Learning at Work Week: The Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Trying To Sell Services

16 May 2017 | Paramjit Uppal | About a 4 minute read
Tags: clients, coaching, Learning, Learning at Work Week, Product, professional, selling, services, tech, work

I’ve been in some form of professional services for almost 30 years. In this time, I have seen and experienced some brilliant sales approaches and techniques and some awful attempts too, including some downright disasters that have resulted in pissed off potential clients, some burnt-out salespeople and a few ruined careers.

Whether we like it or not, unlike selling a product or standardised service, selling in professional services involves complex communications and a sceptical buyer. A lot of people imagine some of the gregarious backslapping salespeople, making deals over secretive dinners in exclusive restaurants. If you’re doing it well, nothing could be further from the truth. Selling is simply helping clients to be successful. So why do so many people get it so badly wrong? Well, here is what I believe to be their top 5 common mistakes:

1. They forget that it’s all about people:

They focus on how brilliant their service/people are in the hope and luck that the buyer will fall for it! However, most people are sceptical when anyone even tries to sell to them, and they won’t believe half of anything in the sales message. To break through this, the seller has to build trust so that any solution to the buyer’s problem is accepted as a genuine attempt to solve a problem or need. We build trust in many ways. A very natural human instinct is to trust people you like. You like someone that you can connect with, has shared values, and shows interest in you and your world. You can’t sell to a buyer you don’t like, and a buyer won’t buy from someone they don’t like. Stop trying and get someone else to do the selling for you!

2. They don’t listen to the clues:

Bad sales people talk more than they listen, and take no new insights from the buyer. They dive right into the first hint or problem a buyer may have inadvertently say in passing or a throw away comment. The best sales people listen to everything, probing, clarifying and asking questions, and then they focus on the really important problems and needs. They make notes of the conversation so that they check the words, language and points made by the buyer to unearth the real, perhaps unstated need. They follow-up and join up the dots with others so that they have a deep and accurate insight of the buyer and their needs.

3. They have no knowledge of the subject:

Bad sales people follow a mechanistic process, moving the buyer from interested to closing a big value deal. They are driven by their sales numbers and this comes across in the dealing with the buyer, who is already sceptical that you have their best interest at heart. Whilst process matters (there is a science to selling), the subject matters just as much. Good sales people have a deeper understanding of the kind of problems their buyers will encounter and can explain, debate and refine the solutions so that the buyer feels part of the solution. Good sales people will stretch the thinking of the buyers without making them feel stupid.

4. They try to do it all on their own:

The need to build trust and understand a wide range of problems/solutions, and the complexity of businesses and technologies means no one person can cover all the bases, no matter how smart they may be. Bad sales people usually have a bit of an ego, thinking they can outsmart the buyer. They go to meetings unprepared, feeling they can just wing it and rarely take the time to talk to the experts and people who could help them. The best sales people tap into their network, ask for help, do the research, talk to others and take the right attitude with them to the meeting.

5. They ask for the sale too soon:

No one buys if they feel they’re being forced into something. As soon as a bad salesperson sees an angle to close, they get contractual, wanting to calculate the fees, start dates, terms etc, and get the yes decision there and then. This might be appropriate if you are selling a product or a commodity service, but not when the sale is a solution to the buyer’s specific need or problem. A good salesperson will ask the buyer to consult others in the business to make sure everyone agrees with the buyer on the need and the solution. They respect the fact that the buyer is smart and will make up his/her own mind without undue coercion.


So there you have it…. Avoid these pitfalls, help the buyer to be successful and selling will be easy.

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