Here are the top 10 mistakes that customers make, along with why they make them, how it impacts your relationship with them, and (most importantly) what you can do to prevent them from happening.
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MISTAKE #10: Overestimating their buying authority
- Example: The customer brings you all the way through the sales cycle as if the customer has full authority to purchase and then, at the end of the cycle, reveals that some other person or group of people need to approve the purchase.
- Why They Do It: In most cases, their self-image is tied to the idea that they are important and control a budget, so they avoid thinking about all the work that's required to work things through the system.
- Why It's Bad For You: Suddenly the sale is back to square one and your forecast for the quarter is all out of whack.
- Why It's Bad For Them: If they truly need your offering, it's now going to take additional time to actually get it to them.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Develop additional contacts in the customer firm so that you can "reality check" the buying process.
MISTAKE #9: Negotiating a Win/Lose deal
- Example: The customer insists that the deal must be written up in such a way that they get extraordinarily advantageous terms.
- Why They Do It:They've mistaken a negotiation for a competition and their sense of self-worth has become tied to whether they can "win" by cutting a deal where you "lose."
- Why It's Bad For You: If you give in, you'll end up with a deal that's not profitable for your firm.
- Why It's Bad For Them: If the deal is not profitable for your firm, the business relationship will be (at best) strained and (at worst) unsustainable.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Make it clear from the start that you have negotiating parameters that can't be bypassed. Walk out if the customer surfaces unreasonable, non-negotiable demands. Don't worry; they'll cave.
MISTAKE #8: Buying for the wrong reason
- Example: A customer buys a product because he simply wants to please you or not look stupid.
- Why They Do It: They're insecure and seek approval. You got appointed as their self-esteem booster du jour.
- Why It's Bad For You: You could sell the customer something that won't work or won't work well, which could damage your reputation.
- Why It's Bad For Them: They could end up with the wrong offering, thereby spending their hard-earned money unwisely.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Be committed to helping the customer rather than just making a sale.
MISTAKE #7: Valuing sizzle over steak
- Example: The customer wants to buy your product because of a feature that's irrelevant to its ability to solve a problem or achieve a goal.
- Why They Do It: Simple people, like monkeys, are fascinated by bright, shiny objects.
- Why It's Bad For You: While you might make the sale, the customer may have major remorse when the sizzle wears off.
- Why It's Bad For Them: The customer will miss opportunities to purchase wisely and use the purchase wisely.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Stop "selling the sizzle" if that's what you're doing. Instead, keep the customer's focus on how the product can actually help in a real-world situation.
MISTAKE #6: Treating sales reps like dirt
- Example: The customer singles out sales reps for abusive treatment ranging from missing meetings to yelling at them.
- Why They Do It: They dislike themselves so much that they need to belittle somebody else in order to feel better. They picked you because you're more likely to "grin and bear it," and probably won't be around long enough to take revenge.
- Why It's Bad For You: It creates a whole bag of stress that frankly you don't need.
- Why It's Bad For Them: It's alienating you, thereby making it more difficult for you to help.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Call their bluff. At the first sign of abusive behavior, firmly insist on being treated as a professional.
MISTAKE #5: Delegating Foolishly
- Example: A CEO delegates all buying authority to a purchasing group, even for offerings that involve multiple stakeholders and organizations.
- Why They Do It: Cost-savings. The idea is to make purchasing more difficult so that only "important" things get purchased.
- Why It's Bad For You: Purchasing groups are risk-averse, so they depend upon lists of "approved" vendors. If you're not on that list, you're out of luck.
- Why It's Bad For Them: It becomes virtually impossible to purchase innovative products, which are typically from companies not on the approved list.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Ask your customer contact about times when the purchasing department has been bypassed. If possible, use a similar method. If not, get the purchasing group involved in process. (Add 50 percent extra elapsed time to your sales forecast for that customer.)
MISTAKE #4: Windowshopping
- Example: A customer asks for information, demonstrations, and agrees to meetings but in fact has no intention whatsoever of buying, either from you or a competitor.
- Why They Do It: Depends. They may have too much time on their hands, or may be shopping around for a career change.
- Why It's Bad For You: They're wasting time that could be spent working with and selling to a real customer.
- Why It's Bad For Them: They're wasting their own time, which could be spent doing something more useful than wasting YOUR time.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Find out, very early in the sales cycle, whether budget money has actually been committed, or could be committed, to whatever you're offering.
MISTAKE #3: Buying way too much product
- Example: A company buys a hundred licenses for a software product when they only have 50 employees.
- Why They Do It: They've overestimated the future growth of their company.
- Why It's Bad For You: While it makes you look like you've sold a lot of product, there may be returns later or (even worse) the buyer may accuse you of padding the order, simply to keep from looking stupid.
- Why It's Bad For Them: They've sunk money into something that they can't use, which is profit skimmed right off the top.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: If you see the order starting to bloat out, inject some reality into the picture. Find a way to stagger the order so that the extra product can be canceled if necessary.
MISTAKE #2: Failing to read the instructions
- Example: The customers buys a complex product and then keeps pestering you for information about how to use it, when that information is right in the instruction manual.
- Why They Do It: It's a combination of laziness and probably because your instruction manual isn't the easiest document in the world to read.
- Why It's Bad For You: Answering repetitive questions will gobble up your time faster than an online game.
- Why It's Bad For Them: There will be delays when they try to get through to you, which means they won't be getting full use of the product.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: As part of your post-sales effort, walk the customer through the support process, and help them become familiar with the documentation.
MISTAKE #1: Buying from an inferior competitor
- Example: You know you have the right product for the prospect, but the prospect buys from somebody who doesn't.
- Why They Do It: The competition probably outsold you. It's as simple as that.
- Why It's Bad For You: You didn't make the sale and didn't help the customer.
- Why It's Bad For Them: They're stuck with the piece of c**p that they actually bought.
- How to Help Them Avoid it: Work the basics. Position your product, match it to the customer's needs, offer a price that matches the benefits, develop a good relationship. And if the customer buys elsewhere, find out what you did wrong. Then don't do it next time.