What can strike terror into the heart of even the most successful sales professional or entrepreneur?
What can crush self-confidence, destroy self-esteem and leave even the most seasoned sales professional quivering with humiliation and defeat?
Every culture has its myths and stereotypes, and one of ours is the stereotype of the manipulative, unscrupulous salesman. The term "sales" conjures images of untrustworthiness and deviousness. We have the stereotypes of the "traveling salesman," the "used car salesman" and, of course, the "telemarketer."
These terms do not literally describe what the person is selling; they take on a larger meaning. For example, our cultural translation of "used car salesman" is not simply someone who is selling used cars, but instead means someone who is unethical, uncaring and will pressure you into a sale that is not necessarily in your best interest. "Telemarketer" has come to mean not just someone who sells over the telephone, but someone who interrupts your dinner, doesn't listen and tries to pressure you into meaningless, valueless purchases. It can also mean someone who is running a scam over the telephone, usually preying on the elderly.
This is not the reality of individual telemarketers or used car salesmen. It is the stereotype. And these stereotypes do a huge disservice to most salespeople. Far too often, salespeople buy into these stereotypes, these images of untrustworthiness, placing themselves, in their own minds, on a lower level than their prospects.
If you buy into these negative images, you are at a disadvantage before you even pick up the telephone to call your prospect. It is imperative to change the way that you think about this process. Examine your intent:
- Is your product or service meaningful?
- Does it provide a benefit?
- Do you believe in the value and benefit of what you are selling?
- Are you doing the best that you know how to insure that your customers get what they need?
If your answers to the above questions are that you have a meaningful product or service, it provides value, you believe in your product or service, you are doing your very best to insure that your customers get what they need—if those are your answers, why then, you don't fit the stereotype. Stop acting as if you do! Stop apologizing. Stop feeling uncomfortable. Proceed with pride and integrity.
But there are some additional reasons that people fear cold calling. When you are face-to-face with someone, you have all of the visual cues to help you through the sales process. How does the person look? How is she dressed? What are her facial expressions? Does she make eye content? Is she smiling? Is she frowning? We instantly and intuitively assess these cues, and they help us determine what is happening in our communication.
On the telephone, you have none of those cues. That's what makes it so scary. It's as though you are suddenly blind, and you cannot tell what is going on. It is important to train yourself to listen very deeply when you are on the telephone—you must hear those cues that you would normally see. And remember—your prospect has no visual cues either! That is why it is imperative to use your voice expressively and have a clear message.
© 2004 Wendy Weiss