A Sales Guide on How to Turn Mistakes into Successes

Written By Beth Valdettaro, Director of Sales & Client Services

“Failure is success if we learn from it.”

– Malcolm Forbes

The journey to success requires many bumps and setbacks along the way. We all make and learn from our mistakes over time. Sure, we tell ourselves, “nobody’s perfect,” however in reality, we know deep in our hearts that just maybe we could have done things a little differently. I take pride in talking about my failures and embarrassing moments. By mentioning them with a sense of humor, I am reminded of how I’ve grown to be an even better salesperson.

As Director of Sales and Client Services at Fineline Printing Group, I share this same philosophy with the organization. Our motto is “We won’t ask for your business until we can improve it.” Part of that motto is consistently checking in with clients and prospects on what we can do better to make their organizations and programs more successful.

Here are some of the most common sales mistakes that enable us to learn, grow and become better at what we do.

Mistake #1:

Assuming seasoned salespeople don’t make cold calls

Don’t assume cold calling is a chore; sales professionals should instead look at the task as a learning opportunity. Think of it as a mathematical equation to make five cold calls each day, and to weed out the bad leads quickly. What will you learn from this experience that you’ll carry forward? By following this practice as part of your daily routine, your elevator speech improves your ability to qualify more prospects, and your pipeline is always full. Plus, you get first dibs on the hot new leads because you have already qualified all of your own.

Qualified leads become qualified prospects and then customers. Letting a lead cool decreases the likelihood of it maturing. Fineline is constantly practicing this to stay on top of our process. In fact, we find that by having these conversations we can actually translate industry trends of helpful ideas to existing clients and programs.

Mistake #2:

Not being prepared

Entering a meeting without first researching the company and having the fundamental information in hand is a big mistake. This approach is one of the most common sales failures. Invest the time learning about your prospect before you call them and before you try to schedule a meeting. I suggest creating a checklist of the vital information you will need and reviewing this list before you make your call. Make notes ahead of time and check out the prospects latest press releases.

Through Fineline programs we’ve learned the more we know about the client’s business upfront, the better we do, not only in sales but setting client services reps up for ongoing project success.

Mistake #3:

Letting the prospect determine the meeting agenda

The best way to control the sales interaction is to ask questions and guide the conversation. Quality questions that uncover specific issues, problems, or objectives are essential in helping you establish yourself as a subject matter expert. Prepare these questions in advance—they are different for each prospective customer.

Mistake #4:

Talking too much

Ask a relevant question and shut up. By listening to the customer, you will learn important facts about their process, pain, needs and expectations. Don’t assume that they want a full-blown sales presentation unless they have requested one.

Mistake #5:

Giving the prospect information that is irrelevant

Few customers want to know specifics about what model of presses we have in the press room. They do want to know that we have a full-time Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement. Make the most of the presentation by sharing examples of improvements and innovations provided to current customers. Refer to case-studies that provide a solution to a similar problem. Promote your value, not your product.

Mistake #6:

Not asking for an opportunity to come back with a proposed solution to a problem

If you sell a product or service, you have the obligation to ask the customer for a commitment, particularly if you have invested time assessing their needs and know that your product or service will improve their business.

Fineline performs annual business reviews to check in and tackle tough questions. We’ve seen a very positive percentage increase with clients that are committed to discussing solutions and know that we are vested in ongoing success as well.

Mistake #7:

Failure to follow-up

Ouch! This one is a no-brainer. Even an unproductive sales call warrants a thank-you note and an action step to re-connect at another point in time. Staying connected keeps your company name and you in the forefront of the customer’s mind.

Fineline sales and client service reps have an open line of communication with marketing to keep leads in the know and at the very least deliver consistent, relevant industry information to once interested parties.


At the end of the day, as you review your sales calls, notes, and enter content into a CRM database, ask yourself these questions:

1) What could I have done better today?

2) Is my business better because I made a mistake and learned from it today?

3) Do I keep making the same mistake over and over?

4) What can I change TODAY for TOMORROW to benefit from this experience?

Now…. let’s re-frame today’s mistakes and call them “temporary set-backs,” combined with a great learning opportunity! Even the most seasoned sales professional makes mistakes from time to time. Avoid these blunders and increase the likelihood of closing the sale.

1 Comment

  1. Denise Bender on October 14, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Well said woman, well said! Still learning from you after all these years!

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