I have been troubled recently observing sales reps taking a subservient and overly respectful posture when engaging prospects and customers. A few reps in particular sounded completely overmatched in conversations on the phone. And I have seen the same occur during face to face meetings as well.
Three weeks back I tweeted something provocative about it and made a pretty direct statement that included telling salespeople to stop thanking prospects for their time. Paul Castain, who has a fantastic blog (and is on my list of GoTo Sales Gurus), replied with a great point about manners, and we had a good exchange via twitter. And I have no argument with Paul. Manners and respect are important in any relationship, particularly with someone new we are looking to impress or influence.
My larger point is that how we view and present ourselves has a tremendous impact on our success developing new business. I partially covered this topic in my recent post on sales mindset and why we should want to call our prospects.
Too many sales reps see themselves as very low on the totem pole while viewing the buyer as seated on a throne. The way these reps thank prospects for their time sounds like they’re bowing down before royalty and happy just to have an audience with the king. The salesperson does this in attempt to demonstrate respect, but when overdone or contrived sounding, it comes off as pathetic. And worse, it positions the sales rep as subservient to the almighty prospect.
The result of this behavior is devastating. How can you expect the potential customer to see you as a professional problem-solver and value-creator when you sound intimidated or overly thankful?
Especially on the phone, the most successful reps are conversational, comfortable and even a bit casual. I constantly encourage salespeople to speak with prospects as if they are peers, like you are talking to a friend. You are an important business person calling on another business person. You are only calling because it is likely they have a problem you can solve or a need you can fill. So act like it.
It is no fun and not helpful seeing yourself as a low-level person pursuing someone much more important and powerful than you. That mindset will kill you. It produces the wrong attitude, the wrong voice tone, the wrong word choices and the wrong outcome! And it is no fun. As Alan Weiss loves to tell his clients, “Stop it! Just stop it.”