How NOT To Do Sales, Part 2

How not to attract attention

Do I have your attention yet?

You remember my friend ‘Amy’? Of course you do, she made her first appearance in one of our posts about clarity in communication, Are You Talking to Me?

She has such a good fund of stories that I might have to start paying her a commission!

This time around, Amy is travelling home after a few days in one of her more remote offices. Approaching a motorway service station, she remembers that she still needs to speak to a couple of people she couldn’t get hold of earlier.

So, being a good, law-abiding, citizen, she drives into the service station, parks up in a remote corner and starts telephoning.

She’s vaguely aware that a large, white van stops nearby and a man gets out. He comes over to her car and gesticulates that he wants to talk to her. She waves her phone at him in the hope that he will recognise that she is busy and go away.

Instead, his response is to start banging on the roof of the car until she abandons her conversation and (she admits that this was the foolish part) gets out of the car to see what he wants.

It turns out that he wants to enquire if she would like to buy a television set from the large and varied selection he has in the back of the van!

Rather unsurprisingly, she declines so he wanders off to the other cars parked nearby and employs the same technique of banging on the roof until the driver pays him some attention. History does not record how successful he was but I think we can all guess!

What’s that? You would never act like that? Are you sure?

When you pick up that telephone and start pitching your product or service the moment the prospect answers, what are you doing?

Sorry to be the bringer of bad news but you are behaving exactly the same as this television ‘salesman’. You are interrupting someone’s day in order to satisfy your own needs without regard for what they want, what they need or what they are doing.


Let’s go back to our TV ‘salesman’. His first mistake is to see everyone in the car park as a potential customer. Wrong!

If he had taken two seconds to look at Amy’s car he would see that she drives one of the top-end Audis. Is the person who drives this sort of car likely to be looking for a bargain television, in a service station car park? The likelihood is not, so don’t even bother asking the fundamental qualifying question “Do you want to buy a TV?”

  • Before you pick up the telephone, ask yourself “How likely is it that the person on the other end wants to buy what I am selling?”

You might scoff but the majority of sales calls I get (both personal and business) show me that even the most basic research has not been done.

Better yet, if you’ve had no contact at all with your qualified prospect, send them something. Based on what you have discovered about them, this could be a letter, a brochure or an e-mail. It could be a comment or retweet on Twitter, a comment on one of their blog posts or in one of their LinkedIn discussion groups. It could be a link to a (short!) YouTube video, a Slideshare presentation or a podcast.

When you’ve done that, do it again, with one of the other things listed.

The aim is to get yourself on their radar, to ‘warm them up’ so that they have some vague awareness of who you are and what you do when you do pick up the telephone.

His second mistake was not to recognise and accept that it was not convenient for his prospective customer to speak to him. I accept that you cannot know what your prospect is doing at the moment you call them! Some element of interruption is inevitable.

  • Having introduced yourself, ask if it is a convenient moment to talk. If not, ask when it is and call back then.

Also recognise that even when you get to speak to them, it’s probable that they are not in a buying mood!

One set of widely reported sales statistics says this:

  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

I would suggest that for complex or high-value offerings, the number of contacts required is likely to be considerably higher than twelve. So you still have some way to go!

More Qualification

As Melina Abbott says (about a smaller number) in this post: Why Keep in Touch with Customers Even After They Have Said No

“This doesn’t mean that you have to ask for the sale six or seven times. It simply means that you need to demonstrate the value of what you offering to your customers and get in touch with them at least seven times.”

We would expand this a little and say that at every contact you should be requalifying your prospective customer.

Sales people (like everyone else) have a limited amount of time in which to do their job. As a prospect moves through the sales pipeline, the time spent on them becomes more and more expensive.

Ensure that you are spending your time wisely by qualifying everyone in or out of your pipeline at every single stage.

Every time you contact someone, offer something of value. Don’t be the person ‘just checking in’, have a reason to have a conversation and to find out something that will help you as well.

Remember that a sale lost late in the process has the double whammy of wasting the time that you have spent on that prospect plus you didn’t spend on a more likely prospect.

If you like this post, check out How NOT to do Sales, Part 1.

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