We all want plentiful and profitable sales. After all, we’re a business, we have a product, and nothing happens without engaging customers. No matter what you're making, designing, or hoping to achieve, at a certain point some thoughts must turn to sales.
But one of the big lessons in sales is that the ends do not always justify the means. In other words, the actual method you use to land a sale is significant: it reflects more than just a number on an invoice. At VividCortex, we strongly believe that respect for our customers and prospects is a top concern. This includes conducting proper research before the conversation even begins, maintaining self-awareness throughout the following dialogue, and practicing empathy -- understanding the positions of those folks we chat with, whose opinions we genuinely value.
On the flip side, there are sales methods to absolutely avoid. With that in mind, here are 4 sales practices you and your sales team should not use when you’re dealing with customers. Be mindful and conscious of the tactics listed here, and beware of them: they’re not sophisticated, they’re not classy, they’re not respectful, and, bottom line, they’re less effective for precisely those reasons.
1. Calling Repeatedly Without Leaving A Voicemail
I get it. Modern technology offers a lot of tools to help us drive down the cost of our prospecting efforts and dramatically increase the shots on goal. Whether it’s InsideSales for auto-dialing or SalesLoft Cadence for intelligently personalized mass outreach, these are great arrows to have in the quiver. But they can be taken way too far, and if you don’t have an eagle eye on what your reps are doing, you might miss what the prospects are really experiencing.
Repeated calls without leaving voicemail are one of the most disrespectful things your reps can do. Seriously. It’s my number one pet peeve.
Think about it. You’ve likely coached your reps to try to “sell high,” aiming for VPs and executives. What do most of those people do all day? That’s right: they spend most of their time talking to others, in meetings and on the phone. And—here’s the key thing—when your reps dial them, it’s an interruption. Sure, I’d like to turn off my cellphone, but frankly I can’t do that. If an emergency happens I need to be reachable. When I’m interviewing a candidate and the phone rings, at best it breaks the train of thought for a moment. If I’m on the phone and my caller-waiting starts beeping at me, at best I have to suffer through it for 30 seconds because every time I try to do anything with multiple calls I end up disconnecting everyone.
If you leave me a voicemail, you’ve done me the courtesy of following my wishes. I probably double-clicked the power button on my iPhone to send you right to voicemail because that’s what I want you to do—tell me who you are and why you want to talk to me.
If you disrupt me three, five, eight times and you do not leave me a voicemail, I’m blocking your number, period. You had multiple chances to let me have an opportunity to respond and engage, and instead you flicked me the middle finger each time.
Are you sure your reps aren’t doing this? Multiple companies have done it to me.
2. The Sour-Grapes Breakup Email
I’ve learned through experience that the best way to stop unwanted outreach is actually to respond and explain why it isn’t a good fit, as briefly as possible. But some reps seem constitutionally unable to take no for an answer. They respond with snark and passive aggressive insults. It’s a huge turn-off.
Here is an example: “I agree, Baron, it sounds like we’re not a fit for you. We’re really only a good fit for companies who want to make money, and it sounds like you’re not interested in that.” My gut response was who does this jerk think he is, talking to me that way?
In one example, a rep of mine intended to ask whether timing was wrong, but “is database performance monitoring not a current focus for you?” got worded slightly off, and the prospect interpreted it as “ok, I can see you don’t care about database performance.” I happened to know the man personally and he’s one of the most performance-conscious individuals in the database community. Oops.
It doesn’t matter what the rep means to say. What matters is what the prospect hears. And if they hear a smart-ass kid insulting them, apparently believing he has nothing to lose, any hope of a future deal is gone.
3. Prospect Into Existing Customers
This is bad. Really bad. Do I need to say more? If you’re unsure how to prevent prospecting into your existing customer base, there’s a helpful section about moving customer through account status stages in Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. It’s on page 71.
4. Stalking Your Prospect
If you email me, call me, mention me in a tweet, and then send me a LinkedIn connection request, you’re way over the line. A lot of reps don’t seem to understand this. For many people, the experience of being contacted multiple times in an unsolicited fashion out of the blue is genuinely threatening and concerning.
The feelings a rep can arouse in a prospect go way beyond irritation and quickly cross into stress and even fear. Think about it: if a sales rep is able to find out all this information about you… does the rep know where you live, too? Does the rep know about your children, where they go to school, your spouse?
This is not a joke. Reps often lack the perspective to understand this. For many people, the Internet and online presence is genuinely unsafe, and this usually is because of an imbalance in information the stalking party has about the victim. Sales reps who know too much personal and/or contact information about prospects can easily appear to threaten their prospects’ safety. Likewise, a rep who reaches out publicly (i.e. via a Tweet) rather than privately (email, phone) risks being perceived as using peer pressure and expectations of courtesy or implied obligations to pressure the prospect.
Don’t let your reps get even close to this line. Help them understand how much power they wield and how threatening it is that they have access to vast databases of personal information about the people they’re contacting.
The most effective ways to do this are to limit the number of channels your reps use to reach out, and to ensure that all outreach is one-to-one and private, where the presence of or visibility to other people cannot imply recruitment or pressure from those onlookers.
The Bottom Line about Sales’ Bottom Lines
So what’s the lesson here? If you think your tech (or whatever your product may be) is worth the rapt attention and careful consideration of a potential customer, you should treat that potential customer with commensurate attention, respect, and patience. The best sales relationships you forge will arise out of genuine, mutual appreciation, when the customer actually likes your product and your company and you and your sales reps -- not a strategy of badgering a customer until they say, “Sure,” or, more likely, tell you to go away.