In recent weeks I've encountered a number of sellers who seem to be thinking a lot about damage control. Instead of focusing on breaking through with the customer - on creating a great sales environment - they seem stuck on avoiding mistakes in the sales process. Obviously we all want to get to the good stuff, and sometimes that means making sure the bad stuff isn't dragging you down. So I thought I'd re-purpose a post from 2011: My list of the "7 Really Damaging Things That are Said and Done Every Day on Sales Calls." Enjoy.

  1. You consider it or God forbid actually refer to it - as "a pitch." There is no more devaluing term imaginable. "Pitch" smacks of hucksterism, slickness, lack of sincerity.
  2. You start with an extended introduction of your own site. The customer was not lying awake last night because he just had to know more about what your company does. Better start with their stuff. They don't care about what you do until it's attached to one of their problems.
  3. You don't bring a brand into the room. I'm amazed that reps still show up at agencies and ask "so what accounts are you guys working on?" Equally bad is the rep who sets out to break "Unilever" or "P&G." If you're not being brand and product specific then you're not truly prepared.
  4. You sleepwalk through the first three minutes. So much happens in the first 180 seconds that really defines the meeting. Yet so many reps squander that time with meaningless small talk and paper shuffling. Use this time to ask a provocative, agenda-setting question....give the customer a point-of-view to react to. Do something.
  5. You get the laptop out first. No customer has really looked forward to a PowerPoint presentation since the Clinton Administration, but we keep on doing them....and worse, leading with them. As soon as you pop that hinge, you say "I'M talking now, so you just sit back."
  6. You expect a second call. If you've never heard failure, it sounds like this: "Well, let me go back to the office and put together a proposal and send it to you." If you haven't really engaged your customer and collaborated with her on this call, then there won't be a second one. Too many reps still believe they get a fact-finding, introductory call and then the real stuff will happen later. In truth, you just had your shot.
  7. You're not trying to make a difference. If you're just trying to say or do enough to "make the plan" then you're just another hungry bird in the ad budget nest. The best reps aim higher: they work to truly "make a difference" in the customer's business. Nobody's looking for one more advertising outlet to consider. Be more important than that.

Mediocrity doesn't always boldly announce itself through grand, tragic mistakes. More often it tiptoes in on little cat feet. It's the small things we do - and don't do - that really matter.