Sales is a difficult job, especially in this economy. It’s easy to forget good sales principles when you get focused on the numbers. The sales goal can become an anvil that knocks the focus on the prospect out of your noggin.
When that happens, you’re at high risk for the sales FAIL. That’s that interaction that not only costs you the sale but leads the prospect to tell other people how bad your organization is (in a blog like this one perhaps…).
This post isn’t just for salespeople. If you’re involved in sales, marketing, strategy, or business development there are some important lessons here. If you’re not involved in those functions, might as well read anyway because I know you’re looking for an excuse not to work on that PowerPoint deck and you can claim you’re doing “professional development” instead.
I recently had a head-scratcher of an interaction with a business-to-business cold caller. First I’ll detail some of the agonizing points of those calls then lay out three principles for not getting a “DON’T ANSWER” entry in my caller ID (yes, I’ll explain that point).
Ring… ring… (actually it was more like “buzz buzz” because my cell is usually set to vibrate).
“Hi. This is Mike Figliuolo.”
“How many people are in your company?”
“Who are your clients?”
“I’m sorry… who is this and how can I help you?”
“Oh. Yeah. This is Pushy McClueless calling from Slapped Together Conferences USA. I’m calling to see if you want to buy a sponsorship of our event. Normally it’s $24,000 but I want to give you a break so it’s only $17,000. Shall I send you the contract?”
“Um, how about you tell me more about it?”
“Well, first can you tell me if you’ve ever worked with a big company? I want to make sure you won’t be intimidated by the other speakers or the attendees at our event.” (Seriously. This is almost verbatim.)
“We serve Oracle, Abbott Labs, Nationwide, and Cardinal Health to name a few.”
“Oh. Okay. You should be okay. One of the other speakers is NoName McFly and I want to be sure you’ll be okay on the stage after him.”
“Sorry. Never heard of him.”
“Really? Wow. You need to do some research. Go look him up.” (This was perhaps the most ironic statement of the conversation as Pushy had not done ANY research on the thoughtLEADERS website where our clients and instructors are easily found).
“Look, $17k is a big number and we usually get invited to deliver content at conferences as a guest (translation: free). I’m pretty sure we’re not interested in making that investment.”
“Well, I’ll do it for $10k and I know you can’t beat that. I know the competitive offerings and that’s much better than they could ever do.” (Um, I’m pretty sure FREE is less than $10k last time I checked).
“Sorry. Not interested. We’ll continue looking for speaking opportunities where we know we’ll get a solid return on our investment.”
“Yeah. Good luck finding that.” (Yes, this was a verbatim quote).
Pushy earned the dubious honor of being added to my address book. In addition to Pushy’s phone number, I annotated the name not as “Pushy McClueless” but as “MORON- DON’T ANSWER!” Now when Pushy’s calls come in, my caller ID tells me EXACTLY what to do.
So now for the 3 steps I teased you about earlier:
1. DO SOME RESEARCH PEOPLE! There’s this really cool thing called the Internet and it has, like, all this information on things called web pages. You can learn a lot about your prospects just by reading those pages.
Is this moronic advice? Kind of. Now look in the mirror and answer HONESTLY if you’ve done your web homework as thoroughly as you could for the prospect you’re currently calling on. No, right? I’ll admit I get lazy sometimes and don’t do as much diligence as I should prior to a call. Don’t be lazy. Do it. Now.
2. Articulate the value of your product/service FROM THE PROSPECT’S PERSPECTIVE. Nowhere in Pushy’s pitch was any explanation of how I would benefit from participating. It was clear how Pushy would benefit because the sales quota would be $10k closer to being hit.
In today’s ultra-competitive environment, value HAS to be conveyed. Based on your research in Step 1 above, you *might* find that one critical problem you can solve for the prospect. If you start the conversation with how you’ll solve their problem, they’re likely to be all ears.
3. Keep your disappointment to yourself. Pushy was clearly upset that I wasn’t buying (the curt and rude signoff was the big clue on that one). The problem is, I know Pushy was upset. I will never EVER buy from Pushy (actually, I’ll never take Pushy’s call again). I’m going to tell people about Pushy (not in a flattering way). By remaining pleasant and cordial, you might actually make a future sale.
Empathize with your prospect. Understand WHY they’re saying no at the present moment and figure out if and under what circumstances they’ll say yes. Doing so might help you land that future sale. I’m reengaging with a client right now. We last served them two years ago. During those two years, we stayed in touch and waited until their situation changed. When it did, we knew about it and were ready to provide them a solution. They bought.
Sales isn’t hard. Start with the prospect’s needs (not your own). Understand them in detail. Build and maintain relationships. Many of you do all these things well. I challenge you (and myself) to do them better.
Thoughts? Have you seen these same mistakes? Do you have other suggestions on how to avoid the sales FAIL? Please share.