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Stop Thanking Prospects for Their Time

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by Mike on January 26, 2012

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.”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Terson January 26, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Terrific article, Mike–an important point well said. “Respect and manners” towards a prospect can be displayed without being subservient to the prospect, which is, to coin the cliche, the kiss of death. I think you’ll find one of my feature articles, “The Importance of Equality,” quite pertinent to the topic. A salesperson does not want to talk down to any prospect, nor does she want to be subservient to him; she always should strive to be his equal. Respect for the prospect is fine, but it’s equally important–vital really!–for the prospect to respect the salesperson, to see the salesperson as his equal. Ask yourself: Do you respect people who fawn all over you? Would you want to do business with someone who does that? I’ll take a guess: I think not.

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Mike January 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

Bob,
Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I could not agree more and look forward to reading the article you mention here. Mutual respect. Amen to that. Have a great weekend.
Looking forward to meeting you soon -
Mike

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Marc Zazeela January 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

Great thinking, Mike. We are there to serve but we are not subservient. We are there to help, but we are not their employees.

We are all equal and we do what we do because it is the right thing. We need them for their business and they need us for our expertise. Seems like an equal dynamic.

Cheers,
Marc

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Mike January 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

Great comments Marc. Thanks for sharing. I love your line: “We are there to serve but we are not subservient.” Perfectly stated!
Mike

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Ryan January 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Yes, but…!

We preach and practice a sales philosophy called “Active Empathy.” We are all empathetic creatures by nature, but when you take the extra step, it can be a shocking reality check.

Juxtapose yourself into the head of your prospect. How are they looking at you? How do you sound to them? There is no single approach; sales is an art AND a science. When you are taking an objective look at yourself in any given sales situation, that can determine whether or not “Thanks for your time” is a kowtow or a necessary sign-off.

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Mike January 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Hi Ryan,
Good to have you here. Welcome.

I am not sure I totally tracked with your first paragraph, but I do agree with you that every situation is different. And truthfully, I am not opposed to thanking someone for their time. It is how it is done that bothers me. And what is more concerning is that so many salespeople see themselves as beneath the prospect positionally. Part of how that plays out is they come off as intimidated or overly thankful for the buyer’s time. That is what I preaching against because it destroys the mutuality of the seller-buyer relationship.
Mike

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Phil Murphy January 27, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Actually it’s a great point, the heading of the article really caught my eye, original thinking. I’ve gone up a big level with who I’m selling to and I am definitely making this mistake. I’ll take action on Monday and will definitely be coming back here for more wisdom!

Thanks Mike

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Mike January 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hey Phil,
Great thoughts. Thanks for being transparent and sharing your thoughts. What you are experiencing is pretty common. We jump up to selling at a higher level and it then we feel less equal to the customer than we have been accustomed to feeling. It is all in your mind — how you see yourself and see your role. Focus on the issues you solve for clients and the value you deliver so you perceive yourself a problem-solver and value-creator. When we do that, we approach the prospect with a much healthier and less subservient mindset.
Glad you commented. Look forward to dialoguing more with you in the future.
Mike

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Eric T. Wagner February 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Great read Mike. Seemingly a fine line between overdoing thankfulness and being genuinely thankful. Perhaps one cause of crossing the line is nervousness or being intimidated by the other person? For example, how do you not act like a complete fool in the presence of Bill Gates or Donald Trump? Hard not to dribble drabble at times in moments like these… :-) Thanks Mike… Eric

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Alan Allard March 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

If I go into a prospects office truly feeling like a partner and on their level, I see no reason to thank them for their time. Why thank someone for doing what is in their best interest?

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