The sales process can be a long and arduous journey. Depending on the situation, what might start with a prospecting call in February could easily not close until March of the following year. With that kind of time spent, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting 99% of the way through a sale, only to watch it fall apart at the last minute.
John Holland, Chief Content Officer of CustomerCentric Systems, writes what he believes are five common pitfalls all salespeople should avoid.
- Know the buyer's goals.
Before approaching a prospective client find out their general needs and budget. Having contextual knowledge about where, how, and why a buyer is willing to spend money is vital. According to Holland:
“Sellers need to step back and ask, ‘Why would the title I'm calling on (or the company I'm calling on) be willing to spend the money I'll be asking for'?”
- Know who makes buying decisions.
The first person who answers the phone may be friendly, but is he or she who you actually need to be talking to, or are you wasting valuable time? Though it may seem like the only way in, don’t spend too much time speaking with someone who ultimately can’t help you:
“Many sellers spend a great deal of time with lower levels and try to climb the organizational ladder. This means talking to layers of people that can't say yes, but can say no.”
- Failure to create key player visions.
This page could be taken from the Sales 101 playbook. Every sales pitch needs to be clear, concise, and paint a full picture that’s easy for your prospect to visualize:
“If [executives] knew what barriers existed, they would be attempting to address them. After a thorough diagnosis, executives would like to have a high-level conceptual understanding of the capabilities needed to achieve the desired outcome.”
Holland goes more in-depth into each point, but the overall takeaway is that spending too much time on the proposal stage and with lower-level, non-decision makers can be the kiss of death to closing a sale.
While it may be easier to get one’s foot in the door starting at the bottom, in the end it costs more in time and resources than presenting the sale to mid- to upper-level management, who, while potentially more intimidating and harder to pin down, are the folks who can give those hard yeses.