Sales Relationships: Don’t Pretend to Be Their Friend
Salespeople have been taught to sell themselves first and then sell their products. In today’s fast-paced, Internet-researched world, that’s a recipe for sales disaster.
Read on to learn which old school tactics to avoid and how to replace them with much more effective methods for creating a relationship when you’re launching into a new account.
Stop Using “Warm Up” Tactics
If you were taught to first sell yourself (illegal in most locations), you’ve been wasting your time. You might disagree with me, but if you’re not hitting your sales targets -especially with new accounts – it’s time to try something different and more effective.
Today’s time-pressured buyers are much more interested in solving their problem then becoming your friend. The last thing they need is a new friend. Many prospects find sales small talk to be a waste of time and annoying. If a prospect classifies you as a time waster, you’ll not get called back.
What to do differently: Say, “I know that you have lots to do and your time is valuable, so instead of the small talk, let me cut to the chase.” Then lead with your custom-tailored, short conversation starter to see if they can do business with you.
Here’s the conversation-starter formula: state a common problem that the prospect may have, state the outcome that you offer, include a short testimonial, and ask who cares.
For example, “You know how computer storage demands keep growing faster and faster, it seems hard to keep up with it all. I have a solution that helps manage storage growth and can substantially cut storage costs. My customers tell me that I work magic with their storage budget. Who do you know that would find a discussion about this valuable?”
See how that works? If they are interested, you already have a relationship based on their needs; a much stronger link. If they aren’t interested, you didn’t waste their time, nor yours. And they’re more likely to pass you on to a better contact because the consider you to be efficient and focused.
Stop Pretend to Have the Same Interests
You’ve probably experienced them: a sales guy walks into a cold call, takes one look at what’s hanging on the wall, and starts talking about what they see regardless of their real interests. They mistakenly believe that exploiting commonality creates a connection.
They’ll say, “Oh wow, three kids. You must have your hands full. I have three kids, too. My oldest is playing T-ball, like yours. Looks like you’re a real golf nut. My handicap is 15. We should play sometime. Nice yacht…”
Meanwhile, most prospects will try to be nice and nod along with the blather. They don’t have time or the inclination to share personal details with a stranger. The sales person seems oblivious to the “mmm” and “uh-huh” verbal signals to get down to business. If the prospect asks for them to get to the point, the salesperson takes offence, further destroying the budding relationship.
What to do differently: Better to take notice of the memorabilia on the wall and save the conversation for the end of the call or for a later time. If you want a long-term relationship, only discuss true mutual interests, solving their immediate problems. It’s much better to establish if you can help them with a pressing need and then position yourself as a resource, not as a potential golfing buddy.
A side note: I’ve never seen a real potential buyer that agrees to play golf on a first call. Those who agree want a free round. Those who don’t take the bait are probably making enough money to pay for their own golf.
Stop Name Dropping
A common old school tactic was to name drop names of important customers. This false concept is based on building credibility established by history with others.
“Yah, we do business with MondoCorp, and my boss golfs with Mr. Big, and we’re the number one, leading, premier, state-of-the-art provider of expansion services with 20 of the Fortune 50.”
It’s too soon in the sales process to offer proof statements like this. Besides, the prospect may loathe Mr. Big and has no desire to share their ideas with anyone who does business with MondoCorp. Or they could view the name-dropping as indiscreet; the sales person can’t be trusted with confidentiality. Oops!
What to do differently: Always lead with the need. First discover what outcome your prospect wants. Anything that you say that doesn’t align with what they need is a waste of time and potentially damaging. If you want to share success stories, first identifywhat builds credibility.
Say, “If you’re looking for some examples of what we’ve done for others, I can arrange that. But I want to first make sure that what I’m recommending meets your need.”