I’m going to admit up front, that this is a bit of a rant. The beautiful thing about having a platform is that you can use it to share what peeves you in the hope that it provides a lesson to others. Or if it doesn’t, maybe it’ll provide some comic relief.
No matter what you do for a living, you are in sales. Everyone is selling. Always.
You’re selling an idea, a product, a persona, a brand, yourself. And it’s incredibly important to, if not understand how to do it well, then at least don’t do it so poorly that you embarrass yourself.
For the people who give sales a bad rap, I would argue that most of them are lazy. Sales is about the relationship and being lazy in relationships will fail you professionally.
I have a sweet spot in my heart for sales, which should come as no surprise as I’ve spent much of my career either in sales, sales enablement, or sales coaching. Because I have such high regard for sales as a profession, it really irks me when I see crappy, lazy, dumb sales pitches.
The three below hit me as especially lazy. Prepare to roll your eyes.
Personalize aka Do Your Damn Homework
I received a message through LinkedIn from a woman asking if I’d be interested in a podcast guest she represents. At first, I was thrilled. I LOVE new guests.
However, after reading past the introduction, it was clear that she was “selling” a dude who is a digital marketing and sales leader. She listed off all of his credentials and told me all about how he’d been on other platforms speaking about his expertise.
Come on! Don’t be that lazy. If you want to be a guest on the podcast, personalize your request to me.
I wanted to scream, “Have you ever listened to the introduction of our podcast?!?!” Because if he or she had, they’d know that I’m not going to be impressed with a woman sharing a man’s stats in lieu of a conversation.
And it’s a podcast for women, by women to empower women. There is literally nothing in your stats that makes me think you have any clue who our audience is or how you would tailor your expertise to empower women.
Shortly after, Julie got the identical request. Literally, word for word the same request.
Not only do I not want him as a guest, but I now think he has zero credibility in general. I would never recommend him to anyone who was looking for that expertise because both he and his PR person are obviously lazy and didn’t bother to do any research.
Humanize aka Don’t Be a Trash Human
This one didn’t happen to me but a truly amazing person that I’m connected to and follow on all the socials. We’ll call him Fred for funzies. It’s pretty clear that someone who has been reaching out to Fred needs to brush up on their “what not to dos.”
Two weeks in after a family death, you start getting messages that begin with “so sorry for your loss” and then immediately jump to sales pitch/favor-asking/strong-arming. That’s a new circle of hell I hadn’t expected.
Remember, you are always selling. You are always pitching your idea or need or idea when you’re communicating. And starting a message acknowledging loss and then moving into your pitch is seriously trash human level. Especially after a tragic loss.
Fred doesn’t deserve that.
I once had a salesperson show up to my office with flowers after hearing that my brother was in the hospital after a car accident. He just stopped by to show his support and to let me know he was there for me if I had any questions before signing a pending contract.
If you have to start your message with “I’m sorry for your loss” then you probably need to end your message with an offer of support and leave it at that.
The person you’re selling to very likely does not care about your quota or your timeline. They probably don’t care about your pending contract or your current pitch. They’re likely being a human who is trying to deal with complex emotions and surviving conflicting priorities long enough to cope until they stop feeling underwater.
Don’t be a trash human and wreck the reputations of the rest of us out here trying to be sales professionals.
Not sure what to do but want to retain your relationship with your target? Try letting them know that you’re sorry for their loss, that you are thinking of them, and ask if there’s anything you can do to support them.
Then in a week or so, swing back around and mention that you want to talk about (insert pitch/request/idea here) but that you want to make sure they’re in a good place to focus on it.
You might have to wait a little longer to close the deal but you never know, maybe they’ll want to push to move forward with things as usual. Either way, you look human and respectful.
Be Relevant aka Do The Bare Minimum
Recently, an example was shared with me of a video production company (we’ll call this company Original Media) that was pitched by another video production company (we’ll call this company Dazed Media). In the cold pitch email, Dazed offered to support Original with a list of services – the exact services that Original already offers to their customers.
Had Dazed bother to check out Original’s website or LinkedIn profile, they would’ve seen that they offered identical services and maybe even competitors. Dazed offered Original a list of services that Original already provides to customers.
- Could there have been specific items that Dazed does better or more efficiently than Original? Of course.
- Could there be one or two niche items that Dazed offered that Original could’ve benefitted from? Sure.
- Could Dazed have created a referral relationship with Original to handle overflow work when needed? Absolutely.
But we’ll never know because the pitch didn’t bother to do the bare minimum and research that these companies were nearly identical. Dazed didn’t point out the benefits that a similar company could have by working with them.
And now Dazed is a company being mocked on the internet (mainly by me).
Don’t be lazy when it comes to your professional relationships!
Everyone is selling. Always. And when you’re selling, you’re engaging in a conversation with another human. Ideally, you’re building a professional relationship with another professional. And people remember how you made them feel. If you left a poor impression, it’s worse than being forgettable.
Being forgettable doesn’t ruin your credibility and usually, it doesn’t get you mocked on the internet. If you can’t be a great sales professional – and it takes a lot of practice to be truly great – just don’t embarrass yourself. Be great to your relationships and the rest will likely fall in line.
(Steps off soapbox.)
Do you have any horrible sales stories? I’d love to hear them even though they will make me cranky.
Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash