How to Lose a Sale

The best sales people are helpful, responsive, honest.  The worst end up on “do-not-answer lists”.  Here’s what not to do when pitching your new product or service.

Try putting yourself in your prospective customer’s place.  Depending on the prospect, particularly larger, Fortune 2000 organizations, they may have taken well over 1,000 meetings and take over 100 meetings a year.

As a result, they have met hundreds if not thousands of sales professionals, all of whom try their best to get into their good graces, some less successfully than others.

Having worked with many of these customers, here are a few do’s and don’ts that they have expressed.

Please realize that they receive a large number of unsolicited requests, dozens of emails a day, all asking for 15 minutes of their time.  Individually, the inbound requests seem reasonable, but do the math.  It’s challenging for them to read all those emails, let alone give each sales professional 15 minutes in a day.

So please don’t always expect a response, let alone an immediate one.  You have to set yourself apart, truly differentiate, from all the other sales people all trying to get those coveted 15 minutes.  That means taking time to understand your prospective customer’s business and craft an email that will allow you to rise above the noise.

Once you do get the meeting as a result of your inbound request, please don’t begin with asking “What do you want to know?” or telling them “This is your time” or something similar.  This open-ended approach makes sense if the prospective customer asked for your time, but not when you’ve asked for theirs.  Come with something to say.

And please, please, please don’t pitch “solutions.”  Every time a prospective customer hears “solutions” they’re thinking you are trying to jam what you sell into what they want to buy.

Your company is not the best at everything and it’s not your job to solve all their problems.  Try to get an understanding of what your prospective customer’s immediate needs are and when you meet, inform them about what you do best and how that maps directly into their specific needs.

Please understand that the larger the prospective customer, the longer the sales cycle, often times due to multiple decision makers.  It takes time and effort, so, don’t expect quick decisions.

Being large and slow can create challenges, but it also means that your prospective customer gets to see a lot of competitors.  Their default stance will be to keep their options open as long as possible when undecided.

All good salespeople are taught to never take no for an answer and to follow up with multiple touch points.  The data is persuasive – 80% of enterprise sales occur after 8 interactions – but trust me, following up that email with an immediate phone call rarely helps your sales process.  And it definitely doesn’t help to do it three days in a row.

If it’s been a day and you haven’t heard back, your best bet is to simply wait.  Please keep in mind, most of your customers rarely have assistants.

Do be pleasantly persistent.  But don’t be a pest.  That’s a guaranteed way to get on the “do not answer” list.

The best sales people are those, when they reach out offer some value outside of simply pushing product, whether is color around the specific vertical market, insight into the competitive landscape and introductions to other helpful companies within the ecosystem.

At the end of the day, be helpful, responsive and honest and appreciate their time and process constraints.  Your prospective customers will try to do the same.

And, stopping with the holiday e-cards wouldn’t hurt either.