Ten Common Business Mistakes You Don’t Know You Are Making

The path to perfection is littered with traps and landmines that could ultimately undermine your success. Some can prevent your business from even getting off a ground. Some can put a prosperous stretch for your business to a screeching halt.

Thankfully, these mistakes are exactly that. Mistakes. Self-inflicted wounds. While they are damaging to your business, you aren’t doomed to repeat them because you can learn to recognize them in hopes to avoid repeating them.

Here are ten mistakes that business owners and sales agents often don’t realize they are making…

You tell customers what they want.

The easiest way to make a prospect turn 180 degrees and walk out of your office is a two-fold: First, assume you know what they want. Then tell them what you think they want.

They’ll be gone before you finish your next sentence.

Thing is, you could be right every time with every prospect. But that doesn’t matter. Even if your hunches are right, the customer has to be the one that says what they need. Otherwise, you can come across as a know-at-all who is “dealing” to just another prospect.

By letting their concerns drive the meeting, prospects cannot walk out thinking that you failed to address their needs. People will recognize that you listened to what they want and took that into consideration when asking for the sale.

Don’t tell anybody what they want. Ever.

You didn’t ask them for the sale.

You probably have a few different ways of asking where a prospect is in their decision making process. While there is certainly a useful purpose in doing so, you also run the risk of allowing a prospect to settle in and justify their indecisiveness.

In some cases – and under the right conditions – asking outright for the sale works for people who are just waiting to be asked. But I can’t overstate that you have to employ this tactic carefully and tactfully.

A good time to employ this tactic is when there isn’t anything left to say. You listened to their concerns. You’d made your pitch. At that point, it’s not worth rehashing anything over again when it doesn’t advance the conversation to its natural conclusion.

Besides, you wouldn’t be speaking with them in the first place if they weren’t interested in buying from you, right?

You didn’t put a value on the product or service.

Picture yourself as a casual customer in a department store. How many times did you pass on buying something after just seeing the price?

If the price is the first piece of product information you are giving prospects, it’s only natural that some are going to walk out on the sale. Your chance to make a sale was over before it even started.

Instead, take the scenic route to presenting the price tag. First, quantify in a dollar amount what their problems are costing them or what their financial dreams will cost them. Then present how your product and service will solve their problems. Finally, quantify in a dollar amount the value of their problems being solved.

So when it comes time to introduce the cost, to them the problem is more to the effect of, “Man, is this price too good to be true?”

You aren’t setting daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals.

A business without goals is like a vacation without a destination. There isn’t much else to say about the importance of setting goals, so let’s skip ahead to a related oversight business owners frequently make.

You haven’t developed a plan to reach your goals.

Say you have set goals for all the above. What is your plan to achieve them? What is your deadline for each goal? How is progress measured? Who is holding all involved in the business plan accountable?

If your plan is to set an arbitrary revenue goal and “wing it” until the 11th hour, then what you have is not a real plan. If your goal is to improve sales and revenue, you need to develop a plan to accomplish it.

A well developed plan does not just list what you want to accomplish. It details specifically what you have to do to achieve each goal. And it sets time frames to do so. This is by far one of the best ways to set and achieve your sales and revenue goals for this year – and every year after that.

But before filling it out, look at your numbers for the past 12 months. Think about what you did well and what you want to improve. Think about how you will go about making those improvements. Think about the results those improvements will yield.

Only after doing that, set some goals. Set significant, yet achievable goals – something that will take more effort to achieve.

Now, for each goal, list at least three things you have to do to achieve that goal. Next to that goal, give yourself a deadline. Hold yourself accountable. Achieving these goals shouldn’t be easy. You’ll face challenges along the way.

One final note about developing a plan to reach your goals: Most people create their list of goals and develop their plans during a burst of passionate inspiration, which can be both naïve and dangerous. What is often forgotten (or not considered at all) during these intense brainstorms is that when you set a goal and develop a plan to achieve it, you will most likely sacrificing something else to accomplish your new goal.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by developing unrealistic plans that don’t factor in basic logistics: time, ability, resources, money, etc.

You are a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

In other words, you haven’t identified your core. Your core is essentially the main ingredients to your business and yourself as a business owner.

To do this, ask yourself these questions and nail down the answers:

  • What are your business’ best products?
  • What are your business’ most popular products?
  • Which of your products generate the most revenue?
  • Which of your products are the most cost-effective?
  • What do you enjoy doing the most?
  • What are you best at?
  • Which demographic groups are your primary customers?
  • What do customers say about your business?

After identifying the core strengths of your business and your core skills, never lose sight of them. By focusing on your core, the centerpiece of your business becomes your specialty – what sets you apart from competition. If you add new products and services to your business, make sure they fall into the category of those that made your business successful to begin with.

You aren’t asking prospects the right questions

Asking good questions is an absolutely critical element of your sales presentation. It engages their brain and keeps a person attentive. This is important for several reasons.

First, it keeps you from talking during the entirety of a meeting, especially earlier on. This is about a prospects needs, not your sales pitch. Second, it puts in their heads that they are setting the terms for this meeting… that they are in control… and that their concerns are different than other prospects and clients.

Third, it raises the stakes of their decision. By that, I mean that it shows them that this is more important of a conversation than they expected to have. But at the same time, they are putting their guard down and trusting you because you took the time to drill down to the most important issues.

The more thought-provoking your questions, the more your prospective buyer will respect you. The higher that respect level is, the more likely they will be truthful with you and give you insight into key factors that determine the sale.

You aren’t showing prospects what they are losing

During a prospect meeting, you probably spend a great deal of time outlining a product’s benefits – as you should. However, after talking about at length about a product, you should also show prospects what they would lose if they didn’t buy it.

People are frightened and motivated by the idea of losing. We hate losing. We hate losing so much that we are driven by our fear of losing more than our desire to win. This concept is utilized all around you, and I’m not even talking about sports.

For example, department stores advertise that if you don’t wake up early and get in their doors at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, you will miss the chance to save 75% on certain items. Do most customers really need another Blue-Ray player? No, but buying it at a huge discount (a win) prevented them from missing out on the chance for savings (a loss).

Keep this in mind when selling insurance packages or financial advice. Learning what a prospect wants will help you show them what they will lose if they don’t buy your product. Make them recognize what they are about to lose by walking out empty handed.

You think of yourself as a salesperson instead of a businessperson.

As I said earlier, prospects and clients already know your job is to sell. They expect it from you to some degree. And that’s fine. No sense trying to change that. What’s important is that you carry yourself as a professional and consider yourself one.

Professionalism is admirable, and it draws people in. People buy from people they like. So it benefits you to ditch the sleaze and present yourself as someone that people what to do business with.

It also raises the expectations you have for yourself. When you are thinking from a business-mindset, you make business-minded decisions.

You are running your business in a “reactionary” manner.

This is perhaps the biggest mistake business owners don’t realize they are making.

The most common reactionary business practices are procrastination and believing your business model is infallible.

Procrastination is something we’re all aware of (many of us are guilty of it, too). Procrastination is the very essence of being reactionary – putzing around on a project until a deadline forces its completion. Procrastinators often claim that deadlines make them work effectively and quickly. That’s wrong, and the quality of their work proves it.

However, the most common reactionary business habit is believing you are infallible. That is, you believe that you and your business model are foolproof and mistake-free. There isn’t a more inaccurate and foolish thought – especially when something goes wrong and your way of explaining it is blaming someone or something else.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Change happens. And nobody can predict the future. But everyone can prepare for the future.

When something unforeseen happens or somebody makes a mistake, the reactionary business owners have to put out the fire, which sidetracks them from their primary business goals.

“Reactionary” causes you to open and respond to emails that can wait, field unimportant phone calls, and surf the Internet on work time for unrelated matters. All these activities suck your time and energy. Avoid them at all costs, or it will end up costing you.

Instead, follow through with these tips to prevent you and your business model from being reactionary:

Develop your annual business plan and keep a sharp focus on it. As discussed early, having an ambitious plan and taking massive action on achieving it forces you to focus your time and energy. You simply won’t have time to be “reactionary.” Instead, you’ll be proactive.

Empower your employees. Most often, a company’s employees see the day-to-day realities and obstacles facing a business. They often have a good idea of why a problem exists. If that’s true, then they may also have a practical solution to it. So what’s keeping them quiet? They may feel their opinion isn’t welcome. Encourage dialogue. Reward solutions. Give employees an incentive to act on their “boots on the ground” experience, observations, instincts and intelligence.

Empower your clients. Like your employees, your clients have a perspective that can greatly benefit your business decisions and preparations. For example, they can provide honest feedback of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. They can tell you what they like and don’t like about your products. More importantly, they can tell you why.  Encourage feedback from your clients. Give them an incentive to help you, not just tell them their feedback is appreciated.