Making a sale isn't always the easiest task.
From finding leads to closing deals and signing contracts, the entire sales process can be long and exhausting. One wrong move, and you could lose a huge lead. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to improve your sales game and get past many of the challenges you'll face along the way.
Ready to become a better salesperson? Here are 11 major sales mistakes to avoid from now on.
Mistake: You don't think from the client's perspective.
It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the task at hand — making a sale — that you forget to look at your potential client's needs.
"What matters most — when prospecting, during a sale and even after the contracts have been signed — are their problems, their time," said Rory Channer, chief business officer at CircleBack.
Channer also warned that neglecting the client's needs could destroy his or her trust in you and shut down all communication.
Mistake: You don't follow up quickly enough.
Businesses should follow up immediately when a lead is generated because waiting too long could cost them sales, said Brandon Stuerke, president of Advisors Edge Marketing.
Stuerke's advice is supported by research conducted by James Oldroyd, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That study found that the odds of leads becoming sales were 21 times greater if businesses were contacted within 5 minutes.
Mistake: You're leaving it up to the client.
When you have a lead, you need to take ownership of the next steps and avoid leaving it in the client's hands, said Chris Johnson, CEO of Permission Click.
"For example, when you're leaving a voicemail, try adding, 'If I haven't heard back by XYZ time and date, I'll try you again,'" Johnson said. "This can yield surprising results."
Johnson also noted that it's important to leave things open to follow up if there's no response.
"This reinforces that you'll do what you say," he noted.
Mistake: Your advertising calls to action are all or nothing.
Most salespeople offer only a face-to-face meeting or a telephone appointment as their call to action in their advertising, Stuerke noted, but that's asking a lot of prospects who are simply exploring options and aren't yet ready for that level of commitment. Those are leads that, three to six months later, may become sales — but they’re lost early in the process.
Instead, Stuerke suggested offering an option involving less commitment, such as the ability to download a free report in exchange for the client's information for follow-up. [Customer Loyalty: 5 Tips for Sales Reps ]
Mistake: You're on the defensive.
It's important to anticipate that customers and clients will have questions about your products or services. Don't be quick to overexplain — instead, ask thoughtful questions, Channer advised.
For example, if a customer were to complain that a product is too expensive, rather than launching into an explanation about what the product does and what features make it worth the cost, try asking questions like, "Why do you feel that way?" and "What are you comparing it to?" This is a great way to maintain control of the conversation and avoid scrambling to keep the sale on track, Channer said.
Mistake: You have the wrong perspective on cold calling.
"Don't assume cold calling is a chore," Channer said, noting that sales professionals should instead look at the task as a learning opportunity.
"Think of cold calling as a puzzle. What will you learn from this experience that you'll carry forward? What strategies worked or didn't work?" Channer said. "Of course, everyone wants warm leads, but you don't learn anything from someone begging you to sell them something."
Mistake: There is no lead capture on your website.
Many sites have no strategy for capturing useful information about their visitors. As a result, businesses spend thousands of dollars driving traffic to their websites, but they don't end up capturing any of the prospects' information, Stuerke said. Prospects come to the site and leave, and the business never knows the visitors were there.
To change this, Stuerke suggested offering visitors free resources in exchange for a small bit of information about them, like their email address. Buyers today turn to the Web for information while doing research, so that's what you should give them, he noted.
Mistake: You're approaching events the wrong way.
Heading to a trade show or a big conference soon? Don't just give out business cards and hope for the best.
"It's easy to shovel out 500 business cards to anyone who glances your way while walking the show," Johnson said, but if you really want a big payoff, plan ahead.
"It can pay big dividends to reach out to your target list of high-quality prospects personally, prior to attending, to let them know you'll be in attendance and would like to invite them by your booth," Johnson said.
Mistake: You talk too much, and don't listen enough.
Overpitching can lead to a quick "yes" or "no" decision for clients, especially when you approach it with a "take it or leave it" attitude, Johnson warned. It's important that you learn to listen to clients more and pitch less. Johnson suggested only talking about 25 percent of the time during the initial meeting.
"It's far more important that you understand what the client will do with your product than for you to explain what it does," he said.
Mistake: You're chasing the wrong leads.
"If you're a financial adviser or another professional, you may also be spending money on direct mail, invitations to seminars, TV commercials and/or print ads," Stuerke said.
"Instead of allowing those 'cooler' leads to fall by the wayside, businesses should capture and cultivate them. Eventually, they'll find that instead of constantly chasing leads, they're harvesting new clients."
Mistake: You don't maintain the relationship.
Just because a client signed a contract doesn't mean your job is over.
"Regardless of the sales structure in your department and who 'owns' the relationship post-sale, stick with your clients," Channer advised. "Call them, email them and continue developing that relationship."
Why? It can be better for business — and your career — than you realize.
"Well-nurtured clients have a way of becoming advocates, helping you land other deals and generally boosting your career," Channer said.
Originally published on April 15, 2013. Updated on June 3, 2015. Business News Daily social media specialist Dave Mielach contributed to this story.