It’s selling season (at least for another week or so) – the golden window between getting back from the holidays and the end of school when folks are running around to conferences, meetings, etc. trying to close deals and build the book for the second half of the year.
After working with some clients with their growth strategies during the latter half of last year, to help these convert into business development I’ve ridden along on a number of pitches over the past few months. While some of these can be tedious – especially if they involve software demos – it’s generally good stuff; I really enjoy the game within the game.
For those that are shaking the trees this quarter and next, I thought I’d share a couple of observations from the frontline on what not to do:
Enter the pool from the shallow end: Good sales work is a conversation, i.e., a human interaction. When you convene a sales meeting, don’t fail to introduce everyone – your folks are there for a reason. Also, don’t dive right in – tell a quick story or something to humanize the conversation and get everyone comfortable.
The right answer is the correct answer, then you may qualify if appropriate – Everyone knows and understands that selling opportunities are rife with exaggerations (the legal term is “puffing”). These little white lies are the motor oil of our selling interactions – they help everyone get more comfortable while avoiding the details which would divert the focus of the conversation from the value proposition. That’s ok with everyone because we all know that the details will come later. However, when you’re selling, you cannot breach the tacit gentlemen’s agreement and cross the line into lying – no one likes it and everyone can tell you’re doing it. This is a self-inflicted wound – people respect integrity. If your product doesn’t have a particular feature or functionality, say so. Then qualify your answer if you can truthfully say that you have similar functionality, you can build it, etc.
Talk is cheap . . . and you get what you pay for. Strive to make your pitches with economy of words. When I was a young lawyer, I prepared for hours for court appearances, carefully crafting my arguments and outlining points to have at the ready. In one case, the judge was outlining how he was going to rule – for us! Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in my argument (pitch) that I starting bringing up other points. Thankfully, one of my mentors was with me – he politely asked the judge for a minute, leaned over, and whispered to me that I need to shut the (you know what) up. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt the need to do this to members of my team in the course of sales presentations. If you listen, the prospective customer will likely tell you what it will take to get a deal – make sure you’re no so wrapped up in your own world that you miss your chance.
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