The Big “D”

DDunce! Vintage stupidity! Years ago, slow or misbehaving students were routinely labeled “dunce” and sent to the corner by frustrated teachers. A funny cone shaped hat inscribed with the letter “D” or word “dunce” made the kid look and feel foolish.

No doubt we’d consider this punishment downright cruel nowadays. But wait. Maybe there’s a credible take-away for today’s overly zealous salespeople, who make dumb choices when their focus is closing the deal rather than respecting the process.

Otherwise intelligent and skilled sales pros sometimes make stupid mistakes that warrant a dunce cap and time out in the corner.  Errors in judgement, style, and protocol can ruin a sales presentation, professional relationship and career. Here are ten dumb moves smart salespeople should abandon now.

  1. Taking another call during a meeting. Turn off the electronics and stay focused on the prospect in front of you. Your phone is not unique, and the customer will be underwhelmed by your rudeness and lack of respect.
  2. Faking familiarity. You don’t know a person until you know a person. Don’t ask how they’re feeling when you don’t really care. Save the gratuitous inquiries for later.
  3. Fixin’ something that ain’t broke. Avoid addressing an objection the client hasn’t even brought up yet. It’s smart to anticipate objections, but stupid to introduce them before the customer does. Premature defensiveness weakens your proposal.
  4. Thinking it’s about you. It’s always about your customers, and they love talking about themselves. Listen first, then modify your mannerisms and approach to suit each client. Sales educator and trainer Dave Kahle says super successful salespeople are like chameleons because they can effortlessly adjust their behavior and personality to meet the customer’s needs and expectations.
  5. Engaging in a debate. Your sales appointment is no place to play ping pong with points that are going nowhere. When it starts feeling like a match rather than a meeting and the conversation becomes point/counterpoint, back off and move on to more neutral territory.
  6. Playing switcheroo with pertinent details. Be thorough and clear, even when delivering information the client may not want to hear. Don’t skimp on the specifics. Your job is to deliver a presentation so balanced and credible that difficult details are made palatable.
  7. Calling, e-mailing, or otherwise trying to reach your client multiple times a day. This is unhealthy follow-up that smacks of desperation rather than sales savvy. The client may get so annoyed you’ll get ignored.
  8. Wasting time with dead on arrival contacts. Qualify your prospects early on to avoid wasting time. Find out during the first several minutes of your initial contact whether or not the customer needs and can use your product. If the shoe doesn’t fit, they’ll never buy it no matter how good your sales pitch is.
  9. Peppering your presentation with profanity, jargon, stereotypes, sexist or other inappropriate language. Be careful! Don’t relax and fall into a stupidity pit because of your loose lips. Never assume off color language is o.k. Never comment or ask about a physical or personal choice like pregnancy or sexuality unless the client brings it up first. Be careful when engaging in politically charged dialogue, slang, or phrases that could be misinterpreted.
  10. Assuming a closed sale is all there is. Sales leader Colleen Francis warns against falling into a “sales trap” after a series of successful closings:

“What most salespeople forget, however, is all of the hard work that got them to that point. It may have taken them six weeks of hard prospecting to get the pipeline full to the point where they could close sales. Unfortunately, that blissful forgetfulness often causes them to neglect the activities that lead to a full, healthy pipeline. As a result, when the sales are either closed or lost and the quarter is over, they wake up to find that there’s nothing left. They’ve literally drained the pipeline dry, and now, all of a sudden, there’s no one to sell to. So, salespeople have to start back at square one and get busy prospecting again.”

Every successful appointment creates an opportunity for another, but there’s never enough time to waste on avoidable errors. Use technology wisely, qualify prospects, be careful with your interpersonal sound bites and language, modify your manner when necessary, answer objections only after the customer has brought them up, and get busy prospecting again once you close.

Steer clear of the dumb moves that should, but luckily won’t, land you in the corner with a dunce cap today. Protect your potential earnings and professional reputation instead. Leave vintage stupidity alone and go to the head of the class!

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