5 Common Sales Mistakes and Ways to Avoid Them

Jane wants to get a new car. Although she has a very nice car, she wants an SUV. That’s because she used to drive an SUV and loved it. She enjoyed the convenience of getting her golf clubs out of it as well as the ability to load it up with flowers, mulch, and other items. So, we went car shopping.

The salesman at the dealership was very nice, as you’d expect a car salesman to be. However, he made a lot of mistakes. In fact, I’d say he made the five most common sales mistakes. I won’t reference him or the dealership by name, but I want you to learn from his mistakes, so I’ll address them and simple ways to avoid each.

Mistake #1 Trying to be too Likable

This is perhaps the most common mistake salespeople make; trying too hard to get customers to like them. If you’re a salesperson please remember this; it’s not about customers liking you, it’s about you liking the customer. 

This means you only talk about yourself in relation to what you learn about your customer. The best ways to learn about your customers is by asking good questions and using your observation skills. 

This is critical because the more you are like your customers, and they sense it, the more they will like and trust you.

Mistake #2 Not Understanding the Customer

He didn’t spend any time diving into what Jane wants. Simple questions could have revealed a lot.

  • “What do you really enjoy about your current vehicle?”
  • “What is your car missing that you’d like to have in your new car?”

He could have let her know that his goal is to get her into a car that she loves driving and looking at. He could have let her know that he wants to be the guy she keeps coming back to whenever she wants another car, so he wants her to be thrilled about her purchase.

Mistake #3 Launching into Presentation Mode

Almost immediately he launched into the warranty. It’s a great warranty but he did nothing to engage curiosity. That could have been accomplished as follows:

“We’ve had one of the best warranties in the industry for a long time and now it’s even better. Can I take a moment to share what we’ve done to improve it?”

In case it didn’t jump out; he could have put out something that was short and enticing, then asked for permission to share more. Once someone agrees, they’ll be a more focused listener.

Mistake #4 Failure to Listen

This one leaped out at me because a hot button with Jane is when she doesn’t feel she’s been heard. The salesman pushed a white vehicle even after she said that’s not what she wanted. She was clear, “I have a white car now and already had a white SUV so I’m looking for a change.”

He went on and on about the benefits of a white vehicle (doesn’t show dirt, scratches aren’t as apparent, car stays cooler, etc.). He even referenced how she has blonde hair and probably doesn’t change the color. Ouch!

What could he have done? He might have said something like this:

“Jane, I hear you and you’re not alone. A new car in a new color can make the change feel even better. However, down the road many people regret not going with white. If your mind isn’t 100% sold on the change, could I share a few things to consider?” Once she agreed he could have said:

“There are three big reasons most people prefer white cars. First, white cars don’t show dirt like darker vehicles do. If you can’t get to a car wash often, that will make a big difference in how you feel each time you see your car. Second, scratches will inevidably happen but they’re less noticeable on white cars, which also makes people feel better about their cars. Last but still very important, white cars stay much cooler in the summer.”

Showing a white car next to a car of any other color would have made the point. It had rained a few days ago so, as we looked at cars on the lot, I noticed it. I pointed it out to Jane, and she agreed although I’m not sure if it’s enough to sway her thinking.

Mistake #5 – Monologue Instead of Dialogue

As you can see in the previous examples, the salesman wasn’t asking questions. While he had more than three decades of experience, he relied too much on it and not enough on asking good questions.

Asking questions gains permission and holds attention. Once a prospective customer agrees to hear more about the warranty, color of the car, or anything else, they will pay more attention. 

The other benefit of good questions is that it allows you to talk about what’s most important to the customer. You don’t have to throw everything at them and hope something sticks.


Too often salespeople make selling more difficult than it has to be. Good salespeople allow the customer to carry the conversation and inform people into a yes with questions. 

In the end, the happiest customer is the one who feels they made the decision. In other words, they weren’t sold a vehicle, they bought one.

And in case you’re wondering, she didn’t buy a car so the process continues!

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world, Brian was personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable designed to teach you how to apply influence concepts at home and the office.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!

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