October 31, 2014

10 Sales Blunders No Entrepreneur Should Ever Make

sales blunders

To be an entrepreneur you must make sales. Your business cannot survive without them.

Most businesses flounder not because of a bad idea or because of a lack of sustainable demand for products and services. Instead, they fail because of a lack of proper marketing and sales efforts. Marketing is a multichannel endeavor while sales has just one purpose: to bring in more client and customers.

The ability to sell isn’t taught in school and it doesn’t come with most college degrees. No wonder entrepreneurs struggle to keep the revenue coming in.

Sales Blunders You Should Never Make

1. Start Without a Plan

Selling should be a planned and organized effort. You can’t take chances with success. The trick is to work backwards. A 5-year revenue goal breaks down into an annual revenue goal, which then breaks down to a monthly goal, a weekly goal, and eventually a daily target.

Let’s say you plan to bring in $100,000 in revenue in 5 years. It works out as follows:

  • To reach $100,000, you need to make $20,000 per year.
  • Which leads you to $1666.67 per month.
  • That requires making $416.66 per week and $83.33 per day.

The point is that by calculating the revenue you need by day week, month and year will help you plan realistic sales goals to deliver what you need.

2. Lack the Proper Tools

If you are in business, you have to sell. Make sure you have the right tools to help you accomplish this. You’ll need customer relationship management tools to handle your ongoing interactions with customers, clients and prospects. This will help you keep track of sales, leads and when a followup is needed. And you’ll need technology that lets you access information on the run and check on data about your clients at a glance. It’s also almost mandatory these days to have a website allowing people to learn quickly and easily what you do and how you can help them.

Having said that, the most important tools you can take with you is your presence of mind, wit, and a sense of humor.

3. Talk Instead of Listening

The first rule in sales is to listen to your customers. Say hello. Sit across the table. Ask questions. Sit back and listen. In time, you’ll get the opportunity to suggest, talk, recommend, and explain. Until then, try to listen to what your clients have to say. Ask them what troubles them? What keeps them up at night? What are their biggest problems? How much does solving those problems mean to them and their businesses?

Sales isn’t always about making a pitch. Sometimes all you have to do is to listen and then ask.

4. Waste Time on the Details

When you get the opportunity to talk, explain, recommend, suggest or show off your expertise, don’t make the usual mistake of launching into gory details of how your solutions work. For instance, when helping to create a digital marketing plan, don’t bother explaining how AdWords works, how social media works, and how link-building, or blogging outreach programs work.

Clients aren’t paying for explanations. They are paying for solutions. So don’t give them details they don’t want or need. Tell them how you can solve their problems. It’s the only answer the really care about.

5. Take No for an Answer

Countless sales opportunities are lost when entrepreneurs simply take no for an answer. But what prospects are really saying is that they don’t understand how a new solution can help them. They lack the experience to see the value you offer.

In the digital marketing example above, a potential client might say:

This won’t work.

It’s too complicated. There are way too many things to do.

It’s not how we do things here.

We’ve been running newspaper ads for all our lives, and they work fine.

At this point many entrepreneurs might give up. What’s the point, they ask themselves. They’re not interested. But instead, why not answer their objections? For instance, as a response to the statements above, you might say:

It works. I’d like to show you examples. Please decide after that.

Yes, it’s complicated. Why don’t you just leave it to me (us)?

Let’s start something new. If the same old thing was working for you, you wouldn’t be talking to me today, would you?

Newspapers are dead. They might work fine but they are expensive. Allow me to show you how smart marketing is done.

Never back off. Never allow clients to push you away with unreasonable responses.

6. Belittle Competitors

Never, ever bad mouth the competition. It reeks of insecurity, and it tells the client that you aren’t sure of yourself, your products and your business.

Instead, when asked about the competition, you might politely say something like:

Oh, they are awesome folks. We love them. It’s just that they cater to enterprises better and we do a great job with small businesses.

7. Ignore the “One Call, Three Referrals” Rule

Your sales meeting with a potential client might end in a variety of ways.

First, of course, you might make the sale. But, if not, the meeting may result in an opportunity to meet again in the future. It might also end with an opportunity to collect some possible referrals if the potential client says emphatically they aren’t interested in your service.

As an entrepreneur and leader of your business, it is your responsibility that on of these three outcomes occurs. So be sure to ask for one of the three before you leave a sales meeting.

8. Forget to Follow Up

Statistically, only one out ten potential clients will buy from you after the first meeting or conversation. For the rest you will need to do followups. Forgetting to do followups with these people is leaving money on the table. Be sure to schedule meetings with these potential clients to speak again about your product or service.

Again, thinking statistically, if you met 10 clients every single business day for twenty days out of the month, you’d be talking with with 200 potential clients. Assuming only 10% of these clients buy from you, that leaves a list of 180 clients each month or 2,160 clients a year representing a huge additional sales potential.

9. Refuse to Do Right By a Prospect

There are times a prospect wants products or services you don’t offer. Other times your price is simply too high to fit a potential client’s budget.

You see the client still has a problem, but you can’t profit from solving it. Some would say it’s time to walk away.

But wait. Aren’t there companies that gave you referrals even after they told you they couldn’t use your services? How do you feel about these companies today?

So why not bring in a competitor who can solve the prospects problems? You won’t be losing an opportunity. You will be making a friend.

10. Say Yes to a Deal You’ll Live to Regret

There are times when a client wants something unethical, requests that you do some work for free, asks for inappropriate personal and professional favors or tries to talk you down in price beyond what you can afford.

Don’t say yes just to make a sale. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Which of these blunders have you been guilty of?

Mistake Photo via Shutterstock

12 Comments ▼

Pratik Dholakiya


Pratik Dholakiya Pratik Dholakiya is Co-Founder, VP of Marketing and Lead SEO Strategist at E2M Solutions & OnlyDesign. The primary focus of E2M Solutions is on content marketing and leveraging its potential to generate revenue for clients. OnlyDesign helps companies build a better web & mobile presence.

12 Reactions

  1. The biggest mistake an entrepreneur can ever do in sales is to sell the product itself. If the entrepreneur is engaged too much with that task he/she will never be in the position make the biggest sale – the sale of his/her company. If an entrepreneur is so engaged in the process of selling he is not superfluous and therefore indispensable to the company and therefore the company iteself becomes non-sellable. I had to learn this many years ago when owning/running a “crappy little serivce firm”. I was engaged not only in selling the product but also delivering the service, despite the fact that I had a 35 FTE payroll. I wish I would have known that earlier. Hope this helps any entrepreneur reading this. Best, Swiss Steve

  2. This is a great article except I disagree with #4 to an extent. If you’re a digital marketing agency pitching to a prospective client, I might not skip out on mentioning those important tools you listed – Adwords, link building, content marketing, etc. If they are looking to hire you, they might not be knowledgeable about SEO, so giving them free information and supporting data is a nice way to show credibility and build trust. It all depends on the customer, but the details are what differentiates your business from competitors.

    • Amen. I realize I often get a little too excited about things like SEM, SEO and content marketing or analytics, but slowing down and explaining them to our customers or potential customers really does make a difference in sales down the line.

  3. I agree with number 3. This is the classic example of not knowing more about your business because you’re hindered by your own perspective of your business. This can be blinding and can prevent you to close future sales and possibly meeting new prospects.

  4. I agree with point number 2. It’s also almost mandatory these days to have a website allowing people to learn quickly and easily what you do and how you can help them. Online presence is relevant for today’s small business survival.

  5. Pratik, nice summary of the most common blunders new entrepreneurs make. A lot of my marketing clients are guilty of # 10. They take a job because they need money, not realizing all of the headaches that may be involved. They need to recognize the signs of a “customer from hell.” http://maryhabres.com/customers-from-hell-15-warning-signs/

  6. I really like the idea of working backwards. Planning is obvious and always a key – but starting from such a broad perspective seems really helpful!

  7. It’s amazing how many people start without a concrete plan… not even an outline. Then they wonder what went wrong!

  8. So true, the insights you mentioned Pratik, but these are common blunders, people have grown smart today!

    Anyways i agree with your suggestions. :)

    Best,
    Joe Romero

  9. Some of the steps to sell a product:
    (a) Update information on key people and contact details;

    (b) Call the relevant people to request a meeting;

    (c) Meet and sell the product;

    (d) If there is some traction then offer a Proof Of Concept or a customized demo at no cost, as this will help to validate all the assumptions;

    (e) To get them to bite, give them some sweeteners in the deal, like an early-bird offer;

    (f) Use such opportunities to actually build the product.

    To address the pain point of getting your first customers, please read this post here: http://blog.foundermates.com/getting-your-first-paying-customer/

  10. Great post! Knowing how to successfully make a sale is important, vital even to a thriving business.

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