I remember the last time my wife and I bought a vehicle.  We knew we wanted an SUV, but beyond that, what was top on my wife’s list were heated seats and a superior sound system.

Unfortunately, just about every salesperson we encountered failed to hear what my wife was saying. Instead, the salespeople made the mistake of honing in on all the great benefits of an SUV in winter conditions. Big mistake.

Yes I know, all salespeople make mistakes.  I share our car-buying experience because it is a good example that most salespeople don’t set out to hurt their sales, but sometimes they do!

As a salesperson, have you ever made what I believe are the three worst mistakes:

1. Not listening to what your customer truly wants and needs.

When my wife and I went to buy a vehicle, the salespeople weren’t listening.  Sadly, this is not uncommon among many salespeople. They are either so anxious to close the deal or they are so well-versed in all of their product’s features that they don’t take the time to understand which features most connect to the customer.

As a salesperson, it is crucial you help your customer see the value in what you offer.  You simply can’t do that if you haven’t figured out what the customer wants.  And you can’t figure out what the customer wants if you don’t ask the right questions and follow-up questions — and then shut up and listen.

I’ve often said that short questions get you long answers.  What I mean by this is that when you ask questions like “Can you tell me more about that?”, the customer will often reveal information that is golden.  It’s information they possibly wouldn’t have revealed if you had been too quick to tell them about the features of your product — or  too quick to close the sale.

2. Failing to believe in your price.

I never cease to be amazed by salespeople (and there are a lot of them!) who simply do not believe in the price of their product or service.

If you do not believe in your price, you must address your lack confidence in the price or you will never see the success you are capable of.  In many ways, this goes back to mistake number one — not listening to what the customer wants and needs.

When you grasp that what you offer has value to the customer, only then will you recognize that your price is right.  In fact, you may even see that it is too low and you need a price increase!

Another detriment to not believing in price is that a salesperson will be quick to offer a discount.  This becomes their go-to method for closing a sale. The habit exponentially sabotages profits (especially if more than one salesperson in the company is doing this!)

3. Doing little or no prospecting.

If you are not consistently drumming up new business, then you become desperately reliant on your current customers.  Desperate people do stupid things, like cater to current customers in such a way that it eats away at the bottom line.

Even if you don’t do things like discount a price, you may make unreasonable accommodations that put pressure on other people in your company and chip away profit. (“Sure we can bill you twice a month instead of our normal monthly billing! Sure we can rush the delivery without an extra charge!”)

The only way to not become completely reliant on current customers is to keep a steady flow of prospects.  If you do not think you are good at prospecting, then my suggestion is simple — find ways to improve those skills.  In the short run and the long run, you will benefit and your company will benefit.

Instead of dreading prospecting, try to reframe your perspective and tell yourself that there are potential customers out there who need and want what you offer — and if you don’t find those customers, they will suffer.  In other words, if your product or service could benefit someone, wouldn’t you want that “someone” to know it?

As salespeople, we do a lot of things right.  When it comes to mistakes, though, I believe the above three are the worst.

You want to be a salesperson at the top of your game, right? Then you must listen to what the customer truly wants, genuinely believe in your price, and prospect with an attitude that you are on a mission to help people.

When you master these selling skills, you’ll maximize profits.  More importantly, you will better appreciate yourself and what you bring to the table as a salesperson.

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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