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8 Mistakes That Destroy Credibility With Prospects (& How to Avoid Them)

The average buyer in this day and age is shrewd — naturally skeptical of salespeople and having certain standards reps have to measure up to. That makes establishing credibility central to the success of any sales effort.

But maintaining that kind of trustworthiness and legitimacy over multiple sales conversations can be easier said than done — a lot of reps run into hitches, hiccups, and human errors that undermine their credibility with prospects.

To help you avoid those pitfalls, we’ve put together a list of eight of the main mistakes reps make that make them seem less credible to potential buyers. Let’s dive in.

1. Fumbling Basic Information

Calling your prospect by the wrong name or flubbing facts you should have confirmed via Google is always unacceptable. It’s also an easy way to prematurely kill a deal.

Fumbling fundamentals like those can lead your buyers to believe you don’t care about them — if they know you haven’t even made an effort to get the basic information right, why would they believe that you have their best interests at heart?

How to Avoid This Mistake

Do your research — every productive sales conversation is backed by that. It informs your understanding of the appropriate tone to use, the relevant benefits to highlight, and the ultimate basis of an effective value proposition. At the very least, it prevents you from flubbing fundamental information and convincing your prospect you don’t actually care.

2. Asking Prospects to Repeat Themselves

“I’m sorry — what did you say?”

Phrases like that — along with behaviors like asking prospects the same questions multiple times — can kill even the most promising sales conversation. You never want to make your prospect repeat themselves.

It’s one thing if you’re asking follow-up questions or digging deeper on a point you didn’t catch — but if you have to ask a buyer to tell you how many stakeholders are involved in a purchase more than once, it’ll be clear you aren’t dedicating your full attention to the conversation.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Admittedly, avoiding this mistake can be a little easier said than done. it can be tough to keep track of every detail about a prospect when you’re juggling multiple deals simultaneously. Help yourself by making sure you take careful notes on your prospect’s company, challenges, goals, and plans — ideally in a CRM or some other kind of central repository you can reference later.

3. Not Actively Listening

Not only do you have to listen to absorb information — you also have to listen in a way that facilitates a real back-and-forth. You can’t just listen, say “Uh-huh” in response, then move on to your next question.

Even if you’ve understood what your prospect said, that method of communication doesn’t demonstrate you’ve actually absorbed anything. You need to show your prospect that what they’re saying is registering with you — that starts with you practicing active listening.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Pete Caputa, CEO of Databox and former sales VP at HubSpot, teaches his reps the following four-step process:

  • Truly listen to the prospect.
  • Feed back the content and feeling of the prospect’s words.
  • Confirm you heard the prospect correctly.
  • Ask a relevant follow-up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

Active listening shows the prospect you’re present and invested in what they have to say. If you can convey those elements in your communication, you’re showing the prospect that they have a legitimate stake in the conversation — allowing you to further build rapport and establish credibility with them.

4. Talking Instead of Asking

A close cousin of #3, telling before you’ve asked your prospect anything is a cardinal sin. You can’t possibly make useful recommendations to your prospect if you’re not informed about the problems they’re trying to solve.

Don’t be too presumptuous or arrogant — you need to have proper context if you’re going to have a productive sales conversation. Be willing to ask the questions you need to have a fleshed-out enough picture to structure an effective, personalized value proposition.

How to Avoid This Mistake

It’s fine to make some assumptions when you’re in prospecting mode — after all, making educated guesses about what a buyer’s challenges might be is necessary to provide value. But once you’ve connected with a buyer, you should be in exploratory mode. Refrain from making sweeping statements or recommendations until you fully understand their situation.

5. Misstating Information

Having a thorough and correct understanding of your prospect’s situation might be the most crucial aspect of any productive sales conversation — and misstating information is the easiest way to show your prospect that you haven’t actually been listening.

If your prospect has already told you something, you need to be able to reiterate it accurately if the conversation calls for it. You never want to misrepresent any facts or insight they convey to you.

This isn’t something you do on purpose — at least it definitely shouldn’t be — but it calls into question how much weight you place on what your prospect says and wants. Saying things like, “In our last call, we talked about X,” when you actually discussed something else demonstrates a fundamental disconnect between you and your prospect. That’s enough to sow seeds of doubt in their mind and undermine your credibility.

How to Avoid This Mistake

You can avoid this misstep by practicing active listening and making a point of keeping up with the conversation — repeat information back to your prospect, and get their buy-in on your perspective and recommendations.

6. Overpromising

Oftentimes, your prospects will ask you about extremely specific use cases for your product, and you might not know the answer. It’s okay to not know everything, but you can’t anticipate every possible use case.

It’s only human to want to keep your prospect on the line and interested, so you might say, “Yes, we can do that,” without thinking. But if you find out later that you were wrong and have to backtrack, you’ve just lost authority in your prospect’s eyes.

How to Avoid This Mistake

This one has a pretty simple fix — if you don’t have an immediate answer, don’t lie. Be upfront about it, but assure your prospect that you’ll drill down what they’re looking for and promptly follow up with them about it as soon as you do. Most prospects would rather wait a few hours for correct information than receive faulty insight right away.

7. Incorrectly Describing Your Product

A big part of being a successful sales professional is being an authority on what you’re selling. So when you can’t demonstrate how your product will fit a prospect’s situation, or get basic facts about your product wrong, your reputation gets severely dinged.

There’s no quicker way to undermine your credibility and expertise than demonstrating that you’re not actually a credible expert on the offering that your entire career revolves around.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Practice makes perfect here. Run through demos with your manager, and study any areas of your product or service that you’re not 100% clear on. You can also have your manager or a tenured rep sit in on your first few calls so they can step in when you’re unsure of something — and if you go that road, make sure you take notes on anything you need work on.

8. Contradicting Yourself or Your Team Members

Never promise or say anything you don’t know to be true. Even if it’s an offhand answer, chances are if your prospect’s asking about it, they care about it. And if you give different answers on Monday than you do on Thursday — or if you and the other people involved in the sales process aren’t synced up on what you can and cannot promise — your prospect is getting an inconsistent, confusing sales experience.

And, just as importantly, they’ll feel misled and lied to — certainly not emotions you want to invoke in your buyers.

How to Avoid This Mistake

To avoid this, take notes on what you’ve said during calls, and ensure all stakeholders on your side are briefed and aligned before team calls. Get everyone involved from your end on the same page — cohesion lends itself to credibility.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, buyers nowadays are shrewd. They’re not just going to take you at your word — so as a salesperson, it’s on you to establish yourself as a legitimate resource for them. That starts with being credible, so do what you can to avoid the missteps we’ve detailed here.

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