The other day my office phone rang and I didn't recognize the number. I decided to pick up ... and no surprise ... It was a seller fishing for new business. Joe was brimming with enthusiasm at the prospect of having landed a live one.
His opening hook: "Hi, Jill. I'm sure like most business owners you're always looking for new ways to save money."
Hard to disagree. Although I was immediately wary.
"Okay I'll bite ... sure ... saving money is good. So what are you selling me this morning?
It turns out his company has a credit card that delivers unparalleled cost savings to smaller businesses. He continued on about the importance of saving money until I had to interrupt.
"You know, Joe, I really don't want another credit card."
"Don't you want to save money?"
There it is ... the inevitable "idiot" question. Only Bill Gates or a total moron might say "no" to this.
"Yes, I get that Joe. I just don't want another credit card. I already have two. So I'm good."
His toughest competitor, the status quo, had now entered the conversation.
"Yes but do your current cards save you money?"
And there it ... is the "yeah but" response guaranteed to irritate any buyer with an IQ over 60.
"Yes they do ... I travel a lot, and they rack up points so I actually save on flights and holidays."
"Well you may be interested to know how our card will save you money directly to your business..."
I could imagine the little voice in Joe's brain, his manager prompting him to follow the script, "If she says this ... you say that ..." But he'd followed the script. It wasn't working. I sensed Jo deflating at the other end of the line.
So I brought the call to a merciful close.
"Look, Joe, I'm not sure you're hearing me ... I really don't want another credit card and no promise of savings is going to change my mind. So thanks. I appreciate your call, and I'm now going to hangu up."
Disappointing for Joe ... but save your sympathy for someone else. He made the big mistake of "shoulding" all over a prospective customer. He entered this conversation with the mindset that I "should" want to save money and that any means to achieving this "should" be attractive to me. He figured if he shovelled on a whole bunch of dollar-saving features I "should" be begging for the contract. Wrong!
Joe is not alone. Sellers are piling the "should" on their prospects and clients daily. Let me share a couple of examples from actual conversations with real sales people.
"Customers should see the value in our premium service."
Uh no ... if I fail to see the value in your premium priced offering that suggests one of two things ... It's either not a priority to me, or you failed to position that tremendous service in context of what is important to me now. In other words you "should" do a better job of positioning your value in context of me.
"Customers should understand that a seasoned team will do a far better job than a start up."
And whose perspective are you coming from? Perhaps this customer believes the new hungry kids on the block will work harder or be more innovative in their approach.
"They should be willing to pay more for our creativity."
Says who? You or me? I like creativity, I expect it, and I want it in my solution ... but I may not be prepared to pay a premium for it.
"They should give us more time to ask questions if they want a great proposal from us."
Or maybe you "should" do a better job of providing me a valid reason to spend valuable time answering YOUR questions. Or more importantly perhaps you "should" ask better questions ... questions that serve me and not just you.
You get where I'm going ... as professional sellers we have to get out of our own heads, stop deciding what our clients "should" do, how they "should" think or what they "should" deem important. Because the "should" mindset simply digs you into a hole from which it is almost impossible to climb out.
After I hung up and reflected on my call with Joe, I wondered why I was so adamant that I wanted to stick with the staus quo. And what could Joe have done to turn the call around?
The problem for me was ... Joe was so tied to his perspective of what the customer should do that he put me on the defensive. Had Joe recognized this he might have salvaged the call. If he had put himself in my shoes for a moment and said, "Jill, it sounds like the last thing you want right now is another credit card. So I'll chalk this up as a 'no thanks.' And before I go ... I'd appreciate your input as it will help me understand my market better ... may I ask why you feel so strongly about this?
An empathetic approach that demonstrated he had heard me and that he was seeking my opinion (not my cheque book) would have kept me on the line ... long enough for him to get his answer, to reengage the conversation, and maybe just long enough for me to talk myself into considering a third credit card.
So two questions that beg brutally honest answers:
1. Are you "shoulding" over some of your best clients and prospects?
2. And when do you plan to stop?
Editor's NoteDo you need to engage rather than disengage for your next potential BIG client? Do you feel your sales approach may have become stale? If so, as big fans we at EE recommend you reach out to Jill.
JILL HARRINGTON, sales expert, speaker, trainer and president of salesSHIFT, has contributed to the success of thousands of B2B sales professionals around the world. She provides the uncommon selling sense that will shift the way you think and maximize your influence, impact and income. www.salesshift.ca. Jill may be reached directly at jill@salesSHIFT.ca.