Tag: relationship management

Psst…! 10 more tips for sales reps

When I wrote Psst…! 15 inside tips for sales reps five years ago, I braced for a backlash. But that didn’t happen.

Indeed, I had taken pains to explain that I appreciate the challenges of this line of work, and that I was sharing my insider’s view to engineer a win-win outcome for all of us.

Evidently this was graciously received, as several people contacted me offline to thank me for my frankness. One sales manager even distributed my article to each of his team members for mandatory reading.

But alas, since writing the article I have racked up a number of other bugbears to which sales reps wittingly or unwittingly subject me and, no doubt, other prospective clients.

So if you are a sales rep, please refer to my additional tips below and use them to your advantage. If you are a potential client, please share your own bugbears with me via a comment…

Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn and then messaging me 5 minutes later with a sales pitch.

1. Social selling is a different animal.

In this age of social media, I’m flabbergasted by those who use the medium to find me, request a connection, then start pitching. There’s a concept called quid pro quo that’s sorely missing from their repertoire.

I’m active on Twitter and I write this blog, so why not engage with me on these platforms first? If you contribute something substantive, I’ll respect you for it.

I’m also curious as to why such a “big fan” has never ever liked a tweet or contributed a comment.

2. You’re not on the agenda.

I attend conferences to learn. If you want to meet me there, I’d be delighted, but please don’t request a meeting. I prefer to attend the presentations I paid for, and enjoy the breaks in-between.

Do feel free to introduce yourself to me at an opportune moment. That’s networking ;-)

3. No one likes a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you ask me to give you feedback on your new widget, don’t repay my courtesy by pressuring me into buying it.

If I help you out by suggesting speakers or topics for your upcoming event, don’t ask me to sell it.

My time and expertise are valuable. I don’t need to spend either on you.

4. The belt-and-braces look is never in fashion.

You are welcome to call me or send me an email – but not both.

It’s really annoying when you leave me a voicemail telling me you’re sending me an email.

5. Your email is not a magic spell.

No, I don’t remember that email you sent last week. I read it, but I get emails from sales reps daily. If I didn’t reply to yours, it’s because I don’t need what you’re offering.

If I do reply saying thanks but no thanks, please don’t insult my intelligence by trying to argue otherwise.

And what’s with the threatening disclaimer? If I “inadvertently” share the content, then I’m a criminal?! That’s no way to treat a potential customer. If your legal department is so afraid of what I might do with your unsolicited message, please don’t send it.

6. Your VIP is my VUP.

Honestly I don’t care if a bigwig from your head office is flying into town. I have my own bigwigs to worry about!

7. We’re not on Dragons’ Den.

I have no interest in “partnering” with you, nor do I seek an opportunity to divulge our strategy to you.

8. If dad says no, don’t ask mum.

Please be aware that my colleagues forward all your emails to me.

9. A cartoon is not a “product tour”.

This one’s more for your marketing department, but it’s good for you to know.

An upbeat animation about your product is a glorified advertisement. I don’t trust advertisements.

In contrast, a product tour shows me your product in action, and provides me with enough information to make a judgement call as to its usefulness and usability.

I won’t sign up for a demo to get this basic info, nor will I contact your sales team. I fear doing so will condemn me to the hard sell.

10. Chickens always come home to roost.

In Australia we have the Goods & Services Tax. By hiding the GST from your quote, you may make your product or service appear cheaper, but I’ll find out the real cost sooner or later.

Then you’ll be as popular as the tax man.

Playing by numbers

The theme of last week’s Learning Cafe in Sydney was How to Win Friends and Influence Learning Stakeholders.

Among the stakeholders considered was the “C-Level & Leadership”. This got me thinking, do the C-suite and lower rung managers expect different things from L&D?

There’s no shortage of advice out there telling us to learn the language of finance, because that’s what the CEO speaks. And that makes sense to me.

While some of my peers shudder at the term ROI, for example, I consider it perfectly reasonable for the one who’s footing the bill to demand something in return.

Show me the money.

Stack of Cash

But I also dare to suggest that the managers who occupy the lower levels of the organisational chart don’t give a flying fox about all that.

Of course they “care” about revenue, costs and savings – and they would vigorously say so if asked! – but it’s not what motivates them day to day. What they really care about is their team’s performance stats.

I’m referring to metrics such as:

• Number of widgets produced per hour
• Number of defects per thousand opportunities
• Number of policy renewals
• Number of new write-ups

In other words, whatever is on their dashboard. That’s what they are ultimately accountable for, so that’s what immediately concerns them.

Woman drawing a graph

The business savvy L&D consultant understands this dynamic and uses it to his or her advantage.

He or she appreciates the difference between what the client says they want, and what they really need.

He or she realises the client isn’t invested in the training activity, but rather in the outcome.

He or she doesn’t start with the solution (“How about a team-building workshop?”), but rather with the performance variable (“I see your conversion rate has fallen short of the target over the last 3 months”).

He or she knows that the numbers that really matter don’t necessarily have dollar signs in front of them.

Psst…! 15 inside tips for sales reps

In my role, I get contacted by sales representatives all the time.

They flog rapid authoring tools, simulation software, learning management systems, mobile platforms, content libraries, courseware development, project management… the list goes on.

I’m not complaining. I appreciate everyone needs to put food on the table. And besides, many of my friends and family are (or have been) sales reps. I myself have been in a sales support role. It’s a tough gig and I know it.

That’s why I’m prepared to share with you some inside tips.

Please don’t think of this as me mocking you or having a dig. On the contrary, I hope it gives you valuable insight into your customer’s expectations – which of course you can use to your advantage.

Obviously I have my own reasons for doing this too, so let’s call it a “win-win” situation! :0)

Man holding a business card

1. I am busy – No, I’m not just saying that to sound important. I am seriously busy. The legacy of the GFC is less people in the company expected to do more than ever before. You want to meet me for an hour, but I can only really spare 20 minutes. So you need to get to the point.

2. We are not a giant ATM – Yes, I work for a big corporation, but one that strictly manages its costs. We have an internal chargeback model with budgets and cost centres. Other companies might splash their cash around like it’s lolly water. We don’t.

3. We already have preferred providers – We’ve been doing what we do for a long time without you. To be brutally honest, that means we don’t need you.

4. You don’t offer me anything different – You may think your products or services are special, and I’m not sure if you genuinely believe that or you’re just trying to pull the wool over my eyes, but I can rattle off a bunch of other providers who offer more-or-less the same thing. So you need to clarify your point of difference. By the way, everyone picks glorious customer service, so pick something else.

5. I don’t want to organise a litepro for you – If you need one, bring it yourself. In fact, why not just show me on your tablet.

6. Pay for the coffee – Remember, you wanted to see me, not vice versa. To be fair, this one rarely happens, but it does happen. A sales rep who doesn’t pay for the coffee won’t hear from me ever again.

7. Answer the phone – It’s OK if you’re not available at the moment I call, but don’t ever let the phone run dead. Either have a secretary take a message or buy a machine. And return my call soon.

8. Put your contact details in your email signature – The number of sales reps who sign off emails with merely their first name astounds me. If you think I’m going to ferret through my burgeoning pile of business cards to find your phone number, you’re dreaming.

9. Flag your emails as urgent only when they are urgent – You might be bursting with excitement about what you’re sending me, but that doesn’t mean it’s urgent. Have you read Aesop’s fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf…? I know how to use mail rules in Outlook – don’t make me use them.

10. Ask me if I’m available – When you call me, odds are you’ll disturb me from something I was concentrating on. So from the get-go you’re not my favourite person right now. The least you can do is ask me if I have a few minutes to spare. You telling me that you’ll only be a few minutes doesn’t count.

11. I know the difference between mutton and lamb – When I am a current customer, don’t insult my intelligence by offering me quarterly “support” calls. You just want to make sure I keep pushing your product so that we don’t can it. You know it, I know it, so quit the charade.

12. Embrace CRM – If you’re going to cold call, keep track of who you’re doing it to. I kid you not, there is this one vendor who calls me every quarter without fail. It’s someone different every time, and it’s obvious they have no idea that numerous of their colleagues have been down this road before. I will never buy anything from these clowns.

13. My name is Ryan, not Tracey – And Tracey has an “e” in it. I usually don’t mind, but if you can’t get the little things right, how can I trust you with the big things?

14. If I decline to meet you, don’t take it personally – Maybe it’s not the right time, or we simply don’t need what you’re offering. That’s not your fault, it’s just the way it is. I’d rather you spend your time and effort on someone who is genuinely interested.

15. Sales is a long ball game – Sure, I know you have monthly sales targets and a manager breathing down your neck, but that won’t change anything at my end. If we don’t need what you’re offering right now, we’re not going to buy it. But if I like you and you’re professional, you never know… times change.