Using technology to Sell More

Technology has been a wonderful addition to doing business, particularly with salespeople.  We can get information to others instantaneously, can get immediate feedback (when done properly) and we can be more organized than ever before.  For prospecting purposes, it appeared to be the answer to what most salespeople were looking for, a tool that would garner faster responses.  Unfortunately, with the faster speeds and ease of sending messages came inundation.  We are inundated with countless emails, texts and social media notifications.  If you’re like me, once I’ve detected that a sales message snuck through my spam filter, it immediately gets deleted.  This makes it very difficult for even the best salespeople to get noticed.  Once they detect that you might be trying to sell them, it’s over – deleted.

So, what can be done about it?  Let’s start here:  the way you message people through email, texting and other formats becomes very important.  What you write, the terms and expressions you use, the tonality – everything matters.  The more you sound like everyone else, the worse it will get for you.  The more you sound like a salesperson, the lower your chances are to get a reply.  Think about it.  And, if you sound like everyone else, don’t you sound like a commodity?  Also, won’t it typically come down to price if you do?  Not where I’d like for you to be.  Look, if we want to be treated differently, then we have to act, sound and behave differently!

Let’s get into some examples of what I’m talking about.  Look at the end of a stereotypical “salesy” email while quoting (by the way, if you’re quoting through email, for most professions, please stop.  Quoting isn’t selling).  Some common phrases, that we do not recommend are, “Call me if you have any questions”, “let me know” and “Thanks for the opportunity”.  Ugg.  11,894 salespeople just sent out a message to a prospect with one of these phrases.  Guarantee it.

Again, if we sound like everyone else out there, we lose credibility.  We all look the same.  Additionally, do you see that saying, “let me know” becomes an invitation to do nothing?  Look at it in your personal life.  You tell a friend, “let me know if you want to go golfing”.  How I read this is, if you want to go, call me.  If you don’t, doing nothing is acceptable.  See the problem?  No commitment.  All we did was create an easy way for the prospect to avoid us and delayed a potential decision from them.

“If you have any questions”.  Again, one can ignore the message if they don’t have a question.  Furthermore, I think we’ve all figured out that if we have a question for the salesperson, we can contact them.  They don’t need to be told that any longer.  Remember when voicemail first came out and we all said, “please leave your message at the beep”?  I think we’ve got it down.  Quite frankly, I call messages like this a “communication crutch”.  We don’t know how to effectively end our message so we default to a crutch.  It’s easy and it’s also “salesy”.

How about, “thanks for the opportunity”.  Why is this one to avoid?  You could look at it this way.  One of our jobs in sales is to maintain what we call, “equal business stature”.  In other words, being equal to the prospect in terms of how they view us.  Who would buyers rather buy from, someone equal or higher than them or someone lower than them?  Equal or higher, of course.  Make sense?  When we sound like we’re just glad to be there, it hurts us.  In fact, while we’re at it, eliminate the word, “just” from your sales vocabulary as well.  It makes you look like you’re begging.  As example, “Just calling”, “Just following-up”, “Just wondering”.  See what I mean?  It’s subservient and makes us look lower than them with business stature.

Other examples of phrases that are way over used, and will have you looking like everyone else:
“Following up” – cliche
“Hoping we could” – begging
“Curious if you are” – communication crutch
“It was great to meet you” – filler language
“Reaching out” – cliche
“Wanted to connect” – like everyone else
“I wanted to” – self-serving

Again, my guess is that there are thousands upon thousands of salespeople using language like this every single day in their correspondences with prospects.  If it’s you, there are alternatives.

What to do about it?

You might be asking yourself, “What am I supposed to say if I can’t say these phrases?”  How about working backwards and starting with how we can more effectively finish our messages to prospects?  Instead of the above language, what if we simply asked a “yes/no” question at the end of all correspondences that deserved a reply from a prospect?  “What do you see as the next step?”, “What would you like to do next?”, “Do I owe you anything else?” and even “When would you like to speak next?” are all good yes/no questions to ask at the end of an email, putting the odds back in your favor that you will get a response.  Most will agree that these questions will yield a higher rate of return, in terms of responses.  Our tracking of it, through our own emails as well as with our clients, affirms this belief.

To begin a message, it is appropriate to simply start with phrases like, “Good morning or good afternoon”.  Generally speaking, it is not necessary to tell them that it was great to meet with them, that you enjoyed the venue you met them at or even

comments about the great weather we’ve been having.  It comes off disingenuous, unnecessary and very common.  After a “good morning”, why not get right into the message.  Tell them why you’re sending the message.  “The purpose for the note is to see what timing looks like on your end”.

Or, you could try less self-serving phrases that will help establish that you are on even ground with your prospect, as well.  Phrases like, “Assuming deliveries are still important to you right now, would it make some sense for us to have a meeting?” can work to get responses.  “Not sure you’ve had a meeting yet with your team.  If you have, what would make sense to do next?” will quickly establish the purpose of next meeting, without making you look pushy.  It will also help further qualify the importance with your prospect.  There is something about asking someone a question that gets a better response.  People find it more difficult to ignore you when you ask a question.  Perhaps it’s from childhood when a parent, teacher or authority figure told us, “Answer me”.  Regardless, it certainly works better than the alternative.

Although there are likely hundreds of phrases that we each use that could be viewed as “common”, my advice is simple.  Look at the messages you are sending to prospects.  Pay attention to the types of phrases you are including and evaluate it before sending.  Are they too common?  Are they cliché’?  Are they self-serving?  If you find that they are, redesign the message so it stands out and is likely to get a response.  Be direct and to the point.  People have less and less time.  Don’t use words to simply fill the screen.  

With a little practice you can get your response rate to rock-star status in no time.  This is yet another way to “sell smarter” rather than working harder.  In a future article we will discuss “subject lines”, signature tags, salutations and other key words, all designed to make you a more effective communicator.  Meanwhile, try out our suggestions and let us know how it’s working!

Important Note:  Don’t count emails and texts into your prospecting numbers.  Sales has always been, and will always be a face-to-face profession.  Hiding behind your computer could cost you dearly.  Relationships, expressions, reactions and the ability to read others will always be important.  Use technology as a tool, but “keep all of your faucets on”.  Meaning, keep setting face-to-face appointments, keep “live”  networking with others, go to events, meet for lunch and build alliances.