Did you know over 90% of companies will only buy from other companies they trust?¹ There’s a lesson here, folks! If you want sales, you have to build trust—it’s really that simple. But some companies just don’t learn. I had a not-so-great experience with a home improvement vendor (who shall remain nameless) that I HAVE to tell you about.
Heed the Warning: 9 Epic Sales Failures to Avoid Like the Plague
You’ve heard it over and over and over again. Sleazy, shady, deceptive, underhanded sales tactics are NOT good for your business, damage your reputation, tick off your potential buyers, and cause you to lose sales. You’ve heard it, right? Well, some companies just don’t get it. So please, please, for the love of all things holy, don’t make these 9 sales failures in your business.
All I Wanted Was a Paint Quote
My dilemma: It started out innocently enough. For the past several months, I’d been gathering quotes for home painting. I was taking my time and wasn’t particularly in a hurry, and had obtained quite a few quotes. To my luck (or so I thought), I received a phone call from a paint vendor who was looking to use special advertising dollars to offer promotional prices on painting. Sounded reasonable.
Boy was I in for a wild ride.
Epic Sales Failure #1. The Deceptive Foot-in-the Door Tactic
Every business engages in this thing called lead generation. It’s what keeps new potential customers interested, so it’s critical in sales—but starting out with deception is a recipe for disaster.
The Fateful Phone Call: I was rather happy to receive the initial phone call from someone wanting to help me with remodeling. Here’s what they said:
“We are looking to do some work in your neighborhood and have a special advertising budget to use where we can offer you limited-time promotional prices on home upgrades.”
They said what they would want in return was to be able to use my home in before-and-after advertising, and I would simply need to place a sign for their company in my front yard. Doesn’t sound too bad right?
Epic Sales Failure #2. The Sleazy Bait-and-Switch
Their offer sounded intriguing, I told them I wanted a paint quote, and we scheduled an appointment.
Appointment Day: Two people—a man and a woman—showed up, and I invited them in. They asked to sit down, which we did at the dining room table, and they started trying to build rapport right away by asking me things like how long have I’d lived in the home, where did I work, how long have I been on the job, my marital status, etc. Ok, a little intrusive, but I played along.
They also started talking briefly about the company and the services they offer.
Mind you, they never said a thing about these “special advertising dollars” they have to use in their quest to do work in the neighborhood.
They go outside to take measurements. Afterwards they come back in and proceed to give me a full demonstration of the product they are trying to sell me—but it’s not for paint! Huh?
So let me get this straight. I, up front, tell you I want a paint quote. You come to my home, take up my time, and then tell me you are not going to give me a paint quote at all, but that you want to demo another “superior” product to paint? Yes, that’s what happened.
That’s like someone going to a dentist for teeth whitening and the dentist giving a quote for dentures and saying that dentures are easier to keep white than real teeth. Well, that’s fantastic, but they may not be prepared nor want to have all of their teeth pulled. You with me?
It got worse…
Epic Sales Failure #3. The Egregiously Long and Feature-Driven Product Demonstration
The Demonstration: So let’s be clear. There are obviously times where you need to demonstrate your product or service—but there’s a better way.
After they took measurements, they came back to the dining room and walked me through a product demo. But not just any product demo. We went through every page of what looked like a 100-page binder that contained everything from accolades and how the product is made, to childhood stories of the company owners. They showed me paint—or rather, non-paint—samples and swatches, before-and-after photos, and even a water demonstration showing how weather-resistant the product was.
Did I forget to mention the demonstration took two HOURS!!!
You’re proud of your product—I get it. But taking two hours to walk through a boring, feature-driven conversation without addressing how my life is going to be made easier by buying your non-paint product is just bad sales form. Who’s in charge here? By that time, I was secretly wishing I’d never picked up the phone and was outside enjoying the sunny weather.
TIP: Respect people’s time, be succinct, and sell on benefits not features.
And things got even worse…
Epic Sales Failure #4. The Let’s-Aim-Stupidly-High-Only-to-Lower-the-Price Strategy
We finally get through the 120-minute demonstration, and now it’s time to talk pricing. They pull out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side they give projected costs for painting a home over a period of 30 years. On the other side they give a price for their product, saying that I will never, ever need to paint my home again.
The Cost: $35,000!!! Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you pick up your jaw from the floor.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, but Ang, there are times when paying a higher price up front can save you in the long run. Yes that’s true, but…
Number 1: I asked for a paint quote and had yet to get one.
Number 2: At this stage in the buying process, I didn’t know these people from a can of paint (pun intended). I needed to feel like I could TRUST them.
The Pricing Games: I politely say that price is outside of my expectations. They immediately lower the price. I say it again. They lower the price again. You see what’s happening here, right? I say the price is still too high a third time, and what do they do? They call their manager. LOL! But make no mistake, this is all part of their plan to “stage the sales process and make me feel special.”
They get him on the phone to get “special permission” to lower the price for little old me. At this point I’m really just sitting back, enjoying the show. This continues and they give me a price and tell me it’s the final price I can get if I commit today. I say I’m still not interested and they finally leave after four painful hours!!!
Here’s the kicker: I had already received a quote for the exact same non-paint product, but that price was 60% lower than their “final” price!
It got worse still…
Sales Failure #5. The Harassing Follow-up Process
The Pushy Follow-Up Calls: I started to receive calls both at home and on my mobile phone multiple times per week for the next four months! Yes, I told them I wasn’t interested in the product and to remove me from their call list. That didn’t work, and the calls kept on coming. Calgon, take me away!
It got worse still again…
Sales Failure #6. The Scuzzy, Hard-Selling Sales Manager
The Sales Manager Call: I was in a particularly chipper mood when the call came in.
The sales manager told me he wanted to give me another quote. He said, “We’ll come out and hand you a quote for the job. We don’t need to re-measure and you won’t need to sit through another product demonstration. If you don’t like the quote, simply throw it in the trash.” END QUOTE.
My Final Error: So what do I do? I invite them back! Yes folks, I did. Maybe I’d been wrong about them being sleazy, bait-and-switching liars who used bad sales tactics just to get in front of you. Maybe I had it all wrong. Surely if they came back they would give me a fair quote and not waste my time, right?
Sales Failure #7. The Communication Breakdown between the Sales Manager and Sales Reps
The Miserable Second Meeting: They come back and ask to sit down at a table. OH NO! We aren’t going there again.
I tell the two ladies that I spoke with their sales manager who said that the only thing I would receive was a quote. They asked if they could demonstrate the product. I said no. They asked if they could re-measure. I said no. There clearly was no communication between the sales manager and the sales reps.
To my dismay, nothing changed. They were still the same sleazy, dishonest company I thought they were (sigh). So I decided to walk them through my entire customer experience and gave them pointers for how to make it better. I ended by saying it was time for us to part ways. They both left with egg on their faces.
Sales Failure #8. (Back to) The Scuzzy, Hard-Selling Sales Manager
The Final Call: The sales manager called me to ask me what happened. I took the opportunity to tell him in painstaking detail, how horrible the customer experience had been and that I didn’t appreciate the hard-selling, misleading sales tactics.
And like any self-respecting sales manager, what did he do? He blamed his sales reps! The call ended.
Sales Failure #9. Not Giving a Prospect What They Ask For
After all of this, I still never got what I asked them for: a quote for home painting.
Checklist of what NOT to do during the sales process:
- Never lie to potential leads to get in front of them. It completely undermines their intelligence and makes you look untrustworthy.
- Don’t ever hold a feature-driven demonstration. You must show how your product or service will help the lives of your consumers.
- Don’t use cheesy pricing tactics. Be up front about the cost and maybe come down a bit during negotiations, but don’t use auction-type tactics to make someone “feel special.”
- Don’t ever think time translates to value. This company believed that the more time it took to get through the measuring, meeting, and demonstration (four hours!!!), it would somehow result in me seeing their solution as more valuable, and thus worth more. They were wrong.
- Don’t set the wrong expectations. Don’t lead people to believe they will receive one thing and give them another. If you can’t quote on the job or just don’t sell what the prospect is looking for, say that up front. Then offer your alternate solution.
- Don’t ignore do-not-call requests. If someone asks to not be called, send a series of follow-up emails instead.
The Bottom Line
You need lead generation to fill your pipeline, deliver proposals and quotes, and ultimately drive sales and bring in new customers. Heed the Warning: 9 Epic Sales Failures to Avoid Like the Plague.
If you don’t, you will end up with potential prospects who will view your company as untrustworthy, never buy your product, never even consider buying your other products and services, never recommend your product, and who may even write a post about the entire experience. 🙂