This week, SalesJournal.com is pleased to present a guest blog by Tony L. Smith, a national accounts manager with The Brooks Group, a reputable sales training firm that specializes in customized B2B sales.
“Work on your script” and “change your pitch” are phrases the majority of salespeople have heard at some point in their career. In fact, the phrases on their own often conjure up negative feelings. Yet sadly, they are still being used in the world of selling today.
I don’t know about you, but if my day is interrupted by someone who drones on and on for minutes on end, following a script and sounding like a machine, I begin to tune out and want to end the call as quickly as possible. Do you want to be “pitched” to?
I don’t blame the salesperson in this instance; I blame the management team that advocates and commands such outdated selling techniques. I once worked for a company whose turnover was in the 80% range. This company would hire kids directly out of college and, in some cases, have these young minds move several states away to come to a “high growth organization.”
Once the new salespeople arrived, they would be crammed together in cubicles or marched off to a training room where they would spend a day learning the product, a day practicing a script, and then hit the phones running — ready to bust out 100 calls a day and make lots of money. Armed with their sure-fire script and the “perfect pitch,” they were poised for certain success.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Those salespeople who dared not follow a script were quickly chastised and brought back in line. The promises of success were great. “Just follow the script. It works!”
Baloney, I say. If the script works so well, why were so many salespeople who followed it to a tee not making any sales? They did what they were told. Then a month goes by; it’s late one Friday night and they get called into a room and let go. Some were devastated. This was their first job out of college. They had signed a year-long lease on an apartment, were away from all their friends and families, and within a month they had lost their job. One even stated, “but I followed the script. I did everything I was told to do.”
“You just aren’t cut out for selling,” was the feedback given. Talk about sadistic!
This may be an extreme example, but it still happens.
Why did the script not work? Well, it goes back to the very fundamentals of selling. People buy from people who understand what they want and need. The only way to do that is to have a real dialogue and ask questions to uncover those wants and needs. A script just cannot do this.
Here’s a better approach:
- Have an objective to the call.
- Prepare your questions in advance of the call, so you know where you are going.
- Focus on what the prospect wants and listen to what they are saying.
- Be flexible.
- Have a real dialogue.
- Stop pitching and start allowing the prospect to buy!
I’ve seen managers hound salespeople who do not read the script and then wonder why they are not making sales when the script is read. If you are one of these managers, open your eyes! Salespeople want to succeed, but are sometimes hindered by management.
For the rest of us, let’s get rid of the word pitch. It puts the focus on us and not the prospect or customer!