While preparing some new sales courses recently, I spent several hours trawling the internet to find out what the most common complaints about salespeople and the experience of being sold to are. I spent time on general sales blogs, consumer group sites and industry sites for businesses that rely heavily on direct sales operations (financial services, household improvements, advertising, enterprise, software etc). Not surprisingly, lots of people have lots of opinions about the things that salespeople do wrong. The big list is very long and varied, however there are a number of themes that emerge and after some “chunking” and de-duplicating, here are the most common complaints that we have found reported about salespeople.
This is the practice of acting as if there is already some connection between the salesperson and the customer. It can happen in a number of ways;
Asking how people are and what kind of day they are having. On a superficial level this is polite, but in reality the customer knows you are just filling in time until you can pitch your product. If there is no relationship, don’t ask questions that suggest there is, it feels wrong for everyone. Obviously, once a relationship exists (a second call or a follow-up meeting) then it becomes more appropriate to make such enquiries.
Lack of Research
“Salespeople who haven’t bothered to find out at least the basic details about the company really are signalling that they don’t care about me at all, they only care about how much I might be worth to them”. This comment from a technology buyer says it all.
Misleading reasons for calling
This takes many forms. At it’s worst; people who call claiming tobe representing another organisation are starting the call with a lie. Examples;
The software company that claims to be calling on behalf of Microsoft or other major suppliers
White-goods insurance companies that claims to be calling on behalf of the manufacturer
The alarm company that claims to be calling on behalf of the Police or Local Council
In addition, some salespeople claim they have been asked to call by a customer’s colleague, or claim that they have had prior dealings with the customer’s company. If the first thing a salesperson does is seek to mislead the customer, it does not bode well for the rest of the call.
We all know the kind of thing – “Mr Jones, I am just calling to let you know about this limited offer, it must end on Sunday”.
“We have salespeople in your area next week and they are able to offer incredible discounts only this week”.
This is a scattergun approach. No effort is made to sell the value or to establish whether the product may actually be useful.
These kinds of lines may have worked in the 1960’s, but by now, everyone has heard them a million times.
Like the “closing down” offers from furniture stores that never close down, this approach treats the customers as though they are stupid. Not a great way to start a business relationship.
Sometimes, salespeople actually do have a pitch scrolling down on their computer (or stuck on a wall in front of them). Sometimes, the script is just a well rehearsed sales pitch from which the salesperson dare not deviate.
The problem is that most customers can spot a script a mile off and script says that you think so little of the customer that the salesperson will just say what they are paid to say, regardless of their level of interest.
This is the habit of talking too quickly and responding before the customer has finished talking, or racing into the pitch. It often occurs because the salesperson is nervous or under pressure to hit a target by a given deadline.
The problem is that the urgency is the salesperson’s issue, not the customer’s. Customers who feel rushed often raise more doubts and create delays to give themselves time to think. If the salesperson sounds too desperate, then the customer’s instinct is to back off.
In many ways, this is part of the problem all the above complaints have, but not listening tells the client that their views (and therefore their needs) are less important than the sales pitch.
Customers don’t feel listened to when;
They get asked a standard bunch of questions, regardless of the answers they give.
There is a disconnect between the issues they have raised and the issues addressed by the sales pitch.
The salesperson talks over them, or attempts to anticipate what they are going to say.
The salesperson fails to (naturally) mirror the pace and tone of the conversation.
Scare Tactics and Criticism
These are tactics often employed by salespeople, over emphasising the downside of not buying or implying (and sometimes stating directly) that the customer is failing to do their job properly by not purchasing the product offered.
What do all these complaints have in common?
They are all avoidable through the selection of capable salespeople, by training them effectively and by building a culture that puts the customer first.
They are often the result of salespeople being put under too much pressure to hit a number and too little focus on the long-term customer experience.
They all destroy “perceptions of value” in the long term.
As entrepreneurs and sales people we have a choice as to how we interact with customers we can either focus on the short term fear driven game or on the longer term value driven experience. The behaviour of your sales people will say an awful lot about your company make sure it is not the cause of common complaint.