I always tell budding sales executives that what differentiates the best sales people on the planet is that they deeply understand and empathize with their customers. That understanding comes from some God-given, DNA-related, emotional intelligence (EQ), a finely honed ability to really, truly listen and the ability to levitate outside one's own body and place oneself into the prospect's shoes.

Understanding prospects reveals the biggest mistake you can possibly make as a salesperson. Let's go through the exercise. Imagine you are your own prospect and let's say for one moment that you are the "ideal" customer. You have been put in charge of purchasing a product your company desperately needs. After hours of research and filtering through recommendations, you've stumbled upon what you believe is the answer to your business prayers, the perfect solution. You waste no time, quickly filling out an interest form on the seller's website, eagerly awaiting response from their sales team. Then you start waiting ... a couple of minutes turns into a couple of hours, which quickly becomes a couple of days. Frustrated, you begin your search for alternative solutions.

This example illustrates the number one sales mistake made by sales teams, according to a recent survey conducted by Zogby Analytics. In the study, one third of buyers said that the worst experience with a seller when the buyer had expressed interest to purchase through an online form was getting no response. Buyers didn't appreciate a slow response either. However, one of the most startling findings from the study was that buyers would rather get a somewhat unhelpful or even rude callback from the seller than no call at all.

Buyers' expectations are absolutely evolving. Today's buyers don't have as much time or patience as they used to. When buyers don't receive a timely response, they'll take their business elsewhere. And unfortunately, when these oversights take place, your company's reputation and revenue are at risk.

To better understand what to look out for and to avoid missteps that tarnish your reputation, here are five of the most common mistakes that sales organizations should beware of in order to increase customer satisfaction and conversion rates:

1. No Response - It may be hard to believe that a sales rep wouldn't contact an inquiring buyer at all, but it happens much more often than businesses think. Indeed, Zogby Analytics' recent report showed that roughly a third of incoming leads never get an adequate response from sales teams. When it comes to improving the buyer experience and driving more revenue, there may not be a higher-value opportunity than this for some companies.

2. Poor Customer Service--The second biggest mistake sales reps can make is offering inadequate service. It's safe to assume that this applies across all industries. No one wants to be treated poorly, so why be rude to your customer? Again, try putting yourself in their position and consider how they want and expect to be treated.

3. Slow Response - Buyers expect a timely response. In fact, they expect it within the first 24 hours. Once that time limit has passed, buyers begin to question the company's attentiveness. Not only does a slow response hurt your reputation, it also impacts revenue potential. In fact, lead response time is the single largest driver of lead conversion. The faster leads are called, the more likely they are to convert, according to industry research.

Companies that take days or weeks to respond are simply wasting their marketing investments.

4. Smothering--One rule that sales reps often break is calling or emailing far too often. While prospects would rather receive some response than none at all, they also don't want to be smothered. It's important to consider whether your strategy is too aggressive.

Generally speaking, the optimal number of call attempts is six, and with emails it's five, based on analysis of sales data from a wide range of companies. In fact, 93 percent of leads that ultimately convert are converted by the sixth call attempt. Remember--maintaining a healthy balance is key.

5. Different Song Sheets - Last but not least, one of the biggest mistakes sales teams can make is to have different sales reps give buyers conflicting or different information about the product, pricing or the like. Providing accurate and consistent information is what builds customer trust and confidence in your company.

There isn't just one trick that will make your sales team successful. It's a combination of actions and joint efforts that require attention from every sales team member. Great reputations are built with many small gestures over time.

Every call brings your company one step closer to closing a deal, and should be viewed as a revenue opportunity. As a sales leader, you want to ensure your sales reps are going to be at the top of their game, taking the time to develop and master response and follow-up to buyer inquiries. By avoiding these common mistakes, your firm will be able to generate more revenue and, more importantly, improve the buyers' view of your company.

Published on: Sep 24, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.