Having worked closely with technology sales people over the past decade, I’ve observed some self-limiting behavior that prevents salespeople from becoming more successful.

Some of these are so obvious that you would think it can’t be a problem. But sales productivity is about getting the basics right and repeating them.

Here are a few of the more common pitfalls and how you can avoid them.

1. Not using social media profiles

Now you’re probably wondering if this is another rant on social selling… it’s not. But every sales person in this social-age needs to keep his or her social media profiles updated.

Seasoned professional buyers do their diligence before they meet salespeople and your Linkedin profile is their first impression of you.

Initial impressions are lasting impressions so make sure that you post a photograph to your profile and that it’s a professional portrayal of you as a business-person.

For more advice on social media, Kurt Shaver’s article on using a little-known Linkedin introduction technique is useful.

2. Failing to do your homework

There is no excuse for not doing your homework prior to a sales call. Sound preparation is essential for achieving sales outcomes.

Spend a few minutes reading up about the prospect and the company, before making that call.

If it’s an opening call on a major company, then you have a lot at stake and your preparation might run to a few days; researching, developing an insight that is relevant to your prospects business, talking to vendors in the account and linked contacts that can give you a view from the inside.

At a minimum, a quick read of the news section of any company’s website will give you an idea of where the company is heading and provide topics for relevant opening conversations.

In the same way a professional executive will check out who they are meeting, they also check to see if you have looked at their Linkedin bio prior to the meeting.

3. Lack of an engaging opening

The “elevator pitch” is a basic ingredient of sales lore and conventional wisdom is that every sales person should be really good at delivering it.

But no one likes to be pitched.

Salespeople need confidence in opening meetings with buyers or casual conversations with non-buyers to address the “so what do you do?” question.

In opening sales meetings, salespeople need to address how they have helped other buyers just like them to solve problems, perhaps with a story or anecdote from one of your customers that will engage the buyer – not a canned 30 second “its all about me elevator pitch”

4.  Death by collateral

20 years ago buyers would read your collateral, because that’s how they learned about your products.

Today, buyers don’t have time to read it and why should they, when they can find just what they want in a couple of mouse clicks.

I had a call from a salesperson this morning – I  told him to call me back in 6 months. He then offered to send me some information on his company. Why? I said no thanks.

Buyers don’t need salespeople sending collateral in email or leaving “collateral packs” with them.

Kill your collateral.

Work with your marketing team. Capture the relevant capabilities of your products and services and chunk the capabilities into reusable components and store them where you can quickly grab them and reuse them in written communication.

A couple of simple but well developed and reusable pieces of content that communicate your vision and the problems you solve with clarity and purpose are worth ten collateral packs.

A final word of advice, don’t send .pdf’s unless the buyer specifically asks for them. Send the link to the artice or item, where they can download it if they wish.

5. Not listening

Most salespeople are good talkers, but they are poor listeners.

They can’t wait to talk about their services or products and typically before giving the customer a chance to complete his/her line of thought. Mike Bosworth calls this “premature elaboration”.

Ted Rubin’s article “Develop and acute ability to Listen” is a great read for salespeople to get better at listening.

Also Mark Goulston’s book Real Influence is essential reading for salespeople who need to get from “their here” to “the buyers their”.

6. Hanging-in there instead of Qualifying out.

Salespeople will hang-in and go the distance on a deal and lose, when in their gut they know early-on that their chances of winning the opportunity are remote.

This is perhaps the worst of all sales sins.

Hope is not a strategy.

Salespeople and their managers need a qualification routine to increase pipeline and to focus their valuable time on opportunities that can close.

Salespeople only have so much time. Every pursuit has an opportunity cost.

If you flip your mindset from selling somebody your products, to using your time to “buy customers” who have problems they wish to solve, you will be more successful.

About the Author: Rajiv Mathew is the head of Marketing at Compassites Software. He is a hands-on technology marketing & communications professional with proven expertise in multiple facets of the marketing spectrum. He loves branding and has been in love with it from school days!

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