The worst feeling people can experience is having an order in the palm of their hands … and then letting it slip through their fingers. It’s hard enough to hear “no, no, no” all day long — when you finally get a “yes” and it turns into a “on second thought, no,” it’s just too painful for words to describe. If you can avoid these three common errors that cause salespeople to talk themselves out of the deal, you’ll greatly reduce your exposure to that kind of pain.
1. THEY KEEP TALKING AFTER THEY GET THE ORDER
A proven sales technique is to take the customer’s order, say thank you … and then, shut up. When a new customer finally makes the decision to buy, he may still be having doubts, second thoughts: “What did I just do? Did I really want to place this order?”
If that’s the case, the customer is looking (consciously or not-so-consciously) for a way out, for an excuse to change his mind without appearing foolish or capricious. Thus, anything the salesperson says after the order is in hand could be the excuse for which the customer is looking. Even something as innocuous as saying, “I forgot to feed my cat this morning” could turn into a problem — maybe it sets the customer to thinking the salesperson is disorganized or that he, a dog lover, doesn’t really want to do business with a cat person.
Sometimes salespeople get into post-order conversation territory that leaves them far more vulnerable to second thoughts than the example above. For instance:
- Bringing up details about warranties may raise doubts about product quality.
- Bringing up details about the order fulfillment process may raise concerns about the supplier being too bureaucratic or rigid.
- Starting to sell a complementary product or service may raise concerns that the seller is too pushy.
Leave on a high note. Cover details and pursue new opportunities later, when the buyer is in a more receptive and less doubtful frame of mind.
2. THEY BRING IN THE BOSS
Let me state categorically I have nothing against sales managers. However, bringing in the boss right after a deal is closed can be very, very risky. Buying decisions always involve intellect and emotion. The “intellect” part has a lot to do with product features and benefits, ROI calculations and the like. The “emotion” side has a lot to do with relationships — do I feel comfortable working with this company, can I trust the people, etc. It’s on the relationship side of the equation that bringing in the boss can spell trouble.
If a salesperson is successful in making a sale, it means there is a positive vibe in his or her relationship with the buyer — a level of trust, a level of comfort, a level of confidence. Anything that disrupts that relationship in the initial stages puts the order in jeopardy.
Since sales managers often have quite different personalities from salespeople, introducing the boss right away may throw off the delicate relationship chemistry that has not entirely stabilized. True, there is always the possibility that the boss may do a great deal to strengthen the relationship, but perhaps rather than taking the risk immediately, wait — wait until the initial order has been successfully filled, then go to work building the relationship at a time when there is everything to gain and not quite so much to lose.
3. THEY TRY TO SELL TO SOMEONE ELSE
When a salesperson secures that first order, he or she is sky high, brimming with confidence. A natural (but bad) tendency is to ask the buyer if so-and-so in his/her organization may be interested in such and such a product or service. It’s a great idea to sell new items and make new contacts in an organization, but the timing is wrong if it is done just after the first order is taken.
First, as mentioned earlier, the buyer may think the salesperson is being too pushy. Second, if the buyer accommodates the request, the new contact may feel something negative that puts the order in jeopardy. Third, the sales rep’s case to the new contact is stronger if it is made after that first order is filled, the product is doing its job, and saving the customer money and/or improving the operation.
In short, patience and reserve are virtues after the first order is taken. Salespeople are naturally impatient and outgoing, which are tremendous assets in the field most of the time. But as all great salespeople know, timing is everything. Knowing when to back off is just as crucial as knowing when to push forward.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing company in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Forbes, Moz and American Marketing Association.