BY SEAN MCPHEAT Sales people constantly ask me about prospecting techniques and methods. Yet the solution may not be techniques you need to employ, rather mistakes you need to avoid. Below are five deadly prospecting mistakes that sales people routinely make. These blunders can and have ended sales careers. Avoid them like the plague! #5 – Poor Record Keeping Most sales people overlook the importance of keeping good activity records. Prospects that slip through the cracks are often the difference between success and failure. Prospects you forgot to call, emails you didn’t send or lost leads, are a fraction of what slips through your fingers. If you are using post-it notes, an A4 pad, memory or the back of a cigarette packet for prospecting, you are losing money! Even tools like Outlook and Access cannot handle the complexities of professional sales prospecting. You must become an expert with a CRM, (Customer Relationship Management) program. Don’t look at it as an expense because it will pay for itself many times over. Failing to keep good records is a major mistake you can avoid by having a system in place. #4 – Selling the Product or Service Prematurely The next prospecting mistake is to fall into the trap of selling the product or the service instead of the appointment. Sometimes this is due to a poorly structured appointment setting presentation, other times it is deliberate. Some sales people are looking for the easy sale; the person who says, “I’ve been waiting for you to call! Please let me to give you my money!” and this is a critical mistake. When setting appointments you must remember your objective is to sell ONLY the appointment. You don’t want to be evasive, but you must help the prospect understand that the answers to their questions are the reason why a personal meeting is necessary. And again, do not look for the lay-down-sale. Find qualified prospects and then DO YOUR JOB! #3 – Failing to Get and Use Referrals With all the “tricks” out there for getting referrals, the easiest one is to simply ASK FOR THEM. It is amazing so many sales people still fall short in this area which is likely due to the sales person’s lack of personal belief in their product. If you do not deeply believe in what you sell, it is hard to ask for referrals, especially from a prospect that did not buy. Then there is the sales person who makes the sale and wants to hurry and leave or quickly get off the telephone. Take your time after closing a sale. Make sure paperwork and details are correct and ask for referrals from everyone including the “no-sales.” Then, when you get referrals from the no-sale: CALL THEM. A huge mistake sales people make is they are afraid to call referrals they received from prospects who did not buy. Call all referrals without regard to their source. #2 – The Smile and Dial Approach The second deadliest prospecting mistake is to come on with the old school, smile and dial approach. On the telephone, in person or by email, many sales people still use the overly enthusiastic, insincere, pep-rally approach. Consumers today are educated and have heard the old sales pitch before and they are tired of it. Your approach should be relaxed, professional and sincere. You need to lose that big phony smile and tone down your enthusiasm. There is a time when you will get enthusiastic such as when explaining benefits, but it is not during your initial approach. #1 – Inconsistent Work Ethic The number one deadly mistake in prospecting is to have an inconsistent work ethic. The sales profession is the most subjective business in the world. It is easier to fool yourself in sales than in any other profession. At the end of the day or week, you may think that you called on a ton of prospects but what you THINK and FEEL will seldom match with the facts. You cannot judge your performance by your emotions; you must rely on factual data. This is another area a CRM will help. You have to know exactly how many prospects you called or flyers or emails you sent. Then you must set prospecting activity goals and stick to them. If you say that you will make 30 prospecting calls a week, then don’t think you did—KNOW you did. Also, immediately after a big sale or a good month, usually prospecting activity drops off dramatically. Set clear prospecting activity goals and use factual data to ensure you consistently meet them. Avoid these five deadly mistakes and prospecting will become your friend not your foe.