A few weeks ago, I was traveling to meet with a fellow sales author to work on some new projects. I had a message waiting for me at my hotel, instructing me to meet him at 7:15 am the following morning at a new coffee & pastry shop he'd recently discovered, and that had become his new favorite.
I arrived at the designated time, he was 15 minutes late (you know who you are), and we sat down and spent the next fifteen minutes getting caught up with each other.
Finally, at 7:45, we ordered our coffee and breakfast. But, it wasn't as easy as it seemed it would be. For starters, there were three cup sizes on display behind the counter, and I decided on a large. However, the cashier baffled me when he said they only offer coffee drinks in one size - medium. Why, then, did they have three cup sizes on display? Very confusing.
I became even more confused when we ordered our breakfast sandwiches on croissants. They told us that no croissants had been baked yet, and they'd have to make them from scratch.
Huh? A breakfast cafe with no croissants at 7:45 am - their peak hour? Why? Most of those places start baking around 5:00 am, to be fully stocked for the breakfast rush.
I was confused even more, but on further thought, it wasn't any more confusing than what the average salesperson does to me on a regular basis.
For starters, most try to contact me via cold calling. This is a huge mistake. I simply don't take cold calls - nor do 4 out of 5 decision makers in the United States, according to a study conducted by the business school at the University of North Carolina. So why any salesperson would choose to make cold calling their primary sales prospecting method is beyond me.
When I do meet with a salesperson, it's because they were either recommended to me by a trusted colleague - referral selling at its finest - or because I did my own research and found the ideal provider for my needs.
In other words, I'm pretty much a pre-qualified prospect in either situation. Someone who is ready and prepared to buy.
Why, then, do salespeople try to mess up the entire process by wasting my time and boring me with company stories, stupid questions that have zero relevance to the issue at hand - nonsense such as, "What are your five year goals for your business?" - and needless bragging about their "great customer service" and rising stock prices.
I hate to break the news, but I only care to hear about stock prices from my financial advisor, and every salesperson I've ever met with talked about how great their company's service is. None of us believe it anymore. You all sound like the boy who cried wolf.
To make matters worse, if I need to make a purchase badly enough that I've tolerated all of this and am still in front of the sales rep, I usually get dragged through a tedious, boring proposal and presentation process.
Here's a word to the wise: When I finally became a superstar at selling, I was rarely giving written proposals to prospects. I'd learned that when working with a prime prospect who clearly has a need and is ready and wanting to buy from you, a proposal is just another filter that you're putting up, making the buying process more difficult for your prospect. Before I became aware of this, I'd frequently annoyed prospects who simply wanted to buy, by wasting their time with a proposal presentation. So, if you have someone with an immediate need and they've made it clear that they want to buy, skip the proposal, and simply let them buy.
Finally, most salespeople aren't very good at follow-up and after-the-sale service. That's why so few salespeople are able to work by referral only - they've done nothing to earn referrals. But, what do they do anyway? You've guessed it: They ask for referrals when they haven't earned any! Or they'll send you an online survey to complete, asking you to rate them with 10s across the board, when they're really only worth a 4 or 5.
So do me, yourself, and every other prospect and customer out there a favor: Be a straight shooter, and stop confusing us with cold calling, boring proposals and presentations, waste-of-time company stories and promises of great service. Instead, use modern, effective prospecting strategies to find those of us who are ready and willing to buy, and simply let us buy!