While at my desk earlier this week, a phone call came in and I picked up the receiver to hear an overly enthusiastic salesperson make numerous mistakes. Allow me to share a few with you:
Salesperson: Hello, Dave?
First mistake: The presumed informality is dangerous. While I do not strenuously object to being called, “Dave,” it is a risk to refer to someone named, “David” as “Dave.” He did not know me, did not know how I feel about it, and took a risk that seemed unnecessary.
Salesperson: I have been working with many companies just like yours.
Second mistake: In the mind of a business person/prospect/customer their business is unique (even if as a vendor you see how companies are alike, struggle with the same issues, confront the same obstacles, etc. – it is creating an objection where none need exist). My immediate reaction is to become defensive. I think, “how does he know what my business is like?”
Salesperson: I want to ask you to a few questions so I can show you how I can help you with your business issues, OK?
Third mistake: Assuming I have problems, and assuming I want or need this salesperson’s help is awfully bold. Until I invite a vendor to participate in an issue, I am not necessarily eager to discuss my problems, and certainly have not made the decision to do so at this point after the first 30 seconds of a call with a stranger.
Salesperson: Allow me to tell you about my company (and then spoke for between 5-6 minutes about their products and services).
Fourth mistake: I had not asked about his company, did not see how that was relevant, and he failed to connect it to any of the answers to my questions. Instead I got a very generic review of company history. At this point, I was only listening to see how many other mistakes this salesperson was going to make (it was a slow day and I had time).
Salesperson: (After his lengthy review of company history, products and services, and his “high interest” in working together) Can we schedule another call with my Boss to discuss how we might work together?
Fifth mistake: I am now being asked to devote more time, but there has not been a “need” established, I have not been “qualified” in any substantial way other than I answered the phone and have not hung up yet. Out of curiosity for whether this person is new to the sales role or if the company has done a poor job of training (at this point, being a sales trainer, I am actually beginning to think that I may be able to sell them MY services, rather than purchasing from them), I accept a follow up meeting (call, not face-to-face) for the next day.
At the appointed hour, I dial into the provided conference call number and the original salesperson and the Boss dial in shortly after.
Boss: Thank you for agreeing to speak with me today. I want to be sure we use our time effectively, so would you mind if I ask a few questions?
Sixth mistake: Asking me the same questions I had provided answers to the prior day rubs me the wrong way. I wonder, “Didn’t your salesperson take notes? Weren’t you briefed on my answers? Why are you wasting my time?”
Boss: (then ignores the answers I provided and launches into a 20 minute review of their company’s strengths, capabilities, and offerings. NONE (and I mean not a one) was in response to any of my stated interests that had been surfaced through the same answers given now twice to the same questions.
Seventh mistake: Why ask questions if you do not care about the answers? It felt as if they had been trained that questions are important, but no one told them why or how to use that information.
Ultimately, I tired of the game and told them I did not see a fit between their organization and my own objectives, however, if they were interested in sales training to improve their selling process; I would be willing to discuss it with them (they were not interested – apparently they thought their approach was working).
As I hung up the phone, the lyrics to the song from the movie, Tommy, came to mind and while I am not Roger Daltry and I am far too old to jump around on stage, I did for the moment empathize with prospects that go through this experience day after day:
“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”
Salespeople would be wise to spend time truly understanding their prospects and customers from THEIR side of the relationship BEFORE attempting to sell, fix, repair, suggest, etc. In the meantime, I have to go find a guitar in the closet and release my inner Pete Townsend.