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4 of the WORST Sales Mistakes We Made and What We Learned

Sales Mistakes

The sales mistakes we’ve made along the way have helped us transform the way we sell and put us on the path of astronomical growth. 

In this post I’ll be discussing some of the biggest sales mistakes we made at Slintel, and how we overcame and learnt from them. 

4 Sales Mistakes We Made at Slintel That You Can Learn From

Just like any other business, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes, but here are the four that stand out:

1. Neglecting culture when rapidly scaling your outbound function

B2B SaaS sales’ intensive demands will force you to act in haste. And scaling your outbound function is one thing you need to do with utmost care. This is because culture is a huge factor that affects performance and your ability to hire the best talent.

Scaling your outbound too quickly can lead you to hiring the wrong reps that can be detrimental to the culture within your sales team along with making other errors. Disengaged, unmotivated and unproductive reps are a textbook sign of bad culture. Such culture generally may tend to stem from wrong hires and can transmit fast within a group, lowering the efficiency of even your best reps.

Developing positive symbiotic culture within your sales functions helps your reps stay engaged, motivated, and productive. As a result, this should be your topmost priority as a sales leader. You can see a stark contrast in your revenue when you have the right culture. If you don’t take enough care while setting up your outbound function for exponential growth, it can come back to bite you. 

So, if you’re expanding fast and find your sales team isn’t coping well, go back to the basics. Fix your culture at the very ground level by hiring the right mix of reps and rectifying other errors you may have committed before you try to build anything else.

2. Making compromises in hiring 

The world of B2B SaaS sales demands that you hire a lot of people, very quickly. And this made us compromise on the quality of sales hires. In desperation, we ended up hurriedly hiring reps that weren’t necessarily a good fit for the organization, who eventually, we had to let go of. 

It’s a common situation that a lot of fast growing startups tend to find themselves stuck in. This whole cycle was a huge waste of time, money and resources that we should have rather spent on hiring and training the right reps. 

So always, always take the time and effort to hire the right reps without making compromises. This will ensure you don’t end up falling into the same vicious circle.

A subset of this mistake is that we stopped hiring when we didn’t have an immediate need. But when you’re running a fast growing startup, you’re better off hiring sales reps at least two quarters in advance. Sales reps need a ramp up period to familiarize themselves with selling a product to reach optimum levels of productivity.

Maybe you’re going through an underwhelming month with fewer leads flowing into your pipeline. But that can change quickly (as we learnt). Hiring reps in advance will ensure you’re equipped to close deals when marketing has a great month and sends a flurry of leads your way. 

So to summarize, 

  1. Always take the extra time and effort to ensure you’re hiring reps that are a good fit for your organization. 
  2. Hire well in advance to accommodate the ramp up period and unexpected changes in pipeline fortunes.

3. Not cracking cold calling early on

People that say cold calling is dead have been doing it wrong. Cold calling is a direct way to get relevant people’s attention and we’ve found massive success with it. 

We could have definitely done it sooner. You totally should! 

Unfortunately though, we concentrated our efforts on LinkedIn and email outreach early on, which proved to do us a lot more harm than good. When we were on level 3 or 4 of LinkedIn and email outreach we were at level 0 with cold calls. But we realized our mistake early enough and made amends. This helped us capitalize on the revenue we had earlier lost from the entire channel of phone calls.

So, get your reps to pick up the phone and make those calls. You’ll be surprised with how much of a difference it can make for your sales productivity and revenue. Start early and you can scale this channel to unimaginable heights.

You also need to ensure that you’re having relevant conversations with the right people if you want to milk this channel for all its worth. Check out this guide to learn how you can make your conversations ultra relevant. And to be able to have these conversations over a phone in the first place you can check out the industry’s most accurate contact database that’s FREE to use — download our Chrome extension here.

4. Negotiating the wrong way

Early on, our AEs would tend to indulge in negotiations that weren’t conducive towards either party. For example, if we quoted a price of $100,000 and the customer came back to us saying they could only afford $50,000, our AEs would try to negotiate closer to that $50,000 price by cutting out features/users/credits for the lower price. This would also in turn lead to customers experiencing only limited capabilities of a robust product, dampening user experience. 

So it is always wise to stand your ground and not say yes to everything. You’re not going to lose a deal just because you’re more expensive than the other solutions, provided you have the value to offer to the customer.  If anything, by getting less of the product at a lower price, your customer is going to lose out on a lot more ROI.

Business transactions can only hold good when both parties see value without compromise. Holding your ground during negotiations ensures you aren’t losing a lot of dollars on the table. It also allows you to get your prospects to sign up for a more complete version of your product as opposed to them losing out on ROI. This can be crucial for early-stage startups desperate for revenue.

Also, always make sure your customers’ experience is a priority when negotiating, while holding your own ground. If you can’t reach an agreement, referring a prospect to your competitors’ product wouldn’t be a bad idea if they’d be getting better value out of it. Here’s Todd Caponi, Author of The Transparency Sale, speaking about how and why you should do this.

Make negotiating a process of exchanging value rather than a process of settling for less to ensure you get a deal.

The best way to negotiate discounts is to exchange other value with the customer. Here are some examples of how you can do it:

  • Offering a discount in exchange for a referral
  • Offering a discount in exchange for a a full-upfront payment
  • Offering a discount if the prospect is willing to sign a multi-year contract.
  • Offering a discount if the prospect can make an early payment

In each of these cases, value is being exchanged in a manner that benefits both parties as opposed to offering discounts compromisingly.

If you’d like to train your AEs to negotiate the right way and boost your revenue, SPIFFs are a simple yet powerful tool that can help you out. We’ve spent years and a ton of resources experimenting with SPIFFs, and the results are insane!

(Dis)Honourable Mention: Adopting CRMs and the right tools early on

This is one mistake we made sure we learnt from other businesses. Adopting a proper CRM that you’re confident about using for at least the next 15 years, and getting a dedicated sales ops person to ensure it’s being filled the right way, is extremely crucial if you want to get far.

Also investing in the right tools when you have a need for them is a no-brainer. By not investing in the right tools, you’re losing a lot more revenue than the money you’d spend on it. So do yourself a favor and get the right tools at the right time.

We Hope You’ve Learnt From Our Sales Mistakes

Now that we’ve put it out there, it’s up to you to pave your own road to success. And even if you make mistakes don’t worry, they’ll teach you a thing or two about how to run your sales, or any other function, the right way. I hope this helped and wish you the very best for your journey ahead 🙂

Anupreet Singh

Anupreet Singh

Anupreet Lamba is currently leading Sales at Slintel, a SaaS Sales Intelligence platform. He has set up sales teams and functions from scratch for various companies and firmly believes that the initial revenue target is achieved only when the entire organization works with the grit to support them.

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