Four mistakes many sales pros are making

Bill Lee sales & operations

Every time I think I can predict what’s around the corner in our industry, something happens to make me realize I am a lousy speculator. At my age, I’ve been through a lot of markets that stink and a lot that are exploding, but I never thought I’d see the demand or the price escalation we’re experiencing right now. But no matter what market conditions are, salespeople still must sell.

It’s natural to get into some bad habits in an economic situation such as the one our industry is experiencing. In this article I want to pinpoint a few of the mistakes I have observed salespeople make in this kind of economy.

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Failure to practice. As a salesperson, you are called upon to deal with issues in an oversold market that you may have never faced in your career. The best performers in any profession have learned that the will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win itself. So, take time to practice the words you will use when you ask your customers to begin anticipating their needs, thinking ahead and avoiding last minute emergencies. The key is to remember to think carefully about what you are going to say right before you say it rather than right after your words leave your lips.

Riding in the comfort zone. I believe all salespeople have customers on the books whom they would be wise to prune. In this kind of market, customers who refuse to modify their behavior, especially when it comes to planning ahead, are going to cost you valuable time you can’t afford to spend. There are just so many hours in a day and the degree to which your customers are organized will, in a large part, dictate how much business you can personally handle. Now is the time to prospect with the purpose of building a more professional customer base. You won’t have time to service new customers unless you prune a few of your existing customers who are demanding a disproportionate amount of your resources.

Failure to qualify. What is your source of prospective customers? If your answer is job site signs, the Yellow Pages, or Google, you are taking a shotgun approach to prospecting. Establish measurable criteria that a contractor must meet to qualify as one of your prospects. I recommend the criteria you choose include annual sales volume or the number of homes the contractor builds in a year, profitability, i.e., is the prospect a successful business person who has the cashflow to pay his bills on time, has pride in the brands he uses in the houses he builds, is a fair person who is reasonable to do business with and someone you believe you have something to offer he is not getting from his current supplier?

Under serving. One of the best business books I have ever read is “The Servant: A Simple Story about the True Essence of LEADERSHIP” by James C. Hunter. The late, great Zig Ziglar coined a phrase that made me more money as a salesperson than any other piece of advice I ever received, and the phrase was, “You’ll get everything in life that you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

I believe the secret to learning what it is your prospects want is spending less time talking and spending more time asking good open-ended questions. When you are planning your sales calls, I encourage you to devote some quality time to designing a few questions that help you learn what your prospects want that they don’t currently have in a salesperson.

Take advantage of this market my friends, it doesn’t get much better than this.


Bill Lee is a respected sales and business consultant in the LBM industry. For more information, contact Bill at 

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