EIGHTEEN things to avoid when making sales calls
Oct 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Ted Tate
When I was young and just starting a sales career, my sales manager offeredsome final instructions before I went out into the field for the firsttime, and they are still clear in my mind.
"Any last thoughts on what you want me to do?" I eagerly asked.
"No, but maybe I'd better tell what you never do if you want to stayemployed as a salesperson," he responded.
He proceeded to give me a list of 15 different things to avoid doing at allcosts, to which I have added three things of my own.
His advice1. Never lie, pretend or even exaggerate, no matter how badly you want tomake a sale. Your customers will discover the truth at some point, and youwill wind up losing much more in the long run than you could hope to gainin the short term.
2. Never knock the competition. In fact do not even mention them in thefirst place. Simply refer to them as "the others." In the same breath,bring up a reason as to why we are a superior choice. If you do not knowseveral such reasons already, then you are not ready to be making calls.
3. Never make sales presentations until you are certain that you arestanding in front of the decision maker.
4. Never even consider making a sales presentation until you havedetermined a valid client need for the product you are selling.
5. Never make sales presentations until you know whether or not yourproduct or service fits the prospect's needs, the money they are willing tospend, and when they will most likely commit to the actual sale.
6. Never leave a prospect without knowing the next step.
7. Never leave a prospect without asking for the order at least five times.
8. Never cite product or service features without stating how each willbenefit the prospect directly. Try to just talk about benefits wheneverpossible.
9. Never quote any price, estimates or ballpark figures for any reasonuntil you have given at least half of your presentation, and you haveoffered plenty of good reasons as to why you have such a great product orservice.
10. Never be late for appointments.
11. Never socialize on sales calls. You are not there to win theirfriendship, just their respect.
12. Never smoke or chew gum on sales calls, even if the prospect does.
13. Never make a sales call without a written plan that includes yourexpectations of what you expect from the call. If you write it out inadvance, you will be amazed at how it helps your thinking process in frontof a prospect.
14. Never tell any kind of ethnic, racial or dirty joke for any reason.Under no circumstances do they belong on any sales call.
15. Never talk any kind of politics or touch upon matters pertaining topersonal beliefs. People generally do not care about yours, and theycertainly do not want anyone to discourage theirs. Like the jokes, theysimply do not belong in any sales presentation.
Some additionsI received that advice many years ago, and I believe it just as importantto a salesperson's success today as it was then. I would now like to addjust a few more of my own. When I started out as a salesman, there were notvery many women in sales and even fewer in executive positions. Today,women make up a large and important part of the business world. In light ofthis, here are some additional things to avoid during sales calls:
16. Never use uninvited nicknames or terms of endearment. If I hear onemore woman in an office called "honey," I think I will scream. Just becauseyou might not hear an immediate expression of discomfort, it does not meanthat the comment is either appreciated or even accepted.
17. Never make affectionate body contact or gestures. Men do not have atendency to grab, squeeze, hug or pat other men on the fanny in an officewhen something positive happens (at least not in any of the offices where Ihave worked), but stick a woman into the group and some men become allhands. Worse yet, when the inappropriate nature of their behavior is calledto their attention, some become indignant and try to hide behind the shieldof innocent and good-natured fun.
18. Never, in business situations, pay women compliments that insinuatethey look sexy. Save that for personal relationships on your own time.
The world of business is changing rapidly and to succeed, salespeople mustchange with it. On one end, showing professionalism will mean that you havedone your part to foster an environment in which business may be conducted.Promoting discomfort, as some of the aforementioned behaviors would do,does not lie on the sure path to sales success. On the other end, failureto avoid some of the previous behaviors will make you seem unprofessional,and if a prospect gets the notion that you do not respect him enough toprepare yourself adequately, then you have another strike against you. Whatmost of these points boil down to was summed up in the famous song thatgoes, in part, "...just a little respect." When you are respectful ofothers, they will almost always be respectful of you.
Good luck and good selling!