This sales mistake will leave your prospects uninterested in you and your product

I got an email this week from a salesperson who wants me to do business with his company. In it, he made two major sales mistakes.

1.) He started with the subject line of “Checking in.”

2.) After I responded and said my timeline was at least 120 days, he said, “OK, I’ll follow up in four months.”

The second mistake is much less obvious. From the salesperson’s perspective, he was doing me a service by promising not to bother me until it was time to make a decision. From my perspective, however, he just made himself into a commodity.

Guess who’s guilty of these same mistakes in the past? Me. Many, many times. Here’s what I’ve learned after being guilty of these errors over many years.

The person you are pitching on any business has a decision process that starts before you make your first pitch and ends when they decide to buy (or not buy). Too many salespeople miss the opportunity to stay connected to their prospects by leveraging social media to provide value during the waiting period.

The person you are pitching continues to live their life while they evaluate your product. That life probably includes research about their company’s needs related to your product, it often includes presentations to decision makers higher up in the company, and it hopefully includes some personal trips, milestones and celebrations.

Social media and email give you the ability to participate in that person’s life and become a resource to them, instead of a nuisance, during that decision-making process. If you don’t, you’ll become “just another salesperson” in their mind.

You can save your prospect time during their due diligence effort after your pitch by sending them resources related to your product. Does your organization have white papers explaining the rules, regulations and challenges of your industry? (If you don’t, you should collaborate with your marketing team to create them.) Have you read an article in a trade publication that made the case for investing in your service or type of product? Send these resources via email to your prospect, giving them useful information, and giving them the opportunity to look good by sharing useful resources with their peers and bosses.

You can also continue to stay top of mind with your prospects by interacting with them in ways that have nothing to do with your product.

Like I wrote a few weeks ago here in InBusiness, social media provides you invaluable business intelligence about your prospects. By scanning a company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, you can tell what initiatives they’re trying to promote, and you can often read into what challenges they are facing. You might have some insight, or another useful white paper, about a business challenge they’re facing. You can often glean a few personal details too — birthdays, weddings, childbirth, business trips. If this information has been shared publicly on a social network, it’s fair game for you to take action on that information.

If a prospect is traveling to a city that you are familiar with, offer them a restaurant recommendation. If they’ve celebrated a major personal milestone, send them a snail-mail card offering your congratulations.

Of course, it should go without saying that the content you share CANNOT be another self-promotional sales pitch. You’ve already made your pitch. Now you have an opportunity to add value.

One of the best examples of how to add value after the sales pitch comes from a winery client my agency has worked with. Our client needed to find a way to stand out. The world of wine is crowded, and a pretty label isn’t enough to win customer loyalty. We came up with a solution by putting ourselves in the shoes of the buyer of a bottle of wine from the moment they first see a bottle to the moment they serve it to guests at a dinner party.

We asked, “How can we make our customers look good in front of our friends when they serve this wine?” The answer: By equipping the buyer with a story to tell about the wine. When the customer uncorks the wine, she can tell her guests what to expect in the wine at the first taste, and how that might change as the wine breathes or after she decants it. We tell that story through the message on the label and by sharing these stories on social media.

By sharing this information, our customer can enrich her guests’ experience of drinking the wine, making the night more enjoyable and the wine more memorable.

Social media and email give you powerful tools to equip your prospects with information that will make their lives easier and make them more valuable to their peers. Why would you ever wait four months between contacting a prospect if you could have been building a relationship and providing them resources and staying top of mind instead?

Spencer X Smith

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and a columnist for InBusiness.

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