Five MAJOR mistakes salespeople make

Five MAJOR mistakes salespeople make

Most of your salespeople are not performing to their potential, in fact a recent survey suggests that 8% of most sales teams are responsible for 80% of the company’s sales!!  (ISMM, Feb 2016) Instead of the expensive removal and rehiring to gain “better” sales people – it might be more cost effective to just improve the activity of the ones you have. The best starting point is understanding where most sales people make the biggest mistakes. This blog will look at the five major mistakes salespeople make with some suggestions on what they can do to improve their sales performance.

After reading an excellent article in the ISMM magazine I thought I would comment on their findings…


8% of most sales teams are responsible for 80% of the company’s sales!!


Mistake No.1 – Phoning without a reason or purpose

I can understand why this one is No.1…. So many times I see companies where salespeople are calling up prospects just for the sake of it.. perhaps it’s to hit activity quotas or they’ve been given a list of people to call. The focus seems to be getting through the list rather than on the quality of the call. With this attitude, they may as well not call at all –  it’s a waste of time and company resources!

When given a quota or list of names to call, the salesperson needs to have a reason to call. What is the nature of the list? Is it from a specific sales campaign? Is it a type of industry that have specific problems? Perhaps the reason could be about informing the prospect about a change at work, new product, new legislation?

A targeted approach to calling prospects is a much better use of time and will improve results. Having  a purpose/outcome of the call is also very important. The prospect on the other line will be very confused if the salesperson doesn’t have either a reason for calling or an the ideal outcome (way forward). Perhaps a visit or a trial/sample?

It’s not that salespeople shouldn’t be phoning prospects, it is an important part of sales that creates new opportunities. Phoning without a reason or purpose will make it very tedious for the salespeople and the prospect. Focused and targeted calls, will however, make the experience more rewarding for both parties – with a much improved success rate!

Mistake No.2 – Failing to understand the prospect’s wants & needs

On average 13% of customers truly believes a salesperson understands their wants/needs. The discovery phase in the sales process is essential if salespeople want to find out what the customer really needs. All to often salespeople think they already know what the problems will be before they even visit a client and offer a solution that doesn’t match the true needs of the customer.

Being able to manage the sales process well and having good listening skills will improve the salesperson’s opportunity to win more sales by offering the right solution to the prospect/customer.

To improve on this mistake see the blogs on this topic – “Selling is a process!” & “Why are listening skills so difficult to master?


ONLY 13% of customers truly believe a salesperson understands their wants/needs.


Mistake No.3 – Not doing enough homework

Preparation for a phone call or visit is essential to be able to tailor the sales approach to the prospect. Too many times I hear of sales people who haven’t prepared and made time to understand the prospect better before making a call.

Making a bog standard generic visit/call will not win over the prospect who want to feel like you understand their business and any potential issues they may have. If a salespeople want to stand out, they have to make the effort to personalise the call.

Mistake No.4 – Waiting for orders to come in

This is one of the worst traps to fall into, salespeople get into the habit of being order takers. They either wait for customers to contact them with an order or spend their time calling customers who would have ordered anyways. This is an excellent way avoid gaining any new business and growing sales.


Salespeople need to be more proactive.


Yes, it’s important to retain business. It takes a lot more effort to gain new business than keep it. Proactivity with existing clients is letting them know of any new products or services that they need/want to ensure customer loyalty. The competition will be alerting your customers if they have anything exciting on the horizon and there’s nothing worse having to tell them that you can offer similar… after the fact…

The main proactivity to avoid being that order taker salesperson is to actively seek new customers or opportunities with existing customers with a focused and targeted approach.

Mistake No.5 – Not using resources available

There are so many resources available to salespeople nowadays.. from both their own company and their customers/prospects such as company & product information, testimonials etc.. Most of this is at their fingertips (and absolutely free!) from Google website searches, twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.

All this information is of great value to a salesperson. It can tell you of any challenges a company might be going through, who the decision maker is and what are the main reasons they may need/want their products and services.

However, this information is often ignored making interactions and relationship building much harder for the salesperson.

What can we learn from others mistakes?

Many salespeople should start thinking differently about the way they sell. They should stop making sloppy sales calls and start making focused and targeted calls/visits at the right time, for the right reasons and with the right information at their fingertips.