Fifty Unforced Sales Call Errors

All can be avoided.

By Julie Hansen

If you’re like most salespeople, you work hard for the opportunity to get in front of a prospect. And once you do, you certainly don’t want to blow it by making a highly preventable mistake—especially one you may not be aware you’re making!

Here are 50 of the most common unforced sales call errors I see. Which ones are you making?

  1. Spend a lot of time chatting with your prospect in the beginning until you’re comfortable.
  2. Begin the call or meeting by talking about yourself or your company.
  3. Take your time getting to the value you bring your customer.
  4. Don’t confirm ahead of time who will be at the meeting.
  5. If you find out something changed before you start, you still forge ahead with what you planned, regardless of whether it’s still relevant.
  6. Don’t practice because you don’t want to sound phony.
  7. Be sure and tell your audience you didn’t have as much time to prepare as you’d like.
  8. Don’t plan out the key points you want to convey.After all, your memory is rock solid under pressure.
  9. Don’t tailor your pitch to your audience beyond adding their name or company logo to your first slide of a presentation.
  10. Skip through slides that aren’t relevant (and you didn’t take the time to remove).
  11. Don’t waste time warming up your voice or body.
  12. Don’t worry about getting into a positive state of mind.
  13. Try to get across as many points as possible in the time you have.
  14. Don’t let the prospect speak for at least 10 minutes at a stretch.
  15. After every feature, continually ask your customer, “Does that make sense?”
  16. Answer your own questions. Who has time to wait?
  17. Don’t plan your questions out ahead of time. You’re one who waits for inspiration.
  18. Provide an agenda—and then never refer back to it again.
  19. Don’t worry about a backup plan. What could possibly go wrong?
  20. Make a big deal out of every mistake or technology glitch. Instead, lament what they could have seen if everything was working perfectly.
  21. Read every slide of a presentation to your audience.
  22. Or expect your audience to read a slide, but then talk about something else while they’re trying to read it.
  23. Use light pastel colors and fancy fonts that are pretty, but difficult to read.
  24. When showing graphs or charts, refer only to colors. After all, what are the odds people are color-blind anyway? (1 out of every 16 males.)
  25. Use lots of bullet points or tiny type.
  26. Go through each bullet point line by line by tedious line.
  27. Pack each slide as full as possible. White space is bad, right?
  28. Show a complex screen or graph and let your audience figure out for themselves what part to focus on.
  29. Save questions for the very end of your pitch or presentation.
  30. Use a slide with a giant question mark on it for Q&A. Otherwise, how will they know when it’s time?
  31. Speak in a monotone voice.
  32. Never pause. You’ve got a lot to get through, so just do it!
  33. Keep it real by keeping filler words like ‘um,” “ah,” “so,” and so on in your speech.
  34. If standing, shuffle back and forth aimlessly or continually shift your weight.
  35. Never move from your safety zone behind your laptop.
  36. Do not smile. But aren’t you sharing good news?
  37. Never record yourself. Nothing you can do about it anyway, right?
  38. Don’t plan how you will end the meeting. It will happen naturally.
  39. Answer every question, no matter where it takes you or how long it takes to answer it.
  40. Dive into as many details as possible.
  41. When presenting data, let the numbers speak for themselves. Why beat them over the head?
  42. Don’t summarize. Surely, everyone got it the first time you said it.
  43. If you use a whiteboard, don’t practice. Your handwriting is legible, right?
  44. Don’t bother testing out your opening on someone other than a prospect. Openings aren’t that important anyway.
  45. Tell the same tired story about Apple, Microsoft, the Wright Brothers, or another familiar standby to make a point.
  46. Use as many acronyms or product names as possible. Spend a lot of time teaching your audience what they mean.
  47. Don’t use a webcam for virtual presentations. The human connection isn’t that important.
  48. When pointing to information on your screen, move your mouse really quick. As soon as your audience figures out where you are, jump to the next point. Rinse and repeat.
  49. Present on your mobile device the same way you would on a larger screen. It’s all the same.
  50. Use every minute of your allotted time—even if you’re done.

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Don’t let unforced errors take you out of the game. The sooner you start eliminating these sales call mistakes, the sooner you’ll start seeing the results with closed sales and a busier job schedule!


Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at julie@actingforsales.com and www.actingforsales.com.