Note from the writer: This was a blog post I wrote when I was really into sales and psychology. — Ben
If you search sales training on Google, you’ll find a wealth of results. There are a lot of sales trainers out there. And there are also various methodologies — Sandler, SPIN, SNAP, Challenger. In short, there’s a multi-million-dollar industry built around how best to separate people from their money. Before we dive into this post, I want to make it clear that I’m not knocking any of these trainers or methods. I’m not saying that all salespeople are the slimy, grimy, unscrupulous characters that they’re commonly stereotyped to be. I’ve been in sales myself, and I can confidently say that there are some really awesome salespeople out there.
That being said, an interaction I had recently left me so — for lack of a better word — dumbfounded that I felt compelled to put together this post. So let’s dive in, shall we?
I was approached by someone claiming to specialize in helping small businesses increase revenue through more effective marketing. Since I have a big interest in digital marketing and like connecting with others in the industry, I agreed to a free 45-minute phone consultation with this person. What I was promised were three specific steps that I could take in my own business to focus on my niche clients and better target my marketing efforts towards them. Now, I want to be clear here and say that I knew full well this was likely a sales call. Very few businesses simply give away information for free with no expectation of anything in return. So I knew there would be a pitch in the call somewhere and went in expecting it.
The time for our call came and began about as you would expect. I was asked several questions about my professional skills and my business. This is what is called discovery. I was then asked a few questions about myself personally (hobbies, interests, etc.), and we made some small talk. This is part of building rapport. I was then asked what my ultimate goals were professionally. This was a great way to frame the conversation. I conducted a lot of my own sales calls the exact same way.
Remember, though, that I was promised three specific steps that I could take to improve my marketing efforts. And that’s where things started to fall apart. I never received those steps. Instead, I was told about their special training program for small businesses. They explained how it helps improve marketing efforts and bring in more revenue. After several minutes of this, I was then told that I could get in on this training program. Instead of paying several thousand dollars, I had a special deal available to me that would lower it to only a few thousand dollars. I respectfully informed them that I wasn’t interested at which point I was told that I could get in with a down payment of a few hundred dollars and a payment plan for the rest. I again refused.
At this point, I was told that my lack of willingness to invest in myself was a “red flag” and that I needed to be a more positive person. We wrapped up our call shortly thereafter. In 45 minutes I had barely learned anything substantial about this person’s business and methods, and I still hadn’t received my three steps to improve my own marketing.
You could pick out several problems from their sales approach, but I think the most glaring one is this: They failed to deliver on what they promised. You see, the problem isn’t necessarily that they didn’t freely give away 45 minutes of their time with no expectation of anything in return. Very few of us would do that, at least in the context of doing business. The problem is that they promised something of real value in return for 45 minutes of my time, and I didn’t receive it.
There are a few lessons we can pick out of this, two from the perspective of the salesperson and one from the perspective of the potential client.
The first is to always deliver on what you promise. If you can’t, then you’d better have an outstanding reason why.
The second is to know your audience. I had never heard of this individual or their company before they approached me. I hadn’t seen any of their ads, hadn’t clicked on anything, hadn’t entered my email anywhere. By all means shoot for the moon when it comes to your sales goals. But don’t expect someone who has never heard of you before to pay you several thousand dollars after a mere 45-minute conversation. Those types of deals are usually only made in that short of a time span between people who know each other well.
The third is beware of sales tactics that are designed to evoke an emotional response in you. When this person told me that not wanting to sign up for their program on the spot showed a lack of willingness to invest in myself, that was a ploy to get me to think with my emotions and not my logic. They followed it up by saying that it was a “red flag” for them and that they weren’t sure if they wanted to work with me or not. Another tactic to make me emotional. When neither of those worked, they told me I needed to be a more positive person and that if I would just believe in myself and take the plunge things would work out well for me because I’m a great person. Do you see the pattern here?
Again, I want to make it clear that this post isn’t intended to smear or slander this person or their business. That’s why I haven’t named them. For all I know, they’re awesome at what they do. It also isn’t intended to portray all salespeople in a negative light. Instead, I feel that this whole interaction is a fantastic example of what not to do if you’re in sales. It also provides a nice lesson in what to look out for in order to avoid being manipulated into making a decision you might later regret.