakes. I’ve run into the same behaviors from other salespeople, too. So, whether you sell cars or something else, the moral of this story is to take the time to talk to your prospects and qualify them based on your conversation, not on their looks, gender, age, or anything else. Treat every prospect you encounter not just as looker or tire-kicker, but as a potential lifetime customer — one who will want to come back to you the next time they need what you sell, and who will brag to their friends about the great product and service they got from you.

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