Weak sales approaches and poor decisions allow your prospective clients to make mistakes, mistakes that often include you losing the opportunity and your dream client failing to achieve their goals. Here are nine mistakes you may be enabling your dream clients to make.
- Not Providing a Compelling Reason to Change: Salespeople still believe that their product or service should be enough to compel their dream clients to change. Because they believe their company and their offerings are better than their competitors, they often gloss over the business case for change, if they even know what should be compelling them to change. Lacking a theory and an understanding of why and how their dream client should do something different, they focus elsewhere, on smaller, safer topics. Complaining that your client has gone dark or ghosted you is to ignore the root cause of the negative outcome.
- Avoiding Building Consensus: One of the challenges you will find with any group of people, and especially in business, is a lack of alignment. You will discover disagreements on whether they should be compelled to change, how they should change, when they should change, and whom they should choose as a partner. When your contacts know they lack alignment, they will work vociferously to avoid having to engage stakeholders suspected of opposing what they are trying to do. By allowing them to avoid building consensus, you cede the moral authority to those who were left out of the process, leaving them the ability to stall or halt your initiative when discovered.
- Not Acquiring an Executive Sponsor: There is no more “decision-maker.” Instead, there are “decision-makers.” Even though this is true, major projects or initiatives tend to require someone with authority to approve a deal—and to protect it throughout the process. Typically, an executive sponsor is the person who has the strongest business case for the project or initiative, motivating them to do something to eliminate threats. By allowing your contacts to avoid acquiring an executive sponsor and preventing you from engaging with them, you lessen your chance of winning by opening up risks.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Occasionally, you will find a contact so enthusiastic about the promise of better results that they overstate what’s possible, but also how fast they will achieve them. Maybe you oversold it, or maybe your dream client heard what they wanted to believe, not what you said. If, however, they are allowed to retain their unrealistic expectations, you are to blame for not having adjusted their expectations to match reality. You will make it possible for your client to be embarrassed after the fact, and you will have made recovery more difficult than had you addressed the expectations earlier.
- Skipping Stages and a Lazy Process: There is a particular variety of contact that believes they know what they want and that there is no reason to engage in a sales conversation. Instead, they seem to drive things along, skipping some of the conversations necessary to help them produce real change. Because they are lazy in the process, your solution misses the mark. Or worse, they ask you for a pricing proposal and a contract, which you immediately email them. By allowing them to disengage, you created too little value, and your proposal misses the mark. Not recognizing that a person who doesn’t want to spend time with you isn’t likely to buy from you is an unforced error.
- Believing Price is Value: One of the primary complaints you might make as a salesperson might be the fact that your dream client went deep into the conversation with you, only to decide that your price is too high to consider. You may even accuse them of not understanding the value your solution creates. The truth is that you were responsible for ensuring your prospect understood the difference between the price and the cost. If you didn’t clearly explain the difference and ensure your dream client understood and agreed, the mistake and outcome fall to you.
- Underinvesting: While we are on the subject of money, price, and the investment you ask your client to make, there may not be a more common mistake in sales than allowing the client to underinvest in the outcomes they need. Many salespeople believe that displacing their competitor is made likely by “saving the company money.” They don’t recognize, or they refuse to believe, that if their prospective client had a problem worth solving, they’d willingly invest more for better outcomes. When a client underinvests, you allow them to take money out of their solution and make it more likely they struggle to get the better results you sold them.
- Letting Your Client Sell Your Initiative: Your hard-charging contact has twice told you that they are uncomfortable having you present your solution, and they have insisted that they will present to their task force and leadership team themselves. They have reassured you that you have nothing to worry about, that this is how they do things. After their presentation, your contact tells you, “They decided to go another direction.” You don’t know who “they” are, but you are certain that had you presented, you would have had a happier result at the end of the meeting. Never an easy conversation, and always a painful loss.
- Not Executing: When you are young in sales, you love to hear your dream client complain about your competitor, listing all the ways they are dissatisfied and what they need to change. It’s music to your ears, and you can smell the wet ink on your contract as you walk to the car, telling your sales manager you have all but clinched the deal. Only after you have some experience do you discover that the dream client who complains loudest is the one who refuses to make the changes they need to make on their side to produce a better result. The next salesperson who calls on them will hear the very same complaints about you.
Selling well is never easy, and some of your best clients can be difficult throughout the sales conversation. If you are going to lose, you do so playing the game as well as you are able, and that means avoiding the errors you know will result in an adverse outcome for you and your dream client.
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