Three tips from a midmarket CEO who's been there, done that.
We know, we know--your product or service is not only flawless, but also unique. Your competitors? Simply put, you do it better. Or faster. Or cheaper. Right?
Let's face it, bragging is a big part of sales in the United States. But should it be? Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a 102-employee recycling services company, broached this question late last year for a blog post in the New York Times.
"Now that TerraCycle is almost a decade old and operating in 22 countries, I have realized how much sales styles differ throughout the world, especially in Europe," he writes. "While the American style of sales is typically gung ho--energetic and positive--the European style is quite different, much more conservative.
"This hit me when, after a sales pitch in Germany, our client said, 'Tom, we'd love for you to present TerraCycle to our leadership team, but please be less American. Please don't be excited and just present the facts.' I thought to myself, 'Wow, how do you sell without being passionate about the product or service you are selling?'"
All of this led Szaky to a simple, but vital question: What's the smartest way to disclose negative information during the sales process? He developed a list of three tips, which we've summarized.
1. If you think the client may know something negative, own it. "Address it up front in your meeting, before the client raises it," he writes. "And you should address it more aggressively than your client would, if he or she were bringing it up. When you do this, it's best to have a solution ready to offer."
2. Always talk about your competition positively. "Competition, while negative to your business, is a fact of life. My suggestion is to be fair and positive. This will play well with your clients as they see that you are looking out for their best interests. This, too, will build credibility and trust."
3. Sprinkle some negatives into your pitch. "We consider TerraCycle a premium service. For that reason, we always highlight that our cost is higher than other solutions, such as sending waste to landfill. But then we emphasize that the benefits of working with us may be worth the expense. Of course, there is a fine line--you can volunteer too much negative information and kill the deal. Negative information is like salt on one's food. It should be applied in moderation."