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Let's face it, we all make mistakes. What's important, however, is learning from our mistakes and avoid any errors in the future.

For sales professionals, it's important to recognize mistakes and address them right away, otherwise they could have a significant impact on the bottom line which could have many negative impacts throughout the organization.

I work with sales professionals every day of the week and have seen a number of mistakes come to the surface repeatedly by a large majority of professionals and it is affecting their ability to drive opportunity in a big way.

These four mistakes need to be addressed by every sales professional responsible for bringing new opportunities to table.

1. Lack of preparation before a sales meeting. In sales, it's your job to come into a meeting as prepared as possible. At the very least, you should examine the prospects website, search for them on your search engine of choice, and if possible look at case studies to understand, how they make money.

All of these basics are important for forming a picture of the prospect in your head, but do not stop there, create a list of questions that will help you get more insight on your prospect.

These questions should two things: go beyond what you already know and they need to make the prospect think deeply about their own situation. Some sample questions might include:

  • Why is your current service/product/technology/situation/issue no longer working for you?
  • You mentioned your current provider is not able to deliver XYZ. If you work with us, what are you hoping will be different?
  • What does success look like for you, your business or this project?

2. Not focusing on clients. This is a common issue that many sales professionals fall victim to because they love their product or service so much and spend too much time talking about their offerings. This is a terrible mistake because you're jumping directly into solution selling before you can even identify the key challenges or reasons behind why the prospect and you are meeting in the first place.

It's okay to introduce yourself, what you do and who you've helped to make sure the prospect knows about you, but after that, get right into your questions and understand what the client needs. Once you are able to paint a complete picture of the client and their needs, you can begin to offer up some solutions for the prospect.

3. Believing that 'no' is the end of the road. What's your first instinct when a prospect says no? Do you assume this means the prospect is not interested and you completely erase them from your sales database? If so, this is a big mistake.

The reality of the situation is that a 'no' is not a roadblock, it's an opportunity for a seasoned salesperson to uncover the prospect's concerns by probing even deeper.

If you're in accounting and you call a prospect that tells you they are not interested, you need to ask them questions that make them question their current provider and learn about the key benefits of working with you.

A sample response question could be, "how much does your current firm save you on taxes a year? I ask because our firm focuses heavily on ensuring our clients know all the ins and outs so we can maximize their savings every year. One client, similar to you, saved X amount last year because of what we did for them. Would you like to hear more?"

4. Not having the persistence to make something out of nothing. One of the most common things is that those who persist are annoying, cross the line, or are going to do more harm than good. Let me ask you this: how many people are you going to get through to by calling or e-mailing once or twice? Chances are very few.

Following up is one of the most important factors in penetrating accounts and closing sales. It's not about being the best or having the cheapest price. The one who wins in most cases is the one who works the hardest at getting in front of the client, understanding their business and driving value through consistent communication.

If you want to win more in business and capture more sales, you need to stop listening to those who play it safe and say following up too much will do harm than good, because they are just plain wrong.

I get criticized often for telling people that I followed up with a prospect 102 times before they became a client of mine. What those people see is a sleazy salesman trying to close a sale and move on to the next.

What they do not see is the creativity behind each follow up, the lifelong relationships, and the great results that came about because of persistent follow up. When someone is able to approach, follow up knowing all of this is possible, follow up doesn't become a dirty word – it becomes a passion, something someone does to unlock a future filled with many wonderful possibilities.

My challenge to you: If you're currently making any of these sales mistakes, I want you pick one and try your hardest to avoid making it again. We are already at the halfway point of 2014, so use the remaining six months to eliminate one of these mistakes from your sales habits. I know that if you are able to do this, you will be much more successful as a result.

Ryan Caligiuri is the president of Ryan Caligiuri International, a consultancy focused on driving revenue growth through creative growth strategies for professional services firms. Mr. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network, a program that provides sales/marketing resources & training to help grow professional services firms.

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