5 Fatal Sales Mistakes to Avoid

by Janet Attard
Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2019
Are you selling as much as you should be? If you're missing your sales goals, you or your employees may be making one or more of these 5 fatal sales mistakes.
sales mistakes
Image source: BigStockPhoto.com

You've got a great product or service. It's a bit pricey, but there is a market for what you sell. Your competitors seem to be doing a good job of selling similarly priced goods this year. In fact, when you followed up with some of your prospects you learned they had made a purchase - but it was from one of your competitors. What's wrong? Why aren't you or your salespeople making more sales?

The problem could be that you and your salespeople are so busy chasing the next "really hot" lead and are so focused on spending time with prospects that fit a certain profile that you're all ignoring ready-to-buy prospects that are close at hand. 

The story below of a car-buying outing is an example that many women who have gone shopping alone for a new car can relate to. However, the circumstances aren't unique to women shopping for cars. Or for that matter to car-buying, either. 

I decided last summer that it was time to get a new SUV. The one I was driving was getting a bit old, and I wanted to replace it before I started having trouble with it breaking down. I also wanted the safety features that are available on newer vehicles. So I set out one sunny summer afternoon to look for cars. I went shopping by myself. My husband and I had agreed that there was no reason for him to come along until I had narrowed down my choices to just a couple of vehicles.

Before I stepped into the first car dealership I had just assumed salespeople would be eager to see a customer and that I'd be greeted if not with open arms, at least with a smile and a handshake. But that didn't happen in most of the dealerships I visited. Instead, I left most of them wondering how they stay in business and how the salespeople feed their families. The reason? Most of the salespeople I encountered made one or more of these sales-killing mistakes:

Sales Mistake # 1- Ignoring the customer

In several dealerships, I received a cursory, "Hello," from a greeter sitting near the front door, and was then pointed in the direction of the SUVs on the showroom floor. In about half of the dealerships I visited I was ignored after that, even though I was sitting in the cars attempting to adjust seats, adjust mirrors to check on visibility, and lifting the tailgate to look at the size of the cargo area.

The dealerships I was shopping in weren't crowded. In fact, I had made a point of going car shopping on a weekday because car showrooms in our area are very busy on weekends. And there were salesmen who seemed to be available in most of the dealerships.  I say "salesmen" because the day I did most of my shopping, all the sales people in the dealerships I stopped at were men. Was I being ignored because I was a woman shopping alone for a car? I suspect that was the case in at least a couple of dealerships. The reason for my suspicion: when I returned to those dealerships on a busy weekend with my husband, salespeople approached us pretty quickly, invariably looking at and speaking to my husband.

RELATED: 10 Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

Sales Mistake # 2 - Profiling the customer

A good salesperson qualifies prospects so they can focus their energies on those prospects who are most likely to make a purchase. Doing so makes sense. But profiling customers -- in other words, deciding by a prospect's appearance, instead of speaking to and qualifying the prospect-- is bad for business.

And that's what I think happened at two of the luxury car dealerships I stopped at. I suspect that besides being a woman shopping alone, I was ignored at those dealerships because I didn't look like what they envisioned a customer should look like.

It was a summer day, and I had taken the afternoon off to go car shopping. So, I wasn't wearing business clothes. And I wasn't carrying a designer handbag or wearing brand-name clothes. I was wearing a pair of capri pants and a blouse that were neat and presentable, but nothing you'd see in this week's Bloomingdale's ad. At one of those two dealers I was ignored even after I walked back to the greeter and asked to speak to a salesperson because I had some questions about features on the vehicle.

"Oh, I forgot about you," she said, and picked up a phone on her desk and called a salesperson. "He'll be right with you,"  she told me as she hung up. Ten minutes later, no salesperson had come by, so I left.

Sales Mistake # 3 - Not knowing the product

The day my husband came with me, I test drove a few of the cars I had seen and liked on my previous shopping trip. After I finished driving one high-end car, my husband asked the salesperson who was helping us a couple of questions, and to our surprise, the salesperson didn't know the answers.  The questions were things any car salesperson should have known, but this one didn't. The individual's lack of knowledge wouldn't have stopped me from buying the vehicle if I had liked it, but I would have found a different dealership to buy from.

Sales Mistake # 4 - Denying the customer's objections are real

Overcoming objections is a skill salespeople work to acquire. But telling a potential customer that something they are concerned about isn't a "real" issue or isn't needed, is one of fastest ways to lose the customer's trust.

One item that was high on my "essential features" list for a new car was blind spot detectors. They're helpful on any vehicle, and particularly useful in SUVs that have sloping back side windows. At one dealership, I noticed the SUV I was looking at didn't list blind spot detectors on the ticket on the car window. Instead of trying to upsell me to the company's bigger SUV (which did have blind spot monitors), the salesperson insisted several times that the SUV I was looking was "small" and didn't need them. (That "small" SUV would have just barely fit into my garage.)

A salesman for a different brand car, when asked about recalls, tried to imply that the recalls were being hyped too much by the media, and that most of the problems the media reported were really caused by the drivers, not by defects in the automobiles.

RELATED: 15 Ways to Overcome Sales Objections

Sales Mistake # 5 - Not following up

Out of some 10 or 11 car dealerships I visited, only two followed up. One of those two follow-ups was from the salesperson I eventually got my new car from.

Now, I didn't decide on where to buy my car based solely on who followed up and who didn't. But I had narrowed my choice down to two SUVs that were pretty equally priced and had pretty similar features. And among the factors that influenced my decision was a gut feeling about which dealership would be more responsive should any problems develop. If a salesperson doesn't care enough to follow up with a pretty good prospect, then I couldn't help wondering how responsive the dealership as a whole would be if the car I bought from them developed any problems.

RELATED: Why Salespeople Don't Follow-Up and What to Do About It

Salespeople Take Note

Car salespeople aren't the only ones who make these sales-killing mistakes. I've run into the same behaviors from other salespeople, too. So, whether you sell cars or something else, the moral of this story is take the time to talk to your prospects and qualify them based on your conversation, not on their looks, gender, age, or anything else. Treat every prospect you encounter not just as looker or tire-kicker, but as a potential lifetime customer -- one who will want to come back to you the next time they need what you sell, and who will brag to their friends about the great product and service they got from you.

© 2017 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. A small business and home business expert, Janet is the author of several books including The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets. Her company, Attard Communications, Inc., has been creating online content sites for 30 years. Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Read more about Janet on JanetAttard.com.

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