Posted by: Bill von Achen | July 8, 2011

Fatal Mistakes That Salespeople Make

Let’s take a break from innovation (my theme in these messages over the past few weeks) and talk about something a bit more tangible and immediate to most business owners and executives. That is, how can we help ourselves and our salespeople to win more new business without giving in on price.

The adage “nothing ever happens until someone sells something” is a reminder of the critical importance of selling in building a successful business. Unfortunately, for many professionals charged with winning new business, the “art” of selling is too often reduced to a single variable, price. That’s because most of us firmly believe that price is the most important factor in every single buying decision, and we position our pitch to effectively address that concern.

Focusing solely on price diminishes the value of what we’re selling. If our only appeal to the buyer is the price of our product compared with competitive offerings, we effectively take our product’s most important assets off the table for consideration. This action has the effect of reducing our product to a mere commodity in the mind of the buyer, a commodity that’s readily interchangeable with seemingly similar products.

Focusing exclusively on price also narrows the conversation with the buyer. Instead of exploring and understanding the buyer’s needs and wants, and their real reason for buying, making pricing the centerpiece of the discussion cuts short the discovery process. It also curtails the potential opportunity to expand the scope of the sale beyond the initial customer inquiry.

Of course, there are many products in the marketplace for which price is the only significant differentiator. For example, gasoline that’s a dime per gallon cheaper at the service station a block or two out of our way is usually all the incentive most of us need to justify a slight inconvenience. But when it comes to most of the purchasing decisions we make in business, price is only one of several factors, and it’s almost never the most important one.

In his book, The Secrets of Power Selling, sales consultant and trainer Kelley Robertson talks about the misconceptions about price in buying decisions, and identifies other key mistakes we make when engaged in the selling process.  Here’s a brief list of the most important ones:

1. Falling prey to the myth that all of your competitors are cheaper
2. Not asking enough high-value questions
3. Failing to establish the value of your product, service or solution
4. Negotiating with those who aren’t empowered to make buying decisions
5. Making too many assumptions about the buyer’s needs and motivation
6. Not listening enough
7. Talking past the sale
8. Making concessions without getting something in return
9. Failing to determine your walk-away point
10. Allowing your ego to get in the way

What mistakes do your or your salespeople make in your business development efforts? How do you communicate the value of your products and services with customers in competitive situations? And what steps do you take to avoid engaging prematurely about price in discussions with prospects? Share your thoughts and ideas by posting your comments here. Thanks!

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