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10 biggest mistakes sales people make


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Ask yourself what makes a sales person successful? To help answer that, turn the question ‘what makes a sales person successful?' on its head and ask yourself, ‘what are the biggest mistakes a sales person makes'? Avoid those and you might find yourself doing rather well. Not spending the majority of their time in front of prospects This is fundamental to success in sales and something that is often forgotten the more experienced the sales person becomes. If you're not spending most of your time in front of (or on the phone to) your prospects/clients, selling, what are you doing? And if you're not selling to them – someone else is. Not continually prospecting and adding new customers to their base Repeat business is important but the same customers can't buy from you all the time. And sometimes they go elsewhere. Again, success in sales requires the sales person to be constantly on the look out for new prospects – referrals, referrals, referrals. Talking too much Failing to listen A common complaint of sales people is that they talk too much, and if they're talking too much, what are they not doing? Listening. At first contact, the sales person and the customer are likely to have a conflict of focus. The sales person's focus is on the future – what they can/will do for the customer. The customer is focused on the past – what their problem is and how this has made life difficult. A good sales person masters the art of asking the right questions and listening to the answers. There are many benefits of letting the customer do most of the talking, not least that they will tell you their needs and what motivates them and ultimately how to sell them. Failing to take full responsibility for their results We rationalise (or tell ‘rational lies'!). It's easy to come up with plausible sounding excuses that justify a bad performance. Accept that it's up to you to fix it. There will be something you're doing wrong, such as any one of the next four mistakes sales people make … Living in their comfort zones Staying within your comfort zone can be a good thing (you become competent at something and grow in confidence). It can be a negative too. By operating within your comfort zone, you cease to strive, to grow and improve. Your activity plateaus and the only way is down! Not controlling their ‘self talk' This is a topic worthy of more than a few lines, but, for what it's worth, a few key points. For many sales people, what is called, the ‘self confidence cycle' starts with their results: they have a bad day, and they tell themselves they're rubbish – their self talk is negative; their self image, therefore, is of a bad sales person; their actions and behaviour back this up – they don't act professionally/they cut corners and their results are poor. Conversely, by starting the sales cycle at self talk they still tell themselves they're good at their job, no matter what their results were the previous day. The cycle from here on can only be more positive. Not using a structured sales presentation A sales cycle based upon a learned presentation can be very effective. Even if they are not following a script word for word, a good sales person should base their presentation on a structure that is proven to be successful, although the actual words used by each individual may be slightly different. Focusing on money instead of work habits Good work habits include ‘working the numbers', e.g. knowing how many calls must be made, how many meetings or presentations are required to make the sale and hit targets, etc. By focusing on these your activity WILL bear fruit. But if your focus is the money each sale makes, it's likely to be much more on the present, instead of laying great foundations for the future. More importantly, it allows you to get over the relevant points in the shortest time. (It cuts waffle). Failing to plan their work and work their plan People who plan effectively use their time better. It's amazing how much time can be wasted dealing with ‘interruptions', so structure your calling time and maximise your availability to hold meetings. About the author Lars Tewes built up sales training business, SBR Consulting, and is highly regarded as a leading UK sales trainer. SBR Consulting is a sales training company, whose main objective is to help companies improve their top line through building their most valuable asset, their people. The team provides training and consulting which combine process, work habits and mindset. For more information about SBR Consulting please visit, call 020 7367 5060 or email