11 things sales profs should stop doing immediately

I’ve trained 1000’s of sales people all over the planet and identified common mistakes that sales profs should stop making immediately.
Here are the things that are important and “quick wins”:

  1. Stop trivialising the importance of the subject line

When sending a (cold) email, think twice about the subject topic.
People get lots of emails in their mailboxes every day. Your mail should stand out of the rest. My advice: think twice about the subject topic. It should be creative, catch attention and trigger the desire to open the mail.
“Pain is great”. Use as little words as possible to make people realise that something is hurting them.

“This is the reason why you lose money everyday” has a better open rate than “Our machines speed up the production process”.

2. Stop writing too lengthy introductory emails.

No matter how complicated your product, the initial introductory mail should never be too long. Use as little text as possible. Make sure that you trigger a need of your customer at the highest level and suggest that you schedule a phone call or meeting to discuss that.

Many HR people are not able to easily identify talents in large organisations. They lose people they want to keep.

is better than

Our software evaluates hundreds of parameters to determine who is the best fit for promotion and ranks talents based on these parameters”.

3. Stop being swept aside by not getting responses

Remember that selling starts when the customer says “no”. If they don’t respond to your email, they might not have seen it, might be too busy to read it or might simply have deleted it because they don’t see any value.
No response to an introductory email? Don’t be afraid of making a cold call
Pick up the phone and give it a try. If you’ve introduced yourself by email first, it’s no longer a “freezing cold” call.

4. Stop putting the wrong words in their mouths

It is better not to use negative words. I’ve seen people opening a conversation with something like “Hi, my name is Dan, am I disturbing you?” Of course you are! They weren’t sitting there waiting for your phone call! When making (cold) calls, don’t use negative words or phrases.
Rephrase it positively, like “Is this a suitable moment to talk?”. If you’ve tried this several times with a specific prospect and it never seems to a suitable moment, you might consider responding to

“No sorry, I am very busy right now”


“OK, in that case I will keep it very short. I would like to make an appointment with you.”

I bet your potential customers starts asking questions and the conversation has started!

5. Stop making war to the gatekeeper (1)

The gatekeeper is doing her job and if she’s doing that right, she stops people from contacting her boss directly.
Treat her with respect and don’t show your anger or disinterest if she does her job right. Give her a compliment by saying something like “Let me start by saying that you are doing an excellent job in stopping people to disturb your boss. It seems that I need your help here. I am sure that your boss will be interested in my proposal and I really need to explain that in a 1-on-1. How can you help me to speak to him?”. And then… silence is golden.

6. Stop making war to the gatekeeper (2)

You ran into a gatekeeper that is close to perfect. There’s no way she lets you talk to the boss.
Try this trick. Wait two weeks or so and call again. Say “Hi Sandra, I have a note on my desk to call Mr. Boss. Could you put me through to him?” If you are being put through to Mr. Boss and he answers “You have a note? I don’t know anything about that!”, you respond with

“That’s correct. I wrote it myself this morning because I really didn’t want to forget calling you. It’s about ….”.

I agree, it’s daring. Make sure that you sound enthusiastic, friendly and laugh. As a last resort, it might work.

7. Stop ignoring interested LinkedIn viewers

If someone, that could be a potential customer, looked at your LinkedIn profile, of course you don’t want to be among the 90% of sales people that don’t take any action!
Send them a message and thank them for visiting your profile. Show your appreciation and curiosity by sending a personalised LinkedIn message.

“Hi Frank, I noticed that you visited my LinkedIn profile yesterday and out of curiosity I looked at yours as well. Great to see the work that you are doing in XYZ. You know what? Maybe there are opportunities to work together, I have some ideas. Would you mind dropping me your email address or phone number, then I’ll contact you to briefly discuss my ideas. I promise you that it will be worthwhile.”

8. Stop accepting coffee at the wrong place, wrong time

It is better to not accept coffee that might be offered to you by the receptionist in the waiting area.
If they come to pick you up, you don’t want to be an acrobat, jiggling with your briefcase, coat and cup of coffee up the stairs to the 3rd floor. That certainly is not the best first impression. It is better to walk to the coffee machine with your potential customer when he or she has picked you up. That’s the time to do some small talk and set the climate of the meeting.

9. Stop stumbling yourself into the conversation

When the time has come to talk business, make sure that you control the conversation from the start on. Use a great opening sentence after the small talk, that sets the goal, structure and agenda of the meeting and don’t forget to mention a benefit of having this meeting. An example of a great opening sentence is:

Lots of companies like yours struggle with the fact that their e-learning platforms are hardly used. We’ve developed solutions that re-animate the use of e-learning and in the coming 45 minutes I would like to find out whether that could be beneficial to you. May I start off by asking you a few questions about your learning and development goals?

10. Stop losing control from the start on

The biggest pitfall of salespeople is that they talk too much. We all know (or should know) that the best balance of conversation is 70/30, so we should let the customer talk before we jump into the details of our product and lose control of the conversation.
Ask questions about their business first. After all, that’s what they are mostly interested in and probably like to talk about. Then talk about pains in their processes so that you better understand how you can help them. And then ask them what their criteria are for choosing suppliers and/or products. Only then the time has come to talk about your products or services.

11. Stop defending yourself immediately

Many people immediately defend themselves when objections are being raised. This doesn’t help you to build rapport with your potential customer.
Instead, use an objection technique. A great one is to rephrase the objection positively and get that rephrased one accepted as a starting point for further elaboration. If, for instance, your potential customer says

We’ve tried solutions like these but that doesn’t work for us”,

a great rephrased version would be

So what you mean is, that you have specific requirements and that we need to figure out which solutions do work for you, is that right?

Now try to rephrase these ones yourself:

Everybody knows that you products are much more expensive than your competitor’s products are.

I don’t have the resources available to test new systems like this.

Send me your solutions to these objections, I would love to read how you rephrase them.

Paul Smulders