I just received at least the 10th email this week from a different sales rep trying to sell me prospect leads – and its Tuesday. Now as a sales professional, trainer, and coach, I tend to probably be at the same time more critical and more sympathetic to sales reps trying to do their job. I’m critical in that I dissect their message and approach more than most. But I also feel sorry for many of them because I can tell by their email that they are either new, untrained, or misguided. And when I talk to sales reps about their sales activities, most sheepishly admit that they know what they are doing isn’t working, but just don’t know what else to do. Unfortunately many of the sales activities that we utilize cause more harm than good, labeling us as “salesy” and irritating the prospect.
So here are the top five things that most sales people do, but prospects can’t stand. And for each I provide an alternative activity or approach that will resonate more positively with your target audience.
#1. You send generic mass emails
The overwhelming majority of emails I get from salespeople look like they were sent out to 10,000 other people. Now it’s fine to utilize mass emails as part of your strategy, but when it is your only strategy, it quickly wears on your prospects.
Effective Alternative: First, try to be more specific to the client in your emails. Cluster your email communications by industry or skill set so you can be more targeted to their potential needs. Second, and even more importantly, is to vary your communication. If all I get is email after email from someone, I assume it’s being sent out to massive amounts of people. If, however, I receive a phone call following up that email, then I know there is a real person behind it. By the way, I almost never get a phone call follow up from emails, and almost all executives I talk to have the same experience.
#2. You sound like everybody else
Whether it’s through an email or phone call, your messaging sounds exactly like everyone else. I mentioned the 10 emails I have received from prospect list salespeople this week. They essentially could have been written by the same person. There is absolutely nothing to distinguish them from all of the others. The same holds true in staffing. We all sound exactly the same, and it gets real old, real quick to our prospects.
Effective Alternative: Establish what makes you different. Don’t assume you know, but instead ask your clients. And quantify that difference. Vague, generic statements about quality or screening processes don’t help you – everyone is saying that. We have seen repeatedly that having a strong value proposition that resonates with prospects yields massively better results.
#3 You invite them to connect on LinkedIn, then try to sell
Looking for the quickest way to get yourself labeled as a pushy salesperson? Then send your prospects an invite to connect on LinkedIn and as soon as they accept, try to sell them on your services. I cringe every time someone does this to me, and the first thing I want to do is disconnect from them. I have never met a prospect that thought this was appropriate, and yet I’ve met scores of sales people that employ this tactic. And of course, their response is “well one time I got someone to respond to me.” Yeah, but how many times did you completely turn off a prospective client before you even had a chance to talk with them? Congratulations – you won the battle and lost the war.
Effective Alternative: The reason most sales reps do this is they don’t have enough (or any) Inmails to contact the prospect through LinkedIn, so instead they send them an invite to connect. Once someone has accepted the invite, the sales person can send them a message. A more effective alternative to this approach is to use a Chrome plug-in like Email Hunter or ContactOut to find the prospect’s actual contact info. Once you’ve interacted by phone or email, then feel free to send them a LinkedIn invite.
#4. You assume you know what the prospect wants or needs
I regularly get emails and phone calls from sales people that tell me that they have a great solution for my staffing business, and they’ve helped many other staffing firms just like me. These are messages from background check, funding, tax credit, and other companies. The problem? I’m not a staffing firm! I don’t need any of their services, and yet they make this assumption that because I am listed in staffing directories that I must be a staffing company. And even if I was a staffing firm, they still don’t know anything about me or my business. This approach doesn’t exude confidence; it just shows that they haven’t done their homework and that they think everyone they sell to is the same. This is irritating to most prospects, and even offensive to some.
Effective Alternative: Rather than make assumptive claims about how you can solve all of their problems, instead acknowledge that everyone is different. Then give them examples of what you’ve done with other companies. Utilize case studies, testimonials, and hard data to show different results that you’ve been able to provide, and offer to the prospect that perhaps they could benefit too.
#5. You act like the prospect has an obligation to act
The sales rep/prospect relationship is not a reciprocal one – at least not in the beginning. Your prospects have no obligation to respond to your email or return your phone call. It is your job to show them enough value for them to talk to you. It is their job to, well, do their job, which is not appeasing salespeople all day. However, many reps act like the prospect is being rude if they don't get back to them. I’ve received messages from sales professionals where they sound downright irritated that I’m not talking to them. “I’ve left you several messages and haven’t heard back from you. I’d really appreciate a call back from you even if you aren’t interested.” Huh? Is this high school dating all over again?
Effective Alternative: First, change your mindset. Don’t ever expect a prospect to return your email or phone call. When it happens (which is rare), consider it a bonus. Also, understand that even if the prospect is interested in your service, they are busy and have competing priorities that may prevent them from responding to you or even answering your call. So be patient, persistent, and upbeat in all your communications. And if that lack of positive reinforcement from your prospects is really bugging you, may I suggest a pet?
Here’s the great news. If you employ any or all of these tactics, now you know how they are received and can make a change. Even better, know that many of your competitors are making these mistakes every day. This is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the eyes of the prospect and increase the chance that they’ll talk with you about your services. And it's a good reason to justify that puppy you’ve been thinking about getting.
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