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“But Will I Sound Too Salesy?”

by David Brock on March 22nd, 2013

I just got off the phone with a business owner.  We were having a great conversation about how he and his team were growing the business.  We were talking about some of the conversation he was starting to have in selling to larger enterprises and struggles they were having in their conversations with these customers.  We went through the conversations, discussed how he might shift the direction, focusing more on their needs and the business value his company would create.  At one point, he said, “But doesn’t that sound too sales?”

It’s something I hear all the time.  I expect it from business owners or non-sales professionals who are involved in sales situations.  I also expect this from new sales people.  Surprisingly, I also hear it a lot from experienced sales people.

This morning when “Tony,” expressed that concern, for a moment I was stunned.  I didn’t know what to reply.  The question just didn’t make sense.  Then I asked, “Why are they on the phone with you in the first place?  They know you are selling them something, yet they are volunteering to participate in the call.  So why don’t you want to sell?”

People don’t enter into conversation with sales people just because we’re nice people and to have friendly chit-chat.  They know we are trying to interest them in buying our products and services.  They expect us to be “salesy.” We shouldn’t be on the phone with prospects just for a friendly conversation or aimless chit-chat, that’s a waste of their time and ours.  Our purpose is to help them identify ways we can help them to improve their business and achieve our.  Trying to hide or dance around our objectives is dishonest and misleading.

But Tony’s concern is real and something we encounter every day.  We get way too many calls that are way too “Salesy.”

These are the calls from people who haven’t researched you, who don’t know anything about your business, or whether what they are selling is something that might create value for you!

These are the calls from people who don’t ask you about what you are trying to achieve, opportunities to grow your business, opportunities to improve your business.  All they do is blindly pitch a product and ask you to buy.

These are the calls, from people who are more concerned about getting the order than producing an outcome for you.

These are the “Salesy” calls that give all sales people a bad name and make customer genuinely suspicious and apprehensive about calls with sales people.

But there are the calls where you and the customer are moving through a buying/selling process.  They know it, you know it, no reason to hide from it.  But those calls are different.  They are focused on the customer, what they are trying to achieve and how we can help them do it.

They are the calls that focus on them—things they can do differently, things they can improve, opportunities they can seize.  And they are about how they can achieve these things through our products and services.

Each conversation needs to move the customer and us through the buying/selling process–otherwise we are wasting each other’s time.

When a customer engages in a conversation with a sales person, they know you are trying to get them to consider something new or different.  They know that your are trying to get them to change.  They know you are trying to get them to buy.  They know you are trying to sell them something.

But the conversation is never too “Salesy” as long as we are constantly driven by the value we are creating for the customer, the WIIFM from their point of view, and how we help.

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  1. Had v similar situation on a training course I was on. Tried drilling into this and my conclusion is similar to yours. They thought the actual close suddenly transported them into the realms of a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesperson, which they felt was suddenly grubby.

    I am not sure that I convinced them as when I leapt to the defence of sales as a process to deliver value to the recipient I too was branded as “just a salesman” trying to defend a grubby practice with an implied deceptive element at its heart.

    Sadly it is very hard to pry open a tightly closed mind.

    • Thanks for the comment Dominic. Think of the disservice you are doing for the customer if you fail to provide them the opportunity to achieve the value you are pursuing in the discussion. If you are doing things right, focusing on what they get, you are cheating them by not closing and helping them achieve it. If you are conducting the call correctly, a close is the natural outcome and is expected.

  2. Spot on Dave.

    No one’s fooled by our attempts to desalesify our jobs. The focus should not be on trying not to sound salesy, but on trying to sound relevant, focused and capable of helping them make more money this year.

    Good form!

    Don F Perkins

  3. Great topic David… When someone asks me to help them with a sales talk track and their response is… “Does that sound too salesy?” I respond by saying…

    “It feels pretty comfortable to me… but perspective lies with the person on the receiving end. If it sounds too salesy to you, then it will probably sound too salesy to other people who share your perspective.

    The first key is to understand the principle behind the sales technique and the second key is to be able to achieve the desired outcome… Winning the deal.”

    So… Where do we go from here???

    “I’ll share the principle behind the sales technique… and you word it to make is sound like YOU. I’ll help you tweak it (to achieve the desired outcome) and we’ll build your talk track from there…”

    Early in my sales management career… following this tact wasn’t so easy… my instinct was to say… just do it the way I’m teaching you to do it and you’ll be successful. How hard could that possibly be?

    Call it an “epiphany,” but I finally realized, not everyone thinks like me. Some people do best when you tell them exactly how to do it… and they are able to imitate and execute like a pro.

    BUT… MOST people like doing it their own way. It’s in our nature. The best sales leaders are able to teach people to understand the principles that lead to success… and then it’s up to the sales person to execute.

    People with real sales talent turn “their own way” into success.

    • Thanks for the great observation Doyle. The prescripted approaches are really a problem. If the sales person doesn’t own it as their own, they can’t be authentic–it comes through loud and clear to the customer, sounding too salesy.

  4. One thing I do is to listen to the prospect before blurting out the benefits of your product.

    Regardless of the product you are selling, there are many different reasons that people may be considering it. Assuming that you know what they need and that you have a presentation explaining how your product is perfectly suited to solving it, before you even know what it is, is presumptuous.

    Listen, ask questions and then present the aspect of your product IF AND ONLY IF it can help them. If it cannot help them then refer them to one that can (if know of one) and then gracefully leave. You are wasting their time and yours trying to solve some other problem than the one they want to solve.

    Another thing I do is to stay in touch with them and track the product use and benefits they see. Did they actually realize the gain I told them they would see? If not then you have some explaining to do.

    • Great insights Leo—all common sense but not common practice. Our customers would respect us so much more if we did this more frequently. Thanks for joining the discussion. Regards, Dave

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