Salespeople are the face of your company. Their professionalism and attentiveness casts you and your company in a good light. But when they mess up, it reflects poorly on everyone. Here are some of the most common mistakes salespeople make. Avoid them, and you’ll bolster your reputation with customers--and see your sales increase.
1. Blaming the company for mistakes. When a disgruntled customer calls, it’s tempting to use the company as a scapegoat. The sales rep has the personal relationship with the customer, so it’s easier to deflect blame to the employer and try to win sympathy. The problem is that it’s much harder for the customer to forgive an impersonal entity than to forgive an individual. When the salesperson blames the company, the customer’s trust plummets. I once had a rep who told a customer that her order had been botched by the company’s computer system when, in reality, he’d just forgotten to place it. The customer cancelled all outstanding orders, stating that she no longer trusted the company.
2. Failing to recommend a competitor. It’s a no-brainer that you shouldn't praise your competition to customers, right? Well, there’s one time when it is appropriate: when the competitor has a far superior product. In this situation, it’s wise to keep the customer’s best interests in mind, bite the bullet, and recommend the competition. Doing so creates a strong bond of trust and often works out better for you in the long run. I once informed a customer who’d placed an order with me that my competitor had a much better model. The customer switched his order but was so impressed with my concern for his well being that he kept me in mind for later. We eventually became this customer’s prime supplier!
3. Putting the sale first. Of course, every rep wants to make the sale, but if the customer suspects that the rep is putting the sale before the customer's interests, the relationship suffers. At all times, a sales rep should show customers that he or she cares about them first and his or her pocketbook second. If customers sense otherwise, you won’t make the sale anyway.
4. Not honoring commitments. All business relationships revolve around trust, and when you don’t keep your commitments, you damage the customer’s trust in you and the company. Salespeople are highly at risk for making soon-forgotten promises during sales presentations. To avoid this error, sales reps should take detailed notes during all customer interactions and refer back to them frequently.
5. Making "trap" presentations. These are the kind of hard sell tactics that use the “If I could show you X, would you buy now?” scenario or that force agreement from the customer through canned presentations. Sophisticated buyers don’t like entrapment. Years ago, I decided I wanted a deeper understanding of this presentation style from the customer’s perspective, so I invited a hard sell salesperson to my office to present a product I had no need for. I spent a very uncomfortable 30 minutes answering leading questions and feeling pressured by hypothetical propositions. When I could take no more, I ended the presentation, disclosed the ruse, and offered the rep a voucher for a fine dinner for two. Never again!