Avoid making these sales mistakes that happen even before contacting leads

Before salespeople pick up the phone, they should prepare for this first point of contact

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While companies like to think their employees excel at selling to customers, salespeople may be making mistakes they don't realize they're making. Managers may not notice that their employees are slipping from the company-determined sales path, but the numbers in their sales performance reports might uncover where they turned the wrong way. Many of the problems with sales often begin before sales representatives pick up the phone or send an email to leads.

Here are three mistakes sales staff make before contacting leads:

1. Neglecting to prepare for the first point of contact
Before a big game, sports teams study their opponent, including what are their weaknesses and how they go about playing the game. Sales teams need to do the same thing in preparing to sell to customers. There are key questions salespeople can ask to get ahead of the curve and avoid seeming like they don't know what they're doing once they have a customer on the line. Sales staff need to ask themselves what is the industry of the lead they are trying to convert? What is their demographic or company profile? Their pain points?

While sales staff may not be familiar with all the answers to these questions, they could do research by looking at persona descriptions, data supporting the behavior of similar leads, or even follow leads on social media to get a feel for the industry or personality behind the customer or company. 

2. Benchmarks aren't clear to salespeople
When salespeople don't know what they're selling or how much they need to sell to hit their targets, this can derail the company's whole sales forecast. It may not be clear to sales teams what the company's performance objectives are and what they need to improve on quarter after quarter if managers do not actively talk about it from time to time. Without knowing the goals of the company and alignment of employees' personal motivations with the objectives of the business, workers may not be sure how they will achieve their sales targets and qualify for incentive compensation. 

Managers should consistently remind sales teams about the benchmarks they are trying to reach and the sales techniques and tools needed to meet them. They can do this by sending periodic emails, having meetings about the previous quarter's performance and reinforcing training for skills that may be rusty. By discussing benchmarks openly, managers can better hold employees to these standards and be on their way to helping meet the company's overall sales targets. 

3. Companies do not look at the bad news
In measuring the effectiveness of customer interactions, companies should evaluate where their customers are in the sales funnel. They should also pinpoint their workers' progress in getting them closer to a deal and the other measures like the revenue of each lead. Although managers may think that they chose the right metrics to track customer-related data, this system might not be set up to optimally address problems in sales. They may be measuring only transactions that end in a sale, Gallup pointed out. While this is helpful in determining whether sales are successful and moving toward growth, it does not face the reality that often times leads will decline a sale. It also does not make clear the mistakes employees may be making again and again. 

Looking at why leads do not respond positively to a sales pitch is beneficial for companies to learn from their mistakes. Companies using sales performance management software could review past data and determine whether they need to change up their approach if it has been shown to be consistently failing.

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