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Top 9 Blunders that B2B Sales Reps Make

Selling B2B is a difficult job, but it's even more difficult if you keep making blunders that can scuttle the deal. Fortunately, the most common blunders can be easily identified and avoided.

This post contains the 9 most common blunders that B2B sales reps make when working on a major opportunity. It also contains easily-followed advice on how to make sure that YOU don't make them.

Click to see the first blunder »

Illustrations by Lorelyn Medina
Blunder #1. They don't learn the customer's industry.
  • What they do: They don't bother to research the basics of the customer's industry, such as the cost structures, challenges, regulatory environment, technical problems, etc.
  • Why they do it: They wrongly assume that their product offering is valuable to all companies in all industry, in exactly the same way. (E.g. "We have a horizontal product that benefits everyone.")
  • What happens: The prospect quickly realizes that the rep doesn't understand the problems that the customer faces every day. As a result, the customer becomes frustrated and annoyed because the rep is literally "talking another language" that just doesn't make sense.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, take the time prior to every meeting with any customer, to dig around on the Internet to find analyst reports and news articles about the industry. Find out the major players, the major firms, and the major concerns. Take notes, so that you don't have to do it all over again next time you call on a similar customer.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #2: They ask obvious questions.
  • What they do: They ask lots of questions that could have easily have been answered by searching the Internet.
  • Why they do it: They figure they can wing it, usually because they're over-confident in their ability to make the sale.
  • What happens: They end up wasting valuable one-on-one time with a busy customer who has other things to do that provide a free education.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, always research the customer thoroughly before your first important meeting. Continue to research throughout the sales cycle, as you make further contacts and understand the customer's problems more thoroughly.
  • More Advice:
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #3: They ignore the competition.
  • What they do: They never bother to discover who else is trying to sell to that prospect.
  • Why they do it: They're so excited at the opportunity that they don't want to look too hard at something that might scuttle the deal.
  • What happens: The competitor gets the inside track because they know what you're pitching and they position their product to make sure that it's more attractive to the prospect.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, always ask the prospect who else is calling on a prospect. (Yeah, it's gutsy, but you have to do it.) Figure out the competitor's sales strategy based upon whom they're calling upon. Come up with a plan to counter the competitor's move to keep the playing field level.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #4: They don't learn how the customer buys.
  • What they do: They get deeply involved in a sales opportunity without finding out what's unique about the customer's buying process.
  • Why they do it: Usually this happens when the reps is focused on the sales process. The reps keeps thinking about how to sell, rather than about how the customer is going to buy.
  • What happens: Worst case, the rep loses the deal. Best case, the rep experiences inexplicable delays as the customer takes actions behind the scene that the rep doesn't understand.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this problem, use intelligent questions to gradually discover how the customer buys, then adjust your sales process so that it matches the buying process. Take the steps that help the customer move to the next stage in their buying process.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #5: They give a generic sales pitch.
  • What they do: They natter on and on about their company, its offerings, and its strategy.
  • Why they do it: Usually they've been handed a "standard" presentation created by marketing people who have no idea how to sell.
  • What happens: They never really find what the prospect wants and needs, so the pitch is just a "spray and pray".
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, get "centered" before your next sales call. During your conversation with the customer, focus your intent on customer: words, gestures, tonality and context. Don't think about what you're going to say next. Listen, then respond, then ask another question.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #6: They don't know business basics.
  • What they do: They reveal their ignorance of basic business and accounting principles.
  • Why they do it: Unfortunately, it's usually because they are, uhh... ignorant about basic business and accounting principles.
  • What happens: The lack of such knowledge seriously limits the rep's ability to add value to the discussion. The rep seems at a loss when the conversation moves to important issues like ROI and how the rep's offerings will impact the customer's bottom line.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, go to your local community college and enroll in a basic business course. Find out how to read a financial report, how understand an annual report, and how to calculate ROI. Remember: you don't need an MBA degree to sell, but you do need to know what you're talking about.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #7: They avoid closing the deal.
  • What they do: They spend so much effort into building the opportunity that they never quite get to the business of closing it.
  • Why they do it: They've invested in the opportunity that they're afraid that the answer will be "NO", which will mean that all that effort was a waste of time and that the prospect doesn't really "like" the sales rep.
  • What happens: The opportunity dies on the vine or goes to the competition.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, constantly check to make sure that the sale is proceeding forward. When you believe that you've got consensus that a deal should be made, make one final check for a green light, then ask for the business.
Click to see the next blunder » Blunder #8. They let prospects bully them.
  • What they do: They give in to last minute demands from the prospect, usually for extra discounts, "or else the deal is off."
  • Why they do it: They're deathly afraid of losing the deal at the end of the sale cycle, so they crumple when the prospect pushes.
  • What happens: The customer rightfully concludes that 1) the rep didn't offer the best deal from the start and 2) the rep lacks a backbone. The customer thus no longer trusts the rep and will constantly push for more and more and more and more.
  • Your Action Plan: To avoid this blunder, create a deal that make sense for both seller and buyer. When the last-minute demands come up, hold your ground, or (if you must) make any changes to the deal contingent on changes in what's being sold. In most cases, the customer will be relieved that you're not a pushover because the customer WANTS to trust you. After all, he's buying something important from you, right?
Click to see the final blunder » Blunder #9: They don't follow through.
  • What they do: After the deal has gone through, they don't bother to make certain that the customer is delighted.
  • Why they do it: They feel that they are "too busy" working on new accounts and developing new business.
  • What happens: The reps find that the key to success in sales -- repeat business -- never really develops because the customers fell that the rep doesn't really care. As a result, the rep is constantly forced to develop new contacts and new opportunities, while fighting against a bad reputation. Ultimately, it's career suicide.
  • Your Action Plan: It's all a matter of organization. Whenever you close a deal, spend the extra time to schedule your follow-up appoints. At the same time, schedule time so that you're 100% sure that you make ALL your calls promptly.
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