Over two days, I walked away from a total of 10 deals with the (rough) equivalent value of about $8.50.
That seemingly insignificant sum by American standards actually translates into more than 80,000 IDR in Indonesia, where I was visiting. The "deals" were from street vendors trying to sell all sorts of handicrafts.
As tempting or curious as these delightful souvenirs might seem, my reason for walking away from each deal was rarely driven by my desperate need to hold on to my $8.50. Instead, it was usually because of some casual mistake made by the vendor that caused me to lose trust in doing business with them.
Most of your deals (hopefully) happen on a significantly larger scale. Yet, when I walked through the markets watching these entrepreneurs trying to work their magic, I was reminded that there are many ways that extremely smart people can unintentionally blow their chances of closing a deal—whether it’s a product sold for a few dollars, or services amounting to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here are five of the most common mistakes I’ve seen (and sometimes committed myself), as well as some thoughts for how you can overcome them.
1. Listen too much
We generally believe that great sales have a lot to do with being a better listener. That’s actually wrong. As anyone who has built a trusted sales relationship will tell you, people want to work with experts—and experts always have a point of view. Listening without speaking doesn’t give you much of a chance to offer your expertise. Listening proactively in order to interject or have a deeper conversation, though, is a much different tactic. If you can do that, instead of just trying to be a silent listener, you have a much better chance of making a positive impression on your potential customer.
2. Offering perfect services instead of imperfect solutions
Sadly, most customers rarely care about how great you think your product is, how many features you offer or how impressive your market share is in that space. Those may be useful supporting arguments, but they are hardly ever enough. The problem is, when you focus on features, you set yourself on a path of trying desperately hard to have the perfect services to meet a customer’s need. Instead, what if you tried to focus on offering the best solution … even if it happens to be imperfect? Most of the time, customers will take a solution to their real problems over a list of features and promises of “industry leading services” any day.
3. Over-justify the price
I have a fairly uncomplicated description of why a reputation matters. A great reputation justifiably lets you charge a premium for what you do. But here’s the most interesting thing about it … that reputation also usually means you don’t have to justify your pricing. Your customer should already understand why it is worth what you are charging. Of course, this doesn’t mean you might still negotiate—but I have seen many entrepreneurs when it comes to the topic of discussing their “price pitch” spend way too much time justifying why they charge what they charge. Don’t over-justify. Instead focus on building your reputation so the price you want to charge seems like a fair deal for what you offer.
4. Not generous in defeat
No one likes to lose a deal or come in second place. But losing can also be your greatest opportunity. The worst possible way to lose is with a curt declaration of “you’re dead to me.” Instead, thank your prospect for their time and offer to be a resource for them. Check back after six months, and offer to let them pick your brain about working with or buying from your competitor without continuing to sell them on your product or service. If that relationship with your competitor goes south, or if they happen to be asked to recommend someone to work with in your industry … guess who will be at the top of their list?
5. Forgetting about the first 100 days
The first 100 days are the most important part of your customer experience—yet too often businesses and entrepreneurs tend to see a sale as a finish line instead of the opposite. My good friend Joey Coleman advises businesses on how they can reinvent their first 100 days of interacting with a new customer. Coleman finds that customers who go through a specific program designed to ensure their happiness for those critical first three months tend to remain customers. And those who don’t often end up leaving.
There are plenty of things in business you can't control. You don't want to blow a deal or lose a sale over something you can control. Don't make these common mistakes.
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This article originally ran on August 1, 2014.