It takes a natural talent and practiced skill to be a successful salesperson, but even the most successful sellers make mistakes. Throughout a sales career, reps are likely trying different approaches, taking calculated risks, making mistakes, and learning from them.
For example, we can all probably agree that salespeople like to talk. We like to solve problems, and we can’t do that without babbling about the latest and greatest technology our company has to offer. Our stuff excites us! But are we talking too much? How do we balance our enthusiasm with the need to listen and ask questions? Besides talking too much, what else could we be doing that is impeding our sales?
Here are three sales mistakes you might be making and how to fix them.
What Are the Mistakes?
1. Talking Too Much
A data science team at Gong.io analyzed over one million sales calls and found that top sales reps let the customer talk for more than half of the conversation. If you have been through a Carew sales training program, you know we firmly believe you cannot solve a customer’s problem until you get to the heart of what they want - or until you find their GAP. So, it makes sense that sales reps need to spend more time listening in an exploratory call than speaking.
- According to Gong.io’s research, talk-to-listen ratios tend to develop as such: “Top sales reps talk at most for 46% of a sales call. That means they listen for at least 54% of it. Mid-range performers talk for up to 68% of the time, and the poorest-performing reps aren’t far behind them.” There are plenty of reasons why sales professionals talk too much, and Selling Power describes a few of them here. Find yourself falling into this category? Keep reading for how to combat your tendency to talk too much.
2. Not Asking Enough (Or Asking Too Many) Questions
We know there is certain information we need to uncover from a potential client before moving forward with the right solution. However, if we rapid-fire questions as if we’re trying to check off boxes, clients might shut down or feel interrogated. Conversely, if we fail to ask well-thought-out, open-ended questions, our clients will rarely offer up the information we need. That’s why the art of question-asking is just that: an art.
Harvard Business Review’s Scott Edinger discusses how it’s easy to tell when someone has been through sales training but hasn’t fully immersed themselves in the method. “So the sales force sits down and makes a list of questions designed to extract information from their prospective clients, in a kind of interrogation.” Edinger says, “I’ve sat through many sales calls like this, and trust me it isn’t pretty.”
- So how many questions is the appropriate number of questions? According to Sales Hacker, “Average reps ask 6.3 questions and top performers ask 10 to 14 … and they also dig deeper and listen more.” Knowing you’ve asked the right number of questions in the right way varies from conversation to conversation. The best sales reps can determine when to stop and move on with a few simple tricks (don’t worry, we’ll share below!)
3. Skipping the Close or Not Asking for Business
Have you ever gotten to the end of a pitch and realized there’s only one minute left in your meeting? You’re not alone! Not only is it essential to leave time at the end of your presentation for questions, but you also need to save yourself the time to ask for the business and set up any next steps. After all, you lose all the business you don’t ask for, right? Sales Hacker says, “Without confirming next steps and buy-in, you’re marketing, not selling.”
I Know What I Did Wrong… Now What?
There are methods and practices you can implement to help correct or avoid sales mistakes. These might be common sense but, unfortunately, are not always common practice.
1. Effective, Consistent Pre-Call Planning
Lack of planning is a big reason why sales professionals talk too much or fumble with their words, grill their buyers with too many questions, or don’t ask for the business. “Most successful salespeople spend more time planning than they do in sales presentations. They plan to make time, plan calls and plan all selling activities. Below-average achievers devote most of their time to making sales calls and very little to sales planning,” says Kathleen Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hanzo.co.
- Carew’s Strategic Selling Plan is an excellent tool to help you plan your exploratory sales calls, and our Presentation Diamond is a valuable model for planning presentations. For example, the Diamond Presentation Process will help ensure you check in with your client along the way; soft closes such as “how does that sound?” or “are we tracking?” will help create a no-stress hard close at the end of your call.
2. Active Listening Always
Asking the right questions is crucial, but your client or prospect can tell whether you are genuinely interested in their answers. When you ask a question, be sure to look up and actively engage with the other party as they answer. Offer acknowledgments and ask for clarification until you fully understand what problem you can solve for them.
- LAER: The Bonding Process®, a foundational Carew process model, is a simple way to connect with and actively listen to the customer throughout a sales call. LAER stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, and Respond. As those familiar with Carew’s Dimensions of Professional Selling® program know, there is an active triangular arrow between the L-A-E portions of the model to remind you that you may need to Listen, Acknowledge and Explore multiple times before you have earned the right to Respond.
Mistakes during the sales process can, sadly, cost you deals. Next time you’re preparing for a sales call, slow down for a moment and think about what you value as a customer or buyer. You want to be heard, you want to be asked for your business, and you want to have the right problem solved.