I’ve long said: Sales makes the wheels of commerce spin. Whether you’re a solopreneur or leading a multinational team, the ability to sell keeps your business moving. As we enter (what seems to be) a period of economic uncertainty, organizational leaders and salespeople become anxious about keeping revenue flowing. This can prompt poor sales behavior that actually erodes business.
In times of fear, our best intentions often fall by the wayside. Intellectually, we know that successful relationships are built by listening, focusing on the customer, and adding value. Yet, when we’re behind on our number, it can be difficult to tamper that grabby please buy from me energy.
Here are five sales behaviors that will sabotage your growth:
Spray and pray. A salesperson sprays their pitch out there (talking endlessly about themselves to anyone who will answer an email) and prays that something sticks. If you’ve ever gotten a cold call (or email) about a product or service completely irrelevant to you, you’ve been the victim of the spray and pray. In the moment, it’s annoying and usually won’t get a response. Over time, it weakens the reputation of an organization.
No pre-call planning. This tends to go hand-in-hand with the spray and pray. A lack of pre-call planning is obvious when a salesperson shows up and their first question is “tell me about your business.” As a business owner with a robust website and digital history, this question irks me like no other. When you’re busy, pre-call planning can fall by the wayside. It’s not always obvious at first, because most people are polite at the moment, but it does impair the close rate later.
Selling to tricky comp plans. Incentivizing a sales team to sell a certain product or solution isn’t uncommon nor is it inherently bad. The challenge comes when the incentive overrides the emphasis on deep client discovery and the intent to sell people things that actually improve their life or business. When the spiff is all that matters, client relationships will inevitably lose trust. This short-term tactic in a time of fear will almost always comes back to bite you. Just ask Wells Fargo.
Side-by-sides. I once watched a very eager (and well-intended) rep whip out a side-by-side comparison of how his solution compared to their top 3 competitors. The customer looked back at him and said, “I didn’t even know other organizations offered this.” Selling against someone else is rarely effective in the most prosperous of economic conditions, and in a time of fear, it becomes a recipe for being commoditized.
Faking it. There are countless online courses about how to have compelling body language, the right tone, and an engaged facial expression when you’re in front of a customer. But the reality is, us humans are pretty terrible at faking it. Our true intent leaks out in all kinds of subconscious ways; customers can feel it. The more effective (and humane) approach is to actually feel interested, like you want to help the customer. So instead of thinking about your eyebrows, you can be paying attention to what they’re saying. Instead of trying to master your tone, you can be thinking about what’s best for them. Not only is this more authentic, it’s also more effective.
Being mindful of these early indicators enables you, and your team, to be preemptive in your behavior. When you spot 1 (or more) of the behaviors above, take it as a wake-up call.
Research tells us that purpose-driven organizations outperform their transactional competitors. They’re not immune to economic conditions, but are more resilient and prosperous in the long run.