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B2B Salesperson Red Flags and How to Identify Them Quickly

Spotting a B2B salesperson’s red flags early can save you from costly mistakes and wasted time.

There are a number of red flags that indicate something is wrong. Some of the red flags are just bad sales approaches. Others may indicate you are being taken advantage of. You can think of the red flags as a continuum, with bad sales strategies on one side and the salesperson taking your money on the other.

I am qualified to share this continuum because I grew up in an apartment complex where grifters practiced their trade. I have also had experiences with bad salespeople, including seeing bad people take advantage of those unaware of what was happening to them. The first eight red flags relate to bad sales practices, which are often a sign that

Red Flag 1: Asking about Your Business Without Research

If the salesperson has to ask you what your company does, you can be certain they are not a professional. Any professional B2B salesperson will have already researched your company. This isn’t the worst red flag, but you are better off with a better salesperson, one who did their homework.

Red Flag 2: Unaware of Your Company’s Problems

The B2B salesperson who called you to ask for a meeting should know your problem better than you do. It is important to know the salesperson is trying to sell their solution, so if they have to ask you about your problem or try to find one, it’s a sign that they don’t know much about the challenges faced by companies like yours. You would be better off with another salesperson who is an expert on your problem.

Red Flag 3: Poor Product Knowledge

If the salesperson doesn’t have a deep understanding of the products or services they sell, it’s a problem. If it feels like the salesperson is having trouble explaining their offerings and how they work to improve results, you may not get what you are paying for. Here, too, you want an expert who can help you with the right solution.

Red Flag 4: Overly Transactional Sales Approaches

We have to be careful about interpreting this as a red flag because some companies are effective at transacting. In such cases, both the buyer and the seller want a transactional experience. It’s a red flag when the salesperson is transacting with a client who needs a more consultative approach. If this is true for you, end the conversation and start with a new, better salesperson.

Red Flag 5: Excessive Effort to Build Rapport

Unless you need a new best buddy forever, you may want to avoid the B2B salesperson who tries to create a relationship. Two things may be true here: 1) the salesperson may be uncomfortable talking about business, or 2) they are a time-waster. If you need a friend, buy yourself a dog.

Red Flag 6: Failing to Honor Commitments

The salesperson said they would be there at 10:00 AM, a time they chose, and it is now 10:20 AM and they have not arrived. A sales rep that fails to keep their meetings is often a salesperson who will fail to keep other, much more important commitments, like the execution of the solution they sell. How you do one thing is how you do everything.

Red Flag 7: Inconsistent Follow-Up and Communication

This red flag comes from a salesperson who is inconsistent in their communication. They reach out when they need something while failing to follow up on the things you should expect them to follow up on, like the delivery of the solution or the strategic outcomes you need.

Red Flag 8: Unable to Provide References

If the person hems and haws when you ask for references, it is a red flag. A better salesperson will have no problem providing references. In the industry in which I learned to sell, it was common to bring the prospective client to tour a current client. Any challenge in getting a reference is your sign to move on from this rep and find a better salesperson.

The next four red flags relate to high-pressure tactics.

Red Flag 9: High Pressure to Sign a Contract

If you are asked a number of questions designed to cause you to say yes to a set of agreements, you are being manipulated by an old sales approach that still works on weak people. Should you encounter this red flag, answer every question with a no.

Red Flag 10: Pushing for Rushed Decisions

This red flag means the salesperson is worried about their deal instead of what is in your company’s interest. When this is true, you will notice the absence of any attempt to create a long-term relationship.

Red Flag 11: Creating a False Sense of Urgency

We have to be careful here. There are sales scenarios where urgency is important, but when you recognize that the urgency is false, you are being hustled.

Red Flag 12 : Threatening Your Professional Status

This red flag will have the salesperson engaging in threatening your status. They may talk about how successful you are and hint that you have a lot of money. In some events, you may see a salesperson use this tactic in front of a large number of people to sell them something they wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

You might believe that these approaches are not found in B2B sales, but some sales training companies still teach the outdated tactics described in the 12 red flags above.

Before leaving this article, spend time with the top part, the things you may be doing that may harm your sales results. If you are the kind of person who reads thesalesblog.com, I am certain you are not using high-pressure tactics.

If you are a sales leader, spend time talking through the red flags that might creep into your sales force. There are a lot of bad ideas floating around on social media infecting salespeople. Do good work and avoid the red flags that kill sales results.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 28, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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