Pssssst, let me tell you a little secret…
The the majority of customers DISLIKE interacting with salespeople. To make it worse, dislike is putting it mildly.
Coming as a surprise to NO ONE in a sales or revenue generation role, this is a big problem!
The million dollar question is, first, “WHY?!?” followed closely by, “What do I do about it?!?”
Let’s start with the first, why DO customers dislike salespeople?
There are a lot of answers to this question and, unfortunately, MOST of them have a strong basis in fact. Here is a by-no-means-complete list of them:
- Sales people only care about customers and prospects if they are ready to buy now
- Sales people ask questions that they should already know the answers to
- Sales people waste prospect’s time
- Sales people are pushy
- Sales people don’t honor commitments
- Sales people don’t follow-up
- Sales people are dishonest
As I mentioned earlier, this is (unfortunately!) not a complete list. As someone who has spent the majority of his adult life in revenue producing roles, it truly saddens me to say that I can think of several circumstances where I witnessed examples of behavior that, at the very least, gave the perception of the items on the prior list being a reality and that, my friends, is all it takes to make them real for the person experiencing them.
Perception = Reality
That brings us to where we, as Sales people and Entrepreneurs, need to deal with those perceptions. We need to acknowledge that they ARE perceptions. Like it or not that is what the majority of the prospects you begin to interact with will think of you so be prepared and, number one (before we even get into specifics!), understand where you are STARTING from.
Once you acknowledge that fact you can move to the second general piece of advise and that is, again very simply, to ensure that nothing you say or do reinforces any of your prospect’s negative perceptions. So, for example, if your prospect mentions early on that they have been frustrated with salespeople in the past who commit to following up and then disappear, make doubly sure that you follow-up on whatever schedule you have agreed to (I know, I know, this isn’t rocket science but it would SHOCK you to know how often I coach clients who routinely make that mistake!)
Now that we’ve gotten those two pieces of general advise taken care of, let’s tackle some specifics.
I choose to believe that the majority of the public’s negative perceptions of salespeople is because a distressing percentage of the “professional” salespeople in the market place are untrained/poorly trained with very little guidance on what an ideal customer looks like, how to interact with that person or organization, and how to go about qualifying and moving that person/organization systematically through an appropriate sales process NOT because they are dishonest, untrustworthy, etc.
Because these people are rarely armed with much more than a revenue goal, some basic product training, and a commandment to, “go forth and earn,” they commit egregious sins against good business and long-term success. Compounding the problem is that many of these people have initial successes, brought about in large part because of high levels of excitement and enthusiasm that appear to the prospect to be conviction (the most powerful emotion that a Sales person could possibly transfer to a prospect!). And that conviction leaves the prospect more receptive to the influence of the Sales person than their poor message and delivery deserve!
So, you fairly ask, “Gerry, enough already! How do we keep from doing these things?”
Fair enough. Fair enough. Let’s get to it:
Take the time to understand your ideal client.
- What will they get from working with you?
- What benefit do they receive from buying your product or engaging your service?
- How do they communicate?
- What (Specific!) language do they use?
- What drives them (as it relates to the use of your product or service)?
- What risk does the customer take by choosing you?
- What is the cost of them doing nothing?
When you do that…
Never make commitments that aren’t 100% under your control!
I see Sales people do this all the time. They commit things to prospects and clients that are outside of their control and then run the substantial risk of having to break their word to that prospect or client when they are unable to deliver on that commitment.
For example, if you are a recruiter don’t commit to a candidate that you’ll call him/her back later that day with interview times if you haven’t already spoken to the hiring manager.
- The hiring manager doesn’t take your call?
- The hiring manager doesn’t like the candidate?
- The job priorities have shifted and the candidate is no longer a fit?
- The hiring manager puts the job on hold?
None of these events are YOUR fault as a recruiter but in the eyes of a candidate, who already has some negative perceptions, you lied.
Guess how much that helps you influence the candidate later?
The next thing is to ensure that your prospect contacts are focused on the right thing: Namely, the prospect. When you are speaking with prospects you should be talking about (wait for it…) THEM! Strangely, many of the sales calls that I listen to and many of the clients I coach try to talk about:
- Their company
- Their product/service
- Awards their organization has won
- Immediate needs of the prospect
This is 100% the wrong approach. One of the harsh truth’s of business development is that your prospects don’t care about you at all yet. Not even just a little. And that isn’t going to change until you’ve SHOWN them that you can add value. The catch-22 is that in order to show them you can add value, they need to talk with you. Which most of them do not want to do (because you haven’t shown them value yet).
Confused? Fair enough…
The way that we work around this is to keep our message and our delivery focused on our prospects and what they are interested in. The way (the only way!) we can do this is to take the time to understand them (2nd component of a successful business!). Then, once we have the benefit of that research, we need to use it to shape our questions (questions breed dialogue – that is key!).
One last thing as we wrap this topic up: Don’t apologize, defend, make excuses for, or in any way “stick up for” the sales profession or negative experiences that your prospect has had with other Entrepreneurs. It is FAR more fruitful for both you and your prospect to show them how a professional conducts themselves, give them world-class service, and let them experience first-hand how business is supposed to be conducted. People care far less for what you say than for what you do.
I think that is enough of this topic for now. If you would like to hear more about this subject let me know in the comments below and I will write more about it, or speak more about it in the podcast.
If you’d like to get a deeper understanding of the concepts written about here then join the community on any of the Bajillion links on the website and you’ll get a free copy of my book, The Successful Business Blueprint!, where we deal with the questions to ask and the steps to take to truly connect with your target market and set yourself (and your business!) up for success.
As always, thank you for reading and don’t forget to stop by next week!