7 common mistakes sales reps make—and how to fix them

7 common mistakes sales reps make—and how to fix them

In a sales representative’s ideal world, every pitch would elicit an enthusiastic “yes” right off the bat. Yet as sales reps know all too well, the real world doesn’t work that way. Pitches and presentations sometimes fail for reasons beyond a salesperson’s control. However, in most cases, their shortcomings can be attributed to one or more tactical errors.


Like any skill, mastering the art of sales takes time and practice. By learning to recognize some of the common mistakes sales reps make, you and your team can avoid them. Let’s look at several examples of these classic errors.


1) Talking too much

Many field sales professionals seek to impress clients with their savvy and subject-matter expertise. In doing so, they often end up dominating what should be a two-way dialogue. Sales success largely depends on two things: listening and detecting signs and clues into the buyer’s mindset. Representatives who are too busy talking cannot effectively listen or watch for important client-side signals.

During sales meetings, there are clear times when the rep should be the one leading the conversation. However, some problem behaviors to watch for include interrupting clients, finishing their thoughts and sentences, and answering the same questions multiple times. These can all indicate a lack of attentive listening.

Managers can also look for telltale performance signals to assess if their reps are talking too much during sales calls. A poor or substandard sales performance, failure to sell new or customized products or services, or high volumes of product returns can all suggest a communication issue between rep and client.

Listening to clients builds rapport. It also helps sales reps uncover needs and opportunities they might not otherwise have discovered. Effective salespeople employ the following targeted strategies to improve their listening skills and engage more effectively with clients and close sales:

  • Be conversational. Rather than focusing solely on selling a product or service, field reps should instead approach sales meetings like conversations. Strive to develop a complete understanding of the client’s perspective before proposing any solutions.
  • Ask the right questions. Sales reps who get clients talking spend more time listening. Open-ended questions about the client’s processes, expectations, and challenges encourage them to lead the rapport-building portion of the conversation.
  • Pursue professional development. Like any skill, it takes practice to become a good salesperson. Try role-playing, hire a coach, seek out a mentor, or enroll in a training program. Over time, dedicated sales reps will learn when to speak and when to listen.
  • Strive for balance and authenticity: Asking questions can be a useful tool, but too many can feel like an interrogation. Sales reps should also aim to develop authentic long-term relationships with their clients. Keep conversations balanced and focused not just on making a sale, but on building a sustainable partnership.


2) Failing to research properly

Sales success depends on your ability to identify a client’s needs, and then position your products and services as an effective solution. Yet salespeople routinely fail to conduct background research into a new prospect before approaching them. This critical mistake can result in lost opportunities.

Reps who fail to research the client’s background, industry, press coverage, and competitive pressures struggle in identifying the most effective questions to ask them. These reps will also reveal a lack of preparation and lose a crucial opportunity to build rapport.

Experts stress the importance of performing background research before attempting initial contact with a sales prospect. Focus your research on four key areas: the company, the industry, the competition, and the contact. The more information you have when you go into your initial meeting, the better prepared you will seem.

Company background

  • How big is the company?
  • How long has it been in business?
  • Is the company likely to have the budget for the products or services marketed?

Industry information

  • What specific challenges do businesses in this industry face?
  • What major changes or disruptions have occurred recently in this industry?
  • Has this company or its industry been featured in the news cycle recently? Did it receive positive or negative attention?

Competitive intelligence

  • What businesses does it compete with?
  • Do any competitors use products or services the field rep sells?
  • What advantages does the prospect have over its competitors? What about shortcomings or disadvantages?
  • How will the sales rep’s products or services benefit this particular business?

Contact information

  • What is the job title of the person the rep will contact?
  • Does that person have the authority to sign off on a purchasing decision themselves?

Sources of research insights

A company’s website, social media presence, and consumer reviews can all yield valuable research insights. Salespeople should also check their internal CRM systems to see if their company has any existing history with the prospect. Finally, sales reps might also consider hiring a business intelligence provider to uncover more advanced insights, if a prospect appears particularly promising.


3) Exaggerating details

Salespeople who oversell their products or services while downplaying or ignoring their drawbacks and limitations risk losing the buyer’s trust. Exaggerated claims sometimes succeed in the short-term, but may come at the cost of repeat sales and a long-term relationship.

The primary rule is simple: do not lie about the product or service’s features, capabilities, advantages, or drawbacks. Experienced and successful sales professionals also know how effective understatements can be as a psychological tool. Understatements remove pressure from sales pitches, making them appear less threatening and more authentic and convincing.


4) Focusing on the wrong things

Field reps who misdirect the focus of their pitches can lose sales quickly.

One key rule of thumb is to focus on value, not price. Value-based selling encourages reps to focus on how their products and services will improve the buyer’s business. The goal is to convince the decision-maker that the solution on offer is uniquely capable of delivering tangible improvements.

Sales reps should think carefully about how their products and services generate such value, then aim to educate the prospect rather than strictly sell. Redirect the conversation back to value as much as possible, and address any misgivings and concerns before even discussing pricing.


7 common mistakes sales reps make—and how to fix them


Similarly, focus on the solution, not the product. Sales reps often revert to rattling off product features and technical details. However, this is not typically the most effective way to demonstrate potential value. Instead, sales pitches should prioritize benefits, advantages, and solutions.

This is another area where thorough background research proves invaluable. Field reps who understand the specific issues and problems a business faces can position their products and services as solutions with far greater ease.


5) Getting into arguments

Every sales rep will encounter clients who are not convinced by their pitches or have doubts and objections. Handling such situations appropriately is critical, as devolving into an argument with the client almost always results in not only a lost sale, but also a lost relationship.

Well-prepared field reps will anticipate client objections and prepare convincing rebuttals to overcome them. Rebuttals should highlight value-driving features of the products or services being marketed. For example, if a client is hesitant about a product’s high cost, field reps can redirect the conversation onto the extra sales the client could generate by investing in the product.

Consider mentioning price at a relatively early juncture of the meeting. It is better for reps to learn that the product or service is priced beyond the client’s reach early, rather than wasting time on a pitch unlikely to yield a sale.


6) Talking to the wrong people

Background research prevents sales reps from wasting time pitching people who lack the authority to make the purchasing decision. If your direct your pitch at the wrong person, that person then has to pass the details to someone who actually has the ability to make a decision. Your slick, polished, professional, and nuanced effort will be lost – and the same thing might happen to the sale.


7) Bad-mouthing the competition

While most companies have no love lost for their competitors, sales reps should not let this get the best of them during a meeting. Denigrating direct competitors comes across as tasteless. But more importantly, it can also demonstrate that the sales rep harbors insecurities about the quality and value of their own wares.

Bad-mouthing competitors can also undermine sales reps in other ways. Consider a situation in which a sales rep goes on a passionate rant against a competitor product that the client has satisfactorily used in the past. That sales rep risks exposing their own lack of knowledge and insight about the client’s business, thus undermining the client’s confidence.


Skynamo’s software solutions help sales reps perform better

The best sales reps are those who can pitch dynamically to prospects, turning the sale into a collaborative process. They hear clients’ needs and concerns, and meet them where they are. However, even the best sales rep will be left out in the cold without the proper tools to assist them.

That’s where Skynamo comes in. Skynamo offers a mobile CRM app that helps companies improve their sales volumes while reducing administrative labor. The platform fosters sales success through a suite of powerful tools that make it easy for sales reps to research prospects and engage clients. Meanwhile, analytics tools and automated reports generate insights that can guide managerial decisions in a coherent, data-driven manner.

If you would like to learn more about how Skynamo can guide your sales reps to greater success, let’s chat.