Monday, August 06, 2007

Top Ten Things Not To Say in a Sales Call

In the wonderful way of blog begats, Charlie Green over on Trusted Advisor, had a recent post entitled "Top Ten Things Not to Say in a Sales Call." Well, that's about as straightforward and truth-in-advertising as you can get, so I've left Charlie's title intact.

Charlie, in turn, was keying off of a Brad Trnavsky post,  Ten Things a Good Salesperson Should Never Say, and Why

To hell with neither a borrower nor a lender be. I'm going to go ahead and borrow from both - title and idea from Charlie, post itself from Brad. (You can go read them both.  And as for the title of this post: I guess it's false advertising, since I'm not actually listing the Top Ten Things, but, rather abstracting from them.)

Some of Brad's "Ten Things" are howlers, starting with "I was just in the area and thought I'd drop by," which, as Brad points out, will just get you wondering why the guy has nothing better today. Okay to drop by and drop off something that he's expecting. Other than that...

(Charlie goes Brad one further: he doesn't even think that the local chimney sweep should use this line, and that person actually could be in your neighborhood. As long as they don't drop down your chimney...)

Years ago, I remember traipsing around Washington DC with a sales rep who hadn't managed to set up a full round of "real calls" for my vaunted "product expert" visit from home office. So we went a-calling. If sales reps think cold calling is difficult, try just showing up. How completely, irredeemably humiliating. I remember that one place we dropped in on was a southern railway which had as its symbol the turkey. Their building was an old art deco beauty, with bronze turkeys all over the walls and over the elevators in the foyer. I remember thinking how apt that was as we slunk out the door after a receptionist told us that Mr. T. was not available to see us.

Brad doesn't like "Have you got a minute," either.

Now this just sounds like a matter of personal preference.

If I thought about it for a minute, it would annoy me. But I probably wouldn't and, as long as I wasn't annoyed to begin with, I'd give a sales guy a pass on this one.

I've never been a sales person, but I've been sold to, and there are a few others on Brad's list that I found equally innocuous.

There were some I completely agreed with.

"It's not my fault". Well, whose fault is it then? Surely, it's not my fault as a customer that something has gotten completely bollixed up. Whiney. Weak. Defensive. No sales guy should ever say "it's not my fault." (Worse: "It's the fault of Joe Blow in our development group...." Blaming someone back at the ranch? Come on, aren't we all in this together.)

 I don't like "What would I have to do to get you started today?" either. Realistically, if I'm talking to a sales guy I'm probably not going to get started today, and this is just going to sound way too slick to me. ("What you'd have to do is leave my office immediately so that I can call the competition and get started with them.")

Brad's final one: Trust me.

Nothing to say about that one.

But there is one that Brad missed, and it's one that I've seen in action - both on the part of someone trying to sell to me, and on the part of a salesperson I was working with.

"I need to talk to your boss."

Now, you may want to talk to my boss. You may, in fact, even need to talk to my boss. But how about asking me, since I'm the one you've got in front of you? Maybe my boss asked me to take this call. Maybe my boss is going to rely on me for a recommendation.

I have had salespeople assume that I'm blocking their access to the decision maker, who they somehow believe, is just sitting there waiting to decide immediately in their favor - if only I'd let them through. I've been in situations where I'm the only ally the salesperson has in the company, and where the "higher ups" have explicitly said something along the lines of "Keep this guy away from me." Yet the lunkhead sales person keeps pressing to go higher - even threatening to go higher in the organization to report my blocking tactics. (My response to this one was, be my guest. If you think you can get to them faster than I can, have at it. I'm guessing that my phone call or e-mail that warns them to expect a call from a pushy, obnoxious salesperson is going to get there before they do.)

Someone uses this one on me, what I want to tell them back is, "I need to talk to your boss, too."

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