9 Things You Should Never Do When Trying to Make a Sale: AMA Research

May 19, 2015

9 sales tactics to avoid

The world of sales can be a daunting environment for both salespeople and customers alike. If you are a salesperson, it is your responsibility to create a conversation that adds value to your product. During the process of a sale, however, many salespeople lose sight of this and end up turning off potential sales leads. A recent AMA survey sought to find out what tactics salespeople use that ultimately lead to losing a customer. With over 1100 responses, the final results are in. Here is the list of annoying sales habits, from most annoying to least:

  1. Being too pushy (24%)
  2. Not taking “no” for an answer (23%)
  3. Not listening (18%)
  4. Talking too much (9%)
  5. Bait and switch  (8%)
  6. Reading from a script (7%)
  7. Using meaningless sales jargon (or terms) (5%)
  8. Upselling (4%)
  9. Being impatient (2%)sales tactics infographic

At the top of the list are the three most annoying sales tactics, according to respondents. Salespeople should avoid all of these, but the clear turnoffs are being too pushy, not taking “no” for an answer, and not listening. AMA’s goal is to ensure that you are following the best sales practices in the business. We partnered with FranklinCovey to consult their sales experts. Here we present the tips that will help you stay on your customers’ good side and help you close the deal.

Sales Turnoff #1: Being too pushy

The most popular sales turnoff, according to respondents, is when salespeople are too pushy. This is a frequent problem for sales people, who are focused only on their goal of completing a sale. Craig Christensen, a sales expert from FranklinCovey, agreed:

“This happens when salespeople focus on their own needs first, and people find that annoying. In sales, that is inexcusable. One thing we find helpful is to get people to meet another person’s needs before meeting their own. When you focus on the other person first, you honor the sequence of understanding before seeking to be understood.  It helps you become more open. The law of reciprocity takes hold, and the people whose needs you helped meet will help you get what you want.”

Ultimately, sales are directed conversations, and if you try to dominate that conversation you will turn your customers off. Being pushy is a product of not understanding what the true goal of sales should be: creating value. Helping to meet your customers’ needs first will help you to see how the conversation should function, and will help you come off as being less pushy.

Sales Turnoff #2: Not taking “no” for an answer

Right behind being too pushy was salespeople not taking “no” for an answer when dealing with customers. According to Christensen, this happens for a number of reasons:

“Sales people often only think of themselves. With a selfish focus, you lose the ability to empathize. If you can empathize, you come closer to seeing things the way others see them. Another reason they don’t take “no” for an answer is because they’re not prepared. In a sale, you’re looking at the value of something. Without adequate preparation beforehand, it’s difficult to understand what the customer really needs.  Without that, it’s almost impossible to sell value. A lack of empathy and preparation combine to create a situation where you can’t see the customers’ point of view and fail to get cooperation.  The result is they keep pushing even when “no” is the answer.

A salesperson can alleviate this issue through several practices. First, you need to think about why the customer would purchase your product. Empathize with their situation – in other words, try to understand their needs. Next, work to prepare yourself to know the true value of the product. Preparation will help you not only come off as a more professional and competent sales person, but will also help you form a stronger first sales pitch, which could reduce the rate of rejection in the first place. Finally, think of sales as a normal human interaction. Too often, sales people think about how they’re trying to talk at a customer, rather than creating a conversation. If you can create an environment where you’re just two people having a conversation, everyone would act more natural, and you wouldn’t come off as being aggressive. A friendlier environment will help you complete the sale.

Sales Turnoff #3: Not listening

The third most popular answer regarding sales habits that turn customers off is when the salesperson doesn’t listen. Again, this comes back to holding a real conversation, and Christensen believes that this is where most salespeople lose the customer:

“Rookie salespeople don’t listen. They talk with the intent to convince, rather than talk with the intent to explore or understand. The human dynamic is very predictable – when someone is talking at you (or down to you, even worse), what is your natural tendency? Are you more likely to open up and share information?  Or are you likely to close down meaningful dialogue?  When salespeople come off as condescending or offensive, customers tend to become defensive and annoyed.”

One of the reasons that salespeople don’t listen is because they really don’t want to hear the answer. To listen to someone else, you have to be open to the fact that you might not be correct, complete, or completely on the mark. You can become a better listener by being confident. Only confident people are open to the possibility that they are wrong, and that comes with maturity and professionalism. If you seek first to understand and then to be understood, you are preparing for the possibility that you may not be correct. Either way, you are listening to the customer and finding out if you truly have the solution, which is what sales is really all about.

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How can you turn your leads into sales? Learn all the tips and tools you need to make the sale with these AMA resources and seminars:

About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.


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