I’m always amazed when I read tips about “how to be professional” because some of the suggestions seem so obvious. Don’t show too much skin. Don’t wear clothing with rips or holes in it. Do make sure you know what the company you’re interviewing at does. Do wear a swim suit in the public pool.
But the sad truth is, those warnings exist because people break them. All the time.
I wish I could say that salespeople are smarter than that and don’t need warnings. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Many salespeople make the most glaring mistakes over and over again. And the mistakes they make are the ones that are so obvious that most sales experts don’t even bother writing about them (because they don’t believe people can be so stupid.)
Recently, however, I was talking to one of my clients, the president of small technology firm. She was livid. Earlier that morning, a salesperson had contacted her firm and infuriated her by asking the two questions that should never be said in a cold call.
The conversation went like this:
“Who am I talking to?” the seller immediately demanded. She gave him her name – which isn’t a typical one.
“How do you spell that?” he asked. She slowly spelled it out. Confused, he asked her to repeat it several times, which she graciously did.
“What does your company do?” he asked next.
That was the final straw. She finally butted in: “Are you selling something?”
“Yes,” he said. Then, undaunted, he continued his interrogation. “So, what does your company do?”
“I can’t believe you’re asking me this,” she said in disbelief. “You expect me to take up my time to educate someone who’s too lazy to even visit my website and find that out? Why would you think I’d do that?”
He sputtered a couple of times and then apologized. But he’d already blown it. No recovery was possible.
I hate having to say this, but I will. Never, ever, ever ask a prospect who they are and what their company does. It’s the fastest way to signify to the prospect that all you care about is getting the sale. It shows that you haven’t even tried to find out anything about their company, and have no clue why your offering can solve their unique challenge.
Worst of all, it shows disrespect for the decision-maker’s time. Instead of doing your homework ahead of time, you’re making them stop their own work so they spoon-feed you information you should already know.
If you ask them to do that, you have already lost the sale.
There is no way that they will believe your offering will make their lives easier – because you’ve already made their lives more difficult.
The lesson: Contacting prospective customers before you’ve invested time learning about their business is a sure recipe for disaster. Don’t do it!