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Beware of the bad sales advice you see online
Art Sobczak
Art Sobczak

I was doing some research for a client training program and got a bit side-tracked when Googling.  (Who doesn’t?) I did a couple of searches for “prospecting tips” and “telephone sales tips.”

I shouldn’t be surprised and saddened at what I find, but it still bugs me that there is so much bad advice out there. Which results in, I’m sure, people who actually try to use these things and get their teeth kicked in, suffering “rejection,” contributing to the negative image of salespeople.

I could fill an entire year’s worth of newsletters with what I read. Here are just a few pieces of bad advice, and my suggestions.

Yes, you DO need “scripts”

Several posts stated adamantly that you should not work from a script. You want to sound natural, not “canned.” I agree with the last sentence. And the best way to sound natural is knowing exactly what you will say, so you can say it confidently and naturally, and get the desired result. That’s what a script does, when it is written well, practiced and delivered in the right way. Just like an actor uses a script.

I’ve done many exercises in training sessions where I call on a sales rep and say, “Quick, give me your value statement.” If they have not scripted out and prepared variations of them, and used them, of course they bumble and stumble their way through it when they try to wing it.

We of course can’t script out our entire call, but we can script and prepare openings, voice mail messages, questions, value/result descriptions, closes, responses to resistance and answers to tough questions. All of the best salespeople do.  Are you satisfied with yours?

It is not about you

Here’s a suggestion straight from a “cold calling template.” In the opening it says to start with something like,

“Hi, my name is ___. I’m calling some startups in the area to find out if they are a good fit for our product/service.”

Think about the logical reaction to that. I have received that call, and mine is, “I don’t care what you want. I care about what I want.” I feel sorry for the people who try using this template and get shot down over and over. In our openings we need to hint at what we might be able to do for them, and mention it quickly. Does yours do that?

Don’t ask for the meeting in the opening

One article from a major magazine suggests using the alternate choice close for asking for a meeting in the opening. Please. No.

Sure, your objective might be to set up the meeting, but do not mention it in the opening. They don’t even see a reason to stay on the phone with you yet. And using the old, “...would Tuesday or Wednesday be better?” simply screams out that the caller is inexperienced and just read an old sales book.

“Say you’ll be in the area.”

One article suggests that mentioning you’ll be in their area is a good reason to call and set an appointment. Really? There are tens of thousands of people in my immediate area and I don’t have a reason to meet with them. Unless of course they have something I want. Or can help me avoid something I don’t want.

Pretty simple: You must have a valid, results- oriented reason they might have some interest in.  

Do you have yours defined in a crystal-clear way?

It is NOT a numbers game

Here’s a direct quote I pulled from an article:

“Sales is a numbers game pure and simple. As a professional baseball player, if you can average four hits out of ten times at bat, you are heading for the Hall of Fame. Research indicates that in sales you can expect your prospect to say NO five times before he or she buys. With this in mind, realize that with every sales rejection you receive, you are one step closer to making the sale!”

I get exasperated when I hear and read stuff like this. There are several fallacies here. First, activity for the sake of activity does not directly correlate to success. A single golfer joined our group the other day. He was horrible. Several times he said, “Well, if I would just get a chance to play more I’d be better.”

No he wouldn’t. He had an awkward flailing swing that gave him no chance of making solid contact or resulting in straight direction. More activity will just ingrain the bad habits.

We must be putting in QUALITY activity. With that said, you DO need to be picking up the phone to have a chance of success.  A high level of quality phone activity is not an oxymoron. (Feel free to tweet that out. @ArtSobczak.)

And what is this “research” about someone saying NO five times before buying? That’s nonsensical and demoralizing. When I buy something I usually don’t say NO at all. And if I have to say NO to someone more than once, there won’t be a third or fourth time... the discussion will have ended. With that said, of course there are many instances where there is initial resistance—especially at the beginning of prospecting calls--and we certainly don’t want to give up.

In fact, resistance is a huge part of sales. But, the better outlook, instead of expecting five “no’s” is to first know how to prevent them and not cause them. And, we must understand the difference between resistance, hesitation and real concerns and roadblocks, and then the process for addressing them. It’s done with questions, not “rebuttals.”

Finally, you are not one step closer to making the sale with each rejection you receive. You know the old saying about the definition of insanity, right? It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

To get one step closer to a sale after not succeeding, we need to examine why we are not succeeding, and adjust our process, continually striving to get better to get the result we want.

There is more sales information instantly available to us than at any point in history. And it's being added to constantly, even as you read this. But, a lot of it is bad.

Be relentless in your learning and searching for ideas, for sure. However, if it sounds hokey, you should question it and not accept it as gospel.

Art Sobczak helps sales pros prospect, sell and service accounts more effectively by using conversationally, non-sales messaging, and without “rejection.” Get a free ebook of 501 telephone sales tips at Email editorial to contact Art.