There’s been a revolution in sales in recent years. It wasn’t so long ago that the profession was criticised and stereotyped for its underhanded tactics, but then a much-needed shift happened.
Nowadays, sales teams have largely moved to a more conversational, friendly, and consultative way of selling. There’s no less strategy and tenacity involved, but there’s a lot more respect and agency given to the buyer. Sales has become more about building relationships than foisting a product on anyone with a pulse. In our view, this is a super-welcome change.
People buy from people that they “know, like, and trust”. Of these three sentiments, trust is the hardest to earn and the easiest to lose. So are you doing all you can to foster trust from your sales prospects?
Poor Sales Practice
We’re starting off with a controversial one. Our Sales Statistics Research Report in 2020 found that 23% of companies are still using cold calling, and for many businesses, cold calling still has it’s place.
Indeed, when well-targeted cold calling can be beneficial, but what is annoying is when the caller has obviously done no research to qualify you as a potential lead – you’re clearly just a name on a list.
Sure, in the past, the telephone was one of the core tools that salespeople had. But nowadays, there are many more tools available and we’re all increasingly aware of data privacy – keeping a close eye on who has our data and what they’re doing with it.
So when you think about the potential irritation caused by unsolicited sales calls, it just doesn’t make sense to risk the reputational damage of being a company that pesters people on the phone.
Following an Obvious, Inflexible Script
When you answer a sales call, you can usually tell when the caller is following a script – depending on their acting skills, of course! Them asking closed “yes/no” questions is a bit of a giveaway, as is them getting a bit flustered when thrown a curveball.
To foster trust and general good will, sales conversations should be natural, and come from a place of genuine curiosity and helpfulness. Call recipients should feel free to ask their own questions and voice their own concerns rather than feeling like they’re playing some kind of “call and response” game.
Yes, salespeople can have an outline of talking points to draw from, even a basic conversation template, but a script is never a good idea. Good salespeople should be quick, elastic thinkers who can conjure up a positive response within any sales conversation they experience. Thankfully, this is something that can be nurtured with practice.
Not Taking “No” For an Answer
All salespeople should have a positive, productive plan for what happens when they are told “no” – one that doesn’t involve trying to force the sale.
But rather than simply wishing the prospect well and chalking it up to experience, a good salesperson should try to understand why the prospect is resistant to the sale and if there is any way they can help make the decision more favourable.
Sometimes a purchase just isn’t right for the buyer. In those situations, the salesperson should have the good grace to walk away, leaving the door open in case things change. But if the caller is open to a follow-up, then book one in.
A lot of salespeople get tired of the immortal line “we need to think about it”, though this isn’t always the brush-off that people think it is. Try to establish what exactly they need to think more about and give them all of the information they need to make a decision – preferably one that’s in your favour!
Always Focusing on Price
This may come as a shock to some salespeople but price isn’t the only reason why people buy! In fact if your product is good, its price reflects its value, and it’s targeted to the right audience, then price should be a mere detail to help the customer understand the return on their investment.
Obviously salespeople should accommodate a prospect’s queries about price and respect their stance if the money just isn’t there. But if the salesperson brings up the price early in the interaction or makes it a feature of their sales pitch, then it can easily send the wrong message.
So if your prospect doesn’t immediately ask about the price, use that opportunity to learn more about their needs and challenges before bringing it up.
Attending Sales Meetings Underprepared
Encouraging the prospect to meet you for a sales meeting, then showing up unprepared, is incredibly disrespectful. At a time when you are both supposed to be equally receptive and engaged, it shows that you value your time over theirs.
So before attending a sales appointment of any kind, ensure that you are absolutely crystal clear as to the precise value your product will achieve for your prospect, the returns they will enjoy, and what problems they won’t have to worry about anymore once your product or service is in their lives.
Similarly, a sales meeting with no particular plan or agenda could well lead to a listless, directionless meeting that goes nowhere. Before you arrive, share a rough idea of some of the topics you would like to discuss and any queries you would like to explore further with them.
Trying to Close Too Soon
This one can be hard to judge sometimes, but with a bit of experience and a good understanding of your sales pipeline then it should become much easier.
It should go without saying that trying to close the sale before the prospect is ready, or generally trying to rush them through the sales process, is going to naturally lead to buyer resistance. This can come from the salespeople thinking that the “close point” is much closer than it actually is – hence why good pipeline management can help here.
So have a set of clear criteria that define what makes a prospect a part of each stage in your sales pipeline, and keep a guide of what sales activities need to happen at each stage.
Using Shady Tactics
Shady tactics can cover a wide range of practices, including making dishonest or unsubstantiated claims; pretending to be a sales prospect in order to get through to someone more senior; making impossible promises; pretending you are continuing a conversation with someone in order to get through to them; and generally just saying what the prospect wants to hear to earn a sale.
Some particularly unscrupulous salespeople might even feign interest in a product, only to “flip the script” and start their own sales pattern once they reach the right person. Others may leave vague emails or voice messages to get the prospect to call them back.
Any kind of sneakiness will eventually come back to bite you – chiefly in the form of poor reputation and withered trust in your brand.
Being Too Pushy
We’ve all experienced the stereotypical pushy salesperson in our time. Nowadays, pushiness is an awful trait for any salesperson. Modern sales tactics are all about serving the prospect in the best way possible – forcefulness serves nobody. It also smacks of desperation; not a great look for the salesperson or for the company they represent.
Valuable salespeople recognise that sometimes the time isn’t right for a purchase. Sometimes you simply catch the prospect during a period of uncertainty. Other times, buyers will need their minds put at ease about a few things before they take the purchase further. These situations happen and being pushy is only going to leave a bad taste in the prospect’s mouth, minimising their chances of getting back in touch if things change.
Being A Poor Listener or Too Overbearing in Conversation
Being in sales is no longer about purely having “the gift of the gab” – it’s about being a good listener first, a good thinker second, and a good talker third.
If you’re not good at listening to the prospect’s individual needs and concerns, you have no chance of meeting those needs and allaying those fears. Thankfully, good listening is something that comes with practice and experience.
A bit of confidence never hurt anyone. But if you tend to dominate conversations, work on dialling it down a bit when selling. After all, you don’t always know what kind of person you’ll end up talking to – you may need to speak to a decision-maker who’s a little timid on the phone, so an overbearing approach may send them running in the opposite direction!
Playing the Blame Game
This is a bit of a playground habit that sadly makes its way into the workplace – almost always creating a destructive work environment. Instead of simply admitting responsibility when things go wrong, some people would much rather pass blame around like a hot potato. Needless to say, don’t do this – take responsibility when things don’t go a certain way.
The blame game can get particularly messy in customer-facing departments, where blame is apportioned elsewhere in front of the customer to save face; or worse – the blame is put on the prospect/customer themselves!
Poor Prospect Qualifying
All organisations should have some kind of yardstick to sensibly judge each prospect’s fit for your product. When you cast too wide a net, you risk troubling too many people, wasting your time and theirs. But when you’re too laser-focused, you risk losing out on business from those on the fringes of your market. Establish the “sweet spot” (or perhaps a “sweet zone”) where your ideal market lies and formulate a concrete way of qualifying new prospects.
Even if a business qualifies, there’s still a lot to be said for giving each prospect a bit of a “sense check” too. For example, a sole trader with no premises isn’t likely to be in the market for building management services. An accountant isn’t going to need accountancy help. A company that has been around for 15 years is unlikely to need startup support. A little common sense goes a long way!
Poor Product or Service
Sometimes, the problem isn’t the sales team – it’s the product. If a product is bad, word will spread, especially in our world of online reviews! Regardless of how keen and talented a sales team may be, they’ll have an uphill battle on their hands if the product is shoddy.
But let’s dig a little deeper than external reputation. If the sales team doesn’t believe in the product, they’ll have an internal moral crisis too. If you knew that something wasn’t very good and felt like a bit of a cash grab – would you feel OK selling it? Probably not.
In the immortal words of Simon Sinek: “Customers will love a company when the employees love it first.”
Being Slow & Unresponsive
Like being unprepared, being slow to respond shows a certain level of disrespect – disdain even – for your prospects and their time. Though it’s unlikely that you feel any animosity towards your prospect base, that’s how lateness and unresponsiveness can be read by the prospect, and you need them on-side!
However, salespeople may not necessarily be the ones to blame. Maybe they don’t have good follow-up processes. Maybe they are working with poor scheduling software. Or maybe they are juggling numerous different online and offline calendars. This confusion can be eradicated with an effective CRM and a practical plan for each next step in the prospect journey. This brings us on nicely to…
Not Having Any Next Steps in the Diary
Unless you’re dealing with a contact who has given a concrete “yes”, “no”, or “not now”, you should have some next steps agreed with each prospect and pencilled in the diary.
There are two things to consider here: the strategic and the practical. Strategically, you need to be aware of each prospect’s place in the buyer’s journey and have your salespeople plan next steps which correspond to their closeness to a sale. Practically, these next steps need to be communicated with the prospect, agreed by them, and scheduled into the salesperson’s online calendar of choice so they aren’t missed.
It can help to map your sales journey to the kinds of conversations, presentations, and appointments your sales team should be making at each stage of the funnel to help roughly anchor them to the process. When you follow a formula – and do as you promise with every interaction – that’s a sure-fire recipe for trust.
All in all, your working relationships should be based on honesty, trust, and openness – just like any relationship.
Building trust will undoubtedly help you sell more – now get the right tools to complete the task.
Really Simple Systems CRM is a powerful customer relationship solution developed especially for small-to-medium B2Bs. Start building stronger sales relationships today – claim your free, 14-day, no-obligation trial to try it for yourself.