Glossophobia, the formal term for “public speaking”, ranks among the most pressing fears affecting about 75% of the humankind.

Sales outreach is a step further when it comes to pushing the business forward. Unsolicited calls are known for their aggressiveness, gatekeepers have a respectable role in the corporate world, and making a breakthrough with an innovative idea is far from trivial.

To combat this fear and make the best out of your sales process, I’ve gathered 11 sales influencers discussing the most common mistakes beginner (and even intermediate) salespeople repeat on a day-to-day.

1. Failure to Offer Interest or Value

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We often focus way too hard on who we want to talk to, without spending an equal amount of effort figuring out why they would want to talk to us. Unless you can align your outreach request to something you know is of interest or value to your prospect, you haven’t earned the right to try to engage them.

Jim Dickie, Research Fellow, CSO Insight

2. Product-Centric Messaging and Lack of Planning

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There are three things I can highlight quickly that would dramatically improve the quality and effectiveness of most prospecting efforts that I witness.

Mistake 1: Connecting on LinkedIn and immediately pitching your product. I used to call this the Pounce & Pitch but my colleague Doug Wyatt has a better term, the “Bait & Pitch.” Most buyers report hating this, but reps persist because it occasionally works, when they luckily pitch someone who is open to it or already in the market or thinking about a solution like theirs.

The fix: Digital or social selling requires a more subtle approach. If you see a trigger event or sales signal, use another channel (such as email or phone). If you’re using social platforms to approach prospects, I generally suggest to create some awareness and interest and to build a relationship first, before prospecting directly. There are always exceptions, but if you remember that “social is subtle” and act more like you would in person at a networking event, you’ll fare better than using the “Bait & Pitch.”

Mistake 2: Using a product-centric approach (product pitch) vs. a problem-focused or buyer-centric approach.

The fix: I’ve helped companies get radically better results by avoiding the product pitch entirely, and using an approach that floats a problem the buyer is likely to have (or is known to have from a referral or research), shares an outcome the seller has helped similar companies achieve, mentions the way that outcome was delivered, and provides an opportunity to learn more (by setting an appointment where case details are shared and further discovery can be done). This “Problem/Outcome/Solution/Explore” approach becomes even more powerful with a referral or introduction, but even in the absence of that, it works far better than product pitching.

Mistake 3: A compete lack of research and sales call planning.

The fix: The amount of research needed varies greatly, based on whether you’re calling mid-level decision-makers in a pool of 50,000 accounts, or executive decision-makers at 25 named accounts. In both cases, research to uncover something about the person, their role, their company, and when possible, any known challenges that you can solve, to personalize the approach. Then, plan and personalize your approach for your prospect with your specific Problem/Outcome/Solution/Explore messaging, and if calling, be ready to leave a crisp, effective voicemail if they don’t answer.

Mike Kunkle, VP, Sales Enablement Services, SPA & SPASIGMA

3. Not Offering Value on the First Interaction

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The most common mistake I see in sales outreach is failing to focus on what’s in it for the buyer beyond what you are selling. You aren’t going to get a prospect’s attention by offering a demo or saying “it’ll just take 15 minutes.” What value can you provide in that very first call, your first interaction with a prospective buyer, that they would be willing to pay for? What insights or ideas can you share that make them want to learn more, and spend more time with you at the beginning of the buying journey?

Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing

4. Having No Qualified Prospects

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The biggest mistake I’ve seen recently is salespeople not keeping enough qualified prospects in their pipeline. Everyone is focused on being a great closer, but that doesn’t matter if you have no one to talk to. ABP: Always Be Prospcting.

Butch Bellah, Speaker-Author-Sales Trainer, Author of “Sales Management For Dummies”

5. Failure to Make Customer-Focused Conversation

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The most common mistake has two dimensions: Failure to have the right narrative and failure to drive the right combinations of outreach. Sellers must make the conversation about the customer and what the customer cares about… improving the results for which they are responsible.

We then need to concurrently drive that message and conversations though every channel of engagement until we find the medium that works for that person. Phone, voicemail, email, text message, Twitter, LinkedIn, fax, calendar invite, carrier pigeon… what ever it takes to break through. Be bold and determined, and never misinterpret being ignored as rejection. Senior people are busy so earn engagement.

No one worth getting to for new business development is lonely and bored or looking for a new friend in their work-life; nor are they interested in hearing a pitch. We must lead with value in a conversation by having a point-of-view concerning the customer’s opportunity to improve results. In these conversations we need to use the language of leaders which is ‘measurable outcomes and managing risk’. Everything needs to evidenced and reference specific improvements expressed in terms of dollars or percentages. Wake-up and embrace the phone for outreach combined with social and digital… it will transform results.

Tony Hughes, Sales Leadership Speaker – Author – Consultant

6. Indiscriminate Pitching

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The biggest mistake I see salespeople make during sales outreach is they pitch their product to everyone hoping someone will buy.

They are 10X more likely to make a sale if they pique the interest of decision-makers, who recently experienced a ‘Trigger Event’ that motivates to them switch vendors, by pitching the impact (value) of their offering. (E.g Calling a vice-president of finance, who is new in their job, to say they can help them eliminate inventory write-downs.)

Craig Elias, Chief Catalyst, Shift Selling, Inc., Author of the award-winning sales book SHiFT!

7. Failing to Build Real Relationships

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Quite often the most common mistake found during outreach is the one you least expect. We fail to be human. We forget that we are trying to build real relationships which require real empathy. If you don’t care about helping your prospect build a better business, or achieve whatever goal they are targeting, it will come across in your voice, language and body language. Empathy first then outreach.

Trish Bertuzzi, Founder & CEO The Bridge Group, Author, The Sales Development Playbook

8. Insufficient Knowledge About the Prospect

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Not thinking about the sale from the prospect’s point of view — and not doing enough initial research on the issues that prospect confronts.

Daniel Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN

9. Lousy Pitch Conclusions

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At the end of a conversation, what’s the next step? Too many times we assume the next step is to follow up in a few weeks. I like specificity. Here’s what comes next. Here’s when you’re going to hear from me. Even better, set up the time for follow up. Every conversation has to have a call to action or specific follow up. Of course, sometimes the next follow up is the actual sale taking place. Don’t miss the opportunity to end the initial sales outreach with an actual sale!

Shep Hyken, Customer Service & Experience Expert, NY Times bestselling author and award-winning speaker

10. Ineffective Sales Approach

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I’d answer that by raising a question I frequently do with sales people, which is “Are you coming from the mindset that you’re hunting for new buyers or farming your existing customer base for new opportunities?” If yes, then that’s the most common first mistake – you need to look at things through the lens of your customer. Do your buyers want to be hunted or farmed in the first place? No. Your job as a salesperson is to know if this looks like the ideal customer profile (ICP) based on not only their job title and responsibility, but also that they work for a company that absolutely fits and that you can help them with exactly what they need help doing.

Effective sales outreach takes a meaningful and human approach with these three key steps:

1. Know exactly who you’re calling, emailing or InMailing by ensuring they’re your ideal customer. Don’t waste my time, don’t waste your time. If you’re calling the wrong people, it creates a negative brand impression from the get go.

2. When you do reach out, it’s crucial that you as a salesperson #showmeyouknowme. Show me how you can help me. It doesn’t matter who else in the world you’ve helped, in other companies or industries if you can’t help me. Speak exactly to what you can do for me, which means first knowing who I am.

3. You need to prove that you care about me. Not only your commission, not your quota. #Showmethatyoucare and as a buyer, I won’t need to be hunted, farmed or targeted, I just need to be helped and treated in a way that feels like you personally care.

Jill Rowley, Partner at Stage 2 Capital, Growth Strategist & Startup Advisor

11. Lack of Social Media Acumen

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B2B sales reps not using social media properly.

“The most common mistake I’ve seen during sales outreach stems from a B2B rep’s lack of social media acumen.

Nobody on LinkedIn wants to read your self-promoting posts.

Nobody on LinkedIn wants an unsolicited pitch one hour after they accept your invitation to connect.

Spray, Pray and Hope is not a good LinkedIn strategy.

Social media is quite powerful if you view it as a long-term strategy to strengthen both your company and personal brand. How do you do it? Add Value. Be interesting. Engage in peer discussions. Promote thought leadership. Write (or curate) interesting content. Find ways to help your contacts (introductions, etc.). Engage other social media influencers who can open doors and make warm introductions.

Over time, you will improve your credibility, influence and trust with your extended network – creating more qualified opportunities to engage.

Save your pitch for your profile page.

Eric G. Blumthal, CEO of count5

My Take

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On top of the solid batch of incredible responses so far, focusing on ROI is the most impactful pet peeve we’ve seen to date.

Reaching out to a prospect is stressful. To alleviate the tension from the uncomfortable pitch, make sure you have a clear value proposition that connects strongly to the opportunities of a positive return on investment.

Research your target market and your existing customer base. Gather case studies and success stories. Extract the most common business challenges and build practical use cases that your product or solution solves flawlessly.

Use these as an entry point for your conversation by outlining a proven path to reducing expenses or increasing revenue for your sales lead.

The confidence of being able to deliver on your promise will be naturally reflected in your voice, portraying the level of confidence worth listening to.

Follow this list zealously and your prospects would be thankful for the well-crafted business opportunity you’re inviting them to.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse and reprinted with permission.