Quora: What are the most typical ways in which a salesperson will push self-interest (and decrease trust) onto a prospect?

The Full Question

What are the most typical ways in which a salesperson will push self-interest (and decrease trust) onto a prospect? ‘Wanting to talk about their product’ is common, but what other less obvious ways crop up?

My Response:

Not all of these are self-interest, but they all are ways that sales reps undermine trust and fail to establish a relationship with their customers and prospects.

Bad mouthing a competitor — it shows a lack of belief in your own offering. If the statement you make is incorrect, you look dishonest and you have blown the deal. I generally suggest that when reps are asked about competitors that they say something positive (but not highly relevant to the prospect) about the competitor and then pivot back to their offering by highlighting an area where their product offering excels). This allows them to stay above the fray, avoid badmouthing the competitor, and quickly shift back to their value proposition.

Misrepresentation — if you don’t know the answer, don’t wing it. Be honest and follow up quickly. Reps aren’t expected to be technical experts, but they should know the basics of their offering.

Likewise, if your products are not well suited to meet their current requirements, then don’t push solutions that will leave them disappointed. Either they will figure it out after wasting a lot of your time (and theirs), or they will purchase your product, be disappointed, and never buy from your firm again. This kills future deals at the company when their needs shift (or your product capabilities are deeper). It also kills future deals at other companies when they change jobs. Honesty may not win you the deal today, but dishonesty will kill future deals when you are a better fit. You can’t win back trust once it is lost.

Not being prepared — There is little reason not to know the basics of your customer and prospect. You have access to LinkedIn and the company website. You can also gather firmographic information (size, industry) and industry information from subscription services (e.g. D&B Hoovers, InsideView, First Research, Vertical IQ, etc.).

Failing to listen — Good selling entails listening to their needs and concerns.

Pitching too early — It is ok to talk about the product, but only after understanding the customer’s needs. You should start by listening and understanding their requirements and then discussing your value proposition and how you can help meet their needs. Focus on value. When discussing features, tie them to relevant benefits, but avoid a feature deep dive unless that is what the client wants. Reps often are too quick to demo.

Slow Follow up — If you offer a client samples or a service trial, turn those around immediately after the call (or within a few hours if you have other calls). If you need to get back on technical items, send them a list of the open items and cc or bcc the technical team. If you offer a quote, SOW, or RFP response, then let them know when they will be available. If you can’t close the loop when selling, what confidence will they have that your firm will deliver on time, swiftly support technical issues, or provide proper training?

Slow Response — Likewise, slow response to website or chat requests can be a deal killer. If you are unable to respond immediately, then send a quick email acknowledging their request with anticipated follow up. Slow responses erode trust and provide time for them to consider your competition.

Being Creepy — Being overly familiar, contacting somebody five minutes after they’ve visited your website (unless they have requested to be contacted), being inauthentic.

In short, we are talking about honesty, authenticity, listening, good follow up, and knowledge about your products and prospects / customers.

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