Common Selling Mistakes - Jumping to the Solution too Quickly | Salestrong


Common Selling Mistakes – Jumping to the Solution too Quickly

Common Sales Mistakes - Jumping to the solution too quickly

Common selling mistakes can mean the difference between winning or losing the deal, keeping or losing a customer and hitting or missing your target.

We all make mistakes – to err is human after all, however there are some common selling mistakes that with the right training, processes and awareness in place are avoidable. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at some of these more common mistakes, why sales people make them and what can be done to avoid them starting with…

Jumping to the solution too quickly

The reason this is such a common mistake is because there are a number of different ways in which sales people can fall into this trap:

  1. Believing you know what the problem is before establishing all of the information 

    Our brains work in a way that wants to make connections as quickly as possible by identifying similarities, patterns and solutions to problems, using the information available to us in that moment. The brain, in an attempt to be as efficient as possible, tries to shortcut these processes and causes us to sometimes see things incorrectly or to stop collecting information too soon. When it comes to sales, this can cause us to draw conclusions or make assumptions about a customer’s problem too soon.

    Perhaps the most obvious example of this in sales is where a customer at the outset may seem to present with a similar challenge to a previous customer. Naturally, the sales person’s first thought is of the solution offered to that other customer. Once that thought process has occurred and the connection made it can be difficult not to focus in on it, despite the fact that further questioning may well reveal a different or much more in-depth issue that requires a very different solution.

    The key is to remain open and use questioning to determine all of the facts. It’s quite common to arrive at an idea about what your customer needs within the first 5 minutes of a conversation and, in fact, for sales people, drawing hypotheses about what our customers and prospects challenges might be is part of the job, but only by peeling the onion, layer by layer, can we glean all of the information and get to the core of the problem.Keep in mind, too, that it is not just the sales person who can lead us to jump to the wrong solution too quickly. With so much information readily available to buyers, a large part of the buying cycle is completed by the customer before they actually speak to a sales person. This means that buyers will usually approach a sales person thinking they already know what they need. Whilst this may well be the case, a great sales person will delve deeper, using effective questioning to determine whether there might be a better, or more comprehensive solution that more fully meets the needs of the customer.

  2. Lacking the experience, confidence or skills to ask the right questions 

    For a sales person to be successful, they require both skill and will (more on will later). The sales skills and techniques employed by any sales person should, as a first point of note, fall in line with the sales processes and competencies of the company they work for. And this is the first hurdle sales people must face because there are still many organisations who either have no sales process and core competencies in place or who are failing to hold their sales people accountable to them. This lack of clarity leaves sales people unsure of what they should be doing.

    The second hurdle is lack of training. It’s all well and good putting a well-defined sales process in place but if you don’t train your sales people in how to effectively execute that process, you cannot hope for them to follow it.

    Even once these hurdles have been cleared, there’s a final challenge that must be overcome – putting theory into practice. A clear sales process in place, sales training delivered and a culture in which accountability is core may still leave sales people reluctant to ‘get on board’ and it’s not because of lack of will. As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. It is only through putting theory into practice a few times that new habits can start to form and confidence builds. In particular, you will find that less experienced sales people, or those new to a particular company, tend to be more likely to fear in-depth, or complex sales conversations because of a concern that they will lack the product/service knowledge to answer their customer’s questions. In such circumstances, it is natural for the sales person to try and remain within their comfort zone. This limits the solutions available to the customer, as well as holding the sales person back from developing their knowledge and capability.

    To give your sales people the confidence to employ the desired sales techniques and skills, incorporate practice sessions into their training, or provide opportunities for them to practice in a ‘safe’ environment (see our Customer Conversation and Practice Feedback Sessions).

    Additionally, sales managers should accompany their sales people on customer visits on a regular basis and provide ‘in the field’ coaching to support their development.

  3. Not listening 

    Most sales people, at some point, have heard that old adage about really listening to their customers and so are fully aware that listening is more than just hearing. But how does that translate to sales conversations? What is it that sales people need to do to really listen to their customers?

    • Hold back – When you are trying to demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness (both key to the customer/sales person relationship) it can be easy to talk too much – demonstrating knowledge through the (over) sharing of information. But the customer doesn’t need to know about the entire product range, just those products which are relevant to them. Research has shown that when the customer feels the sales person has listened to them, levels of trust increase. The bulk of the talking should be done by the customer, observing the 70/30 rule where the customer talks for 70% of the time and the sales person for 30%. If it’s not something you’re used to, this can take real practice to get right, particularly learning to be comfortable with silences – remember that sometimes people just need a little time to reflect.
    • Ask the Right Questions – It’s easy to fall into the trap of just looking for the answers that support your hypotheses. Open questions give your customer the chance to talk freely and reveal information that they might not otherwise have shared. They also help to keep the conversation weighted 70/30 in the customer’s favour. You need to let the information being shared guide how the conversation flows – even when some element of scripted, pre-determined questions are required (for example, where legislation must be adhered to), there should still be a sense of a free-flowing, 2-way sharing of information.
    • Seek Clarification – This is where closed questions can be useful. Seeking clarification has two benefits. Firstly, it demonstrates to the customer that you have been listening. Secondly, it allows the sales person to pin down any grey areas.
    • Demonstrate Empathy and Understanding – Moving beyond just information capture, if you are listening properly, you will be able to respond to your customer in a way that shows them you have fully understood their challenges and can empathise with them. This helps to build rapport and trust.
    • Summarise –  Following these steps will enable you to provide a summary at the end of your conversation. Your summary acts as a final check that all of the relevant information has been captured and ensures your customer leaves the meeting confident that you really listened.
  4. Not having the customer’s best interest at heart 

    A sales person’s agenda should always be to provide the best solution for their customer. By that, I don’t mean just offering the customer the best solution at the lowest price – the solution should deliver a win for both parties, affording the sales person a fair proportion of the prize.

    The reason people continue to be averse to the idea of being sold to stems from the cultural hangover of a time when poor, unethical, self-serving sales practices were commonplace. Sales people were actually incentivised to sell this way – no questions asked, no sales process in place, just sell as much as you can as quickly as you can. Whilst these tactics were employed primarily in the B2C market, B2B sales people too found themselves ‘tarnished with the same brush’ and have had to work hard over the last few decades to banish that image and demonstrate a genuine desire to help and support their customers to the best solutions.

    Whilst you may well have been tempted into sales by the bonuses and uncapped earnings, if your priority is not to deliver a great solution for your customer, you’re unlikely to achieve long-term success as a sales person.

Awareness is key. Many of the behaviours outlined above might seem like common sense reading them here but until you’ve stopped and thought about these things, or had the benefit of some coaching to highlight them, you’re unlikely to even recognise there might be areas for improvement. How often do we as sales people find the time to stop and reflect on our techniques and processes to ask if and how we could be doing things better?

The truth is that sales people are busy and so it’s easier (and quicker) to continue doing things the way you’ve always done them. But it is also true that refining your sales techniques increases win rates, customer retention and even the size of the deals you close.

To find out how we could help your sales team accelerate their sales capability, email us at or call us on 01778 382733.


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