18 ways to make sure you lose the sale

Sept. 28, 2011
If more salespeople were as good at making sales as they are at losing them, they could write their own ticket just about anywhere. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. They’re so blinded by their own goals that they’re literally unable to see the prospect, says author John Graham.

By John Graham

It happens so often that it’s almost as if someone is out there training salespeople to fail. Here’s an example of a salesperson calling and launching into his or her spiel — “Our station is a perfect fit for your client. When can we set up a time to get together so I can show you what we can do …?”

This is the perfect pitch for failure, setting off bells and red lights in one’s head. There’s no need to do anything but end the call as quickly as possible. The prospect wants to say, “Don’t you get it?”

If more salespeople were as good at making sales as they are at losing them, they could write their own ticket just about anywhere. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. They’re so blinded by their own goals that they’re literally unable to see the prospect.

Here’s a checklist of 18 behaviors that contribute to losing sales instead of closing them.

1. Don’t bother qualifying prospects.
This takes valuable time away from trying to find someone to talk to. Doing research only holds you back. By not qualifying prospects, you can be sure your closing rate will be very low.

2. When making an appointment by phone, start by talking about what you’re selling. It doesn’t make any difference that the person you’re calling doesn’t have any idea who you are or which company you represent or why you’re making the call, but don’t let that stop you. Just charge ahead. This will be almost 100% successful in getting the prospect to hang up.

3. Don’t waste time and money finding ways to cultivate prospects. If prospects aren’t smart enough to figure out the value your solutions can bring them, or how your knowledge and experience can benefit them after talking to you for a few minutes, don’t bother trying to share your ideas and expertise with them.

4. Never take time to ask questions. When you’re in front of a customer, use every minute to do as much talking as you can. Asking questions or trying to get the prospect involved in the conversation is counterproductive. There’s one question you should ask, however. Put prospects on the spot and make them feel uncomfortable by asking, “What do you think?” after giving them your presentation.

5. Be sure to drop the names of other clients. Let them know you’re a real operator. Making them feel like they’re small potatoes is a great way to impress customers.

6. Never listen to what the prospect is saying. Remember, you’re there to make a sale, so don’t be distracted when the customer starts talking about his or her issues or problems. Even though it can be difficult, stay on track and be prepared to bring the conversation back to getting the order.

7. Always assume that the customer is looking for the lowest price. Have at least a three-tiered pricing schedule in your briefcase. This way you’ll be ready to lower the price when you call back and customers tell you they’re not interested or your price is too high. A few days later call back with a new, lower, “manager approved” price. This pricing system is certain to create customer confidence.

8. Don’t bother trying to figure out a prospect’s problems. You don’t want to get bogged down in the prospect’s issues. They will only deflect attention from your presentation. You’re there on a mission so don’t let anything distract you.

9. Forget about small accounts. You’re only interested in getting the big fish in your boat. Put all your time and effort into going after the big ones. Small ones are too much bother and it’s not a good use of your time servicing them.

10. Always push for a meeting. Of course the prospect doesn’t know you or what you do or why you want to meet. Just push for a meeting. With face time, you’re confident you’ll get the order. Never ask prospects how they like to work with a salesperson or what they would like from you.

11. Throw in the right words. Pepper your presentation with terms such as value, 24/7, transparent, ROI, benchmark, throw a curve, strategize, robust, seamless, drill down, core values, partnering, and corporate culture. That’s all it takes. Don’t worry about explaining what the terms mean. Using the jargon will send the message that you’re a “cool” salesperson.

12. Focus on the low hanging fruit. Even though you know you’re a great salesperson, it’s only smart to look for the easy sales by pushing price to get the order. Sure, the customer will probably leave when a pushy competitor comes along, but that’s just the way it goes.

13. Don’t bother keeping good records. Always make it known that you’re a salesperson and that good salespeople aren’t good at details. Anyway, you’re not a clerk or administrative assistant. You’re the hunter out in the bush bringing home the orders that feed the business. You can’t be bothered with paperwork or updating the sales reporting system.

14. Don’t waste valuable selling time following up after making the sale. Follow-up is for customer service. Keep going forward; don’t let yourself look back. How can you be expected to meet your quota if you’re servicing accounts? Anyway, once you have the commission, what do you care? If the customers need something, they’ll call the office.

15. Never bother to find out about a prospect’s business. That’s nothing more than window dressing. It doesn’t mean anything more than making the prospect feel good. You can keep the patter going. That’s what makes you a great salesperson.

16. If prospects don’t buy, don’t bother with them. Make it a rule never to go back to prospects if they don’t buy after you’ve “given the right amount of attention.” Move on to the next one.

17. Stay focused on making the sale and ignore the prospect’s buying process. Getting on the customer’s “wavelength” is for inexperienced salespeople, not pros. Present yourself as a “consultative salesperson,” someone who wants to understand how the customer thinks. Talk a lot about problem solving, even though your real objective is to get the order.

18. Never prepare or rehearse a presentation. You’ve been selling for years so you know how to handle every situation. Just get the appointment and play it by ear. Preparation and rehearsing are for amateurs, the new people in sales. Who needs to practice? You’re out there doing it day-in-and-day-out. Don’t give a thought to the fact that the men on the PGA Tour never stop practicing. You’re a pro.

There are many other ways to lose a sale, but these 18 are a reminder that it’s so easy for us to con ourselves into believing that selling is different from every other job in business. Once you “have it down,” there’s no need to perfect your skills, gain new insights, or expand your knowledge. Whatever else this is, it’s the formula for losing sales.

John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm. He is the author of The New Magnet Marketing and Break the Rules Selling, he writes for a variety of business publications, and he speaks on business, marketing, and sales topics for company and association meetings. Graham is the winner of an APEX Grand Award in writing, and the only two-time recipient of the Door & Hardware Institute’s Ryan Award in Business Writing. Contact him at 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170, 617-328-0069, or [email protected]. The company’s website is grahamcomm.com.