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The 12 Dumbest Things Salespeople Do

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We all make mistakes and some salespeople seem to make a lot of them. What scares the vinegar out of me is that most salespeople keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Now in my book - that's just plain STUPID!

Maybe this list will serve as a helpful reminder. Maybe it won't. But at least you're curious to learn what these blunders are or why would you keep reading this?

In any case here's my list of the 12 Dumbest Things Salespeople Do:

1. Relying on one relationship to protect your account. Why in theworld would you put all your eggs in one basket? Excuse me - with one person. It doesn't make any sense and the bigger the account is the more vulnerable you become. There are five reasons why you should develop more than one relationship in all your accounts, especially the major ones:

First retirement - people do retire. Second is death - yep some people actually die at their desk. Sure it's not common, but it does happen. Third is resignation - people do leave for better opportunities and that happens more than you might imagine. Fourth is termination - some people actually get fired. Finally - and sure this is a long shot -some people win the Lottery.

Action-step. Build and cultivate a network within every major account you have. The biggest Rolodex usually WINS! This is a rock-solid sales tip.

2. Putting your fate with mid-level managers instead of starting with the top gun. The worst thing you can do is to follow your instincts on this one. Your instincts tell you to start at the easiest point of entry in any organization. Why - because it's easy! Once you gain access at this point your instincts continue to give you bad advice. Soon you'll be thinking you can't go over the head of the person you currently have the relationship with.

Here's my advice and it works. Your first call should be to the CEO or president of the organization. Simply ask them, or their assistants, for their help in directing you to the right person. If you're doing this over the phone you should also ask them to transfer you to this key decision maker.

Action-step. Make your first call to the CEO. It's easier to let him you down the organizational chart then to have some mid-level manager try to take you up the same organizational chart. This is more than a sales technique - it's an idea that really works.

3. Telling prospects/customers that you're NEW. I know this is a big one because I hear it all the time. Sad to say many years ago I even used this same mindless introduction. Imagine walking into an account and telling your prospect/customer that you are the new sales REP for your company. For a moment let's switch gears.

Imagine boarding an airplane scheduled to fly from Chicago to San Francisco. Imagine also hearing the pilot welcome everybody on board and announcing that he is new at flying the 757 you are seated on. Also imagine your dentist refers you to a specialist for your very first root canal. And imagine that the specialist lets you know he's a recent Dental School graduate and you're his first patient. Now, how does that make you feel? That's how everyone feels when they're working with somebody who announces they are "NEW."

Action-step. If you're new to sales or are an experienced sales REP just getting started with a NEW company give some thought how you will introduce yourself. Just don't say that you're "NEW."

4. Doing price-driven quotes instead of value-structured proposals. If you're in sales you're likely to get requests on a daily basis for product quotes. Somebody wants you to quote on a particular product or a particular service. So, like someone following the Pied Piper you do exactly what they ask, namely you send them a quotation. Then you go ballistic when you lose the deal because you did not have the lowest price.

Look Bubba - when you send somebody your quote all you are really doing is sending them a price to look at. If you don't like that approach get out of the quotation business. Do sales proposals. Load them with value. Make your sales proposal scream value and always include a benefits page. Your benefits page should be positioned ahead of your pricing page.

Action-step. If you don't know anything about sales proposals I strongly suggest you do a search on and using the keywords "sales proposals." This is too important to be flying by the seat-of-your-ants!

5. Making sales calls like a tourist. Anytime you show up on a prospect's/customer's doorstep without written sales call objectives you are nothing more than a well paid tourist. I think you'll agree most people most of the time are too busy to waste their valuable time. When you show up planning to touch base, catch up, check up, and see what's going on - that's called "Wasting time." To get you started in the right direction, here's an example of a written sales call objective for an account you're calling on for the very first time. Simply stated your sales call objective could be written as follows:

"My objective for this sales call is to establish rapport, build some credibility, ask 3-5 open-ended questions, attempt to identify one common interest we have, and if the person is qualified to secure a confirmed follow-up appointment. Note how numbers make this objective even "More specific."

Action-step. Never leave home without written sales call objectives. The key word is "Never!"

6. Getting mugged by your own mouth. This is a very easy trap for a salesperson to collapse into especially if you're extroverted and talkative. If you're not careful with the language you use, you run the risk of sounding like the "Mediocre majority." For example, you should avoid using these phrases: I think, can I be honest, can I ask you a question, I know you're busy so I won't take up much of your time, how soon do you need it, I agree with you - But, what do I have to do to earn your business today, so - what do you think, I was wondering etc. I hope you get the picture and recognize that these phrases aren't inherently sinister. They are however over-used by the salespeople who are in the "Mediocre majority" category. Avoid them like the Plague!

Action-step. The more you prepare what you'll say and how you'll say it during a sales call the less likely you'll end up getting mugged by your own mouth.

7. Making the sales call a virtual "Improvisation." The way my twisted mind works is there are only two types of sales calls. One is prepared and the other is a total improvisation. Let me concede right out of the chute, it's inconceivable to totally prepare for a sales call - the way I define the word prepare. It should also be inconceivable to you from this point on, that your sales calls should be a 100% improvisation. In this example, when I use the word prepare, I mean in writing.

Here's a short list of what I recommend you thoroughly prepare -in writing: Prepare how you call for appointments. Prepare your elevator speech. Prepare at least 12 open-ended questions. Prepare how you will segue into your presentation. Prepare how you will deal with the price objection. Also prepare how you will ask for the customer's commitment to order your product/service.

Action-step. Prepare in writing the words you will use in each of these key steps in your selling process. Preparation always sounds better than improvisation. Always!

8. Forgetting to develop the "Brand Called You." One of the cardinal sins I observe salespeople making is your complete reliance on the branding of your products and your company. Please remember this. Most people don't buy the product. Most people don't buy the company. Most people buy - because they buy the relationship with the sales professional working with them.

I just ordered the autobiography written by PT Barnum. I can't wait to get my hands on this book. If you want to be remembered you have to be memorable and PT Barnum wrote the book on this topic. Marketing will win more sales than selling ever can. To be a success today, and in almost any business, you have to be an extraordinary marketer! You might want to buy Peter Montoya's book, "The Brand Called You."

Action-step. I believe everybody is unique. Discover your uniqueness parade it around your sales territory. Forget about being boring, bland, and benign. Blending in is out! Standing out is in! Do everything you can to be different in a memorable way!

9. Playing the win-lose instead of the win-win game. This point is easy to say and hard to do because it involves a dramatic change in your thinking. In some cases, it may involve a lobotomy! Never offer a price concession without getting a concession from your prospect/customer. To do so means he wins and you lose. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned game of win-win?

What happened to it is quite simple and very easy to fix. When ever someone asks you for a better price - ask them for a better deal - which could mean a larger quantity, something else added to the order, an extended contract etc.

Action-step. This one takes courage. Do you have what it takes to do what it takes to make your selling game a win-win game?

10. Putting your families on the veritable back-burner. Most people don't think bad things can happen to them. I think it's called the theory of self-exception. Maybe it's because you're so optimistic. You think you'll live for ever. You think your families will live for ever. Take it from me it doesn't always work out that way. Now rest assured, I hope it does for you and your family.

I just don't want you to bank on it. You see stuff happens: My first wife Louise died when she was 34 from cancer. My brother John died when he was 46 from a brain tumor. My brother Ray, a New York City firemen, was killed on 9/11 at the age of 46. Enough said!

Action-step. When you put your family on the back-burner you're risking life's biggest regret - "I wish I had spent more time with my family." To avoid this potential tragedy make your calendar the centerpiece of your life and make sure every member of your family is on your calendar.

11. Living life in the multi-tasking lane. This thing called multi- tasking isn't what it's cracked up to be. Sure it looks impressive to a casual observer to see you driving your car with a headset on and nibbling on your morning egg McMuffin. How many tasks can you do at the same time and do them equally well? Some people, notably researchers writing on the subject, are now saying that tasks completed by the multi-taskers are losing out in the quality department.

Hey - it's a No-Brainer - how many things can you do at the same time and do them all exceptionally well? Go figure! Two months ago in the men's room of one of my major clients I heard someone behind that closed door, and presumably in a seated position, talking on his cell phone, munching on what sounded like potato chips and flushing at the same time. How do you explain that to a customer? Would you actually say you're passing through Niagara Falls, thus accounting for the noise in the background? I think you get the point and I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

Action-step. This one is so easy it hurts! Start every day with a written list of what you want to get done during that day. Using numbers, be sure to prioritize your list. Do one thing at a time. Do the most important thing first. Don't do anything else unless it's more important than the next most important thing on your list. I told you this was easy - easy to say and hard to do.

12. Giving a "Gazillion people" your cell phone number. Man do I get a lot of heat when I talk about this in my No-Brainer Selling Skills Boot Camps and sales training programs. I've heard all the reasons why salespeople give every body their cell phone number. I know why people print their cell phone number on their business cards. I know why salespeople do this but I'm not sure it makes any sense.

Well it does make some sense if you're the kind of salesperson, who after giving 50 or more prospects/customers your cell phone number, goes immediately to a tattoo parlor and has 24/7 tattooed across your forehead. Maybe it would make some sense if you had the only cell phone in your sales territory. That would be a clear advantage for you. Whenever you give somebody your cell phone number it becomes the default number which people use to call you. The more people you give your cell phone number to, the more people will dial your cell phone number every time for every minuscule reason they want to talk to you.

You may like it this way but I sure don't. I have two cell phones- one in my car and one in my briefcase and I use them exclusively for making outbound calls. Until you experience this - you won't realize how much control over your life you give up every time you give someone else your cell phone number.

Action-step. Here's a suggestion. Get a stamp that allows you to print on the back of your business card the times during the day you check your voice mails and e-mails. Tell your customers, except for two or three of your biggest, you're disconnecting your cell phone number because it's taken over your life. My guess is you'll get some well deserved empathy and sympathy.

Well - it's agreed then - we all make mistakes. The good news NOW for you, is you don't have to make the "Dirty Dozen" any more.

Now that I think about it, there probably should have been a #13. Let's just say most salespeople don't ask good questions. You think you do but you probably don't. Here's a quick test. On a blank sheet of paper write down your 12 best open-ended questions. You're leaving so muuuuuuuch money on the table - if you can't do this blind-folded and do it within 3 minutes.

What are your 12 Best Questions?

If you'd like to know what my 12 Best questions are use this link to find out. It might change your life. These questions changed mine. These phenomenal questions have helped me earn millions of dollars over the last 17 years. If they work for me, I'm certain they'll work for you as soon as you adopt and adapt them.

"If you've ever wondered how you could learn, as much as possible, about your prospects and customers and close more sales effortlessly, and in less time, then I've got GREAT NEWS for you!"

Here's the link for more information.

Jim Meisenheimer is the Guru of No-Brainer Sales Training.

His sales techniques and selling skills focus on practical ideas that get immediate results. You can discover all his secrets by contacting him at (800) 266-1268, e-mail: or by visiting his website:

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