Sales September 27, 2014

Are Your Sales Teams Still Making Basic Mistakes?


I recently had the opportunity to sit with one of our clients in a Marketing / PR presentation that was being given to them about how to better position their business online.  Sadly, my recent experience has revealed that there are still some basic sales mistakes that many sales professionals are making today.

The client in question is one that we have been helping with their sales team for a while now so I have got to know the owners pretty well.  They had asked me to be there in an observation capacity and to make sure that whatever branding and imaging improvements being considering were fully aligned to the sales effort, which made perfect sense.

On the day of the meeting there were 6 people, 3 from the client business, 2 from the potential supplier and myself in the room.  They had not only bought some pretty big design images in their large folders but also asked, only upon turning up and wasting 5 minutes, if they could have access to a screen for a PowerPoint presentation.  That said when I was told about this I have to admit to being quite impressed as I assumed they had obviously prepared and done their homework on the business.

After the regular pleasantries we sat down to listen as the supplier staff professionally positioning themselves either side of the screen so as to capture attention – all very professional we thought.

Unfortunately that’s about where things started to go wrong in the client’s eyes.  It wasn’t that the content of their pitch was bad or any worse than any other competitor; it was down to some fairly basic sales errors:

  • The client had allocated an hour in their diary, and as they had not been asked how long they had to present, they simply ran out of time.

  • Of the hour, the suppler spent and astonishing 35 minutes (and a full 24 slides) going through what great work they had done for some very big corporate clients – none of which was particularly relevant to this mid-sized SME.

  • Not once did anybody ask who I was, nor my capacity in the meeting.

  • It was not until a full 45 minutes had past did the supplier ask a single question of the client, something I found quite amazing.

  • When the questions were eventually asked, every single one could have been answered by looking at either their website or at Companies House data in advance.

I know it’s very easy to sit on the other side of the fence and criticise but it really did force home some very simple errors that many sales people regularly make in front of clients, including:

  • Respect the clients time – ask (ideally in advance) how long you have to present you offering.

  • Do your homework and prepare on the company background – do not waste busy peoples time by asking supposedly  ‘qualifying’ questions that can easily be researched in advance.

  • Ask, ideally in advance, who will be in the meeting, their position and involvement in the meeting – perhaps send an agenda in advance.

  • Make your content relevant, together with your value proposition/point of differential.

  • It’s all about the client needs not how great you think you are.

  • The old adage – 2 ears and one mouth – make sure you use them in the correct proportion.

I suppose if there was any good news about these shortcomings, it would be that they are all relatively simple faults to rectify, but that is only providing you take action and make the necessary changes to your standard Sales Process. 

If you fail to do so, or even worse, you do not currently have standard Sales Process that is documented, then I would suggest as an MD to a fast growing business myself, would be a potential restriction as to how fast you can develop and scale your organisation.

What do you think?

More from Vistage:

8 Sales Lessons Ebook for MDs


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