After nearly a quarter century of customer meetings, sales calls and visits from other companies’ salespeople, you might think one would have seen it all. Every year, though, I add a few items to my list of Sales Oddities—the things that some sales people do for reasons known only to themselves.
“So You Like to Golf?"
Someday I’m going to have a photograph taken of myself in a rugby team kit proudly holding a rugby ball. I’ve never played a game of rugby in my life but when a salesperson points to the picture and says “Oh, so you’re into rugby?” in an insincere effort to build rapport, I can flatly answer, “Nope, never played it.” Then I can amuse myself with their bewildered reaction. Some sales people can pull this tactic off by weaving it into the visit with grace and style, but most come across as calculating.
I’m John and Here’s My Proposal
It drives me batty when a salesperson walks in the door and sticks a written proposal in the prospect’s face. During the part of the sales call where the salesperson should be asking questions and delivering his value proposition, he is being ignored by a prospect now buried in the proposal. Ever notice that when the salesperson hands over the goods at the beginning of the sales call, the prospect turns right to pricing, effectively turning the product into a commodity before the visit even gets going?
Steel-toe Shoeless Joe
In manufacturing it’s so easy to show up for your sales call looking prepared, so why do so few do it? Forget your safety glasses and you end up with a pair someone stuffed in a desk drawer. Maybe you get lucky and they were cleaned after the last guy used them. Doubt it. Forget your hearing protection and you get to fumble around with that foam plug carousel on your way out to the floor. The worst of all, though, is when you forget your steel-toes and you wind up duck walking the floor in those dreadful yellow clackers.
If you’re better than the competition or the prospect’s current supplier, the prospect will figure that out for herself. Trashing the current supplier puts the customer on the defensive up front. Without saying it, you’re asking your prospect, “How could you be so stupid as to do business with them?” Is that really the message we want to send when trying to build a relationship?
The Late Arrival
Try explaining to the customer how great you are at meeting production due dates and keeping commitments right after beginning the sales call by apologizing for your tardiness.
I used a broker to sell a sailboat once and his advice stuck with me. He noted that if a buyer looks at the boat and likes what he sees in the first thirty seconds, he’ll spend the rest of his visit trying to confirm his initial impression. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he will look for other reasons not to buy. First impressions matter in selling a sailboat. They matter in selling your services, too.
I’ll Let You in on a Little Secret
I always marvel at the salesperson who calls on me and then spends ten minutes in my conference room trying to suck up by telling me about everything my competitor—on whom she called the day prior—is up to. Think maybe she coughs up a bunch of confidential information about my business when she visits the competitor? I wonder.
Dueling Sales People
In sales vernacular, the “four-legged sales call” is one in which more than one salesperson visits the customer. Put the wrong two sales people on the call and watch them compete for the customer’s attention, correct one another’s statements and talk over each other. A few years back, I paid a visit to a prospect, accompanied by a fellow salesperson. I was engaged in a series of sequential questions aimed at walking the prospect through the logic of where we thought they could improve productivity. A question or two before arriving at the “Aha Moment,” my associate cut in mid-sentence and asked the prospect a totally unrelated question. His bizarre behavior likely cost us an opportunity.
Everyone knows somebody with the bad habit of interrupting, in essence insinuating that whatever the interrupted is saying pales in comparison to the important item the interrupter is about to share. This habit is annoying in anyone, but toxic in a sales-
person. That is, unless projecting oneself as an obnoxious know-it-all and simultaneously missing something important the customer might have said somehow advances the sale. And speaking of bad habits…
The Human Chimney
For a time I worked with a salesperson who had a voracious addiction to nicotine. Every time we pulled into a customer’s parking lot, I swear he would try to smoke an entire cigarette between the car and the front door—so fast and hard that his face would turn red and his eyes would bulge out of his head. On occasion, this took place while the customer watched us through the window. We all have our bad habits but if smoking is yours—and unless you’re calling on Phillip Morris—do yourself a favor and engage in your habit outside the view of the customer. Then do us all a favor and remember your breath mints.
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