Five ways to fail at selling me something: Sins of B2B business development

I’d love to say I’m reaching to come up with this list. I really would. But these are all interactions I’ve had with people trying to sell me something over a two-week period. For all the advice that’s out there on how to build trusted sales relationships, it would seem there are a lot of people not following it.

(Names redacted to protect the people with whom I’m unlikely to do business in future.)

Here are five ways to be sure I’m not going to do business with you any time soon:

  1. Be nosy. Guess what – if we’ve just started talking thirty seconds ago, I’m not going to tell you my sales goals for the year. This should not be a surprise to you.
  2. Don’t listen to me. Interrupt me to give me your canned pitch. And by all means, make it all about you.
  3. Badmouth the competition. There are two issues with this: first, it’s a transparent world. There’s plenty of data available to me to find out all sorts of things about the competition. Second, it’s bossy. Don’t tell me what to think. Let me draw my own conclusions from all that fabulously available data.
  4. Act disappointed when I say I’m not interested right now. The other day I got a followup call from a company whose white paper I’d downloaded, trading my contact information in return – the rep reminded me of that and asked if she could answer any questions on their services. When I said that I was a very unlikely prospect for her at this time, given my business and hers, she was gracious and said that she hoped we’d keep them in mind if things ever changed – unlike one of her competitors last week who sounded miffed when I said the same thing. Guess which one I am going to connect with if I do turn out to need such services in future, or if anyone else I work with does?
  5. Drop me like a hot potato. Stop communicating with me entirely once we’ve had our first interaction, if I’ve declined to purchase immediately. That signals to me that you’re after a sales quota, not a relationship.

No matter what you are trying to sell me (a software package, a membership, a training program, an advertising opportunity) relationship-building takes patience, and time, and a plan. Are you sure you aren’t committing any of these sins? It’s a lot of work, for instance, not to commit the 5th sin of omission. Are you sure your sales force isn’t doing this? Or your customer service reps who are charged with upselling?

We all like to think we’d never do those things we find annoying in others. But every so often we should all take a look at our processes, scan our lists, listen in on sales calls… just to be sure our prospects are cared for and treated properly at all stages of our sales funnel.

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