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Disastrous Prospecting Mistakes You May Be Making Unintentionally

No one I know wants to sound like a self-serving salesperson. So, as we prospect for new customers, we vow to never stoop as low as those product-pushing peddlers.

Instead, we decide to be paragons of professionalism. When we contact our prospects and get their voicemail instead, we'll leave a message like this one:

Hi Pat. This is Jane Kerry calling. I'm with Big Deal Strategies, a leading marketing firm in the Minneapolis area. We offer a wide range of services, including branding, collateral development, as well as packaging and web design - one-stop shopping for all your marketing needs.

I'd love to set up a time to find out about your needs and tell you a bit about how we might help your company. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience. My number is 123-456-7890. I look forward to meeting you. Have a great day!

As we hang up the phone, we pride ourselves on how gracious we were. Not one bit pushy either. In short, perfect.

Well, guess what! When your prospects hear that "nice" message, the first thing that pops into their head is, "Another self-serving salesperson!" Then they hit the Delete button as fast as they can. It happens with email too.

Or if you actually get a person on the phone, they'll brush you off right away by saying, "We're happy with our present vendor" or "We're not interested."

Why is this happening? It's simple. Your non-salesy message is "salesy." You may not think it is, but if you got dozens of near-identical, but very gracious messages each day from salespeople, you'd change your mind in a hurry.

In short, you have violated the #1 Paradoxical Sales Principle: To get more sales, stop selling.

When you talk about your own company, you're selling - even if you do it nicely. You really cross the line if you use verbiage like one-stop shopping, industry leader, user-friendly, scalable, best-in-class, robust, or innovative.

In fact, if you say even one nice word about your company, you're seen as a typical salesperson - despite all your best efforts to not be. So stop talking about yourself.

How about this for a fresh perspective: Focus on your customer instead. That's the antidote to "selling." In your next call on a prospect, think about how you can quickly:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of what's happening in their firm or industry.
  • Align your message with their issues, goals, objectives and concerns.
  • Bring them ideas, insights and information about highly relevant topics.
  • Sound like a colleague who's been thinking about their business challenges.

That's what it takes to capture your prospect's attention today. Your "nice" spiel doesn't work anymore. It just gets you d-e-l-e-t-e-d. 

Try this instead.

Pat. Jane Kerry calling. 123-456-7890. If you're like most marketers today, you're probably under a ton of pressure to increase your lead generation effectiveness. One of our recent clients was able to increase their sales pipeline by 31% at the same time they decreased their marketing spend. Let's set up a time to talk. Again, it's Jane Kerry and my number is 123-456-7890.

Or, you could say this.

Pat, Jane Kerry calling. In researching your company, I saw that one of your prime initiatives this year is to drive sales of your new products. We've worked with lots of other high tech companies on this same challenge. I have some ideas on how to shorten ramp up time for your new product introduction. I think you'll find them interesting. Let's see if we can get some time on the calendar in the next week. My number is 123-456-7890. (repeat).

See the difference. It's palpable. You're a business peer. A real professional. A person who brings substantial value. Someone worth meeting. A person who cannot be ignored!

** P.S. Want to learn more about the 7 Paradoxical Sales Principles? Get my one-page cheat sheet here:


Jill Konrath, sales strategist and bestselling author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling, is a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings, kick-off events and professional conferences.

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