What springs to mind when you think of a salesperson? The telesales agent that continues to read from a script when you have said you can’t talk? A shady character flashing you an inner view of a trench coat covered in fake Rolex watches? Or maybe just the classic used car salesman hiding the dent in the door with an oversized clipboard and a strained smile?
Whatever you picture, chances are it isn’t complimentary.
The term salesperson came into official parlance in 1901 when new inventions and time-saving gadgets were the prime commodity of door to door sales people. They have a lot to answer for when we examine the attitudes and language still used today. For example, we still say that salespeople making a cold call are trying to get their ‘foot in the door’. The term implies that someone is shutting the door, someone doesn’t want or need the product being offered and the ‘correct’ response is an aggressive selling tactic.
So how do we change this entrenched image?
Here are my top 5 tips to neutralize the negative stereotype of a salesperson:
Of course we all expect people to be honest but the moment someone declares it they throw everything they have said before into question.
“To be honest with you, the product has a lot of functions you may not need but it is cheaper than the competitor.”
You may think you are adding value – it does more for less – but what the customer hears is you being unprofessional, negative about the product and that you are implying you haven’t been totally upfront with them until now. Not a great impression.
It really isn’t that hard to be honest. You just need to listen to your customer and openly answer any questions they raise about your product. You may even dissuade them from buying your product if it isn’t the right fit. Working with their best interests at heart will pay dividends through referrals and opportunities that could be influenced by your treatment of this one prospect.
Shut Up Smarmy
Don’t be overly familiar/confident/pushy. Calm the heck down. In the case of new contacts, you don’t know your prospect well at all. You aren’t friends and you certainly don’t know better than they do when it comes to how they spend their budget.
Being too friendly and quick to jump in with patronizing statements such as “what you should do is…” or “You need this product…” or “ I know what you need…” can seriously alienate your prospect.
Try to think before you speak. If what you are about to say would annoy you – don’t say it.
Listen to your prospect and follow their lead. If they’re friendly try to mirror their energy but do not exceed it. If the first contact with the prospect goes well you will have plenty of time to build genuine rapport.
Should they ask you directly for your opinion on what they should do resist ‘telling’ them. Ask questions to get to the real issue they don’t understand and answer openly about how it applies to them.
Do Take No for an Answer
There is very little that’s more annoying than someone who isn’t listening to you. If your prospect is busy, not interested or saying no to your pitch outright – respect that. Pushing too hard could have negative implications for you and your company beyond that call if you refuse to give up when you really ought to.
Companies needs change, people move to other jobs – don’t burn your bridges with tomorrow’s opportunities to hit target this month. A customer railroaded into a sale will be at high risk of cancellation, wasting you and your teams time.
Stop talking. Seriously. Stop it.
Ask why they may be saying no so that you can see if it‘s because your product isn’t a fit or if there is another reason. If there is another reason you can try to probe further, but if they don’t want to explore how it will benefit their business then end the call cordially. If possible, get permission to try them again in a few months.
- Burst Your Bubble
With increasing sales roles relying upon hitting targets to make a wage, it is easy to see how sales people can get too focussed on getting a sale rather than solving a problem or providing great service for a client.
Great salespeople don’t just hit targets. Great salespeople give the right solutions to clients that keep them content and open to buying more.
Try and consider the pitch from your prospect’s point of view. To do this you will need to know something about your prospect, their business and market conditions.
The best way to uncover the opportunities and challenges your prospect faces is through a CRM system. Rich data from your CRM analyzed through integrated Business Intelligence system such as sales-i will offer up powerful insights.
With the facts at hand about how competitors are working, you will be ideally placed to offer advice to your prospects, advice that would involve your product or service, to help them increase their business – not just hit your targets.
Toxic Internal Competition Makes Everyone a Loser
No matter how good you are as a salesperson, if you have a repeat ‘smarm’ offender in your team you are likely to be tarred with the same brush. It seems that the competitive trait that is responsible for driving many salespeople is also the culprit when it comes to a lack of shared knowledge and skills.
Great salespeople will investigate and research their markets and prospects to be able to provide excellent levels of service. Being able to blag your way through a sales call, meeting or presentation is of no help to your clients or your hard done by customer service team who will be the ones placating unhappy customers when your product doesn’t live up to the hype.
As we spend a massive chunk of our lives at work, doesn’t it seem exhausting to be in a constant state of high alert rather than being able to trust co-workers and be able to rely on their help when you need it?
Share what you know. Be willing to take new team members under your wing. Work for the overall ‘family’ your team represents. You never know when another sales person may have a contact for you. The ‘nice guy*’ can win.
Can We Fix It?
As much as we all know that people hate bad selling rather than sales people – it may be that there is no overcoming the emotional baggage that the term ‘salesperson’ comes with. Maybe it is time to not just change our individual behaviors to reshape the dialogue between buyer and seller but try to find a new way to sell altogether.
What should the title ‘salesperson’ be changed to?
Answers on a postcard…