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McDonell Consulting Group, LLC | Baltimore & Bel Air, MD

In my role as a sales and management consultant, I see an awful lot of negative habits that I’d like to correct — especially on the part of salespeople.

Three habits to assess and correct:
The first behavior I’d like to correct is an over-reliance on your product and salesmanship. Many salespeople with healthy egos fall into this trap. They are brimming with confidence and have fallen so completely in love with themselves and their product that their general attitude can be summarized by the following: “My product is awesome. I’m awesome. How can you not want to buy?”

The first problem with this approach is that, sadly, sometimes it actually works. And when it doesn’t work, these types of salespeople don’t look in the mirror to figure out what went wrong, they blame the prospect. As in, “that guy obviously has no idea what quality looks like.”

Most prospects don’t want to be “wowed into submission,” they want to be heard. Want to make nice? The first thing I tell any sales person interested in improvement is that “you were born with two ears and one mouth, try to use them in that proportion.”

In other words, active listening will get you a lot further than active talking. Do you even know if the prospect needs what you’re selling? Have you taken the time to ask questions to find out what challenges they might be facing and how your product or service could help them? If you do a lot more listening and less talking, you’re on your way.

No. 2 sales behavior improvement is talking to the right person — the decision maker. Sometimes it’s a lot easier and more comfortable talking to a mid-level manager who might have some influence but doesn’t actually make the decision. People in these roles often gather a couple of quotes and then present them to their boss. This one is a bit easier to address, just ask a simple question, such as: “Often I find that there might be another person involved in a purchasing decision. I don’t suppose that’s the case here?”

And then just listen and react accordingly. If there’s another person involved, it’s in your best interest to request an in-person meeting. Otherwise, you are putting someone else in charge of your destiny. You’ve worked hard to understand your product and understand the prospect’s needs; do you really want someone to leave the closing up to someone without your background and with no vested interest in the outcome? Ask for a meeting with the decision maker.

And the third naughty habit I’d like to address is the following:
Not getting an answer. Say you do talk to the decision maker. And everything seems to be going well but you finish the meeting and there are no clear next steps. They might say something like “thanks for the information, we’re going to think it over and let you know.”

The way to avoid this uncertainty is to set clear expectations from the start with what I like to call an “up-front contract.” An up front contract is a verbal agreement that lets the prospect know that you have a specific agenda for the meeting and that by the end, you anticipate that some kind of a decision or plan will be made.

So there you have it, three naughty behaviors that, if corrected, can lead the way to some nice sales in Q4.

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