B2B Sales: Definitely NOT how to do it

How not to sell

Just to clarify, I’m not a sales person.  But over the past few months, I’ve been subjected to and have witnessed a number of sales techniques that just can’t go on for everyone’s sanity and for the sake of winning any business.

Part catharsis, part plea and part (hopefully) helpful reminder, here are some sales no-no’s your business development team would do well to avoid:

Too close, too creepy.  This literally happened to me today.  I downloaded an eBook from a marketing software company.  5 minutes after downloading it I had a missed call from them and a voicemail saying Richard wanted to speak to me.  Out of curiosity, I googled the company and seconds later I received an email from Richard saying he’s left me a voicemail (I know) and he wanted to speak to me about my recent activity on his company’s website (I know this too.  He told me as much in his voicemail).  He then sent me a screenshot of his website analytics showing me the ebook I downloaded, what pages I visited and how long I had spent on each page!  Stalk much?

Richard, you’re too keen.  I’ve not even had enough time to open, let alone read the ebook.  A call, a voicemail and an email all within 10 minutes?  Go away Richard.  Go away.

Also, don’t show me a screenshot of my online activity from your website.  Use it for your own information, don’t show me what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been doing it, so I know already!  It’s just creepy and weird.  It makes me think you’re sitting there in a darkened room watching what I’m doing, what I’m typing and where I’m clicking.  Put the binoculars down Richard.  Put them down.

In the words of Edna Mode, “Luck favours the prepared, dahliing”.  I’m sure this is one of the first things they teach in sales training but make sure you really get to know your potential customer and you’re fully prepared before going to a meeting, emailing or calling them.

I recently accompanied a sales guy into a meeting with a big potential customer and almost before the introductions were done, he just leapt straight in there, all guns blazing, with the sales pitch.  It turns out the customer already had the tech (which a quick look on their website would have confirmed).  The fact they had an existing solution wasn’t the point – if the sales guy had prior knowledge of that, he could have talked about why his product was better, reasons for switching, finding out if the client was happy with the tech or if they were experiencing any problems with it etc.  Because he wasn’t prepared, he didn’t position the pitch like that and it looked like he hadn’t done his research.  Which he hadn’t.

Two ears, one mouth.  Sales should use them in that ratio.  The best sales people I have seen working their magic ask a huge amount of open questions, listening more than blindly pitching.  They somehow get the customer to talk themselves into buying rather than throwing facts and stats at them hoping something will stick.

If you really listen to your customer (not just feign listening, thinking you know it already) then you’ll have the knowledge to pitch your product or service in the strongest way possible.  For example, if a customer is saying that they have issues with the high cost of operations, focus on how your product makes their processes more efficient.  If your customer says their biggest challenge is loyalty, focus on how you can help drive repeat business.    

The anti-Richard.  Creepy Richard may have been too keen but then you have the other end of the scale where a whole pool of good leads exist but Sales never follow up on them.  The one situation where I see this happening the most is right after an event.  The company has put in the blood, sweat and tears to pull off a successful trade show, they’ve collected a ton of qualified leads and then they just sit there, languishing as a stack of business cards or a forgotten spreadsheet, never to be nurtured into a fully fledged customer.

Instead of over-zealous, hard sell or an ill-prepared sales rant or even post-event lead amnesia, try and look at the sales process as solving a problem for a customer in a way that is most beneficial to them.  It may be counterintuitive but that includes being honest with them and admitting your solution may not be the best thing for their business.  I’m not saying sabotage your sale but if a customer buys something that isn’t suitable and they know you’ve just sold it to them to get commission then it’ll hurt you more in the long run.  They’ll never use you again.