Written by Mike Renahan | HubSpot
Unfortunately, people are skeptical of sales reps. Sales elicit unsavory labels and adjectives such as “persuasion,” “cold calling,” “intrusive,” “trickery,” and “yuck.” The modern sales rep has to work incredibly hard to overcome customers’ preconceived notions in order to make a sale.
But as good salespeople know, sales isn’t about cold calling and trickery anymore. While most reps still cling to these outdated and cringe-inducing tactics, modern reps have stopped taking these wrong turns and embraced a new sales methodology.
The buyer has changed, and reps need to adjust. Modern sales are about building trust, not persuading someone into buying something they don’t want or need. Below are seven behaviors that scare today’s buyers away.
1. You cold called/emailed way too often.
I don’t know about you, but I screen my calls. If the number doesn’t show up in my contacts, the odds are I won’t answer, and if the caller doesn’t leave a voicemail, I won’t call back. This approach isn’t uncommon. Telenet found that it takes 3.68 cold calls on average for a seller to make a connection with a prospect. And calling four times before someone even answers is a bit much. Calling too much can overwhelm the prospect, and cement your reputation as a stalker.
The modern buyer isn’t interested in taking your call totally cold or answering an email from someone they’ve never heard of. They’re way too busy for that.
So what’s the answer? It’s not just calling and emailing with a spammy message over and over and over again. Remember, 12% of buyers biggest sales pet peeves are reps being “too pushy, aggressive, or disrespectful.”
Instead, warm up the interaction so that buyers will pay attention to your calls and emails the first time. An action as simple as “liking” something a prospect posted on Twitter, or engaging in a discussion with them on LinkedIn makes your name familiar and helps build credibility.
Use your email and phone wisely; that is to say, only when you’re legitimately adding value.
2. You didn’t let them make the next move.
Every prospect is different, and it’s important to remember that their individual buying journeys will be different, too. Some prospects will have only one decision-maker calling the shots, and a pressing need to do something quickly. Other companies are looking at the big picture and trying to decide among several stakeholders which product they are going to use for the next 10 years.
Tom Atkinson found that 26% of buyers’ biggest pet peeve is when a sales rep doesn’t follow their company’s buying process. Sales reps need to adjust to different buyers’ preferences and schedules. This means offering guidance and not trying to force them through your company’s sales funnel.
Forcing buyers through your funnel will make them feel like they aren’t in control. Whenever someone is looking to make a purchase, they need time to think about it and do their due diligence, according to their buyer’s journey.
Reps nowadays need to put away their timetable and stop focusing on closing deals the last day of the month to hit their quota. Instead, be there when the prospect needs you, and offer your best advice and guidance throughout individual buyers’ journeys.
3. You didn’t personalize the message.
A pain point for one business might be a strength at another. Everyone has their own different struggles and their own problems to solve. It’s up to the sales rep to spend time getting to know the business before they reach out and try to solve a problem. In today’s world, scripted sales calls and emails are no longer working.
Non-personalized messaging drives buyers away because they have no reason to care. If you treat a prospect like just another deal, why shouldn’t they treat you like just another salesperson (and ignore your message)? Relationships matter in sales, and building rapport starts with making each prospect feel like they know you and you know them. Personalized messages are the best way to get off on the right foot.
The best reps put in the extra time to get to know each of their prospects before they reach out. They learn about the business, know the market, and can start to understand, based on their research, if and how their product can help the prospect.
When in doubt, personalize, personalize, and personalize some more.
4. You didn’t provide value.
The “just checking in” email is dead, same as the “just thought I’d try again” phone call. Every time a rep reaches out to a prospect, they need to provide value. As Andy Paul points out in Amp Up Your Sales, ensuring buyers see a return on their time invested is critical.
By failing to provide value, sales reps encourage prospects to merely delete emails or voicemails before they even read or listen to them. They know there’s nothing important for them there. Not providing value kills a relationship before it even starts.
There are several easy ways for a rep to provide value. It could be something as simple as sending along with a testimonial, or some media coverage of the buyer’s market. People love content, especially reviews. Giving buyers something helpful to read is the easiest way to provide value, without coming off as pushy.
5. The information wasn’t clear.
Trust me, you’re going to want to keep it simple when trying to sell a prospect. Clear, concise information around price, functionality, and customer reviews is key in order to keep buyers interested in your product.
Unclear information scares prospects away because they can’t be sure of what they are actually buying. If the buyer isn’t clear on what your product is going to do and how it’s going to help their business, they’re not going to buy.
The modern buyer has their own specific journey to get through before they decide to make a purchase. They gather tons of information, talk to as many people as they can, read everything they come across, and then make the call. The modern rep needs to adjust and remember that sales are now about helping, not closing.
6. You used hard closing tactics.
Sales reps should never force a buyer into a close. Whether it’s offering a deal that’s only good for the day or demanding that the prospect signs the contract now, hard selling tactics flat out scare customers away.
Being pushy only serves to annoy buyers and cause them to turn against you. As Steve W. Martin points out, “It’s human nature to resist high-pressure tactics.”
Modern buyers do research, develop a buying strategy, conduct a quick trial, gain consensus, and then commit to a product. Reps need to guide, not force, buyers through the funnel on their terms.
7. You made overly big asks too soon.
There’s nothing quite like the employee who accepts a job, then asks for a raise a week in. Similarly, sales reps who request a credit card in their first email might be asking for a bit too much, too soon.
And making a big ask early before you provide any value isn’t just scary for buyers – it’s detrimental to the deal. As HubSpot’s Scott Tousley puts it, “every time we ‘add value,’ the greater the probability we will get something in return.” With this in mind, provide value first, and make your ask later.
Today’s buyer doesn’t have time or patience for old-school sales tactics that once defined the field. The most successful reps today are focused on a new playbook built on relationships and providing value to their prospects.
About the Author
Mike is a Customer Success Manager at HubSpot. He is a people person, data-driven, always learning and helping companies grow better.