Bonus Content

The Biggest Mistakes Salespeople Make

By John Chapin

Mistake No. 1: Thinking that servicing accounts is more important than selling new ones
Every excuse for servicing accounts—from “They'll only deal with me” to “I want to make sure it's done right”—are simply excuses to avoid the hard work of going out and making calls. Salespeople are hunters, service people are gathers. Outside of renewals, scheduled service calls, and emergencies, clients should be dealing with CSRs and other support people. Any time salespeople are servicing clients—outside of renewals, scheduled calls, and major issues—they are doing themselves and their companies, clients, and future clients a disservice.

Mistake No. 2: Majoring in minor things and finding other time wasters
Chatting with friends and colleagues, checking e-mail more than four times a day, taking 10 coffee breaks, and, in general, finding things to do other than calling on prospects and customers, are examples of time wasters. Spending two hours looking up prospect information before calling, servicing clients on routine items (as in Mistake No. 1), and spending time practicing a call dozens of times before actually making the call are all examples of majoring in minor things. A salesperson's highest priority is to spend time with prospects and “sometimes” his or her top 20% of customers (again, for renewals, scheduled calls, and emergencies).

Mistake No. 3: Focusing on reactive vs. proactive marketing
The fastest and best way to build business is by making phone calls and knocking on doors. These are the most effective tactics—and the only ones over which salespeople have almost complete control. Going to a Chamber of Commerce Event, BNI, or some similar networking event, hoping to get a lead is reactive. In those situations a salesperson is relying on others—whose first priority is to get business for themselves—to give him or her business. Worse yet is hanging out on social media and/or sending blind, unsolicited e-mails in hopes of getting business. 

Mistake No. 4: Not being prepared for and not practicing sales situations
A salesperson has to be prepared for every sales situation he or she is going to encounter and has to practice ahead of time. Ideally with another human, but if not, alone. Each and every answer has to be scripted and committed to memory so that it is known verbatim and a response can be made immediately in a real-life sales situation.

Mistake No. 5: No goals, no plan, and no clue how much activity has been done—or needs to be done—in order to be successful
A salesperson who can't answer the question “How many calls did you make last week on brand-new prospects?” simply isn't keep track. It may have been two, or even zero. In order to be successful, a salesperson has to have annual, monthly, and weekly goals, along with knowing the daily activity necessary to make those goals a reality. Then he or she has to make the calls.

Mistake No. 6: Giving up too soon
Eighty-one percent of sales are made after the fourth contact. Roughly 20% of salespeople make it past the fourth contact. Enough said.

Mistake No. 7: Not doing the work necessary
More than 99% percent of the time a salesperson fails it's due to a lack of activity. Not making enough calls, to talk to enough people, in order to make enough sales. Since activity is the primary reason for success or failure, this could have been Mistake No. 1, but it's so obvious most probably would have stopped reading.

Chapin is a motivational sales speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or to have him speak at your next event, go John has over 29 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia. You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place. E-mail:



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