The 5 Biggest Mistakes All Sales Reps Make

Even the best sales reps in the business make mistakes – and some of those errors are all too common. Sales reps are prone to common pitfalls when talking to prospects that can slow down a deal, trip up a customer’s understanding of your product, or even kill the deal outright. So how do you prevent yourself from falling victim to these sales blunders?

The best way to avoid these missteps is to be aware of the problems and take direct steps to improve your sales reps’ techniques. Here are the most frequent mistakes sales reps make that can be the deciding factor between closing a deal, and losing it.


1. Talking Too Much

Many sales reps underestimate the importance of listening on a sales call. Your talking-to-listening ratio should be – at most – 70/30. However, for too many reps, it’s closer to 90/10 as they push the sale and forget to listen. There is a reason you have two ears but only one mouth. Especially the first time you talk to a prospect, you should be asking many questions and learning about their business and specific pain points. You don’t truly know if their business would be a fit for the product you’re offering until you learn more about them. This requires not just listening, but active listening – asking intelligent and insightful questions to show you fully understand their business problems.

2. Thinking You Can Sell Anything to Anyone

Some sales reps like to think they could sell ice to an Eskimo, or some other over-the-top sales metaphor. But not every company is going to be a perfect fit for your product, and you should act accordingly. Instead of wasting time convincing an unpromising prospect that they really need what you’re selling, you can seek out prospects that have specific needs your product can fill. You should never force it – if it’s not the right product for their company, it’s OK to move onto the next lead. Being honest and having integrity is what sales is really all about. It’s definitely not about shoving things down a prospect’s throat. The best reps know when not to sell at all and will even refer the prospect to another vendor. That’s selling with integrity. And good reps know how to prioritize their selling efforts to improve their effort output for each sale.

3. Assuming Prospects Know Their Real Problems

You listen closely as a prospect tells you all about their business, including struggles to reach a certain market or accomplish the business growth they need. Unfortunately, a potential customer may not fully understand or even know everything about their business challenges. In this case, you need to help educate the potential customer –  is that really their problem, or is it just a symptom of a larger, organizational issue that you can help solve? You’re the expert here, so help your prospect identify the problem and solve their problem. Don’t assume the customer knows more than you do. If you can identify an oncoming headache or a hidden pain, then show them how your company offers a solution.

4. Becoming an Unpaid Consultant

While helping the customer is incredibly important in the selling process, you can go too far in trying to offer insights. It can become a problem if a prospect keeps asking you for more and more advice without ever intending to buy. Sales reps can’t allow themselves to become unpaid business consultants to prospects. You can waste too much time and lose other potential sales by giving away too much business advice for free and forgetting your true purpose – selling. You should offer sound advice and show prospects a potential headache in their business, but they should be committed to buying and not just using you for a free consultation.

5. Lying to the Customer

Some sales reps like to think they can hide problems from their new customers or downplay gaps in service, but that is a bad way to start out a business relationship. If your product cannot fix a problem for your prospects, and you hide it from them, you’re setting yourself up for disaster down the road. You have to be honest with your potential customers and sell with integrity from the first contact. It’s better to not make the sale than to be dishonest and sell the wrong thing to a wrong prospect. People will respect your transparency and be more forgiving of a problem today, rather than angrily finding out the truth later. You can work with a prospect to resolve the problem or get past it – all by selling honestly.


Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen victim to one of these common sales rep mistakes – it happens to the best of us. But in the future, you can be aware and learn to listen, sell to ideal customers, discover the real problems and be honest with prospects. You’ll start to see improvements in your sales numbers before you know it.