20 Things NOT to do on a Sales Call

Last Updated Sep 1, 2011 12:54 PM EDT

I recently stumbled across an article "10 Things Not To Do on the First Date." It included mostly common sense stuff like "don't get drunk." It was a pretty good article, even though it missed my favorite dating tip: "Do not pull your T-shirt up around the top of your head so you look like a demented monk, and say: 'Can we please now have the oral sex?'"

Anyway, here's a list of 20 common-sense things NOT to do on a sales call:

  • #1. Flirt with the admin. It may seem tempting, but unless you've got soap-opera-quality looks, chances are you're only going to annoy (or even alarm) the admin, who will tell the boss. Instead: Stay polite, friendly and respectful.
  • #2. Talk more than you listen. Initial sales calls are all about relationship building and gathering information, which you can't do if your mouth is moving. Instead: Get curious about the customer and ask questions.
  • #3. Comment on the memento. The last 372 people who came into that office remarked about the signed baseball on the desk. Ho-hum-- Instead: Research the prospect and ask about the prospect's job.
  • #4. Pretend to drop by. Who are you kidding? Do you think that it's going to cushion the rejection if you pretend that it's not a sales call? Instead: Have something important to say or sell that justifies your presence.
  • #5. Answer your cell phone. Ouch! Ouch! What were you thinking? How could any telephone call be more important than a real live prospect? Instead: Turn it off and leave it in your briefcase.
  • #6. Overstay your welcome. Your prospect has hundreds of other things that he or she could be doing, rather than spending time with you. Instead: Set a time limit for the call.
  • #7. Let the meeting meander. This isn't the time for a wandering conversation that slowly gets to the point or a long series of complicated questions. Instead: Provide brief agenda of how you expect the call to proceed.
  • #8. Argue with the customer. If the customer doesn't agree with an important point, arguing is only going to set that opinion in stone. Instead: ask the customer why he holds that opinion; then listen.
  • #9: Discuss politics or religion. Such subjects are almost always a trap into opinionated quicksand that's hard or impossible to get out of. Instead: keep the discussion on business or neutral ground.
  • #10: Dive into your product pitch. Sure you've got something to sell, but if you pitch too soon, you'll get pitched out the door. Instead: Ask questions to understand needs, before you pitch.
  • #11: Arrive late to the call. If you don't arrive on time it tell the customer clearly that you don't give a damn about them or their time. Instead: Always arrive 15 minutes ahead of time. If you drive to calls, get a GPS.
  • #12: Appear flippant or sarcastic. A good-natured laugh at a joke might be taken personally by someone watching out the window, without hearing the context. Instead: Watch your demeanor at all times.
  • #13: Lack requisite product knowledge. The prospect doesn't want to hear "I need to get back to you about that"--over and over. Instead: make sure you're trained on your current products and policies--before the call.
  • #14: Fail to plan the call. Sounds simple, but trying to close when should be qualifying (for example) is a lost sale. Instead: Never enter a door without first thinking about what you plan to accomplish.
  • #15: Be too business-like at first. Remember you're building bridges with another human being, not just a notch in your sales gun. Instead: Smile and be friendly-- but don't get too gushy.
  • #16: Show up with a crowd. If you bring too many people, it will draw customer's comments about why your costs so high Instead: Use webconferencing when you need to include additional resources.
  • #17: Fail to check your appearance. Don't show up with something amiss that a quick stop in the client's bathroom could head off. Instead: Make a quick pit stop - with a look-over - before the call.
  • #18: Forget the customers' names. What could be more embarrassing than actually forgetting whom you're talking with? Instead: Write down the names down of everyone in the room with a small table diagram.
  • #19: Be rude to the admin. No flirting, of course, but if you act all arrogant and superior, you'll just antagonize the help. Instead: Be friendly and respectful of the staff - admin and otherwise.
  • #20: Ask personal questions. You may think that the customer is your friend, but you can easily screw up if it gets too personal. Instead: Keep the conversation focused on business issues, especially the customer's needs.
READERS: Any that I missed?

READERS: You'll find plenty of similar tips and techniques in my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling available for pre-sale here:

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