Don't Be A Salesperson

One of the biggest challenges in sales that I hear about all the time is when a salesperson has had a good meeting with a prospect but now that prospect has stopped returning emails and phone calls. The salesperson keeps emailing and keeps calling but never hears back. Eventually the salesperson concludes that the prospect is either rude or just isn't interested in the product or service. I think that conclusion is completely missing the point.

As a professional, when another professional that I have met with calls or emails me I will always call or email them back. And I've found this to be true of nearly everyone I've interacted with in my career. It's a general courtesy to respond to another professional when they contact you about something. And I'm even more responsive when I believe that the professional has something that can benefit my business. And when I've determined that a partnership between our businesses doesn't make sense, I'll always communicate that to the professional with a call or an email.

But here's the catch: the professional relationships I'm talking about are what I call "mutually beneficial relationships". They are interactions where the professional can help me and I can help the professional. There's a level playing field of professionalism and shared value. However, when I begin to believe that the person I’m speaking with is trying to sell me something that I’m not interested in or is only trying to help themselves, they go from being a professional to being a salesperson. And I’m much less responsive with salespeople than I am with professionals.

To me, the worst thing that can happen to a salesperson is to be viewed as a salesperson. Because in the prospect’s mind you have gone from being a professional looking to provide value in return for value to someone that is beneath them. You've gone from being the cool and interesting guy at the end of the bar to the loser that walks around hitting on anything that moves. And as you try harder and harder to push your agenda, the less interested the prospect becomes.

My advice: don't be a salesperson, be a professional. Be laser focused on mutually beneficial relationships. Have a healthy paranoia that the person you're talking to doesn't care about what you're saying. If you don't know, ask them. Walk away from prospects and people that aren't interested. You're bringing value and your prospects are bringing value -- if there isn't a match, walk away.

To say it simply, you should strive to create relationships with prospects where every email you send and every call you make is promptly responded to and returned. And that’s not a function of your pitch or the quality of your product. That’s a function of your ability to be perceived as a professional interested in providing mutual value.

NOTE: I’m not talking about job titles here. You may have the word “sales” in your title and that is fine. This post isn’t about titles, it’s about how you’re perceived as a businessperson.