06/20/2012 03:14 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2012

The #1 Sales Glitch That Pushes Potential Clients Away

Entrepreneurs unwittingly do a lot to sabotage their sales.

One big mistake they frequently make is trying to convince their prospects to buy their products and services. They spend time pitching and presenting, and wonder why their ideal prospects retreat.

This shows up in so many steps in your sales cycle: trying to convince a prospect to schedule an appointment with you; trying to convince her that she needs your services; trying to convince her that your services are worth the fees you're asking; trying to convince her to do the deal...

You go to great lengths to tell your prospect how you'll rock her world, but the prospect is mentally checked out, and I'm not talking in the cash register kind of way. She's either bored, overwhelmed or turned off.

It's this convincing behavior that drives you, the entrepreneur, crazy because it feels one-sided and downright tiring. And it drives your prospects away because... well, it feels one-sided and downright tiring to them too.

Convincing is a warning signal of just one of the seven sneaky ways that you sabotage your sales. This particular behavior is an indicator that you just might be a "Talker".

Other Warning Signals of a Talker:

• You just talk at people to suit your own agenda without considering theirs.

• You're so hell-bent on getting through your pitch that you don't listen.

• You find yourself repeating yourself. You're nervous. You don't take a breath.

• You find yourself jumping from one topic to the next without stringing together a single, fully formulated thought, leaving your prospect thoroughly confused. And a confused mind never buys.

• You may hesitate to ask for the business. (Evidence of yet another sneaky saboteur.)

• You say, "I do this and that and that and this. And don't forget the other thing I do. And blah, blah, blah, blah. Did you say something? Please don't interrupt me to talk about your situation. I need to get through my presentation so I can convince you why I'm the perfect solution for your needs."

The Solution

Convey your value by engaging in a two-way conversation with your prospect where your "questions are your pitch."

1. Ask thoughtful questions. Skip the questions that your well-meaning uncle advised you to ask, such as "what keeps you up at night?" and ditch the commodity questions that your competitors will ask. Instead, ask carefully crafted questions that highlight your value and set you apart from your competition.

2. Listen. Be present and in the moment while your prospect is speaking. If you're thinking of what to say next, you'll miss huge opportunities to understand what's really going on for him.

3. Go beneath the surface. In order to connect more deeply, find out the impact their problems are having (or goals will have) in other areas of their life or business.

An example of a reformed Talker is Heather, who sells lessons for a New Jersey music academy. Before we started working together, she spent the majority of her time pitching her services in an effort to convince her prospects why they should choose her company. It was obvious that she was talking herself right out of the sale, and as a result she was only closing 30% of her potential clients.

We reversed her typical approach to a sales conversation by crafting a few thoughtful questions, and then listening more than talking.

Within 30 days, Heather nearly tripled her conversions and since then, has held steady at an 80% closing rate. So she went from closing 30% by trying to convince her prospects -- to 80% by asking the right questions.

Learning the subtleties of how to articulate the amazing value you offer by allowing your "questions to be your pitch" -- rather than your "pitch being your pitch" -- will set you apart like never before.

The next time you're tempted to launch into convincing mode with your pitch -- STOP -- and turn your thought into a question that engages your prospect to reveal why she needs you.

Carolyn Herfurth is the founder of The Biztruth, and will host "The Art of Ask" on June 21, 2012 during S.H.E. Summit Week. S.H.E. Summit Week, taking place June 18-24, is New York City's first "women's week," with 35+ events designed for, by and about women to inspire each other in work, life & everything in between. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit