Ice Cubes To Eskimos

Five Sales Blunders

What not to do when selling

Ask Kevin Davis for a list of the five most frequent sales blunders, and his biggest problem becomes trying to narrow down the field of countless common mistakes to a select few. That's because this Danville, California, sales trainer and author of Getting Into Your Customer's Head (Times Business/Random House) has made a distinguished living studying such goofs . . . and, believe us, he's seen plenty of them.

If any of the following sound familiar, at least you can take solace in the fact that you're not alone:

1. Thinking about the selling process, not the buying process. Make this big mistake, and "you're too focused on your own agenda, not the customer's. You're self-absorbed," says Davis. Worse still, customers today can actually predict your next move--at least when you concentrate too much on technique and not enough on what the customer needs. Says Davis, "Today's customers are sick and tired of self-focused product-pushers. Sell slower, and your customers will buy faster."

2. Failing to identify behind-the-scenes decision-makers. Up to 90 percent of the buying decision occurs when the salesperson isn't even around, says Davis, who points out that many other parties often participate in making the decision to buy. Successful selling means identifying those behind-the-scenes decision-makers--and making sure features and benefits resonate with them, too.

3. Neglecting to educate customers about the costs of doing nothing. "For many salespeople, the number-one competitor is the customer's decision to wait," says Davis. Savvy sellers know how to show a customer the real costs associated with delaying a purchase. Waiting might seem a safe choice to them now, but successful salespeople make a habit of popping that balloon.

4. Calling on prospects who don't value your value. If your big selling strength is high quality, you're probably wasting time going after purchasing agents who are far more price-focused, says Davis. A key to successful selling is identifying the right potential customers who already want, need and value the product or service you have to sell.

5. Failing to resolve a customer's fears. What kills the deal in the eleventh hour, when you're sure you've landed a big one? What makes customers quake in their boots before they sign on the dotted line? What's the big reason why customers pull out of a deal in those last minutes? They're afraid that, somehow, their buying decision might be wrong and that they'll suffer in the eyes of their co-workers, boss, family and friends. We're all fearful that we just might be buying the next Edsel--the little product that couldn't--and the smart salesperson "identifies the sources of a customer's fears and finds ways to alleviate them," says Davis. So in every one of your potential sales, be prepared to fall back on a plan for resolving your customers' biggest fears.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ice Cubes To Eskimos.

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