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Top 10 Reasons You Blew That Opportunity

A great philosopher once said: "Everything happens for a reason." When it comes to selling, most failures result mistakes that are easily avoidable, providing you understand what went wrong. Here are the top ten reasons that sales reps blow real-live sales opportunities.

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Reason #10: You talked too much.
  • What you did: You nattered on and on about your company and its offerings.
  • Why you did it: You wanted to make the sale so badly that you tried too hard.
  • How it screwed you up: You didn't find out what you really needed to know in order to close the deal.
  • What the prospect thought: "My Lord, this guy loves the sound of his own voice."
  • How to avoid a repeat: Get "centered" before your next sales call. During your conversation with the customer, focus your intent on customer: words, gestures, tonality and context. Don't think about what you're going to say next. Listen, then respond, then ask another question.
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Reason #9: You asked obvious questions.
  • What you did: You asked lots of questions that you could have easily have answered by searching on the Internet.
  • Why you did it: You figured you could wing it without laying the groundwork.
  • How it screwed you up: You ended up wasting valuable time with the customer.
  • What the prospect thought: "For cryin' out loud, doesn't this guy know we have a website?"
  • How to avoid a repeat: Research the customer thoroughly before your first important meeting. Continue to research throughout the cycle, as you learn more about the customer.
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Reason #8: You were outsold.
  • What you did: You never discovered who else was selling to the account.
  • Why you did it: You were so excited at the opportunity, you didn't want to look too hard at something that might scuttle it.
  • How it screwed you up: The competitor outmaneuvered you by getting the inside track for his proposal.
  • What the prospect thought: "Why is he still calling me?"
  • How to avoid a repeat: Always ask who else is calling on a prospect. Figure out their sales strategy based upon whom they're calling upon. Come up with a plan to counter the competitor's move to keep the playing field level.
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Reason #7: You forgot to sell.
  • What you did: You got so into "relationship building" that you never moved the sales forward.
  • Why you did it: You found it easier to make a new friend than to take the risks involved in developing and closing the account.
  • How it screwed you up: You were afraid to put the friendship at risk, so you never got up the gumption to close the deal.
  • What the prospect thought: "Gosh, what a nice guy!"
  • How to avoid a repeat: Remember that the best way to build a long-term SALES relationship is to sell to the customer, early and frequently. Put rapport-building activities into a business context, so that you become business allies rather than bosom buddies.
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Reason #6. You didn't know your product.
  • What you did: You didn't take the time to learn the ins and outs of your product set.
  • Why you did it: You figured that you could always check the specification (or call an engineer) later, once the customer was interested.
  • How it screwed you up: The customer knew more about your products (and your competition) than you, totally destroying your credibility and ability to add value.
  • What the prospect thought: "How dare that firm send a complete novice to sell to us!"
  • How to avoid a repeat: When they have product training at the quarterly sales meeting, actually attend the training course -- without a hangover from the previous night's partying. Before calling on the customer, review the products that might interest him. Have all the spec sheets and information to hand (either online or in your briefcase), just in case.
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Reason #5. You didn't know the industry.
  • What you did: You didn't bother to research the basics of the customer's industry.
  • Why you did it: You probably figured that one industry is pretty much like another, so why bother learning the details.
  • How it screwed you up: The customer realized that your experience wasn't really applicable to his industry, thereby putting you into the "also-ran" category.
  • What the prospect thought: "Doesn't this guy realize that we have unique needs?"
  • How to avoid a repeat: Prior to meeting with any customer, dig around on the Internet to find analyst reports and news articles about the industry. Find out the major players, the major firms, and the major concerns. Take notes, so that you don't have to do it all over again next time you call on a similar customer.
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Reason #4: You don't know business basics.
  • What you did: You revealed your ignorance of basic business and accounting.
  • Why you did it: Uhhh... Because you are ignorant about basic business and accounting.
  • How it screwed you up: Your lack of knowledge seriously limited your ability to add value. You couldn't talk intelligently about ROI or how your offerings would impact the customer's bottom line.
  • What the prospect thought: "Why is this guy in sales?"
  • How to avoid a repeat: Go to your local college or community college and enroll in a basic business course. Find out how to read a financial report, how understand an annual report, and how to calculate ROI. You don't need an MBA degree to sell, but you do need to know what you're talking about.
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Reason #3: You didn't know how the customer buys.
  • What you did: You didn't discover anyting about that customer's unique buying process.
  • Why you did it: You were focused on your sales process -- how you thought the sale was supposed to going -- rather than on the customer's buying process.
  • How it screwed you up: You ended up dealing with inexplicable delays as the customer took actions that were outside your understanding. You pushed for decisions when the time wasn't ripe. Ultimately, you didn't take the steps you needed to take in order to clinch the deal.
  • What the prospect thought: "This guy is really pushy."
  • How to avoid a repeat: Gently ask and discover how the customer buys. Then adjust your sales process so that it matches the buying process. Take the steps that help the customer move to the next stage in their buying process.
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Reason #2: You Missed a Big Change.
  • What you did: You kept believing the deal would go through, even though the customer's environment was changing.
  • Why you did it: You were hoping that the big layoff/restructure/acquisition (or whatever) wouldn't make a difference.
  • How it screwed you up: Your sponsors and contacts lost power (or even their jobs) in the big shakeup, leaving you without the leverage to move the sale forward.
  • What the prospect thought: "I wonder if I can get a job working in his firm."
  • How to avoid a repeat: As soon as you discover there are big changes in the works, increase your focus on the account. Offer to help during the transition. Make more calls to your contacts. Find out who's benefiting from the change (there's always somebody). Move quickly to shore up your position and build enough connections so that the deal will remain alive, regardless of what happens.
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Reason #1: You let the ball drop.
  • What you did: Like millions of sales pros before you, you simply didn't do what it takes to close the deal.
  • Why you did it: Probably you were working too many accounts and too many deals.
  • How it screwed you up: While you may have made some sales elsewhere, this lost opportunity means lower revenue for your company, and a loss in your reputation, both with your management and with your erstwhile prospects.
  • What the prospect thought: "What the heck ever happened to that sales guy??"
  • How to avoid a repeat: It's all a matter of organization. Spend a half hour EVERY MORNING to structure your day. Schedule time so that you're 100 sure that you can return ALL your calls promptly. If you discover that you're swamped, hand some of your accounts to somebody else.
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