Recently, I got really fed up with junk mail, so I now have a notice in my window requesting that I not have any more delivered through the door. The same goes for cold callers to whom I answer the door only to be greeted by a barrage of language thrown at me without so much as a question to verify my potential interest. But that’s a subject for another day…
Why do I hate junk mail so much? The clue’s in the name – it’s junk. I get up early, work hard all day and come home tired and hungry, looking forward to a pleasant evening with my wife, and I have become increasingly frustrated with having my precious evening eaten into by spending the first 10 minutes opening adverts from insurance companies, recycling pizza and curry menus (and yes, they all go straight in the recycling box), and my pet hate, having to get over the guilt trip I get every time I recycle one of those irritating catalogues which a neighbour delivers through the door once a month with a note pleading with me to give it back, not to leave it out in the rain, but that I should remember three weeks Thursday that they’ll be coming round at half past eleven to collect it. Then they don’t turn up. Yes, I’m afraid if you work for one of these companies, you’ll lose your catalogue if you put it through my door.
What’s the “benefit” in all this junk? Nothing at all. I love cooking, and I know the local restaurants which I like so I don’t need to hear about others which are most likely less good. The insurance companies which write to me promising to save me money are invariably more expensive than my renewal price each year, and on the off chance that I do decide to give one a try, that’s another 45 minutes of my life gone while I wait for someone to answer the phone, hear meaningless spiel to which I never listen, then sit for 10 minutes on hold because they can’t find my car on the system. It’s junk because it brings no additional value to me at all.
“Where’s the sales lesson in this,” I hear you mutter. “This guy just got out on the wrong side of bed this morning,” you bemoan. Well here’s the lesson: what’s junk to me is not necessarily junk to the people who send it. I’m sure they feel there’s tremendous value in sending me the latest menu for a Chinese takeaway 8 miles away. The problem is, they fail miserably to convey this sense of value to me as the receiver.
Every single contact you have with your prospects or customers absolutely must bring value to the receiver of the communication. Sure, many of us learnt that during cold calling training years ago. You remember – don’t talk about yourself, talk about your prospect; prospects like talking about themselves; don’t present your cure until you feel your prospect’s pain. Lots of salespeople forget these basic lessons. Frequently I’ll receive a knock at the door from someone who spends 3 or 4 minutes telling me how great his roof insulation is before he even gives me a chance to tell him I have some. Or perhaps I’ll get a call at work from some training salesperson telling me how great their training is and how it’ll make me lots of money. How do they know how much money it will make me when you haven’t even asked how I train my staff currently? These are basic sales lessons which people frequently forget.
But the harder one is the follow-up call. This is where junior salespeople in my team frequently come unstuck. You’ve done some great prospecting, found a need, given a solution and the prospect stalls you for some reason. Often I’ll listen to calls of junior team members which go something like:
- Seller: “Hello, it’s John from ABC company. How are you today?”
- Prospect: “I’m well thanks John.”
- Seller: “I wonder whether you’ve had a chance to review the proposal I sent over?”
- Prospect: “Sorry I haven’t yet – leave it with me for a couple of weeks…”
This sort of exchange is over almost before it started and gets repeated again and again and again, often to the same prospect each time. What’s the problem here? Who’s the benefit for? In the salesperson’s mind, the benefit in proceeding with the sale is probably shared: commission for the salesperson and a great product for the prospect. But where’s the benefit for the prospect in this call? You’re their telephone junk mail. They’ve wasted 2 minutes of their time just to be told to hurry up by some commission-chasing salesperson and they’ve received absolutely no benefit at all. You’re irritating, and they wish you’d go away.
The effect of this approach is that the prospect begins to resent you. They may even like the idea of your product, but go with another provider who doesn’t pester them so much.
The solution, is to always (always, always, always!) give the prospect some value when you pick up the phone. Leave them feeling that they’ve gained something out of the exchange, and they’ll see you as a business partner rather than a pestering salesperson. They’ll smile when they hear you on the phone, because they’ll expect something good from the conversation. The same goes for emails. It doesn’t really matter what value you bring, as long as it’s relevant. It could be a useful article which is relevant to their situation, it could be a verbal summary of what’s going on in their industry at the moment from your point of view. It could be a brief consultation on the phone about a problem they’ve got, or it could even be to ask the prospect’s advice on something, making them feel important.
It doesn’t matter what the value you bring is, but remember: every single contact with a prospect or current customer, should carry new value for the receiver. Otherwise you might just find they put a metaphorical notice in their window refusing junk mail. Ever wonder why you get through to so many voicemails, secretaries, receptionists? Caller-ID…
Written by Neil Shorney, divides his time between helping businesses to achieve their full potential through his company, Naturally Sales Ltd, edited by Megan Batchelor, image by Entressen kirjasto , vauvau and Evil Erin.