The Dirty Dozen; 12 ways to kill a sale and how to avoid them – Part 1

As a child, your parents probably told you to “learn from your mistakes” or that “practice makes perfect”. While these statements hold true in life, they are not always the most appropriate for the fast-paced and high-stakes world of sales. As a sales rep, your livelihood depends on closing important deals; so you don’t want to miss out on a deal because of an avoidable mistake. In this 3 part series, we will tackle 12 mistakes that commonly plague sales reps and discuss how to avoid them during your sales process.

Tip 1: Get to know your buyer

The first fatal mistake is not identifying your target audience/buyer. Critically examine your product by asking yourself questions like “what problems does my product solve?” and “which industries could benefit from my solution?” to help you to narrow your prospect list. Once your list is more manageable and concise, you can research your specific audience and target your leads to a qualified prospect list. Researching your target audience, determining who the influencers and decision-makers are, and adjusting your marketing plans to reach your target audience will not only save you time, it will increase engagement from your prospects and your overall potential to close the deal. This is a true example of how to work smarter, not harder, to lay the foundation of your sales process.

Tip 2: Talk less, Listen more

Nothing is more annoying for a buyer than being told that they need to buy something that they really don’t need. Plan your communications and conversations with your prospects to extract as much information about them and their company’s points of pain as possible. The more they talk and the less you talk the better! Once you have a sense of where their pain is, promote your product towards solving those issues. Spending some time getting to know your prospect and marketing yourself towards their problems will build your reputation and help ease your way into a deal. Also, not pushing a product/service on the prospect will help gain their trust and build your rapport.

Tip 3: Leave improvising to actors

While winging it might work when you’re 18 and taking a road trip with your college roommates, it is not always the best strategy for a sales call. Create a sales strategy that covers the information you need to gather and your goals for each interaction, practice your strategy and brainstorm some common questions and appropriate answers. Having a plan will help you appear confident and professional; two traits that will make you and your product more attractive to buyers. It’s hard to get people to take time to listen to you when you’re trying to sell something. Being prepared will earn you some respect, as you won’t be wasting your time, or your prospects.

Tip 4: Stop the hate 1.0

Ask yourself: do you enjoy the product you are selling? If the only thoughts that come to mind are negative, you may need to re-evaluate how you are viewing and using the product. Talk to your coworkers and your customers to change your perspective and get a different viewpoint of why your product is awesome. A negative view of the product will hinder your enthusiasm and ruin the sale. It will be very difficult to sell something you’re not passionate about; you may not notice it in your pitch, but it will arise in your tone and your body language. From a psychological perspective, people will naturally read these non-vocal cues and it will ultimately affect their trust in you.

Check back on Wednesday November 9th for Part 2 of this series!


  1. I agree with your tips wholeheartedly. If you look at the history of selling technology systems, you’ll realize the traditional consultative approach of qualifying, presenting and closing is an easy trap for the majority of sales people to follow and become victims. I always find it more gratifying and rewarding for both parties (salesman and qualified prospect) to co-build an outcome(close plan) , then finally deliver the proof (i.e execute the outcome plan).


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