Here’s an article from RainMaker Blog, a blog targeted to sales professionals.  In this post the author talks about the six key things a sales person could do (or fail to do) that would kill a sale.

As I thought more about it, these are all things that Major Gift Officers could fall victim to as well.  And therefore, I share them with you, my nonprofit friends and partners.  I hope this helps you see areas where you might improve your major gift solicitation strategy & approach, and ultimately help you close more gifts!

6 Mistakes that Will Kill Your Sales

On the RainMaker Blog we often share tips, tactics, and strategies to help you bring in new clients, grow your business, and succeed with marketing and sales.

But just as important as what you should do to grow your business is what you should not do.

Here are six all-too-common sales mistakes professionals make when selling their services:

1. Not building rapport: Trust is the foundation of all sales. If someone doesn’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. And trust building starts early on with rapport. The lifelong lesson your mother taught you when you were young rings true: you have only one chance to make a good first impression.

Within the first few seconds of meeting you, a buyer’s opinion will form—is this person real, are they credible, do I trust them in my gut? All of these questions flood the buyer’s mind the first time you open your mouth. Either they feel like they’ve made a positive connection with you or not.

In your selling efforts, don’t jump in and ask tough questions or probe too deeply into the company’s financials or other sensitive data. Take the first few minutes to make a connection with the prospect and show that you are interested in them as a person.  

2. Uncovering only surface-level needs: Often what clients initially state as their need is not the true need. Beneath the surface is a slew of other needs waiting to be uncovered. For example your client might say:

  • “I need a website.” What they are really saying and what you can get them thinking is: “I need a way to take online orders to increase our distribution and grow revenue.” Or, “I need to generate more leads, and I see opportunities to capture leads on our website.”
  • “I need my technology supported.” What they are really saying is: “I need my networks up and running 24/7 so people can work all day and not lose productive time.” Or, “I can’t afford to hire a full-time IT person, but we need regular preventative maintenance so that I can rest easy knowing our data is safe and secure.”

You must learn to ask questions and peel back the onion to get to the core of the need. What you want to get to is the “why.” Why do they have this need and why is this important to their business? Once you know the “why” behind the need, you can craft the best solution that covers the full range of needs and addresses the root of the problem.

3. Failing to demonstrate the value of your solution: You’re selling something intangible, and it is often difficult for your prospects to know exactly what they are buying. If you fail to communicate the value of your solution—the outcome the client will get as a result of working with you—the client will see only the cost and the risk associated with it. You need to help mitigate this perceived risk, and the best way to do that is by making the business case for engaging your services.

Demonstrate your value in terms of the revenue growth you’ll help them achieve, the cost savings, the increased productivity, etc. Spell out the value as clearly as possible and present the cost within the context of that value.

4. Talking too much: Whether it’s because you want to demonstrate your expertise, you are nervous, you want to fill the silence, or you like to hear yourself speak, the fact is most professionals talk too much in their sales conversations. When you talk too much, prospects feel like they aren’t being heard, and that often leads to a disconnect in the needs you uncover, your ability to truly understand those needs, and your ability to dig down and uncover the root of the need (see mistake #2).

A general rule of thumb is to talk only about 20% of the time. If you’ve attended to mistake #1, you’ve already built the necessary amount of rapport and the prospect feels comfortable talking with you. Now you need to ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions to get the prospect to open up and share what’s going on in their business. The more you can learn about them and their business the better you’ll be able to tailor your solution to exactly what they need.

5. All planning and no action: You may talk about doing business development and spend days planning for it—two days at a training program building your selling skills, hours building a list of folks in your network to contact, working with your marketing team to make sure your CRM system will support your efforts, writing your script and exactly what you want to say on the phone—but all of it leads to little action.

Half of sales success is actually showing up and doing it. You could have the best list and the best script in the world, but if you don’t pick up the phone and start dialing, none of that is going to matter. Stop planning and thinking about doing business development, and start doing it.

6. Failing to plan: On the flip side of mistake #5 is failing to plan at all. If you don’t have a plan and hold yourself accountable to that plan, it is likely that your business development efforts will get pushed to the back burner the second you kick off that next big client assignment.

Plan not only the time you’ll spend on sales (we call this your sacred selling time), but also each and every sales conversation. Know what you want to get out the conversation and go into the meeting with a next step in mind. Once you have a plan and you’re executing according to that plan (see mistake #5), you’ll find that your meetings and overall selling efforts will become much more productive.

Think about the last sales conversation you had. Did you make any of these mistakes? If so, what can you do during your next conversation to avoid making them again? Share with us how it goes!