Learning lessons the hard way can be rough.

But life doesn’t have to be a video loop of mistakes. Over time, the wise among us learn how to follow good advice when we hear it — both on what to do, and what not to do.

That’s why we asked a group of sales pros to share their list of the top sales fails – 11 common mistakes you should not make if you want to close the deal. As a teaser, here are a few must-avoid blunders.

You Wing It

Both newbies and veteran sales reps make this mistake: Take a sales call or go into a meeting without a plan of action. If you’re new to sales, you might feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to prep for a call. And if you’re a seasoned sales rep, you might think you don’t need a dress rehearsal. But winging it doesn’t always work.

Thinking through your and your prospect’s desired outcome of the next meeting will help you make a compelling case for why your product meets their needs. Think of several questions that may arise, write them down, and prepare answers (and maybe even a reference sheet) to help the meeting go smoothly. If you’re nervous or just want to be sure you nail it, rehearse your talk track with someone you trust beforehand. Consider preparation and practice your superpowers.

You’re Trying to Solve a Problem Your Prospect Doesn’t Have

Have you ever noticed a prospect seem to lose interest just as you’re getting started on an energetic explanation of the details and functionality of your latest, greatest product offering? That’s probably because you’re trying to offer them a solution without knowing if it solves their particular problem. Focusing your first conversations around general product features and broad business benefits is a common blunder in the initial outreach stage. In today’s info-saturated world, it takes personalization (even in the early stages) to cut through the noise and get a prospect to actually pay attention to what you have to say.

According to social selling expert Jill Rowley, successful sales teams answer three specific questions:

  1. Why my product or service — for this specific customer?
  2. Why my company — for this specific customer?
  3. Why now — for this specific customer?

Without this level of preparation and customization, you’ll appear out of touch with the very people you’re trying to connect with, and risk killing the deal before it even gets started.

So what should you do? Take the time to research and think through the three questions above. Think up genuine, compelling ways in which your product can solve the specific problems the prospect faces. It will earn you future discussions and lay the groundwork for a successful deal.

You Show Up Late to the Party

Sometimes, it’s fashionable to show up late. When it comes to the buyer decision journey, however, it’s a different story. Buyers go through specific stages of decision-making: identifying the problem, evaluating the options, defining a solution, and making the final choice. Most salespeople don’t enter the process until customers are evaluating options, but experts say that’s too late. Research shows that only 16% of leads tagged as “sales-ready opportunities” actually close.

The solution? By engaging the prospect when they’re still working to define the problem, you can reframe how buyers think about their challenges and potential solutions. If a prospect tells you they’re thinking of changing vendors, don’t wait six months to call them back. Get on their calendar in the next three weeks when they’re defining the problem, advises Craig Elias, a sales consultant. “When I do that I am five more times likely to win the business.”

For more good advice and sharp insights, check out our latest e-book to learn what sales reps often say and do (or don’t do) that cause them to lose deals (plus bonus tips on how to avoid these common pitfalls).