When you’re pumped with a lot of information about the product or service you have to sell, and your mind is swimming with images of over-enthusiastic and over-smart sales guys you see in the movies, it’s easy to fall prey to old habits instead of making a smarter, more innovative pitch to your prospects. Sales reps only get one chance to sell – and the words that tumble out of your mouth can make or break a deal. How can you turn your next client meeting or cold call into a positive experience for you and your brand? Here are six big no-no’s you should avoid:
1. The Sales Spiel: Stephen Schiffman in his book The 25 Sales Skills: They Don’t Teach at Business School, calls this long monologue by the sales rep, a product dump. A product dump is a nervous sales rep’s attempt to fill the awkward silence and is the most ineffective form of one-way communication with a prospect. A sales rep goes into the spiel mode either when he is new, nervous or when he puts his product over and above the customer. Your product can never trump your customer. The prospect tunes out because this is information he could read off the brochure or on your website. This approach is un-innovative and ineffective.
2. The Know-It-All: It’s tough to talk about the same product over and over with different prospects and if you’ve been around for a while, it’s easy to fall into this trap of thinking you know what your prospect needs. While your experience puts you in a better position to get to the real problems faced by your prospect faster, it is dangerous to assume you know it all. A wise sales rep uses his past to make more efficient decisions, but starts each client meeting on a clean slate. Try to understand their goals, challenges and their decision-making process.
At the same time, you may not want to appear like you have no idea what the customer needs. Some customers also look to you – the product expert – to fill in the blanks and complete their sentences.
3. The Talker: A lot of sales folks believe that sales is about talking well. Correction: sales is about conversing well. Communication or conversation is incomplete without being able to listen. We all get those sales calls:
“Ma’am, is this a good time to talk?”
(55-second long monologue ensues)
Your thoughts: I should have said no.
By just talking, you’re not only wasting your prospect’s time, you’re wasting yours, because no one enjoys being talked at, and no one buys from a self-absorbed talker.
4. The Defensive: Sometimes sales guys go into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ pitch: their product/service versus another. Let’s be real, if the prospect hasn’t brought it up, most of the time this leads to an uncomfortable conversation. Consider this:
Sales rep: I’m just curious, have you used, our competitor, XYZ software in the past?
Prospect: Yes, we have.
Sales rep: Our product is so much better. XYZ has many drawbacks, while our software offers numerous benefits like …
While it’s important to talk about competition, a sales rep should compare only when the prospect brings it up. Your product pitch should be about you and your company, and not pegged on bringing another brand down. This deviates the prospect from your product’s efficiency and features and highlights your brand or company’s insecurities instead.
Another area where sales reps get defensive is when a prospect starts expressing some obvious loop holes or issues with the product or service being offered. Remember, a prospect can tell when you’re defending an obvious issue with your product. Do yourself a favour and be honest even about the things that make you uncomfortable. They will believe you are playing for their team – and aren’t here just to make a sale but to build a relationship.
5. The Interrogator: There’s a thin line between interviewing the customer to gather information and staging an interrogation. Get the information you want, without intimidating your prospect. Ask questions but don’t put them on a spot to provide an answer. Understand the subtle cues if a customer is trying to avoid a question. A question like this could make her uncomfortable:
“May I know what is the deal you are getting with XYZ company?”
She may not be ready to share such information yet. Instead of forcing an answer out, spend the same energy in trying to gain her trust. Explain why you’d like to know and how it would impact the deal you are here to make. Once you’ve established a rapport with her and expanded the prospect’s comfort zone with you, you can ask more probing questions. When interviewing your prospect, the key is to ensure she feels like she is in control of the conversation and has ownership in the process.
6. The High & Mighty: If you’ve ever bought a software, or a piece of technology, you’ve probably experienced this. The sales guy at the store feigns interest for the first few minutes but ask an extra question or two, and he’s lost interest in you. You are too dumb to understand this piece of sophisticated technology. Or worse, he looks straight at you and starts talking super slowly so that you understand each and every word he is saying – not in a friendly, helpful way.
I was on a call with a vendor the other day and at my third or fourth question about the service they were offering, I heard the guy smirk as if to say “that’s a preposterous question or suggestion”. Would you buy from someone who thinks they are smarter than you? Smirking or talking down to a potential customer is not getting you any sales and more importantly, you can kiss a relationship with the contact goodbye. They are never calling you (or your company) again.
Have any more sales tips to share? Leave a comment to tell us what you think!