I love sales, from the process to the results. It is a beautiful art form that has nothing to do with the negative associations many of us have about it. Selling is all about communication skills, problem-solving, and neuroscience. Sadly, few people see it this way, so we commonly see oblivious salespeople who taint the name of the sales art form. Neck-breaking, and sometimes unrealistic, KPIs and sales targets also push salespeople to unethical, scammy, and frequently aggressive tactics. But let’s leave that for a blog post in the future.
For now, I want to go over the most common language-related sales fails that I have come across in my experience. Perhaps, by going through them you may catch yourself thinking you have done these mistakes before, and hopefully, my post will help you correct them shortly. Not all of them are obvious, but if you think about them from a psychological angle, they become as clear as daylight. Below, I give five bad examples from various moments and circumstances within the sales process with a focus on misusing language. I reserve five for the next post! Ready? Let’s jump right into it.
1. Am I speaking with [name]?
Imagine you are going about your day, living in our modern-day world where everyone wants to sell you everything when suddenly, your phone rings. You did not particularly expect a phone call from anyone at that time. You check and see that the call is from an unknown number. Immediately, you are on alert as you answer. You are certain that it is either a mistaken number or a cold call. Whatever is said to you within those first few seconds will ultimately affect your mood and your next actions.
“Am I speaking with [name]?” If the caller asks you this question, your tension grows. You know this is not a mistaken number now. You think: “But is this a cold call, or am I in some kind of trouble?” Your adrenaline sure peaks if you believe you are in trouble, but it crashes down and burns into utter frustration the moment the caller reveals that it is, in fact, a cold call. Why would this person make you so tense for no reason, right? When he initially had the mission to sell something to you, he caused you to stress right from the outset. You are probably not going to buy anything from him now!
To avoid such an uncomfortable beginning of a call, it is better to stick to a friendly greeting. Frame the conversation as if you are calling to talk to your best friend. If you know the name of your potential customer, it is not hard. “Hello [name]! How are you today?” Firstly, it gives the impression that you know each other. Secondly, this is a warm, easily digestible greeting. And thirdly, it shows positive intentions – you want to find out the well-being of the person you are talking to. Naturally, it is crucial to make your intro as authentic as possible. Even the slightest note of fakeness will be perceived!
2. Do you have a minute?
The next skull-thumping line that usually comes right after they alarmingly and menacingly confirm you are you aims to get you to utter yet another yes. By now, you have to be already tired of it. So at this point, if you choose to answer yes to this question you are either:
A. A yes-man. In this case, get ready to listen to a full-blown sales script, all while gritting your teeth, just because you could not simply reject a person who could not care less about your time. I guarantee it will not take 1 minute.
B. Someone who speaks before you think. There you go, squeezing that yes out of yourself like that last bit of toothpaste that you do not want to waste. Prepare to regret fast and impolitely interrupt that script.
C: A foreigner with no English who just says yes to everything. You can usually get by being agreeable around these Anglo-Saxon countries, right? Oh no, but now this person is talking non-stop! Help!
Salesperson! None of the above pave the way to a wonderful customer sales experience! And you are only 10 seconds into the call… Every salesperson out there is hunting for a yes, so much that customers throw it around with no meaning. Nobody wants to commit. And you do not need a counterfeit yes. It will be a waste of time! Plus, how would anyone have a free minute in our mad world? And even if they had, why would they dedicate it to you – a stranger on the phone?
Instead, ask your potential customer a question that would help them feel secure and in control. Ask a question they can answer with a no and invite your next words. This will allow you to stand out from all the yes-hunting salespeople. For example: “Is this a bad time to talk?” Chris Voss teaches this beautiful art through his negotiation training. An alternative technique that I like is facing the elephant in the room. For example, admit “This is a cold call. Would you like to hang up now or can you spare me a few seconds to explain why I am calling? It could be something useful for you.” Believe it – people will appreciate and respect you more for being upfront, rather than being a twisty snake.
3. Are you tired of [the problem]?
Here is another yes-calibrated question that is so annoying and cringy that you just want to run away when you hear it. It triggers one of your hundreds of obvious pains just to get you to admit to it and voice that magical yes that will apparently force you to buy the painkiller. “Are you tired of whatever obvious day-to-day problem you and probably your colleagues are facing?” It just begs to answer: “No, I love it! Bye.”
This question comes from a completely different era! They used this question in TV ads in the ’70s. We should no longer strive to get a yes, as I explained above. If you want to offer your solution, you should figure out a better way to validate if your potential customer has that problem. Your conversation should be less scripted and more human. Why would I hire you to sell my product if I could get an automated voice software to follow a script, word by word? It would cost me cheaper too! So, you better prove that you cannot be replaced by a machine before it happens.
What is a more effective approach? Here is an example:
“Thanks for giving me a chance to speak with you. So look, I represent [company] and our [product] solves this [problem]. Would I be wrong to assume you may be facing this [problem]? How are you solving it right now?”
With this response, you are:
- Expressing gratitude;
- Being direct about who you are and what you do;
- Calibrating your question for yet another safe no answer, and simultaneously;
- Accepting that your potential customer may be already solving the problem, and trying to understand if you can solve it better.
4. My product is blah blah blah
If you generally believe that, as a salesperson, you should be doing most of the talking, perhaps sales should not be your area of expertise. How do you expect to discover your potential customer and his needs by talking? Your goal is to ask the correct questions and listen. The more information the customer gives you, the better you will be able to accommodate your solution for his needs. You will not be generating a perception of product value if you will simply describe the product to your customer. Who cares? Why is that product applicable to your customer’s life?
Most human beings are egocentric. We primarily care about our personal lives. That is simply nature, not a complaint. As a salesperson, you should be using human egocentricity to your advantage. Your yapping about your product and how you want to sell it is your problem. You paying attention to me and showing interest in my life and my problems – that is something that triggers my egocentricity. I start talking and revealing things about myself because I have your set of ears before me listening actively. And boy do humans love talking about themselves and their problems.
Here are some good examples of questions you can ask to get your potential customer to reveal valuable information:
- How would you say resolving [the problem] could improve your business?
- How would you prioritize resolving [the problem] in your company right now?
- What would be the ideal solution for [the problem]?
- How would you measure the success of resolving [the problem]?
- Does [the problem] cause other pain points or issues for your business?
- What could make you try out [the solution] we provide?
You will notice all of them are open-ended. That is crucial so that your customer can expand his response and enrich it with details.
5. No… We don’t have that.
Let me start with a more circumstantial example for this one. Imagine walking into a store.
You: “Hey! How are you? Do you guys have [the item you need]?”
Salesperson (without any greeting): “No, it is not in stock.” (Continues looking at you in silence)
You: “Umm, ok. Bye”
If you have ever done this as a salesperson, tell me, how are you better than a basic website showing inventory? Do you disagree that it will replace you at a snap of the fingers? You should be scared, my friend! And to business owners, if that is how your employees work, you are wasting money! Time to do some firing. Or maybe, your salespeople have insufficient motivation to even be selling?
Shall we see it from a salesperson’s perspective then? A customer with demand walks into your store on his initiative and inquires about an item that interests him from your company. You suddenly get happy that all you have to do is to state that the item is missing. You deliver the unpleasant news to the customer fast, and phew, you do not have to deal with him again. You can continue sitting on your work stool, yawning, and waiting for the clock to hit 18:00 so you can finally go home and forget your boring job. There are a few problems in this situation, of course. For the sake of my example, however, let’s imagine that you do receive commissions from sales and are motivated enough to sell your company’s products.
So what did you do wrong? You left out a brilliant opportunity to transfer your customer’s hard-earned money into the company’s (and hence, your own) pockets. How would you be able to do that? Discover the customer and his needs.
“We don’t have that item in stock right now, unfortunately. Could there be other items we have in stock that could solve [the problem]?”
Does the customer answer “Maybe”? Display similar items to reach a sale! Does the customer answer “No”? Then say this:
“Oh I am sorry about that. Perhaps I could call and find out when we will have this item available?”
Does the customer answer “yes”? Call and find out then and there! Does the customer answer “no”? Then say this:
“Perhaps I could note your phone number and give you a ring once we have the item available? It could be as soon as tomorrow!”
Does the customer answer “yes”? Write down the number and do not forget to close the deal by following up! Does the customer answer “no”? Then say goodbye and be proud that you followed the most effective sales approach you ever could.
Since this is a rather informative post, I have reserved five more ways how not to sell to your customer for my next post – part 2. I am always rather curious to hear other people’s stories too! If you witnessed some really bad sales efforts, please do share in the comments! And if you enjoyed reading this, I would appreciate it if you would show some love. Over and out!
Leave a Reply