October 4 by Jason Smith

Intelligence and awesomeness aside, sometimes even your best sales reps stumble and commit common sales mistakes. We’re all human – we get it. However, these errors can easily be fixed by taking the proper steps.

5 common sales mistakes and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Not doing the necessary research

research your prospect in sales processFor most of my life, I would always wait until the last minute to do even the simplest of tasks. Heck, I even procrastinated on asking out my date to prom (she left early, but who could blame her?). I perfected procrastination, I was a master of procrastination. Then I graduated, and my old ways couldn’t cut it anymore. Nowadays, not doing my homework ahead of time could lead to avoidable blunders in front of execs on the phone, even worse; it could cost me the deal.

It’s 2015, even our watches are trending towards being able to send over your latest tweet. So calling into an account without knowing what product/service they offer is unacceptable. Plus, there really isn’t anything more exciting than starting your day with fresh leads and thorough knowledge of an account. Before even reaching out to your point of contact and getting on a call with a prospect, you must feel absolutely comfortable about their company, what product or service they provide, the current status of their organization, the latest news in their industry, and the list goes on.

Essentially, the more you know about them than they may even know about themselves, the higher chance you have of gaining their trust and forming your credibility as a sales rep. There are many ways to research the background of a prospect, so do your homework and get the information you need.

2. Too much talking, not enough listening

I remember one of the first times I had a prospect on the phone. I was really excited because (a). I had a prospect on the phone, and (b). I was about to drop some product knowledge that would have made our CEO jump for joy and pride. I expelled product knowledge to said prospect with the energy of a thousand burning suns. At that moment in time, I turned the prospects ears into a jelly like substance. The information was too much, the prospect was overwhelmed, and the conversation went no where.

listen on cold calls with prospects

That day I learned a valuable lesson: keep it simple, stupid.

I wasn’t there to show the prospect how much I knew about cloud-based Contract Management technology; instead I was there to simply guide them to the shining light that is Apttus Quote-to-Cash. I’m guilty of sometimes talking too much on the phone, and I’m pretty sure you’re guilty of it too. As much as you may want to go on and on about the functionality of your product or the dozens of benefits the prospect will get if they use your service, be sure to remember one thing – you should never dominate the conversation. One way for you to know that your conversation with the prospect is going well is if the prospect themselves are contributing more to the conversation than you are. Aim to be the listener on a cold-call or in a meeting. Listening skills in sales is absolutely vital.

So next time your mouth is going at 100 miles per hour, just remember to KISS the prospect. No. Wait. Stop. Don’t kiss the prospect! Just keep it simple, stupid.

3. Promising things you can’t provide

handshakeYou know that scene in Top Gun where Stinger tells Maverick that his ego is writing checks his body can’t cash? Aside from that moment being one of the greatest events in cinema history, Stinger had a point. As a sales rep, you can’t just be going around promising a fountain of riches and wealth to anyone fortunate enough to implement your solution, which in your eyes may be the greatest thing ever made. The worst thing you can do as a sales rep is nod your head and say yes to propositions and requests that you know cannot be made or are even impossible to accomplish.

You most likely have grandiose ambitions to change the world, and that’s fine. But our burning desire to be the second coming of Steve Jobs can lead to fires you simply can’t put out. Even if you think your product is the best in the market, you still have to realize that the importance of having exceptional sales cycles, and that starts by keeping expectations realistic from the get-go.

4. Wasting time at work

wasting time at workWhat might be the biggest bonehead move a sales rep can do is waste their day doing unwarranted tasks, such as spending half the day creating the perfect YouTube playlist dedicated to only Houston-based rappers or discussing the subtle nuances of the past Sunday Night Football game. We all do it, and wasting time at work can often times be the Achilles heel of even the greatest of sales reps.

It’s easy to lose focus working alongside other sales reps with great personalities, but we always remind ourselves that the end goal of all of this is to hit the number. We’re all different, so your particular method of staying focused will be different from your buddy in the other cubicle. Find your niche and form good habits that will keep you productive at work.

5. Being afraid to ask for help

sales adviceI have a Kanye West printout on my desk with the caption “what would Yeezy do?” The printout stares at me vigorously every day as a reminder that I will never ever be Kanye West. I’d like to believe that I’m Yeezus and I’m this infallible being that produced “The College Dropout”, but unfortunately I’m not. Kanye West would never ask anyone for help because he’s freakin’ Kanye West! But since the rest of the world isn’t, it doesn’t hurt to reach out for a helping hand every once in a while. At the end of the day, even the best people on earth need a helping hand. Let’s be honest, Kanye wouldn’t have been anyone without the help of Hova (That’s Jay-Z for anyone born before 1984).

Do not be hesitant to ask for advice or receive feedback from others. There is always at least one person who has had the same question as you or has been in a similar situation that you’re in – they may have the solution to your problem and will be able to provide you with a different perspective to your situation that you may have never even thought of.


When it comes to closing deals, is your sales process an asset or a liability? Apttus and Adobe partnered on a survey to understand how sales leaders in Fortune 1000 companies are performing in regard to sales effectiveness and process efficiency. The results show many organizations are unaware that the processes they have are lengthening sales cycles and bleeding top-line revenue.


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