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.

Working at Home — Ideas from Tech Companies

Over the past few days, I’ve suggested ideas for maintaining pipeline and maintaining a positive and constructive outlook. This is now looking like it will last through the spring and potentially into the summer, so let’s be open to new ideas, practices, and routines.

I collected some ideas from those in the tech industry that I follow.

SalesLoft

In this morning’s team meeting the EMEA SalesLoft team discussed how we can keep the culture and mental wellbeing at the forefront while we work remotely…

We are having a daily stand up for 15 minutes, virtual team lunch on a Wednesday and virtual Friday drinks. We are making sure we put time aside for exercise and doing the things we love. We are being mindful of continuing to share ‘glass half full’ stories. We are also looking into what we can do to help with the bigger issue that people are facing in regards to the Corona Virus – local charities, food banks, the elderly.

Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft VP of Revenue, EMEA

TOPO

A TOPO study of 350+ marketers indicated that only 16% of firms see a significant impact to their pipeline, 64% see a moderate impact due to coronavirus.  The biggest impacts are due to canceled events (87%), corporate travel bans (64%), buyers working from home (53%), and prohibitions against face-to-face meetings.  Only 27% cited buyers not booking meetings and frozen buyer budgets (22%).

TOPO survey (N=350)

ClickZ

Research conducted in 2018 by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research  indicated that B2B marketers who participate in industry events allocated nearly 40 percent of their budgets to exhibitions and industry shows, almost five times more than the 8% spent on online marketing.

Even if only a small fraction of the events’ budgets is shifted to online marketing, it would translate into a massive growth in web marketing.

The major advantage of digital marketing, besides the fact that it does not require face-to-face interaction, is that it is measurable. Marketers can quite easily obtain a good picture of their spending return on investment (ROI), and of which activities generate the highest number of quality leads and at what expense.

Assuming that many marketers will have some extra free time, especially those who will have to go into home isolation, they are advised to use it to review their online marketing strategy and redefine their marketing messages.

Dan Gerstenfield, Interteam Content Services

David Brock

It’s time to pick up the phone. No texts, no emails, no social platforms. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. You are probably dealing with some of the same issues that come with physical separation.

It’s not the time to pitch people, it’s the time to show that you care–about them. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but ask them how they are doing, ask how they are keeping engaged and productive, share some ideas.

All of us share in this experience. Each of us is figuring things out. We can learn from each other, at the same time feel more connected.

David Brock, Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide”

Sirius Decisions (Forrester)

  • Create a task force. Except in very large companies or those with specific types of risks, most companies do not have a dedicated crisis response team, and many have never created even a bare-bones crisis communications plan. Now is the time to do so. Bring together functional leaders from across your organization to begin identifying and prioritizing issues, with all major functions and regions represented. The senior communications leader is usually at the helm, and in some smaller organizations, the effort may be led by the CEO. Other participants will likely include human resources, legal counsel, operations/facilities, sales and customer service leaders, and various marketing/communications disciplines that are either directly affected or will be involved in delivering information to audiences. Each individual should have a clear understanding of his or her specific responsibilities.
  • Prioritize issues of greatest urgency. Ensuring the safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders is obviously the priority, and external guidance from public health experts will be important to understand what these issues are…
  • Develop a protocol for emergent situations. Obviously the plan should lay out a set of actions the organization will take immediately, based on what is known today. However, the situation is fluid and it’s not possible to know with certainty what the situation will look like in a month or six months. That’s why it’s important to have a protocol for addressing new situations as they emerge… 
  • Prepare the communications engine. Providing transparent and ongoing communication is the hallmark of good crisis communications. The communications team needs to analyze the types of communication that will be needed to support a variety of scenarios. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis management is the need to create a wide range of critical content, have it vetted by legal and pushed out through channels as quickly as possible. Create templates for common types of content and stub content that can be built-out as needed. Set up an expedited legal vetting process and work with digital teams to identify how content will be conveyed through the company’s owned channels (web site, social, communities). Also prepare spokespeople – from the CEO to the receptionist, with concise answers that can be given without additional approvals or escalation paths.
  • Map communications strategies to audiences. SiriusDecisions always recommends starting with an understanding of the audience, and crisis response is no different…
  • Maintain open communications with employees. A large percentage of the workforce will face some kind of disruption to their normal routines or even their income…One of the first priorities should be to plan for how communications will flow internally: the channels and cadence that employees can expect, as well as where to go if the normal channels (which may occur in a face-to-face environment) are not available. Also remember that employees are a channel, and if you enable them with content, they can extend the reach of your information and credibility with audiences. [Full Text]

Resources