In an effort to make an impression, they festoon their pitches with too many details. "They say, 'My product does 20 things, and I'm going to tell you all 20 and, hopefully, one of them you’ll love,'" says Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Basho Technologies and an adviser to a sales club at MIT, who teaches the fundamentals of sales to students interested in business and technology. No one has time for laundry lists. Be selective.
"I can help you," amateurs like to inform their prospects. How presumptuous is that? Prospects may be founders of successful businesses or corporate executives; they are experts in their industry. Salespeople? They are merely salespeople. "Don't say, 'I can help you,'" advises Basho's Jeff Hoffman. Instead, "Say, 'That's very interesting what you just said. A lot of our clients say the same thing. Let me tell you how we’ve helped them.'" This is especially critical when selling into a small or midsize company. "The life of a small business owner is that is, Everybody and their mother want to sell you stuff," says David Spector, an account executive at Google who founded the MIT sales club as a student. "You want to make it really clear that you have a lot of respect for the fact that I know everything, and that I have given you 15 minutes."
Some neophytes spend all of their time studying up on their products. Knowing the details of what you are selling is obviously crucial, but don't forget to do some basic research about the prospect, too. Being able to draw on specific information about a sales lead is the most effective way to get his or her attention. "A salesperson should have something to refer to that the prospect has actually said or done," says Hoffman. He recommends reading anything the prospect has posted online, and even citing snippets of things they've said or written in the past during a presentation. "Most people are primarily interested in themselves," says Hoffman. "So let's talk about the topic you care about, which is you."
Inexperienced salespeople too often walk into a meeting without having a clear goal in mind. Sometimes the goal will be signing a contract and closing the deal, but more often it will be the opportunity to speak with the prospect’s technical team or simply scheduling another, longer meeting. Before a meeting, know exactly what you want. During the meeting, ask for it. And don't leave the meeting without it. "Mediocre sales reps are happy with, 'Thanks for your time, and I'll be in touch,'" says Hoffman. "If you don’t ask for anything, you won’t get anything."