My Biggest Sales Mistakes I Want You To Avoid

sales mistakes to avoidI have been in sales most of my adult life, and have made every rookie mistake.  Unfortunately, I still find myself falling into bad patterns, and often have to slap myself back to reality. 

The great thing about recognizing mistakes is that once you see them, you can avoid them, and work to correct them.

Here is a list of frequent mistakes all salespeople, newbies and seasoned vets, make.

Now this list isn’t comprehensive, just my big bugaboos, tripping me up especially when I started, and hopefully these admissions of failure can help you along the sales journey.

  1. Not asking for the sale

This one is just tragic.  You spend money and time generating leads.  You spend hours cold-calling and finally find someone who will talk with you.  You do all the right things, building rapport, asking questions, finding solutions, having a competitive price, but you never ask to buy.

I’ve done it.  I guess fear causes it.  It seems silly to go through all that work and never ask the person to purchase.  They gave you their time, they answered your questions, they listened to your pitch, but you never asked them to do anything.  You just through up a number, and hoped something would happen.

Don’t feel bad, everyone does it.  In fact, if you master this one element of sales, you are better than 90% of you competition.

Here’s how I know, let me tell you a story.

At one time, in my career, I worked for Progressive.  If you have any experience with them, they are intensely data driven, measuring everything that moves.  In order to get a better handle on agency impressions of the company, and develop better sales training, we initiated mystery shopping.  We would call out to agencies all over the country and ask for a quote, all the while holding a checklist in our hands, looking for sales elements.

This was a big effort, and we called everyone, all 30,000 agencies, from large professional shops, mom & pop agencies, and your non-standard specialists.

Over and over again, we found one consistent feature, no one asked for the sale.  Only 10% asked.  We weren’t looking for a hard sale either.  Just a “when do you want to do this”, or “how does that sound to you”.

This is a big one, so listen to yourself, make a list of potential closes, practice them, put notes on your computer, your phone, the back of your hand, just don’t let yourself forget it, and you will be better than most.

2.  Making it all about price.

Okay, we know insurance has become a commodity right.  If the price is not there, then forget it.  When I talk and listen to friends in sales in other industries, they all say the same.  Their product has become a commodity, price wins.  No industry escapes this.

It would be foolish to believe price is not an option, but it can also be a hurdle.  Not for the customer, but for us.

I remember walking through the sales interview with a lady, entering all the information about her tI could gather, generating the quote, and almost choking when I saw the final price.

“No one would buy this!” I thought.  That is ridiculously expensive.

But because I was new and needed sales, I reasoned what the heck, let’s throw this price out there and see what happens.

Bucking up, and putting on my most enthusiastic voice, I announced the price, secretly waiting for a “Are you crazy?”, the rejecting sound of a click, or a polite, “I am sorry”, but to my surprise, she said it was good.  I scheduled a time to finish the sale, and did a secret little jig of excitement at my desk.

What did I learn?  What is a good deal to one person, may be entirely different to another.  Think about everything you purchase, do always buy the cheapest?  Even when you buy close to the bottom of price ranges, do you always have the best deal, couldn’t you spend a couple more weeks researching to find a better price?  You don’t.  Once the price hits the range you want, and the other benefits are there, you buy.

Price is important, but don’t let it sabotage you.

3.  Not knowing the game

Depending on your industry, every sales process has a game attached to it.  You just need to know it.  Usually it revolves around the customer pitting you against your competition to get a better price.

Here’s how I fell into this trap.  I was prospecting commercial customers, and got pretty excited, because unlike personal lines, I found most people were willing to give me an ear.  Most readily gave up their dec pages and xdates, hoping I had something better.

And many times, I did, but I didn’t make the sale.  I offered a product that had better coverages, and many times equal to lower price, but nothing happened.  No sale was made.  The customer wouldn’t even call me back.  I couldn’t get them on the phone anymore.

What happened?

They used me.

They took my proposal back to their current agent, and used me to get a better product and price.

This happens in every industry, but once you know the game, it is easier to combat.  It will change your approach on the front end.  You start thinking about your competition differently.  You ask better questions.  You frame your proposals better.

Knowing the game, lead me to correct this last mistake.

4.  Not developing relationships and prequalifying properly

The sales process is a lot of work.  Even in personal lines, when you have a comparative rater, and you have learned to fly through the quoting process, you still don’t want to grind out quote after to quote never to close.

That’s like the old prison torture story.  Today the guards make you dig a hole on this side of the yard.  Tomorrow you fill it in.  The next day you move to the other side to dig, then the following you fill it in.  That’s enough to drive a person mad.

Nothing is worse than useless work serving no purpose than to keep you busy.

Change your approach.  Don’t sale, don’t quote, don’t spend time on a customer, until you spend some time evaluating the situation.

Is their incumbent agent their brother or mother?  Forget it.  You aren’t going to win.  Is the customer a fraternity brother with their current agency’s owner?  Chances are bad for you.  But you won’t know this until you ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you need about their relationship with their current agent.  Look for strengths and weaknesses and find a wedge where you can create a relationship.  Perhaps, you can teach them something they never knew about their business or risk situation.  Maybe you have common friends or interests.  Listen to them, and if there is any crack in their current agent relationship, find ways you can offer value the other can not.

This is my list, and I hope it helps you avoid my traps.

Look at your process, look at what your staff does, and see if you can find each of these elements.  Then work toward eliminating these common mistakes.

Are there other sales sins you have committed? 

 
Be Productive,

Theron Mathis
 

photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser via photopin cc

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