In Sales, Manners Matter
The one thing that leaves me utterly shocked time and time again is the lack of manners and human consideration from some sales people. Let's be clear from the start – these "lost" sales people aren't the successful ones over the long term but there are a ton of them out there. I have learned from the real good sales people what works, but having just had another one of these "lost" sales people drift across my bow, I thought now was a good time for this post.
In business, if you call yourself a professional, it is time for many to start acting like a true professional, not some minor leaguer out of the bush leagues. In a casual setting with friends and family you may let some pleasantries slip without notice or not get to hung up if a "please" or a "thank you" gets left out here or there. In business, both during and after the sales process, there is absolutely no excuse for shabby manners and lack of common courtesy.
Below are a few real life examples that I have personally experienced that leave me shaking my head. The sad thing is these sales people are on a downward spiral since they start off treating people poorly, end up not closing many deals, become more desperate over time and start to treat potential future customers even worse. As you can imagine, this story does not end well.
These are pretty simple, but following the basic rules will get you far in sales, and probably in life too:
1. Introduce Yourself on the Phone
Yes, I would like to know your name and which company you calling from at the outset of a phone call to me. Starting a phone conversation with no other introduction other than "How are you doing today?" is a recipe for disaster. First, I don't know who is asking me that question. Second, not even my wife, business colleagues or Mother start off a phone conversation that way. The bar is pretty low here, just a simple "Hi, this is Jack from Brushfire Records. Do you have a quick second?" would be perfect.
2. "Please" and "Thank You" Go a Long Way
Another admittedly low bar. It is amazing how many times these words never grace the lips of people in business. I know I don't notice as much when they are used, but I always notice when they are forgotten. Mom was right and, yes, these are magical words use them often and with meaning.
3. Pay Attention to the One in Front of You
When you come to my office for a sales visit, please put away the cell phone. If meeting with me in person is that important then you can refrain from distracting the entire even with your mobile phone. Setting your phone on the table in front of you during a meeting is a signal that tells me you could potentially have better things to do. If you are on kid duty that day, have a sick Aunt or are expecting a child any minute, I will totally understand, just tell me up front. Having your phone out, taking a call, checking email or texting while in a sales meeting sends me the wrong signal. Even worse, it is a clear indication of how I should expect to be treated once I have a contract with you. But, in all likelihood if you violate this rule, I probably won't go to contract with you.
4. Getting an Email Address is Still a Win
The odds are pretty slim that if I pick up my phone I will be in the exact right state of mind to hear why your business is perfect for PipelineDeals now and we have to do business with you today!!! (Yes, that "!!!" is how it usually sounds.) More often than not, I will listen to your elevator pitch (make sure you have a good one) and if interested ask you to send me a follow up email. This way I can give your proposal more focus down the line. The email address is an invite to a future discussion, don't throw it away with a bad attitude or dejected tone that clearly tells me you are unhappy with my decision. Odds are I did not know you or your company existed 5 seconds ago, so take the email address and hang up the phone leaving me interested for another day.
5. Hang Up the Phone
A follow up from a subtle point in #4 above – hang up the phone. They call it a sales process for a reason. More often than not selling takes some time. Should you receive any positive indications from your potential future customer, then take it and run. At that point, odds are the only thing you can do is mess the deal up. Many a deal has been loss after they have been won because some overzealous sales person did not simply hang up the phone.
6. Listen. Did you hear that? Listen.
I need to work on this one too, but it is a worthy endeavor. Sales people are great, they are passionate about what they are selling and how it can help. They love people and they love to talk. But I have sat in many a sales meeting where during the first 15 minutes I was unable to get a word in edgewise and the sales person goes on a rant that has no bearing on why I am interested in their product/service. These days, if I see this storm on the horizon, I bring the meeting to stop, take the risk of coming across rude, but redirect that person's energy in a way productive for us both. Sales people can avoid putting the meeting into this state of awkwardness simply by listening.
I am sure I will add to this list over time, but this is a pretty good start and all taken from real world examples. I will keep my eyes and ears open, so if you call us to help us buy something, make sure you don't end up as Rule #7.