don't say it

When the time comes for sales reps’ to get their prospects on the phone, they have a lot to remember. What are their openers? What are their objectives? Do they know their prospects well enough? What was that new feature the product team released this morning?

Traffic can get busy in a sales rep head when a few phone rings are the only things standing between a sales rep and his or her prospect.

All those lessons we learn about how to make calls are important, but they’re hard to remember. We came up with a simple trick to help reps remember how to make effective sales calls:

Never allow these four four-letter words to come out of your mouth when you’re on the phone with a prospect.

Can’t: No word in the English language embodies a more defeatist attitude than this four-letter, single syllable word. A sales rep who can’t research his or her customers, who can’t listen to their problems, and who can’t be persuaded to care about relationships is a sales rep doomed to fail. Think about all the circumstances under which you’d say “can’t” on a sales call. Maybe you can’t answer a prospect’s question because you don’t know the answer. Maybe you can’t budge on pricing. Maybe you can’t extend a trial. Maybe you can’t sell a two-seat deal. These are all things that you legitimately cannot accomplish. But guess what a prospect does well you tell them you can’t sell a two seat deal? They say, “thank you, but we have no use for 5 seats, which is your minimum,” and then they hang up and disappear. If you say, “we don’t typically make exceptions for two seat deals, but I can offer you two months free if you pay for 5 seats up front, and we can work on finding another user in your organization in the meantime,” you have a much higher chance of continuing engagement. Maybe you can’t answer a prospect’s question. Who can? How can you find the answer? In almost every situation, elimination of the word, “can’t,” forces you to focus on “can,” which is an active move forward.

Won’t: A close relative to can’t, won’t will stagnate a sales conversation just as quickly as it’s cousin. Won’t, however, is almost worse; saying, “won’t,” implies that you know something can be done, you just don’t want to do it. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes: a sales rep won’t know when the new feature you asked for is going to be released; a sales rep won’t be able to offer a discount, a sales rep won’t be able to walk you through a new set of features unless you make a commitment. That type of sales rep angers prospects. Sales reps don’t usually flat out say, “I won’t do that.” It usually comes in the form of, “I won’t be able to,” or “I won’t know until.” When you hear yourself say those phrases, think about why. Why won’t you know? Why can’t you ask around until you do know? Why won’t you be able to? If you won’t be able to make time for a prospect, maybe you shouldn’t be talking to that prospect at all. Sales reps that say won’t a lot are also lousy employees. A sales rep who won’t put in the extra effort to research leads, who won’t buckle down and sell to warm leads, and who won’t employ new technologies is a sales rep who’s going to exert very little effort to win deals.

Cost: Cost/price is a tricky one – how do you tell customers the actual value of your product without evoking the dread every customer faces about parting with his or her money? Simple: instead of saying, “Product xxx costs $99/month,” you can say, “for $99/month, you get access to features X, Y, and Z.” You could also position cost as value. Rather than laying out a price, show the return on investment. For example, InsideView’s sales intelligence application saves customers time. In sales, if you can sell more in less time, you can close more deals with less reps. We’ve drawn out the math to prove how much money InsideView saves a sales organization over a set period of time. InsideView costs $99/month, but if you sell just as much with one less rep, you’re saving a lot more than $99/month. Talk to your prospects about investment value, not cost.

Sell: No one likes being sold to. A customer who walks away from a sales pitch with the feeling that they’ve been sold a product or service will usually come to regret that decision. Instead, customers should be made to feel that they are investing in a service or product. The end result might be the same – a net sale – but the approach is entirely different. By urging customers to invest in your product or service, you not only increase the perceived value of the offering, but also make them feel intelligent and wise for having made that decision. We all know we’re salespeople and customers, but in today’s interactive world, the buyer-seller relationship isn’t so black and white. We’re all building our networks with business relationships, and fewer sales are single transactions these days.

If you can remember NOT to say these words to a prospect, most of what you’ve learned about sales will follow. Don’t bother focusing on complicated sales call strategies; keep it simple so you can do what you were hired to do: sell your company’s products.