Who’s more likely to make a mistake: The new sales person who’s never sold before, or the experienced sales person who’s been on the front lines for years?
The reality is, they’re both going to make mistakes. Experienced salespeople simply make different mistakes.
Here are the five biggest errors seasoned sales people make … along with the steps you can take to avoid them.
1. They over-qualify.
Successful salespeople pay attention to their customers’ common characteristics. This helps them focus on the most lucrative buyer personas and disqualify poor fits.
Unfortunately, many start to believe there’s only one “recipe” for a good customer. In other words, they over-qualify.
To give you an example, suppose that you’re selling in a competitive landscape. You noticed you enjoy a high success rate when you talk to prospects 90 days before their contract renewal.
When a buyer who’s six months away from renewing their contract falls in your lap, you might think, “That’s not the DNA of my typical buyer; I’m not going to invest in the opportunity.”
This thinking can really damage your potential earnings. At any given time, 10-15% of the deals you’re working on should be risky. If you have 20 in your pipeline, two or so should be opportunities you’re not comfortable forecasting. You’ll maintain a predictable revenue without leaving valuable money on the table.
2. They lean too heavily on existing champions.
As salespeople become comfortable in their role and territory, they begin to develop strong relationships with certain customers. In fact, the longer a salesperson stays in a role, the more account champions they usually have.
But familiarity breeds complacency. As soon as you get comfortable and assume that you’re guaranteed your customer’s business (both current and future) you expose yourself to the competition. By far the biggest reason smaller, scrappier suppliers can kick out long-standing vendors is because the incumbent stopped truly working the account.
To avoid this result, use a multi-threaded approach. Every month or quarter, ask yourself:
“Do I know who all of the current customer stakeholders are?”
“Who’s left since I last surveyed the account? Who’s joined? Who’s been promoted? Who’s moved teams?”
“Which business units, departments, or office locations should I target next?”
Challenge yourself to add at least one new contact to your CRM every quarter. If there’s an opportunity to expand the account, you should be adding a new opportunity into your pipeline every year.
I don’t recommend asking your champion to make these introductions for you. Not only is it a big ask, they don’t always know the people you should be speaking to.
Instead, be upfront and tell them your objectives. Make them feel important by offering to include them in your conversations.
Here’s a script you can use:
“I’ve worked with you for [X months, years] and [company] for [Y months, years]. You’re an amazing client. This year, I’m going to talk to more people; my objective is to speak with one new [business unit, team, department, stakeholder, user] each [month, quarter]. When I make contact with them, would you like to be included on those calls?”
3. They stop learning.
According to HubSpot research, the majority of salespeople with five-plus years of experience say that when they find something works, they don’t change it. That’s an issue. While a tactic or technique may have been very effective in 2010, 2012, or even 2018, technology, industries, jobs, and people change. Continual success depends on continual learning, practice, and evolution.
Here’s one example. If asked you to describe the purpose of an email subject line, you’d probably say that it’s to convince the prospect to read the email and perhaps summarise its contents. If it were 2005, that would have been a great response. However, in 2019 email subject lines have a different purpose. Buyers don’t really care about them, but spam filters do. Use the wrong words or format, and your prospect’s email client will send your message straight to the spam folder.
To ensure you’re keeping your skills sharp and current, read sales blogs (like this one), subscribe to sales podcasts, attend training, proactively request feedback and guidance from your sales manager, go to sales conferences and networking events, or ask the other salespeople on your team what’s working for them. You probably don’t have time for all of these, so pick two or three strategies to focus on.
4. They haven’t networked within their company.
Let’s say a salesperson joins their company when there are 10 employees. Fast forward a few years later and the business has grown to 150 employees. While they might think they’ve exhausted all of their networking options, the salesperson hasn’t taken into account all the new people who have joined. These individuals can be a valuable source of knowledge and potential referrals. It’s important for even the most experienced salesperson to continue networking and meeting colleagues at their company. If not, they’re missing out on opportunities for new prospects and potential customers.
5. They ignore the importance of small deals.
Small deals are important. If you take a look at the salespeople who meet their target, they usually have a mix of smaller deals that helped them meet their goal.
Those that exceed target during a quarter often had large deals that closed during that time period. But there’s risk associated with larger deals.
For example, a salesperson may have hit the following target percentages:
Q1: 105% of target
Q2: 99% of target
Q3: 44% of target
A junior manager might look at that performance and assume the salesperson had a weak pipeline and didn’t do enough prospecting when they didn’t hit quota. While a more experienced manager would look a bit deeper and look at the breakdown of the deals in their pipeline. It’s quite possible that the performance from the first two quarters was attributed to larger deals.
Instead of looking solely at monetary performance, salespeople should pay attention to units, or the number of deals they have. Let’s say salesperson #1 has a pipeline forecast of £60,000 that’s made of six deals. And salesperson #2 has a $100,000 forecast made of four deals. Salesperson #1 would be in a better place than salesperson #2 if one of their deals fell through because salesperson #1 has multiple deals to fall back on. And salesperson #2 isn’t able to recover as easily.
It wasn’t because they had a bad pipeline; it was because they were hitting target based on a few big deals. Remember, don’t overlook the smaller deals that make up target-achieving numbers.
Newbie or veteran — you’ve got to keep learning and moving forward.