Woman in a Carboard BoxAssumptions tank deals and ruin sales pipelines.

Remember the old saying about what happens when you assume? You make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” Yet salespeople tend to make a lot of assumptions. We assume that:

  • Because we had a good meeting with a client, we can forecast the business at 50 percent.
  • Because someone downloaded a whitepaper, we should call him.
  • Because a person visited a tradeshow booth, she’s a prospect.
  • Because we did good work, our clients will refer us.

Assuming is the easy way out. Assuming is dangerous because it makes us lazy about increasing sales pipelines. And assuming is a trap that salespeople fall into all the time—usually to find out their assumptions were all wrong.

Here are three dangers in assuming that could cost you opportunities and minimize your sales effectiveness. Keep them in mind the next time you think you’ve nailed a sale.

  1. Other people don’t spend much time worrying about how to grow our businesses: We often assume our clients, friends, and business associates know we want more clients and would appreciate their referrals. But even the best of friends and the most satisfied clients are focused on their own businesses, challenges, and families. People ask me how I get new business. They usually don’t believe I could build a successful company solely on referrals. The truth is that most of the people who care about us and our businesses are happy to provide referrals. But they won’t think to do so unless we ask.
  1. A prospect is not a lead until you speak with that person and ask your qualifying questions: Inquiries are not qualified leads, and neither are those coveted lists of names some companies still insist on buying. Someone who’s downloaded a whitepaper is not a qualified lead, nor is someone who’s viewed a demo or visited your tradeshow booth. These folks might just be curious and kicking tires, or they might even be your competitors. Leads are people who are truly interested in talking to you about your product or service. They match the profile of your Ideal Client. They have budget and a need. And they want to learn more about how you can help grow their businesses. If all your leads are coming from the marketing department, your pipeline is in big trouble.
  1. We might appear to be too busy already: Some people assume that appearing to be incredibly busy with client work will send the message that they’re successful, which will translate into more business. The fact is, if we appear overwhelmed, no one will want to refer us, assuming there’s no way their connections will get our best work. I have one client who brags about the crazy hours she works—how she’s in the office at 6 a.m. and on many Sundays. Who would ever think she wants or needs more clients? But she does. She is a partner in a prestigious, privately held accounting firm. She has recently opened a new office and is expected to build business in this new geography. But the way she talks suggests her client roster is full. Don’t make the same mistake. The next time someone asks how you’re doing, avoid telling them how busy you are. Try this: “I’m busy with some great projects, but I’m always looking for a few more terrific new clients.”

You are a smart, strategic sales professional. Don’t let assumptions cause your sales pipeline to dry up. Be proactive about how you build your business.

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