I love to watch sales people in action because it teaches me about what works and what doesn't. And I run a sales organization that provides top notch sales outsourcing services and I am always learning.
This week was instructive because two different sellers attempted the "I'm not really selling you something technique". One was successful and one was embarrassing in his futility. The doorbell rings and I can see through the glass that there are two people on the front porch. Since we weren't expecting anyone, and no one in his right mind drops by our house for an unannounced visit (when you tell us you're coming we give the children a mild sedative), I knew that there were salespeople on the front porch.
Cool! I open the door and two nicely dressed folks are standing a respectful distance from the door. I stand in the doorway and say, "Hello." The gentleman introduces himself and his colleague but doesn't mention the name of the company they are representing. They are dressed in suits and the man who has taken the lead is carrying a small leather-bound portfolio.
Here's what he says, "We are letting folks know that we are going to be doing some work in the neighborhood just in case you see us around. Some of your neighbors have hired us to do some work on their homes and we're just letting you know that our trucks are going to be in the neighborhood. We don't want to get in your way or anything so we thought we should let you know." "Okay. Thanks for letting me know." "No problem. No problem?
We're just going to be in the neighborhood. I am wondering if your house needs any work done." "Like what?" He pulls out a laminated sheet and hands it to me and says, "We specialize in gutters, windows and siding. Which of these do you need help with?" "None of the above." "Really? Well, that's good. That's good? The house is in tip top shape. Well, if you do need any work done, please give us a call at Taylor Construction." We'll analyze that sales call in a second.
Two days later we are finishing dinner when the phone rings. My wife looks at the caller ID and its says P and P. Since the number is local, I suggest that she answer it and she does. "Hello." "Hello, is this Mrs. Rohrer?" "Yes." "My name is Pete and I'm with P and P painters. We are going to be in your neighborhood tomorrow doing some work for your neighbors and I am wondering if we could provide you with a free estimate while we're nearby." "Do you do interior or exterior painting?" "Both, actually." "Hold on one moment." At this point, my wife puts her hand over the phone and asks if I would like a free estimate on painting the house. Painting the exterior of the house is something we've been talking about for a couple of months. I say, "Yes." "Pete, we'd love to get a free estimate on an exterior paint job." "That's great. Oh, shoot. We are going to be in the neighborhood tomorrow but we don't have anyone who can do estimates. Would it be okay if we came out Monday afternoon?" "Yes, that's fine. See you on Monday." Both of these sales calls are great examples of the "I'm not trying to sell you something technique". This technique has gained favor as more and more sales people learn that nobody wants to be sold something. So, they try to sell you something by pretending at first that they aren't there to sell you something. They kind of sneak up on you. Unfortunately, for sales people, prospects are familiar with this technique because it was first mastered by street beggars in major cities and then adopted by religious proselytizer, woo hoo!
Just because a technique is well known by prospects, doesn't mean that it can't be effective. Like an old card trick or a favorite joke, it can still manage to provide enough amusement to be inoffensive. That assumes, of course, that the initial message of deceit is reasonably sensible. In the first example, the people who came to my door were being ridiculous. First, they don't identify the company they represent - which makes my mind wander as I'm trying to guess what they are selling. Second, I'm supposed to believe that a company is sending messengers door to door in my neighborhood to let me know that they are going to be working in the area "just in case I saw their trucks"?!
Furthermore, the company is sending these messengers to assure me that they don't want to inconvenience me or get in my way. Huh? Unless you are working on the road or you're taking down giant trees and need to block the road, how are you going to be in anybody's way? The premise is absurd and I am not amused. In the second example, the seller identifies himself right away. By being upfront about who he is, he has earned the right to throw a sales technique at us. P and P is going to be in the neighborhood and would like to provide a free estimate.
Nicely done. Of course, I know that all estimates are free and that every painter within 50 miles of my house would come out and give me a free estimate whether they were doing work in the neighborhood or not. But, somehow what Pete is saying makes sense. Why not cluster your prospecting near your existing customers? Shoot, Pete is going to be in the neighborhood so is it okay if he just "pops by"? Since we are interested in painting our house, getting a free estimate from someone who is going to be in the neighborhood anyway is a no brainer. You see, Pete knows that his proximity to our house while on a job reduces the amount of pressure I feel about responding to his estimate. Think about it. If I had called him and made an appointment for the estimate and he had to send a man out on a special sales call there is going to be some pressure for me to hire them. But, since he is in the neighborhood. The best thing about Pete's call is that after my wife agrees to let him come on by while he is in the neighborhood, Pete fesses up that he can't really make it on Saturday. Now, did Pete know that before he called? Was he being a little bit slick by saying that he was just going to "pop by"? Yes and Yes. Sales is about trying to getting in front of "now" buyers, discovering their needs and then offering solutions. Your solutions have to be honest and your work has to have integrity but if you need a technique or two to get the appointment - that's cool.
Just be upfront about who you are and prospects will give you a chance to show them your moves.
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