Seven Boasts the Sales Team Should Avoid

Last Updated Mar 2, 2010 1:05 PM EST

I have been on the receiving end of many pitches from bankers, consultants and advisors. They all have essentially the same pitch: "we are the best, biggest, fastest growing, and so on."

Then they put their foot in their mouth and shoot it by trying to impress me by bragging. What they say and what I hear are completely different things:

  • We work with over 75 of the FTSE 100 companies: So your big clients get the A teams and I will be left with the B or even C team.
  • We are the market leader: And if you are so big, will I get any attention? Or will I be better off with a small boutique that will really need my business?
  • I graduated top from Harvard: So you know just about enough to get yourself and me into trouble. Have you any practical experience?
  • We have won awards: Never trust a firm which chases awards instead of putting clients first, second and third in their priority list.
  • Here is our brilliant approach to strategy/leadership/finance/marketing: Stop talking about yourself: starting talking about me and my needs.
  • Here is our senior partner: Who I will not see again until you want to sell some follow on work. Who will really be working with me?
  • We are top in the industry league tables: Banks have millions of league tables: best fund invested in Lithuanian infrastructure over seven years? Give me a break.
There is a better way to impress a prospect. Instead of boasting and talking about yourself, talk about the client. Ask smart questions. Show you are interested and hungry for the business. By asking insightful questions you demonstrate your capability far better than by boasting about it.

If you want to establish your personal credentials, send a short biography ahead by email. It may even give us something of mutual interest to talk about as an ice breaker. In any event, it prevents the need for you to spend ten minutes talking about how wonderful you are. If you have good client references, put some of them up on your website.

People naturally want to talk about their favourite subject -- themselves. Use this to your advantage and get the prospect to talk about their favourite subject -- themselves. You will build rapport and credibility far faster than you will by boasting.

  • Jo Owen

    Jo Owen practises what he preaches as a leader. He has worked with over 100 of the best, and a couple of the worst, organisations in the world, has built a business in Japan; started a bank (now HBOS business banking); was a partner at Accenture and brand manager at P&G. He is a serial entrepreneur whose start-ups include top 10 graduate recruiter Teach First and Start Up, which has helped over 250 ex-offenders start their own businesses. He has and has spent seven years researching leadership, strategy and organisation in tribal societies. His books include "Tribal Business School", "How to Lead and How to Manage." He is in demand as a speaker and coach on leadership and change. His websites include Tribal Business School and Leadership Partnership