During a recent workshop, I described how we salespeople need to constantly work to be perceived as our prospect’s equals. What do I mean? Here are three examples where we are equals, but not necessarily perceived as equals:

Like you, I am a busy professional.

Often, towards the end of our conversations with prospects or even customers, they will suggest you “circle back” or “re-connect” next week or next month or some time in the future.  At times, your prospect is genuinely interested in this subsequent conversation but thinks since you are in sales you can’t be as busy as she is. So, in between your checking Facebook and Instagram, they think you have tons of time to call them in the suggested date range and maybe catch them at an available time.  Or that at your leisure, you can bang out an email that you hope they answer.

At other times, “check with me next week (month/quarter/year/millennia)” is the non-blow-off, passive-aggressive blow-off. The prospect doesn’t want to hurt your feelings but really isn’t interested so he suggests a subsequent call (and more than likely will ignore your caller ID for a while).
Time to dial up the “Hard Schedule” Strategy: A HARD scheduled conversation has a definite date and time. A soft scheduled event does not.

  1. Try this: “The great and exciting news is that the next week/month/quarter is looking super busy and I don’t like holding our next conversation to luck.   Can we take a quick look NOW at our calendars and schedule that “circle back” conversation? “ And don’t forget to give a long PAUSE Use this whether or not you are really that busy.   Yes, I am suggesting you tell a little white lie; consider it “faking-it-til-you-make-it.”
  2. Get it scheduled and send a meeting invitation through your calendar system.
  3. Monitor whether they accept the invitation.
  4. If they balk at scheduling, bells should go off in your head alarming you that it’s time to qualify this person and the opportunity in general.   Your determination of whether the reason for the balk is legitimate should guide you on how much time and effort to put into this individual or the account. Do you need to find another champion in the account? Punt it? Stick with it?

Like you, I am an expert in my field.

Our prospects don’t consider us their equals because they don’t perceive us as experts. Oh, but we are. We know how our offerings have helped others achieve goals and objectives, or overcome challenges or issues. We’ve thought about the likely problems our prospects face and how with our capabilities they can improve. We know the circumstances that exist in their everyday efforts that beg for our know-how or offerings. These are your stories, your best tools, and they are the best evidence for showing you know what you are talking about and deserve respect. So, you need to earn your prospect’s respect by sharing your stories.

Like you, I am most effective when I have target dates or know the completion date of projects and the tasks to get there.

We are their equals because like them we like getting things done. Even the Chairperson of the Board has a boss – the shareholders. On down the hierarchy all the people you sell to have objectives and associated tasks and deadlines to meet those objectives. Most even work on projects, which by definition have start and end dates. So, the next time a prospect asks you for a call back or something like a white paper, a reference, a demo, a cost/benefit analysis, etc., don’t be the poodle in a circus act wondering what’s next.

You know what I mean.

First, the trainer asks the poodle to jump through a hoop to a round of applause. The poodle wags his tail looking up at the trainer wondering what’s next. So, the trainer puts a skirt on the poodle and again asks him to jump through a hoop (applause). Lastly, with the skirt still, on the trainer asks the poodle – which is waiting with joyous anticipation – to again jump through the hoop, only this time he has lit the hoop on fire.

Instead, ask for all the tasks, er hoops, you are going to need to complete or jump through to complete the act (earn the business). Document it, negotiate it, and confirm it. This is your evaluation plan. I promise you, this works. A sales manager at one of my clients told me recently that a week after attending a SalesReformSchool(TM) workshop, a veteran account executive was buzzing around the office. “… [H]e was bragging that he finally took off his ‘poodle skirt’ with a prospect. Said the prospect is now taking him more serious, and committing to dates, too.”

Don’t be the poodle.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

One of my bedrock principles and why I love teaching and coaching sales is that I think everyone can achieve greater levels if they just try, I mean really try.   I learned this from my mother, who told me this when I was very young:

Reach for the roof, and you may land on the ground,

but reach for the stars and you might land on the roof!

I have this in common with Derek, the Y-Fit group fitness instructor on Thursdays at my local YMCA who always pushes us to do more reps and weight than we thought we could. At least one President also agrees. Jed Bartlet fictional President of the United States from The West Wing confidently declares (at about the 2:00 mark) “people have phenomenal capacity.”  So do you! Go reach for the stars.

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular


I’ve written about the need for empathy before and its place in sales. While I think my professional empathy muscle is improving, I also know I have some work to do in having and showing empathy personally and in my political views. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance really drove this home. In this book, Vance vividly describes why the rest of us should have empathy for the poor inhabitants of Appalachia, most of whom, quite differently from me, are of poor Scotch-Irish descent. Through his memoir, the author gives us a front row seat to the psychological and sociological dysfunctions and outside forces conspiring to lay waste to a significant American subculture. He survives and thrives, but most don’t. I highly recommend it.
Good Selling!
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Through SalesReformSchool, I am available to you for Sales Process Design, Sales Messaging Creation, On-boarding/In-boarding Sales Team Workshops, Keynote Addresses, Facilitation, Group or One-on-One Coaching, Pipeline Reviews and other Sales Management Consulting.