Sales / Sales Process

The 7 Biggest Sales Mistakes of Small Businesses Owners

Trent Barber

Updated: Jun 01, 2020 · 6 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

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As a small business owner, you wear a lot of different hats. Your most precious resources—your financial capital and your time—are limited and finite. In order to move your business from the startup phase to achieving your vision of earning more income and freedom that you set out to achieve, you must have an appetite for growth and organize your resources in a way that will allow you to grow—and you have to do it quickly.

That’s where marketing and sales enter the equation. There is nothing more important than marketing and sales for a small business looking to grow. However, for most small business owners, sales and marketing can start to look very confusing and overwhelming.

Avoid these top seven mistakes most small business owners make in the sales process and you will be well on your way to growing your business.

1. You are not tracking where your leads are coming from

As your business evolves from inception to your first few customers, then to generating word-of-mouth referrals, and on to a more mature marketing strategy, you must start tracking where your leads come from. The reason why this is important is because when it comes to customer acquisition all lead sources are not created equal. By tracking exactly where your leads are coming from you will be able to determine how much you are spending to generate leads and, more importantly, how much it is costing you to acquire a customer by lead source. Armed with this information you will be able to make marketing investments that can result in the highest ROI. Without this information, you can only guess where the best sources of leads come from. At a minimum, put this data into an Excel document. As your revenue climbs, consider investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage this data.

2. You are not automating follow up to engage new leads initially

Admittedly this is more of a marketing issue, but for small businesses marketing and sales go together. When you get a new lead, you need to have some type of initial follow up designed to introduce your brand, what you offer, and why someone should buy from you. Think of this as an indoctrination phase whereby a lead can know what to expect moving forward. Also, when you get new leads, this initial follow up should be designed to qualify leads in or out as good fit for your products or services prior to handing them off to a sales rep. 

A good way to think of this is to think of these new leads auditioning to be a new customer in your business. You can learn a lot about a person’s buying motivation before they make it to a sales rep by giving them a few hoops to jump through, that way it will be clear who is moving down the path of a hot lead, a warm lead, and a cold lead. You want your sales reps talking with your hottest leads. Utilizing a tool such as dynamic lead scoring allows you to establish milestones you want your new leads to take before escalating them to sales.

Some of these may include link clicks within an email, filling out a quote request form, attending a webinar, etc. Think of this process as a funnel. All leads are entered into the top of the funnel those that identify with your brand and the products and service you offer will become new customers.

3. You are not using opportunity records 

Opportunity records should be generated once basic lead qualifications have been met (authority, timeline, budget, etc). An opportunity record resides on the contact record and allows the sales rep to manage the dialogue and communication throughout the sales process, logging notes, tasks, appointments, forecasting revenue, and more. An opportunity record should be generated also allows the sales rep to move the potential buyer through each of the stages of the sales process. As the prospect moves through the stages of decision, a sales manager or business owner will be able to access a weighted revenue forecast report that indicates how the month or quarter is shaping up from a revenue generation perspective. 

4. Not automating follow up to engage prospects

Sometimes now is not a good time or a lead goes dark. You may deliver a quote then never hear back from the prospect. Your goal should be to bubble up leads to sales reps when the timing is right.

5. You are wasting time in your sales process by having your reps do the manual repetitive processes so common in sales

For example, wastes of time include sending an email once a voicemail is left or scheduling a follow-up phone call for a later date. With a system like Keap, these types of repetitive manual tasks can be automated, freeing up time and mental bandwidth to focus on helping more customers make decisions.

6. Not following up with leads who say no to your products or services at first

In a recent phone call with a business owner in the U.K., I asked him what percentage of new leads he was converting to customers in his sales process. He replied 30 percent. I said, “OK great. What are you doing with the 70 percent that are not converting initially?” He didn’t have any type of follow-up method or strategy, and because his typical customer is worth anywhere between tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, the failure to follow up on an ongoing basis is costing him a significant amount of revenue each year. Why not create an automated email campaign that delivers value in the form of monthly tips, a helpful video series, or at a minimum a monthly update with new product or service offerings? Simply maintaining ongoing communication with leads who don’t buy initially will allow you to help customers whose buying motivations are always changing when their timing is right.

7. Not automating appointment scheduling

The back and forth of scheduling a call can be exhaustive, especially for high volume selling environments. Leveraging a tool like Time Trade or AppointmentCore is a huge time saver and makes your sales process much more efficient.

In summary, by choosing to avoid the seven mistakes so many small business owners make in their sales process, you will be on a fast track to growth. You won’t be subject to many of the pitfalls that engulf the majority of small businesses.


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Trent Barber is passionate about helping people succeed in life and business. Over the past 15 years, Trent has had the privilege of working with thousands of small business owners to help them get more leads, save time, and grow sales. Trent joined Keap in 2011 to advise small business owners on sales and marketing methods that deliver results. Prior to Keap, Trent owned the master franchise to a buy-sell-trade video game retail chain throughout the Southwest and operated and sold several small businesses. When not in the office, he can be found either wrangling his four kids or in the mountains fly fishing for trout.

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