9 Ways to Kill Your Chances of Selling Anything

Last Updated Aug 6, 2010 1:17 PM EDT

I thought last week was going to be fun, but it turned out to be excruciatingly painful. My senior leadership team and I sat through a series of sales presentations given by various branding agencies and consultants for a project we'll be awarding in a couple of weeks. You would think that people who fashion themselves branding experts would be skilled at selling. Think again â€"- most of them blew it.

Here are nine ill-advised sales tactics that actually happened last week. Do them, and you'll likely sabotage your chances of closing the deal:

1. Begin without introducing your team. Even better, don't ever introduce them. Your prospective client will be left guessing whether or not the people you've brought to the table will be part of the execution team they plan to put in place for you, whether what they say is credible, or if they're even an employee of the firm.

2. Bring participants, but don't let them participate. Great idea for you to say something such as, "They're here, but we don't let them talk." That will impress.

3. Don't ask who else is in the room. And definitely don't ask ahead of time who will be there. That way, you'll be sure to run out of handouts, and you'll be clueless as to who you're selling to and what's important to them.

4. Go right into your presentation without ensuring you understand your prospect's objectives. We had two firms (one, a prestigious one you've probably heard of) that came to the meeting obviously unaware of what was in our incredibly detailed and specific RFP.

5. Ask basic questions that were already covered in the RFP. If you want to really make a bad impression, ask some questions about your prospect's personal background that are either in the RFP or easily available via Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

6. Make your presentation look as if it could have been made for ANY other company. Provide no steps you'll take specifically for your prospect. Actually, just use a boilerplate presentation and don't do any research on the people or the company, and certainly do not read the RFP. That would require you to do some preparation. Leave the word "Draft" right on the front of your proposal, and "Insert company name" at the bottom of each page as well.

7. If you are in doubt about anything, make lots of assumptions and don't ask questions. That way, you are bound to offer a solution that's irrelevant.

8. When you're asked a direct question, don't answer it. Just start blabbing away. If you don't know the answer, talk as long as you can until everyone in the room, including you, wishes you'd just said initially, "I don't know. I'll get back to you on that."

9. Don't bring key members of your team. If a critical aspect of the project depends on a particular person on your team, make sure he or she is not present. That way, all the questions posed about that aspect cannot be answered. See #8.

The bottom line is that potential clients want to know that you understand the parameters of their projects, and that the team they will be working with is capable, observant, and reliable. If you can't even do that (which is the bare minimum) when you go into a sales meeting, be prepared to leave without the business.

Photo courtesy of Flickr / hahatango

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    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.