Overcoming your fear of sales is a key goal for entrepreneurs, new business founders, and people transitioning to the sales field.
The only way to combat fear is through repetition – and in the context of sales, this equates to cold calls or emails.
According to Salesforce, 92% of all interactions with customers happen over a phone call. While an introductory email can warm up a lead ahead of time, avoiding calls and scheduled meetings is almost inevitable, yet it has to be approached professionally and respectfully to your prospect.
According to a survey led by HubSpot, there’s a dramatic disconnect between consumers’ needs and what sales reps tend to plan during the first call:
Over the past decade, I’ve had the unpleasant opportunity to hang up or click “spam” almost instantaneously in the presence of specific sales triggers. Here’s my top list of most impactful sales phrases and pitches you definitely have to avoid in your first interaction with customers.
1. Let’s Jump on a Call
I wrote an entire essay on 16 reasons why I don’t pick up my phone.
Again, finalizing a deal, discussing contracts, billing options, refund, SLAs and all that requires a longer conversation (which is suitable for a meeting).
Pushing for a call right away is offensive in most industries.
Chances are, you’re pitching the product to a very busy executive working crazy hours anyway. Unless you can convey the value offering in the first pitch, the chances to directly push for a call are miniscule.
What’s more important is, even if the prospect has follow-up questions, you’ve limited the opportunity to reply back unless a call is in order.
2. Sorry to Bother You
The stipulation that you bother your lead creates a context of chaos.
Sales reps have to pitch a new solution or enable consumers to learn more about a product or service they’ve already seen previously. An insincere apology ahead of time means that:
- You don’t see value in the conversation (but rather see it as irritating yourself)
- You realize that and yet still push forward
Skip this altogether and move straight to the point.
3. Can I Send You Some Information
Send the most important details in a well-structured, condensed manner straight in the first pitch.
In practice, there are two alternative scenarios:
- The prospect will indeed be interested (and you should have sent the details already anyway)
- The prospect is not interested and won’t respond to your question anyway
Additionally, omitting essential information won’t convince potential customers early on and you will be missing out.
And during a cold call, if you offer “some information” too quickly, odds are leads will agree only to hang up on you and never read this email you have promised to send.
4. Have You Allotted a Budget To
Even the most conservative executives will generously pay as much as needed for products and solutions that automate complex processes (saving tons of money) or generate loads of new customers in no time.
Budget allocation is loosely applied across the board. Sure, departments have their budgets and certain initiatives are allotted based on previous experience and what worked so far.
But expecting to validate a lead on budget allocation instead of selling them on value is the wrong way to pitch.
5. I Can’t Provide More Information Before We Meet
Two months ago, I got connected (a warm intro) to a business in the content marketing space I’m potentially interested in working with. After several emails back-and-forth, I was refused any details whatsoever (pricing, packages, even workflow plans) unless we hop on a call.
Due to the COVID lockdown and schools being closed, I’m spending a lot more time at home and my call planning is hard to navigate.
In the meantime, we’ve signed two alternative vendors who pitched us straight away and work with us at the time.
I’m still interested in collaborating with this vendor as well, but making the process so prohibitive simply does not make it any easier for me as a client.
6. You’ve Probably Heard About Us
According to a Forbes overview, 78% of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers.
The ability to close a deal grows rapidly with a strong brand, positive reviews online, and reasonable pricing for the right audience.
Then again, the assumption that the product is so popular poses another question:
If the consumer is well-aware of your offer, why haven’t they pulled the trigger yet?
It also sounds presumptuous more often than it helps. Name-dropping a short case study with a top brand or listing down some of the top customers works a lot better in this case.
7. Are You the Right Person to Speak With
Asking this may actually work if you’re approaching an assistant, but hardly when you pitch a C-level executive.
My comprehensive guide on discovering the right decision makers covers some of the groundwork you need to put in. The worst mistake you can do is blasting the CEO directly.
CEOs are both massively busy and the most common target for sales pitches. Especially founders, they often top the visibility rank while doing research:
- CEOs are the most prominent role in any PR or media campaign
- Odds are, you’ll find the most interviews or podcasts with them
- It’s likely that hosting services or domain registrations are under their name
That’s why most email/phone research tools often include the CEO first and foremost, swamping them on a daily basis.
And instead of doing your own due diligence and finding the actual department that may be in charge (or a suitable assistant), executives will flag your request right away.
8. How Are Things Going
While originally designed as an ice breaker, it’s a terrible opener for an initial pitch.
First, it’s an actual question that would anticipate an answer and dilute your actual call-to-action.
Second, you wouldn’t care about a stranger. Newcomers are indifferent. “Things” are unknown. There’s no existing state you’re familiar with that you can compare with, nor a life situation that would have changed, or anything that justifies asking this early in your email pitch.
9. Let’s Book a Demo
Similarly to #1, pushing for a demo early on can come off as intrusive.
A demo often takes 30-60 minutes and requires multiple team members.
If you fail to pitch the right stakeholders, you’re wasting your time. And if you demo for an assistant or a non-decision maker, there are several other steps you have to take to get closer to a real discussion (or probably do multiple demos for the same company).
Without answering the preliminary (first-level) qualification questions, a demo is unnecessary.
Even if your product is really engaging, just don’t push hard for a demo right away. Coordinating a video meeting in a quiet environment with several people (especially decision-makers) is not trivial for a business.
10. What If I Said You Could
“What if I said you could ALSO book straight to your website???”
“What if I said you could cancel right away, no questions asked???”
“What if I said you could invite 2 other members for free???”
Whatever you say that starts like this should have been conveyed early on in a clear and concise manner.
Not like an infomercial, mind you.
If your sales pitch includes anything you can hear on a TV ad or during a YouTube unboxing video, it’s probably wrong.
How to Excel at Sales Instead?
HubSpot’s extensive study covered an integral question on how to make sales work:
How to improve the sales experience?
Pushy sales reps are among the most dreadful idea consumers have in mind before they pick up the phone. Instead, what prospects expect from a salesperson are:
- Listens to needs (69% of all respondents)
- Provides relevant information (61%, “relevant” being the key)
- Responds or gives information in a timely manner (51%)
- Provides a range of options even beyond the business offering (49%)
- Cares about the success of the business/project (45%)
- Details the way they can directly help succeed (37%)
Instead of recycling old-school sales pitches, realize that consumers in this era depend a lot more on digital information, reviews, testimonials, comparison sites, brand awareness, and a lot more. What’s usually not apparent is pricing – being one of the reasons most startups strive to provide transparent pricing straight on their sites.
Even when customized plans are not trivial to sort out, make the most out of a sales pitch and help your prospect take the next step of the sales journey.