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Shark Tank Star Robert Herjavec on the 5 Worst Sales Sins

By Kim Lachance Shandrow | Small Business

Robert Herjavec equates making a sales call to asking someone out on a date. For many salespeople, especially newbies, once the fear of striking out takes hold, it’s over. In a single syllable, the dreaded “no” saps confidence and shatters egos. But it shouldn’t, particularly not if you’re in sales. He says if you can’t handle rejection, you’re in the wrong business.

“Being overly sensitive to rejection can become a destructive virus,” Herjavec writes in his book The Will to Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding (HarperCollins Canada, 2013). To bounce back from a missed sale, he says you have to shake it off, say “Next!” and steamroll on to the next opportunity.

Herjavec launched his Toronto-based Internet security startup, The Herjavec Group, with only three employees and a dream of securing some of Canada’s most complex networks. Almost 11 years later, the firm is now one of the country’s leading IT security providers, 275 workers strong and on track to rack up $200 million in sales before year’s end.

Related: Shark Tank Star Robert Herjavec: Don't Ever Expect a 'Balanced Life'

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. Along the way, Herjavec has seen salespeople commit a tangle of sales sins -- and being thin-skinned about rejection is far from the worst.

Here's his view of the top five sales mistakes and his advice on how to avoid them:

1. Not tailoring your sales pitch to your audience.

Delivering the wrong message to the right customer, or the right message to the wrong customer is a problem that’s rife in sales today, Herjavec says. “People fail to customize their sales pitch to the customer and then they wonder why they lose the sale,” he says. “Your Goal No. 1 should be making sure your message fits the right audience. If I’m selling to a CEO, I have a different message than if I’m selling to a director.”

To optimize your chances of sealing a deal, Herjavec suggests you research and understand your customer’s specific needs and pleasure points (not pain points because “Misery isn’t fun, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.”), then personalize your pitch accordingly.

“There needs to be a clearly defined need identified before you even think about going in there to sell.”

Related: Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec on Great Business Pitches and Why Sales Reps Need to Be Chameleons

2. Selling to someone who isn’t a decision maker.

Don’t waste your time pitching to a customer who doesn’t wield buying power. Instead, thoroughly qualify the person you’re selling to in advance, Herjavec advises, before you smile and dial.

“Generally, it’s best to book a [sales] meeting with someone as high up the decision-making chain as possible,” he writes in The Will To Win. If you don’t, he warns, you’ll likely have to schedule a do-over call with your initial contact’s superior. And, going above his or her head “can create ill feelings that may jeopardize a good future working relationship.” So do your due diligence ahead of time and remember, it doesn’t take much for a sale to go sour.

Related: The Stars of Shark Tank on How to Dress for Success

3. Talking more than listening.

“Every sales meeting has a natural dance to it, a cadence” Herjavec says. “To understand which way it’s going and what you’re trying to get out of it requires listening more than talking.”     

Pipe down, open your ears and keep your eyes on your goal. Herjavec says it should be to build trust and respect for yourself, your company and, ultimately, in the must-have value of the products or services you’re selling. Not to hear yourself talk or pump up your own ego. You never want to be that sales guy.

Related: Not Closing Sales? Look to These 5 Mistakes.

When you do speak, choose your words wisely. “Every word spoken to a prospect should be designed to strengthen the relationship and move toward a sale,” Herjavec writes. For example, he says asking “What can I do to win your business?” is too general. It’s “sloppy talk and sloppy selling.” Sharpen your words and ask this instead: “Do you have any potential objections about today’s meeting?” That way, if your client does, you’ll know which concerns you need to allay and how soon.

4. Forgetting your mission: To make a sale.

You’re not in the sales business to make friends. You’re in it to make sales. Never forget that. “People say, ‘Oh, I’m there to build a relationship. I’m there to be their friend. I’m there to learn about their environment.’ I always say, well, that’s all wonderful and great, but at the end of the day, you’re there to sell them something, and not in a used car salesman kind of way. There’s a give and take. People know why you’re there. Losing sight of that fact can lose you a sale.”

And Herjavec doesn’t care how “nice” your client is either. You want her to buy from you. Period. Ironically, Shark Tank’s “nice guy” says he “hates it” when one of his salespeople returns from a sales call gushing about how nice the person he or she met with is.

Related: 'Shark Tank' Judges Hunt for Entrepreneurs: Q&A With Robert Herjavec

“My usual response is to ask if we take orders only from ‘nice’ people. Nice has nothing to do with it. Give me facts about the customer's business, expectations and needs, and the things required to make a sale. Deliver me from ‘nice.’”

5. Not dressing the part.

When it comes to business, the sharp-dressed, blue-eyed Shark says you’d better look the part or you might not get the part at all. In other words, if you don’t dress for success, you might not close the sale.

When you’re on a sales call in person, Herjavec says your attire should mirror your client’s. Well, that is unless you’re a billionaire. Then all bets are off. “Of course, once you’re worth  $2.5 billion, you can wear Skechers and a T-shirt to every meeting, like Mark Cuban.”

Related: How These Parents Went From Sleepless Nights to Pitching a Million-Dollar Business on 'Shark Tank'

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