Sales Prospecting Perspectives is pleased to bring you a guest post from Craig Wortmann, founder and CEO of Sales Engine.
“First we make our habits and then our habits make us.” – Anonymous
All of us have habits which lead to routines. Once in awhile, it’s good to stop and recognize the routines that are running our lives. As professionals, salespeople are as susceptible as anyone to bad habits.
Here are 5 things that we should all stop doing:
1. Stop… cutting and pasting from other proposals.
Of course it’s fine to steal a few sentences here and there from past proposals in order to write the next one. But it is way too easy to pack 10 pounds of junk into a 2-pound bag, causing proposals to cover every base with every detail. That’s the job of the proposal’s first cousin, the contract.
Your proposals should be a reflection of the sales conversations you’ve had to date. No more, no less. So why do we add layer after layer of detail to our proposals, expecting our prospect to wade through all of that? Your proposal should be tight, and speak directly to the conversation you’ve had with that prospect. It should include what you are going to do based on what you’ve discussed, and even what you are not going to do (that’s right, you should include an ‘out-of-scope’ sentence or two).
The prospect should be able to read a concise, disciplined reflection of the conversations you’ve had, in 10 minutes or less.
2. Stop… sending email thank-you's.
This is a bad habit we have all developed. We want to thank our prospect for his/her time, so we dash off a quick thank you in an email. Of course, it’s great to thank people. That is a good habit. But if you really want to thank someone, you write them a note.
It takes about one minute longer than an email, and it has about 100 times the impact.
3. Stop… giving prospects reading assignments.
More content is being added to the world every day. And one of our jobs as salespeople is to share our whitepapers, blog posts, etc. with our clients. But our habit is to email a link or a PDF to a prospect and say; “Check this out. This will support the conversation we had the other day.” I get these emails a lot, and I know they are well-intended, but they feel like homework ("Great, another 20 minutes of reading I don’t have time to do…").
So stop doing this. Instead, send the link or PDF, and do the work for your prospect. If it’s truly something they should know, distill it for them. Say: “I know you have no time to read this, but I thought it might be a good addition to the conversation we had. Here are the three clear points of the piece in case you can’t dig into it: 1.2.3.”The one out of 1,000 times I get that email, I fall in love.
4. Stop… behaving as if the prospect is ready for you.
Because we are so close to what we do, salespeople often assume that the prospect is right there with us. In fact, the prospect hasn’t thought about us at all, and this should change our behavior at the beginning of every meeting. You need to stop just laying out an agenda and getting started.
Instead, you should start every meeting with a “Purpose Benefit Check” “The purpose of our meeting today is to talk about the implementation of this solution. What I think we will gain from this next 45 minutes is an understanding of the hurdles we face in getting this done. How does that sound?” That short, 10-second phrase is yet another tool that carries 100 times its weight. It provides alignment and an “on-ramp” to your meeting that allows the prospect to get ready while acknowledging that he/she hasn't been awaiting your arrival.
5. Stop… focusing only on the benefits of your solution.
You love your solution, and that’s great (or you wouldn’t be selling it, right?). But too often, we are not explicit about the drawbacks of what we’re proposing. We focus on the benefits and in our decks and proposals we highlight these over and over. But it’s rare that a solution is a perfect fit, and herein lies the opportunity to build credibility.
High-performing salespeople are the first ones who say, “You know what? We should talk for a minute about a couple of things that may be issues going forward. Here’s what we’ve seen about this solution that sometimes causes problems…” It’s not that you are shooting yourself in the foot, it’s that you are being direct and honest and acknowledging that no solution fits perfectly.
So look closely at your habits, and change the routines to perform better.
Craig Wortmann is the founder and CEO of Sales Engine, a company that helps firms build and tune their sales engine. He is also a Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and author of “What’s Your Story?: Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful”. You can find Craig on Google + and Twitter.