10 Costly Mistakes Your Salespeople Are Making When Selling

Written by Davey Warren

Published on December 17, 2020

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Do your salespeople meet their quotas regularly? Or do they struggle to do so?

The reality is many salespeople are struggling to meet their sales goals. Research shows that as many as 50% of sales reps are meeting their quota. So, most deals are closed by half of your sales workforce. Imagine how much more your company would make if you could get the remaining half to pull their weight and at least meet their quotas!

Different companies may have other challenges that prevent their salespeople from performing as they should. But there are common mistakes that underperforming members of every sales team make. Once you learn what these are, it will be much easier to know what to look out for your team. Then you can help your sales reps rectify their behavior and improve your team’s overall performance.

Here are some of the costly mistakes that your salespeople may be making when selling:

1. Not Listening To Prospects

Active listening is one of the desirable qualities that every salesperson should have. There is a reason for this. 

To convert a prospect into a long-term customer, you need to make them feel heard. According to HubSpot, 83% of salespeople believe they do listen to their prospects’ needs. But that is not the case at all. About 69% of buyers believe one of the essential things sales reps can do to improve their sales experience is to simply listen to their needs. 

So, there is a disconnect between what salespeople think they are doing right in terms of listening and what buyers feel about the issue. There’s room for improvement on this issue for most salespeople.

2. Not Using the Right Sales Language

What kind of tone and words do your salespeople use when trying to sell your company’s products and services? Perhaps you have never even sat down to think about the sales language everyone uses. Yet, it matters a great deal.

For example, did you know that some words are more effective than others at getting prospects to read your emails? If you use words like “apply,” “connect,” “demo,” “cancellation,” etc., you are more likely to get your prospects’ attention. On the other hand, if you use words like “invite,” “press,” “confirm,” your email messages are likely to get ignored.

But there’s more to sales language that the words you use on your email subject lines. Studies show that the top salespeople tend to use more collaborative words and phrases like “together,” “us,” “we,” and “our” compared to their lower-performing counterparts.

So, do members of your sales team use the right sales language? Or do they use words that turn off prospects, portray a lack of confidence, and make the prospects feel excluded from the ongoing sales conversation?

3. Not Offering Prospects Relevant Content at Every Stage of the Sales Process

When buyers are thinking about buying products and services, they are also looking for relevant content. This content is meant to help them decide what to do at every stage of their buyer’s journey.

Your sales reps must be in sync with the prospects they are trying to convert. Did you know that 80% of decision-makers prefer getting information about companies from a series of articles rather than an ad? 

Unfortunately, most sales reps aren’t doing what’s expected of them. According to one Forrester study, 78% of salespeople often don’t have relevant content to share with potential buyers. That means your company could be losing out on millions of dollars simply because your sales team is unprepared and cannot offer the required content to help prospects make the right decisions.

4. Not Contacting Enough Prospects

Sales can be as rewarding as a career. But it is also hard work. For your salespeople to sell in large volumes, they must first contact a considerable number of prospects and nurture them.

The general recommendation is that each salesperson should make an average of 60 calls a day. Most salespeople don’t achieve this, though. The average sales rep only makes 45 dials a day

If your sales team is not meeting its quota, it could be that some are not contacting enough prospects daily. As a result, your company is losing out on sales opportunities that could boost its bottom line.

5. Not Having Enough Confidence

The most successful salespeople tend to use words that portray confidence five times as much as their poor-performing counterparts. Some of these words include “definitely,” “certainly,” and “absolutely.” But they also act confident.

If your sales reps are timid and afraid to go out into the field to talk to people, that could be a problem. Studies show that outside sales reps have a higher average quota of about 30% compared to inside sales representatives. 

There is also the fact that 63% of salespeople consider cold calling as the worst part of their job, which is not surprising. Who wants to reach out with unsolicited sales messages to prospects who may not be interested in hearing what someone has to say? It takes guts to do that every day, every week throughout the year. Not every salesperson has the confidence to do that.

6. Not Persisting Enough

Did you know that to sell a product or service, a sales rep must make an average of six calls?  Did you also know that to get prospects to respond to emails, sales reps must send 4-7 emails for optimum results?

The average prospect will say “No,” four times before saying “Yes,” to your offer the fifth time. Yet 92% of sales reps would have given up after the fourth refusal. But for the 8% of those that persist, they will close the deal 80% of the time. 

There is no doubt about it: selling requires persistence. Not everyone has this quality, so some salespeople give up too early and fail to meet their quotas.

7. Not Moving Fast Enough

It’s best to strike when the iron is still hot where prospects are concerned. A sales rep’s ability to close deals goes up to 7 times if they respond within 60 minutes from the initial contact. 

Bear in mind that 50% of buyers will choose the vendor that will respond to them first. If your salespeople are not reaching out to prospects quickly enough, it could be why you are losing sales opportunities in large numbers. Perhaps they are not well organized, thus failing to prioritize what matters. 

8. Not Taking Training Seriously

Most sales reps don’t come equipped with the ability to sell. 55% of them should be doing something else. So, that means they must learn what they need to know on the job. 

High-performing companies are twice as likely to invest in ongoing training as low-performing ones. But not everyone will take the training seriously. That could prove to be a problem.

Salespeople who do not accept lessons on using the sales process and other sales activities will continue to make the same mistakes. These mistakes will continue to cost your company revenues until they are rectified. So, watch out for the sales reps that refuse to learn.

9. Not Social Selling Enough.

Social selling has enabled 79% of salespeople to beat their peers. But most importantly, there is a 66% more quota attainment among those that use social selling techniques than those that don’t.

Social media is ubiquitous now. But some salespeople are not using it to sell products and services. Others are using it, but not as much as they should. 

It pays to find out if all your sales team members are active via social media across multiple channels. The chances are that those that underperform are not very active. They are probably not engaging prospects via their social media accounts as they should.

10. Not Talking To the Right People

Who do your salespeople talk to when selling company products and or services? Perhaps it’s time for you to take a closer look at the contacts your sales team is reaching out to.

You need to know that decisions can be made below the C-suite level. According to one Google Report, 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in the purchasing decisions. 

If your sales reps have been delaying making offers to prospects hoping that they would soon be able to talk to the prospects’ bosses, they could be making very costly mistakes. The person they are in contact with now may have the final say.


To err is human. What matters is that people learn from their mistakes. If your salespeople are not meeting their quotas, they are probably making a mistake or two. Help them see what they are doing wrong and teach them how to rectify their mistakes. Then they will learn. And the overall performance of your sales team will improve because each member will meet or exceed the quotas you have set.

Originally published Dec 17, 2020 11:00:00 AM, updated Dec 17, 2020