We make a lot of assumptions as sales people. Some turn out to be true, but some also cost us business. Here are five assumptions that can lose you significant revenue (and commission).
1. Assuming you know what the prospect wants. I have sales reps call me and leave voice mails that their drug screen/ background check/ financing/ whatever is the “perfect solution” for me. Really? They don’t even know what I do, what I need, what I want, or who I am.
We do the same thing in staffing; “I have the perfect candidate for you”, “we have the ideal solution”, etc. What this ends up doing is painting you as just another salesperson saying whatever you can to close a deal, and most times it ends up turning off the prospect.
Instead of assuming you know what is right for the prospect, next time admit up front that you don’t know if your solution or candidate is the right fit. But based on the research you have done on the company you believe that you might be able to benefit them. They’ll find the approach refreshing, and it will open up more opportunities for you.
2. Assuming everyone communicates the same way. If a sales person emails me a legitimate email that is not an obvious mass mailing, I’m pretty likely to email them back. If they call me and leave a voice mail, they have almost no chance that I will return their call. Why? Because email is my preferred choice for initial communication. It's easier to manage, I don’t have to listen to a voice mail over again and write down the number, and there’s no phone tag.
However, I have many friends, clients, and colleagues that won’t return your email but will return a call. The trap that many sales people fall into is they communicate with everyone the same – which is their own preferred communication method. By not recognizing a prospect or client’s preferred method, you are reducing your chances of success.
3. Assuming that silence equals a lost deal. Sales people are a mostly paranoid lot. We quickly draw conclusions when the prospect stops communicating. I’ve seen sales people so worked up over a prospect not getting back to them, that they make a false assumption that they’ve lost the deal. Then they start acting like a dumped ex and ensure that they don’t win.
Here’s a news flash: people are busy. And they are busy with things other than you and their staffing needs. This deal might be the most important thing to the salesperson, but it could quickly move down the prospect’s priority list if they have an emergency, another project dumped in their lap, turnover, travel, or any of a number of other things.
This is not to say that you remain passive when communication slows down or starts, or that you shouldn’t be concerned about a change in communication. But until they tell you they have chosen a different solution than yours, you need to make sure you continue with the attitude that the two of you are moving towards working together.
4. Assuming that you can win on relationship alone. Years ago I inherited a sales rep when I took over a new market. While visiting with him, I asked him why the customer should buy from him and not all the other staffing companies in the market. His answer was “Me. They’ll buy because I’m the difference.”
While that’s great to see that type of confidence, it's a bit delusional. Developing relationships is critical to being successful in sales, and they do help closing some deals. But you can’t be your own value proposition. Unless you own the company, it is likely that one day you will go somewhere else. And in most cases, as the sales rep you hand new deals off to recruiters or account managers to work with the client on a daily basis. The prospect knows this, and they take that into account when making a decision.
Here’s another flaw in this assumption – it is assuming that they don’t like the other sales reps selling to them. In my experience, the majority of sales people are pretty likable. So your best sales strategy is to lead with a compelling value proposition for your service, and let your sparkling personality be the clincher.
5. Assuming that every deal can be won. Sometimes you have no chance from the beginning. They have a close friend that owns a staffing company, they have an incumbent that they have no desire to leave, they are a cheap company that will never pay your bill rate no matter how much value you show. Whatever the reason, some times you just aren’t going to win the deal.
Sales reps hate to hear that. We are programmed that a lost deal is our fault, and if only we had done something differently we could have won. The problem with this thinking is that it often causes us to spend too much time working deals that we know in the back of our mind are a lost cause. This results in us spending less time prospecting and working other deals where we have a legitimate chance. Take a look in your pipeline and do an honest evaluation of your chances. If you realistically have no chance, close them out and move on to better odds.