Popular culture has a fairly low view of salespeople. Perhaps it’s the secondhand car dealer who’s a bit cavalier with the truth in trying to shift a poor quality car off their lot. Maybe it’s the ambitious young people served up on TV shows like The Apprentice, with their sharp suits, big egos and misplaced confidence. And to be fair, a lot of us have had bad experiences with sales too – nuisance calls, or a double glazing salesman on the doorstep who won’t let us get a word in edgeways.
People are wise to obvious salesmanship, the rehearsed presentation, the faux bonhomie, the fast-talking patter. It gets people’s backs up, it’s rude – and it’s unnecessary too.
At CMS our approach is all about building effective long-term relationships that lead to repeat business. It would actually be counter-productive if we came in with the hard sell. When given the choice, people are always going to work with people they like. So courtesy and thoughtfulness make a real difference.
Courtesy means considering the needs of the other person when making a phone call. Don’t just launch into your pitch. Take a moment to ask ‘are you busy? Is now a good time?’. If it transpires that now is not a good time, ask for an appropriate time to call back.
Courtesy means listening and asking questions, not rushing through what you have to say. Good sales is about being the solution to your client’s problems, and helping them to succeed.
Courtesy also means taking ‘no’ for an answer. Sometimes you might want to push a little harder if you suspect there’s a misunderstanding, but never argue the toss. Don’t try to persuade or cajole if someone has already given you an answer.
Take the long view on all of this. Winning a job is not the end game in itself here. You’re looking to form lasting working relationships. The real prize is partnerships that become a regular source of work, potentially for years to come. That means you will be talking to this person often. It’s not a case of here today, gone tomorrow like a travelling salesperson. You’ll be calling back, following up, perhaps on multiple projects. You don’t want to burn your bridges with a rude and pushy sales call.
Instead, make sure that you’re friendly and genuine. You want them to remember you as someone who is polite and sensitive to their needs, who listens and understands, and who values them and their business.
If you do that, you’ll make friends and you’ll make sales. And who knows, perhaps you’ll be able to help break down those negative stereotypes of salespeople along the way.