Why do Customers Lie?

After several conversations, presenting an online tour or two, submitting a sales proposal or contract, and setting up a free trial, you’re now confident that your prospect is ready to become a buyer.

But days, weeks and months go by, and all you are hearing are lame excuses, or worse, crickets.

No returned phone calls. No responses from your repeatedly sent emails. Your voicemails are getting deleted.

Then it dawns on you –

Your prospect lied to you.

I’m sure you have heard the old saying “All buyers are liars.”

Well, that’s not always true. Of course.

But enough customers do lie.

Why?

Several reasons –

First, your potential buyer was never a decision maker. Yes, we have all heard that you need to vet a prospect to ensure they are indeed a decision maker. If you are afraid to ask a potential buyer directly, you can always ask “Can you please explain to me your purchasing process?” or, “How does your company make purchasing decisions?”

And there’s always research. Check LinkedIn. Is the potential buyer a CEO or a summer intern? You see my point.

But no matter how well you think you determined who the key decision maker is, something always falls through the cracks. Maybe the key decision maker was demoted and he’s too embarrassed to tell you. Maybe there is more than one key decision maker, but your prospect is afraid to inform you.

Regardless, you wasted time speaking to the wrong person and got your hopes up high for nothing.

Second, your potential buyer can’t pay for your service or product. It happens. You’re told the budget is there. You think the budget is there. But then, when it comes time for the close, the budget isn’t there. Ouch. Maybe the potential buyer was interested in the beginning, but when he discovered he didn’t have the money, he was too ashamed to tell you.

Third, your potential buyer was never a serious customer. Sure, he gave you all the right signals and said all the right buzzwords. But in the end, he was just window shopping. Or, worst he was comparing your service and product with a competitor that he was more interested in. It’s like going to your local Best Buy to check out electronics, and then going on Amazon to buy the same electronics at a lower price.

Unfair? Of course. But it happens in sales all the time. Yes, I know the price isn’t everything, and you should focus on the value you are offering your prospect. Unfortunately, not all prospects read the same sales books you’re reading.

And finally, your potential buyer is too busy. Despite what you may think, you’re not the only vendor in town contacting your prospect. Depending on the industry you’re in, prospects are constantly being bombarded with sales calls. Or, maybe your potential buyer was interested when you spoke to him, but he got pulled away with more pressuring demands. It happens.

Like it or not, customers lie all the time. The key is not to take it personally. Move on. You can always circle back later.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Why are Start-ups Afraid to Publish their Phone Numbers?

One of the biggest challenges for salespeople is trying to contact start-ups. Why? Because many start-ups don’t publish their company phone numbers – if they have them at all.

But even those who do have phone numbers, they are very reluctant to put them on their websites.

There are two significant reasons for this

First, they don’t have the resources or time to answer the phone. Yes, most start-ups are bootstrapping it, and the idea of devoting precious human resources answering phones bothers them. And for a good reason – they are busy developing and fine-tuning their product or service offerings, and they don’t want to be disturbed by what they consider to be pesky salespeople.

And second, they think using phones is so passé in the internet age. Their attitude is that sending emails, using text messages or online chats are better than using the phone. After all, why deal with bothersome customers or prospects when responding to an email or chat will do. With email or chats, the thinking goes, you can keep track of correspondence.

But by not publishing phone numbers, start-ups are only hurting themselves by cutting their profits.

Here’s why –

First, credibility. When you are starting out with little or no name recognition, your biggest selling point is credibility. Without publishing your phone number on your site, many potential customers may be afraid or uncomfortable contacting you. And you may end up turning away potential customers who wouldn’t even call you but feel that you too shady to deal with if your phone number isn’t on your site. In an age when cybersecurity awareness is at an all-time high, credibility can make or break your business.

Second, knowledge. Having a phone and making it easier for customers and potential clients to contact you early will give you a better idea of the viability of your product or service before you hit the market big time. Many start-ups began their business with one idea, but then slowly decided to move to a new direction based on ideas and suggestions from clients.

Third, support. Not everyone feels comfortable or has the time to send emails, texts or use online chats. Sometimes people like doing things the old fashion way by making phone calls. They like the assurance there is a real live person on the other line who cares and hopefully will help them.

And finally, intelligence. Good salespeople don’t spam and ham their way into a start-up. Most take the time to do their research to determine if a start-up would be a good fit for their products and services. A good salesperson realizes that he’s not just selling you a product or service – but developing what hopefully will be an excellent long-term relationship with repeat sales and referrals. To completely block all salespeople out because of a few jerks is a bad idea. Publish your phone number. Take some time and risk to listen to what salespeople have to offer. You may be surprised by what they have to say.

In summary, yes, you will always receive cold calls from salespeople like me. That’s a given. But you can still screen your inbound calls from people you don’t want to speak to over the phone. By not publishing your phone number, you lose more than you will gain by not being more readily available to your clients, potential buyers, and salespeople who could help you.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to handle Post-Trade Show Trauma

You had a successful time at a trade show. You were able to attract a lot of attendees to your booth or tabletop display. You gathered several good leads. You had great conversations. Promises were made.

Then, a few weeks later, crickets.

Your phone calls and emails are not being returned.

And if you do reach a prospect, you are getting the brush off, or the famous “do I know you” attitude.

What happened?

You just experienced post-trade show trauma.

What is post-trade show trauma? It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that all the time and money you invested in attending a trade show went right down the drain.

Here’s the problem with attending trade shows as a vendor – you and attendees get blinded by too much enthusiasm. After all, trade shows are high energy events. Lots of drinking. Lots of talking. Lots of partying. Lots of sharing war stories. Lots of exchanging business cards. Lots of doing sales pitches and presentations. Lots of back-slapping.

But when you return home, reality begins to set in.

Your prospects begin to develop cold feet about speaking with you.

Why?

Several reasons.

First, they don’t have the budget to make purchasing decisions. Sure, they may have told you that they are expecting a large grant or major bucks from an angel investor, but the money hasn’t shown up yet. At least, not right now.

Second, they are not the decision maker as they promised you. Now, they are too ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, so they duck your calls. He said he was a sales manager? Really!?! Then why does his LinkedIn profile say he’s a summer intern whose daddy paid his way to attend his first grown-up trade show. Oops, you didn’t see that coming, didn’t you?

Third, maybe they are the decision maker, but they can’t make a…..decision because they are too overwhelmed with pressing or urgent projects. When crises hit, it’s the decision maker to the rescue. As for you, you’re lucky if you end up on the proverbial back burner before he returns your phone calls.

Whatever the reason, you need to remain calm.

When you sell, especially enterprise products and services, you must be prepared to play the long game. You’re not the only vendor in town vying for the attention and business of your prospect.

Sure, you may have had a great conversation with your prospect at your booth, but a few booths down from you, that same prospect may have had a better discussion with your competitor.

Now, you’re screwed.

Or, maybe not.

Be patient. Keep your pipeline full. Set the right priorities.

Eventually, the post-trade show trauma will disappear once the orders start coming in.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Avoid the Inbound Sales Lead Trap

Inbound Sales Lead TrapIt’s always nice to receive inbound leads, especially if you are spending most of your time prospecting for new business.

Inbound leads come in many forms.

For example, someone visits your website and completes a short form to request a download of a report, e-book or some other content.

Or, maybe someone is doing research and requested a salesperson contact them to gather more information.

Or, your marketing department did an email blast promoting a new report, survey or upcoming webinar, and suddenly, your inbox is flooding with leads.

But are inbound leads worth it?

Think about it for a minute. Who is more likely to become an inbound lead? Is it a key decision maker juggling a hectic schedule, or a low-level employee surfing the web?

In most cases, it’s the latter.

You see if you are indeed a key decision maker you are probably not going to spend time researching websites or responding to email marketing. Why? Because you are too busy… making decisions.

So, you have an intern, a secretary or a junior employee do your research for you. As a result, before you get too excited about an inbound lead, take the time to find out who you are speaking to before calling that person. Are you contacting an intern or a CEO?

(I know a sales department that spent nearly 15 years contacting the same inbound lead before realizing the person wasn’t serious. The guy just liked talking to salespeople).

LinkedIn, of course, is your best choice for research. A company’s website may also help you.

Inbound sales lead trapInbound leads can also help you uncover customers that you didn’t know existed or you would think would not be good candidates. Depending on your industry or the size of your market, it’s usually challenging to discover on your own all the potential customers you need to contact. Thus, email blasts and good marketing content on your website are like fishing lines dangling from a boat with juicy bait waiting for a catch.

What you don’t want to do is fall into the trap of thinking that every inbound lead you receive will be the crucial decision maker. In 99% of the time, that will not be the case. Instead, view the incoming lead as someone who can open doors for you. Hopefully, that person will be your advocate and shepherd you through the bureaucratic maze of reaching people who will assist you in closing the sale.

Receiving inbound leads is nice. But too much of a good thing could turn into a bad outcome if you are not careful with your time. Don’t be ensnared in doing a lot of busy work contacting the wrong people or developing false hopes of sales that will never close. Instead, view inbound leads for what they are – a way to get your foot into the door for more substantial opportunities, or to unearth hidden gems.

Traps are for animals, not salespeople.

NoteIf you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

What Salespeople can learn from Local Political Candidates

campaign signs at polling areaFor many jurisdictions, it’s primary season. If you’re like me, you have been getting your daily dose of recorded phone calls from local candidates. Your mailbox is probably stuffed with campaign literature. And if you’re like me, you just recently voted early and dealt with a gauntlet of campaign workers or even candidates asking for your vote or trying to hand you campaign literature right before entering your polling area. And if you can’t find your local polling area, don’t worry. There is probably a sea of campaign signs blocks away from the polling area that will lead you to where you need to vote.

What can salespeople learn from local political candidates?

1). Most people have already decided on who to vote for by the time they enter a polling area –

If you are a candidate or campaign worker trying to persuade a voter as he’s walking to the polling area, you’re too late. I would argue that most people, especially those who vote early, have already done their homework and know who they are going to vote for before arriving at a polling place.

That’s the same for most customers. If someone is calling you about your product or service, chances are, they have already done their homework and are already leaning towards making a purchasing decision. Sure, they may be contacting your competitors, or just shopping around, but in most cases, they are ready to buy. The only question for you is – will they buy from you or someone else? That’s when you need to ask open-ended questions and qualify prospects to ensure they are going to be a good fit for your product and service.

2). Campaign literature doesn’t work unless you are unique –

Almost all the campaign literature I received offer the same promises from candidates. Examples include improving schools and reducing crime. All noble goals. But are any of the candidates offering anything unique? Are they distinguishing themselves from the rest of the crowd?

The answer – NO.

And that’s the problem that many salespeople face. The “we can do the same thing or better than our competitors” mantra isn’t going to cut it anymore. In an age where we are inundated with social media, advertisements, commercials and other distractions, you must grab prospects by the collar and clearly and distinctly show them how you are different from the rest of your competitors.

What are you offering of value that will persuade a prospect to become your customer?

Is it lower pricing?

Is it a better product or service?

Is it more reliable shipping?

Is it better customer service?

woman voting3). Developing a strong base of supporters helps before Election Day –

As a political candidate, you must lay the groundwork early long before Election Day. That means you need to be a community activist. Examples include attending PTA meetings or joining groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. You could also join a local citizens committee sponsored by your city and becoming a regular attendee at local council meetings. Being a chief advocate for an issue like better walkways for pedestrians in busy traffic areas, or higher pay for teachers helps too.

The same is true for salespeople. You need to incorporate yourself in the industry you are serving. It’s not enough to sell products and services to vendors in an industry. You need to network, i.e., join LinkedIn groups, attend conferences and trade shows, and be active on social media. In short, you must give a damn about your customers so they, in turn, will support you with their orders and referrals.

It’s tough being a political candidate, especially during the primaries when most people don’t vote. Since most primaries are held in the late Spring or early Summer, people are too busy celebrating graduations, preparing for summer vacations and doing yard work to follow politics closely. So, it takes a lot of work and commitment to encourage people not only to go to the polls but to vote for you.

As salespeople, we face similar challenges. Our prospects are busy with work and personal commitments. Their attention spans are getting shorter. It’s not enough to bombard prospects with emails, direct marketing, and advertisements. You need to draw a clear distinction between yourself and your competitors. You need to offer real value. You need to embrace the industry you are serving.

In summary, you need to be shrewder than most local political candidates who think that recorded phone messages, “me to” campaign literature, and last-minute pitches at the polls are going to get them votes.

Work hard, yes. But also work smarter than local politicians if you want to get ahead.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

 

In Sales, Promises vs. Reality

promises not being keptYou’re starting your new sales job. Promises were made. But soon, you discover that you have been lied to by upper management.

Maybe you didn’t get the sales territories you were promised.

Maybe you didn’t receive the compensation package that you were expecting.

Whatever the reason – do you stay, or do you go?

It depends on your situation.

My advice – stick it out for a while and see what happens. For example, there may be a change in management that could work to your advantage. Or another salesperson may leave, and you could inherit some of his large leads or accounts. Or, the compensation package may change. Or, one of your primary competitors could go belly up, and you and others on your sales team could receive more business.

Success in sales, like any profession, is due in part to hard work and smarts…but sometimes it’s mainly due to luck.

As we all know, sometimes it’s being at the right place at the right time when the stars (and dollar signs) are aligned that really matters.

For example, I knew a woman who became a sales manager and earned a lot of money because the entire sales team left. Fed up with what they considered to be the owners’ eccentric decisions and mismanagement, the whole team all walked out the door – expect her. She stuck it out.

success or failureEventually, the owner realized he was over his head, and hired a business manager to run the day-to-day operations. He also hired a team of top-notch employees to help run and manage the production and shipping departments.

With the business finally growing, the owner didn’t forget that woman who stayed with him during the hard times. As I mentioned above, she not only became the sales manager but also collected about 80% of all the significant accounts and was financially successful for several years – until the owner sold his business to a competitor.  As a result, the entire sales team was sold down the river. A year later, everyone was laid off. (But that’s a different story).

Of course, it’s always a good idea to do your homework before you accept a job offer. Yes, you can read reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed. But there have been numerous times when employers will “urge” their employees to write positive reviews to order to attract gullible employees.

Can you trust your gut? Not always.

One of my friends was working as a consultant for a tech start-up. The owner offered him a full-time job with benefits. With a family to support, he accepted the job offer. After all, he had been working as a consultant for a while, and he thought he knew the business. Or, so he thought.

It turned out to be the worst decision he ever made. But he stuck it out for about six months and decided he was happier being a consultant again.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

Promises don’t always turn into reality.

But if you stick it out, sometimes those promises may come true.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career