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Are the Seven Deadly Sins of Selling Holding Back Your Sales?

Sales success for small business ownersSpiritual success comes from doing the right things like leading a good life, loving your neighbor and doing good works. Most everyone’s heard of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” originally proclaimed nearly 1500 years ago by the early church, as those negative behaviors that could be fatal to spiritual success.

In the same way, sales success comes from doing the right things that make customers want to do business with you, initially, and want to continue to do business with you over time. But like with spiritual success there are also some wrong things that can prevent that success.

I call them the “Seven Deadly Sins of Selling.”

If you’re not careful, like the original “Seven Deadly Sins,” can be fatal to spiritual progress, they can be fatal to your sales progress.

The “Seven Deadly Sins of Selling” are basic, but sometimes, not as obvious negative behaviors, that can inhibit or even prevent your business growth, like the original ones inhibit or impede spiritual progress. Whether you’ve been in business for ten years or are just starting out, you should be aware of them. They are each, harmful in their own way, but taken as a group, could be fatal to a small business.  

Are you committing any of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Selling?”

Here they are, with examples of how to understand the tell-tale signs and what to do to get back on the success path for each:

1. Don’t do your homework about your market, your prospective customers or your competition.

If you’re guilty of this one, it can be a killer because it means you’re, especially, not paying attention to what drives your revenue – your market and the customers in it!
  • This should be part of the foundation for not only how you sell your products into the market but how you further develop those products. With the internet and social media, there’s almost nothing you can’t know (yes, that is a double negative) about either your market, your prospective or current customer or your competition.
  • Stay on top of your market. No matter what market (s) you serve, there are always research reports describing your market. Even if they’re the $5,000 variety, there’s invariably a free summary posted someplace where you can glean key data points and significant trends that are happening.
  • Stay on top of your competition. Know how they’re selling (their website usually tells you that) and who they’re selling to (check out their press releases and determine how you sell against them).
  • However the information is gathered it should be shared with sales people either directly or through your CRM, if you have one.

2. Don’t understand your own sales cycle/ or manage your sales pipeline.

Every small business operates with some form of sales forecast or pipeline report, which describes current/future sales activity.  But that’s not enough! In fact, it often leads to a false sense of security about how things are going.

Unless you really understand how YOUR sales cycle works, it’s meaningless.

However you define it, the sales cycle is made up of the steps you lead, or your prospective customers follow, to get to a close;  also known as “the sales funnel.

You need to understand, not only where prospects are in the pipeline or the funnel, but how you move them, step-by-step through your sales process and what it will take to get them to a close, over time. Critical to managing this is:
  • Consistent definition of each step in the funnel, regardless of prospect or sales person.
  • Determination of where prospects originate (this helps you track various marketing programs.
  • What it will take to move prospects through the funnel.
  • Tracking progress of leads vs. origination (this helps you track which marketing programs are working);
  • Tracking leads that enter the funnel vs. closes (this helps you establish conversion rates, to better manage your forecast).

3. Don’t train/support your sales team.

Whether you’re selling with an in-house team, using distributors or sales agents, sales people need to be trained and supported in the field. Unlike the belief of many entrepreneurs, NO product sells itself.

And the more technical the product is, the more work that is required to succeed with a sale, and the more training needed to get there. Every step is aimed at helping close more deals.
  • Depending on the type of product or service you’re selling, train the sales person on product nuances and give them the ability to either demonstrate your product or have the prospective customer use it as a trial or pilot test.
  • The more sales aids you can provide like pitch decks or pdf’s of product overviews, either directly or from your website, the better.
  • If your sale is overly complicated (the salespeople will tell you if it is) have technology folks available for either sales calls in the field or conference calls with the prospect.

4. A value proposition that isn’t.

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners talk a great deal able their “value proposition.” Few have really thought through its basis and meaning.

What exactly is a value proposition? A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered; the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. Basically, a value proposition is a clear statement that:
  • Explains how your product solves customers’ problems or meets unmet needs.
  • Delivers specific benefits.
  • Tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition.
  • But, to sell on value, you, first have to provide it. Don’t overstate what you can and will be able to do. Credibility is at the foundation of your value proposition.

5. Trying to be too many things to too many people.

This is especially an issue for younger companies who are trying to make their mark in the marketplace, often creating products with too many features and functions, or worse, too many products with too little focus.
  • Know who your target market is keeping it (and your understanding of customer needs – See #1 and #4 above) sharply in focus.  Don’t make it a “moveable feast,” in keeping with the overall religious connotation.
  • Don’t make your sales pitches “a drink from a fire hose” of products and product features/functions.  Focus on specific benefits relevant to the specific customer.

6. Fail to create a relationship with prospects/customers.

People still buy from people.  And often, the higher the ticket price, the larger the need for building a relationship, first.

Beyond merely creating awareness and interest, you have to generate credibility both with your product offering and in your market (as noted in #4 above).

  • Don’t expect email and social media to build a relationship.  They create awareness, but interest, evaluation, and trial, require a lot more.
  • Make every communication about the customer and their business, be it face-to-face or online. Learn as many personal/professional things about them as you can.
  • The more commonality you have or, the more you understand them, the deeper and quicker you can build a relationship.

7. Don’t follow up or listen to your customers.

Once they become customers, you can’t just forget about them. This is where you further develop and deepen your relationship. You want to create loyalty. You do that by not only over-delivering on promises, but listening to their opinions.
  • Create a follow- up program for every time you close a sale with a new customer, that not only gives you feedback but allows them to provide ideas for new features or products (see #1 above) or things you could have done better in the sales process.
  • Existing customers are your best source of additional revenue and new product ideas. Survey all your customers, at least annually. It keeps you in front of them, especially, long-time customers, opens the door to new potential opportunities, and provides you guidance on possible new product ideas as well as how well you’re supporting them in the field.
  • Consider instituting a CEO “reach out” call or visit to all major customers on a periodic basis. It goes a long way to continuing a good relationship and to determining ones that are going south.

The “Seven Deadly Sins of Selling” can block sales success. If you take the steps described you could learn from each what to avoid, and how to overcome them when you don’t. Your sales success depends on it!

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you been guilty of any of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Selling? “  Which one(s), with what impact? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.

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