Over the past several weeks, we’ve explored several common marketing tactics (websites, email marketing, advertising and LinkedIn) and discussed many ways in which they are each being executed poorly in our industry… and several ways to improve them.
In this last post in the series, we take on SELLING. Whether you’re a dedicated sales rep, a researcher/consultant who does some part-time selling or the principle of a firm charged with revenue responsibility… this blog post is for you. And because we have all been on the receiving end of someone’s [bad] selling effort, I’ve written this post from the buyer’s perspective. I hope you find it helpful.
- Don’t cold call me. It’s disruptive and annoying. If all you’ve done is find my name in a directory or on my firm’s website, you have not earned the right to have a conversation with me. Before you ever reach out to me, find a way to get on my radar (hint: this is where effective marketing comes in). Do your marketing well… and I might even be calling you!
- Likewise, don’t send me hard-sell unsolicited emails. If I opt in to your monthly e-newsletter or download one of your white papers, that’s fine – deal me in. But other than that… stay outta my InBox. And just because I’ve connected with you on LinkedIn does not give you the permission to put me on your sales prospect email list.
- Understand me. I don’t have research problems… I have business problems (that require research to help solve). Speak to me in those terms. That is, I don’t care about focus groups, max-diff, ethnographies or mobile research… what I care about is how they can help me take new products to markets, develop new services, get a better response to our ad campaigns or build loyalty across our clients. Bottom line: I don’t care about what you can do… I care about what you can do for me.
- Stop boring me to death… with your lousy, un-compelling PowerPoint presentations. Stop trying to impress me by listing every single thing you do. I know what you do… I’ve been to your website – that’s why you’re here. And please don’t stand in front of the room and just read one slide after another. Ugh!
- Dazzle me. Stop trying to sell me on what you do. Instead, tell me how you’re different. Tell me why I should hire you over all the other firms out there that are very much like yours. And if your answer is because “we have great people, do great work and really take care of our clients”… you lose!
- Be patient. I will not buy from you until I get to know you / like you / trust you… and that’s gonna take a little time.
- Tell me if we’re not right for each other. Not every seller-buyer relationship will work… nor should it. If there are other firms better suited to my specific needs, that’s ok – just tell me. Your honesty will go a long way in helping me learn to trust you.
- Know your stuff. I don’t need you to be a research expert – that’s what your PMs and analysts are for – but I do need you to have a modest level of understanding about research methodologies and applications, your firm’s capabilities and my business needs. That base of knowledge will get us off to a good start.
- Shoot straight. Never, ever lie to me, mislead me or make up an answer. You get no second chance here. If you don’t know the answer – tell me. Then help me find out what it is.
- Brevity, please (#1). We’re gonna meet some time at a conference and when we do, you’ve got 20 seconds to capture my attention (i.e. your ‘elevator pitch’). In that time, I want to know who you are, what you do, who you do it for and what makes you special. If I’m interested, I’ll ask for more details. If you can’t distill it down to 20 seconds, then you’ve got nothing of value to sell or you’re just not very good at your job.
- Brevity, please (#2). I don’t need a 30-page proposal, 70% of which is a repeat sales pitch. You’re here… you’ve made it to the final round… just give me the facts, please.
- ‘No’ doesn’t always mean ‘no.’ When you ask for the business, sometimes the answer will be ‘no.’ But ‘no’ might also mean ‘not yet’ or ‘not at this time’ or ‘not for this particular project.’ If you want to earn my business… stay in touch, nurture our relationship and be helpful. If you do, you will get another chance.
- Be a resource. Don’t just sell me. Help me when I have questions… share resources I can use… connect me with others I might benefit from knowing. I don’t care how much you know – until I know how much you care.
- Don’t be an order taker. I won’t hire you just because you can do the job… I’ll also hire you for your experience and expertise. If you have suggestions on better ways to do a project… tell me. I may reject your advice, but I’ll value your opinion.
- Don’t disappear… when I finally become a client. If you want to continue doing business with me, continue to “love on me” – be visible, be available, surprise me occasionally and most of all, stay in touch with me.
- And finally, thank me. I just spent $30 – $50 – $100,000 with you. I think that deserves some kind of genuine appreciation… especially if that’s my first project with you. And stop it already with the emails… write a personalized note, pick up the phone and call me… or have your firm’s owner reach out to me and express his/her gratitude. And I’m not opposed to you showing up unannounced with bagels & coffee or sending me a little gift basket at Christmas time. Bottom line: every once-in-a-while, take the time to say to me, “Thank you for your business.”
Selling is hard. And as much as people think they don’t need sales reps anymore (in today’s’ technology-driven world), they are still a critical part of the buying-selling process. But today’s buyers are also smarter, have more choices and are less tolerant of bad selling. Follow the above guidelines to build relationships with sales prospects and clients and position yourself as a valuable resource. Do that… and new revenue will follow.
How about you? Have you come across any really BAD sales reps in our industry (or any other for that matter). We’d love to hear about it… please share your story below.