Ten Deadly Sales Sins: Signs and Solutions

Sales In France
Sales In France

I appreciate the efforts of salespersons that are in the front and center of their companies for marketing and selling of their company’s products or services, kudos to you. Sales field is one of the world’s oldest professions one can think about. The sales field or profession has changed dramatically since the World War II.

Selling is a daily challenge. You can go into almost any business and have no challenge. That’s never the case in selling, where every day you’re confronted with new challenges. Let that fact refresh you, not weary you. Glory in it. No activity is more vital to the company’s health than selling; no activity is more dependent on individual initiative than selling. According to Isaac Fabio Wilson, if you don’t sell nothing gets done; we don’t have money to pay rent, we don’t have money to pay bill, we don’t have money to pay all the other departments.

The fundamental truth of selling is doing the basic well. Great sales people, like athletes, simple do the basics very well. Gerald and Steven wrote, “When cash register rings, it seems like you are doing everything right, when it doesn’t ring, the mistakes are very visible”. If you want to know how strong a company is, look at their sales book first, and if want to know how strong their sales book is, look at the sales team first. The stronger the sales team, the stronger the sales book, the stronger the sales book, the stronger the company. Simplicita!

Much has been written in the last few decades about sales methods, processes and techniques. However, little has been said about glaring sales deficiencies that handicap salespeople from succeeding in the sales field and signs that indicate that a sales person is committing a sales “sin”. This article is pin-pointed to the deadly sales “sins” sales people commits during or in the conduct of their work. These points are based on many years of working with firms and individual salespeople.

  1. Failing To Show Up On Time

Not showing up on time is the number one reason most sales people fail, and it’s a very common and easy mistake to make. Showing up on time requires discipline, persistence and motivation.

To be successful in your sales pitch try as much as possible to arrive at the agreed location or the client premises for the presentation before the customer arrives. This will provide you the opportunity to set up yourself to be at ease for effective delivery. This could help avoid the situation of salesperson rushing in and sweating unnecessarily. Cautioned by Sun Tzu, “he who occupied the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease; he who come later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary”. Don’t be weary salesperson; being on time will give you’re the opportunity to establish a good rapport, become familiar and comfortable with the surrounding environment.


  1. Not Well Organized or Prepared

Human beings by nature we are born to win, but one must prepare to win in sales field. Your ability to sell more will depend directly from the effort you put in preparation. Abraham Lincoln was quoted saying, “If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my axe.” You can be the top most sales professional in this world but without preparation you’re bound to fail. Preparation is strength multiplier not a time waster. As a sales person you can never be “too prepared” for sales presentation or work, preparation is vital for every sales success.

A pre-sale preparation may include: Self preparation (personal hygiene, appearance, dressing), workplace preparation (cleanliness, stocking of products, floor), market awareness (trends and fashion, new store opening in the market, competing store) and knowledge of customer preparation (type of customers and their buying motivation). Sales work is not just ordinary; a true professional sales person will only work if there’s a proper preparation in place. Sales persons who want to be ordinary don’t want to prepare well ending up earning ordinary income.


  1. Communication Skills are Weak

One of the greatest disabilities in many sales people is bad communication skills. In every field of life, certain skills are required to excel, and sales field is no exception. Communication skills are extremely important in guaranteeing your sales journey or career. A professional salesperson should have good questioning and listening skills.

To meet customer needs, salespeople must be able to solicit opinion, listen effectively and confirm customer needs and concerns. As said by Drucker, “the most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”. A professional salesperson should be able to hear from customers what isn’t said by deducing it from customer facial expression, tone of voice, gestures and other non-verbal cues. Salespeople should be diplomatic in their engagement, mind their voice pitch, know when there’s the need to go high or low tune.



  1. Can’t Smile or Not Smiling

Customers buy more from salespeople who smile more, but the power of smiling is often underestimated. People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made they feel said May Angeleou.  People want to buy only from salespeople they are feeling glad about them, their products or service and feel comfortable around. Also people spend money when and where they feel a warm and genuine smile.

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “A man without a smiling face must never open a shop”, smiling is key in selling industry. A good smile can create and instant trust, which is the currency of every relationship. People want to do business with sales people that are easy to approach or are approachable. Your smile must not be fake one, but authentic to help you make purposely impact.


  1. Timid or Lack Enthusiasms

One of the core qualities of every sales person is to openly enthusiastic. A Salesperson must be enthusiastic about his or her company, the company’s products or services. Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking”. Becoming a salesperson mean that, your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied of the sales work is to be enthusiastic and love what you do. A salesperson must have eagerness to do their job well and eagerness to sell well.

Timidity cannot be the quality of a salesperson, sales work can be liking to sports and a war, there’s time to strike and there’s a time to “fight” to win.  Prospect will only believe a salesperson, his company, and his company’s products or service if the prospect can believe that the salesperson love his job. The successful salesperson is an individual who loves selling. A Salesperson is required to have an enthusiastic attitude in a general sense and a special enthusiasm for selling.


  1. Inadequate Follow-Up & Difficulty In Closing A Sale or Deal

It’s tempting to be lazy for follow up on customers who have rejected your proposal a quite number of times, but if you want to achieve great outcomes, you need to put in the work of following up on unsuccessful customer. “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer” once said by Albert Einstein. The worry is, most sales people quit early and doesn’t stay longer with unsuccessful customers.

A study shown that is takes an average of seven times or more to visit or follow up on unsuccessful customer and win over him but most sales people will give up after second or third follow up. This sales people simple lack willpower and determination. Brain Trancy said, “The reason so many people fail in sales is simple because they do not persist long enough and work hard enough to get those first few winning experience.”

Some sales people are not good at asking a sale at end of their presentation or talk, and that’s a big worry. The simple rule in closing a sales deal is to always ask for an order. Closing a sale is said to be the most difficult part of the entire sales process to a lot of sales people. This may be partly because; some salespeople fail to recognize early buying signals during sales engagement with the customer to nail the sale. To close a sales deal successful, you may ask for purchase order, encourage the customer to make a choice, summaries all benefits the buyer has confirm etc.

  1. Fear of Objections or Rejections

The battles of life are won or lost in our thinking, when you think victory; you will have victory at last. Likewise, thoughts of fear of sales rejection or objection could produce a loss of sales opportunities. If you believe that you fear in some way, you will feel and act in the same manner of weakness, and may become true of you. If you’re in sales field and you fear rejection then you are in the wrong profession. Any sales person whose mind is filled with fear cannot sell successful. Fear of failure, fear of risk, fear of rejection and fear of criticism.

Objecting customer has certain feelings and a point of view that must be dealt with first. Rejection is not personal; it has nothing to do with you. An objection is not a rejection, it is simple a request for more information about the product. Handling objection effectively is the best test for every salesperson and the gateway to closing a sale deal.

The most common objections encountered in the sales field included but not limited to no trust, no help, no need, no hurry and price. When a salesperson encounters an objection they want to show the customer why he is wrong and arguing unnecessarily with the customer.  But that’s only going to make the customer mad more and cost you tens of thousands of Ghana Cedis in sales.  Never argue with a customer because sometimes a customer may have more information about the product than you the salesperson selling it. When a customer raises obstacles or objects to buying, reward him by agreeing, empathizing, and building value. Anticipate objections and deal with them before the customer brings them or use the feel, felt, found formula.



  1. Blind To Competition or Competitor Activities

It’s a deadly sales sin for a salesperson to be blind to competitor activities. To be successful in your sales field you must have foreknowledge about your company, competitor and marketplace.

These three areas can define the failure and success of a salesperson. Professional sale people solicit firsthand information or insight and a deep understanding of what their competitor is about in terms of its strength, its weakness, its people and its plans.

To defeat your competitor, you must have understanding of him in a very deep level research and analysis; it must be detailed and not skin-deep review. All the information you need from your competitors can be obtain from general public. In sourcing competitor information, Sun Tzu said “you must elicit knowledge from men and women who know the enemy situation; you must inquire into these matters in most minute details.” You too can elicit information from men and women (e.g. former employees) who know the competitor situation.

It’s good to have competitive data to help you develop sales strategies and be able to predict the response of your competitor (s). You may endanger your sales career if you are just operating in darkness. Sun Tzu cautioned that “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” If you know the competitor and know company you can handle issues customers may raise concerning pricing, promotions, commission, credit sales, feature and benefits etc.


  1. Lack of Product Knowledge

Effective salespeople need product knowledge-how, how their product work and how the product features are related to the benefits customers are seeking. It’s interesting to know that features are not the same as benefit, features tells about the product and benefit sells the product. Kotler defines a product as having three levels; core product-define the fundamental need being met e.g. transportation, actual product– is the specific offering aim at meeting core needs e.g. styling, augmented product-is the additional service and benefits making the product more attractive e.g. after sale service. Effective salesperson must understand the needs his products meet,   specific offering his products provide and additional service available.

The deeper the product or service knowledge, the greater salesperson you become and verse versa.  Once you have built the foundation of product knowledge you can become excellent in selling. If you want know how giant a sales person is going to be, look at how deep he builds his knowledge for products, the deeper the knowledge the giant the salesman/woman. It’s in this regard that Ziglar advice that confidence in our sales presentation is dramatically affected by product knowledge. Regardless of how good we feel about ourselves, if we don’t thoroughly understand our product, we will face great difficulty in generating confidence.


  1. Have No Sales Plan/Objective

Many salespeople fall victim to this sales “sin”, no proper developed sales plan. This might interest you to learn that before a top sales professional person begins his sales day, he or she must plan where he will be working on. To everyone’s surprise some salespeople refuse to learn how to plan and refuse to learn how to work on their plan. Planning a sales day is essential to the success of the salesperson. There’s a lot benefits sales people can derived from planning the sales day or call; efficiency, self-confidence, logical in delivery, and build buyer confidence.

Before you approach a prospect for sales presentation it is only proper to have a plan properly developed. As mentioned early, sales work can be like to war and the war generals will tell you that a war is not won in the battle field but in the planning room. To win more customers start from the planning room or office before getting out to the sales field. With a proper developed sales plan place, one can set up and achieve all his sales goals without any limitation. Without this, no matter the goals you have it will be defeated by lack of plan. Highly successful salespeople know in each day, week, month, quarter and year the number of customers he will call on or visit and the amount in sales to achieve.

There must always be a clear plan of everything you wish to achieve.  If you are not clear and concise of whatever you want to achieve you can’t, since you can’t hit a target you can’t see. As part of planning you work, all your opening statements or questions, or pitch should be well planned and reheard word-for- word in front of colleagues or mirror over and over and memories it as well.





Many companies or businesses have instituted a comprehensive sales training for both newly recruited and already existing sales people designed to help sell their company’s products. These training programmes will only work if applied by a person who really wants to be a true professional sales person. This begs the question: why countless deadly sales “sins” are being committed by sales people that in turn handicap their overall sales efforts?


Mali Albert Shiebila is the Lead Marketing Consultant for MarketWell Ghana Ltd (MWG) in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region. He is also the CEO of Reliance Bookshop. He holds BSc in Marketing, Chartered Accountant (from ICA-Ghana) and a member of the same institute.  He writes about relevant marketing topics and pieces.

Email: [email protected]/[email protected]

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