Dear SaaStr: What are the common mistakes in the sales process that may lead to customer loss?

A non-exhaustive list of top common mistakes sales reps make that lead to losing potential deals:

  • Not listening. Too many reps just talk and talk, trying to get the pitch out. They miss a chance to learn what problem the prospect actually wants solved.
  • Not being an expert in the product. So many times I see this. In SaaS, the prospect is expecting the sales rep to be their guide, their expert on the product. When they don’t know the product cold, all confidence is lost.  Maybe reps can get away with this a bit when they work for a clear #1 in the space, but beyond that, it’s a deal killer.
  • Not designing a true solution to their problem. Related to the prior 2 points. The best sales reps listen and hear what the prospect’s problem is in the space — and use the product to design a solution. To solve the customers’ problem. Not just do an inflexible demo and send a price quote. An AE that can solve a top problem for me is worth their weight in gold. Truly solve it.
  • Pushing the most expensive edition too hard. Smaller and midsize companies like to start small, many times.  Push a prospect out of the comfort zone and the deal often just … never closes.
  • Over-qualifying. Yes, not every lead is suitable for every product. But sales reps that over-qualify alienate prospects that really would buy.  If they reached out on their own, the interest likely is genuine. No one enjoys just window shopping for SaaS apps.
  • Not getting back to the prospect ASAP. ASAP. When a prospect inbounds, that’s their window. Their time to do discovery. If you don’t get back for 24 or even 48 hours, you’re not their ally.   The slow response is way, way too common.  A bit more here.
  • Not truly believing in the price point / value proposition. This is especially an issue for more expensive products. If the rep doesn’t truly believe the product is worth its price … neither will the prospect.
  • Not providing value before making the ask. In sales, a big part of your job is asking for the sale. But it’s 10x easier once you provide value first.  Be so helpful that the customer knows they now need your product — then ask for the sale.  It will come fast.
  • Not knowing the competition cold. If you don’t, they beat you. Because they know your weaknesses cold.
  • Being dishonest. Mediocre sales reps fudge things when they don’t know the answer. They even claim the product does things it doesn’t. Sometimes, this gets the deal closed. But more often, it blows up on you. Prospects aren’t stupid. They figure it out.
  • Not creating urgency. This is hard. Yet, it’s the top skill of almost every successful sales rep. 80% of deals don’t close themselves. Probably 90%.

Ok, now — how do you solve some of these problems?  A few thoughts:

  • Do better onboarding.  Most startups, even up to $20m, $30m+ ARR, do a really poor job of training and onboarding new sales hires.
  • Pair new hires up for the first 30 days.  Consider having no quota at all for the first 30 days, and just pairing each new hire up with a successful veteran.  To just listen and learn.
  • Audit calls with Chorus, Gong, etc.  Listen to a subset of everyone’s calls.  And jump in and coach them.  This really works.
  • Audit emails.  Read at least some of each AE’s and SDR’s emails.  They’ll send some terrible ones.  That are just wrong.
  • Put a sales SLA in place, ASAP.  Take deals away from any rep that doesn’t follow up that same day.  Or faster.  Assign them to someone that will.
  • Make sure reps don’t have too many leads.  If they do, they stop investing in the so-so ones.  A little lead-poor is better than an environment that is too lead-rich.  Not an issue in the enterprise, but it can be a real one with SMB sales as it scales.  The number of raw leads can be huge.  Reps stop really investing in all but the most promising ones.
  • Hire better sales managers.  They’ll figure a lot of this out for you.  Too often, as start-ups scale, I see the first sales managers being too weak and green.  They need to be better than you, at least adjusted for experience.  Not just the best you can find right now.

Good luck! 🙂  And a lot more tips on what to do better here:

50 Top Tips To Take Friction Out of Your Sales Processes. And Close More, Faster.


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