Complacency in sales spells disaster – Part 2

This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales.  These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities.  Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.

Salespeople are prone to become complacent and last time I looked at the first 3 of the 6 biggest mistakes they are most likely to make.  Here are mistakes 4, 5 and 6.

Mistake 4: Talking too much.  Complacent salespeople tend to talk too much.  They end up giving a sales pitch, full of generic benefits irrespective of whether or not they are relevant.  The reasons for this were given in Mistakes 1 and 2.  They have failed to do any preparation and tend to talk about their own company and its products/services because they can’t think of any good questions during the meeting.

A good rule of thumb for sales meetings is to get the other person to talk for 60-70% of the time.  In this way, you will learn all about the issues, problems, pain points and opportunities  that exist which are causing your prospect to meet with you.  It is your job as a salesperson to uncover these issues and try to solve them.  So, in a 1 hour meeting, your prospect needs to be talking for about 40 minutes.  You can only achieve this is you ask some great questions.  These questions will rarely spring to mind in the middle of a meeting.

Mistake 5: No follow through.  Surprising as it may seem, not all salespeople do what they say they will do for their clients and prospects.  If you agree to send through some information within a period of time, make sure you do so.  It will make your client or prospect feel good and reflect well on you and your organisation.  Complacent salespeople make commitments without much thought as to whether or not they can deliver.  It is the small things that matter when it comes to winning sales and keeping clients.  Doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it is a habit you should develop.  We live in an impatient and intolerant world and your prospects / clients all demand a fast response.  Never sacrifice accuracy to achieve a speedy response, manage activities so they are always completed correctly the first time.

Mistake 6:   Showing a general lack of courtesy.  Lack of courtesy by complacent salespeople is displayed in many small ways.  Being offhand with receptionist and secretarial staff always backfires, be polite and professional in your dealings with everyone in your prospect’s organisation.

Other small issues which can seriously damage your chances of winning a sale are: being late for appointments, not confirming meetings beforehand, not keeping to agreed meeting durations, giving standard answers to questions, not answering questions and being unprepared.

Another habit that many salespeople seem to have developed in recent years is leaving their mobile phones switched on during meetings.  The real irritant for prospects arises when the phone rings and the salesperson answers it.  The subconscious message being given to your prospect if you do this is “you’re not as important as the person who is calling and I don’t mind wasting your time while I answer their call”.  Is it any wonder these salespeople don’t win the business?

Bonus thoughts

Successful salespeople work hard to put their prospects and clients at ease.  They act as consultants offering solutions to some of the problems their prospects are facing.  The complacent salesperson, the one who decides to “wing it”, doesn’t have this mindset.  They tend to act like and sound like a typical salesperson.

Coming across as a typical salesperson has two psychological effects on your prospect.  Firstly, they are immediately on their guard, becoming much more defensive and cautious about what they say to you.  They fear being manipulated into buying something.  Secondly, they feel superior to you.  Instead of having a peer-to-peer conversation with your prospect about their business, in their mind you are just another salesperson looking for a quick sale.

As we’ve seen, complacent salespeople won’t have prepared properly for the discussion.  They will not ask enough questions to fully uncover and understand their prospect’s areas of interest.  They will try to impress the prospect by relaying facts and figures about their own Company, its history, its strategy, its plans and its range of products / services.

At the end of the meeting, the prospect will probably be polite enough to say something like “I’ll think about all you have said before deciding what to do.  I’ll get back to you then”.

The prospect leaves the meeting grateful to have escaped without buying anything.  The salesperson reports back to their management with the details of another successful meeting.  Unfortunately, the salesperson will now spend many frustrating weeks trying to secure a follow up meeting with a prospect who doesn’t want to be sold to.


  1. Basic research into a prospect prior to an initial meeting is essential to help you prepare a series of good open-ended questions.  Develop the habit of doing this preparatory work ahead of meeting new prospects.
  2. Listen carefully to what the prospect says as you want to identify those prospects not likely to buy from you as early as possible.  You don’t want to waste time selling to someone who isn’t going to buy.  Move on to the next real prospect.
  3. Ensure you have a good action tracking process in place so you never forget to do what you promise a prospect (or client) you will do.  Do it on or ahead of the promised time.
Posted in Sales / Business Growth